Long Term Portfolio Stocks in India – Sure Shot Large Cap Bets

27 Oct

‘Growth or appreciation’ is the primary goal of any stock investment regardless of your time horizon and risk profile. Dividends, buyback opportunities, merger-demerger benefits etc are secondary, although still significant in providing additional advantages to your equity portfolio.

Just going by that primary definition of ‘appreciation’ let me explain an easy way of picking safe and sure-shot long term portfolio stocks. I have two objectives here – first, to explain this simple methodology of picking steady growth portfolio stocks and second, to share a portfolio of 12 solid large cap stocks that one can blindly invest and forget for the next 10 or 20 years to build massive wealth. Well, I am not talking about lump sum investment here but one can keep buying these twelve stocks at every market correction opportunity OR at regular intervals (SIP) in order to build long term wealth. This is also an attempt answer some of the queries that I keep getting from the readers of this blog regarding steady portfolio stocks for long term.

The Methodology of Choosing Steady Growth Stocks

Now, over to the methodology – It’s actually a pretty simple technique and no rocket science. Please follow the following steps to arrive at your final list.

Step 1: First you have to make an initial list of about 50 stocks from multiple sectors/industries. This initial list can be easily made by taking all 30 Sensex stocks plus say 20 big names from the NSE Top 100 list. If you are confused here, start with the list of top 100 stocks in NSE itself.

Step 2: Now, since our aim is price ‘appreciation’ in the long term, we need to have a look at the long term chart of these companies. You can use Yahoo finance, Money Control or NSE / BSE charts to see the 10 year or 15 year chart of the companies shortlisted from Step 1. In this step, you have to pick all those companies which have a steadily upward going chart (which of course indicates price appreciation). E.g. the charts of HDFC Bank or Asian Paints look exceptionally good and not that of SBI or ONGC. Discard all those companies that don’t have a smooth upward looking price journey and you will be left with 15 or 20 good growth stories (price-wise or chart-wise)

Step 3: This list, of say 20 companies that have great looking charts, has to be further scrutinized for good growth parameters. Here, I simply look at the RoE (Return on Equity), RoCE (Return on Capital Employed) and Sales and Profit parameters of these stocks. I usually use the Screener site to check these parameters. For long term growth stocks, a steady RoE of say above 15 (preferably 20+), RoCE of above 20 (Preferably 25 or 30) and a positive sales and profit growth in double figures is more than enough. Don’t be surprised to see if you notice companies with an RoE of 50 or RoCE of 200 plus.

Step 4: Most of the stocks with from Step 2 and 3 may be having good growth parameters. Now, to drop a few more, please take a look at their Debt / Equity ratio, again using Screener. Here, for long term stocks, I would drop all those companies that have a Debt to Equity ratio of more than 25% (0.25). Ideally, one should pick zero debt companies here or the ones with Debt / Equity ratio as zero or nearly zero. Please note that in the case of Banking, Financial and NBFC stocks, one shouldn’t look at this ratio, as their primary business itself is borrowing and lending

The above four steps would leave you with a dozen or so stellar performers that you can invest in for solid long term gains.

Good and Not-So-Good long term charts

Here’re some examples of typical charts to go for, as discussed in Step 2. Please note that one has to look into the 10 or 15 year chart and NOT 2 or 5 year charts while hunting for potential long term portfolio stocks.

Exceptional growth stocks with great charts

Asian Paints

HDFC Bank

HUL

Pidilite

Decent companies with poor long term charts

Well, these are still portfolio stocks for historic reasons but they don’t necessarily fetch you the desired price appreciation. On the other hand, just by looking at their charts, one can figure out that they are good for medium term trading point of view whereby they offer many up and down cycles in the long term charts.

ONGC

SBI

My list of 12 Buy-and-Forget Long Term Portfolio Stocks

Based on the above screening, the following would be my list of long term portfolio stocks across industries. Ten of them are index stocks while two others are high growth non-index stocks with proven track record and continuous growth in the future as well.


1. Asian Paints Ltd
2. Bajaj Auto Ltd
3. Bajaj Finance Ltd
4. HCL Technologies Ltd
5. HDFC
6. HDFC Bank Ltd
7. Hindustan Unilever Ltd
8. Lupin Ltd
9. Maruti Suzuki Ltd
10. Pidilite Industries
11. Yes Bank Ltd
12. Zee Entertaintment Ltd

Now, all those who are looking for multibagger recommendations, from a few months point of view, may ask yourselves the following question. Would you put your hard-earned money in risky multibagger stocks OR in safe, established businesses that can return 10 or 15 times over a ten year period?

Happy Investing!

(Standard disclaimer: I am not a qualified investment advisor. Do your own research before investing or consult a certified financial advisor. I personally hold some of the above stocks in my long term portfolio)

3 Potential Multibagger Stocks that are Turn Around Stories

26 May

In the last bull run, so many Indian companies took their ambitions abroad in an effort to grow faster inorganically by acquiring foreign companies. Easily available loans and FCCBs made their dreams instant reality as lenders were ready to shell out money on these companies that had good brand value, niche technologies or product line up, steady revenue stream and consistent net profits too.

However, things began to go wrong for most of these companies as the perceived benefits of acquisitions didn’t really result in increased profits. On the contrary, adverse market conditions and integration issues played against them and they started piling up debts much faster than they could have ever imagined. Tata Steel, GMR Infrastructure, Suzlon, Lanco Infratech – the list goes on.

subex suzlon bilt

In this post, we will talk about three such companies (and their penny stocks) that made such oversees acquisitions. While they failed at that, they seem to have realized their mistakes, corrected them (or in the process of doing so) and now on the way to turn around themselves into profit stories yet again. Needless to say such company stocks can turn into multibaggers for any investor with high risk appetite! Of course, these are not portfolio stocks and hence one shouldn’t blindly invest all their money into them but a retail investor can consider a small exposure on risk-reward potential basis.

The stories of Subex, Suzlon and Ballarpur Industries

The turn around stories – and hence potential multibaggers – we are going to talk about today are Subex Ltd, Suzlon Energy Ltd, and Ballarpur Industries Ltd (Note: Read updates below).

1. Subex Ltd

Company website: http://www.subex.com/

History: Subex was founded by Subash Menon and Alex PJ (hence the name SubEx) in 1992. They initially dealt with fiber optics cables but shifted focus to niche Telecom software – primarily fraud management systems and revenue assurance software.

The company was steadily growing since its inception. However, in the boom that followed the DotCom fall they decided to acquire many small Telecom software companies abroad. Initially, all acquisitions were funded by cash and equities but then they started borrowing and raising funds via FCCB (foreign currency convertible bond) route as well. During this time, one of the founders and promoter left the company making it more like a family run company by promoters with questionable intentions. The debt of the company started piling up and the stock crashed from its high of 700+ to 20s in a matter of two years.

Investment rationale: After their original promoters were unceremoniously packaged out for all that went wrong in their hands, the new management took control over Subex in an attempt to clean up the company’s balance sheet. And they have been quite successful at that in just three years.

At the moment, the company is almost debt free and it’s on the growth path again. With a market cap of 500cr, annual sales figures or 300cr and a debt of just 50cr, and 100cr in free cash, it looks like an investment grade company again.

At the time of writing this post (May 2016), the stock is trading at around Rs. 10 and the book value is more than 5 rupees. The interest outflow is very negligible now and hence it really looks like a turn around story to me and a potential a multibagger.

Risks: With almost negligible debts, the only potential risk for this company is any adverse market conditions for Telecom players in Europe and Latin America.

2. Suzlon Energy Ltd

Company website: http://suzlon.com/

History: Suzlon is another great company that went from steady growth path to huge losses after their acquisition of the German company Senvion in 2007. This wind energy company reported their last profit in 2008-’09 and it has been steadily declining since then as they couldn’t manage their debt bill. The debt kept mounting at an alarming pace and when it hit more than Rs. 17,000 cr they had no other go but shelve off the German subsidiary, and it finally happened last year (2015).

Investment rationale: After exiting Senvion, the company still has a debt of around 8000Cr, however, only 4000Cr of this is long term debt an it’s payable only in 2019. There’re further FCCB bonds that may get converted into equities by 2023 and hence there’s no further equity dilution in the next seven years. Of course, there is still interest burden but it looks manageable as the company’s operating profit is steadily climbing since the Senvion sale. Further, the operating profit margin (OPM) on the standalone basis is climbing rapidly as there is no major expense or capital expansion taking place.

Last year, the Sun Pharmaceuticals’ Dilip Sanghvi acquired 23% stake in Suzlon Energy and this makes Dilip Sanghvi and Tulsi Tanti (original promoter and founder) – two big and reputed names – the main promoters of this company. With the NDA Government’s increased focus in the renewable energy (1,75,000MW in next 7 years) sector, Suzlon has also diversified into Solar Energy which is cheaper to produce and implement than wind energy. They intend to deliver 15,000MW installed capacity in India in the next five years, off which they already signed a 4000MW project recently with Andhra Pradesh government. The manufacturing capacity of Suzlon is now 4000MW per year with no new investment required. They now have enough working capital as well after exiting Senvion and hence there’s no need to borrow anything in the near future. Overall, things look great again for Suzlon and hence a potential multibagger over the next few years for patient investors.

Risks: While the company doesn’t need to pay off any of their debts in the next three years, they indeed need to pay interest on a regular basis and also maintain cash generation to pay off their loans in 2019. Another risk is any potential decision in favour of solar power vs wind power due to cost factors as Suzlon is still more than 75% a Wind Power company. The company’s book value is negative as of now and this is one of the biggest risks for any investor.

3. Ballarpur Industries

Update on June 08, 2016): This recommendation has been discontinued as the BILT – Sabah Forest Industries didn’t go through as expected. Read the news at this link.

Company website: http://biltpaper.com/

History: I vividly remember myself investing in this stock (BILT) almost 15 years back and making some money when things were going good for Ballarpur Industries – an Avantha group (that owns Crompton Greaves etc) company and a leading name in the Indian Printing and Writing paper market. It was a very good dividend paying company too at 25-30% dividend paid every year (They still pay dividends, although much lesser).

However, things began to go wrong with the company when it acquired a Malaysian paper company namely ‘Sabah Forest Industries Sdn’ for $260 million. Like many other Indian companies that we discussed above, they too piled up debts that now stands at a whopping Rs.6000 crores.

Investment rationale: BILT has already taken the corrective measures and they are in the process of selling the Malaysian arm. A deal has been finalized with the buyer (Pandawa Sakti Sabah Sdn) for $500 million (Rs.3300 Crore). The sale date is due in May 2016 following which BILT can write off half their debts instantly. This would allow them to focus back on the Indian arm and be the leader yet again. With the interest outflow reduced drastically, I believe that this company will be back on track again and the stock can appreciate from here own and yield significant return for its investors. Further, the book value is still around Rs.25/- per share which is significant higher than it’s current market price (CMP).

Risks: The Sabah sale final date has been pushed three-four times already by the buyer while an agreement is in place. If the deal is called off, just in case, it may be bad for the company.

Disclaimer

I am not an investment advisor but just a retail investor and trader like most readers here. Hence, please take professional help before investing in the stocks discussed here. I have vested interest in most of the stocks that I write about and you can check out my equity portfolio as a disclosure. I am not responsible for any loss or gain that you may make in the stock market after following the articles on my blog. Also, it is recommended that investors take positions in a staggered manner than investing in one shot in any of the stocks for that matter.

(At the time of writing this post, I am invested in Subex since several months and accumulated Suzlon shares recently. I have interest in buying BILT based on the Sabah sale news)

Happy investing!

8 Indian Summer Drinks & Recipes to Beat the Heat

31 Mar

As the mercury rose in an unprecedented fashion as early as in February this year, I have been busy researching on ways to keep my family in good hydrated condition. Apart from drinking plenty of water, what is of importance in summer, is to have a lot of vegetables/salads, fruits and the right amount of salts/minerals added to fluids. Unfortunately, feeding kids with vegetables and fruits is not exactly a successful mission from my experience and hence I thought of trying various juices, shakes and smoothies this time around.

What is given below is not entirely my inventions but mostly influenced by recipes of summer drinks available on the web. However, since I have been making one different drink per day, I got to experiment a lot with various combinations. The theme is broadly around plenty of citrus juices, seasonal fruits and at times with milk products. My favorite flavors like fresh mint leaves and ginger adding that extra punch.

Before heading on to the recipes, please note that, for the sake of brevity, I am not writing these recipes in professional style. Also, unless specifically mentioned all recipes are to serve two people.

So, here you go.

1. Aloe Vera Lime Juice

Last week, we did a round of pruning of our plants (whatever was left there, that is) in the balcony and got plenty of Aloe Vera rinds. While I was wondering what to do with it, I stumbled upon a recipe on the web which I modified a bit to make this refreshing juice.

aloe vera lime juice - summer drinks images

Ingredients: Aloe Vera gel – 2 tablespoons, Juice of two Limes, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Water – 1½ cups, Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Pour Aloe Vera gel, Lime juice, Sugar, Salt and about 50 ml of water into the blender jar and blend well for about 20-30 seconds. Add the remaining water and ice cubes and blend further for about 10 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Tip: Aloe Vera can be mildly toxic if you do not extract the gel carefully. The yellow part or latex between the skin and the gel contains ‘Aloin’ which shouldn’t be consumed at all. If the gel extract is transparent without any traces of yellow (as shown in the picture below), then it’s very safe to consume it. In either case, do not add more than a tablespoon of aloe vera per glass of juice.

aloe vera gel

2. Double Citrus Juice

double citrous juice - juice drink image

Ingredients: Freshly squeezed orange juice of 2-3 navel oranges, Juice of two limes, Water – 1 cup, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 3 to 4 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 4 to 5

Method of Preparation: Just blend everything together in a shaker or blender and enjoy!

3. Spicy Buttermilk

This is something that we used to make back home in Kerala. I just modified it a bit to suit my current taste (medium spicy and mildly sweetened)

spicy buttermilk - indian spicy buttermilk recipe

Ingredients: Refrigerated curd – 250ml, Water – 150ml, Salt – ½ teaspoon or as per taste, Sugar – ½ teaspoon, Shallots / Sambar onions – 2 to 3, Green Chilli – 1 (small), Ginger – ½ inch, Curry leaves – 7 to 8

Method of Preparation: Blend curd, water, salt and sugar well for about 20 to 30 seconds in a blender / mixer. Coarsely crush pealed shallots, green chilli, ginger and curry leaves in a mortar. Add it to the blender along with the rest and blend for another 3-4 seconds. Refreshing spicy buttermilk is ready!

The color of the buttermilk may vary (light green or mild pink) based on the leading ingredient.

4. Kiwi Smoothie

Kiwi fruits seem to be suddenly cheaper in the Indian markets (due to excess import?). I saw them in the More Supermarket for as low as 14 rupees apiece last week and decided to experiment with the same in multiple ways.

kiwi smoothie recipe

Ingredients: Kiwi fruits – 1 (Pealed and chopped), Chilled milk – 1½ cups, Water – ½ cup, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6

Method of Preparation: Blend kiwi fruit pieces, Sugar and water in a mixer or blender for about 30 seconds (or until no small pieces of kiwi fruits are seen). Now, add milk and ice cubes and blend for another 15-20 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy the smoothie!

Tip: You can add half a banana, while blending the kiwi, to make it an even richer smoothie with a better flavor. Yes, Kiwi and Banana can go well. In fact, I had made that once but forgot to click a picture

5. Minty Watermelon – Lime Juice

Water melons are indeed the fruit of the season. But did you know that some lime juice and ground mint leaves can turn your humble watermelon juice into an exotic Mocktail?

minty watermelon lime juice recipe

Ingredients: Cut Watermelon pieces with seeds – 5 to 6 cups, Juice of 1 lime, Fresh Mint leaves – 8 to 10, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 3 to 4 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6

Method of Preparation: Blend everything together (including the seeds in the watermelon) for about 20 seconds. Pour into a glass and garnish with 2-3 fresh mint leaves and enjoy!

Tip: Try another variant by replacing mint leaves with ¼ green chilli while blending! This has more punch in it.

6. Lime – Ginger Juice

This is one of my all-time favorites and this is what we usually offer to our guests in the summer.

Ginger Lime Juice image

Ingredients: Juice of 2 limes, Extract of 1” ginger piece, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 4 to 6 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6, Fresh mint leaves to garnish

Method of Preparation: Blend everything (except mint leaves) together for about 10-15 seconds or until the sugar completely dissolves. Pour into a glass and top with mint leaves. You can try garnishing with crushed mint leaves as well. I usually, chew the leaves after I finish the juice ?

Tip: In order to extract the ginger juice, first crush it in a mortar without any water and squeeze out the juice. Then crush it again with a teaspoon of water to get some more of it squeezed. Filter this extract before adding to the blender.

7. Lazy Lassi

This is our good old Lassi that doesn’t need any introduction.

simple lassi recipe

Ingredients: Curd – 400 ml, Sugar – 5 to 6 teaspoons, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Edible Rose Water – ½ teaspoon (OR Cardamom powder ¼ teaspoon), Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Blend everything together for about 20 seconds, pour into tall glasses and enjoy!

Tip: Many Rose water brands (including Dabur) that you see in the market are good for cosmetic purposes alone and hence not edible grade. Hence, double check before buying the same

8. Kiwi – Lime Juice

This is another super-refreshing drink for the summer!

kiwi lime juice

Ingredients: Kiwi fruit – 1 (Pealed and chopped), Juice of 1 lime, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Water – 1 ½ cups, Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Blend kiwi fruit pieces, Lime juice, Sugar and Salt along with some 50 ml of for about 30 seconds so that a neat pulp is formed. Add the rest of the water and ice cubes and blend well. Pour into a glass of water and consume immediately (If you are storing in the fridge, mix well before drinking as kiwi juice – just like freshly made pineapple juice – will have the fruit parts floating after a few minutes)

Bonus Tip

Convert it into something exciting: Barring the ones featuring milk products, any of the above drinks can be quickly converted into a summer cocktail by adding 30 to 45 ml of your favorite spirit while blending ?

Make these summer coolers at home and let me know how they turned out to be.

Intolerance and the Art of Losing Friends on Social Media

1 Dec

Once you had some awesome friends! First, they came from your neighborhood – fondly known as your chaddi buddies. Then you got introduced to more friends during your happy times such as family events, religious festivals or community celebrations. As you grew and joined school or college, you made many more wonderful friends and by the sheer length of our educational system you really got to spend a lot more time with your friends than your parents and siblings themselves. When you got a job, you probably made a few friends at your workplace as well and still more in the new community where you lived with your own nuclear family. Needless to say, most of your friends were from multiple religions and regions with varying social backgrounds and political views; some even spoke a different language than yours!

As you grow older, the maturity level of friendships at different stages of life was expected to improve and the acceptance of the above-mentioned diversity was instrumental in maintaining those friendships. And it did work that way too as most of your discussions were face to face and healthy despite political, religious, and cultural differences. Whenever you thought your discussions went astray or not in the right spirit, you could feel the same and you (or others in the circle) intervened immediately and took corrective measures. And most importantly, you still used all your senses in maintaining relationships!

Then the (Online) Social Networks came into existence which gave you a wonderful opportunity to (re)connect with all your friends from the past and present. Due to the ‘open nature’ of these networks, you discovered new friends, acquaintances and even strangers who eventually became your friends! The technology suddenly became so good and handy. You could not only share photos, audio and video from your own personal life but from other individuals, media or publishing houses too! The concept of ‘viral’ came into play and the new generation media tapped into every opportunity to dig out sensational topics, manufacture news, create #hashtags, and send the same to you so that you can share it with your ‘audience’ (not necessarily friends) as well. You became ‘carriers’ and ‘propagators’ of such thoughts and opinions that weren’t originally yours. Campaign houses, News curators and Content creators rejoiced at your cost. The more sensational the story was, the faster it spread! And you really enjoyed playing your part in spreading it – sometimes even unverified and far-from-truth content too, because you were already bought into a plan!

But you didn’t notice one thing! Your relationship with your friends was somehow getting affected on the Social Media (and hence outside that domain as well) without you having a clue about it.

And how exactly did it happen?

  • On the Social Networks, the difference between your family, friends, acquaintances and the general public was fast disappearing and for you everyone was the same – i.e. your audience!
  • Due to the above reason, you thought your audience would relate to your favorite topics as well – be it related to your Religion, Caste, Political Party, Modi, Rahul, Kejriwal, Beef, AwardWapsi, Khan or Kher
  • You were not really reading your audience with all your senses open (lost opportunity with technology?) and hence your views were mostly one-sided or skewed. You just clicked, touched, liked, shared, and LOLed for everything (and used your brain lesser) with the technology created separation between you and your audience
  • Due to the above mentioned separation, you could strongly tell things that you wouldn’t otherwise tell to someone in your face-to-face discussions or chitchats! You were not inhibited when it came to openly venting your extreme views on sensitive topics such as Religion, Politics, Racism etc
  • Once you were opinionated, you would argue endlessly, would use strong words and would try every bit to convince yourself and your audience that your point of view was always right! You thought you were the most logical person in the world. The Social Media proved to be a great platform for even the shyest person in real life to be highly logical and open! Of course, you were logical – in a set that contained just you. i.e. { you } :)
  • Eventually, your Online Social Circle became a bunch of those of who ‘liked’ and ‘agreed’ with you and the ones who didn’t. The harmless Social Media ‘Like’ suddenly started getting another meaning. Since you ‘liked’ those who agreed with your views, you even started ‘Hating’ those who didn’t buy your views! In short, ‘I don’t agree with you’ became ‘I hate you’!
  • Some of your real life friends who couldn’t agree with you kept quiet, some just ‘emoted’ it, some commented with mild displeasure and some reacted vehemently; And some of them actually started disliking you!
  • Many open facebook groups became war grounds of different viewpoints and private WhatsApp groups of school/college friends became bullying camps!

And the end result – You sulked at work and home, your blood pressure levels raised, your health was at risk and most importantly, you lost some good friends! The funny thing is that, you didn’t even realize your Gods, Religion, Political Party, Modi, Rahul or Khan wouldn’t fetch you real friends or mend broken relationships!

Ever thought what did you actually fight for and what would you lose at the end?

Some Tips for Maintaining the Social Media Decorum

Listed below are not exactly the ultimate Social Media guidelines but some tips that may help you in maintaining your relationships on Social networks.

– Make sure that your posts are relevant and addressed to the right audience – i.e.Your friends, acquaintances, public etc.

– Before submitting each post or comment, double-check your language – not only for grammatical errors but more to see if you are using strong or abusive words.

Avoid forwarding unverified content and twisted facts. These days, the media and the social media campaign houses/publishers of political parties and religions are so damn good at twisting facts and projecting incomplete views.

– If possible, forward the original news than the fabricated versions of the same

Avoid forwarding spreading hate content in public forums (highly debatable topic) even if it may be deemed acceptable to most of your audience. If it hurts even one among hundred, it’s still objectionable!

– Topics such as Politics, Religion etc are best avoided on your School-College-Family groups on Facebook or WhatsApp, unless you have created the group to discuss only those topics

Keep the diversity of your audience in mind even within a single focused target group.

– Before making each comment, make sure that you are being relevant to the original topic.

Avoid following up or replying to your own replies on Indian online news sites. In order to increase traffic to their sites, they will intentionally create controversial topics and sometimes lies. Further, there are so many paid commenters of various religious/political groups working on such sites.

– Use private messaging to deal with those who abuse. You don’t need to go down to their level to win an argument or a point! If he’s your real life friend, you may want to forgive him for a few times, others deserve to be blocked or banned.

Do not stretch each argument beyond two replies. If you can’t convince or win over someone in two or three comments, you can’t win in even 20! In such cases one of them might be wrong too and it could be you! Even if that’s not the case, it’s better to give up as there’s no point in winning on ego grounds.

– There’s no need to click obligatory ‘Likes’ and try to avoid unnecessary threaded comment series such as “Good one -> Thank you -> You’re welcome -> :)” that don’t add any value to anybody.

Avoid following those who spread negativity or hatred even if they are your friends.

– You can still have ‘Social friends’ without following them.

Be ready to ‘unfriend’ acquaintances if the friendship don’t make sense any longer.

Intolerance and the Social Media

So, everyone in India is talking about tolerance and intolerance now. In my opinion, many of the intolerance issues existed in India much before 60 years of Congress rule or 18 months of Modi government. It goes very well back into our history – before independence or for that matter even before the British invaded us, we had our issues. Our ancient ‘Varna’ system, several religions, 1000s of castes and 100s of languages and their numerous dialects were always the perfect recipe for intolerance. It’s just that many of the unfortunate incidents in the past didn’t get any visibility or viral coverage in the old generation media. Now, it’s the exact opposite situation wherein each and every incident – small or big – is spread, participated and reacted by millions of people in no time in the context of the new generation media. Unfortunately, you are being party to the whole commotion, sometimes, without even realizing it. So, who’s to blame here?

If you still don’t understand intolerance, it’s staring at your screen right now! :D

Modi may or may not become the best PM of India! Rahul may or may not quit politics! Khans may produce hits and flops! But lost friendships may not come back to you. Think about it…

Going Antisocial with an Unsmart Phone

9 Sep

(Note: This is the edited version of my recent facebook rant)

It’s more than a month since I went antisocial with my phone! Yes, I decided to break free from the social pressures caused by the phone and this decision was primarily triggered by the misuse of an old smartphone recently provided to my now-teen-son who obviously tried to emulate his parents in terms of the best practices of using a smartphone!

In a sudden attempt to set the right example to him (and prove to the immediate world around as well) I, the self proclaimed role model of my son, uninstalled WhatsApp and Twitter apps in quick succession and then removed Facebook & Google Plus accounts from the phone. This was followed by disabling notifications from all apps except email and text messaging which are like bare necessities for the time being. The phone is now used for basic telephony, text messaging and voluntary reading of news via some apps alone! Of course, there is occasional use of maps, camera, portfolio apps, fitness assistants and web browser – all at will – and hence the phone is not entirely Unsmart yet.

After the initial phase of violent withdrawal symptoms, I must say that the life is coming back to normalcy and very peaceful right now with no urge to stare at the phone all the time or keep swiping on the screen without any particular intent. However, there is both good and bad attached to drastic decisions such as quitting social apps, under-utilizing the phone and turning the clock back by a few years.

The following are some of the positives that I already see by getting rid of social apps and unwanted alerts on my phone.

(+) Suddenly, I am no more hiding from the co-passengers in the lift with the help of the big smartie and even better – I am able to establish eye contacts with them and even smile at them. Wow! I am still social in real life too.

(+) No more weird movement of my index finger along the imaginary unlock pattern of the phone which used to happen earlier even when the phone was not in hand. This symptom was more like those cricket addicted kids doing an imaginary Rahul Dravid style front foot defense with the full-face blade, at an imaginary ball delivered at them. If the phone was in hand, the indication was primarily a sequence of unlocking the phone, swiping the home screens / launching any app, and then locking the phone.

i.e.

while (awake) {
/* for no particular reason */
   thePhone.unlock();
   thePhone.swipe();
   thePhone.lock();
}

(+) Better interaction with the family while at home or away in an eatery, event or outing. The focus changes back to enjoying the moment than capturing and sharing the moment immediately to get likes from the ones who matter less.

(+) There is no more grinning at the phone or romancing with it which used to happen earlier in public places or even while driving. Now, you are more alert without a smart phone!

(+) Not much contribution to those crowd-sourced apps that make money by fooling you into them – Not as many posts, reviews or comments while on the move and such actions, if at all necessary, happens only on the desktop or laptop.

(+) Your Internet bandwidth usage is reduced drastically with some meaningless media/videos (rated ones too) getting out of the way.

(+) Better judgement and ability to distinguish between necessity and nice-to-have things in life. Now, usage of the social media is back in the desktop world alone and hence there’s a fixed time for doing that. Further, no insomnia caused by the connected phone!

(+) Suddenly, the three year old phone seems to perform like a server! Wow, now I don’t need to support China’s economy every three years (every few months for many?) or live with their plastic dumping terrorism.

(+) No more selfies. I was never a selfie fan but I must confess that I might have taken about half a dozen in my whole life. With no immediate sharing possibility, there is no urge to capture even those rare selfies. This may also result in huge savings in the future as there’s no need to procure those Sergei  Bubka like selfie accessories.

Having said all those, I realize that there are some drawbacks as well when you suddenly decide to go against the social flow…

(-) Firstly, you are a friend or relative to someone only as long as you are connected to them socially on these apps. To be frank, I didn’t receive any wish from anybody during this Onam – via call, text message or in person – because I am no more connected and the Onam was celebrated primarily on WhatsApp. Of course, there were many Facebook wishes similar to radio broadcasts which I reciprocated with my ‘likes’. Being antisocial by choice, I coped with it in no time.

(-) You may miss some focused groups that stood for a specific, meaningful purpose. As a matter of fact, two or three WhatsApp groups out of a dozen that I had, before calling it quits, were really useful.

(-) Your decision to reduce mobile usage is effective only if your dear ones and your connected circle take similar actions. It’s sad to see a driver, typically a husband, toiling through the Bangalore traffic while the insensitive ones – typically a wife, teenage kids or colleagues in a pool – in the car contributing heavily to WhatsApp and Facebook traffic through out the journey.

(-) You are perceived uncool and outdated! Your teenager kid might even try to educate you on topics like ‘what is a mobile app?’ or ‘what is meant by software?’. And at times, it is virtually impossible to convince an adventurous youngster friend that some of us – the Software Industry veterans – had actually worked on the first generation mobile applications at a time when many of them were still in their diapers…

and finally…

(-) You don’t get to play an Arnab Goswamy by breaking a news on your favorite WhatsApp group! Now, that’s a tragedy as you lose the chance to play a hero fighting against all injustice in this world. Well, perhaps one can compensate that with some more detailed analysis on desktop social media…

– Yours Truly ‘Antisocial’

(PS: My sincere apologies to those who weren’t informed about quitting my past cool life)