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.


while (awake) {
/* for no particular reason */

(+) 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)

20 Midcap Stocks For Accelerated Wealth Creation

15 Aug

midcap stock picks indiaIt is statistically proven that long term investments in equities (stocks) can outperform any other conventional form of investments or asset classes such as real estate, gold or bank/post office deposits. However, a lot of people hesitate to invest in the stock markets due to a number of reasons including risk of losing the capital, volatility in the stock market, confusion between speculative trading vs investment, and the uncertainty around the companies that they invest in or sheer lack of knowledge to pick the right stocks.

Investing in Mutual funds (Read Systematic Investment Plan or SIP) is probably the easiest and safest route to enter the stock market rather than going for direct stock investment. However, the return on investment can be much higher if you go for direct equities as long as you pick the right stocks and companies to invest in.

An ideal stock portfolio (Read my stock portfolio that I often update) should have a mix of large cap and midcap stocks across several sectors/industries to minimize your risks. However, if you are looking at a faster growth rate you can even think of a Portfolio that’s heavier on the Midcap side if not an All-Midcap Portfolio. Given below, is a list of 20 handpicked midcap stocks in India that I believe should offer significant wealth creation (at least four to five times, if not more) for investors in the next ten years.

My List of 20 Midcap Stocks

Most of the Midcap stocks in this list are those with the proven record of high return on investment (Based on the ROE, ROCE parameters, sales/profits growth numbers etc) over a period of time. I have also included a couple rather new players which I think will excel in their respective businesses and hence offer higher returns to investors. Further, these companies are run by excellent management and promoters too and hence the business health and longevity is not under threat.

Here’s my winner list:

1. Amara Raja Batteries
2. Apollo Hospitals Enterprises
3. Atul Auto Ltd
4. Aurobindo Pharma
5. Avanti Feeds
6. Bharat Forge Ltd
7. Britannia Industries
8. Cera Sanitaryware
9. Colgate Palmolive Ltd
10. Dewan Housing Finance Ltd
11. eClerx Services
12. IndusInd Bank
13. Kaveri Seed Company
14. Kitex Garments (Previously recommended)
15. Mayur Uniquoters
16. Motherson Sumi Ltd
17. Pidilite Industries
18. Torrent Pharmaceuticals
19. UPL Ltd
20. Zensar Technologies Ltd

(Some notable omissions include Page Industries, Eicher Motors etc which have run up quite a bit)

Investment Methodology

Since the markets have run up a lot, putting all your money as lump sum investment can be very risky at the moment. Hence the following is the methodology that I suggest.

  • Make a shortlist of 12-15 of the above midcaps for your investment. Give more weightage to sectors like Pharma, Banking and Auto ancillaries
  • Systematically buy these stocks either by putting a fixed amount per month into buying the shortlisted stocks or by adding these stocks at every market correction
  • Track your investment on a periodic basis for any change in fundamentals of the selected companies. You don’t need to track them on a daily basis as long as your choices are good and have a long term plan with them
  • Periodically (once a year may be) validate and check the sector-wise weightage of your holdings and readjust if required
  • Watch them grow! And do not let the market fluctuations affect your investment decision UNLESS the fundamentals of your invested companies change.

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified finance adviser or portfolio manager. Please consult the experts before taking any investment decision in the equity market. You may have to do further research on these stocks on financial portals, websites of these companies as well as mandatory filings by them before taking any positions. As a disclosure, I have investments in many of the stocks mentioned above at the time of writing of this post.

Related Posts

10 Multibagger Midcap Stocks in India
10 Small Cap Stocks with Growth Potential

Good luck with your investments!

How Restaurant Bill is Calculated in India? VAT, Service Tax, Service Charge Calculation Explained

14 Jun

How many times hasn’t your bloated restaurant bill left you clueless as to how components like VAT (Value Added Tax), ST (Service Tax), SC (Service Charge) etc are being calculated?

Worry no more…

Without complicating the matter much, let me explain how a typical restaurant bill break up is arrived at as per the prevailing taxing norms as of June 1, 2015.

VAT, ST and SC

The following are the rules for calculating VAT, ST and SC.

VAT is typically charged at 14.5% on all food items and non-alcoholic beverages (includes, packaged water, juices, mocktail etc).

VAT for alcoholic beverages and cocktails is 5.5%.

SC is charged at restaurant owner’s will. This can vary from 0% to 15%. This is like an in-built tip and if Service charge is levied, it has to be clearly mentioned in the menu.

ST is calculated at 5.6%. Service Tax is actually 14% and it is applicable on 40% of the total bill (Including food total + Service charge).

ST = 5.6%, i.e. 14% of 40

Note: As per the government rule, the Service tax is applicable only to those restaurants and food joints having the air-conditioning or central air-heating facility

A Sample Restaurant Bill Calculation

Attached here is a sample restaurant bill that I recently (after June 1st, 2015) got from our family dine out.

indian restaurant bill with VAT, ST and SC
(Click on the image to Enlarge)

The table below explains how the above bill amount is calculated.

Please note that some restaurants may provide separate bills for alcoholic beverages and the food. In such cases the applicable VAT is different for both the bills.

Particulars Amount
A. Alcoholic Beverages
B. Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages
C. Service Charge @ 10% for this place
(10% of A+B)
D. VAT for Alcoholic Beverages @ 5.5%
(5.5% of A)
E. VAT for Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages @ 14.5%
(14.5% of B)
F. Service Tax @ 5.6%, rounded
(5.6% of A+B+C or 1010+1570+258)
Total Net

Hope that explains how the final rounded bill amount of Rs.3280/- is arrived at. Next time, please pay attention to your bill details because many restaurants may not have changed their billing system yet.

Happy Dining!

Kerala Style Sardine Curry (Mathi Curry) Recipe

25 Apr

sardine currySardines are one of the cheapest and healthiest fishes available in India. They contain plenty of unsaturated fat, Omega-3 fatty acids and minerals and hence extremely good for your health when consumed in steamed or curried form and not as fried fish – although fried ones taste exceptionally good. In the state of Kerala, the fish curry made out of Sardines (Mathi or Chaala in the native language) is probably the most common lunch dish among non-vegetarians that comprise of some 90% of the Kerala population.

Fish curry in Kerala style comes in three or four close variants and they are fairly easy to make. The secret to making lip-smacking fish curry lies in the quality of ingredients used – primarily the coconut and the fish itself that has to be fresh and cleaned really very well (Read: Not like how your vendor does it).

Let us now head over and see how my variant of Sardine curry recipe looks like.


  1. Indian Sardines (aka Indian Oil Sardines) – 1Kg, cleaned & cut into 2-3 pieces
  2. Mustard Seeds (big) – One pinch
  3. Shallots – 1 cup, finely chopped
  4. Ginger – 1/2 inch, sliced lengthwise into 3-4 pieces
  5. Garlic – 4 to 5 cloves, sliced lengthwise
  6. Green Chillies – 2, split once lengthwise
  7. Curry Leaves – 10-12 leaves
  8. Salt – 1 teaspoon
  9. Cambodge (Kokam) – 3-4 pieces (Soaked in water for 15 mins)
  10. Coconut Oil – 2 tablespoons
  11. Kashmiri Chilli Powder – 1 teaspoon
  12. Regular Chilli Powder – ½ teaspoon
  13. Coriander Powder – 1 teaspoon
  14. Turmeric Powder – ½ teaspoon
  15. Fenugreek Powder – One pinch
  16. Fresh Coconut – ½ portion, scraped

Note: Ingredients from 11 to 15 can be replaced with 3-4 teaspoons of Eastern or Nirapara brand of Fish masala powder. I personally use the Eastern brand

For decoration & seasoning:
– Curry leaves – 1 string
– Shallots – 2, vertically sliced to make thin separable rings
– Coconut oil – 1 tablespoon


Grind ingredients 11 to 16 (Kashmiri chilli powder to coconut) into a fine paste after adding adequate water.

Heat a seasoned earthen pot (or non-stick pan) and add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to it. When the oil is really hot, add mustard seeds and wait till they crackle.

Add chopped shallots to it and sauté it in high flame till it turns light brown and soft. Add ginger-garlic slices, green chillies and curry leaves and stir fry for about 30 seconds.

Add the ground paste to it, about 1½ cups of water and soaked cambodge (along with the water used for soaking), salt and mix very well.

Add fish pieces and make sure that they are immersed well in the masala. Cook in high heat till it starts boiling and cook in medium flame further for about 8-10 minutes occasionally (every two minutes or so) shaking the content by holding the edges of the earthen pot rather than using a ladle to stir.

Turn of the flame and add the string of curry leaves on top to garnish.

For seasoning, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the seasoning tawa and add the shallot rings to it. Stir fry till they are dark golden brown and add it along with the oil to the fish curry.

Serving Suggestion

Mathi Curry can be served hot with steamed white rice or boiled red rice while another popular combination is Kappa (Steamed Kasava or Tapioca) which is one of the staple foods in Kerala.

Bonus Tips:
Sardines need to be cleaned really well even after your fish vendor has done a decent job. It has to be without any stain or blackspots on the inside part and no scales whatsoever outside. Rub them and wash well with crystal salt for extra cleaning.

Coconut used should be really fresh, slightly sweet and full of milk and that makes all the difference.

10 Small Cap Stocks that offer Significant Growth Potential

18 Jan

About two years back, I had recommended some decent midcap stocks most of which appreciated big time even before the current bull run started. I have been, since, trying to dig out some value picks in the mid cap segment but unfortunately, most of them ran up big time – much beyond their fair valuations. Let me concentrate on some pure small cap stocks this time with their underlying businesses holding very good growth potential and stock appreciation for the future.

Important: You may note that many of the stocks listed below, while still offering value, have run up a bit as well. The markets are at near all-time-highs and hence some of these stocks can go down sharply at some point. Hence it would be ideal to buy them in the ranges mentioned or take a staggered approach. Further, never put a lot of money into small caps stocks – not more than 10%-15% of your overall equity portfolio


Small Cap Stock Picks

(Company Name, Price on 18/01/2015, Buy Price Range)

1. Chaman Lal Setia Exports (80, 50-60)

2. Gujarat Foils (70, 48-55)

3. Goodricke Group (152, CMP and at dips)

4. Goodyear India (624, 450-480)

5. Hinduja Global Solutions (629, CMP and at dips)

6. JVL Agro Industries (20, 15-18)

7. Jyoti Structures (39, CMP)

8. Noida Toll Bridge Company (35, 24-28)

9. Nucleus Software Exports (199, At dips below 160)

10. Stylam Industries (83, At dips below 60)


Criteria for Selection

Some of the criteria used to pick the small cap stock mentioned here are:

  • Industry (Excluded Oils, Chemicals, Steel, Textiles etc)
  • Promoters (How trustworthy are they?)
  • Age & Stability of the company
  • Growth Numbers (Top and Bottom line)
  • Dividend Yield (As applicable)
  • Debt on Book (Zero or Manageable debt)

As you know, the biggest challenge for most small cap companies is managing the debt as they usually avail high interest loans. A big chunk of their profit flows out as interest repayment and that’s probably the main parameter that would define the growth potential of many of them.

Disclosure: As of writing of this post, I am invested in JVL Agro Industries. I plan to invest in at least 3-4 of the above listed companies as and when their stock quotes reach the ranges mentioned.

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified finance adviser or portfolio manager. Please consult the experts before taking any investment decision in the equity market. You may have to do further research on these stocks on financial portals, websites of these companies as well as mandatory filings by them before taking any positions.

Good luck with your equity investments!


June 01, 2015:

1. Chaman Lal Setia Exports: Hold

2. Gujarat Foils: Hold

3. Goodricke Group: Avoid/Exit (Growth outlook not exciting, Exit on any rally)

4. Goodyear India: Buy in the initially recommended range only

5. Hinduja Global Solutions: Hold

6. JVL Agro Industries: Hold

7. Jyoti Structures: Avoid/Book loss (No debt restructuring seen, Interest coverage poor)

8. Noida Toll Bridge Company: Buy in the initially recommended range only

9. Nucleus Software Exports: Book Partial Profit

10. Stylam Industries: Buy in the initially recommended range only

August 13, 2015:

1. Chaman Lal Setia Exports: Book Partial Profit (Stock already doubled from the recommended date and tripled from the recommended price!)

2. Gujarat Foils: Hold

3. Goodricke Group: Exited (See previous update) (Growth outlook not exciting, Exit on any rally)

4. Goodyear India: Buy in the initially recommended range only, Hold if you already entered

5. Hinduja Global Solutions: Hold

6. JVL Agro Industries: Hold

7. Jyoti Structures: Exited (See previous update)

8. Noida Toll Bridge Company: Hold

9. Nucleus Software Exports: Booked Partial Profit (See previous update), Hold the rest

10. Stylam Industries: Buy in the initially recommended range only, Hold if you already entered (Stock more than doubled from the recommended date/price)

Note: Due to lack of time, I will not be providing any more update on this particular list. The readers are expected to take further research based action on their holdings.