17 April, 2008

Importance of good data in decision making

Following are quotes from Editorial in Economic Times :

Does the official wholesale price index (WPI) give a true picture of the extent of price rise (see ET, April 14)? Does the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) correctly capture the health of Indian industry? Is the data on agriculture or the services sector accurate? Answers to these and similar questions are important, not only because data integrity is a fundamental tenet of data collation but, more important, because policy responses would vary hugely depending on the answers.

... successive governments have failed to pay sufficient importance to upgrading the quality of our data. As a result, corrective action is often initiated when it is too late. Following the recommendations of the National Statistics Commission under the chairmanship of Dr C Rangarajan, the government has initiated some steps to rectify this situation.

Take for instance, recent efforts to construct a Producer Price Index (PPI) that will give a more accurate picture of inflation. The expert group has been unable to make any headway as it finds it cannot compel producers to supply data. It’s the same with the IIP that presently uses an out-dated base of 1993-94. The Collection of Statistics Bill, 2007, could make data collection easier but the Bill is still pending in Parliament. So for the moment we are really batting blind. Not a happy thought, but there it is!

There are many other instances where Indian government could improve quality of data (for example: air transportation, fatal road accidents etc.) Now a days there is no excuse for not having good data. Computers are cheap, hard disk is cheaper. Companies like Google a turn on with Tera bytes of data and over eager to host your data in the cloud.

I just googled for WPI and found on Ministry of Commerce & Industry website that there is some effort to revise WPI, hopefully to make it more accurate. Here is the link:

Suggestions from Industry / Trade Associations, Price Statisticians, Experts and Index users for improvements of the new series of WPI

15 April, 2008

Affirmative Action

Yesterday's Economics Times has a great article on affirmative action (in India) by Jamshed J. Irani. Following are slightly edited paragraphs from the article.

In the course of preparation of the CII report on "Concrete steps for affirmative action" - we realized that there was immediate need for two sets of interventions.

1. Employability: We realized that in spite of having the basic qualifications, many members of the scheduling tribes and scheduled castes were unable to find suitable jobs since they lacked the opportunity to learn good communication skills, ..., how to speak in public, how to conduct themselves in an interview, etc. These are soft skills, but very critical nevertheless.

2. Quality Education: The second was the universally accepted shortcoming which afflicts a large part of out young population irrespective of their caste status - quality education. In the long run, universal access to quality education would be the only solution to problems of social discrimination. Now this is an action, which lies largely in the government's domain. ... CII decided to provide scholarship support to students, who wish to pursue higher education, but would not be able to do so owning to severe economic limitations.

One other point made in the article is about gap between number of people joining the workforce and number of jobs available and helping/training entrepreneurs to create more jobs.
CII website has more information here.

03 April, 2008

Brand Equity Quiz 2008

Yesterday evening I attended Brand Equity Quiz 2008. It was hilarious. Quiz master Derek O'Brien has great energy and sense of humor. He looked so funny in 60's costumes. Good Pune crowd (around 500) and really great teams (total 30 I think). First round eliminated all but 7 teams. What followed was great rounds of quizzing (the theme was how quizzing was done in 60's, 70's ...till 2008). Finally TCS team won.

In first round, there was a question "So and so is called an ___". Fill the blank. One guy from audience raised his hands and said pension. Bad English !.

Here are some funny one-lines from Derek.
"Right answer. The team looks surprised at that."
"Everything I say today, just take it personally."
"I was going to give 5 points to that team for talking about figures and things of that sort".

One guy won whopping 3000 Rs for knowing that umbrellas are sometimes called "gamps", mainly in Britain and another one won big amount for recognizing a clip from recent 3rd class Bollywood movie (who said bad movies are bad for you).

Good to see Jug Suraiya (he writes in Times Of India and has a comic strip called Dubyaman) and his wife Bunny come on stage.

I was more than happy to see lots of sponsorship. I think spending advertising budget by sponsoring quizzing event is just a fabulous idea. You can already see me talking good things about sponsors like Kingfisher (who sent air-hostesses so beautiful that I almost fell in love) and Nokia on my blog (you get an Idea). Given the extraordinary content of my blog, I estimate trillions of people read my blog :).

I think right now companies are spending (wasting?) their advertising budget on TV (those crap channels who broadcast pictures of bus hitting a donkey as national breaking news) and Cricket. Online advertising and budget optimization will take some time to catch up in India. My point is there are lots of venues/possibilities for effective use of advertising budget. This is even true because India is distinctly different from west when it comes to buying habits and influencing factors.

"You are just 100 meters away from this. Get down at next stop."

For example, imagine I am going from Powai to Brandra by BEST bus (in Mumbai) and when bus reaches near Hiranandani gardens, wouldn't it be nice to display advertisement of newly opened shop in Hiranandani. Just in case Olive Garden decides to open in India. Do not forget me when you use this idea :). Point is think about targeted advertising, agreed it is tough and challenging, but isn't that a good thing.

My mouth is watery. BTW appetizer in the picture is Bruschetta (Olive Garden) . I had it one Italian restaurant in, surprise T.Nagar, Chennai.