Incomplete numbers

India’s premium smartphone segment grew 29% YoY in 2019; Apple was the fastest growing brand, up 41% YoY, and OnePlus maintained its No. 1 position

—The Economic Times (via Techmeme)

This headline is bothering me. It appears to present the idea that the Indian market is (finally) turning towards premium smartphones. But these numbers only present half the story.

It’s great the the premium smartphone segment grew 29%, and Apple’s sales (I presume) grew 41%. But from what base did they grow?

Also, how fast did the overall smartphone market grow? If the overall smartphone market grew by more than 29%, then the market share of premium segment actually shrank.

Half the numbers, half the story. Still makes it to the front page of Techmeme :/

Continue reading Incomplete numbers

Penny’s insight—women in science

From an episode of The Big Bang Theory…

Bernadette is being featured as one of the sexiest scientists in California by a fashion magazine. Amy criticises it because it highlights Bernadette’s looks not her scientific achievements. Penny defends it with something on the lines of…

if fashion magazines highlighted female scientists, I might have become a theoretical physicist.

Amy and Bernadette’s smirks suggest that this may just be a joke in the series. But this statement is practical marketing1.

Marketers know to advertise where their audience hangs out, not where other marketers hang out. Featuring women in science magazines is an example of the latter—useful for career advancement of women already in science, but not useful for outreach to new audiences.

To encourage more women into science, we should be featuring more women scientists, more often in magazines that non-science women read. If women prefer reading fashion mags then that’s where more women in science (or business or tech or sports or politics) need to be featured.

Continue reading Penny’s insight—women in science

Post Microsoft

10 years ago Microsoft software was dominant in my usage – Windows, Office, Messenger, IE, and probably more.

Today, the only Microsoft product that I use is Visual Studio Code (I switched from Sublime Text last year).

I haven’t used Windows, IE or messenger in a decade. I do occasionally use Excel and Skype, when someone insists, but have neither installed on my devices.

Continue reading Post Microsoft

Mom asks: What’s monetary and fiscal stimulus?

Currency - Money - Economics - Fiscal - Monetary

(When my mom – ex middle school science & economics teacher – asks about monetary and fiscal stimulus)

When does an economy grow?
At a simple level, when earning/spending increases.
People and companies spend more when they have more money.
They get more money from increased borrowing, or increased income.

The government, when confronting low inflation and low growth, wants to increase this spending.
It has two sets of tools – monetary and fiscal – to stimulate this growth.

Monetary tools target increased lending/borrowing, and fiscal tools intend to increase income directly.

Continue reading Mom asks: What’s monetary and fiscal stimulus?

(Dis)Honesty in pricing communication

(Dis)Honesty in pricing communication


Fuel prices at the pump go up as crude recovers.


Fuel prices at pump hold high as crude drops. Oil companies explain it being due to long-term contracts / futures.


Newspaper increases prices, explains increase due to rising cost of newsprint and logistics.


Newspaper offers digital-only subscription at same price as print-only subscription.


Airlines add-on surcharges as crude hovers over $100/bbl.


Airlines record unprecedented profits on base of crude prices dropping by half. Surcharges remain as at peak.


Disincentivising the Indonesian forest fires

Indonesian forest fires
We didn’t light the fire…

Just saw a small BBC investigative piece on Indonesian fires. These fires cover the whole of SE Asia in smog and increase health risks for almost a billion people.

Under pressure from neighbouring countries, and International organisations, Indonesia has announced measures to prosecute those who light these fires. That’s the kind of measure you take when you want to send an impression of action, without disturbing the status quo in any meaningful way. Identifying, and prosecuting, the fire creators 1 is hard. Even more so when the local law enforcement earns more in handouts from the forest burners than from their official salary. But at least the western nations will be quiet for a while, right?

Here’s first of two better, much more effective deterrent policies 2:

Any land (plantation or forest) that is burned is disallowed for plantation of any sort for a period of 20/30/40 years from the time of last fire.

The period may be defined by how long it takes a forest to grow to a sustainable state. But that’s not the main purpose. The main purpose is to disincentivise clearing land by burning – both existing plantations and new forest lands – by taking them out of circulation for a really long time.

Also, thanks to advances in drone and satellite technologies, it is much easier to identify parcels of land that were burnt, when they were burnt, and if they are being planted on. All without having to rely on local personnel who may be bought or bullied.

However, this policy requires the Indonesian government to actually want to do something. Anything. At the moment, they don’t. So, here’s another policy idea:

Punitive tariffs on raw and processed produce exports from Indonesian plantations based formulaically on the amount of area under fire, continuously aggregated over the preceding 20/30/40 years.

The tariff should be a large multiple of the difference in cost between clearing land mechanically versus clearing it by burning. This policy, like the first, removes the incentive of burning land, replacing it with an overwhelming, long-lasting cost. And, again like the first policy, the metric of implementation (area of fires) can be measured remotely using satellites without any need for feet on the ground.

If effectively executed, it should provide a strong enough incentive for the Indonesian government to act on the first policy.

Continue reading Disincentivising the Indonesian forest fires

Flying business within Europe

Bad: Seating is the regular economy 3×3 with middle seat left empty. Which is fine, except that the leg room is no better than that in coach 👎👎

Good: Lounge access, specially the breakfast. Blessing for two starving souls! 👍

Best: Not remembering we were flying business till we were already seated in the lounge.
Getting invited to the lounge felt a pleasant surprise. Having 2×2 seating was even more so (we even discussed which could be this small jet aircraft in the BA fleet that has 2×2 seating).

Conclusion: If the surprise of flying business, having forgotten that we paid for it months back, is the best part about flying business, there’s little reason for anyone to be paying to fly business within Europe.

Fiscally conservative, socially liberal, politically deceased

New Labour - Lib Dems
Fiscally conservative, socially liberal, politically deceased

Fiscally conservative, socially liberal – the political space where new Labour resided, and where Lib Dems should be.

In my opinion, it’s the best choice for a prosperous, yet fair society. Yet, the hardest option to sell. Specially to an ageing population, in a hyperbole-driven, politicised media landscape.

The opposite – social conservatism (Tories & UKIP), and fiscal liberalism (old Labour) are both much easier to sell.

We’ve managed to elect a government that the media, both on the right and the left, have found wanting.

What would it take to get elected a government that the media, both on the left and right of centre, find able.