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Making Data Open For India

Nikhil Pahwa makes the case for Open Data In India.

Earlier today, we received an email from a Government of India organization (we’ve been advised not to name them), asking us to remove certain posts that we had published, on the basis of data published online by them. We’ve been publishing our analysis of publicly available Government data relevant to the Internet and Telecom domains since our inception almost three years ago, and are now pro-actively seeking more data from the Government for our data journalism initiative MediaNama Charts; Our take on this unexpected take-down request:

- We do not believe that raw data published online by Government organizations, for citizens to peruse, is or should be under copyright.
- Our act of analysis and reportage on the basis of that data is not a case of copyright violation, and any move to prevent us from publishing the data or asking us to remove it impinges on our freedom to report on developments, as a media organization.
- We could have acquired the same data by filing Right To Information Act requests, and published the data, so why ask us to remove it?

I would be horrified if the Indian Government actually tried to defend the copyright that they may or may not actually have (since that data is available for public domain use through RTI anyhow) . I use government produced data often, and it would be a shame if they refused to let us actually use the data, while at the same time publishing them for public consumption. They could try and go to court and that is a deterrent in that many of us don't have the money or time to fight a court case - but if it comes down to that I'm happy to share in the costs and time, regardless of who is attacked.

Continuous Positive Days

If the Nifty closes positive today, it will be the sixth consecutive day it has closed up. Does this usually signify a turnaround?

The answer can only be gotten from past data. Let's see what happens in the past if we look at six day continuous positive days and find out what happens on the day after that. I took the Nifty data since 1994, and did a quick back-test.

Assume that if the Nifty is up 6 days in row, I buy it on the Sixth day, and sell it on the immediate next day.

Real Estate Return Guarantees And A Warning

I got a couple of emails that asked me about the new phase of real estate offers that go something like this:

Beetle Suite Ad

(Yes, it's real. Actual screen shot of this page)

Other variations of such plans are like this:

  • Take a loan, and builder will pay your EMI! Till possession.
  • Get 1% return per month on your money until possession.

What's this all about? A guarantee of a return?

IPOs Largely Suck in 2010-11

The performance of IPOs in 2010-11 has been fairly pathetic, with the average return being -13% on the NSE. Removing BSE only stocks, I've charted a list of IPOs that happened this year, with their returns till last friday.

The best returns are of stocks like Gravita India (+160%), C Mahendra Exports (127%), Mandhana Industries (80%) and Talwalkars (72%) . image (Click to see a huge picture) Notably, a government IPO - Coal India - has seen a 46% return on the back of rising coal prices. Gujarat Pipavav Port is still positive, while the smaller and popular IPOs of Lovable Lingerie, Persistent Infosystems and Career Point should help entrepreneurs that are actually making decent profits think of an IPO.

The worst performing IPO, Aster Silicates, went all the way to 250+ before crashing, in just a few days to end up 78% in the red. To the people who wanted to ride it up after listing, the return is even worse.

Of the losers, too many of them are shady small cap stocks that shouldn't deserve a mention. Of the notable non-shady stocks (or at least, people that have fancy degrees and wear ties) SKS Microfinance is in bad shape with a 44% negative return, most of which happened because of the AP government rules that took the carpet from under them.

Infra and power players like Nitesh Estates, Prestige Estates, Indosolar and SJVN fell more than 20% from the IPO prices.

As a follower but not a buyer of IPOs, I've seen that some stocks - notably those like Bedmutha Industries - are heavily manipulated. With huge volumes (over 50 cr. sometimes) and low delivery volumes, there seems to be a lot of circular trading or activity that smacks of promoter blessings. While there have been some investigations in the IPO process, we haven't seen any really strong effort to figure out how stocks are manipulated immediately after the IPO. With little history, it's difficult to trade them technically, and with little trader interest and low institutional support, such stocks can be easily moved around and rumours like "buy now before the juicy news comes" floated. But markets are markets, and money brings with it great incentives. All I can say is - if you trade them stick with a strong stop loss and expect that you'll get on the bad side of some manipulation.

Mutual Funds and Demat Fallacies

Some advertisements recently give the impression that you can "Demat" your mutual funds! Yippee! So you should buy through a stock broker on an exchange!

But this is a stupid reason.

Mutual funds are "dematerialized" anyway.

Materialized means that the unit certificate that you have is the be-all and end-all of your ownership; in the past, shares were sold as certificates. When you sold, you gave your certificate to the broker, who would find a way to get it over to the new buyer. If you lost your certificate, you were in deep doo-doo. You had to file an FIR and hope you had a photocoyp and beg and plead and offer your children as guarantee to get your shares back. Many instruments - NSCs for one - are like this.

Dematerialized means what you get in paper is an account statement, that your holdings are really maintained electronically. If you lose your statement, no big deal, you just call them and they send you a new one. You might need some details, but usually they can find your holdings with a PAN number nowadays. Shares are now usually held in demat mode, with demat "depositories" like NSDL and CDSL accounting for a major part of all share holdings in India.

SBI Bond Yield Calculator

SBI's four bonds listed today. First question: Why are there four bonds? Well, each of the two types - 10 and 15 years - had two options: for retail (individuals, 5 lakhs or less) and the rest.

Also see: "SBI Will Sell Bonds at 9.95%"


Rupay: India's Own Payment Processor

Econonic times says that soon India will have it's own payment processing firm (to rival Visa and Mastercard) called Rupay.

After almost two years of planning, the National Payments Corporation has at last finalised the proposed unique India Card which once commercially launched would be an domestic alternative to the global real-time payment processing firms like Visa and MasterCard .

At Yahoo: Accelerated Correlation

On Yahoo, you'll find me writing about Accelerated Correlation.

(Reproduced in Entirety)

Accelerated correlation

I heard recently that a $1 change in crude oil would impact our fiscal deficit by 0.80%. The calculation is simple. India imports about 750m barrels of crude per year. A $1 hike in crude is equivalent to $750 million more to be spent buying crude, which at the rupee rate of Rs. 45 is Rs. 3,375 crores. That will push up fiscal deficit of about 400,000 crores by another 1%. Ceteris paribus, or "all else being equal".

But ceteris is not paribus, if you'll excuse the bad Latin. All else is, as usual, not equal. The fiscal deficit is impacted by multiple things — oil subsidy, fertilizer subsidy, interest paid by the government on borrowings and so on. In good times, these are reasonably independent of each other. But a rapid crude price increase changes the picture dramatically.

A 1% increase is likely to be subsidized as well. But when crude goes up 10% or 20% there is no room for the subsidy and the price increase has to spill over to actual fuel prices, which that hurts everyone through inflation. High inflation will be countered with high interest rates, which even the government will have to pay on its borrowings. Fertilizer creation involves natural gas, which moves with crude; and so up goes our fertilizer subsidy as well. The impact to the deficit, on an extreme move, is probably much higher than the 0.8% assumed.

At Yahoo: The Japanese Fallout:Is Nuclear Power Dead?

I write at Yahoo on The Japanese Fallout:Is Nuclear Power Dead?

(Reproduced in entirety)

The Japanese Fallout:Is Nuclear Power Dead?

At least for the near future, it seems doomed.

The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan has brought Nuclear Safety to the forefront again. In the Fukushima Daiichi plant, three explosions occurred, which have caused alarm that the reactors may release radioactive emissions into the atmosphere. Reactors have a core consisting of fuel rods which, on the nuclear reaction, emit heat. The heat is used to generate steam, which runs a turbine and generates electricity.

Must See: Excellent visualizations of reactor shut downs, failures and meltdowns in the NYT.

In a crisis, reactors automatically shut down. Control rods are inserted between fuel rods to prevent further reactions. But they're all still very hot and emanating heat. During this time, the reactor needs to be continuously cooled — and that is done by using water, draining out the steam, putting fresh water, etc. This process needs some power, which wasn't there with Japan's electricity gone due to the Tsunami reaction, and the limited capacity of backup generators. The process is now being carried out by supplying water from the ocean, even that is steaming up so fast that water levels are dangerously low.

Jyoti Structures: NCD + Warrants Tradeable, Worthwhile?

Jyoti Structures recently offered a rights issue of Non Convertible Debentures (NCDs) and Warrants to its shareholders. See: Letter of Offer


Redemption price: Rs. 120 on April 15, 2012
Interest: 7% payable quarterly
Current Market Price: Rs. 114.
Started on: Jan 15, 2011