4 charts show why South Africa earned the reputation of ‘Safe Haven’ for investors



In 2014, South Africa came to be known as the ‘safe haven’ for investors among the Emerging Markets. A comparison of the BRICS nations with developed nations on parameters of corporate governance, as reported in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2013-14, shows us why.

Good corporate governance and ethical practices by companies are considered essential for well functioning capital markets all over the world. Ethical practices, transparency in dealings, better investor protection and efficient boards boost investor confidence and lead to capital inflows in markets.


Ethical Behavior of Firms


Ethical behavior is assessed by company policies on bribery, kickbacks, protection money, facilitation payments, gifts, fraud, money laundering, and political and charitable contributions. Management systems and procedures outlining frameworks for risk assessment, sanctions, whistle-blowing, continuous internal self-review and external reporting also fall under the purview of ethical behavior.

In 2013, South Africa ranked at No37 on ethical behavior, ahead of other BRICS nations, with China at a distant 54th rank. India & Brazil ranked 86th and 87th and Russia ranked the lowest among BRICS nations on this parameter.  

Source : Global Competitiveness Report WEF 2013
Source : Global Competitiveness Report WEF 2013


Strength of Auditing and Reporting Standards


Fair practices and transparency in dealings are critical to attracting foreign investments. The use of auditing and accounting practices ensure transparency against fraud and mismanagement and so are particularly important for investors to invest in foreign markets. Read more

Make Your Social Media Strategy work



From Owning Profits to Owning Network: Shift in paradigm for Digital businesses


Over the last few days, there has been a lot of buzz around social media businesses fetching insanely high valuations including  Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion. On one hand, the conservative traditional investors are perplexed with the high valuations of social media companies, on the other hand some traders with investments in social media are laughing their way to the bank.

The fact is that ‘Social Media’ businesses differ from ‘Traditional’ Businesses both in terms of ‘Value’ they create and in terms of the methods used for ‘Valuing’ these companies.

While products and services of traditional businesses serve tangible needs of the market, digital social businesses mostly create new needs either by enhancing user experience, or by  seducing users with an unique experience or an emotional appeal.

Traditional businesses generally have a fixed organization structure, start from a local market and later expand to global markets. In contrast, digital/social businesses are global from day one and thrive on collaborative structures based on interaction with online communities; if such companies manage to capture imagination, growth can be instantaneous. Candy Crush, the mobile phone game has been downloaded more than 500 million times since its launch in 2012 and is worth $5 billion now in 2014.

So whilst traditional businesses focus on break-even and profits, for digital businesses expanding and owing the Network becomes the first and foremost priority. The ‘value is in the network’: own the network first, and find a way to profit from those connections later.

Social Media Biz2

For traditional companies valuations are obtained by appropriating all the potential earnings of the company in future to the present date. The future earnings are found based on the growth estimates of the revenue & costs.

For digital companies the valuation is guided by the user base and is based more on the intangible assets. Hence the digital businesses continuously strive to improve user engagement and grow the user base. Though it is possible to attain a  spectacular growth in user base  within a very short period, say with a particular app, it might be difficult to maintain that level or replicate a similar level of engagement with another app.

Twitter saw the share price plummet more than 20% after quarterly results in Feb 2014, showed that the social network was not adding users as fast as it once did. Zynga, the maker of Farmville, has seen its share price halve since its late 2011 initial public offering (IPO), while Finland’s Rovio has struggled to replicate the success of its 2010 hit Angry Birds.

Secondly valuation of intangible assets in digital businesses requires understanding the full global potential of the assets and valuing them accordingly.

Facebook is currently being valued at $170 billion, at about $130/user, given their existing user base of 1.25 billion. The high price of $19 billion that Facebook paid for acquisition of WhatsApp a co with no (proprietary) intellectual property, almost unlimited competition can perhaps be explained in terms of the strategic value that FaceBook sees in owning a IM service with 450 million users and killing the potential competition.

Had WhatsApp listed on a stock exchange, it possibly might have fetched a lower price.

As it may be difficult for digital businesses to continuously dish out products one after the other, so it is very likely that after having accumulated a user base, the founders of some of the smaller digital businesses opt for selling their product to a bigger player who sees strategic value in the product and can leverage the digital platforms to provide value added services to their customers.

It could also happen that in a year or two from now that social media companies see a deceleration in the exponential growth in user engagement and valuations of these companies come down to more realistic levels commensurate with their earnings and return on investment. In such a scenario, the investors who are late entrants and buy at peek valuations may suffer if the market stops seeing the same potential or prices the companies differently than how the initial price is arrived at.

However a fact that seems almost certain is that with time most of the traditional businesses will work on their digital strategies and start using digital channels to tap the ecosystem & engage online communities. This in turn will benefit the digital businesses that can extend their platforms to individuals as well as to the corporate sector and enter into a symbiotic relationship with the traditional businesses.


References :



So What Type Of A Social Media User Are You?



While it is a commonly known fact that the number of people accessing internet is growing, some key facts worth noting are :

To think about it, with the penetration of internet and global mobile outreach growing by the day, sites such as Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn and other networking websites are becoming an integral part of our daily lives. So much so, that we check our Facebook, Twitter accounts right in the morning even before we start our work, during the day we post to these accounts and we also log in before we retire for the day to  keep ourselves updated on what’s happening around.

In fact, social media has become a phenomenon that has changed the way in which we which we seek & share information and interact with our friends, colleagues and other people across the world.


Organizations maintain their online presence on Facebook , Twitter, Flickr , Google+, Pinterest , MySpace , Digg and other social sites. Many organisations use social media for their customer service function and also for their sales and marketing functions. Some organizations are turning to social media even for recruiting. Communities are using social media to support their cause and for crowdfunding. Political parties run social media campaigns. Business owners use social media to promote their brand. Researchers use social media for getting peer reviews of their work. And some companies even conduct recruitment drives on Twitter.

However many critics warn that though social media offer freedom and flexibility, it can be misused for settling personal scores. Constant use of social media can also be quite draining and cause addiction, anxiety & increased peer pressure particularly among young people

Whether the use of social media will keep increasing on a continual basis or it is a bubble waiting to burst, the fact is that you simply cannot ignore social media. Rather, one needs to learn how to use social media optimally. We also need to remember that though social media is a powerful platform for communication, yet certain things are best communicated in private. A school in the US,  has adopted Social Media Policy recognizing the importance of incorporating the latest technology as a tool to enhance learning while providing guidelines to ensure responsible and safe usage by system employees.

Based on my observation of how different people use Twitter, I have illustrated below some typical types of users. Can you identify which user group you belong to?  What are the other types of users that you can think of?




Different Types of Twitter Users
Different Types of Twitter Users



Welcome your comments.

CAG audit of private telecom companies – Governance or Interference?


CAG audit


In a verdict yesterday, the Delhi High Court allowed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India to audit the accounts of private telecom companies under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act.

This his kind of ruling was unthinkable even a few years back as CAG was and is still largely seen as an auditor of companies owned by the government.

As natural resources such as spectrum, gas/oil fields, coal, etc cannot be easily priced,  the government has a big stake in these sectors and many of these companies that are involved in the production sharing of natural resources or profit sharing from natural resources  enter into a public-private partnership (PPP) with the Government of India, so it appears logical that industries and sectors that deal with precious natural resources come under the ambit of CAG.

CAG doing audit of such private companies will have the several ramifications on the overall dynamics of the industry.

Read more

Salary Comparison for Project Management Professionals in 2013


The median salary of Project Management Professionals has been found to vary with a number of key demographic factors, as per a ‘2013 Salary Survey’ report published by Project Management Institute, PMI, US.  These include factors such as:

  • Country of employment
  • Number of years experience in project management
  • Position / Role
  • Average size of projects managed, including average project budget and average project team size

We present the comparison of salary information for 10 countries from the PMI report.

Country of Employment

The median salary for project management professionals vary widely from country to country.  The country with the highest median salary ($134,658 USD) is Australia, whereas India and China are amongst the countries with the lower range of median salary (around $27,000 USD).



Within the various levels of project managers, salary appears to increase with added responsibility as a person proceeds from being a Project Manager, to a Program Manager, to Portfolio Manager, to the Director of a Project Management Office. There are some exceptions to this order though. In Germany the salary of Director of PMO is less than the salary of Portfolio Manager. The differential salary increase between different levels appears to be low in Japan, China and India.



Number of Years Experience in Project Management

The number of years a person has worked within the project management profession has a direct positive correlation with the salary. Again the difference in median salary varies by country.  A dramatic increase is seen in Nigeria.  The median salary ranges from $19,231 (USD) for those just starting out in the project management field to $61,538 (USD) for those who have been in the field for 10 -15 years.  This represents an increase of nearly 230% from low-to-high experience in the field.  The difference in median salary is not as striking in China.



Project Size (Average No of Team Members and Project Budget)

The size of projects managed, in terms of average number of team members and average project budget, also appears to have a positive correlation with annual salary.

In Nigeria, those managing projects with budgets of $10 million or more earn 96% more than those with projects under $100,000. In Japan and India the figure is around 50% more. In Japan, China and India those managing projects with larger teams (20 or more people) have a median salary that is 30 – 34% higher than those managing teams of 1 to 4 people.

The detailed report gives the salary information of Project Management Professionals for 33 countries.
I thank Mukund Sathe for sharing the ‘2013 PMI Salary Survey Report’.


Beginning of Fed Taper – Impact on India and other Emerging Markets



Two major events scheduled on the 18th of December, were seen as deciding factors for the stock market movement in India by the end of 2013.

First was the announcement of monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor. Raghuram Rajan beat the market expectations of a hike in interest rates and surprised the markets pleasantly with no changes to the current monetary policy. RBI kept the repo rate unchanged at 7.75 % , the reverse repo at 6.75%, the cash reserve ratio at 4% and the marginal standing facility and the bank rate at 8.75%. Markets reacted favorably to the announcement.

Later on the same day, US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke initiated pullback from Quantitative Easing (QE) before the end of his term in 2014, with Janet Yellen taking over as the Chairperson of Federal Reserve. As the size of the taper, $10 bn was in line with what the market had expected back in September, 2013,  the announcement saw the US markets shooting up.


Read more

Ten Most Traded Currencies in the World in 2013



Notwithstanding the fact that trading foreign exchange on margin carries a high level of risk, the world’s largest market with 24-hour market action is the currency trading market.

There are more than 190 countries in the world with currencies that can be traded, of course, subject to government restrictions. The value of daily foreign exchange trading exceeds the value of annual international trade in goods and services by more than one hundred times.

The cumulative share in daily currency trading of the top ten currencies is about 180 percent and the rest of the currencies in the world have a share of 20 percent.  (Since two currencies are involved in each transaction, the sum of the percentage shares of individual currencies totals 200% instead of 100%.)

As per reports of The Bank for International Settlements, which is an international organization of central banks, these are the top ten traded currencies of the world in 2013.

Read more

Understanding random market behaviour


 By Somali K Chakrabarti

For an investor, the pain of selling a stock at a loss far exceeds the pleasure of selling the stock at an equal amount of gain.

Strange but true!

Such behavioral aspects of investing and many more are brought out in the study of behavioral finance, that was introduced in the late 1980s, owing to anomalies in stock price prediction by the two main existing theories of academic finance, i.e. Modern Portfolio Theory’ and ‘Efficient Market Hypothesis’.

According to the ‘Efficient Market Theory’, put forth by Eugene Fama, financial markets are believed to be efficient and investors are understood to make rational decisions. Further, market participants are supposed to be sophisticated, informed and known to act only on available information. Since market participants are believed to have equal access to information, it is implied that stock prices always reflect the best information about fundamental values of the stocks. According to the efficient market theory and Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) the price of a stock is the Present Value (PV) of all the entire future earnings of the company i.e. the future dividend paid by the company. 

The ‘Modern Portfolio Theory’ pioneered by Harry Markowitz suggested that an investor can maximise returns by holding a diversified portfolio of assets with different levels of risk.

 However stock prices were found to exhibit more volatility than efficient market hypothesis could explain.   Read more

Diversification Dilemma


Diversification has given way to focus in developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom,  and has often been correlated with lower performance. In contrast, diversified business groups have been hugely successful in most emerging markets, particularly in Asia.

Since the mid 1980s, strategists in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have mostly advocated the use of focused strategies for businesses and have advised companies to ‘stick to their knitting’. Many diversified conglomerates in these advanced economies have been dismantled since 1980s to focus on one or a few core businesses.

A look at the motives with which companies diversify reveals some of the reasons why diversification by conglomerates yields benefits in the developing markets as against the discount associated with diversified conglomerates in the developed economies.

Growth is a primary motive for diversification

However growth does not always translate into higher profitability. Since management status and power is correlated more closely with the size of assets under management, management (the ‘agent’) may have the incentive to diversify for pursuing growth in preference to profitability, which is not in the best interest of shareholders.

Reducing risk

Having different businesses in their portfolio can potentially balance differences in the industry cycles and thus it increases the stability of a company. But the value of diversification advantage to the company may be offset by the high transaction cost associated with acquisition. Moreover shareholders can themselves reduce the risk of their portfolio by holding diversified portfolios. This is another argument against diversification in the developed economies.

Diversify or not

Corporate parenting advantage

Effective corporate management is given as the reason for existence and success of diversified conglomerates in the developing markets. The differences in the institutional context—i.e. a country’s capital markets, labour markets, consumer awareness, regulatory and legal system  that influences business practices and ethics,  infrastructure etc favours the presence of diversified conglomerates in developing countries.


Corporate advantage due to diversification exists if the portfolio performance is greater than sum of performances of individual businesses. In the developing economies, diversified conglomerates wield considerable economic and political clout. Being a part of a diversified group increases the overall stability of the company’s cash flow.

Thus, diversification is context specific. “Stick to your knitting” may not be the best recommendation for firms in high-growth markets or regions that have strong corporate advantages.

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