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By huddaman
December 5, 2007

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Impressions after first 3 days in India -

Notes as of : Nov 26, 2007

About India, in a nutshell -

London Dekha, Toronto Dekha or dekha New York,
sare jag me kahi nahi hai dusra hindustan..

I hope you will translate the above. It's worth the effort.

- I returned to India after 7.5 years for a 2 week visit, and so far am in complete shock. I even feel few years younger.
- I have seen very little of Bombay again so far, and its been so long that I have even forgotten most of the roads to get around on my own, even though I used to cruise the streets of Bombay on my motorbike and car since I was a teenager, until I left to work in the US. Yet, I am very impressed. I have seen significant improvement in infrastructure and I am convinced that the speed of improvement in the last 7 years was at least 3 times the speed of changes in the previous 25 years.
- The norm in Bombay used to be black smoke and white smoke emitted out of taxis and rickshaws (3 legged scooters) because of adulterated petrol and faulty engines. However, this has changed. All Taxis and Rickshaws now use Compressed Natural Gas. There has been a marked improvement in air quality using my tests I conducted (only using my nose as apparatus). Since I am used to clean air in the US, unless the improvement in air quality was significant, I would have noticed a difference. In the last 50 or even 100 years, this is the first time air quality has actually improved in Bombay. Wow! (Hats off everybody!)
- So far I have traveled in Bombay using my feet, motorbike (WITHOUT HELMET OF COURSE), Rickshaw, Taxi, cool cab and private cab, and personal car. All these modes of transport experienced significant improvement except one major problem, traffic and driving habit of people. Got worse! (will get better in 5-15 years)
- I have so far seen residential buildings of the type, not yet seen even in Manhattan. And the prices, considering India is significantly poorer than US, are shockingly comparable in certain areas like Tardev, Worli, and Powai to prices in Manhattan. One sq foot costs $1200 (assuming dollar does not slide further)
- Areas which were considered cheap and disgusting ( i wont name them) 8 years back are considered to be a future replacement of the then most modern and expensive suburb in Bombay.
- Some people are corrupt and give this great city a bad name and the govt. should and will take action to get rid of these bad apples. Case in point. Our coolcab arrived exactly on time and dropped us to our destination about 70 mins away for only Rs. 300 or $7.7. However that could have been easily $15 if my dad wasn't vigilant enough and a bambaiya. The meter was rigged, and deliberately and illegally modified to overcharge the passenger by a ratio of 2 to 1. Does he take us for fools? We are original Bombaites. My dad gave him Bombay's street talk. We played good cop bad cop, and the driver admitted his fault and blamed it on some inadvertent wire movement. My dad insisted he had done it on purpose. He apologized. I said, we accept your apology, let's negotiate the price and turn off the meter. He accepted our offer for Rs. 300 (which was the fair price for that route). We could have turned the driver in, but gave the man a benefit of doubt. I expect 50% of taxis, etc to be moderately rigged, and 5-10% to be significantly rigged. Beware!! (If we had turned him in, police would have extorted some money from the poor man and let him go.)
- On day 1, our taxi driver insisted he will give us a ride to this new mall in "CharBungla" for only Rs. 30 ( $0.75) extra. The real cost could of the trip could have been $2 (significant for taxi driver). We took the deal because we are visiting and don't mind visiting new places. As it turns out, these guys are offered up to 10% commission of purchase for any customers they bring to the store. They usually target tourists. I am ashamed they targeted me, considering I was born here. But in any case, I found a great deal for something I was shopping for at the mall, so it was time well spent. And the poor man making some extra dough in this case does not bother me in the least.
- Even my Doctor knows more about stocks here, which is astonishing. The stock market is on fire, and the knowledgeable will make a fortune in it in the next 5-10 years. I know a man who used to be so stingy, he used to split one egg fried into 4 parts and share with his family as a breakfast for all. He now has Rs. 1.5 crores ($375,000) - enough to buy probably a bathroom in that posh building in Worly area. :), but also enough to retire in Bombay and easily serve 2 fried eggs with bread and cheese for his family for the rest of his life. In other words retire! He had started with around Rs. 30($75,000) lacs 2 years ago. Monster returns. After all it pays to get a degree in economics, accounting, financial management, etc.

-Stocks are selling for dirt cheap valuations. How many times and in places will you find a company worth $95 billion growing earnings at 25% ever year and trading for 33 times earnings, or better yet, growing 100% earnings every year for last few years, and trading at 7 times earnings only?
- Kitchen conversations for housewives don't go like this any more: What are you cooking today? It goes: which scrip (stock) are you buying today Susan?
-I know even if they made some money, they will lose a whole lot later. Stock market can be a nasty place for people who don't even know what a "share" means. And, I know people here who don't know anything about the stock market except the fancy up and down charts, and they think they can make money. Most people are losing money, although market returned 40% plus so far year to date this year and done average 45% returns in the last 5 years, and not a single down year in the last 5 years.