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Thursday, 2 April 2020

Weekend Reading


I am tired of Coronavirus related topics. So, completely avoiding them.


Forecasting and the stories we tell ourselves
Ample research shows that most experts do not make great forecasts. This might appear to be a problem if you are in the business of making predictions. But it turns out that the ability to explain what happened after the fact, often in a way that flatters your faulty prediction, is an incredibly effective coping mechanism. Barbara Mellers, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “We find prediction really hard, but we find explanation fairly easy.” We tell stories to ourselves and others to paper over our poor predictions.


The story of Hidesign
For a long time, Dilip Kapur thought international affairs was his calling. He moved from Pondicherry (now Puducherry), to the US to do a PhD in international affairs. But life had other things in store for him. While doing a part-time job at a leather factory, Dilip fell in love with leather. After completing his studies and returning to Puducherry, Dilip started making leather bags as a hobby. His time at the factory taught him all he needed to know about making leather bags. Dilip started sourcing leather from Chennai and started making hand-crafted leather bags in Auroville.
By 1988, Hidesign had ventured into garments, with leather jackets and long pants. The UK market couldn’t get enough of Dilip’s leather bags. Hidesign was soon present across 700 stores in London.
Dilip’s company now clocks Rs 170 crore gross annual revenue and has 1,400 employees. It has evolved from a leather goods maker into a lifestyle brand with presence in exclusive stores, airport stores, shop-in-shops, multi-brand outlets, and ecommerce platforms. It claims presence in 102 exclusive brand outlets and 112 large format departmental stores. Hidesign’s product portfolio comprises ladies’ bags, men’s bags, wallets, belts, shoes, sunglasses, luggage, and jackets. The ladies’ bags and men’s bags are its top sellers.


Reading fiction is more important than nonfiction
When it comes to reading, we may be assuming that reading for knowledge is the best reason to pick up a book. Research, however, suggests that reading fiction may provide far more important benefits than nonfiction. For example, reading fiction predicts increased social acuity and a sharper ability to comprehend other people’s motivations. Reading nonfiction might certainly be valuable for collecting knowledge, it does little to develop EQ, a far more elusive goal.
One reason fiction works so well in the workplace is that characters, plots, and settings in foreign locales help anchor difficult discussions. The narrative allows participants to work through sensitive and nuanced issues in an open and honest manner. Also, research suggests that reading literary fiction is an effective way to enhance the brain’s ability to keep an open mind while processing information, a necessary skill for effective decision-making.
Research on reading shows literature study to be one of the best methods for building empathy critical thinking, and creativity.


Industry matters more than the business
What if Federer played badminton? He would face Lin Dan, the champion in that sport. Each man may be the best ever in his respective game, and both are extremely marketable, with competitive instincts and personal charm. But Dan doesn’t make anywhere near what Federer does—and he never will. That’s because Dan has an “industry” disadvantage. A Top 10 tennis player makes 10 to 20 times what a Top 10 player in any other racket sport earns.
Likewise, a company’s choice of industry matters a great deal—more than many realize. When we tracked the economic profit of the world’s 2,393 largest companies over 10 years, we found that about 50% of a firm’s performance compared to the broader corporate universe is driven by what’s happening in its industry, highlighting that “where to play” is perhaps the most critical choice in strategy. Your industry trend is the single biggest factor shaping your odds of outperformance.


How meditation changes the brain
MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala, appears to shrink. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress.
As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker.
The “functional connectivity” between these regions – i.e. how often they are activated together – also changes. The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger.

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