Living with BiPolar Disorder

A close friend of mine recently discovered that she had bipolar disorder. It is a difficult to diagnose disability, and living in India added to both the complexity of diagnosis and treatment. Given the states of high, low, psychotic episodes that bipolar have, in a pseudo conservative society like India brought me to the still humbling fact that more data scientists chase how to make ad clicks better than how to study brain imaging data and more money is spent making Hollywood movies than chasing climate change, Mars, or brain imaging. As the Joker said, everybody loses their mind if one little surprise is given, even to budgeting and funding across the world for healthcare.

Anyways, my friend is back on her feet and doing well with yoga. Yoga can help aid mental disabilities at lower costs, but lol, wait till you have FDA approval for asanas

Which tool to learn for a better data science career

Some questions I get from new data scientists

I like R a lot, so should I work towards being better at just that or should I learn excel and python and sas as well (Like a jack of all master of none)?

I like R so much I wrote two books on it. Then I started writing a book on Python and now I am on writers block.

  1. You need to be good at many things (Python, R, SAS, Excel, SQL)
  2. You need to be really really good at one thing ( I prefer Python, but R or SAS could do. SAS people work in large corporations a lot, R people are more statistically driven, Python people are more Silicon Valley /IT driven. I would go with Python)
  3. You should know how data is stored ( in RDBMS and in NoSQL)
  4. You should know how data is processed (cloud computing, server)
  5. You should know how data is visualized ( GGPLOT, Qlikview, Tableau)
  6. You have a limited time to learn all this and again many choices. So try going for more education and more training!

Is it a thumb rule to know advanced analytics with Excel before actually aiming at R?

There are 8 fingers but two thumbs. Thumb rules are shortcuts. They save time (for instructor to explain). Yes I would learn how to analyze data in a spreadsheet too since a lot of employers use spreadsheets. Spreadsheets ( not juts Excel but OpenOffice and Google Docs) are used more than data science tools in analyzing data. Basic principles remain the same.

If I choose to begin with a job so I can get a feel of the industry and get to know it better they ask for all these tools with?

Of course industry wants people with 2 year work experience. Why should they pay you to learn? So learn skills before you expect jobs.

I found out that internships, kaggle competitions, certifications,case studies could help, but not yet in India is what I’ve come to see.. Is that true sir? Am I judging it wrong?

Wrong judging. Judging itself is wrong. Stop judging 1.2 billion people and millions of sq km.

I know many Meetups in India ( I founded one in New Delhi). Kaggle compeitors are great in Mumbai. Bangalore is great for coneferences. So yes, you are comparing to USA ( not fair, its better here because people just are more disciplined in organizing). if you compare to Pakistan we are better.

Best is to stop asking for help, and just go out and attend. Maybe create a Meetup group yourself ( takes only 10$ a month but again someone has to pay it!). Maybe create a desi meetup. Maybe create a Meetup only for Women. or only for New Comers. Or Ask your online education provider. Stop judging countries. Start volunteering. People like are doing a great job for hackthons in India. Meetups in Bangalore

ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. more meetups in data science. more hackathons. yup.  that is good enough work to start doing for your country.



What the Internet does for people like me in developing countries

  1. It gives us access to the best of knowledge, teaching, experts for free
  2. It gives us unfettered entertainment- free music in Youtube and TV shows like Game of Thrones instead of waiting years for our government to approve it
  3. It allows us to criticize our leaders on blog,s Facebook, Twitter without getting censored by corrupt politicians and a corrupt media- Government nexus
  4. It allows us to keep in touch via Skype via Facebook to people far way without straining our purse
  5. It allows us to learn a lot without paying a lot

That is just me- an urban citizen in a relatively decent economy. The benefits to underprivileged humans is even more

Understanding Indians and their Politics

I am not speaking of Indian Politicians here. Whatever Rahul Gandhi (or his speechwriter) , the ruling party in the state or the central government has always been a perennial source of bemusement to me, unlike the rest of my fellow Indians who keep fighting wars on Facebook and Social Media. Indeed I am surprised by the complete lack of conversation on politics when I am in North America, and a fellow friend of mine confirmed it, Europeans and Indians do talk more about politics than North Americans. Part of the reason is ideologies are much less pronounced between the extremes of political spectrum and  the general culture is to be polite and avoid controversial debates (which explains lack of politics as a dinner topic in the North American West)

I am speaking of politics as I have seen it practiced in Indian companies, startups and educational institutes. The level of politics is much higher than in USA or Canada, and the rudeness and crudeness is much more. Note I have interacted with people at extremely senior levels  (thanks to my blog and consulting) and junior levels (thanks to my teaching).

Without getting into anecdotal details and impose my projections as the New World Order on you- this is what I feel drives Politics between Ordinary Indians (the ones who never get figured in Newspapers)

  1. Insecurity drives politics- Prosperity and luxury is barely half a generation old. The economic insecurity of success is what drives politics in many institutes and institutions. People think- if someone else succeeds I will not get a slice of the pie. That’s because we all came from a socio-economic status where the pie was so small. How small ? Well when I was a Kid, we had one channel on Television, and there were waiting periods for a car for many years. Telephone was a luxury. Even though new India has many malls, many mobile phones and many luxuries, the trauma of childhood endures and ensures educated Indians use sharp elbows at the workplace to grab a share of the bonus or the pie or the economic success on offering
  2. Mistrust drives politics- Mistrust is driven by the different way Indians treat lying compared to North Americans. What is vilified as lying or cunning is treated as being chalu (smart) or jugaad ( innovative) in dodging questions, giving non-clear answers, or plain untruths. Why give promises you cannot keep. That is the Indian way of doing business. Why do people delay payments for vendors. That is both power politics and part economics. In addition a very slow legal system ensures people reach compromises on their own
  3. Saving Face- A big chunk of energy wasted by Indians is to save face, to avoid saying they failed. Everyone fails and everyone learns from their failures. But few people like to admit to mistakes and failures, and the culture in India is vindictive. Saving face is the number one reason people try to harass other people in workplaces when they are trying to leave. They ignore future relationships for the current need to save Face.
  4. Different Ethics– Some people point out to how people joke in Indian workplaces about women as misogny. That is universal. Men treat women badly in North America and are reigned only by legal system and that society. Some people point to hiring people only along state lines (North India, family members, South Indians, Bengalis, Mallus etc)  as regionalism. Midler forms of that racism exist in the US too. No we just have different ethics here. We treat mediocre old people with respect and treat brilliant young  people with condescension. Protestant ethics are different from the ethics of arguementative Indians

What is the solution? One solution is greater intermingling between people of different countries for Indians to learn about the best way to balance your personal ambitions with your professional needs. I recommend Canadians as the politest people among any country I have seen. Maybe we should invite more Canadians to settle in India rather than the other way around!


Understanding attrition in analytics sector in India

If you have worked with a software team based out of India, or know someone did, you would be aware that the technology sector in India has a high rate of employee attrition or churn. This is estimated to be as high as 30 %.

As someone who changed jobs a decade ago before I turned entrepreneur I try and understand what makes young people in this decade change jobs. Here are some of the few reasons I think they go through ( I am trying to think like the employee not the company)-

  1. Bad Leadership – No it’s not money, but the lack of a good working professional relationship with your manager that makes you quit job.  You can blame the young person for jumping for a 40% hike, but the only reason people stay on is they like their boss and like working under him. More investment in leadership training (and not just games /team building junkets /offsites) can be a solution
  2. Stagnation in Learning Opportunities– Young people realize they lack experience and are willing to take a hit to learn more. Their ambition is thwarted by situations that force them to do routine jobs (without proper explanation of why it is important) and lack of credible road map to guide their career expectations, and ambitions. More investment in digital training can be a solution.
  3. Unfair working times– If working conditions demand that you ask team members to stay in office more than 9 hours you need to explain properly why they cant work from home using remote desktop and internet. Employees that help their companies live their office actually sidestep this issue quite effectively.
  4. Lack of Stock Options– Salary is paid and consumed. Stock options make people hang on. Stock options are comparitevly less in India though Infosys has been an admirable company in it. More intelligent and fair to both sides agreeement on stock can be a solution
  5. Lack of penalties for attrition on manager– Managers get by with excuses on blaming attrition on employee, industry,salary but not themself. Surprise attrition is unforgivable. Linking vraiable compensation of team lead and manager will force them to develop a working relationship with team member.  Using analytics to predict attrition and using variable incentives to reward low attrition team managers can be a solution
  6. Cynicism on company processes– The failure of HR in India to stand up and confront line managers has prevented them from acting as a safety release for pent up steam in employees. Culture eats strategy for lunch and if your best people keep leaving at 30% your strategy goes for a toss. A segmented approach at attrition can help
  7. Delinking performance with attitude issues-  A company culture that obligates employees to ask and be responsible for issues in working conditions makes their manager link attitutde and perfromance unfairly.  BetterHR metrics and buddy/mentor arrangements can be a solution. This can also be reinforced by a matrix reporting structure.

Politics is the enemy of analytics. Indian culture is political per se, so making young people more professional and responsible in long term is the job of senior management nut just middle level team leads.


Comparing the User Interface in Indian Websites in ECommerce

I did a  search for ” samsung 4g mobile” across the following – Google Search,,,, and got following results.

I wanted to compare user interface, the search results, the navigation experience, and lastly any price arbitrage opportunities. Part One of this series just looks at initial search results for a single keyword and compares it across websites.


  1. Apparently FlipKart does not believe in Adwords, or SEO

Screenshot from 2015-10-17 09:36:262) Amazon has a clean interface and good graphic icons for the product

Screenshot from 2015-10-17 09:34:45

Surprisingly it suggested in associated products – a beard trimmer for me. Amazon also prompts saying how the item is limited and only X are left in stock.

3) Flipkart sells FlipKart itself (of apps etc) in half the page and has no associated results ( you may also buy this- or add to cart)

However I liked the ordering of the filters in left margin, with price on top, then brand etc. Quite clearly price is the top filter in such sites.

Screenshot from 2015-10-17 09:33:29

4) Askmebazaar has a menu layout in horizontal rows and columns than a list layout. Interesting to see the Indian origin interfaces had menu layout while the US derived websites had a list (top to bottom layout)

It was interesting to see that every price in it had a discount with a strikethrough in the initial prices. Striking and interesting as its different.

Filters in right margin were Category first, then brand ( both irrelevant since I am askign for Samsung Mobile) and price at bottom. Price was a dropdown filter than a radio button or checkbox


5) Ebay has really awesomely long URLS and is a mix of Amazon and Askmebazaar interface

Screenshot from 2015-10-17 09:52:14

6) Lastly Snapdeal had a nice clean interface and it was less cluttered than some of the other sites. I was also interested that they showed a prompt to buy iPhone so an interesting association analysis result.

Which e commerce company in India has the best user interface? You decide. Beauty and ease lie in the eye of the beholder.

Screenshot from 2015-10-17 09:33:59

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