Guest post on payment mechanisms

I don’t normally do guest posts on other blogs – the problem with that is that you lose track of the fact that you’ve written it and you have no control over record-keeping of these posts. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done guest posts in the past – I used to guest-blog for this blog called Sportsnob, but would faithfully cross-post every post here (or in the Livejournal predecessor). I also used to guest-blog on the Indian Economy Blog, but then again I would cross-post here.

I remember that Madman Aadisht had taken a break from blogging during placements at IIMB, and because he wanted to keep the blog going, he offered to attend some pre-placement talks on my behalf (IIMB had a complex system of compulsory attendance for pre-placement talks so that companies got a favourable impression of the batch). So I ended up writing some blog posts on his blog (after a revamp, they all appear as if he’s written). I can identify that I wrote this one and possibly this one (Madman was kind of my guru on all things online, which includes blogging and Orkut – he sent me an invite to join Orkut long before it was cool. So I kinda ended up writing like him so it’s hard to distinguish the posts now) and this one for sure and perhaps this one .

I remember writing a few posts on some of Takshashila’s group blogs such as The Broad Mind and Logos, but with no documentation of what I wrote, I stopped writing for those, especially since I have my own blog there now. So it’s been a while since I wrote one.

But then I wrote one today. I have mentioned a fair number of times on this blog that liquidity is a much underappreciated concept in economics (apart from financial economics) and I would like it to be talked about more. So I’ve been doing my bit evangelising the concept of liquidity.

Sangeet is a management guru who runs a rather well-read blog on Platform Thinking, which is basically about putting the concept of liquidity into practice. We’ve been talking a fair bit recently since both of us started eschewing formal full-time jobs around the same time and generally have conversations on a lot of random things, including things on our blogs, which includes platforms.

So after one such conversation on platforms and payment mechanisms, Sangeet asked if I could write a guest post for him. And I’ve obliged. Here is an extract:

So how can a new payment mechanism (such as m-Pesa or Apple Pay) gain traction? There are essentially two ways – one is the Paypal route, where you enter with so big a bang that you quickly have a large chunk of the market, and network effects make it necessary for the rest of the market to adapt to you. Given the plethora of payment options that are present now, it is unlikely that any player will be able to establish this kind of domination without significant investment.

The other option is to make it interoperable. Apple Pay, for example, could introduce an Android App (which might cannibalise on Apple iPhone sales, but increase traction of Apple Pay itself). This could potentially increase the number of devices that can pay using this mechanism, and it thus gives incentive for merchants to install the mechanism that allows them to accept payments using Apple Pay. There is a parallel to this within Apple itself – when the iconic iPod was first introduced, it was only interoperable with Apple computers. After much internal debate, Apple finally introduced iTunes for Windows, and made the iPod interoperable with Windows, in 2003, and that year iPods saw a 235% growth in sales

Perhaps because Sangeet mostly writes long blog posts, or perhaps because I was fairly jobless writing this in the IESE Cafeteria the other day (remember I’m a B-school WAG now), I ended up writing a rather long post. Still I’d encourage you to read the whole thing there.

A Comparative Study of Marwari and Kannadiga Brahmin Weddings

On Saturday I was at a Marwari wedding. Actually it was a Marwari Hindu marrying a Gujarati Jain (it was arranged scissors, if you’re curious about that), but the ceremony took place according to Hindu rites. As Gandhi and Khushboo were getting married, I was reminded of my own wedding a little over a year back, and I started mentally comparing the two ceremonies. Here I attempt to put those mental notes “on paper”.

I must mention upfront that I have only one data point (this particular wedding) for Marwari weddings. Also, while the wedding ceremony was still on, I was invited for lunch (in a curious twist, bride’s relatives and friends ate out of a buffet while the groom’s relatives and friends were served a multi-course meal on a silver platter. The food for both was the same, though). So I do not have the complete picture, though the lunch was in the same hall so I managed to observe some stuff as I ate. Also, since the groom in this case was Jain, there is a possibility of some Jain rituals having crept in to the ceremony, so my one data point may not actually be representative. For the Kannadiga Brahmin wedding, I use my own wedding as a data point (again not necessarily accurate, since the wife is technically Gult).

The general impression about North Indian weddings is that they are “action packed”, and a lot of fun. There is known to be much singing and dancing, while South Indian Brahmin weddings are generally solemn religious affairs. There was a fair share of fun at the Gandhi-Khushboo wedding. The previous evening there was a Sangeet where relatives of the bride and groom put up dance performances, which was followed by a general free-for-all dance party, and even a Garba session (and also a Marwari Karaoke session). The cars that were transporting us to the wedding stopped 100m away from the venue, where the groom ascended a mare and there was a brass band and we all danced around to the actual venue. I didn’t attend the reception but I’m sure that had its fun components, too.

However, I noticed that when it came to the ceremony itself, my wedding was much more action-packed and “fun” than this wedding. Yes, at my wedding, the rituals took much longer (started at 11am and ended at 5pm, while here it lasted two hours), but at no point of time was either me or the wife just sitting there doing nothing, which was the case for large sections of this wedding. Most of the time when I looked at the stage, the bride and groom were solemnly sitting in their seats (they had a low bench to sit on, unlike us who sat cross-legged on a low wooden board) doing nothing, as the priests chanted mantras into the microphone. On the other hand, we were constantly doing something. There were “fun” elements like throwing rice on each other’s heads, bargaining for an elephant, getting surrounded by a rope that was spun around by relatives around us, tying the thaaLi, the “Challenge Gopalakrishna moment”, etc.

This is a recent inclusion in both ceremonies, I think, but both weddings involved a phase where the bride and groom are lifted by their respective relatives and friends as they try to get the upper hand (literally) in the muhurtham. In my wedding, the muhurtham involved throwing cumin seeds and jaggery on each other’s heads. Legend is that whoever throws first has the upper hand in the marriage. Here, it was the bride trying to garland the groom and he trying to escape it. At my wedding, the large crowd meant that at that critical moment I was unable to locate my big friends, and had to get lifted by two or three relatives. I resorted to jumping to gain the upper hand (Priyanka had a bunch of big cousins ready to hoist her). It was the opposite story at Gandhi’s wedding. The groom’s party was small, and his brother had told us to be ready to lift him, so we used our “matki phod” skills to good effect to hoist him high.

In both ceremonies, it was the bride’s maternal uncle who performed the “kanyaadaanam” (literally “donation of the virgin”) and brought the bride for the muhurtham. Tradition has it that the uncle should carry the niece, and Khushboo arrived that way. Priyanka’s maternal uncle has a bad back so he simply escorted her to the stage. Then, in both ceremonies, there is the “installation” of bride and groom as Lakshmi and Narayana, and their supposedly divine status for the duration of the wedding. The groom’s shalya (upper cloth) is knotted with the bride’s sari, though since Gandhi was wearing a sherwani, he wore a sash over it for this purpose. Our installation as Lakshmi and Narayana had a fun element as the priest described us as (for example) “Venkataramana Shastri’s great-grandson, Suryanarayana Rao’s grandson, Shashidhar’s son Karthik” which was similar to the refrain in Challenge Gopalakrishna where Gopalakrishna’s father addresses him as “Justice Gopalakrishna’s greatgandson … ” (watch from 7:55 in this video).

The other major point of difference I noticed was in the revolution around the fire after throwing puffed rice in it (it’s a common ceremony in both). At my wedding, I led the way around the fire, but here it was the bride who led the way. I wonder what accounts for this difference, or if it is a minor thing that was missed by the priests.

Overall, I had a fantastic two days in Indore, getting pampered and having sweets thrust into my mouth, catching up with old friends and overall having loads of fun. And not to mention, getting fodder for this double-length blog post.