What a commuter wants…

… is a reliable means of transport to get them from point A to point B. Of course, it helps if the commute is pocket friendly, comfortable and fast. While taxis & autos in Mumbai adhere to the fare meters (unlike certain other metros), refusal is a universal problem shared by all commuters irrespective of the availability. The first generation of private cab services like Meru, TabCab, EasyCab did try to sort out this problem to an extent, but never managed to have enough cabs available or offer fares competitive with kaali-peelis or autos (AC notwithstanding).

Ola also jumped into this space following in Meru’s footsteps before significantly restructuring their pricing model upon Uber’s entry. These 2 taxi service aggregators reached near kaali peeli fare levels and offered a much more reliable (read disincentivised refusals) and more readily available service. In fact, Ola even tried to get kaali peelis on their app, but the effort seems to have fizzled out after a promising start.

The rest of the script is also playing out just like in the rest of the world and even a city like Mumbai, the so called commercial capital of India, has witnessed 2 taxi strikes within a couple of months. While the first strike was accompanied by Mumbai commuters discovering the basic Economics concept of supply and demand thanks to the Uber surge pricing, the second one has shown how disabling surge pricing makes life difficult and reduces the availability of cabs. Either way, the commuter has gotten the wrong end of the stick.

I just hope that we find a better solution than the other countries to this whole standoff between the incumbents and upstarts. Too bad the kaali peelis and autos don’t think of adopting a no refusal policy – something that’d get Ola and Uber in real trouble.

Money can buy happiness (if you do the charts right)

Chart making 101

If you make the charts the right way, you can definitely make money buy happiness. Read How to Lie with Statistics, and you’ll see the above chart as a poster child for most of the tricks explained in the book:

  • The Satisfaction axis is truncated to magnify the increases – most countries have a difference of just 1 point between the lowest and highest scores
  • The income reported axis is on a log scale to compress the differences. In most cases the reported income needs to go up 2-4x for a single point increase in satisfaction.
  • The figures are self reported through an online poll (Gallup or not, after doing assignments during my management education I have increased my dose of salt when reading online poll results).

Check out the original paper for more data along with detailed graphs, and to draw your own conclusion:

While the idea that there is some critical level of income beyond which income no longer impacts well-being is intuitively appealing, it is at odds with the data. As we have shown, there is no major well-being dataset that supports this commonly made claim. To be clear, our analysis in this paper has been confined to the sorts of evaluative measures of life satisfaction and happiness that have been the focus of proponents of the (modified) Easterlin hypothesis. In an interesting recent contribution, Kahneman and Deaton (2010) have shown that in the United States, people earning above $75,000 do not appear to enjoy either more positive affect nor less negative affect than those earning just below that. We are intrigued by these findings, although we conclude by noting that they are based on very different measures of well-being, and so they are not necessarily in tension with our results. Indeed, those authors also find no satiation point for evaluative measures of well-being.

As for my thoughts on the graph? Brazilians and Mexicans seem to do better with what they have than the rest of the world. Then, there’s Nigeria where money doesn’t seem to buy happiness – must be the conscience kicking in after scamming all those thousands of dollars from gullible people in the other countries.

via Daily chart: Money can buy happiness | The Economist.

Wine: What’s in a name and price?

After my post on diamonds and water, I came across a really detailed article – The Price of Wine – on how the price and brand of wine influences the “taste-buds”. Also covers the wine investment market and wine making. This bit sums up the taste bit:

However, it’s unclear whether anyone can tell the difference between a $2,000 Lafite Bordeaux and a $3 table wine. In fact, most wine economists consider the matter settled. Blind tastings and academic studies robustly show that neither amateur consumers nor expert judges can consistently differentiate between fine wines and cheap wines, nor identify the flavors within them.

Personally, I prefer my grapes unfermented.