Expense Ratios of Mutual Funds in India

It’s hard to find what Indian mutual funds charge their customers to manage their money for them. The so called “expense ratio.” Try to find it on, say, the UTI website, or SBI’s MF website.

Also, since January 2013, SEBI (the market regulator) made it mandatory for all mutual fund houses (AMCs) to offer what is called a direct plan. Every fund offered by every AMC will have a direct plan where the AMC will charge you a lower expense ratio. This is the money saved by the AMC because you went directly to them, and not through your neighborhood bank branch manager or ShareKhan. This lower expense ratio is also hard to find.

My favorite mutual fund research website, Value Research Online (vro.in) also, surprisingly, does not make it easy to find the expense ratio of a particular fund. Other sub-standard sites like Money Control do not care about listing expense ratios at all.

Now, why the fuss about expense ratios?

  1. You do want the cheapest deal, don’t you?
  2. A fund that charges 2.6% vs. a fund that charges 0.15% to manage your money. Compound this difference over 15 years, and you will see what the fuss is about.

So, what’s the solution?

  1. Call the AMC directly. Some of the “customer care” personnel do not know what a “direct plan” is. Tough luck. But this approach typically works.
  2. Go to any list view on Value Research Online’s website — say, funds from HDFC, or all Large Cap Funds, or any other list that can be sorted on expense ratios. This seems to be the only way to find expense ratios in this otherwise great website.
  3. Download the latest factsheet from the AMC website. Most AMCs do have expense ratios buried deep inside the takes-forever-to-download facesheet somewhere.
  4. I hate saying this, but invest in HDFCFund. I am not affiliated in any way to HDFC or HDFCFund, but I found their website (logged in and logged out) the best to use. They list their expense ratios boldly, they offer cheap expense ratios, you have a great range of funds, their index funds are very cheap, and you can do everything online (except for opening the account).

I have been a direct plan customer of UTI, SBI, ICICI-Prudential, IDFC, HDFC, Taurus, and Quantum Mutual Funds. Here’s my order of preference based on the range of funds, past performance of funds, expense ratios, complete online usage, and overall experience.

  1. HDFCFund
  2. IDFC (if they had a Flex STP, they would rank #1 with HDFC)
  3. ICICI-Prudential (Cannot cancel STP’s online)
  4. Quantum Mutual Fund (wish they had a slightly wider range)
  5. UTI, SBI, and Taurus: all of their websites sucked. Funds are ok.

Well, that’s that.

Craft Beer in Bangalore

IPA beka?

IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Blonde, Hefeweizen, Maibock, Pumpkin Ale, Belgian Tripel, Classic Pilsner, and such: all on tap.

Moving back from the US in 2012, one worrying thought at the back of my head was — where do I get good beer in Bangalore? Back in the late 90’s, I often drank unnamed beers on tap at Purple Haze, Guzzlers’ Inn, Pecos, Tavern at the Inn, and similar places. But now, where do I find the fresh hoppy lip-smacking taste of a good IPA? Or a thick syrupy malty Imperial Stout?

Well, Bangalore happens to be the craft beer capital of India. And nothing is more fun than asking “Yeshtu ee beer ABV?” and hearing “Aaru vare” from your bartender.

Here’s my list:

Windmills CraftworksEd Tringali is the brewmaster at this fantastic brewpub located in the EPIP zone in Whitefield. Their IPA is always on tap, and they have some special seasonals that come in during the right…er…seasons. Their Christmas Ale was mindblowingly good. It’s somewhat of a library bar with a Jazz music scene. But I go there strictly for the beer. But it is dreadfully out of the way for your Whitefield-free average Bangalore beer drinker.

Arbor BrewingGaurav Sikka is the man behind the scenes here. His story on how he brought Arbor Brewing from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Magrath Road, Bangalore is for the ages. Their IPA is hoppin’ hell great. This is my favorite brewpub in town. Actually, in the world. Logan Schaedig, their brewmaster, experiments all the time. Rye IPA, Espresso Stout, Saffron infused lager, Beetroot in Beer (!), and a few others that have all turned out great, if you ask me.

Toit: This is my least favorite of all the good brewpubs in town. Mostly because of how bad the service is, and how they never fill their pint glasses fully. There is always an inch of room above the head. Just skimming a bit of cash from customers. The redeeming thing about Toit was the Pumpkin Ale. Their regular Dark Knight stout is spectacular as well. Conveniently accessible under Indiranagar Metro station.

The Biere Club: Derek, the general manager is a great guy and has been around the Bangalore fine-dining, clubbing, and pub scene forever. The beer is good — though sometimes you might get served a great Belgian Tripel in a old-school German Stein (mug). But they do have the good glasses for more discerning beer drinkers. Bang in the middle of Bangalore ‘downtown’, probably the most accessible of all the brewpubs.

Punjabi by Nature: More of a food place than a beer place. And it shows. The ales are ok, the pilsners are fine, the stouts are passable. Only if you are in the Koramangala area. Not worth going out of your way — at least for beer.

Barleyz: They have the usual collection of Mild Ale, Indian-Craft-Brew-Staple Wit beer, another Wit beer (yes. They have two Wit beers), and something called the Jaggery Ale. The place looks a bit like NASA (Church Street), and is again, worth visiting only if you are in Koramangala.

A few others are waiting to open their beers to us, but are held back by licences, and other such crazy laws of Karnataka. It always makes for great storytelling: to hear about how the brewpubs got around Karnataka liquor laws to just brew beer and get people who love beer to drink it.

I, for one, am happy that they did it.

So much to learn, ponder about, and do….

And so much time to do it.

Scott Aaronson’s “rant” on naysayers of complexity theory got me pondering.

Over the last few months, my general scientific pondering has suffered at the hands of real work, startup life routine, system building, and a general state of being occupied by the trite. It’s fascinating, but not inspiring. The days are exciting, but not ecstatic. The nights are cathartic, but not liberating.

I miss my aimless pondering days.

I was missing this life then.

So it goes.

Porn and Masturbation

For a while now, I have observed this disturbing trend of using the words Porn and Masturbation (P&M) as suffixes in hyphen-separated-phrases to convey that the prefix is inferior, waste of time, pathetic, something to aspire against, etc. Cases in question: intellectual-masturbation, achievement-porn, etc.

I find two insulting underlying reasoning schools at work were. One: Just because something is _perceivably_ akin to P&M, it sucks. Two: P&M implicitly suck.

Well, that’s it.

Genius

The Feynman Method

Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”

Dev D

Color, Pathos, Neon, Blood, Helplessness, Orgasmic, Irredeemability, Red, Anguish, Nods, Honesty, As-is, Succumbing, Delirium, Insecurity, Psychedelia, Skin, Sigh, Bitter-as-coffee, Physical catharsis, Uncontrollable-lust, Random, Wanton, Appreciation-hierarchy, Feeling, Denim, Masochism, Yellow, Numb, Lonely, Cold, Vivid, Very vivid color.

I am happy.

Kanyadaan

Do not influence others. Especially subliminally. Especially with ideals which you have internalized after prolong profound pondering. That’s what Nath Devlalikar does. He makes his life an experiment in ideology, and lives to live the tragic consequences. Walking out of Prithvi Theater, I felt an almost biological urge to wail out the anguish I felt for the fallen hero.

Vijay Tendulkar’s Kanyadaan is the most hard-hitting play I have seen. Tragedy and irony have never come together so well. The motif of victim morphing to victimizer is brought in a brilliant fractal like way. Son-in-law torturing the daughter to victimize the ‘other’ society. Daughter comparing her ideological upbringing to a kind of crippling that she can never revert out of. The former acknowledged, the latter acted out brilliantly.

Adding to all the motifs and superb acting – is the strikingly powerful overarching theme itself. The inability to live a life the one preaches, and live it to completion, at whatever cost — that’s what hit me. I remain hit.

And so…..don’t preach.

There Will Be Blood

If you have been waiting for a film for a while, watching it alone in a theater is probably most satisfying. For various reasons, but the most important being – I don’t have to justify why the film is worth someone else’s time. It would have been a very tough sell in There Will Be Blood’s case.

I am not sure if it was Raja Sen’s review on Rediff that tipped it for me, or the bulging veins on Daniel Day-Lewis’s forehead in some best actor award nomination preview – I had to watch this one.

What’s my verdict? I am not sure. Morally corrupt love has always perturbed me. Oxymoron?

There are moments in this film, or vignettes, if you will, that showcase this very corrupt kind of love that elevate it above your usual saga. Love for what you stand for, what goes through your veins, on one side – and on the other side, you have love for another person whom you have internalized as your extension.

ps: I walked out of the theater feeling somewhat like this.

The Long Tail of Blogging

Here’s what Nabokov said at the end of his literature-appreciation course:

“In this course I have tried to reveal the mechanism of those wonderful toys — literary masterpieces. I have tried to make of you good readers who read books not for the infantile purpose of identifying oneself with the characters, and not for the adolescent purpose of learning to live, and not for the academic purpose of indulging in generalizations. I have tried to teach you to read books for the sake of their form, their visions, their art. I have tried to teach you to feel a shiver of artistic satisfaction, to share not the emotions of the people in the book but the emotions of its author — the joys and difficulties of creation. We did not talk around books, about books; we went to the center of this or that masterpiece, to the live heart of the matter.”

Is this true? When I heard about Lolita, or more so, its purported story’s theme, I didn’t know that the book was about something else. But I know now. What if I didn’t? Or couldn’t? Would I have dismissed the book as a cheap attempt at erotica that’s not even there? Maybe.

The point is – When I write, I think of a certain type of reader who will get my allusions, and more importantly, whose appreciation hierarchy matches mine. The hope is to create something whose unravelling would thrill a reader – give that shiver of artistic satisfaction. I must also admit that, in retrospect, my posts from the past have given me more cringes than shivers.

Is that you? Not being able to believe that you could’ve written this? You should read some of the other stuff you’ve written.

The Master of Chess

“A Zugzwang!” – exclaimed Grandpa.

“So it seems” mused the other old man. He laid his over-sized black-framed glasses down on the floor and turned to me with a grandfatherly smile. “Your Grandpa will be stuck for a while.” He turned towards the old chess board again and gazed at it for a while before smiling back at me. “Do you know what a Zugzwang is?”

I nodded my ignorance. His grin became wider, and those stained yellow teeth, by themselves, were grinning at me now.

Grandpa seemed to come back to this world with a sigh – “Am resigning myself to resign today.” Before I could smile at the pun, he went on “I need a tea now. Yes, I think I need a tea now.”

I made them both some tea. These tea requests were always special to me. Grandpa loved the special Darjeeling flavor. His friend seemed to not mind. They sipped on it and the game continued.

Their chess was legendary in this part of the world. Grandpa was himself a national level player; FIDE rated players didn’t take his old school defensive game lightly. These days, he had picked up some of the newer styles and was runner up in the 80+ category last year.

Surprisingly, his friend had kept up somehow. Loans, deaths, and disease seemed to have not affected him; or at least, not his chess. He was here everyday morning; and Grandpa started each game with his old rival with a keenness that bordered on obsession.

The games went on. Grandpa won some, but lost many. Tea was served always.

Both of them are now dead. When grandpa’s rival died, I had gone there to pay my last respects. Few dusty books were lying around. I hadn’t known that he could read. A worn out chess book caught my attention and as I was going through it, I could see his wife smiling at me through similar stained teeth. She looked at the book in my hand and grimaced a little – “He hated chess. But he loved your tea.”