Quora answers of the week is an initiative by The Connectere wherein we seek questions on quora ranging on a variety of topics and give answers to those question. Following are the questions our team answered this week –

  1. What 5 books would you like to recommend to read during this lockdown and social distancing period ?
  2. How is AI used in the field of virology?
  3. Do you think that it’s the beginning of the end of AAP after elections ?
  4. What is the impact of ease of doing a business on Indian economy?
  5. Why has Afghanistan always been a war torn country?
  6. Why is capitalism so successful?
  7. What stocks should you buy in a recession, and why?

What 5 books would you like to recommend to read during this lockdown and social distancing period ?

This is probably the best time to bring out the bookworm in you and immersed yourself in the world of books .
The listicle for the 5 books to read during the lockdown and social distancing period are :
1) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga:
This book poignantly captures the reality of India and the lives of people in the Darkness. This book makes you think deeply about the country like you never did before or never had the time to.
2) *The Harry Potter Series * by JK Rowling :
No doubt that this is a really long series but it won’t feel so once you start reading it . The deeper meaning of friendship , family and love comes out in the series like never before apart from the emerging victory from all battles no matter how harsh .
3) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:
This mainly captures the lives of 4 sisters and how they are all determined to live their life on their own terms , precisely an inspiration for us.
4) The pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner:
This is the perfect example of the rags to riches saga in which a homeless father goes from being very poor to a powerful player in finance holding true to the adage that nothing is impossible.
5) The Help by Kathryn Stockett:
This essentially captures the struggles of African American House helps and their image in the society .

While the list is never ending these books I would recommend as a must read !

(Written by Tanya Bahl)

How is AI used in the field of virology?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models have evolved over the years and have been adapted to be used in health care, medicine and viral biology. To begin with present research efforts coupled with improved experimental techniques have provided voluminous genomic data, which we can call big data for AI. To convert this data into useful information, robust AI and ML based models have been developed. These methodologies can efficiently handle single dimensional sequence to higher dimensional protein structures, microarray data, image and text data, experimental data emanating from spectroscopy etc.
The ML tools used for this purpose are support vector machines (SVM), neural networks, deep neural networks, random forest, and decision tree. A few intelligent heuristic algorithms that have attracted researchers’ interests over the years and are being widely used are genetic algorithm, ant colony algorithm, particle swarm optimization, simulated annealing etc.

Particle swarm optimization: it’s a population based evolutionary algorithm proposed by Eberhart and Kennedy in 1995. It works by having a population of candidate solutions. These particles are moved around in the search-space according to a few simple formulae, the movements of which are guided by their own best known position in the search-space as well as the entire swarm’s best known position. When improved positions are being discovered these will then come to guide the movements of the swarm. The process is repeated and it’s hoped, but not guaranteed, that a satisfactory solution will eventually be discovered. Since this algorithm was inspired by swarm intelligence, for instance, the social behaviour of birds and their ability to share information among their group to help them in survival, therefore this can be used in virology to predict viral activity.

Ant colony algorithm: it’s a probabilistic technique for solving computational problems which can be reduced to finding good paths through graphs. It’s modelled on the actions of the ant colony – artificial ‘ants’ locate optimal solutions by moving through a parameter space representing all possible solutions. This is based on the process by which ants would find the shortest possible route to a food source. It’s used for the detection of marker associations in the presence of gene interactions and strategic genotype sampling.

Genetic algorithm: it’s based on Darwin’s theory of evolution-it’s a slow gradual process that works by making slight and slow changes to its solutions until it gets the best solution.

ML provides statistical learning procedures that can be used to gain novel insights into disease surveillance systems, for example, gradient boosted trees (a form of ML), was used to estimate the probability of isolating avian influenza viruses (AIV) from wild bird samples collected during surveillance for AIVs from 2006 to 2011 in the United States.

Not just in humans, AI has been used to fight viruses in plants as well. Plants have a number of proteins that can be attacked by a virus, predicting which would be humanly impossible; however, a research team led by Washington State University professor Hanu Pappu has used AI to predict a handful of likely proteins that a virus could attack in plants. The next step would be to use this knowledge to devise new ways to interfere and even prevent this hijacking by viruses.

More recently, a collaborative international research has published a prediction model for antiviral drugs that may be effective on 2019-nCoV. The team used their pre-trained deep learning-based drug-target interaction model, Molecule Transformer-Drug Target to identify commercially available drugs that could act on viral proteins of 2019-nCoV.

Researchers have used AI to discover nearly 6,000 previously unknown species of virus. There’s, in fact, a machine learning tool called VirFinder programmed to notice combinations of DNA letters, such as AT or CG, in DNA strands. This algorithm can be applied to metagenomic samples to find which virus might play a part in what disease.

With algorithms such as these, viruses that have remained hidden so car could be revealed. Moreover, AI has the ability to find patterns in massive data sets, therefore this approach might connect data on viruses to bacteria, and then to protein changes in people with symptoms.

(Written by Aashika Deb)

Do you think that it’s the beginning of the end of AAP after elections ?

It might not be correct to say that it is the beginning of the end of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Talking about the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, firstly, a major reason for the AAP’s loss was the fact that Arvind Kejriwal per say wasn’t a face for the Prime Minister’s post. People voted for Narendra Modi to become the Prime Minister, not otherwise and that was probably the biggest reason of the AAP not winning any seat in the Lok Sabha Elections. The voters have started to recognise the vital difference between the Lok Sabha elections and an assembly election. People voted in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by seeing a “face” fit to serve the people’s interest, alongside a growing wave of nationalism, in which Narendra Modi seemed fit to the Delhi voters.
This does not mean that it is the beginning of the end of the AAP in Delhi as it still has a massive regional connect which was clearly reflected in the 2020 Delhi Assembly Elections wherein the AAP won a whopping 62/70 seats leaving the BJP only with 8 and the Indian National Congress (INC) drawing a blank. Arvind Kejriwal took oath as the Chief Minister for the 3rd time and the major reasons attributed to the massive AAP win was the immense amount of ground work they did.

The party has nearly held on its voter base and one of the very reasons for me to say so is that the AAP has never really went or held a stance against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), from whom many other parties face prominent competition. An example of the same may be given by referring to the AAP and BJP’s stance on CAA and NRC. One look at AAP’s and BJP’s approach towards the whole CAA and NRC fiasco, and it can be noticed that the parties took a completely polar opposite stance. Whenever the CAA and NRC question arose, AAP remained mum and took a moderate stance whenever they put out an opinion on those issues. BJP, on the other hand, attacked the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests with fervent pitch. Their leaders were vocal while arguing for the controversial topics, and aggressive while criticising the critics. The difference in approach might have impacted the voters in deciding which EVM button to push.

Some may argue that the politics of Delhi has changed and that there has been a dent on the AAP’s image after the Delhi Riots and the Labour migration issue during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. However, regarding the Delhi Riots, Arvind Kejriwal became actively involved and appealed for peace and harmony throughout. He even visted the affected areas. One AAP minister was accused of his involvement in the riots, however that accusation had no credibility. Moreover, the Delhi Police doesn’t answer to the Delhi Government as it operates directly under the Central Government, so the accusations against the Delhi Police doesn’t validate against the AAP Government.
Regarding the labour migration crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic, there was fault from both the state and the central government, an administrative failure per say which very well needs to be acknowledged. Post the crisis, Arvind Kejriwal became actively involved in solving the issue and conducted a press conference almost daily giving suggessions and updates which no other Chief Minister did. So these two situations doesn’t really hamper the AAP’s position in Delhi politics.

There are several other reasons as well why the AAP is and will remain prominent in Delhi for a long time. The party has completely revolutionised the Delhi’s educational system making it world class. An example of that can also be seen when the First Lady of the USA visited a happiness class in a school of the Delhi government. The party has also changed the healthcare system by opening up Moholla clinics, dispensaries etc., and it might be argued that the facilities there are even better than the private ones! The AAP also always have a “developmental” campaign, habit of giving away freebies like free electricity, water, bus rides and what not (enjoyed by the voters of course!) etc., making the party more appealing to the Delhi masses. We can also draw the reference from regional parties like the NCP, Shiv Sena, TMC, DMK, etc., and the AAP winning seats in both the general and assembly elections like them. Other set of people argue that a national role of the AAP is due and that Arvind Kejriwal might become the PM face as well in the coming future!

What happens remains to be seen, however, we can safely conclude that it is not the beginning of the end of the Aam Aadmi Party.

(Written by Ishaan)

What is the impact of ease of doing a business on Indian economy?

To understand the importance of it, let’s look at the recent statistics regarding India’s position.

A year ago, in 2019, India was at the 77th position among the 190 countries in the list of World Bank regarding ease of doing business, now it has moved 14 places up, securing the 63rd position in the list of 2020. The Modi government had made many economic reforms and targeted to achieve the 50th position, however that target failed. Yet, India earned a place among world’s top ten improvers.

The ranking is based on a number of quantitative indicators on regulations for starting a business, paying taxes, availing credit, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and registering property.

India still lags when it comes to ‘starting a business’. To start a restaurant in Delhi, 45 documents are required to get only one of the 26 licences that need to be cleared! These numbers for Bengaluru are 36 whereas for Mumbai are 22. Further, it takes about 58 days and an average cost of 7.8 percent of the property’s value to register it. A survey showed how it took 1445 days for a company to resolve a commercial dispute through first instance local court. New Zealand topped the list, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong. In New Zealand, it takes half a day with a single form and low charges to set up a business compared to a period of 18 days in India. Clearly,  these figures are far higher than those of OECD high income economies, and hence hinder wealth creation.

How Ease of Doing business impacts the Indian Economy by two means,  1. Foreign Direct Investment and 2. Growth rates

The rank that the country holds in the World Bank list heavily impacts how attractive a country’s economy is for Foreign Direct Investment,  with the number of procedures and large costs involved in doing business, the chances for FDI get lower and by improving these numbers we can attract more of it.

Businesses contribute to the GDP of a country, the newly set up businesses,  companies established since earlier times trying to expand, if it is easier to do business,  the venture becomes more attractive and hence that would result in an increase of GDP and better growth.

Thirdly, it is not easy for new startups to set up as of now, whether it be in smaller cities or even the metro cities, if the ease of doing and starting businesses increases, startups will be directly benefited, and the economy benefits by increase in growth, sustainable solutions, alternatives to importing, innovative products and solutions as well as more opportunities for export.

Thus, we can conclude that Ease of doing business has a considerable impact on the country’s economy, and India should keep working towards bettering its numbers and increasing its rank substantially in World Bank’s list of 2021.

(Written by Tanishka)

Why has Afghanistan always been a war torn country?

Afghanistan is no stranger to war and mayhem. It has been ravaged and in the throes of war since the early centuries. It is a cluster of warring religious groups that won’t have a truce

Let’s have a quick recap of the power-sharing structure in Afghanistan-
Afghanistan was ruled by the Durrani line of the dominant ethnic Pashtun group from 1747 to 1973. The last king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, abdicated following a coup by his cousin that established a republic. Communists seized power in 1978, followed in December 1979 by a Soviet invasion to prop up the government.
But the Red Army (Russian military) met massive resistance from Afghan mujahideen rebels, financed and armed by the United States, and withdrew in defeat 10 years later. A bloody civil war erupted between mujahideen factions in 1992 after the collapse of Mohammad Najibullah’s communist government.

In 1994, the Pakistan-backed fundamentalist Taliban movement began to emerge in the south and quickly claimed large parts of the country, culminating in September 1996 with their seizure of Kabul and creation of a government based on a hard-line interpretation of Sharia. Led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban banned women from working, closed girls’ schools and forbade music and other entertainment. Under severe UN sanctions, the regime grew close to the Al Qaeda jihadist network and sheltered its leader, Saudi national Osama Bin Laden.

This later was going to the reason why Afghanistan was still entangled in a war with US. In October 2001, the US led an invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for Al Qaida’s September 11 attacks on Washington and New York. And then began a decade long war of a semblance of dominance over each other, ravaging the culture and people of the country. In 2020, US and the Taliban are going for a deal but with so many errant forces still hanging, it’s going to be very difficult for them to trust one another.

Why have they not been able to break free of the loop?
1. Incompetent government– The government of Afghanistan is incompetent and is no match to stop the Taliban, it was merely a ploy by US to gain some power back to the people but it isn’t working all too well. The security forces are also no match for the heavily populated Taliban.

2. Violent past of almost 40 years– Afghans suffer from extremely high rates of post‐traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses, substance abuse, and diminished impulse control. Research shows that those negative effects make people more violent toward others. As a result, violence can become normalized as a legitimate means of problem solving and goal achievement, and that appears to have fuelled Afghanistan’s endless war. Thus, Afghanistan will be difficult, if not impossible, to fix.

3. Taliban’s force– Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries of the world. And people, in need of money see no option other than to join the Taliban to make some money. It is a vicious cycle that continues to go on a loop.
4. Interfering players- Afghanistan is surrounded by not-better off countries like Pakistan and Iran. The trade routes of illegal weapons, surge of war migrants also makes it difficult to stabilize a country.
After almost 40 years of war, it seems that if the negotiations between US and the Taliban work, Afghanistan will be a free country. But that remains to seen yet. It is a long road but not an impossible one.

(Written by Sonal)

Why is capitalism so successful?

Capitalism is often regarded to as the single most prosperous, successful and egalitarian economic system in human history.

Capitalism is an economic system where private entities own the factors of production. The four factors are entrepreneurship, capital goods, natural resources, and labor.
Capitalism is a pretty good economic system. It allows people to work and earn their eay through life.

If we look at the global wealth distribution, we can see that 86% of the wealth is owned by 10% of the people. In the last 10 years, the number of billionaires have doubled with one billionaire being created every two days. All this does show that capitalism has created an unfair society where there are inequalities between rich and the poor class. It is often believed that in a capitalist economy, rich make money at the expense of the poor and the needy. For many thousands of years, everyone was living under povert. Literally everyone. There were only kings who were the wealthy ones. However, with the industrial revolution, growth of industries and rise in the number of capitalists, the number of people living below poverty reduced as people started getting employment, working in higher positions and thereby joining the middle class groups of the society. More and more countries have embraced capitalism. With this billions of people throughout the world have got opportunities to enhance their lifestyle.

However what cannot be neglected is that capitalism will always lead to inequalities in income and wealth because there are free markets and people are running behind wealth. For that some might be willing to work for 40 hours a week however others might only be willing to work 20 hours a week. Some people are careless who would be taking huge debts which they’ll pay for their whole lives and so their standard of living would automatically fall. Unregulated capitalism therefore leads to homelessness and grinding poverty.

Capitalism is therefore a system of merit where quality will naturally rise because quality demands money and money demands luxuries.

The only feasible alternative to Capitalism is Socialism as regarded by experts. But it has it’s own problems and socialism has not proven to be the best possible economic system. This is because it does not promote initiative among those who have potential. As a result, socialism doesn’t reward people for being entrepreneurial. It struggles to be as innovative as a capitalistic society. Another disadvantage is that the government has a lot of power. This works as long as it represents the wishes of the people. But government leaders can abuse this position and claim power for themselves.

Such situations are to be best tackled by a mixed capitalist economy with some sensible government regulations.

Therefore a conclusion to this might be that Capitalism is a great system for overall development of the population as well as the country. However, government control in industries providing necessities like energy, power, water supply needs to be there so as to make a healthy working society.

(Written by Sahib)

What stocks should you buy in a recession, and why?

Fantastic question. And I find that there is more than one way to find what stocks you can buy during a recession. So let’s get started.

Take this answer as a compass and not a map to cherry pick stocks ! Enjoy

First of all, a recession is a wonderful time to go stock picking. And that is because you can find wonderful companies for a bargain. Hey, don’t take it from me, here’s Mr. Warren Buffet the legend himself saying it –

Image source – Google

Disclaimer – I am not a financial analyst or advisor. This answer is not financial advice in any shape or form whatsoever. It is solely my opinion. Please talk to your financial advisor before taking any decision. I shall not be responsible for any gain or loss that you incur.

With that out of the way, here is my two cents on the question you asked.

There are two ways in which you can find out stocks you can buy during a recession like the one that is going on –

  1. Find out the best of the best companies and invest in them (according to each sector)
  2. Buy companies which have lost the most value (this is a little counter intuitive I know)

More on the second technique later.

1 – Find out the best of the best companies and invest in them

The companies which fall under this category are market leaders in their specific sector. They either have huge moats (a method to prevent competition from entering – like patents or rights) or have a good management and strategy due to which they have become household names. Think HUL for example. Even if you don’t know the name of the company, I can bet you have some or the other product from its offering on your kitchen shelf.

Or even Asian paints. It has over 55% market share in the paints industry. And to add to that, record low oil prices will help it lower its cost of production as crude is an ingredient used to manufacture paint.

You can pick up Maruti – oh boy isn’t the auto sector in a lot of trouble right now. And I’m sure if there is one company that will come out profitable is Maruti. It is a household name. People dream of Ferrari’s, but their pockets allow them to buy a maruti. I’m not mocking anyone. But Maruti is a king in the budget segment and recently, the more premium segment as well. When the cycle for the whole auto industry changes, Maruti will be one of the biggest beneficiaries.

And here is why these companies will benefit the most –

You see, these companies are at the top for a reason. They have built big brands and recruit a lot of people. Getting to the top is one thing and staying at the top is another. And the companies who have stayed at the top have cracked the way to stay there.

When economic conditions go south, a lot of the smaller players will shut shop because –

(i) They were operating on a subsitence level. They were barely making enough to cover up the costs. Now, when demand goes down overall, they can’t make what they earlier used to and the business goes for a toss. Don’t worry you’ll see lots of such cases when the lockdown in India opens up.

(ii) They don’t have enough resources to expand. Once everything is in order, it’ll take them weeks or months to get back to their previous levels. They won’t expand at all.

This is very favourable for the big brands. When smaller paint makers won’t be able to survive, their market share will be swallowed by the biggest players who can continue servicing the market because they have the resources. It is a classic big eats small scenario.

I’ll give you another example. When Jet Airways stopped flying, the biggest gainer of market share was Indigo which was already leading the market. The fall of another player means less choices for the consumer. Many customers of Jet switched over to Indigo. This is amazing for Indigo. Now as they have more market share and customers they can build even more resources to fight and survive economic recessions such as the one we are in right now.

I assume that after flights resume normally, again, Indigo will be the biggest beneficiary and some smaller players will wrap up.

Thus, to conclude, the biggest companies or the ones with the highest market share are ones to stick with, specially in such difficult times. They can ride out tough times and will benefit once things recover.

2 – Buy companies which have lost the most value

This idea is more for the short term than for legitimate wealth building. Take a lot of precaution for this one.

History has shown that the sectors or industries which lose out the most during the crash give the highest returns after things become normal.

I’ll give an example of Yes Bank. Again. Only for education. No advice.

It lost so much value and touched sub 20 Rupees level before RBI came rescuing in and asked other lenders to pour in money. And boom, it went till 81 ! Not bad to quadruple your money in less than a month I’d say.

Or take the housing sector in US after 2008. The sector bled the most as the crisis played out. But the following year, the companies from the sector gained more than 35%+ in a single year and became the best performing sector for the year.

Again, no advice at all, but I find that maybe hospitality stocks will benefit after we overcome the situation !

So there you have the 2 ways I think you can pick out sectors or specific stocks to add to your portfolio during a market pullback/crash. These are volatile times so stay safe (both yourself and your capital).

(Written by Jotpreet)

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