Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Monday, May 12, 2014

ECONOMICS: Why are Indian restaurants in the United States better than Pakistani restaurants?

I had a short email exchange last week with the eminent economist Tyler Cowen. According to Prof. Cowen, Pakistani restaurants in the United States are better than Indian restaurants. He says as much in his book "An Economist Gets Lunch". Which, by the way, made for a very interesting read - the parts that I read, at least [1].
His goal now is to provide a guide to dining well anywhere, while minimizing risk of the Cowen nightmare, a meal that is an expensive bore. His commandments fall into two categories. The first is variations on a general mantra derived from the law of supply and demand. Eat, he urges, where "the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed." An ideal restaurant would be a sushi bar near Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, where fresh fish and discerning diners make selling bad sushi unviable as a business. The height of folly, perhaps, would be my own gastroenterologically fateful decision to visit what was then the only sushi restaurant in Villahermosa, Mexico (an unforced error, I must admit). 
The second category is classic Cowen advice—heterodox, clever and preposterously, sometimes uselessly, specific. He advises, for example, looking for Thai restaurants attached to motels (more likely to be family-run and not desperate to make rent). For authenticity, he awards points to Pakistani restaurants that feature pictures of Mecca, since they're more likely to cater to Pakistani clientele. ("The more aggressively religious the d├ęcor, the better it will be for the food.") Find restaurants where diners are "screaming at each other" or "pursuing blood feuds," he says—indications that people feel comfortable there and return frequently with their familiars. 
As to whether Indian restaurants are better than Pakistani restaurants, I beg to differ with Prof. Cowen. I think Indian restaurants in the United States are better. 

My thoughts on why this is so and what the underlying factors might be to follow. In the meantime, follow the link here to access my post on Quora which asks the same question of a wider audience.

[1] Update of May 31, 2014: The intention of that statement was just to clarify that I haven't read the whole book. I have been dipping into a bit here and a bit there of Tyler Cowen's book at the local library because I have been too busy the past few weeks to actually read it in full. Anyway, it looks like a very interesting read, but I wouldn't want Indian readers to get too disappointed with this 'conclusion' on Indian restaurants. I brought up the point with him via email that Indian restaurants in the Bay Area are actually really quite good. Tyler Cower concurred in his email reply. There is enough of a market size in the Bay Area that "authenticity" in terms of Indian cooking preparation techniques is incentivized.

[2] Update of June 4, 2014: The word 'conclusion' is interesting in this context in that there is a flavor of 'concluding' in the word as in ending, as well as a flavor of 'concluding' as in arriving at a final result. Much of economic analysis is not so much about producing a final result as much as about pointing a way forward and talking about "the 80% case" compactly (and, of course, this assumes the 80-20 rule which can, in itself, be an assumption). This is one of the reasons I love to point out Prof. Cowen's ideas even when I have certain disagreements with them because they do point to a way forward. Onward!