Live and Let Live- Cry of the MSME!

I had read my first James Bond novel when I was in the eighth grade (circa 1962) while I was educated in a Marathi school in Mumbai till eleventh grade! I became an instant fan of Bond. I am Bond, James Bond- accompanied by the famous Bond tune! The dialogue with the bartender was “Shaken, not stirred!” could be said only by Sean Connery! My only regret is that I never got to see the movie “From Russia with Love” at the Regal cinema in those times!

But I never knew that there would be so many followers of James Bond in the real world! I am talking about the highly competitive business world and the Movie “Live and Let Die!” I completed my Master’s degree in engineering and joined the industry in 1973. Being in Pune, I landed up in the automobile industry, on the components side. I have worked on shop floors, done some manufacturing myself. Later I meandered towards software and consulting businesses, all in the automotive domain.

When I started my career, the buyers from Vehicle Manufacturers (VM) would visit the vendors. Many of them were in Bhosari, Pimpri-Chinchwad area. Vendors were putting their baby steps in the industry, and the VM’s gave a lot of support during those times. The relationship was like the parent and child. The baby steps became the steps of an adolescent and then that of a young adult. But as usually happens, the parents missed out that the child has grown up and become an adult.

With these changes, the tier 2 and tier 3 vendors started becoming bigger and bigger. With many new entrants in India for vehicles, the vendor’s scope went up. Nomenclatures also started changing, and the smaller companies became MSME. Others grew massive, expanded, acquired technologies, started producing world-class products, components and services. Since this was being done locally, there was a cost-benefit. VM’s started getting benefits because of these changes. The main driving force behind such companies was entrepreneurship!

But we will discuss the MSME sector and not the more significant vendors.

All large companies need to have an established cluster of companies both upstream and downstream. It is of no use if the MSME (Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises) companies keep struggling all the time. These companies are registered under various departments and come under the ambit of the taxes. COVID is a significant shock to all the economy, but before that, there was GST and demonetisation. These are visible problems that are known to all. One invisible problem that has been hitting MSME is their relationship with the VM’s; the COVID issue has prompted the government to come with some formal support for MSME. During the other two problems, they had to fend for themselves.

The hidden issue from the public eye is the pressure from VM’s on the finances of the MSME. When global competition started in India amongst VM’s, the need for cost-cutting started. MSME organisations are tiny and have no money to take pressure on costs. There are ways and means of achieving the cost-cutting targets. One is an investment in modern equipment. Second is to seek the advice of experts and so on. Both these actions add to cost rather than cost-saving for MSME; for VM’s it is cost-cutting.

By the time the results of productivity improvement are seen, something new comes, and the endless cycle of price negotiation, investments, cost-cutting continues. Some try their best which most of the times it is not good enough to achieve the targets. This type of continuous pressure from VM’s lead to shortcuts and sometimes cheating too! If steel sheets are being used for stamping, discrete changes in specifications done by MSME during buying, help them remain afloat. But it is cheating, though not justified. It is the compulsion to survive.

I was an advisor to medium size companies and some huge companies. They could withstand such pressures and simply do not accept the demand for cost-cutting at least for some time. These huge companies have the same cost structure as that of VM’s. So negotiations keep going on for a long time. But in case of MSME, many times the discussion ends with a terse “take it or leave it” approach. I know about a product which is imported from Japan. For five years, the Japanese did not ask for the price increase, nor did they offer any price reduction. It is because the large companies budget for five years of projected variations. The MSME, many times, are not even equipped to visualise things like after five years; you will be surprised to know that they are also not organised to think of issues five months from today.

Despite such issues, it is a fact of life that VM’s and MSME are joined in business. It becomes a responsibility of VM’s ensure that MSME survives in the ecosystem. An attitude of we will get someone else, throws water on lifetimes hard work put in by some people. They will strongly resist only when their backs are to the wall.

I have heard of many horror stories. Someone started manufacturing a piece of equipment which could be used by many for a particular process. When they went for discussion, the buyer said, “Forget, everything else. All this is sheet metal fabrication. Tell me the total weight of the equipment. We will apply a multiplying factor and give you that price.” What happens to design cost? What happens to the development cost, testing costs?

I am in this field for a reasonable period, and maybe I know a few things. I know all the theories of survival of the fittest. There is a glorified theory of giving price reduction every year; offering price reduction when the volume goes up! But what happens when production volumes go down drastically? Do the MSME get price increase at such times? Sometimes there are modifications in the components. MSME is pushed to absorb the development or modification cost. Why should that be? Do they really have the capacity to absorb such costs? I have already explained above why that particular the Japanese company did not ask for the price increase for five years? They had already budgeted this factor in the quote given for the first time.

What is the solution for this? Coming back to James Bond- first Roger Moore Bond movie was Live and Let Die! It was a 1973 movie. It seems that VM buyers swear by this movie- Live and let die! But is it the right thing to do? To me, it should be Live and Let Live! A dying breed of MSME is not right for any nation. They provide products and services at very competitive rates and are flexible and dynamic because of their size. The MSME ecosystem employs a large number of people. It keeps the enterprise thriving. Their requirements are always reasonable, and they do not have the wherewithal to fight back. The metaphor I used above about parent and child should be extended to at least let them survive with dignity. We should not forget that out of these small, tiny MSME a few giant companies mushroom. Some of these, though they are small, have an international presence. Given the right environment, some can become very good.

I will end with an event which took place years back. One of the towns in Maharashtra had many organisations in a specific sector of the industry. They together supplied a substantial percentage of components to a VM. They were under so much pressure on pricing, they feared that the sector will simply collapse. A few of them went to VM and asked for a meeting with the topmost boss. He was busy. They waited for a few hours. Then they told the buyers, “We have been continuously in touch with everybody. If you have no time to discuss our woes, we will go away. But within two weeks we all will stop our supplies.” The top boss came out of the meeting in fifteen minutes. Rest as they say is history.

I will not recommend such drastic steps because these can be taken only once in a lifetime, that too if you are a group of many companies making similar products. But the MSME friends need to find out their own method to do well, with dignity! Both sides should remember that it is a partnership. But this word should not be used for namesake. But desperate situations will lead to extreme actions from both sides; after all, it is business! MSME folks think, plan, grow, (do not remain too small). Continuously evolve your methods, become efficient. Do not forget that you have reached this stage because you are sharp and smart! But also do not forget that it is a war zone, all the time. Try to stay a couple steps ahead of VM’s! Last but not least, do not put all your eggs in one basket!

    

Get Well Soon, Ramdev Baba!


You have jaundice, your eyes look yellow! You go to your allopathic doctor. Your bilirubin is checked, and it predictably high. You go to your chemist, he says, “Liv 52! Jaundice!” Period, discussion over. In India, when you have jaundice doctors generally prescribe Liv 52. There is no other medicine. Other drugs would only be supplementary things. There could be some cure in Homeopathy, but Liv 52 specified in Ayurved is THE drug! It cures jaundice. There are no medicines for jaundice in Allopathy!

In the year 2017, Jaya and I had decided to take a holiday in Europe. Ten days before the journey date, Jaya had a pain in the right foot. The orthopaedic doctor advised her to stop using heels and gave her some pain killers. He said that only a long rest could help her. We went to our homoeopathic doctor. He was very confident that he would be able to cure Jaya. The only advice he gave was to take a wheelchair at Frankfurt airport as it is vast and you need to walk a lot. We were to also take a train from Frankfurt to Munich, which added to the distance. But later we could climb up and down the mountains in cold weather. Thanks to our doctor! By the time we were back, Jaya had almost forgotten the problem.

Allopathy cured me of Cancer in the year 2013. Otherwise too, we have taken different allopathic treatments for various ailments. Now the usual disclaimer: I am a firm believer that each pathy has its pluses and minuses. None of them has a cure for each illness. My statements are based on my personal experience and experiences of near and dear ones. I have no prejudice against any pathy.

COVID 19 has brought the whole world, including the researchers, scientists to their knees. They are not able to find the cure, nor are they able to find the vaccine. All the governments, the world over are trying to contain the pandemic and try to minimise the spread. Some have succeeded, and others have failed; the death rates are high as well as the infections. Our country has managed to delay the spread and control the death rate reasonably well.

Recently, our yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his company Patanjali declared that they had found the cure for COVID 19! A big show and drama were made during the announcement. Obviously, the rumour mill started running at high speed on social media. Expert social media writers went into a frenzy. When I read last, Ramdev was about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his excellent work in the field of Medicine.

Let us see the whole sequence of events. Patanjali’s manufacturing unit had asked the Uttara Khand government for a license to produce a drug for immunity booster.

The Uttarakhand government has claimed on Wednesday, that the license issued to the Ayurveda products manufacturing company on June 12, pertained to the development of immunity boosters and not a medicinal cure for coronavirus.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been filed in Rajasthan government against yoga guru Baba Ramdev, his aide and chief executive officer of Patanjali Ayurved Limited, Acharya Balkrishna. Three others made misleading claims that the company has found a cure for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) called Coronil.

Ramdev said the medicines were developed by Patanjali Research Center, Haridwar in association with privately-owned National Institute of Medical Science (NIMS), Jaipur.

The AYUSH Ministry is yet to examine the claims made by Patanjali. The ministry has asked the company to provide details of the Medicine, such as name and composition, research study details, Institutional Ethics Committee clearance, CTRI registration and result data. The government has asked Patanjali to refrain from advertising the medicine kit until the claims are duly examined.

There is a ban on advertising of this Medicine, to be sold as Corona cure, till everything is checked by different authorities and formal clearance is given.

What has Patanjali attempted? They have tried to jump the bandwagon to offer a cure to humanity, nothing wrong in that. But the fact is that the whole world, including renowned research institutes, pharma companies are struggling to find the elusive golden wand. These organisations have a backing of millions of dollars the world over, and they are still struggling. It is a fact of life that research done in non-allopathic sciences is negligible, if at all!

On social media, the usual gang of “India is the greatest” has become active. They give various references from Vedic times to prove that we had nuclear weapons, aeroplanes and so on during those times. Great story reading for those times, but that is about it. The cures offered by Indian medicines have been around for thousands of years, but unfortunately, most remained in families and in the private domain. Sometimes remedies were passed on, and at other times they were lost to time with the demise of the expert. Till twenty to thirty years, few new cures in Ayurved or Homeopathy, have been attempted by Corporates in the public domain which had funds. So there is a chance that non-allopathic drugs may come up with some great results over a period, but not yet.

But our Bharat gang is churning out stories. There is a purported theory going around. Patanjali has not followed the guidelines to get the clearance for a drug for the supposed use, in its official statement. So those saying anything against Patanjali are enemies and are being paid by other pharma companies to act against Patanjali! How can ayurvedic research be wrong? But friends, on probing, even Patanjali is saying that it is an anti immunity drug and not the cure for COVID! If Patanjali has really discovered the treatment, then they should not have trouble in defending the probe. But we should not raise the bogey of the greatest civilisation on the earth…

It is plain and simple. Patanjali is five thousand crores plus business. As a business entity, it must ensure that the company makes good profits. Their strategy went wrong, and they were quickly caught on the wrong foot! No harm! If they have come with a right immunity booster drug, it will sell. It will be even better if the results are provable. You take Medicine for fifteen days, and your immunity is up because we say so. Such statements will not boost the immunity though it might enhance their sales. But because of timely action by authorities, at least people’s hopes will not go up, wrongly, about Corona cure.

Will “India is the most celebrated civilisation” brigade accept that this is a million-dollar question! Should the companies not follow the guidelines specified and submit documentary proof? Is curing 280 patients a breakthrough? I do not think so.

Firstly, such a trial should be started after following guidelines. The whole process must be documented. Patients should be of different severity, age, sex, comorbidity and other such variables. Once the systematic trials are done, results shared with authorities, then mass production of the drug would make sense. Let the horses not run faster than the chariot!

 


To Hell with China- the confused us!

OUR CHINA BEATERS!

Corona, Ladakh and other things got every Indians’ muscles flexing! Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian! The slogans are seen everywhere in discussions, social media and wherever we look. Great idea! But there is a cynical joke. A lot of posters, Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian are seen everywhere- the only problem is they were printed and imported from China because these were good quality and inexpensive.

Import and export between nations is not an emotional decision, but such decisions are based on hard bargaining to try and see that both the sides are benefitted- and it needs to be a win-win situation. Import and export values between any two countries are never the same. In the case of China, the import from China is always higher than the export to China for most countries. Why has this happened? China has ensured that the industry grew phenomenally. They maintained quality and lower price than most of the nations in the world. They found efficient ways of sending goods to Europe by using the rail network of Russia. That reduced the transit time by almost 30 days.

Can any nation beat China in their own game? No, it is not easy, and there are other reasons like a dictatorship, lax labour laws and so on. In China, businesses rarely have to face legal hurdles. In democracies, legal issues can really strangle the industry. But is it doable at all to beat China in their own game? Yes, it is feasible, and this “miracle” has been performed by a sector in India. But before this, let me share thoughts of my friend Arvind on the subject.

Nobody, citizens, government, companies or anyone else can stop using, buying Chinese products overnight. The government, unless it officially declares war, can not stop or cancel orders or participation in tenders. It takes time for companies to develop alternative sources. The alternative sources will be costlier since China uses a dumping strategy. Being a totalitarian government, it has many advantages as for labour, company and other laws are concerned.

Atmnirbhar Bharat will be successful only if we as citizens of this country are ready to pay more for some products, initially. Businesses should put the nation first policy too, and the government, bureaucracy and politicians should not manipulate things for pushing their individual interests. Only competent leadership can change the future of the nation.

The link below are views of Rajeev Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto and Suzuki India, Chairman Mr. Bhargava. They have spoken pragmatically about China.

https://www.news18.com/news/auto/maruti-suzuki-bajaj-resist-boycott-china-movement-says-chinese-parts-necessary-for-production-2670601.html

I am talking about the Motorcycle industry in India. Motorcycle industry jointly has reached the top position in the world in numbers. In the early part of this century, Chinese companies started pushing their motorcycles in India. The “experts” began writing epitaphs of Indian Motorcycle companies Hero, Bajaj and TVS. But these companies were made of sterner stuff. They got their act together, pulled up their socks. And lo! Within a couple of years, the Chinese bikes were thrown out from Indian markets by customers and not by tariffs and jingoism by Deshbhakts. What did they do? They did the right things.

Those were days when IT companies were on a high, after the success of Y2K in the global market. They started hiring engineering talent from IIT’s, NIT’s and all good institutes. The kids wanted to do only coding in life, engineering career was a no-no. Here was what Bajaj tried. They used to get an opportunity for campus interviews on 7th or 8th day. One year they decided to hire people on zero-day. They told the institutes that they would pay three times the salary that IT companies paid. They got the zero-day slot, but to their surprise, very very few students wanted to join even at such a high salary. All wanted to jump the IT bandwagon. Bajaj reversed their strategy and went to the next level of schools. Changed interview language to Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil when needed. They got the hidden gems as these kids were good but had a language issue. Rest as they say is history.

Another example of Bajaj. Today they export about 1.8 million bikes a year, their primary market being Africa. In Africa, bikes are used as a taxi or a tempo. Bajaj has earned a name there. Before Bajaj, there were Japanese bikes which were superb but expensive. They had a limited market. The Chinese bikes were sent to Africa in an individual box, and they were assembled by local mechanics and sold. Bajaj made better bikes and despatched them in assembled condition, ready to use. They priced them between the Chinese and Japanese bikes. They have ultimately captured the market and running a highly profitable operation.

So, friends, it is doable. What you need is the will to fight, gauge the market correctly. Besides this, the Motor Cycle industry had the advantage of a large Indian market for Motorcycles. The local market helped them volume, which has proved beneficial.

Coming back to the slogan to hell with the Chinese products. If you look at Chinese cars, they are not so competitive in the world market, yet. But since many global multinationals went to China- Volkswagen, Land Rover, Mercedes, Toyota- all the named companies and others have a significant presence in China. Chinese manufacture seven to eight times the cars that we manufacture in India. In India, we simply do not have a market for more cars. Plus we do not have the infrastructure of roads and pollution control. With smaller numbers, we cannot compete with Chinese in four-wheelers. Mind you, China is still not able to sell “Chinese Branded” cars in the global market. But these vast volumes helped China to create a reliable components industry; the Indian industrial buyers have fallen into China trap due to low price. Many international component companies like Aisin, Denso, Conti, Valeo started China operations in a big way. Corona pandemic exposed the errors made by Industrial buyers. I have discussed this with many senior friends in the industry. The corrective measures have already begun, and over a period, China dependence will come down. It takes time to develop components suitable for your use.

It is impossible to boycott China immediately. It will take at least five years of focused efforts. In automotive products, direct import from China is about 10%. However, many tier two suppliers of the vendors from ASEAN countries import quite a lot from China. It will take time to develop ‘non-Chinese’ tier-two suppliers.

The government can discretely ensure that items like Ganesh Idols, Agarbatti, Patang Manja and such stuff does not get imported from China. These items can not be put on the banned list. So the government can talk to the business community and trade groups to make sure that “Indian” items are not imported. For such things, how do you know that they are cheaper? These are imported simply because trade margins are high. There could be hundreds of such items which can be easily “banned.” This is also doable. When Malaysia started behaving strangely with India, Indian government discretely talked to import organising bodies. Within three months the majority purchase of palm oil was switched over to Indonesia.

The main thrust of India should be to push local manufacture of good quality cell phones, tvs and such things in India. Special efforts will have to be taken. Years back, there was a story of the US pushing the Japanese to allow them to sell the US-made cars in Japan. It was declared during the visit of the US president to Japan, that the market is now open. When the delegation went back to the US and talked to car manufacturers, they realised that the manufacturers would take at least three to four years to manufacture Japan-specific, right-hand drive cars.

So it is good to let out steam, but there is no point in shooting the bullet in your foot! Another point is to find out if banning Chinese goods going to damage Chinese trade more or hit the Indian manufacturing capability? The right way would be do it over a period!

Live debt-free life! 

NO1

Here is a disclaimer! I am not an expert in the financial field, and I don’t have detailed knowledge of finances, especially the finance requirements of businesses. But then why am I writing this blog? There is another side of assets and liabilities in our life. You may be in business, serving somewhere or you are a student or a housewife. I am talking of time available to us. Every person has twenty-four hours available daily. I have heard some executives and young mothers say, “If I had forty-eight hours with me!” Every persons’ time balance increases by 24 hours at the stroke of midnight, not a second less not a second more. In the money world, when we start using credit cards indiscriminately or buy those yachts and buy chalets in St Moritz, your credit lines are going to be stretched. These then break at some time as it happened to a Mallya or a Neerav Modi.

Friends organise your time finances, or you may end bankrupt before you come to know. Every task on your to-do list, unread email, meeting request, project update, and goal requires time to complete. You wake up and realise before you think of this list, you know that you don’t have time to make this list! The actions and choices you make during the day have a compounding effect on your time. But you don’t have to go into “Time Debt”, you only need to tweak the way you do things, you plan your things. Even before you realise, you will have “Time Assets” with you.

If you are in “Time Debt”, you are not alone in this world. The whole world appears to be in this debt. There are reasons like wrong planning, procrastination, can’t say NO. We forget that you owe it to you and your family first. I am not saying that you come to the office late every day because you have home stuff to be completed. Plan and execute the home stuff the way you do things at the office. You are falling short of time at home because you take that extra half an hour wink, every day. You need to take that wink because you sleep late at night. You sleep late at night because you were making that presentation late in the night. You know what I mean. It is a vicious circle. Unless you plan these things both at home and work, you will never become debt-free.

A considerable number of people work late in the office or keep on working after coming home. Now I am sure you have understood what I mean. When you use a credit card, you are committing your future income to the credit card company. If you use the credit card as a convenience, then it is a different issue. If not, then you are in big trouble. You suddenly realise that after the credit card money is paid, you are not left with much cash and zero savings for the future.

How does time-debt start working in real life? You are working on a software project. Due to customer pressure or boss’s stares, you resolve the customer complaint, temporarily. By the time customer is back unhappily, you are handling another issue. So, you make another quick-fix patch. Within a short period, you know that you have supplied to the customer a quilt made up of different patches. What happens to your other projects? You have used your credit card here rather than using your debit card. Slowly you start realising that debt in any form is easy to take but hard to pay and you pay back much more. If the software company where you are working works this way, at some stage it will collapse.

The problems start when you don’t prioritise your work. Start saying No instead of Yes! You overcommit yourself and work longer hours to achieve it. We don’t realise the effects of time debt until it’s too late.

Time debt charges its interest, in the form of deficit in focus and attention. The more time you’ve loaned out to other tasks, the more those tasks weigh on your mind and steal your attention. For example, it’s much harder to focus on an upcoming deadline when you have tons of overdue tasks hanging over you.

Social media has become a significant reason for distraction. I am sure that during office hours, people must be getting distracted at least 50% of the times due to social media. The lack of focus is the debt, and with debt comes the interest payment. Delaying decisions is also a way of losing focus. Such delays by decision making people can cost monetarily as well as reputation-wise.

I will share a story which will show how delays can cost! A medium-sized vendor was supplying a component, an assembly, to a large vehicle manufacturer; the Vehicle Manufacturer (VM) owned the design for the component. There was a premature failure of the component in the field, in large numbers. The vendor did a lot of research and suggested some changes. For three years vendors suggestions were ignored. When the vendor took a stand, that he will stop production, everybody woke up. During these three years, the vendor and the vehicle manufacturer shared the warranty cost; but both lost their reputation in the field. The cost of loss of reputation could not be calculated. Add to this, various meetings, phone calls, travel in the market, which created stress between the two partners. The three-year delay caused and enormous hardships to all!

The classic case of debt taken without understanding the cost is seen in the example discussed above. I am sure the total cost to VM incurred due to the loss of goodwill must have been much more than the actual warranty costs.

In the same way, we should keep track of where we are “wasting” time daily. Wastage will include distraction, time lost for something unbudgeted because you could not say no! You have first rights on your time. So, when you need to withdraw additional time from your bank, do it for your work and not someone else’s job. Your “job” could include your rest too! Handle the item which leaks your energy, first. These are “must” items; so, unless these are completed, you don’t feel comfortable resting or even sleeping.

Importance of saying no is explained in the story I want to tell you. Years back, I used to go to the office on a bike. I would leave home, keeping sufficient time as a buffer for some unexpected problems. A friend used to go to his office in their office bus, but he would habitually miss the bus. Once he missed his bus and requested me for a lift. As we were about ten minutes from my office, he said, “Could you drop me to my office first?” His office was in another direction. I would have got late for my office. I told him, “Mate, I leave home at a particular time so that I can reach my office on time. Sorry!” I had learnt to say NO at a very early age! 🙂🙂

No2

Working from Home! 

WFH1

The caricature is a funny take on working from home. “Working From Home” (WFH) is a very recent phenomenon. It is possible because of the advent of the Internet. Some IT companies like IBM have been pioneers in WFH. At one stage, 40% of their workforce world over was working from home. But about three years back, the trend is changing. The WFH had saved over two billion US dollars at that stage in real estate for IBM. 

In today’s blog, I am going to talk on both sides. I will be playing the devils advocate. Current scenario of WFH has come up mainly for social distancing purpose due to Coronavirus.  

What is WFH, and who can do it? In the days before the Internet, WFH was never an option. But with Internet and allied technologies like video conferencing, it is now not only possible but sometimes it looks like it is the only thing. Why do we need offices? Why do you need a workplace? Pilots and the crew, Hospital doctors and nurses, Policemen are some of the professions where WFH is not possible. But this subject has come up for discussion in a big way, thanks to Coronavirus. One of the means of stopping the spread is social distancing. WFH is the way to keep people from mixing or working together in a group.  

Who can work from home? Sales and marketing persons are generally dealing with customers most of the times. Software developers are also in the same category. Those in the service industry, call centres can work from home. Who cannot work from home is reasonably clear! People from the driving sector, health care, manufacturing sector are the people who need to go to their workplace to work.  

Many projects are always going on in various organisations. Projects need teamwork most of the times. There will be team leads, and there will be individual workers. In these scenarios, F to F meeting makes more sense. Oh, sorry! I meant to say Face to Face. I think I am into buzzwords mood today! Various experts need to explain different things. In F to F meetings, we go by body language, intonation and expression on the face. Words are only part of the explanation. Other aspects like general confidence, expressions in eyes give away more than the words. We see these aspects of various sports in team games. We can see the similar signals in a husband-wife team too! In basketball or football/hockey what signals the players make to each other, only they know. But suddenly you find someone coming from nowhere to score the goal.  

Assume that the blogs I am writing are part of my job. Then I need not go to any office and discuss with others on what I should write. The management will decide that Pramod is going to write about restaurants and recipes! Maybe he should write about court cases and delays. I will be given a brief for every month or a quarter. I write on my own anyway. Only thing is at the end of the year I may get warning or a kick on the butt; maybe I will get a big raise depending on whatever TRP system the organisation is using.  

But on the other hand, team working can be explained very well if we look at the cockpit of a large aircraft. It is the most cramped office for three highly paid professionals pilot, the co-pilot and engineer. Imagine an emergency where fuel supply to one of the engines is getting low. For pilots, flying on autopilot can be considered as working from home. On autopilot, they may be a little less focussed. So, the engine is having an issue. The scenario could unfold like this.  

Copilot has watched to fuel situation. He points it out to the pilotThe pilot says, “Confirmed?” Copilot nods. Tells the engineer to take fuel from engine 2. The engineer acts and shows thumbs up. Pilot asks, “Can we reach the destination?” “Safer to land 200 miles before at A”. The pilot says, “ATC….!” 

These were small words and phrases mumbled. But necessary and quick actions were taken by all. They were watching each other’s body language, expressions, eye movement and intonation too! Since all of them were in the “office,” it happened fast. Imagine all working from home. (Not the autopilot variety) First, there would be an email which the concerned person may not see immediately. Then he writes, “are you sure”? It goes on and on! By the time the aeroplane is probably floating on the river! It is an extreme hypothetical case I have taken. 

But don’t forget that the uncharted path of WFH may be useful to non- IT industries like engineering industry too! But the initial phase is going to be tough. In IT also, all WFH is going to be tough to handle.

I will share more cons of working from home. I have spoken with two senior people in the industry. First is my son Sachin who is in Microsoft. (Okay they are used to WFH) and someone from a large engineering company in Pune. (not used to WFH) Sachin said that even for the smallest thing now, he must set up a meeting if something is urgent. Something he could have told his colleague on the way to get his coffee!  

The friend from engineering industry has more issues. First and foremost, for the first time, I found that he appeared stressed when I spoke to him. He is an enjoyable and jovial person. But he said that he has started feeling as if there is nothing else in life besides phone and webex! Their company and all of them are not used to WFH. They have never done it before. He needs to share some information with his boss, but his colleague has not been able to find out. So, the cycle goes on and on. He probably feels that it is an inefficient way of doing things. Many financial issues are to be resolved with vendors. They are best-resolved F to F, but he and his colleagues do not get time to even talk to vendors.  

I feel that it is too big a subject to be covered in a blog. I will sum it up with ways to work efficiently in a WFH situation.  

  • Make your to-do list as early as you can after you wake up
  • Get some work done, which you need to do alone before the “office starts”.   
  • Keep deadlines for completing your work same as you have when working in a physical office.  
  • Get your lunch ready on the previous day as you may not have time to cook and eat during your lunch break. 
  • Software like MS Team or Slack has a facility for a break! Some home emergency could crop up, so budget for it.  
  • Don’t try to juggle between home emergency and work! Focus on one at a time. 
  • Start your work at a specific time and log off similarly. These times should be the same as you follow in office.  
  • Tell your family in advance if you expect to have a crazy day. 
  • Take a break and go for your smoke or a walk or whatever. But interact with other people. 
  • Some people work from cafes (I saw this in Montreal) but make sure you go to less crowded one. My son in law Nikhil sometimes goes to a local library in Montreal when he works from home. (But in Coronavirus times these options are not available) 
  • If you are an independent contributor, then work when you are most productive. You could be morning person!  
  • Budget for more time as you do in office. Time overruns happen whether you WFH or are in office. 
  • Log out from all social media before you log in for work. Follow the same rules as you follow in office.  

I could go on and on. But please understand that you save the hassle of driving or going by bus/metro. But unless you are individual contributor where your interactions are lees, WFH is going to be tough, and it will drain you at the end of the day!  

Unless of course, you eat Amul Butter! 😜😜

WFH3

 

 

 

Social Distancing! Become an Ostrich!

SD2

Someone hiding their head in the sand, like an ostrich is said to be foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish. The ostrich does many things, but hiding its head in the sand is not one of them. Coronavirus situation tells us to metaphorically become an Ostrich and quarantine ourselves.

But in today’s scenario of Coronavirus pandemic, becoming an ostrich is not such a bad thing. Hide from social contacts, avoid gatherings-and sincerely hope that the problem goes away on its own.

To make this a better world, we always say that become social, (but not a social animal), meet more people and so on. But the current situation tells the human race to become incommunicado, physically!

Every society is fluid, and each generation has a new way of doing things. In my grandparents time more than a hundred year ago, the socialising was done a different way than what we do today. In those days, people found various ways of meeting each other, but these occasions were religious. You got invited to attend a pooja. Then there were some occasions where husband-wife were invited for lunch to satisfy some deity. Then in our parents times, there were different occasions for inviting people. But they were less religious.

In today’s times, the occasions have become celebratory. Birthday’s, promotions, wedding anniversary, 70th  birthday, and so on. Many times people are just invited, there may not be any occasion! But Coronavirus brought a new concept of social distancing!

Social distancing encompasses non-pharmaceutical measures for controlling the transmission of infectious disease through a reduction in the frequency of physical contact between individuals. Large-scale methods of social distancing include public education on hygiene and cough etiquette.

From social animal of the 21st century to social distancing is a big leap. Coronavirus has created significant turmoil in the world after the proliferation of social media. We have twitter, WA, Facebook and online news; the Internet facilitated most of these.

Coronavirus issue started in China. Even China, with its dictatorial regime, could not hide what was happening in China. News started trickling out, and over time China began to give official figures. Okay, nobody is sure how much suppression China has done about the real spread. But the first new phrase that started being used was Lock Down, in social context! After that, another term that is being used is social distancing. But what is social distancing besides the way it is defined above? I have made interpretation suitable for Jaya and me. We are both around 70, so complete lockdown makes a lot of sense. But there are questions galore. What should different age groups do? Who decides that? Oh, simple! WHO (the United Nations body) decides this. They give advisories, and it is a good idea to follow them. Here is the usual disclaimer, I am not a doctor, and I don’t understand much health sciences. But I am going to use common sense to discuss further.

Children are young and innocent. What happens if they play together? With schools closed, how to keep them busy?

All said and done, any human being who can move out of home independently is a potential carrier. Keeping children busy is the family’s job, so do it. It is frustrating to be with them all the time. It is tiring too! If you are lucky and can work from home, you need to explain to your kids the importance of not mixing with other kids. Howsoever frustrating it maybe you are responsible for their health and avoiding the spread in society.

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I have borrowed the above graph from someones Facebook post. We should attempt to reach graph B. In the case of graph A, there is a sudden increase in number of cases. The graph B can be achieved by correct lockdown! There is a reason. Assume that Coronavirus spread has just started in your city. The government gives suggestions, puts banners about social distancing. The real results are seen after about four weeks and after that. If your city follows the social distancing or lockdown rules seriously, the chances of more cases get reduced. You may have ¼, ½, ¾, 7/8th  lockdown. These figures mean that these many people (one in four to seven in eight) from the population have gone into social distancing mode. Since China was the first country to face this, they took some time to understand the importance of social distancing. Hence before they knew what hit them, the pandemic spread exponentially- means more and more people got affected rapidly. The more the numbers means more carriers and chances of spread are very high.

In India, we are still in phase one. If we rapidly go into social distancing, the spread will happen at a slower rate and tapering off will be faster. It will also ensure that a small number of people are affected. Please understand that it depends on us, the government can only be a facilitator, but we must act.

I am writing below some scenarios in QA format for the ease of understanding.

Should I limit my physical interaction with my partner and family members?

As far as possible avoid but if all of you are under the same lockdown, then maybe it is okay.

Should I avoid common spaces in my apartment?

Yes and no. If you must go then go at a time when not many people are around, say 6 am. But avoid touching the surfaces like benches.

Should I avoid haircut?

It is a tricky one. But if you can discuss with your hairdresser, and suggest to him the use of sanitisers, disinfectants and provided he shows no symptoms you get the hair cut but reduce frequency.

Should I stop visiting elderly relatives?

Yes, definitely. Since this group is the most susceptible, they should be allowed more quarantine. You could be a carrier. Or maybe you designate someone from the family, and only that person should visit if the person is without symptoms.

We, siblings, are all 70 plus, should we meet once in a while if we have no symptoms?

Honestly speaking, you should avoid meeting if you are living separately. You are in the most susceptible range.

Should we cancel wedding receptions or birthday parties?

It is better to err on the safer side. There could be pregnant women too, who are equally susceptible. In large gatherings, it is not practical to ask everybody about the health condition.

Should I avoid public transport?

Yes, if it is possible. Anyway, avoid going out. But if you must, you may think of using Uber etc.

I am healthy and young. Should I go to bars?

I would say no. Your condition would be helpful, and you may not get infected. Your body will fight the virus quickly. But you could become a carrier and may become a party to spreading the virus.

What items should I store for emergencies?

Store routine eating stuff, medicines and paracetamol, drug suggested for Coronavirus. But definitely don’t horde toilet paper! Why normal people behave in a funny manner is difficult to explain. I have read enough toilet paper stories from the world over. Let the system stabilise for the new norms. Grocery, pharmacies, hospitals and all essential services are going to remain open!

From IT, many companies are telling their people to work from home. In Pune, Tata Motors became the first engineering company that allowed their purchase team to work from home. Working from home is an excellent concept if people work sincerely and earnestly. I hear from many that people take disadvantage of this concept, sometimes. The current pandemic is a unique opportunity for IT companies to study the “working from home” concept in details. They may realise that in normal circumstances too, xx percentage of people could always work from home. If the current scenario continues for an extended period, new SOP’s (standard operating procedures) could be created, and these people could be asked to work from home, always. It could be an excellent cost-saving for businesses as they will need smaller buildings, and people will drive less. It will be useful for the environment. There will be many such advantages.

After all, the  Ostrich will be not be hiding his head in the sand. It is putting it’s thinking cap on!

Corona- a different “not to miss” viewpoint!  

Obviously, you are thinking of giving a miss to this blogpost! Oh, come on not another one Pramod, we are getting enough on social media! We have better things to do! But let me warn you, you miss reading this at your own peril! Initially, I will mention very briefly about the virus, and then I will switch over to different aspects of the situation.  

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses aren’t dangerous. 

What is different is how the pandemic is affecting our life. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is social media, instant communication. These two are helping people to understand the situation; at the same time, it creates confusion in the minds of the people. Another important aspect is it does not allow governments to hide anything.  

The current situations have never been seen before. Let me explain what I mean. First, the good part which does not mean it is correct. In Pune, a family has gone to Malaysia on holiday. Two hundred families are living in their society. They are supposed to come back tomorrow. The committee from the community has made an application to the police station not to allow them to live in their home for two weeks, the quarantine period. How could you do that? There are set procedures. If any of the family members is found positive in the test, they would be quarantined in any case. It is not the job of the police to take care of these things.  

Next is rumour-mongering on the net and verbal. We are training our home staff about hand washing and other cleanliness aspects, besides telling them why it should be done. They dont wear a mask during travel on public transport but use stoles to cover their mouth and nose. One of them came home. She was very excited and told Jaya a story. She said, Someone told me that in a housing society, a Corona Virus patient was detected. Authorities asked all two hundred families to vacate their homes. Jaya said, In such cases, the patient is moved to the hospital, and maybe the whole colony will be fumigated. Where will they move 200 families? Rumour mongering has now reached a new level. 

What is the collateral damage because of the pandemic? The world economy is already in recession, and the epidemic is hitting the market sentiment hard. Markets are crashing the world over. Nobody is sure where the bottom is? It currently appears to be bottomless pit!  

It has affected the Oil prices, which is a boon to oil-importing economies. In some countries, the Petrol price will come down, and in other economies, the additional money is used to reduce the current account deficit. How long this will continue is difficult to predict.  

Opec countries tried to curtail production as per reduced demand so that oil prices will not slide, but Russia ignored them, and the price continues the downslide. Again, it looks like a bottomless pit. The most important and critical aspect of the situation is nobody can predict how long it will continue! What will be the effect of this unknown parameter?

For families having young kids, it is going to be tough. Husband and wife are working, and schools declare that they will close for a period. How will these families manage? There is a possibility that the creches also will be shut down. For some time, parents may be able to work from home. But there are jobs where working from home is not an option! Surgeons, Drivers, Nurses are some of the tasks that cannot be performed from home. A parent may have to resign, but how will organisations continue to run if people start quitting in large numbers. It is a cache 22 situation which reminds me of a joke. Bob calls the bartender where friends meet every day for drinks. He says, “Tell my friends that I am drinking from home today!”  

In severe circumstances, how people would react is challenging to judge. I am getting feedback from family and friends that people are hoarding toilet papers of all the things in western countries. I would rather keep milk, medicines, bread, vegetables and meat! People dont know that there is an Indian method, that eliminates the use of toilet paper. Another Indian method of avoiding touch is Namaste! Westerners have started accepting it.

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-13 at 18.00.17

Anand Mahindra has suggested that it is an excellent opportunity to push Swatchha Bharat mission. People should be coaxed into following cleanliness drill; they should also be encouraged to pursue cleanliness, life long, not only during the Coronavirus issue. He also said that the world understood the perils of depending solely on China for many things. It is an excellent opportunity that India should grab.  

A friend of mine travelled abroad on the same day the Indian Government declared self-imposed quarantine. He is older than me. His other colleagues opted out of the travel. I feel that it is a rather foolhardy decision. 

What are other collateral damages? A friends son who works in the US has come to India for stamping of the US visa on his passport. Now it is tricky for him to travel back to the US with travel ban to the US from European airports.  

In Dehu gaon, thousands of people came together to celebrate the birth of Tukaram Maharaj. Coronavirus what is that? Oh, karma will take care of the situation. HE and Tukaram Maharaj will ensure that we will not be infected.  

Have you heard of honeymoon bridge game? My dear friend Nayan informed me the two clubs where they play bridge have told them that no bridge can be played at the clubs in San Jose. I said, “Nayan, now there is a big problem. Husbands and wives will have to spend time together all the time.” Nayan said, “Let’s call it Honeymoon Bridge!” Great idea and it is a good side effect, depending on one’s perspective! A few years back, when Jaya and I were taking Alaska Cruise, a friend asked me how many people are there in our group. I said, “Two”! He was shocked and said what you guys are going to do on the cruise for seven days. Well! 

On the commercial front, there will be severe effects. It starts with you and me cancelling unnecessary travel; hence tickets cancellation has become the name of the game. The outcome will be a reduced number of flights. On top of that, the governments have announced a lockdown for travellers from certain countries. Domino effect starts from the airports, taxis at the airport, restaurants, gift shops all are going to be severely affected with reduced footfall. Outside the airport, hotels and restaurants, at various destination have already started receiving cancellations. Some areas in many countries are dependent solely on tourists, and large establishments will have business issues. But small-time vendors will have survival problems.  Government agencies are acting tough with hoarders. One chemist near my home sold a mask at double the price and said he would not give an invoice. Unfortunately for him, the customer was a government inspector. His shop was locked and sealed immediately, and the process of cancelling his license has started.

I have kept my promise. Have I discussed anything about Coronavirus? I have talked about collateral damage and life around the pandemic. Friends take things in stride, but you be careful. Follow instructions shared by experts. Avoid unnecessary travel and mixing with people, after all, friends from my generation are in the zone, where one can get easily affected.  

 

Twenty years hence! 

I was just wondering how the world will look twenty years hence. There is a major change going on in the world called industry 4.0! What jobs will be available, and what businesses could lose out? It is difficult to tell, at the same time, it is not so difficult. Robotics, AI are two game changers which are already on the horizon for ordinary people, but for techies, these are already around for some time. Will there be any bloggers after twenty years? Yes, they will be there, but there is good chance that I will not be around.  

So here we go! 

  1. Call Centre operators 
    1. We have already seen the BOTS (Web Robot) operating 
    2. Many times when we talk to toll-free numbers with Amazon, Flipkart et al. we are talking to BOTS. They are trained to answer standard questions based on our identity and our discussion history. Their “brain” gets updated as we call more. In case we ask some information which they cannot answer, AI trains them to say “Could you hold on for a minute? I will transfer the call to my supervisor.” The supervisor could be a human being, giving support to 20/30 such BOTS. 
  2. Automobile drivers 
    1. Companies are going very strong in creating technology for driverless cars. Such vehicles are already plying in certain areas in the US. Amazon is already using driverless trucks to transport their goods. Google’s Waymo and GM are two companies that are way ahead of their competitors. Over a period, there is a good possibility that the requirement for drivers will go down drastically. 
  3. Accountants 
    1. AI and Blockchain technologies together are creating business solutions that do the work of charter accountants. The data entry and the checking are rule-based. The rules don’t change every day, but even if they change, there are methods which will take care of these changes. It could be one profession that could get replaced fast.
  4. Bank Tellers 
    1. All of us are observing this phenomenon for some time. ATM card proliferation is taking place exponentially. People can withdraw money from any ATM. But in future, it can so happen that you may not need to withdraw money. My son Sachin who lives in the US rarely has any cash with him. Most places he pays by credit card. On the petrol pumps, I have seen him paying by using the RFID device for more than ten years. In India, recently, RFID tags are introduced to pay the toll on highways.  
  5. Travel agents 
    1. Travel agents? What is that? I have been buying all my travel requirements on various websites. I don’t remember when I last purchased travel tickets from an agent. It includes bus journeys too!  
  6. Newspaper delivery guys 
    1. Internationally, people have reduced buying the newspapers drastically. The print volume has gone down so much that it is no more viable to print the newspaper. Small newspapers are slowly shutting shop, and the large ones will also follow suit. In India, we are still lucky that readership is still manageable. But the trend of people getting their news on TV and the Internet is already set in!  
  7. Journalists 
    1. When there are no newspapers, what is the need for conventional journalists? Everybody will be reporter in future. The news organisations will need to check the authenticity of the news items. But with vastly improved cell phone cameras, video proofs are available.  
  8. Telemarketers 
    1. Robots will replace the telemarketers, the same as in the case of call centre operators, with one human managing large number of robots.  
  9. Referees 
    1. What will the referees do in sports events? The vast number of cameras capture each action, including fouls, no-balls in cricket, shuttle falling outside court in badminton. These technologies are already there. The role of umpires and referees will be significantly reduced. 
  10.  Assembly line workers 
    1. We have observed this happening for quite some time. The robots have been doing a lot of things. The advantage of robots is they usually don’t make mistakes, and they have no mood changes. They are never on holiday or don’t take sick leave, suddenly. 

This list can go on and on. But I am also going to write about businesses closing down.  

  1. Petroleum Business
    1. Currently, this is one of the biggest businesses in the world. With the advent of electric vehicles, the requirement of these products will drastically reduce. Trials are already being done on electric aeroplanes and boats. These developments will reduce the petroleum product requirement further. The demand for EV’s also will be forced by the need for better environmental pollution control.  
  2. Coal 
    1. Coal business is going to go down over a period for the same reason, pollution. Non-conventional energy-producing methods like solar, wind and nuclear power are set to push aside coalbased energy production. Over a period, the coalbased power plants will have to shut down, along with that the coal mines. 
  3. Law business 
    1. It is already seen that AI can give law advice easily. IBM’s Watson has proven this. Law decisions are based on the laws and rules; it also is dependent on the previous interpretation of the law. AI can easily combine these twto advise customers.  
  4. Automobile servicing and repair business 
    1. As the electric vehicles are used in large numbers, the requirement for shops giving these services will come down in a big way. The IC engine cars have more than 2000 parts in the drive train. Whereas in the EV, the drive train has about 18 items. Only the electric motors have the moving parts. Hence, the repairs and maintenance work will be as good as zero in the drive train. 
    2. The IC engine drive train has parts that are manufactured by forging, casting, rolling and heat treatment processes. These processes form a large percentage of the primary engineering industry. These industries employ a vast number of people. As the requirement goes down, there will be no growth. There will be a big slump. There will be slump in the industry, making machines and machinery required for these core engineering businesses.  
  5. Cigarette  
    1. Now people have realised that cigarette smoking is injurious to health. It is not just a government slogan. Younger people have reduced smoking of tobacco products as well as their E equivalents. It is one industry that will go down, but it is good for the human race. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption does not show sign of reducing.   

What is the reason for writing the blog? Well, the writing is on the wall, but we fail to see it, many times. People who are in the process of joining the workforce should think before joining any industry. Seniors should advise young people based on the information shared.

The list is not exhaustive, and many more jobs and industries could end up on this list. It is a good idea to keep track of such information to avoid obsolescenceTake care! Keep your eyes and ears open!  

 

Slowdown! Recession and the cycle! 

Economic cycleThe science of economy is something which I don’t understand, seriously! Noble laureates give their theories, experts write essays, but an engineer like me understands only physics. Whatever goes up must come down! It is the theory of gravity. Sometimes it goes up slowly and comes down fast with a thud. Sometimes both speeds are similar. Economic growth goes up swiftly and comes down slowly sometimes. India has been lucky that it came out of the 2008 recession reasonably unscathed and bounced back for the last eight years to a decent growth rate of 6 to 8%.

Many factors lead to growth. Similarly, different factors slow down the economy. These factors are market sentiment, buying power, and so on; the Indian economy since independence did not show correct growth due to a parallel economy. The parallel economy, in the local language, is called Black Money. What is black money, and how does it get generated? Many businesses like construction, land dealings, trade pay each other by cash. Cash payment is made to avoid Income Tax. A part of business activity is never shown on paper. When there is “no business” there is no profit hence no Income Tax. The parallel economy also grew because of unprecedented corruption activity. Nobody takes bribe by cheque, so spending is also done in cash.

In some cases, corruption is in kind by gifting condos, high-end cars, or items which can be bought in cash. Such gifting is done in the name of non-earning spouse or a relative. In Many cases, such assets are “Benami” assets in the name of one’s sweepers, peons and drivers. In a recent interview, Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra said that the economy has been going through a process of ‘detoxification’. Since the negative impact of disruptions is now over, the economy is expected to see an upside in FY21, Bloomberg TV reported Chairman Mahindra as saying at an event in Davos, Switzerland. “The prime minister has been quite obsessed with the kind of growth he wants, and that is transparent, free of corruption” Mahindra also said. He also felt that the upcoming budget is expected to be watched closely by different quarters of the economy amid the slowdown.

The Indian economy is seeing a slowdown for some time now on account of a fall in consumption and demand. The government announced a slew of measures in the past few months to revive growth ranging from bank recapitalisation and boost in liquidity.

The perception right now is that government actions caused the slowdown. But on the other hand, if you are going to detox yourself, you always have a process of cleansing before you start recovering and running again. Demonetisation and GST were the part of disruptions that have now ended, and the economy is already seeing signs of life. From the next fiscal, India will surprise the world on the upside is the general market sentiment.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently slashed the growth estimates for both the Indian and the global economy. The global growth is expected to reach 3.3 per cent in 2020, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2019, the slowest pace since the financial crisis a decade ago. The Washington-based international crisis lender revised downward India’s GDP growth projection to 4.8 per cent for FY20 and 5.8 per cent for FY21. “India’s domestic demand has slowed more sharply than expected amid stress in the non-bank financial sector and a decline in credit growth,” the IMF report said.

Detoxification had to be done. It has not eliminated black money. But the reports say that it is reduced to some degree. The government is relentlessly after the businesses and businessmen who have cheated their customers and banks. People like Modi and Mallya are in jail in Britain. Other business people like Sahara Subrata Roy, D S Kulkarni, Wadhawan are in prison. Unitech projects have been taken over by the government to give homes to 21000 people like you and me. The authorities did not have the guts to detoxify the banking system in olden days. The detoxification process has started bringing out huge NPA’s (non-performing assets) of many banks. These NPA’s were created with the help of bank employees sometimes. But many times, the businessmen cheated the banks. Under the garb of hidden NPA’s our economy was “doing well”. When the cleansing act began a few years back, the loan sanctioning processes became a little tougher. The result of more scrutiny was that credit availability came down. When the available credit comes down, business activity slows down. It is a spiral that any economy dreads. But system correction was a must.

recession1recession2

Growth any any country cannot be perpetually high. As the base increases rate of growth is bound to come down.

On one side, the automotive industry has slowed down, but there are reasons like availability of Ola’s and Uber’s of this world. But there is a surprise that the SUV introduced by KIA is selling like hotcakes. There is going to be one more hurdle here; the government is pushing for Electric Cars or initially more efficient IC Engine Hybrid cars. These cars will be more expensive than current IC Engine cars; the young generation is now changing their thought process. They don’t buy cars, but prefer Uber and Ola; they rent homes instead of buying homes. India has now become number two in the world behind China for the Smart Phone market. Spending ways are changing.

I am happy about this downturn for another reason. Gita Gopinath from IMF explained that the Indian recession has caused a 0.1 % reduction in the growth rate in the world economy. It indicates that India is not a small cog in the world economic wheel. At the same time, she has also said that the worst for the Indian economy is over, and it will start the upward movement in growth rate from this year 2020! The statement will disturb some people because they hoped that bad times would continue. Each group has his/her agenda! Some for political reasons and others for TRP reasons! The lousy news is THE news!

Indian economic experts had made similar predictions and statements! But we believe in someone who sits in cool climes; even if the person is desi, it is okay! Old habits die hard!

I have observed an interesting thing in international diplomacy. Turkey and Malaysia had no business to poke their nose in the internal affairs of India. They made some statements which were not necessary. When India protested, they continued in the same vein expecting the docile Indian response of yester years. But they must have got a shock of their life. India kicked them where it really hurts. India had ordered one ship worth US $2.2/ billions, on Turkey; it was put on hold. For Malaysia, India was the most significant customer of refined palm oil. A few hints here and there, the purchase pattern changed within a few months. Indian traders switched over to Indonesian palm oil. Malaysia was shocked, and they have no option but to accept it. Their prime minister accepted that Malaysia is too small to retaliate. They are trying to offer some sweet deals to India. But India is ignoring them.

Friends, in the economy of any country and for that matter world, there are always cycles of growth and downturn. A downturn can be because of market sentiments, inflation and sometimes the combination of two, stagflation. The experts of every country find ways that suit their economy. Japan for years is not doing great because of their efficient methods of working. The Japanese markets are too small for some of their giants like Toyota, Honda, Docomo. They have no option but to export and open plants in different countries. The German case is also like Japan because its economy is entirely dependent on the exports of superb engineering products. The economies of different countries are now changing from a global open market to the one which is suitable for own requirements. The US has become a leader of such self centered thoughts.

It is going to be a game of diplomacy where each country will look for ways which will be to their benefit only. Brexit is a latest classic example of this thought process. In each country, the opposition plays the political games of troubling the incumbent governments. Whichever is the government in any country, they can make mistakes, but they all put the interest of the country ahead of everything else.

For commoners like you and me, it is necessary to be remember that economic activity is a cyclic process. It goes down and then it bounces back; we need not worry about these issues.

 

 

 

 

Kar Chale Hum Fida! कर चले हम फ़िदा! 

कर चले हम फ़िदा is a serious song from the film Haqeeqat sung with high emotions by Mohamad Rafi!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6yTCblgAQQ

I have used it as a marketing gimmick to attract your attention, you will say! You are not wrong, but the subject of the blog is similar. How to prepare for our final journey! The Rafi song is based on the war that we had with China in 1962. Don’t be surprised if your eyes are moistened when you see the video!

The subject for the blog is equally serious, but I have written matter of fact things about our assets that we leave behind when our journey ends. No need to have moistened eyes, we are all going to end our journey at some stage, and it is not a big deal!

We all go through ups and downs in life. But over a period, we keep on accumulating assets. We all hopefully end up with some cash- it could be in the form of money, FD’s and other financial instruments like Mutual Funds or Shares etc. We might end up having homes, flats, land and other such properties.

Though we don’t know the day and time of our final journey, it is a good idea to prepare for it well in advance- when we handover stuff to the next generation. You must be wondering about what is Pramod talking? To start with, it is essential to make your WILL. I have seen two opinions about the WILL. Oh, do you think I am going to die? What is the hurry? I have only one child, so does it matter if there is no WILL? Yes, it does matter. God forbid, but you may have the only child who is more bothered about your assets than you. I know of stories when one of the spouses expired; during those emotion-filled days, the child had taken away all the assets from the remaining parent. I am not going to use legal terms, but it suffices to say that you must have your WILL. Everything should (or WILL) go to the remaining spouse on the death of a spouse. After the death of the second spouse, everything needs to be distributed as per WILL. Don’t forget that the WILLS do get challenged; then it needs to be resolved. But the WILL is the document which supersedes all the other things like nomination.

Okay, you have made your WILL, but are the documents perfect. Let me tell you from my experience that the papers are far from perfect. In banks, everything will go wrong if it has to go wrong. We have so much faith in the system that we believe entirely in whatever is printed. It is not; banks make simple mistakes. We have been banking with a public sector bank since 1976. I get excellent service. But there are errors galore.

I went to a financial institution where they asked me to submit a cancelled cheque and the first page of bank passbook, as the cheque did not bear my name. While submitting various documents, I was dumbstruck. The bar code on the cover indicated my account, and I had carried the cheque book for that account. But the first page of the passbook showed all the details of another account; Jaya and I have this account in common. The records printed inside were as per barcode data. Luckily, the person saw the bank account details, noted them down and said that there was no need to submit documents.

So, I started going through all the passbooks and FD’s for details. What errors can be there? We have filled up all the forms and given instructions. To start with, we had an FD created for a specific reason. The interest was to be deposited in an account. From this account, a standing instruction was there to pay for something yearly. After this years payment was made, I found out the interest was being deposited in another account. So, it made me check all such instructions. Luckily, there were no other errors.

I  had opened the account in 1976. At that time, my address was different. But later after Aadhar card came into the picture, we had instructed the bank to change the address as per our Aadhar cards. That process is still going on after a month. When I checked last week, Jaya’s address was corrected, but Priya’s correct address was changed to Jaya’s address. My address is yet to be fixed. Now Priya’s address needs to be recorrected to match her Aadhar card address. I asked for the passbook that is mentioned above. I got it back with more errors! I give up! No, I don’t give up. Mistakes can cause a mess after us.

Then there was a question of Jaya’s surname spelling. They had wrongly put it as Panwalkar or Panwalakar. On all the FD receipts, I had to get it corrected. On a couple of FD receipts, the spelling was correct. I asked them why the spelling was correct? They had no explanation. Computerisation Ki Jai Ho! Ultimately even in computerisation process, raw data is required to be filled up by someone manually. Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo! The dying soldiers are giving the message to their colleagues! We also need to handover the correct instruments to the next generation. Otherwise, after we are gone, this process can be tricky.

About assets like homes, land the story is different. All these assets have government documents like registration papers or 7/12. If these are not available, then disposing of can become cumbersome. Documentation for properties should be such that if you have a customer, these should be “Saleable” immediately. That means all the documentation is in the right place.

I have heard of many horror stories. A friend who wanted to sell his parent’s home after their death found out that the corporation tax for more than 20 years was not paid. I know of stories, where someone had bank accounts, where only that person was the signatory. Such errors can cause a headache for the next generation. After the death of the husband, his wife has also continued the same policy. Fortunately, there are no disputes amongst their two children. But keeping the correct documents is very important.

About banks, now for many of their activities, the software lets you see and make changes online if required. So handover the baton to the next generation as smoothly as possible.

I will share one experience with Jaya’s credit card; she has a card from India’s pioneering company. Her card bears the name Jaya Panvalkar. Sometimes time back government had declared that Aadhar card should be linked to Credit Cards. There was an online process. My card was linked in a zip. When I tried to link Jaya’s card, we got a message, “Name not matching”. We checked the Aadhar and the Credit card again. Everything was matching. Then I went online to check. Jaya’s name was registered in their records as J P Krishna. We talked to them on the phone and then sent all the relevant documents like Passport and Aadhar copy! Later we went to their bank branch and showed them all the documents. From their side, they also sent a mail for correction. Nothing happened, and we kept on getting a reminder every alternate day.

Then one fine day, they sent an email, “Your card will be blocked after one week if you fail to link Aadhar card to the credit card.” We immediately wrote, “Thank you so much for blocking. I have already got a credit card from xxxx.” Next day, there was a mail, “We have checked our records, now you can use the card again.” No apologies or no Sorry!” They know that if they accept the error, they can be taken to the consumer court! I went online to see the changes they had made. It was changed to Jaya Panvalkar, finally.

Addendum: My friend Subhash suggested that I should also specifically say that we should have minimum possible active accounts. Close the dormant ones! Perfect!