Human Discrimination!

What is the difference between nature and humans? What the difference between humans and other species? Outwardly we are all products of the solar ecosystem, so we all have almost the same processes of birth and death. In between these two events, we grow, we fall sick, most of the times we recover. When one’s time comes, we go back to nature. But I think! Oh, this is the main difference between humans and others. Humans think, but I am not sure how the other species think or if flora and fauna think at all like humans!

Human thinking and beliefs are what differentiates them from others. Humans got separated from others by the use of their thumb and brain. Till almost ten thousand years back, there was not much difference as there was no organised farming and hence there was no concept of ownership! There were no permanent settlements. Humans used to move around as nomads. There was no organised society, and therefore, there were hardly any rules.

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At this juncture, things started changing, and the idea of male dominance started. Humans began to share responsibilities. The concept of families started. The male body was made bigger and stronger by the laws of nature, compared to the female body. Hence, males started taking up so-called heavy-duty work and outside work. Females would manage the home front and raising the family. In all this thinking, it so happened that females were being treated as second class citizens. The situation has continued even today. The net result of this thought process is very much imbibed on the human mind.

From the beginning of the last century, females started taking more part in social activities and various professions. Last thirty years or so, they have become even more and more active. Males, it looks like forgot that females are contributing to the betterment of the society, actively. But apparently, they forgot to change the rules. Even when democratic rights of voting were concerned in many so-called developed nations, females got the rights very late, that too in many cases with restrictions. As against this, the new (and so-called third world countries) like India, Pakistan and Bangala Desh gave women the voting rights within a few years of their gaining independence. Why does this happen? Why are women considered inferior? Why are they not given the same rights in voting, property and many such areas?

There are many reasons and issues. When the female child is growing up, many barriers are put up in her way; don’t do this and don’t do that is the norm in the case of a female child. They are mentally, biologically and thought process wise different. But the males decided that the difference is because they were inferior. Any thought process not matching with that of males is inferior, has become the norm. Though it is changing in some societies, some countries, the speed of change is not good enough.

The parents of the female child, including the mother, will go out of the way to educate the male siblings, but in case of the female child, they probably still permit them to take only the minimum possible education. Oh! She is a girl. What will she do by learning so much? It is never compared with boys who are allowed to take maximum possible education. Do all the boys climb Mount Everest after education? Hardly, one’s achievement in life depends on individual performance, and a person will do well only by putting a lot of smart efforts! It does not depend on whether you are male or female!

In Pune, there is a professional program run to nurture the start-ups! It is appropriately called “Nurture”! A startup or start-up is a company initiated by individual founders or entrepreneurs to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Founders design startups to effectively develop and validate a scalable business model. Hence, the concepts of startups and entrepreneurship are similar. However, entrepreneurship refers all new businesses, including self-employment and businesses that never intend to grow big or become registered, while startups apply to new enterprises that want to grow beyond the solo founder, have employees, and plan to grow large. This is where “Nurture” is playing the role. It takes such companies under their tutelage. A team of very successful experts from various field nurture them and guide them. They become the family heads or mentors for the start-ups.

The idea of nurture, according to me, has come from nature. Nature has been nurturing both flora, and fauna in the same way. Luckily in the case of vegetation, the issue of male and female distinction is not there. In the case of fauna, there is a difference, but during nurture phase, the same treatment is given without discrimination. Both the sexes will get the same food, the same shelter and the same love. They get the same training. When we grow plants in the home environment, we give them love, then we give the right amount of water, when there is harsh Sun, we move the pots in the shed. When we have pet dogs or cats, we get them special foods; when required, we take them to Vets! Some people get winter clothing for their dogs!

The question that comes to my mind is why we do not take similar care in case of the girl child? Especially about education, making them independent, helping them to educate to become professionals. Why don’t we nurture the girl child the same way we nurture our plants and pets? Ok, this is changing to some extent now, but families that have financial constraints, take the discrimination route.

When humans are close to nature, why not follow nature’s rules? Humans have better and sharper brains, but why do we not follow good things from nature? I know many families where girls were treated with discrimination as against what was done for their male siblings.

A lady from such a family got a nurturing atmosphere in professional life. She has done far better than the male siblings in life. All that she got was the right atmosphere which overcame her setbacks, which she got in her early life. When I checked with her about the old discrimination during childhood, she was not sure if that was their family policy; she was the favourite child in the family but never given the education that she deserved. Will all ladies will be so lucky? Will they be able to overcome the initial setbacks?

I recently met one young lady in the gym. I hardly know her, but she looked confident, running her professional business from home. She casually mentioned that she has two children and said that she does not have a husband. I was so pleased with her story (of course the loss of husband was the sad part), but something must have been done right by her parents family. She appeared confident; she has stood on her own feet. She has taken control of her life.

By discriminating against the girl child, we are losing some good assets which could contribute to our society, the same as the males do. Even in professional life, the discrimination continues; we are all aware of the glass ceiling. Is this all due to MCP’s of this world? Yes, they are responsible for discrimination in later life even when ladies are on the same footing as men. But it is equally important that the lady should also be willing to work hard. So what is the solution? It should start from home; the girl child should be given the same facilities as the male child; this will provide them with confidence and will teach them to oppose the later discrimination. In the current situation, ladies tend to think that discrimination is the norm!

Go with nature. Give that little shower when needed, allow her the breeze, so she does not choke. Give her the shed against the harsh Sun when required! Let her grow into a Big Banyan Tree! Only non-discrimination can help!

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New .com bubble!

My friend Nandu Pradhan sent me a message if I have opened a blog tap! The fact of the matter is that I am on a bit of a sabbatical for a week or ten days. Thoughts keep on coming in the mind and somehow I am able to reach the end line pretty quickly.

I read an article about venture funding this morning. It said that venture fund taps seem to be shutting down, albeit slowly, at least in India. I don’t understand much about venture funding but I am told that this funding is given to start ups with brilliant ideas; then there is second and third round of funding as the idea tries to bloom into business. One term that goes hand in hand is “burn rate” while discussing startups. Burn rate is the money spent every month, without doing any business at least in the beginning.

Most of my life I have been running a small business and during this period, barring a few years, I never needed outside funds! Of course, those loans were in the form of bank facilities. I paid outrageous interest charges on the bank funds. At some stage, I decided that enough is enough and returned all the bank funds. Idea behind running my business was simple, it was my job, and it earned me a living! So idea was to keep on making money from whatever activities I was doing!

Don’t get me wrong but I honestly do not understand this concept of venture funding and startups. All can’t be Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Googles of this world. These are some of the names that come to mind when we talk of starting up in garage and so on! Don’t forget that people behind them were brilliant people. They may not have had the best of the ideas to start with. Apple took 20 plus years to really hit it. Microsoft initially had a tough time but the idea of MS-DOS is what really took off! These guys had different business models. Microsoft has been making software products and are now also in cloud computing, in a big way! Microsoft’s obituary has been written a few times but lately they have become extremely agile to customer requirements. I need not write about Apple; once the iPod became a hit, rest as they say is history. They have real world hardware that they are selling at very high margins. Google made a brilliant search engine and the advertisements on the engine are their bread and butter; they hardly have anything else that is earning money. Facebook was pioneer in social media and have taken up Google business model but this forms 80% of their income. They have about 20% of their income from other sources. What I am trying to imply is that they are all real profit making companies and balance sheets have been in black, most of the times. They all have hard cash.

Coming back to start ups. I am sure that there is a genius lurking behind all these startups that we keep on hearing. Mr. Mukesh Ambani recently made a statement that Jio is a startup! I think what he meant by that is Jio is thinking out of box, its agile, its is taking business behemoths in the same field head on but of course there is a business plan which will make it profitable sooner than later!

I am naming two large e commerce giants in India, Flipkart and Amazon.  Amazon is doing billions of dollars of turnover world over but I understand that even after 20 years their E commerce business is not in profit! So they keep on pumping money. Because of market capitalization Bezos of this world have become billionaires. So must be Flipkart honchos. What is their business model? To my understanding this is trading business as these two companies’ sale products themselves or through their partners; they do not manufacture a single product. How come their burn rate is much more than their income? I feel that it is because of the discount war they keep on playing to gain territory It is a good thing that they do not take loans from banks; otherwise list of bank NPA’s will grow longer! Loss figures March 2016 Amazon Rs.3572/ crore, Flipkart Rs.2850/ crores, Paytm total loss Rs.7971/ crores! Not bad! Profits can always wait! (Ref. Economic Times dated 24th Sept 2017)

If the organization is not making money then what is the point in doing business? With the taps of funds being slowly turned off, the startups are thinking, in terms of operating profits! Real profits are miles away! I am not sure about operating profits too! I am surprised about both sides. Those running business are not really bothered about profits and the funding guys are hoping that one of their clients will become a Microsoft or a Google and then they will get windfall! I am sure the funding guys are very very smart people and they are pumping only part of their billions as investment in startups! But what about startups which are very small or medium size? Or do the promoters also make their money, on the side, from the “burn”? If there is no profit then how do you sustain? What do you achieve by having a high “burn rate”? Is the business model right? Do these guys have enough maturity? They must be real smart technically but running a business is different ball game! An idea, a great presentation, business plan (which always look lovely on paper) get them funding. But how long can the operations sustain on funding? Should the business not be self-sustaining? Is it easy to convert a brilliant idea into a self-sustaining business? There are many so called brilliant ideas, on paper; they face different hurdles, when they come into business domain.

Coming back to my lack of knowledge, I feel that business is a business is a business! The aim should be to make it profitable, of course not at any cost! One has to follow business ethics. When you get funding you don’t have to pay interest on funding that you get though you actually borrow it!  Funding is a cool name for this borrowing! One is really lucky that this is interest free loan. That most startups fail, is to me, an indication that most ideas don’t get converted to profitable business.

I will give you an example of a “startup”. This was not a startup in the conventional way. This person’s business and products were not hi fi type but products made for farmers and used in farming. Of course it was not cool! He was mentored by my wife Jaya. Jaya happens to be on cool side of life i.e Computers, IT and all. What she found was that the person was brilliant and knew his subject and had good products. He was trying to make too many products on laboratory scale for different produce. After a few meetings Jaya asked him, “What is the USP of your products? Which is your best product?” He said, “My products will give immediate results with very high returns in Pomegranates!” Jaya told him to concentrate only on that. He did it and rest as they say is history. Now he is a reasonably successful businessman. He received recognition from United Nations and business wise he is doing pretty alright! Mind you, he took funding but only after his business had grown reasonably well and was very much in black! Writing this story probably has answered the questions which I raised in the beginning! So startups and venture funding is good provided you have good profitable products and a profit making business plan; otherwise you have to be Amazon or Flipkart or Paytm! To hell with losses! There are enough people who will fund you, if you are large enough!