NON TRADITIONAL, LOW CAP PRODUCTS: KEY TO SME GROWTH & SUSTAINABILITY

This subject may sound very simple, everyday kind of debate, but the fact remains, most SMEs fail due to this very reason. Everyone wants to be in business, and also in fast moving products, so there are no issues of finding buyers, however what we tend to forget, is the fact that all major corporates deal in similar products, which are far better in quality & packaging, and they spend tons of money on brand building, much much more than SMEs total business capital. I can relate this situation to one incident happened in early 90s, Coke was relaunching itself in Pakistan, we used to have returnable glass bottles. Coke, instead of pumping millions into advertising, they knew that all they had to do is to make the product available across the country. What they did? they bought all glass bottles of their competitors including Pepsi, they broke all bottles & made sure their own product was available, not just on the shelf, they even went on to let customers have free drinks in all affluent restaurants for weeks

What I am trying to make SMEs understand, is that there are multiple risks in getting into high consumption products – a) competition from giant competitors, b) high production cost together with less impressive quality/packaging of SME versus very low cost & high quality presentation of large companies due to their volumes, c) weaker distribution network, and d) virtually zero marketing budget

I also want to present another scenario, lets assume we go ahead & develop a few fmcg products, say anti-bacterial soap, what are the pre-requisites? minimum production quantities, minimum production volumes of packing material, give atleast 30 days credit to distributors which means we need to have atleast 3 months inventory in respect of investment, we need liquid capital for marketing, deploy sales teams. Now comes the most critical factor, pricing structure, it is imperative for us to dish out much more discounts to distributors & retailers for them to trade our products, which could result in negligible income for the SME. Its important we relate this ” low income” to the actual costs because it may not even be enough to sustain, meet all costs input due to low volumes

Solution? its a bit challenging, we first must accept our ground realities, not in negative sense, we must be realistic and plan accordingly. Lets see how fruit & veg vendors operate! they make money with their meagre seed capital, selling from small kiosks, they remain happy, because they make better profits, enough to recycle full capital, save a bit and at the same time, eat from profits

Non-Traditional products bring much better profits, we would not pay a cent more on a soap knowing another equally good brand is being sold cheaper, however we wouldn’t question if someone is selling a smartly packaged, reasonably good quality picture frame for $10 because no one would question us on the actual cost, so this frame could be costing us not even $3 and yet we end up making very good return on our small capital

SMEs offer best growth potential but for us to be on a sustainable road, we need to come up with creative ideas, sell items no one or less people are selling, to avoid getting into serious competition, knowing things may get nasty like what we witnessed in Coke re-launch strategy

All the best!

MEDIA ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TABLE! Ignorance or deliberate practice?

I get exhausted to put it mildly, changing TV channels, trying to get something refreshing to unwind, lift one’s mood after a hard day at work, but in all honesty, its one news channel after the other – simple people, living ordinary lives, confined between their homes & places of work, including myself, till few years ago, used to wonder, why do we have so many channels airing the same news!

The best I could understand, was to judge the quality of news, the presentation of anchors, the sponsors behind those ads – that was it, I could not have even started to believe that media is everything one needs to steer the crowd! I have worked internationally, I have seen people across the US who lived all their lives depending on CNN & FOX. For them everything revolved around their very own source of so called “reliable & timely news”, I have answered questions like “if Pakistan & India had air-conditioners?” – this is not too old, but prior to 9/11 and Iraq/Middle East invasion by the US

Its like 2 sides of the same coin, we have critics & we have the media, I never realized the power of having media on your side until recently, they actually deliver what they want to sell, and not, what people really “need” – is “the solution” – I personally feel, media should stop being negative, someone must step forward, take responsibility to be progressive & address issues constructively – there is something to learn from Jews, they are, globally, not even the size of Karachi’s population, yet they stand together, united and end up controlling most of world’s wealth. Coincidently, they also own majority of global media giants ūüôā – in my opinion, media can make a lot more money than they every imagined, if they start finding solutions to peace, ending poverty, sharing of natural resources, focusing on youngsters, get involved in youth counselling – I ask senior media professionals, what are we gaining through never ending political debates? being critical all the time! we are actually losing time, our new generation is being neglected, we already know, youths have gotten into street crimes, some of them into drugs – how long will this last? lets not forget, cost of living is going up each day, no job opportunities – and yet media is walking like a blind person, not realizing where they are heading and the consequences attached, if they don’t change the mindset right now – its not difficult to make them realize, no one is interested to see the bloodshed, civil wars being reported 24×7 – lets try to be the change, even if we assist in changing one family’s future, knowing our own resources, God Almighty would be very pleased – lets be responsible!

MISTAKES ARE GOOD, SO ARE LOSSES – ITS THE ONLY SOLUTION TO WIN

This is again something that we (parents, mentors, teachers etc) fail to tell our kids that its only natural to make mistakes, encourage them that they experiment, learn, and grow. That’s how a baby also learns to walk, he/she cannot even stand up, without trying to tumble & crawl

This process of constant encouragement must start from the very early formative years, at home, while attending schools, at universities, and at place of work – No one would mind if we enhance the selection criteria while selecting most deserving kids, even though its being most discriminatory, but its not going to hurt kids the way “negative, abusive, demeaning ¬†remarks” do to one’s self respect

Every banker, charity knows the significance of developing SME businesses, and the benefits to reach out to youngsters at the grass root level, so if there is a genuine hunger, and desire to eat the best mango,  its only natural that we give all the attention to provide right nutrition & care to the tree during its entire life cycle

All I am trying to make charities, banks, NGOs understand, that this is the same formula they should adopt while developing SME & youth business ventures, please dont cut them down if they fail to bear fruit the first or the second or the 3rd time. All that’s required is our careful, matured evaluation to make sure that the person, we are putting our time & money on, is hard working, responsible, good family background, self motivated, ambitious, then committing little money on small 100 small businesses, in regular instalments is absolutely safe, much safer than dishing our millions to 1 corporate client

I have seen dozens of times, when SMEs, full of potential get verdicts against their life from banks on seeing small losses. It maybe a routine decision on part of the bank, but that person loses his/her hard work, confidence to stand again, leave alone losing seed capital, because the funding bank would have first right to reclaim its loan amount plus interest from sale of assets, which in some cases force an SME to give away their house to the bank as well

I ask all our champions SME bankers, what do we call this? an incompetent, untimely, irresponsible reckless business decision? or “good governance” and/or “risk management” as they call it? that’s being totally inhuman, taking hasty decisions at the cost of ruining business, country’s economy and above all shooting down the entire household

I am also addressing the so called “banking regulators”, the central banks & SEC, that please be very responsible & conscious of the consequential damages that each single family has to face, in the event their lending bank’s sword falls on them. We can always cut down on the risk exposure by lowering loan amounts, and even get focused on only taking up trading ventures with short turnaround cycles so we keep funds moving all the time, its like taking up a position between standard SME size & typical micro credit situation, it may enhance operational costs but its worth the effort as results are guaranteed

Again, we go back to the same solution, we need “father figures” and not just another 9 to 5 banker who comes to make money during the day, no matter what happens to the client. Smart bankers wouldn’t get offended by my harsh remarks, instead, its an opportunity to set right footing and take advantage of the wide gap, which may not remain there for long

 

 

The Big Dilemma: Charities, NGOs, Donors lack of Genuine Appetite to get FOCUSED

The subject may sound negative to start with, but as always, objective is to identify opportunities that are being wasted in a big way. Its also not too difficult to realize, that the amount of donor’s money spent each year on non development spending, operational costs of charities, NGOs to maintain offices, conducting events etc., is far greater than what actually goes into actual development and/or rehabilitation of the Target audience

World public sector donations alone, over the past 10 years can be seen at a glance in this chart below. It’s totally pointless to debate as to why major organizations fail to make an impact, even by dishing out most generous promotion campaigns, making media headlines. The only tangible impact, one could see is the political mileage, if I can be critical for once, most charities work as if they’re “professional political strategists” working under a predefined agenda

GIVING CHARITY THE WRONG WAY, no matter how big or small, will never work. It’s the attitude that make/break relationships, leave alone accepting money, if being seen as beggars. We simplify stop expecting results or I should say miracles if we fail to boost confidence & self respect in the person we are genuinely trying to help. We will never find such rules in any professional coaching books, its infact the human element which we hardly see these days

THE RIGHT WAY to help is the purity in our hearts, the desire to make people smile, and make them happy. This is not at all difficult if one’s direction is straight, however, if its to serve another agenda, delivery capabilities will get affected. Right attitude again will come under discussion, there’s no question of gaining meaty results if we reachout to shake hands rather than expecting people to come and receive our favors

Let’s look at a scenario from donor governments perspective, because being smart salesmen, its imperative we speak the same language customers understand. So if the objectives are to gain political mileage, by way of public support at home and market access, greater market share outside, we really don’t need financial wizards, all that’s needed is to go out, make friends and more importantly make partners, give them hope, be there to show we care for real, gain never-ending trust – BOTTOMLINE: captive markets, loyal customers, more jobs, above average growth, natural distribution of wealth and above all, evolution of new sustainable economies – benchmarks; capacity building & cumulative impact

First step is tough though, someone has to assume responsibility

Women’s role in the Development of a stronger & sustainable Society

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We (men) talk of women liberation, we hold seminars, organize events to project women the very best way possible.

We also preach democracy and education for our girls no different or inferior than boys, however in all honesty, we fall short miserably at home, contradicting our actions being projected outside

I wish to remain progressive without getting into unwanted criticism or throwing dirt on anyone, because its going to help us only when we start a healthy debate, identity our weaknesses to help one another constructively

The relationship between husband & wife is like 2 ends of a bridge; we cannot build a home unless we tie both ends firmly, and continue to strengthen the bridge by keeping love & affection paramount. It’s equally critical that our teachings and words of wisdom to our children compliment our actions

Most husbands let their wives handle and control all domestic matters solely without any interference, this ensures discipline and harmony perfectly. It’s important that we identify a potential high risk situation here, husbands at times get carried away to the extent of being disrespectful to their wives on petty homely issues, this attitude puts a dent in maintaining peace, leave alone putting children under stress. There’s something husbands should realize that they must assume greater responsibility, demonstrate maturity to handle domestic issues with a kind heart. However, this must not be taken as weakness by wives, its pure ‘submission’ to let the family continue enjoying the best environment. Husbands/fathers on the other hand would endup gaining more respect from wives and children alike. It means, RESPECT cannot be demanded by force, instead, we have to earn it, through exercising patience, tolerance and love ONLY

Democracy, whether practiced at home or outside, is an ‘ESSENCE’ of maturity, tolerance and responsibility together with high sense of “taking ownership” few points to ponder

A) we cannot abandon our family in a distress situation
B) we cannot just pick and choose good moments, we have to live through bad times as well
C) can we preach democracy, knowing we become dictators at home?
D) we cannot gain respect without being humble and understanding

GROUND PREPARED TO ADDRESS REAL ISSUES

STRONGER MOTHERS ENSURE STRONGER FAMILY VALUES – if Allah has entrusted the biggest responsibility on women to be responsible of carrying a child inside her for 9 months, followed by extreme pain during childbirth (science has proven that the pain is equivalent to fracture of 43 bones). Once the baby is born, mothers embark on a long journey that lasts nothing less than 15 yeas of round the clock devotion and care MULTIPLY BY THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN EACH MOTHER CONCEIVES – what does this translate into? There are several relevance to extract;

1) women are much stronger, mentally than men
2) responsibility, maturity, affection comes naturally to women (a decision taken by Allah Himself)
3) women have far greater ability to exercise tolerance and patience (again a Gift from Allah)
4) no one will debate that women are the best teachers
5) best listeners, counselors are women

Way forward… It’s time, we (men) stand up, thank and honor women with all our heart for being the sole pillar of existence in our homes, practicing love, patience, tolerance in our lives, being solely responsible for our children’s upbringing and utmost care

It’s imperative that women be given high ranking positions, we must take advantage of their better sense of judgement, consult them before taking key decisions, respect their opinion, see them as a blessing from Allah. This change in our mindset is not just going to ensure stronger societies, it will also lift depleting confidence in young girls who either endup being victims of our harshness or they become rebellious and get corrupted, morally. Who’s to blame? Our own shortsighted attitude, unfortunately

Let’s not defy nature, if Allah can entrust women with such huge responsibilities, its only natural that they be given their due share of respect, place in our societies, we treat them with kindness because what we do outside our homes is not even a 10% match against what’s being done inside

I request all responsible parents, children, youngsters to share their opinion in order to build resources and joint efforts to make this dream a reality

May Allah give us wisdom and strength to bring all of us together as one family of Mohammed (Peace be upon him) Aameen

Right Attitude – SMEs, Women & Youth enterprises must present themselves as opportunities rather than seeking Sympathy

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Mainstream corporates call it product development, market positioning, capacity building, the list is endless. However the minute small medium enterprises run by women, young entrepreneurs go out to seek business, they are being looked at as if there are seeking charity, this unkind behavior from mainstream players whereby they assist smaller businesses (if they assist as 8 out of 10th times they make excuses or simply get rude to the extent of showing the door)¬† have gone too far, that they actually believe, a huge favor is being given to the ‘less privileged’

As much as we condemn this situation, its also critical to identify the actual problem so we address and solve this never-ending dilemma. In my opinion, no one can abuse or be rude to us, unless we allow that person in the first place. It’s not difficult to relate this with today’s SMEs, its no secret that a small business owner lacks self confidence when he/she tries to meet a banker or a big customer to discuss business across the table – let’s question ourselves, do we stand a chance to make an impression? Not at all! It’s a non starter, the minute we step into a hifi office building, we get intimidated by our surroundings – its pointless to debate if its a deliberate move on part of corporate giants or its just an inherent shortcoming on the other side because bottomline remains, SMEs lose the race before its started

If I can be honest, the solution if all of us are able to identify would not only benefit small-scale businesses, its infact more profitable to bigger companies to work with suppliers and buyers with low overheads and less appetite. It’s a win-win situation for all

I’m taking liberty to address SMEs – why do we get intimidated? If we have confidence in what we are selling, knowing its also other party’s need, then we must meet on equal terms. All we need to make sure, we must be well equipped to speak the language other parties understand. I’m not talking in literal sense, we must study the mindset of the person or the company we are meeting with so we know their values and long term objectives. It’s like going to an interview with a relaxed attitude, knowing the person we are meeting is not our boss to be! It’s imperative to set playing rules upfront, when we meet a business associate we must be respectful but not at the cost of losing our own ground, meaning we demonstrate confidence and maturity with a clear message that being respectful is mutual

Financial Book-keeping & Accountantancy – Its outdated to walk on a straight line

Being a Business & Finance Strategist, I have come across many chartered accountants, financial controllers across the globe, most of them are simply brilliant in their field, however, it saddens me when I see them being stagnant in their respective positions, no tangible growth when you see them working over the last 20 years, nothing much has changed except the routine annual salary increase if at all – bottom-line remains, they are expected to continue rendering their underpaid, un-thankful support services, that doesn’t end at 5pm

Before we move further, its equally interesting to acknowledge that most corporates prefer MBA Finance over Chartered Accounts, but in all fairness, if we look at it critically, MBA Finance is not even 20% in terms of professional expertise against a CA, yet they are being paid well, and promised consistent growth – I have agreed to call this “progress” that smart ERP applications have taken over most of the accountancy work in the past 2 decades, major banks used to keep atleast 50 CAs in their corporate headquarters till mid 90s against merely a handful number of professionals at this time

I have recently gotten an opportunity to work closely with a certified accountant, he had all the ingredients to become a proper business manager – however like all accounts, he was finding difficult to deviate from his routine course of responsibilities – that is just to record & present filtered financial data to shareholders, management & of-course the regulators – it means that only data recording is being done

There is no effort in establishing the fact that future is even more tougher, professional expertise wise – services industry has been evolving very fast, giving a totally new dimension to modern day consulting services in order to not just remain sustainable but also come up with innovative solutions – its time all accountancy professionals start thinking like business managers – instead of merely booking expenses & recording revenues, they should grow into a senior role by way of analysing businesses, establish capacity available, its utilization, monitor head count, develop realistic budgets & business forecasts, get into client servicing, so there is 1 window service to the end customer – shareholders & senior managers can be guided beautifully whereby we adopt a mutually acceptable strategy to form the basis of building a sustainable road map – they can either identify capacity & work towards maximizing delivery to gain revenue, other option is to target a particular revenue stream and work backwards to see if there are adequate resources to meet such a target – i would however tend to lean towards the first approach, its being conservative and we remain conscious of our direct costs – second option, on the other hand is being practised by sales driven organizations, but there are serious risks as we must make provisions to pay attached costs in meeting ambitious sales targets

This is a strong case being presented to all accounts as a challenge, there is vacuum, someone needs to get up and be the bridge, fill this gap – as scope of services are endless once we get on this road, seeing future as an opportunity to grow & be appreciated, finally

 

“RIGHTS OF ADMISSION RESERVED” : TIME TO BUILD

Being a progressive & constructive discussion forum, we, as always, again restrict ourselves to find solutions than to be critical – lets go back in history to clearly understand the concept of “rights of admission reserved” and at the same time establish its existence even in today’s modern era, no matter how strong we try to advocate in defiance


If we glance through ground realities in the old days, in India, all across Africa, parts of far East and most of the Central America – we know those people used to exercise great caution, not to go near “no entry zones” such as high end shopping areas, public parks, restaurants etc., we have read, seen sign boards displaying “dogs & _______ not allowed” – lets not get into this debate of making accusations, as it was an acceptable practice during the time which was originating from days of slaveryIn today’s forward looking times, we know, that the West discourage “racism” strongly, yet, there are sure signs of “after effects” in the oppressed zones, no matter how hard they try, they still lack confidence, actually seeing themselves as inferiors, less intelligent and so on – bottom-line remains, they have accepted their state of ¬†poverty, inability to stand right next to “a white man” –

Now that question is, what is the end product of being in this state of mind for generations? some of them die poor, but most tend to rebel, get into street crimes, not to take out their frustration, but to manage food for that particular day – which means, we need to see them & treat them with kind & helpful attitude – these youngsters¬†committing¬†crimes, taking drugs are actually in need to our care than our hate & will to punish them – this wouldn’t help at all, instead, it would destroy our new generation, God forbid

While the affected people continue to struggle to meet ends, the West has become more richer & continue to enjoy, not any intention to suppress anyone, they are just being benefited due to gaining on availability of surplus resources & opportunities – that’s why most of us, including the writer, starts believing in distress, that the West has changed its strategy from putting up ¬†¬†“dogs & _______ not allowed”¬†sign boards to making daily use consumer products & ¬†good food so expensive that no unwanted person dare come near them – well, this is not true, problem, actually is the absence of competition, and non existence of small business operators to tap into an ever growing world economy – this quote “you can lead a horse to water, but you cant make it drink” situation across 3rd world economies is no different, opportunities are there, its upto them to stand up, and start walking – as opportunities doesn’t come to us, we have to go to them – they have to come out of their “self pity” attitude, take control of their lives, be confident and go out with a “never give up” body language – end result is guaranteed, no one would ever complain of any sign boards


Realistic/Accurate Business Forecasts | SME’s lack of understanding & Possible Imbalanced Bank Credit

This is one area small business operators find very frustrating, leave alone getting excited to find out what they should earn in the new

year, in advance. Its a shame, banks claiming to be SME specialists fail to understand the root cause of this inherent short coming in majority of their potential customers. In my opinion, problem doesn’t lie in lack of understanding on bankers part, instead, its the “lack of responsibility” attitude which is only looking to attach “any forecast” to the applicant’s file just to satisfy documentary requirements. Few things that needs to be taken care of, either on bankers or SME operators’s part with only 2 benchmarks to focus on- CAPACITY & BUSINESS IN HAND

  • finding the right capacity to delivery each month – in order to pin point a realistic number
  • once capacity is known, see past months actual performance to gauge as to what percentage of capacity, been utilized
  • check for factors responsible in “under capacity” situation
  • set realistic growth, month-wise, giving room to progress steadily in order to reach optimum capacity levels – because if someone is hitting 10 laps, knowing he/she can do 15, there is no way one can achieve 15 overnight – small steps needed to gain good momentum

All above parameters are related to understanding & setting accurate capacity levels, lets look at the other side of the coin – “business in hand”

  • ¬†no matter what our capacity is, bottom line remains that what volume of business does one have at the beginning of each year, so as to insert actual targets
  • being in this situation, one has to work backwards – since business in hand is known upfront, we simply divide it in months – again, 2 sub benchmarks, a) we divide business in hand by our own monthly capacity to establish realistic timeline to finish each job, or b) we get restricted time line from customers, in this situation, one needs to see what’s the best possible volume achievable given our capacity available each month – this will surely save us from last minute¬†embarrassment¬†& penalties in the event we fail to deliver promptly

While we discuss capacity & business, its equally important to establish accurate amount of gap between what SME owners has as his/her equity and what is there to be taken in bank support – this is critical, knowing no one refuses more money coming in – however in the absence of establishing accurate capital requirements, the ability to service bank credit remains a big question mark – it is therefore imperative for bankers & SME operators to realize the need to understand business credentials, in order to ensure sustainable growth, leave alone saving bank from losing out its capital deployed – its being most negative on bankers part to try seek beefy collaterals at the time of sanctioning loans, which in most cases is either business owner’s house or his place of work – meaning, if something goes wrong God forbid, bank would try to extract the last drop that is there to come out clean, lets not discuss what would happen to the business owner & his/her family

Its only being human to realize one’s responsibility to his family, friends, business associates – I don’t think that’s too much to ask dear friends

 

Find that Vitality: Life with a Purpose

Have we ever realized why God has made kids so inquisitive? they never stop questioning until we get irritated! in all honesty whatever they ask, are all logical questions, and at times we even fail to give a satisfying reply:) the point I am trying to make here, is to make people understand that there is a reason why God make our children so curious – kids mind is most energetic, adaptable in the first few years, its the best time to nurture their raw talent, we must never bulldoze their thought process, which most of us do, unfortunately – science has proved that 75% of a child’s personality is developed by the time he/she reaches 3 years – it means these formative years are critical, they be exposed to all good knowledge, sensitivity, sense of sharing, forgiving, being happy etc

Our continuous care, attention to listen them without showing signs of frustration, take time out to play with them, read them books along with other group activities would develop them into confident, sensitive, socially conscious human beings, just the way God has created nature around us Рeverything is so beautifully placed, and in such great order

We go a step further, on a macro level, if we witness today’s life, everyone is running in different directions all day long, is there a firm destination that we focus on? ask yourself, do we leave home unprepared if we were to go on a journey? no, we pack all the right things needed so we don’t get stranded, so why we fail to get the same formula work for us in our daily life!

Few words with strong impact, ” being happy, content, satisfied, conscious” most people relate such blessings with money, as they feel only rich people are able to gain such a situation. This is not correct at all, we will find the answer very easily, what if we have money & there is no health? what if we have huge mansions, and no children? everything is for a special reason friends, when God is all able, we cannot pick one mistake in His infinite creations, its only natural, we also leave our fate in His Hands, all we need to do is to remain focused with unshakable faith

Having understood nature, it becomes mandatory to take ownership, and assume greater responsibility – being individuals, there is no way one is able to reach out to assist everyone, thats why The Almighty asked us to help our families, friends, neighbours first as they have right on us, it is simply inhuman if we know our dear ones are in need of our help, financial or otherwise, and if we ignore, continue to help others, either by sheer ignorance or could be deliberate – trust me, we will be questioned, for which we wouldn’t have an answer

God has sent 4 Holy Books – Zaboor, Torah, Bible & Quran – there is no change in the fundamental laws, each of these books call for equality, humility, respect, tolerance, patience, sharing of wealth amongst other many traits of being human – if we sum up only these key pre-requisites, we would understand that God expect us to help each other on the basis of love & care – the world would automatically become a living heaven, and Satan be defeated

Democracy in Development of Emerging Economies – Its role in Progress, Socially & Economically

I have been wanting to write on the subject for a while, today while reading this blog¬†http://blogs.cfr.org/coleman/2012/05/10/mobile-technology-and-global-economic-growth/¬†I am writing this blog more under a reflex action situation as I couldn’t even finish reading this article

Being part of the emerging economies, having lived, worked in developed economies also, its fair to boast my knowledge & understanding when it comes to judging if the glass is half empty or otherwise. Having said this, being a motivator, as I am, I just cannot see the glass half empty, so lets build a positive outlook while identifying inherent threats and short comings – like I always say, its good to criticise when you also give solutions

Whenever one talks of democracy, things that instantly ring a bell – freedom of expression, free judiciary, accountability, public services, sharing, vote the right person & the list goes on

In all fairness, are we witnessing progress in the name of democracy? do we, as men, give freedom of expression to our women? leave along giving them right to take a decision? why cant we understand that if a Mother can carry a baby to full term, spend sleepless nights, toil the entire day, keeping our wishes on priority, making home a place worth coming back each day after work – why cant we entrust them with giving us hope to make our countries our homes! irrespective of cultures, most families in 3rd world countries give priorities to their boys when it comes to education & health, it is the mindset that we need to address, make parents believe that girls are equally important, if not better

When we talk of backbones, we never visualize how well a country would evolve, if we target youths & women – they are our backbones, no house can turn into a home without mother, wife, daughters, & boys of course – why cant we see this happening on a macro level, and ensure long term sustainability across the board

Teachers, counsellors tell us, there is no shame to learn from a junior student or a colleague, so why cant be focus on women! its high time, we address the problem in its true perspective! let our women be given respect, confidence, allow them to express their opinion, encourage them to take decisions – always remember, women are better managers by default, they are disciplined, more matured – even science has proved that women can think of atleast 3 subjects at a time, men can do only 1 ūüôā

Why most SME Banks are failing worldwide as an Industry?

This is no secret that banks across the globe are eyeing small medium business customers since early 90s – but most of them have or are failing to make an impact, leave alone make money on this “niche portfolio” as they call it

In my opinion, they will continue to struggle or may just bow out of the race – what is actually needed, to even make a start, is to find the right set of minds (not¬†necessarily¬†bankers) who understand the nature of SME business operators, their inherent shortcomings, inability to develop hifi business plans, lack of exposure of international markets – another very important ingredient that we need to look while selecting our “relationship managers” is the heart, the desire to help those aspiring¬†entrepreneurs¬†desperately¬†in need of a” mentor” and not just a commercial bank

It is critical that banks first send their managers to get trained, oriented to be able to tune-up to come down and be able to sit on the ground if need be, in order to let the person feel comfortable to share his vision with his potential banking partner

Folks, please, we cannot sell a Merc without an engine, and we cannot leave our home, aiming to travel, without knowing our destination – it really doesn’t make sense to try make the targeted “SME” speak our language, it must be the other way round, we need to learn to speak their language first- now, having tuned our bankers, its time we show them the road map so they have a clear vision and a good sense of direction to make a start – 2 things need to be focused on;¬†CUMULATIVE IMPACT & CAPACITY BUILDING

As a finance house, one should stop looking at charging hefty mark-ups which we usually do to satisfy our risk managers and secondly, knowing that the customer doesn’t have a choice so whatever we ask, he/she will agree – that’s poor judgement – there are millions of ways to secure one’s credit, instead of charging a fixed percentage, we come out as partners, as take a percentage on each turnover, and help customers to do as many turnovers as possible – it must be realized that someone who has taken the initiative to be in business with all his heart, risking way over his limits, doesn’t have to be told that its high risk business, this will only kill his motivation – responsible, humble bankers, not smart bankers, if there are, would not let their small customers fall down by making their presence felt each day by being mentors, advisers, counsellors and a guide to show the path ahead

From risk management perspective, when we are spreading, say  a million dollars in 1,000 customers to do simple trading, who also come with their seed Capital of say $1000, our risk is well spread as the customer is also carrying half of the stake, we try to make sure there is atleast 1 turnover per month  and if expected profitability is, say 20%, we ask him to let us take 3% of total capital as partners, which would fetch us 6% per turnover, under a fully asset-backed situation

We achieve 2 objectives Рwe help 1,000 customers to give us a cumulative annual turnover of $24 million & cumulative gross income of $4.8million out of which banks pick up $288,000 on a credit of $1,000,000 or 28.8% pa Рbanks who are able to understand the dynamics, can visualize the infinite potential of ensuring sustainable growth and income from this small, yet most profitable clientèle

 

 

FULLY ASSET BACKED REAL ESTATE COMPANIES: Lessons to be learned from Dubai’s recent real estate industry Crash Landing

I feel its important if I explain what asset-backed security is, so all readers would have a better understanding of the subject being written. In the past 30 odd years, financial markets have not just grown, they have ventured into many directions, to enable investors choose from a diversified mix of opportunities – while I am making readers understand the concept of asset backed investment, it may not be a bad idea to also look at one of my earlier blogs re MARGIN TRADING, which would give a very clear picture as to how one should differentiate the 2

Very briefly, margin trading is a facility, that your broker usually facilitate to make you trade with a significantly bigger number compared to what you have as your own investment. For example, if I have $5,000 of my own, and I wish to invest in property or go to the stock market, I could easily trade with assets worth upto 10 times of my money, that could give me a trade size of $50,000 – well, it does look too good to be true, but there is another side of the coin too, downside is, if your asset goes down 10% – you lose your entire capital – no in all fairness, lets agree, not to use the terms “profits & losses” – it is only fair, if we restrict ourselves to use “winning or losing” – my humble request to small investors, please don’t gamble your savings – margin trading is only good for people, institutions with deep pockets who have capacity to take delivery in the event market crashes – in case of small savers, we resort to squaring the deal in panic and end up losing our equity (partly or fully)

Coming back to asset backed securities – as the term is suggesting, we get what we pay for – meaning if we have $10,000, we buy assets worth this much only, again, it is critical that we must know/ensure if an asset does exist before we put in our money – let me give couple of examples, what if I buy shares in a company at the stock market, whose share is trading at $1.50 a share, now, this could be genuine reflection of company’s worth or could be result of smart play by brokers, irrespective of company’s actual book value – so this is a bit tricky for new comers in the stock market

As far as real estate industry goes, it is rather straight forward, we can see if the project is actually on ground or not, and if the developer’s company is over-leveraged or not (this is a completely new subject which I will explain in a separate blog) – we have to look at 2 scenarios, a) physical position of the project being looked at, in respect of civil works, various government approvals, builder’s financial standing, his name’s general reputation, past projects delivered etc, and b) we try to dig deep to find out if builder has fully paid for the land, check if the land title is free from claims, and if he has lined up financial resources to fund the construction, rather than depending on only investors money, because if he has not put in his share of capital in development in addition to his capital in the land, it gets risky to remain afloat in this situation

Asset back situation, in real estate is that we have complete match-making scenario, meaning there must be a tangible asset against each cent being invested, so there is no erosion of seed capital in a crisis situation, unlike what we had witnessed in Dubai and neighbouring small emirates like Ajman, where people were investing in high rise offices, flats, exchanging files in speculative trades, merely on a piece of land where the builder has not even started digging for foundation. Now the question is, are we going to blame the market, the broker, or the builder? lets be honest! investors knew it was a gamble, their greed at the cost of losing their livelihood, as most of them had borrowed money from banks against their salaries. Thousands of small investors had even left the country, leaving behind their cars at the airport! this is most tragic for their families, children losing their homes, schools, friends – no matter how harsh we could get on their parents

 

 

Margin Trading & Asset Backed Investments: Small Investors inability to grasp the Concept

No matter how hard one tries, a greedy mind is not easy to control. Besides, you start losing sanity & rationale the minute you fall prey to greed & hunger to make quick money, through whatever means one could think of

Dubai’s recent nose dive in real estate industry is a classic example, how do we explain a situation, where a real estate project is being sold to investors, at a time when the builder has not even started digging land! and offices, flats on the proposed 60th floor are being traded on paper? isn’t this being suicidal? I know friends who were amongst millions of other investors who lost money and some had lost their life long savings

The question is, is it really fair to blame the broker? for not creating enough awareness on the risk factors attached with speculative trading? I would choose, not to blame brokers for a simple reason, that it is there bread & butter to invite investors, trade over & over again. And in all fairness, one tends to get casual when there are hundreds of customers waiting to be attended, no matter how harsh the regulations are, brokers job gets finished once he writes a one small disclaimer, telling his investors to take due care as investments can go up or down

The question remains, how does one control greed? and if not curtailed in the beginning, it changes into gambling, where people take another step to reach the “final nail in the coffin” situation, when they start borrowing against an already over leveraged equity that was hardly 10% of the total portfolio and later on goes down to even 2-3% if one goes ahead to borrow further. It means that the minute your portfolio goes down by 3%, you are gone completely

My request to small savers, please be very careful in dreaming such fantasies. Don’t put your family in a never win situation

Its good to explain briefly, the facts behind margin trading & also the benefits of asset back investments. Margin trading works well only for institutions with deep pockets, and with high net-worth individuals because if the market goes down, they have resources to avoid a panic situation, by simply paying off & take physical delivery of an asset rather than selling to settle the lost trade. They have resources to sit on that buying for weeks before market rebounds and they make an exit

On the rationale of asset backed investments, please don’t buy something which doesnt even exist, this is for all investors, irrespective of one’s financial resources because there is no tangible asset to hold on to in the event market crashes. How do you salvage a situation, holding a piece of paper that says you are the owner of a proposed flat on the 60th floor, in a situation of panic because the land itself was bought on borrowed money, and even if it was owned 100% by the builder, it cannot be worth enough to secure the size of investment that had already been injected ahead of construction. Meaning there is no recourse to such a situation, everyone walks out as losers

 

 

TRADITIONAL MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS: CAN YOUTHS BE BENEFITED?

NOT JUST A RECIPE, LIMITED TO BIGGER COMPANIES

Mergers & Acquisitions often relate to something which is only for major corporations in order to consolidate and further strengthen merged resources while bringing costs down significantly. Regulators such as central banks have used this tool to consolidate inadequately capitalized investment banks, commercial banks, mutual funds etc., which should not have been licences in the first place

Likewise pharmaceutical giants such as Sanofi & Aventis, automobile companies such as Mercedes & Chrysler teamed up few years ago along with other major corporations who opted to join hands with other market leaders rather than waste money on competition to gain bigger market share. Recently we have also witnessed major service providers such as Travelers Group & Citi Corp, then we have AOL & Time Warner. List of all major M&As can be seen on the right end of this blog

Post merger scenarios are not much difficult to forecast in bigger companies as they have ready markets, presold brands, deep pockets, access to strong market makers etc., which usually give them the leverage to come out much stronger while taking advantage of combined power of the merged entity. So everyone gets a portion of the bigger pie, including the small shareholder who sees growth in his value of shares as well as better dividend payouts

Having seen the better side of mergers, there is an equally challenging side which no one denies, that is the list of liabilities, claims, litigations, stuckup inventories etc., which experts may agree to overlook at the time of setting a fair price tag to the merged business in anticipation of handling such isseues without much of a problem

Lets now try to visualize a situation if we try to use only MERGERS in development of Youth Business for following reasons, assuming we team up 100 Youths in one project

a) per youth Investment of $5,000 doesn’t look adequate to gain much mileage in respect of getting factory supplies, no chance of getting price benefits, inconsistent supply chain, costly logistics, high selling costs etc., BUT when we multiply this with 100 youths coming in with more or less the same seed capital, this group stands at half a million dollars worth of seed capital, which would end up being a lot more potent, besides getting a team of 100 heads & 200 hands to work and push through for common goals & dreams – this scenario can make more business sense if banks could come in and offer low cost trade finance so the equity side gets complimented with equal amount or more in bank support – certainly food for thought

Queuing up against old, outdated ideas: Be Creative! Build something of your own! Think twice before putting up prized resources

One major disaster area is the fact that we get influenced by others, their work, success and in the process we fail to devote time to actually dig deep and find out if the project we are about to start, makes business sense? leave alone our own interest and inclination to be in that field

First up is to address a situation when we want to start our business – we see 2 windows, a) we have our own ideas that we have been working on, which to me sounds very promising, and b) is that we try to imitate friends, or other successful businesses assuming that it must be a winner

There is another extreme situation that I have witnessed in South Asia, people investing tons of money (own & borrowed) into businesses such as textile spinning at a time when hundreds of textile units were being shut down due to uneconomic market forces, but just because textile was region’s backbone of economic boom once, so that was good enough reason to pump in money without seeing rational in the new scenario – end result, new companies being shut down, or people with deep pockets dish out more money to sustain, banks shying away so its a pretty scary situation to be in

My advise to upcoming SMEs and our new generation, is to gain value from past experiences – which is to read history, how families, individuals had started their businesses years ago that have become giants today! they all started very small, and with their own ideas and vision – please never try to borrow someone else’s dreams and desires as they would never fit into your own mindset and today’s fast changing economic conditions

As much as we want to get benefited from history, we need to appreciate that things are much different today, in the positive sense of course. In the early days, people had to do all the work on their own, now we simply outsource either to our machines or 3rd party contractors, so its only fair that the time being saved, must be put to good use to research our ideas, focus on coming up with a sustainable business model, that must not die prematurely against competition or lack of quality or better priced products.

My request to all teachers, parents, guardians is to please encourage children express their inner desires, ideas, get them involved in group discussions, be patient, be good listeners, also share your knowledge, wisdom to provide much needed balancing act in a positive manner rather than giving kids an impression that we are being critical, because we must not burden them with our own desires as to what we want them to be. Children are naturally gifted, our job is to nurture their talent by giving them opportunities to ask all kinds of questions, express their mind, share their ideas so they are able to gain knowledge, grow in confidence, maturity before they step out in the real world

To all aspiring youths, dare to dream, never lose hope, never stop trying ūüôā

Going Public: SME’s highs & lows

Companies go public for 2 reasons – a) raise fresh capital and b) maximize shareholders value

Small-Medium size Businesses, due to lack of knowledge in respect of financial planning & structuring ¬†often fails to plan and invest in gaining expertise to develop this equally important aspect of their business, which is to implement balanced mix of growth & income strategies, which would give regular inflow of revenues as well as long term sustainable growth –

SME companies, in most cases, try to save money for obvious reasons, but they fall short in realizing the need to employ right expertise in gaining the much needed ability to think ahead, establish present & future needs, not just from meeting competition head-on, but also to realize the future work force within the family (owners & employees combined)

One of my objectives to gain from this writup is to gain attention of our bankers and stock brokers – please exercise caution while handling small cap companies – they are not equipped to be tested against rough trading & speculative, shortlived strategies – because for this very reason, small caps are shying away, and in the process losing out to¬†gaining control over their¬†capital situation – even from stock markets perspective, it is critical that we put money on small caps rather than going after, rather queing up behind handful of so-called market movers –

I also take liberty to protest politely to regulators, that they devote time & money in developing secured environment, that encourages small cap companies to come and play their part in development of capital markets, as their cumulative impact is far greater & bigger than blue chips Рits time if see this as an integral part of our risk management protocol

Another known reason for small caps to go public, is to maximize shareholders value, being on this road, companies may not really need significant amount of new capital but to gain strength in terms of asset valuation based on present & future business outlook Рhowever, there is another aspect to look at, which is to consolidate by way of mergers & acquisitions Рwe can either acquire non listed private companies through exchange of our listed shares to shareholders of private ownerships and broaden the capital base, similarly we have another area to look at, are opportunities of merging with other listed or non listed entities and be able to strengthen business РI feel we need to build on this subject so we create much needed awareness for small caps to look upto capital markets, not just as a platform to raise money but also to create opportunities for private small investors and other vibrant & motivated outfits

 

Youths & Women Groups: challenges or opportunities

Its just like 2 people seeing out of the window and seeing 2 different things – the same issue we have today is the fact that some of us sees youths & women groups as steep challenges that are eating into our limited resources, and there is people who sees an entirely opposite picture, they believe that these 2 segments have been or being neglected, but both reflects strong energy & growth potential

In my opinion, its a case of believing in their capabilities and burning desire to be self reliant – its just a matter of showing them that we do care and we present ourselves as someone who is not only feel responsible but also allow our new generation and neglected women work force to lean onto us in this time of need & motivation

In a situation of no negative thoughts or pre-decided opinions, it’s not overly difficult to gauge the strength of these 2 sectors – lets first look at the scenario being developed in almost all developing countries – their population’s major share comprises of people within this age group of 18-35 years and high income segment is well under 10% – therefore we have an opportunity situation knowing these are young nations, BUT at the same time risk is equally great, because in the absence economic opportunities, confidence building, motivational environment, youngsters pose a much bigger threat of getting into criminal activities, which could result in degeneration of social health, economic growth, leave aside education & medical health

On a positive note, however, lets build a happy scenario – UNDP’s 2007 stats put Pakistan’s under 25 population at 103 million whereas there are over 10 million people between 20-24 years – its therefore not unfair to say that if we allow half of this 10million work force to get involved in any form of economic activity, assuming they have a small capital of $100 & they trade this money 3 times a week times 43 working weeks annually, we are looking at a cumulative impact of this group equivalent to $64 Billion, thats over 30% of Pakistan’s total economy size of $210 Billion (based on July 2011 figures)

Friends, we are not looking to conquer Everest or K2, we just need caring, motivated bunch of simple people, there is no need to be a Phd to know that when we are capable of raising billions in charities for food, education, health – we can also reach out to raise funds needed to get these kids self employed – if we target 5m youths needing $100 support – lets reach out to donors asking for $1m a piece, we are only looking to tap 500 donors – I am sure you all would agree with me that its not a heavy price to guarantee peace, harmony, contentment while evolving new economies!

Parents/Teachers need to be Good Listeners: Earn Respect

I always tell my children, we cannot force anyone to respect us, actually its the other way round, one has to earn it by way of demonstrating strong character, high values, giving attitude, ready to change without compromising the human touch

Similarly, we cannot preach something we don’t practice ourselves, like if I smoke, drink everyday, and I start telling my kids, its a bad habit and they better stay away, its just not on, I’m being most hypocrite

Another equally important aspect in a child’s upbringing is our sense of understanding & maturity, the ability in us, being parents, guardians, teachers to be good listeners, we make them believe they have loving, caring elders who they can count on, whatever the topic is, we are there to listen from least bit important, everyday school chat to extreme sensitive teenage subjects – its all about making them aware that we are there to listen anything & everything – please remember, it will just not happen, in the event we simply listen and don’t participate by giving our healthy, non-critical opinion, progressive point of view. They must feel that they are having serious talk, and that they are being heard with good concentration

On a macro level, youths need to be heard too, so whether they talk to their teachers, career counsellors, participate in training sessions, interact with senior managers, sharing their ideas with banks, family members, its imperative we give them time, nurture their talent, give them confidence, allow them to express their ideas freely, encourage them to think wild, share ideas Рtiming is absolutely critical, we must act fast when they have energy and confidence before its too late and they lose confidence in us. All I am saying, is that we must hear them good, with open minds and open hearts Рso we also learn in the process from our new generation, I have strong faith in their capabilities, their high energy levels, creativity Рso we better gain, progress and be together as friends, partners Рno barriers Рat home and in work place

Start of a Long Journey: Putting Efforts into Process Flows & Operations Protocol

Ever asked yourself, why some companies hit big time in quest for success, above average consistent growth, sustainability inspite of strong market forces?

They all took time to lay the foundation right, the first time, all of them didn’t take the first step, until they knew, the prerequisites needed, had been taken care of. Thats why we see Mcdonalds selling the same BigMac each day, across the globe, same taste, quality presentation, customer care, and the list goes on

There lies a need to develop the working structure just the way we plan, develop a house or a building. You come up with an image, build ideas, work on the theme,  develop initial layouts. Once design theme is done, there are hundreds of details attached to each design or production related task, that needs further division of responsibilities
The same logic needs to be built on a macro level, keeping in mind the strengths and weaknesses
Day 1 picture shows, we did not have uniformed systems whereby we could run business units on auto pilot basis, well defined job responsibilities, no written instructions to carry our daily routine jobs, no end of project evaluation on design & production teams, consultants and contractors, and the list goes on
Process flows are needed to define each step of work involved from the time we meet clients and the time we handover projects. This is primarily a flow chart reflecting breakdown of major tasks to be done at each step and the department involved to execute that step

 

The above would give us well cut out job responsibilities attached to each step, it wont help unless we mark responsibilities against each task
We also allocate timeline benchmarks making everyone committed to finish work against given deadlines and/or take decisions  Рwe cannot have open ended project timelines, for many reasons, one is to make sure we dont get out of pocket at the expense of clients, contractors etc
Having made process flows, we now dig deep and come up with the list of tasks against each step of work involved, department & projects category wise, after which we further segregate tasks between design units and production teams. Likewise we break down tasks related to project managers, consultants and contractors – we need to make sure we walk in complete synchronization

Support services would also be plugged carefully, so we get standardized operations in respect of contract drafting, taking due compliance measures, building cost sheets prior to signing, making unit heads sign relevant sections in the draft contract, making person drafting contracts to also sign, making person vetting the contract to sign before submission to director(s)

Expected Results & objectives: once systems are made, accepted and implemented across the board, we start seeing tangible results
almost zero negligence in

  • contract drafting
  • we cut out job description against each position
  • well defined targets
  • capacity building
  • room to go faster (business and career path wise)
  • cumulative impact on bottomline (more projects with controlled delivery benchmarks)
  • sustainable business model
  • better set of monetary benefits
  • elevate set of skills across the board specially young employees through professional courses, modern techniques, new technologies etc
  • platform ready to invite better human capital, clients, investors etc
  • investing in research & development
  • diversify/venture into other areas

 

Charities without Vision: Rolls with no Engine

Again, I’m not being critical, instead I am highlighting an inherent issue, but with a solution as well

Charities all over the world have surely come a long way, so we cannot even start to show disrespect, however there is a pressing need to  maximize our chances of success, while we try to identify potential areas of focus. Typical subjects such as health, education, rehab etc., are not at all tough in respect of finding target audiences, all we need to do is to start building sound process flows, and standard protocols, so we gain sustainability & growth while we learn and progress each day

Charities, striving to end poverty, develop youths, end drug addiction, alcoholism etc., are exposed to bigger challenges, as our work is not that cut out for us. In all honesty, its fairly tough to reach out to the right target audience, leave alone efforts to develop accurate road maps. Reason being, there is something which needs to be done upfront, in order to even start understanding the real ground issues, inherent challenges and the mindset before one could start talking. Thats why no charity todate has done much in this segment, its like selling mobile phones at a remote place without mobile network, or buying a rolls with no engine. Surely things wont fly at all!

In my opinion, there is a need to redefine CHARITY-HR selection criteria, its not just education, managerial experience or leadership qualities we should be looking at, instead, these strengths become secondary because as far as I am concerned, we need to make sure that charities working in this segment, must ensure that top managers come with matured family values. HR head hunters need to see if the person is tolerant, patient, family oriented, have selfless attitude towards his parents, wife & children as these things have to be present on top of professional expertise before someone is entrusted with so much responsibility

Charities doing poverty reduction programs must possess people who take decisions from their heart first, rather than putting 2 and 2 together – it just wouldn’t work friends – all the best!

 

Sense of Belonging: critical for Youth Empowerment

As much as we spend quality time & money to understand the target audience, prior to any new product development, we still remain unwatchful as to why most SMEs die prematurely – when we talk to this segment, banks find it most lucrative to attract such business, for reasons known to us, and they apparently do their homework quite well, however, there is a major point of concern, which I have witnessed in almost every country, that this new generation is not being given due attention

Another factor to look at is the fact that thousands of seminars, workshops are being held all over the world, trying to address core issues related to development & sustainability of SMEs Рin my experience, its more productive if we let our youngsters speak to us, share their thinking, ideas, mindset, not necessarily to gain much direction, but to let them gain confidence by way of interacting with us, while we become good listeners, because when they notice that they are being heard seriously, they would in return listen to us with a lot of interest, as by that time they would have already started taking ownership of the discussion subject

So whether its a charity, an NGO or a bank, we need to make sure that we provide room for group discussions, allow participants to share their ideas while letting them know that we are standing right behind them, which would give them time to mature without being pushed to the wall, like a bank defaulter.

We just cannot manage SMEs, youth ventures with this straightline strategy, whereby we try to use the same set of regulatory framework, and business parameters that we use with blue chip customers, because once the foundation gets readjusted, we train relationship managers to follow set protocols, client servicing gets fine tuned, we bring mainstream business opportunities by way of replacing conventional trade cycles, logistics setup,¬†bank markup gets replaced with x profit per turnover¬†etc., which would¬†end up¬†giving us a much bigger market, substantial growth in volume, low risk, strong sustainability –¬† cumulative impact, therefore would be many times bigger than what we work for, through 9-5 routine work hours

 

 

 

IT Companies: Quest for Sustainability

The IT Buzz has been with us since early 90s, with every IPO getting over-subscribed by many times, venture capitals been investing left right & center, investment bankers coming up with outrageous valuations.¬†In short everything seemed too good till the time, the so called “bubble” had burst, which resulted in severe market depression

Since then, the IT Industry, no doubt, has struggled bravely, it has been evolving to gain firm footing, eventhough, everyday is a new challenge, smaller companies going bankrupt against the tidal wave from the big boys, who have deep pockets to invest in R&D, leave alone bring new products and smarter technologies

Today, as we speak, we are being faced with 2 scenarious; one is the promising looking future outlook, as technology companies aim high, they have gained strong footing in countries like China, India, Pakistan where they are blessed with over 2 billion consumers – no wonder prices have come down like 9 pins – website companies have given open end applications, with built in hosting & email services, telecom giants are not going to sit back either, billions being spent in gaining bigger market shares, while the usage cost for consumers continue to drop

Having seen the above roller coaster ride situation, its only fair, that today’s IT and technology sector is looking to gain stability, so they dont remain completely dependant on market dynamics. With so much in terms of filtered data on our finger tips, why cant we see this scenario from a different perspective? why dont we say, this is an opportunity, we have all the data we need, readily available, so dont we start connecting these consumers directly to mainstream business! this route is not only safer, but offers a lot of sustainability while promising captive clientele. Having worked in such a situation, we would reach a stage where the platform becomes mechanical, one just needs to pump in new products every day

Lets also look at the picture from bankers, and investors perspective; we dont need to risk high capital injection everytime technology changes its face, risk is spread beautifully amongst millions of consumers, target audience should be low-middle income masses, so they remain motivated due to the¬†“need” situation,¬†less dependency on market forces, very strong sustainable business model, ensuring consistent¬†capacity building, and gaining cumulative impact like never before, while ROI goes up as we would get short turnaround cycles, so even if we make 5% a trade, fully asset back, realistically assuming, we¬†achieve 2 cycles a week, we are set to gain over 100% in return over investment – which means this could be a platform to develop asset backed hedging instruments. Lets build on this discussion, folks!

 

Silent Force: Unemployed/UnderPaid Doctors, Medical Reps & Health Insurance Agents

I have never been a critic, in fact¬†I always look for solutions, more like following a “why not” kind of strategy. But writing this subject, I am afraid readers would certainly find me upset, which to me is quite natural when one sees such high level of disparity when it comes to Pakistan’s ever bullish Pharmaceutical Industry, compared to the standard of living amongst doctors, medical reps, pharmacists, health insurance agents etc

I was told recently that Pakistan’s Pharma Industry’s market size is well passed $2 billion and growing thick, which is rather surprising compared to the low per capita income. It may sound business as usual, when health regulatory assist companies to set higher prices, allow them tax benefits, relief on import of raw materials, duty-free equipment etc., but when we start seeing the human capital which is being deployed by this very industry, being exploited by way of virtually zero job security, round the clock sword hanging situation to meet sales targets, anxiously chasing doctors, hospital directors to win their hearts so they could write prescriptions of their choice

Having touched this subject, it’s also important that we put¬†this on record, that we have over 15,000 jobless doctors in the country, at a time when healthcare has become “the” subject all over, but our doctors are still being left mercilessly, giving them an indication that all that hard work and investment made by thousands of parents had worth nothing!

This is not an easy subject to deliberate on, instead there has to be an evolutionary process, which needs to play its part, so much-needed awareness is created, at the same time, we hear voices from the heavens to rescue these poor bunch of highly motivated, yet neglected professionals

As the saying goes, charity¬†begins at home, I¬†have taken the first step, actually it’s not me, it was my honest will to do something worthwhile, and I had this idea from the Almighty. I am starting a self employment venture to partner with doctors, med reps, health agents to create a worthy platform, and be able to find ourselves standing in the mainstream market, so we reach out to as many deserving professionals as possible, irrespective of geographical boundaries. God willing!

Small-Medium Investors Fate, when caught in Stormy Waters

Does Margin Trading, over leveraging, short selling ever ring a bell? well these are the norms by which capital markets breathe everyday. For everyone’s understanding, these are the terms being used to allow investors & traders to do more with their given resources, in other words, if I have $5000 in equity, my broker could easily let me trade for a value 5-10 times higher, which in this case could be $25k to $50k. It sure sounds too good, as it gives an opportunity to make a lot of money, so one cannot take away the temptation. There is another way to look at this scenario, you start trading something you don’t actually own, infact, you just own 10-15% share in the entire deal

As much as we give credit to smart stock market, currencies, bonds, traders, brokers for their timely actions to enable their clients make good money, there are serious risks and threats for small private investors having limited resources, and either inability or lack of knowledge on capital markets way of working. There are mandatory regulations requiring finance houses to print warnings at the time of making investment offers, but in all honesty, no one goes out to explain the extent of damage one could get if things don’t work out as anticipated. Someone entering the market, taking an exposure against 10% equity, means if the market goes down 10%, the entire equity is wiped out in case someone has bought. On the other hand, if someone does short selling, meaning you anticipate a fall, so you blank sell, and wait for market to drop so you could buy at low levels, and gain on the difference. What if, market doesn’t go down? you stand to lose your equity as it would be used to settle the deal

Brokers are tough to be understood, I am not being disrespectful, but the fact remains, they are merely keen on making brokerage, so they encourage investors to trade as much as possible. It would be great if they also start feeling responsible when accepting funds from pensioners, widows, small investors etc., by way of showing them complete picture

Speculative trade works best for institutional & high net-worth investors, who have deep pockets to take delivery in case they have bought something and they couldn’t sell at a higher price before the settlement day, or if they have sold short, and market doesn’t come down, they would give delivery as they would have definitely held those stocks in their portfolio

Another risk for private investors in respect of lack of knowledge in terms of knowing how much a particular stock is liquid, it means what is the outstanding number of units available in the market for open trading. Institutional & high net-worth customers have full knowledge, so they would never trade in something which is not liquid, as they would have serious issues to buy or sell within the settlement time

Being a fund manager, its all about being patient, planning, wait for the right time to enter and exit, balanced portfolio is key to long term income & growth, while a small portion maybe set-aside for daily trades as long as there is liquidity and for private investors, please watch your back, study the commodity you want to trade in, check its historic trends, current outlook and future expectations, keeping in mind, market forces, demand-supply situations, free float knowledge etc

It always pay to be prudent, cautious, and its most satisfying to know you have earned the rewards and not won through gambling

Role of Women: socially & economically

One of the key neglected, high risk issues across developing nations is the lack of participation from women. First world, however have embraced this need to seek greater role for women in business and also socially to achieve the right balance

On a scientific level, its a proven fact that women have ability to think on 3-4 different issues at one time, while men can do just 1 – besides its the mother-factor in women that makes them better decision makers with a high degree of maturity & responsibility

Developing nations, even in this modern age, struggle to recognise the cumulative impact women could make in building their country’s infrastructure, there are millions of little girls who are being neglected & deprived in respect of basic healthcare & primary education, as families give priority to boys – its a shame that such discrimination is still being unchecked

There is an imminent need for NGOs, charities, education bodies healthcare operators, business houses, financial institutions etc., to take this issue on high priority whereby they make sure that role of women is not being compromised, its also fair to acknowledge that there are several initiates been taken to empower women, but such efforts wont reflect results on a macro level unless we link them up with mainstream marketplace, we just cannot expect them to grow in isolation, its only fair that they be given equal access to reach out to basic utilities, education, credit, funding, job opportunities etc.

On a global perspective, it also makes commercial sense to utilize women’s bigger share in world population, they are more than men, so even from policy makers standpoint, its only logical that we gain value out of this high value God’s creation, rather than tagging them as a burden, unfortunately

 

 

 

Value addition: make raw materials work smartly for us

Its common amongst all developing Countries that nature has blessed them with food and other resources, yet they continue to face tough challenges when it comes to affordable food, clean drinkimg water etc.
Some facts to justify grounds to build this discussion: Ghana produces best quality cocoa, Kenyan tea, red apples in India /Pakistan, milk, fresh water trouts in Pakistan, gold/gemstones across South & western parts of Africa, oil & gas across CIS/Russian states and the list goes on

Governments/policy makers fail to justify rationale when they witness a sitution where fresh tomatoes are being left to rot while we import tomato ketchup and paste. Similarly fresh milk gets wasted while we spend billions of dollars on powdered milk, butter, cheese etc

We are not debating on creating huge infrastructure, instead, we just need to first realize so we first take steps to preserve our natural tesources. Once we do that, we develop our cottage industry with focus on achieving results through cumulative impact at country levels

Value addition only comes when there’s good planning and determination, its our ‘never giveup’ attitude that ensures our success, if we look at Switzerland, its a tiny country, small population, hardly any sign of abundance in respect of natural resources, the country imports raw cocoa, yet its the largest producer of chocolates in the world

Its only fair that we recognize our strengths and we give our best to convert them into opportunities to our advantage and long term security, its most inhuman that we giveup without putting up a decent fight

Leaving Footprints: Youth Counseling & Motivation

We always debate on passing good, strong values to our children, just the way we think passionately about their health & education, however there is something we tend to overlook, or perhaps we lack understanding as to what is needed in order to pass the message across

First up, its fair to accept the fact that our children are more smarter and confident than us, and they are very strong observers, they think deep, and they express boldly about their likes and dislikes – so having known & realized such strengths, our work gets cut out well, only if we are able to demonstrate the same character in our personalities rather than preaching something we ourselves don’t practise 

When I say kids are strong observers, they see their parents interact with each other, with friends, colleagues and they  notice the kind of language we speak, the respect we give each other, the kind of business morals we believe in, values of sharing wealth & knowledge, and the list goes on infinitely 

Talking of today’s youth, they are most vibrant, full of energy and new ideas, eager to learn and grow, so my humble request is to handle this new generation with utmost care and devotion, so they realize we are being responsible and we give them due attention and at the same time, allow them to make mistakes so they be refined in their decision making abilities without losing confidence 

Its time we make them change their mindset that we are not being negligent, this time round – lets take a fresh start and give our best to our children 

Key prerequisite for youth ventures: Capacity Building for Cumulative Impact

Strategic planners while working with conventional businesses work on capacity building measures to gain long term sustainability, in order to confront changing market-economic trends, increased competition etc

However when we look at youth projects, we see quite a few inherent challenges such as negligible start-up capital, virtually no access to efficient supply chain, no trade credit, and constant threat of losing out

Youth ventures in comparison with microcredit funded projects & SMEs are “high risk” proposition for banks and other trade finance providers in the absence of adequate size of this portfolio, sufficient capital, sustainable business model etc

Having identified shortcomings, there’s a need to plug these inadequacies so we could present sellable business models – one of the key factors that would boost youth ventures risk profile is for project managers, charities, NGOs etc., to incorporate capacity building roadmap from day one, not just to gain strong footing but to buy an assurance for finance providers and business partners to ensure sustainability, at par with micro funded projects and SMEs

It is therefore strongly advised that youth groups, charity organisations etc., should strive to assemble bigger groups of young individual entrepreneurs together with well defined working methodologies so that we could allow youths to work within their limited financial means, and be able to take advantage of being part of a bigger platform in respect of cumulative impact of overall business while gaining access to better capital resources