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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Holidays - NSE, BSE, NEFT / RTGS

NSE - Holidays for the calendar year 2016

http://www.nseindia.com/products/content/derivatives/irf/mrkt_timing_holidays.htm

BSE - Trading Holidays for 2016 - Equity Segment, Equity Derivative Segment and SLB Segment

http://www.bseindia.com/markets/marketinfo/listholi.aspx
  • Muhurat Trading shall be held on Sunday, October 30, 2016 (Diwali – Laxmi Pujan). Timings of Muhurat Trading shall be notified subsequently.
  • The Exchange may alter / change any of the above holidays, for which a separate circular shall be issued in advance.
NEFT / RTGS Holiday - 2016 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Which Way Will the Indian Economy Go in 2016?

Predicting anything about the future is never easy and always full of uncertainties.

At the start of 2015, it was predicted by many experts that 2015 will be a great year for the Indian economy. The predictions talked about stock market touching new highs by the end of 2015. One of the reasons often cited was that there was a new, pro-reforms Government at the Centre with inspiring leadership at the helm. Despite that, not much did actually happen due to several reasons.

The BSE index did go up to a new high of 30000 during the year but then as it looks like, a few days before the year will come to an end, stock market at the end of 2015 will close lower than where it was at the start of the year.

The expectations of US Fed rate hike in 2015 did finally come about. There was a lot of see-saw the market went through but in the end the US Fed did bite the bullet.

Expectations of interest rates in India lowering also came about. The decline in interest rate in 2015 has been quite dramatic. In overall terms, the decline has been close to 1.5% to 2% (9%-9.5%  rates changing to 7%-7.5%) which is quite steep. That made investments into PPF, SSC, SSY, and various tax-free bonds that were announced this year a lucrative option.

It is believed that over the long run (typically 10 years or more) equities deliver higher returns though in certain years the returns can be negative. 2015 was one such year.

In the Indian context, real estate continues to stagnate and those who invested in real estate not only made net negative returns but remained saddled with properties that are still difficult to dispose of. In the current market, there are only sellers. Buyers are still waiting as they expect further market correction.

Gold and commodities had a very bad year in 2015. The mining and metals sector lost market capitalization across all global markets. The decline in oil prices has been too steep that it looks almost inconceivable that such a thing could even happen. When oil had reached 100 dollars per gallon few years back, it looked as if 150-200 dollars is not far away. No one including the experts predicted its fall in this manner.

So sitting at the fag end of 2015, what can be said about which way will the Indian economy go in 2016? Here are some thoughts to chew upon:
  • No one can predict the future, not even the experts. The difference between a layman and an expert is simply that the expert can employ a good amount of jugglery and jargon to sound convincing.
  • The world had become a much more volatile place. The markets can swing a lot rapidly in either direction in a short span of time.
  • The world markets are tightly integrated now. Most of the local events are analyzed (or rather over-analyzed) by various global players in no time and the impact cascaded across the global markets.
  • With machine-based, algorithmic trading becoming the way with all institutional and HNI investors, volatility is here to stay.
So which way will the BSE index head towards in 2016? Upwards or downwards? Will the bloodbath in commodities and oil continue? Will gold prices go up or down? Which sectors of the economy will rise and which will fall? Which new sunrise sectors and companies emerge? These are questions for which no one can offer any definitive answer.

In all this confusion and a situation where excessive information is getting generated, the fundamentals will still continue to matter (as the value investors would comment). Unfortunately, the fundamentals also change now with high uncertainty.

Oil is probably the best example. Knowing that it is a non-renewable, finite natural resource which will continue to have high demand and with the cost of production going up every year, one would expect oil prices to go in only direction - up. This hasn't happened though. It's clear that speculation and self-serving interests of the big players and global political considerations are driving oil prices and not just economics.

In summary, it is not important to even predict which way the economy and market will go in 2016. It is much better to maintain a diversified portfolio (debt out-performed equities hands-down in 2015), keep a close eye on global political and economic developments, switch investing style based on need of the situation (from a day trader to a seasonal speculator to a long-term investor), and last but not the least use fundamental analysis to pick the right investments to start with. This would help to protect the down-side risk and allow one to get good returns coming out of volatility that would continue to prevail upon the markets in 2016 and very likely beyond that as well.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why a Small Organization is a Collection of Big Egos?

Small organizations are like a collection of big egos. One may get the impression that  small organizations have people who are easy to work with. However, in reality, that is not true.

Why is a small organization a collection of big egos? Here are some reasons for the same:
  • Some people in small organizations acquire years of experience but do not perform the role commensurate with that. For example, someone who has 22 years of experience may be doing a job that can be easily done by someone 12 years old.
  • Some people in small organizations are long-timers who can't get a job elsewhere but pretend otherwise. And even if they manage to move, they in no time come to realize that they can't survive and come back immediately like a dog with its tails between  the rear legs.
  • Some people in small organizations, especially at senior levels, are super-defensive about their turf like a street dog which will not allow anyone else to enter its street.
  • Some people in small organizations can be characterized as what can best be described as One Cunning Man with a Cheshire Cat Smile. Such people lack transparency and fairness.
  • Some people in small organizations are unprofessional and carry toxic attitude. They carry an attitude of "I-know-it-all" and "Others-know-not-a-thing"

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Meditation and Spirituality in Today's World

The world is becoming increasingly competitive, confusing and complex.

Moreover, the constant churn and change coupled with lack of compassion is forcing many people to fall into despair and depression.

Meditation and spirituality can provide solace in such troubled times.

What do you think?

View the discussion on this at:

https://disqus.com/home/channel/godspiritualityandreligion/discussion/channel-godspiritualityandreligion/meditation_and_spirituality_in_todays_world/

Quit that Toxic Company, Do it Now!

Some workplaces are simply toxic and more worryingly are going to remain that way. When you hit your head against a stone, never expect the stone to bleed. Working in a toxic company leads to only one thing  - bleeding.

It crushes your soul and it makes you feel inadequate and less of yourself. And as such staying in such a company should not be worth your precious time and energy. Remember your time on the planet is finite so it is better to spend it anywhere but a toxic company.

Warren Buffet famously said,
"When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact."

The above phrase can be recast in the following manner,
"When an employee with enthusiasm for good work joins a company which is a breeding ground for toxicity, it is the toxicity of the business that remains intact."

In view of the above, when an employee is stuck in a toxic workplace the best strategy is not to fight but to flight.

Again, as Warren Buffet said,
"Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

The above phrase can be recast in the following manner,
"Should you find yourself in a chronically toxic company, energy devoted to changing company is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching the toxic people"

So, the best strategy to follow in such a situation is very simply:

Quit that Toxic Company, Do it Now!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Waiting for the Light (A Poem)

When you are stuck
With something, out of bad luck

Life seems like a bed of thorns
With lots of frowns

And then you see the ray of light
All so clear and bright

Light that guides you on the right way
And is there for you everyday

The belief you will outlast
Comes to you at last!

A Spiritual Trip to Garhwal Himalayas

Garhwal Himalayas – the mere mention of this word brings to mind images of a land of immense scenic beauty and of temples.

I went with some more people on a spiritual trip to Garhwal Himalayas many years back. We started on the night of 10th April (Thursday). After picking up all the tourists, we were on our way finally at 11.30pm. We reached Rishikesh at 5.00am in the morning. We did not stop at Hardwar on the way and reached Rishikesh directly. And at Rishikesh we took bath early in the morning itself. Ganges river there is calm and safe for bathing.

We started from Rishikesh at 10.30am on 11th April and reached Deoprayag at 1.00pm. There we spent time in taking some snaps. This is the place of confluence of Alaknanda (originating at Badrinath) and Bhagirathi (originating at Gangotri). From this point onwards, the river takes the name Ganga. It was very exciting to go down the hill there very close to the water.

From there we started for Rudraprayag at 2.30pm and reached Rudraprayag at around 6.00pm in the evening. There we stayed at a resort (Monal) on the side of the river. The scenery from the resort was simply breathtaking. In the night we had bonfire with usual food and drinks.

Next morning on 12th April we went down to have bath in the river down the hill. Bathing there in the cold and fresh water was an exhilarating experience.

We started from there at 2.00pm towards Lansdowne and on the way passed Srinagar, Pauri, Buakhal, Sapuli, Gumkhal. And finally we reached the town of Landsdowne at 7.30pm in the night. After looking around we managed to find a “just decent” place for staying in the night.

Next morning, on 13th April, the last day of the trip we went to Tiffin Top from where one can see the Western Himalayas. However. that day we could not see properly due to poor visibility.

From Lansdowne we started at 10.00am and took the road via Fatehpur, Kotdwar, Bijnor, Meerut and finally reached Delhi at 6.00pm in the evening.

Reaching home always feels good. And it felt even better as we were on a high from a hectic but a very refreshing trip!

Friday, December 18, 2015

One Cunning Man with a Cheshire Cat Smile

This post is about a cunning man with a Cheshire cat smile. Before reading further, you would be naturally interested in knowing what a Cheshire cat smile is, right?

So here's how a Cheshire cat smile looks like:



(Image courtesy: http://cliparts.co/clipart/2391731)

The smirk in the smile is a sign of the cunning nature behind the irritating facade of the fake smile. And what does smirk mean?

The meaning of smirk is given below (courtesy: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/smirk).

smirk

(smûrk)
intr.v. smirked, smirk·ing, smirks
To smile in an annoying self-satisfied manner.
n.
An annoying self-satisfied smile.

The cunning man with a Cheshire cat smile is a real being. He roams in corporate corridors with a Cheshire cat smile on his face, fully content and happy about the fact that he is safe and sound under the tutelage of the lion king. After all, he is one of the pet cats of the lion king.

The other pet cats also keep on grinning and loose no chance trying to tell one and all - "you outsiders!".

The pet cats form the core team of the lion king. Others are treated with a barge pole as pariahs and kept away from the exclusive club. The exclusive club is meant only for the lion king and the pet cats.

The pet cat with a Cheshire smile is a loyal slave of the lion king. He loves writing funny and fuming and flaming emails. His smirk is annoying and his actions are absolutely disgusting.

He never looses the chance to show that he is the boss's henchman and would do anything for the lion king like any loyal slave would and probably should. And why not?

So have you come across any such cunning man with a Cheshire car smile? No, think again, think hard.

Can you see the Cheshire cat smile now? So there you have one such cunning man. 

There are, in fact, many. And if you have one too many to deal with, hard luck!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why Toxic People Write Funny Emails?

Corporate world is full of many toxic people. Those who are at the higher levels in the organizational hierarchy are especially the ones who cause maximum damage.

And in case the toxic persons happen to be incompetent, they tend to be political too.

The combination of toxic and political attributes in such people is clearly demonstrated in their actions and behaviors. The most visible trait of such people is their tendency of writing funny emails.

These emails are funny because:
  • The person sending such an email is a senior person and thus supposed to exhibit maturity. Senior persons in professional organizations would not write funny emails.
  • The person would come across as condescending to the person being written to and would try to show that she is very smart. Smart people don't waste their energy in such pursuits.
  • The wording of the email shows their tendency to play with words. Playing with words is a clear sign of the political orientation of a person.
  • The length of the email is longer than what is required. Long email means a person doesn't know what to actually say.
  • The verbosity of the explanation is too much. This a clear indication of the fact that a person has nothing concrete to say and hence attempts to throw statements right, left and center.
  • The content of the email is patently absurd just like the person herself. This shows the utter lack of mental maturity and ulterior motives of a person.
Dealing with such people is very tough, almost bordering to being impossible. Given a choice one would like to stay away from such people but then at times one has no choice.

If one can, it is better not to join an organization that is infested with such people at the higher levels of hierarchy. And if one has made such a mistake already, well bad luck!

So what to do? Pull your resume out, get another job, drop the exit letter and just run out as quickly as you can. Remember its better late than never. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

How Much Money Do You Need Every Month Till Your Death?

Suppose you are X years of age today and also suppose you will live forever. In that case how much money do you need every month till your death at infinity?

A very simple financial formula provides the answer to this important question. Here are the steps that can be followed.

Suppose you want to get M amount every month to live a good life. The M should include both essential and discretionary expenses to take care of all minor and major needs and with an adequate buffer. The key here is that the definition of "good" will depend upon your perspective in life. What is good for you and someone else may vary a lot.

Assume that you will get R% return (on an annual basis), post-tax from your investments. The R% should ideally consider the appropriate tax slab and some effect of inflation. However as explained in Why Claims Of Inflation Being So Important In Financial Planning Are All Bogus? inflation is not really that critical as it is made out to be.

So how much money you need to have as the capital amount C? The amount you need to have to get M assuming R% return can be calculated using the following formula.

C = M / (R% / 12)

Yes, that's it. It's so simple a  formula one would wonder whether it is really right. It actually is. This is a case of "Perpetuity" where if you have C amount with you with return at R% you will receive M amount every month.

Or, alternatively if you have C amount as capital, at R% rate of return you can get an amount of M every month.

Where, M = C * (R% / 12)

And lo and behold, when you die at infinity, the capital C would remain intact. Of course, as many will argue that due to inflation the value of C when you die will be much lesser than  the value of C today.

If you want to be safe from inflation and also want to make sure you are in a position to make any big-ticket and major contingency expenses throughout your life having a buffer would help.

So if you have 2C amount with you and you maintain the same lifestyle pattern, you can live forever very very comfortably. And you will be financially free and a rich man in some sense.

What Is God? Is God Really For Real?

Since ages humans have relied upon science and technology as a means to answer all the whys.

However, there is always a "why" at the end of the series of whys for which the explanation is quite simple yet profound - "that's the way nature works".

This can be understood better with the following illustration. A ball thrown upwards into the sky falls downwards and hits the earth.

Why downwards? Why? The ball is pulled down by the action of gravity. Gravity is a force exerted by two bodies that pulls them closer, in this case earth and the ball.

Why gravity? Why? Gravity is an inherent characteristic which depends on the mass of the two bodies and the distance between them.

Why inherent characteristic? Why? Every mass is composed of atoms which are further composed of electrons, protons, neutrons, etc. The atomic and sub-atomic particles influence the inherent characteristic.

Why influence? Why? That's the way nature works.

Why? The last "why" is where science and technology ends and the concept of God begins. It is possible that humans have answer to another level of why but there will always be that "why" which will remain unanswered.

What then is God? Is God something that can be understood and explained? Is God a physical entity? Is God really for real? These questions have probably no definitive answers. It can however be claimed that God is a concept that transcends physical reality.

Most events that happen to us or happen around us are not controlled by us and depend upon luck or providence. God is a sum effect of all such events. God then is a concept that represents a certain power which is beyond our control.

It is humbling to know that almost 100%, practically everything, of what happens to us and what happens around us is beyond our control.

Religions have taken God to a lesser level of abstraction but God being a concept that transcends physical reality cannot really be fully understood and explained through the philosophies underlying the various religions. In a certain sense it can be said that God is and should be beyond comprehension.

Types of Private Sector Companies in India based on Closeness to Pure MNC Culture

It is an interesting exercise to determine the broad types in which private sector companies in India can be categorized. One way to perform this categorization is based on the company culture and can be measured in terms of how close the culture is to a pure MNC culture.

MNC (multi national corporation) in the context of this article embodies all the good things one would expect to find in a workplace and would constitute the following characteristics:
  • Strong ethics 
  • Professional management
  • No discrimination
  • Modern workplace
  • Progressive practices
  • Fair policies
Based on the above considerations, private sector companies in Indian can be categorized in following five types:
  • Pure MNC - these are organizations which are directly owned and operated by the global MNC. The management team in India is appointed by the HQ office and will generally have non-Indians as part of the team.
  • Quasi MNC - these are organizations which are directly owned and operated by the global MNC. The top man in India is appointed by the HQ office who then hires the others in the team and will generally have only Indians as part of the team.
  • Pseudo MNC - these are organizations which are not directly owned and operated by the global MNC but will have an office in US, Europe, etc. to give it the semblance of an MNC. The top man in India is part of the overall management team which will generally have only Indians as part of the team in the India office.
  • Desi MNC - these are organizations which are towards the far end of continuum and resemble Pseudo MNC is several ways. The culture and management style is modeled on the lines of an MNC but is dumped as per convenience of the management team which generally has only Indians as part of the team.
  • Pure Desi or Lala Companies - these are the anti-thesis of a Pure MNC. These organizations are run on the whims and fancies of the top man for whom anything is fine as long as profits are coming in.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why Managing Cash Flow Is So Critical? And How To Do It?

Managing cash flow is the primary tool for achieving financial freedom. The day cash flowing in beats the cash flowing out by a good margin is the day you would become financially free.

The path to financial freedom goes through good management of cash flow. Keeping tight control on cash flowing out and investing the surplus to enhance cash flowing in gradually paves the way for capital formation.

Accumulation of adequate amount of capital is needed for cash flowing in without one needing to work. Its like money working for you to earn more money.

That's how the rich keep on getting richer. Hence managing cash flow is so very critical.

The following chart explains and illustrates how to manage cash flow with the aim of eventually achieving financial freedom. It clearly shows the linkage between cash flow and capital formation.

The Chakra of Investment

How does one go about making investments? What is the process that could be followed to ensure higher assurances of the desired outcome?

Following diagram depicts one such approach in the the form of a chakra (Sanskrit word for connected centres of power) - the Chakra of Investment.

Why Claims Of Inflation Being So Important In Financial Planning Are All Bogus?

Inflation is supposed to be the silent killer. It is supposed to be the invisible tax on your returns. However, this claim is more of a bogus than anything else.

First, inflation is measured for a basket of selected goods and services. Your actual consumption may be far away from the basket constituents.

Secondly, if you analyze your expenses, the expenses towards items such as home loan EMIs, rentals, education of your kids, food and grocery purchases, medical needs, consumer durable goods and utility bills taken together would account for a significant percentage of the total expenses.

If you look at the above list of items, few points would strike you immediately:
  • House costs went up till 2006 but then tanked and have stayed almost stagnant since then. Also, how many houses would someone in the middle class need to buy in his lifetime? This is an important consideration because if you are rich then inflation and recession would not mean much to you.
  • Cost of consumer durable goods and gadgets like TVs, smartphones, etc. have actually come down over the last few decades. 200 dollars can buy a much much better smartphone today as compared to ten years back. And as per time value of money 200 dollars today would be much lesser than 200 dollars ten years back.
  • Cost of automobiles has not gone up much since last more than ten years. Again the mileage and features you get in a car today easily offsets the additional cost you may have to incur.
  • More importantly. the cost of fuel has crashed from 100 dollars to 40-50 dollars today. So with a more fuel-efficient car combined with very low fuel cost the overall cost of driving has come down significantly.
  • Interest rates for taking loans have stayed at reasonably low levels. In fact the rates in the USA have been ridiculously low since last few years starting 2007 when the housing bubble burst open. So even if you have to buy consumer goods and gadgets today, loans at low rates are easily available.
  • Food and grocery prices have not actually gone up but have become highly volatile. They may be high during certain periods when there is a demand-supply mismatch. Again, in such cases if you are in middle class you would typically avoid buying such food items temporarily or at least cut down their consumption or use a substitute. 
  • Cost of food items would never rise too high and the reason is Governments the world over will not allow it to, for obvious political reasons. Imagine a loaf of bread which costs half a dollar In India becoming 100 dollars some day in the future. That would be simply impossible other than currency crashing so much that the Government will have to change the currency.
  • Cost for medicines have not gone up too much. Cost of medical treatment excluding medicines have certainly gone up in the last ten years. Again, it is likely to stagnate now given that public health is a touchy issue for the masses and Governments will never allow it to become so expensive that they get out of reach of the entire middle class and those below.
  • The above logic applies to cost of education also. Cost of education has certainly gone up but is likely to stagnate. Imagine someone earning 40k INR in India having to dish out 10k INR for the school fees and other expenses every month. This cannot continue long since every parent would want good education for their kids and not many people are getting 40k INR or more per month in India. This asymmetry in the society will gradually turn into a major political issue.
  • Utility costs also have not gone up that significantly. Water prices have not gone up too much and electricity charges have gone up gradually in the past but are stagnant now. Gas prices have stayed at the same level for many years (and in fact have come down recently due to the world oil and gas prices crashing). Broadband and telecom services have remained at the same prices for several years now. Again, these are public goods and services and Government will always exercise some degree of control on the prices.
Remember any excess in the society will have to be balanced out some day. Cost of living cannot go up so high that majority starts suffering. It is an ideal condition for revolutions to start. And then the Governments may have to intervene wherever there is an excess. The silent majority has not remained silent for very long in then history of human civilization.

Inflation is given more importance than it has in reality. Financial planning should assume reasonable returns with some impact of inflation. However, as explained above, in many cases the impact of inflation is simply not there (in case of electronic gadgets, the opposite has happened due to technological and productivity improvements) or it is minimal or is high today but is likely to stagnate and thereby get diluted in the future.

In light of the above, it is clear "Why Claims Of Inflation Being So Important In Financial Planning Are All Bogus?".

Friday, December 4, 2015

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger - Is That What You Think About The Person You Have To Report Into?

If your answer is yes, welcome to the reality of corporate world. Also note the word used in the title is "have to report into" which means you actually "would not want to report into" such a person, given a choice.

Such person can actually kill you if you are not careful. And in case you are in such an unfortunate position you have to ensure you do not get killed.

Here are some of the things you should do immediately:
  • Start meditating to keep your mind calm and relaxed. It will be difficult but ensure you remain composed at all times.
  • Stop smoking in case you have been. In such a situation you may start to smoke much more than usual and this will cause you greater harm much sooner.
  • Stop drinking to find solace. You would feel relaxed when you drink and you would actually drink much more than you would normally. However, once the hangover is over you will find your mental troubles are not.
  • Stay away from falling into depression. If you don't become conscious of this you may as well fall into depression. Remember no job is worth falling into depression.
  • Stay happy and hopeful of finding an exit path. The darkness and despair may seem to go on for long but remember the coldness of every night is followed by the warmth of the rising sun the very next morning. You may think exit is far and away and you may have to endure it longer than you can bear it but staying happy and hopeful would certainly help.
  • Start exercising to keep yourself physically fit and energetic. In such adverse circumstances it is all the more important to be fighting fit. You may even think that you are in a war-like situation with the person you "have to report into" being the enemy in case that helps you to keep yourself amused.
  • Sleep peacefully though it may be difficult. In such a tumultuous time you may find that the situation you are in is akin to passing through an eclipse that causes darkness all around and makes your feel frustrated and anxious. Again remember every eclipse would soon pass as has happened since ages.
The idea and intent is to stay alive.

Never forget - "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger".

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ready to Turn a Solo Trainer and Consultant? Pause and Ponder these Points

The points below serve as a good checklist for doing a readiness check before one is ready to turn into a solo trainer and consultant. The business world is a tough and nasty place so it is better to be fully prepared before taking the risky plunge. 
  • Assess your financial position and ensure sufficient money is available for 2-3 years for maintaining current standard of living of the family.
  • Ensure you have adequate term insurance and medical insurance. Also consider taking personal accident insurance for self and wife (if she also drives) and house (stick to structure insurance).
  • Bring down living expenses by reducing discretionary spending (non-veg, movies, malls, furniture, gadgets, etc.).
  • Doubly ensure that monthly passive income is more than the monthly expense. This depends on the city and the lifestyle. For example, for a city like Delhi/NCR, assuming zero loan liability, own house (no rent) and a decent lifestyle this number would be around 60K.
  • Be mentally prepared that you will not make any money in the first 6-12 months. Also discuss and sensitize family about this and the challenges involved.
  • Start creating/grabbing training/consulting opportunities internally. This is like learning "how to swim in a pond".
  • Find some people who have done it and seek their mentoring and guidance. Take their help in expanding network and also connecting to right people.
  • Attach with the mentors to learn "how to swim in a river". This eventually leads the way to learning "how to swim in the ocean".
  • Touch base with your connections in the network to explore moonlighting or other opportunities for training/consulting

Saturday, November 14, 2015

What If You Loose Your Job Today?

For many people the result of the above will simply be catastrophic. Such people have their job as the sole source of income. And if you fall in this category of people, like most would do, you got to get paranoid about it.

You have to be paranoid about creating multiple sources of income so that the loss of job would not impact your family's standard of living to a significant degree. In addition, in case of any eventuality like major accident, long illness resulting in job loss, cash would still need to keep flowing in for you to have a comfortable life.

Insurance is certainly a good way to mitigate some of the above risks. However, insurance will not be helpful when job loss is due to perhaps the biggest of all reasons - recession in general or mismanagement and adverse business conditions at the company you are working with.

Focus on creating multiple sources of income will ensure consistency of cash flow both in terms of regularity as well as the amount.

Here are some examples of ways in which you can get cash flow:
  • Dividend from stocks
  • Interest from bonds
  • Rent from real estate
  • Royalty from book or another intellectual property
  • Commission from business deal
It is useful to remember that cash is king and cash flow is like having the king's blessings on you. The more blessings you have the better off you are. So stay focused on multiple sources of income and keep the cash flowing in!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Stuck in a Toxic Workplace and Reporting into an Unprofessional, Incompetent and Toxic Person

The combination of being stuck in a toxic workplace along with reporting into an unprofessional, incompetent and toxic person is a lethal combination. It is like having your head stuck in quicksand smelling very badly. One can't see anything clearly, one can't stand the odor and one can hardly breathe.

In fact, toxic workplaces and toxic people in such workplaces are extremely bad for one's health. It is perhaps the case that toxic people create toxic workplaces and toxic workplaces are perfect setting for toxic people to grow and prosper.

Toxic people come in various forms. The worst are the silent killers. They have a smug look on their face and are cunning to the core like a wily fox. And if the person you are forced to report into is basically like a cunning fox it is your rotten luck, period. Foxes are by nature not trustworthy. They would say something now and something later. They can lie blatantly. And they have utter disregard for fairness and transparency.

One way also wonder how one can have a fox in the workplace? The truth is there are not only fox but many more interesting toxic creatures that roam the corporate world - leech, snake, crocodiles, scorpion, etc.

A toxic workplace is the perfect place to find the above toxic species in a single place. And if the person you are forced to report into is basically one of the above toxic creatures, it is your rotten luck, period.

For a professional such workplaces are like career graves. And if one is not able to move on to another workplace and stuck it is a very sad and sorry situation to be in. One has to keep on trying to move out  at the earliest in a fire-fighting mode otherwise career grave can soon turn into life grave.

The Silly Strut of the Corporate Stooges

Corporate stooges are a typical though unfortunate reality of the corporate world. These are those specimens who are close to the top men by virtue of their loyalty. And for them the other employees are insignificant and unimportant.

The stooges strut around the organization in an utmost silly manner. They form a club of monkeys scratching each others' backs.

The silly strut of corporate stooges has negative impact on employee morale. The stooges would protect one another as if they belong to the same tribe. Any employee complaining against any of the stooges will be dealt with brazenly by the other stooges.

The stooges are also fond of sending stupid emails to others. And they would do everything possible to demean others. They carry a condescending attitude and present themselves as street smart. In reality though, they are silly asses showing off their silly stuff and strutting for silly reasons.

They go for lunch together mostly with the top man. The ritual they follow while going for lunch or at other functions presents a good example of silly strutting. The stooges will assemble and then strut their way to the dining area. And of course they get special treatment at the lunch table.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Handle a Demeaning Workplace?

Many modern workplaces, due to the way they have evolved, are demeaning to the worker's self-respect and at times are soul-crushing as well.The worker may feel trapped, constantly humiliated and ready to quit if another job offer comes her way.

And in case the worker is not succeeding in finding another job, she may grow frustrated and start thinking of quitting without another job in hand. It is important in such times to stay grounded and subdue the ego.

Ego can't put food on the table, only money can. And as long as money is coming from the work to pay the bills, the worker should endure the humiliation, put on a happy facade and cheerfully carry on.

Also it is important to remember that getting another job while having one is far easier than otherwise. Changing workplace may also not help much as modern workplaces tend to be generally demeaning.

This also brings up the following crucial aspects that can be used as a broad guidance by a worker to survive a demeaning workplace with the objective of eventually reaching a position where the worker doesn't need to work.
  • Worker should stay put, swallow humiliating experiences and see the income from the salary as the means to pay bills and to provide seed capital to eventually turn into a capitalist.
  • Worker should keep on trying for another job so as to move to another workplace. However changing workplace may not always help.
  • Worker should constantly make efforts to move in the direction towards financial freedom. This means if the worker looses her job it will not alter her life-style too significantly in an adverse manner.
  • Once financial freedom as explained above has been achieved, worker can decide not to work at all.
  • And in case the worker decides to work she should find a job that she would love to do regardless of the workplace. A worker can far easily handle a demeaning workplace if she is passionate about the work.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Handling Electronics Waste

Proper disposal of old, obsolete and broken electronics items and their parts such as laptops, tablets, mobile handsets and cell phone batteries is essential to minimize adverse impact on the environment.

So what can one do with old mobile handsets and cell phone batteries which are not working? Here are two environment-friendly options one can use:
  • Leave them at the service and repair center of the company which manufactured it
  • Send them to an e-waste management company
There has to be back-end system with the manufacturing company or the e-waste management company to dispose off the old electronics items and their parts in a manner such that the adverse impact on the environment is zero, not even minimal impact should be acceptable.

Future generations may not be alive today but if they were, all of them would have collectively voiced their opinion that anything other than zero cannot be tolerated when it comes to the very existence of human race.

All the electronics waste being created by humans today has the potential to make planet Earth unfit for human beings and there is no option whatsoever. For managing a risk a common approach is to have a track B in case track A, the primary track, fails for any reason.

Though all attempts are made to ensure track A succeeds but failure probability is never zero. With planet Earth unfortunately there is no track B. There is no planet B to fall back upon in case planet A ceases to be fit for life. And in case this so happens it will be the end of human race.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Importance of Ethics in the Corporate World

Time and time again, ethical failures erupt in the corporate world (including at the so called blue-chip companies) demonstrating that lessons from history are conveniently forgotten by business organizations in their pursuit of top line and bottom line.

The focus on top line and bottom line blinds the top executives in business enterprises so much that they choose to ignore unethical practices in the organization. The top guns in many organizations are those who possess uncanny street smarts and strong horse sense.

The top guns are typically those who get customer orders, sell products, deliver services, collect invoice money, etc. and while doing so may at times indulge in unethical practices which might be viewed by the organization as "being smart".

Several cases in the last few decades serve as grim reminders of how the system finally catches up with the street smartness of top guns and the end consequence of unethical practices garbed as uncanny street smarts and strong horse sense.

Financial Purpose of Life

The overall purpose of life is very hard to nail down. However, the financial purpose of life is relatively less harder to nail down. The financial purpose of life can be summed as the quest to transition to a state where one's income is resilient to recession from a state where one's income is exposed to recession.

State of income being resilient to recession means one would have multiple sources of income which is generally steady even if one looses employment. This would mean one has, in a sense, become a capitalist.

The advantage of being a capitalist is that money comes not from spending labor but from investing capital. So a capitalist will get an income without working. In fact, a capitalist will not need to have employment and would rather give others employment. Those who get employment from the capitalist would be at the mercy of the capitalist for their employment.

State of income being exposed to recession means one would have no or few sources of income which may not even be steady if one looses employment. This would mean one is, in a sense, a laborer.

The challenge of being a laborer is that money comes from spending labor. So a laborer will need to be employed to get an income. A laborer will depend upon the mercy of a capitalist for employment.

So one has to save some money from the job one has and invest it wisely to transform it into capital. The capital thus formed should be used to get earnings which can then be re-invested to further grow the capital.

Once the size of the capital grows to an amount which can provide returns that would replace the salary received from the job and some more, one can stop working purely for financial reasons.

The capital amount at which one achieves financial freedom is simply the transition point between the state of being exposed to recession and the state of becoming resilient to recession.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Thinking about Living till the Age of 100 Years?

Living till the age of 100 years is no mean achievement. It would imply the person took care of all the three - character, health and wealth - throughout a very very long innings. It would also mean the person succeeded in exemplifying what some wise man had said "if wealth is gone nothing is gone, if health is gone something is gone and if character is gone everything is gone".

Holding on to character in all situations is very important as that would in turn provide the strength to hold on to health and wealth and even if they are lost to earn them again. Character is what ensures that health and wealth are put to good use by the person. Good character plays an important role in achieving good health and good wealth. Holding on to character for 100 years is undoubtedly extremely difficult but if done, is absolutely commendable and worth emulating.

For living till 100 years of age one ought to stay fit and healthy. With the food and lifestyle one is exposed to in the current times, it is extremely difficult to stay fit and fine. Controlling one's food habits, investing some time on exercising regularly and ensuring adequate rest and relaxation go a long way in helping one stay healthy.

Also it is important not to spend too much time in a bed-ridden state before one passes away. The best thing would be to die all of a sudden while one is engaged in the daily chores and in the worst case not more than a week in the bed before bidding the final adieu. Those who spend weeks, months and at times even years on the bed before they pass away may live long but would undergo tremendous amount of pain and suffering in embracing death. Death should ideally be something one should long for at the end of a long life, a life which was lived well!

Finally, living long has a financial angle to it. One would typically start earning when one reaches the age of 25 and retire at the age of 60 years. For living till the age of 100 years one would have to save and invest whatever is earned in 35 years (from age 25 to age 60) to last for 40 years (from age 60 to age 100).

In the earning phase of one's life, one has to ensure savings and investments are planned even though one has to spend part of the money earned for necessary expenses (utility bills, etc.), taking care of liabilities (like loan payments, etc.) and taking care of family and social obligations (kid's education, marriage, etc.). The retirement kitty has to be attended to throughout the working life to ensure one has enough money to sustain  the financial burden of living till the age of 100 years.

Lately, the wealth part has come under severe attack due to the turmoil and uncertainly in the world economy. Earlier one could be assured of working from the age of 25 years till the age of 60 years. However, in the current times, retirement can come abruptly. One might be 45 and suddenly find oneself jobless any fine day due to reasons over which one has no control.

In  light of the above, one needs to exercise frugality and prudence in spending the money one earns. This may in fact require one to become extremely stingy at least in the earlier part of one's earning life. Money thus saved should be invested wisely, earnings from the investments should not be spent rather re-invested to increase earnings potential. The cycle of investment and earnings re-investment in combination with the power of compounding is a very useful financial concept that can help one manage one's life beyond retirement at the age of 60 or even earlier, if it comes to that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why Warren Buffet Doesn't Own Technology Stocks?

Why Warren Buffet doesn't own technology stocks? Well, only Warren Buffet really knows the true answer to this question - "why Warren Buffet doesn't own technology stocks?"

In case one would like to take a good guess at why it is so, then perhaps following reasons could be offered.
  • Technology landscape keeps on changing rapidly and it is not certain whether technology of today will survive tomorrow and it is next to impossible to project this ten years hence.
  • Technology stocks are based on products and services which are not essential to human existence. One cannot live without eating bread for even a few days but one can easily live for as long as one would want to without sending a tweet!
  • Technology business is good and one can perhaps make some money as well, when the first product or service offering comes out but as soon as the novelty wears off and lookalikes appear in the marketplace the revenue model becomes weak and loss-prone. For understanding this aspect one just needs to search for "buy xyz online", where xyz could be anything. The number of websites which come up as options to consider are too many that one can be sure that most of them are not going to be making money.
  • Technology stocks tend to glamorize and glorify technology over customer and business needs. For example. buying something online should be seen as another way to buy something. However, at times the impression one might get is that buying something online is the only way to buy. The technology behind it is shown to be worth billions of dollars based on the valuations done by certain class of investors (this class would certainly exclude Warren Buffet).
  • How can the channel to sell something become more valuable than the thing being sold? Any customer would buy something to get some experience and buying channel is a small part of the overall experience. 
  • After all, no one can eat an e-bread in case one is hungry. You can e-buy bread but you can never buy e-bread. It is not hard to guess what is more important for human existence - bread or buy.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Analysis of Stock Price Moving Up and Moving Down

It is generally believed that it is tough to recover from the loss on a stock since if the stock price moves down by a certain percentage it needs to go up by a higher percentage to get even.

Though the above is factually true it is not a very relevant factor when one is investing in stock markets. The above is the mathematical effect of base whereby percentage increase for the same quantum would be lower for higher base and vice versa.

Suppose you have 100 dollars. An increase of 10% would mean the price would move up to 110. Now to go back to 100, 110 has to move down by the same quantum. In case this effect is represented as percentage the numbers would be different. While moving up the percentage would be (110-100)/100, which is 10%. And while moving down the percentage would be (100-110)/110, which is -9.1%. The net effect on the profit/loss from the stock doesn't change due to this mathematical effect.

Following table and chart shows this relation quite clearly. It is just a mathematical result and should not be of much concern to anyone involved in stock market investing.

Some Thoughts and Tips on Stock Market Investing

Despite the risks and challenges inherent to stock market investing, lot of people have made good money from stocks. Some thoughts and tips on stock market investing are given below. These have to be seen as broad guidance and should be calibrated to suit different conditions.
  • Making money from stocks is actually quite simple if one were to consider the revenue model. Buy a stock A at X and sell at Y. Return, quite simply, is Y - X. If Y > X, one makes profit, it’s as simple as that. The thing which is not simple, however, is how to make sure one picks stock at price X so that the likelihood of it going on the upside is almost certain and the likelihood of it going downside is almost nil. This should surely be the case in the medium-term and long-term.
  • Choose a certain amount of money, say X, which represents the money per share that one is willing to and can afford to loose on a stock. Don’t buy any stock which has a sticker price above 1%-2% below X. With brokerage, taxes, etc. the final price per share will come close to X. The exact numbers have to calibrated based on the brokerage, taxes, etc. prevalent in the stock market one chooses to operate in. The idea is to cap your loss per share to a maximum of X. Remember a bad news about any stock can lead its market price to drop closer to zero (like in the case of Enron the stock price fell to few cents from 90 to 100 dollars in a few days time)
  • Stocks that are picked should be bought in sufficient quantity. Imagine one bought 100 shares of a company at X. So the total investment was 100 X. Assume the stock price goes up by 60% (which means stock price would become 1.6 X). In such a case the investment will grow to 160 X, a profit of mere 60 X which is not much. In fact the real return will be lesser than 60 X. If however, 1000 shares were bought the profit will be 600 X.
  • Build position of an amount around A to B in the selected stock, where A to B would have to be significantly large enough. This at the per price cap of X (from point 2 above) would translate to around M to N stocks (which should be large enough so that overall profit is high enough as per point 3 above) . For stocks with lesser price the quantity will be much larger.
  • The idea behind taking a sufficiently large position in any stock is that the increase in the price per stock will translate into gains that are significant enough in volume terms in case they are significant in percentage terms. Obviously, this would mean losses will also be significant enough in volumes terms in case stock price declines significantly in percentage terms. And that is what it should be as this is precisely what the game of stock picking is essentially all about.
  • Assume one buys one stock by investing an amount X. On the downside, one can loose the entire X, which is the maximum risk per share. However, on the upside, X can become 1..5 X, 2 X, 5 X, 10 X or even higher (a multi-bagger as Peter Lynch would call them). The science and art here is to buy the stock at a price at which the probability of it going further down is minimized which in turn would minimize the risk of loss. If this can be coupled with the analysis of the company fundamentals behind the stock that the probability of the stock going up, if not immediately and in the short-term but certainly in the medium-term and long-term is reasonably high enough it would maximize the de-risking of eventual gain.
  • Price of a stock prices move up and down based on news related to the overall economy, industry sector and the specific company behind that stock. Experts in the market distill the news to figure out the direction and quantum of price movement. This change in price can move in the direction to the extent of the quantum thought to be the “needed correction”, over several days, weeks and even months.
  • Expectations around the financial performance of the company play a major role in reinforcing the impact of relevant news and in some way are seen as the culmination of the news that keeps trickling in. The actual results on its own as also compared with the expected results reinforce or counteract the direction and quantum of price movement.
  • It is commonly understood that if the price of a stock declines by 50% then it needs to rise by 100% to be back where it was at the start. For example, if the price at which a stock is purchased is X and subsequently falls by 50% to reach 0.5 X then to be X again it needs to rise by 100%. This however is due to mathematical base effect, percentage increase for the same quantum of increase declines with the number becoming larger and vice versa. This is not so relevant since theoretically speaking, on the down side stock price can never go below zero but on the upside can reach infinity. It is an interesting thought to consider that if a stock picker is lucky enough in his life to invest a substantial capital in one stock that goes up infinite times, figuratively speaking, he will be infinitely rich, again figuratively speaking
  • Suppose a person has 2 Z amount and he invests Z in stock A and another Z in stock B. Assume company behind stock A shuts shop making Z(A)=0, also assume company behind stock B does stupendously well so that Z(B) becomes N X, where N is a sufficiently high number. For an extremely high value of N, the person would have made it in life, at least the financial part of it.
  • Trading should be avoided to the extent possible. Assume a person buys a stock at price X and sells it at a price Y. Return from such an investment will be Y - X. However, real return will be much lesser due to brokerage, taxes, etc. Let’s assume this cost is a% of the base cost. So the actual buy price will be X + aX and the actual sell price will be Y - aY. The real return in this case then would (Y + aY) - (X + aX), which is equal to (Y - X) + a(Y - X). As is clear, a(Y - X) is what goes to the broker and the Government. The number ‘a’ can be assumed to 1% to 2% in case one holds the stocks for the returns from it to be considered under long term capital gains. The number ‘a’ would be much higher in case the return falls under short term capital gains.
  • Patience to buy or not to buy is very important.In addition, maintaining liquidity is quite important. Having liquidity when opportunity to buy a stock presents itself is so utmost important that it can make a significant difference to the overall portfolio performance. Hence having patience to invest money in a staggered manner is crucial as it allows at least some part of the portfolio getting picked up at the bottom or very near to the bottom. The cheaper one can buy the better off one is. In any case, one should maintain 10% of portfolio as “contingency” amount to be used only when any rarest of rare opportunity presents itself. This by definition would happen but once or at best few times in a stock picker’s lifetime. Patience to sell or not to sell is equally important in a likewise manner.
  • Big players have the leverage to cause huge gains and losses over a short period of time, in fact at times within few minutes, hours or one trading day. These big players buy and sell in huge numbers leading to sudden and extreme price changes.
  • Select M to N stocks across various sectors. M to N could be 20 to 25 stocks or any number of stocks that can be comfortably managed and depends on how much time one can spend on managing the overall portfolio (Walter Schloss apparently had more than 100 stocks whereas Warren Buffet apparently has fewer number of stocks) . Buy them at the right time, which means at reasonably low price with immense upside potential in the future. Buy in sufficient quantity so that possibility of significant gain is large.
  • Read the last two years annual report and don’t invest outside the index. Companies which are in the index are under higher scrutiny from auditors, analysts and authorities. However, they all could go wrong and mislead an investor (think Enron). That is why the cap of X is helpful in case there is a fraud. History tells us this is likely to happen again.
  •  Buy dividend paying stocks if one wants some tax-free income to come one's way. Dividend are tax free and can be re-invested in the same stock to effectively reduce the price per stock.
  • Buy with the thought of holding forever (Warren Buffet style). However, assess the portfolio performance regularly (every day if possible otherwise at least once every week) and if there is a case to sell, don't hesitate to sell.
  • Target how much money you want to have so that you can live comfortably. First and foremost try reaching that target. Once one is financially secure, one can make riskier investments that have the potential to earn more. Keep some part of the money in bonds or fixed deposits always. Don't be 100% invested in stocks.
  • Avoid mutual funds, unit-linked plans and exchange traded funds, if one can invest in stocks directly. These are designed to generate consistent salary and commission for the fund mangers even if they make loss for the investors. They clearly violate the principle of pay for performance. 
  • If one has stayed invested in life insurance policies, mutual funds, unit-linked plans and exchange traded funds for several years, one may want to continue. If one wants to exit, it is advised to compute the surrender cost, consider the returns so far and take an informed decision. Don't exit just because experts tell you they are not good or someone tells you the best investment is putting your entire money in stock market.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Working Towards Quitting the Rat Race is So Very Critical?

Most of those having a day job are a part of the rat race.

Like a rat scurrying from one corner to another in search of food and safety, corporate rats are scurrying from one day to another, 9am to 6pm, crushing their souls and suppressing their happiness.

Everyday they are braving mad traffic and leaving behind urgent family issues to reach their place of work which they don't love at all to do a job they may not like much or at all!




(Source: http://cliparts.co/clipart/5908)

Most of the employees don't enjoy what they do, have no fun at where they work and have little or no respect for their reporting supervisor.

This is especially true in those cases where the supervisor despite being thoroughly incompetent has been dropped from above by the higher management that loves boot-licking from such supervisors and their absolute loyalty.

Like rats can be caught unawares anytime and thrown out of the house, corporate rats can also be fired at any time.

In any organization except the founders and their loyalists/stooges (in the top management or below) everyone is a rat.

It is critical, therefore, for corporate rats to start preparing themselves for quitting the rat race as early as possible.

Delay can be expensive since as time passes the rats would get heavier (higher compensation and benefits) and hence become a big liability.

In case the business runs into trouble the fat rats are the ones who will be asked to go first.

Corporate rats should work towards saving and investing what they earn in such a manner that they manage to generate enough income to survive in case they loose their job.

Remember, it is harder for a fat rat to come back into the market once thrown out.

Creating financial cushion to see them through life is extremely important for corporate rats.

Life time employment is long gone. Retirement benefits are completely missing or not guaranteed.

And due to increasing pace of change and complexity in the world, rats are highly overexposed and vulnerable.

Remember in the corporate world, retirement is sudden and immediate.

So are you a corporate rat?

Are you worried about your financial security being too much tied to your job security?

Are you anxious that as you live paycheck to paycheck, loss of job would have severe impact on the financial well-being of you and you family?

Are you stressed and afraid about the fact that you may not have a full-time job for very long and certainly not after you turn 40 or 45?

If yes, time is ticking for you, the corporate bomb you call as workplace is waiting to explode.

A smart corporate rat will start accumulating stuff for the rainy days. Saving and investing can go a long way in enabling this.

 A smart corporate rat will also watch out attentively, rain can start anytime!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Small Companies but Big Politics and Even Bigger Egos

Small companies are small only in terms of size of business and number of employees however they are big in terms of politics and even bigger egos. Working in such companies can be a real pain not only in the neck but also the other parts of the body.

Such companies are like a mini zoo where one can find a scary collection of corporate animals. These animals are generally high on attitude and low on competency and maturity. And that may be the reason why they would not survive in a truly professional and big organization. Following paragraphs provide the various types of silly and strange corporate animals in small organizations.

Type P - These are people who are asked to look after areas where they have the least competence just because they are part of the inner circle of the top dog in the company. Loyalty means everything in such organizations and hence they get promoted despite lack of competence. Their position in the organization is a direct function of their foot-licking and yes-sir approach to dealing with Type V. They are unfair, unethical. unprofessional and non-transparent in their dealings with others. They love writing immature and stupid emails (a trait shared with other animals in the zoo-like small company - Type R, Type M, Type S and Type M/D).

Type M - These are people who carry big attitudes on their shoulders as if they are big-shots and movers and shakers of the industry. Such people are hardly known in the industry and no one recognizes them beyond the four walls of the small company. Their egos are however as big as the size of an elephant.

Type R - These are people who think they are the only ones who are smart. They treat others as if others don't exist. They believe being a part of the core team only they are important. They make others feel as outsiders. They are very grade conscious and carry a holier than thou and condescending attitude towards others especially those who have lower grade than theirs.

Type S - These are people who are abrasive, uncouth and pugnacious. They are hyper defensive and would generally not accept any suggestion that they need any improvement. They would make silly and immature comments and try to show how they are the only ones who are working while others are passing their time in the company.

Type T - These are people who are silent henchman. They would do as Type V would command them to and would come across as very well meaning. However, being a part of the inner circle they also adopt a style of treating others who are not a part of inner circle as outsiders. In addition, in moments of truth they show the outsiders their true place.

Type M/D - These are the true losers in the whole set-up. They are really dead-woods in the system and are wannabe Types T. However, they lack the grace and professionalism. They would come across as smart asses (along the lines of Type R). They are generally cynics and too demanding on others. They believe their view is only right and only what they do is important. They try to maintain exclusivity of the work they do but fail to realize that what they are doing is very commonplace. Again like Type M, no body knows them in the industry but they behave as if they are the only experts. They have a pugnacious, accusative and demeaning style of dealing with others. In some sense they complement the characteristics of Type P and no wonder are good pals with Type P. They would form a triad and gang up on others to drive their malicious agenda.

Type V - These are people who generally sit at the top and adopt a hands-off style. Their favorite hobby is writing emails once in a while and drop an initiative on a parachute. There are no discussions and no deliberations their requests are orders. Type P act generally like slave of Type V.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Impact of Top Leaders on Culture

In general, various factors go into shaping the culture of an organization. However, the way the various factors play out eventually depends on the leader at the top owing to the trickle-down effect.

The manner in which people at a certain level behave is primarily influenced by what people at the next level above expect, going all the way right to the top.

This is very much true in case of formal organizations like companies; institutions etc. where formal authority at various levels is defined to a large extent. Top leaders at renowned organizations aptly illustrate the impact of this factor on the culture of an organization.

Facilitating Settling Down of a New Employee

While trying to settle down in  a new position in a new organization it is important for a new employee be aware of certain pointers. However, leaving "how to establish credibility in a new job" entirely to the new employee is not very helpful.

The role of the organization, the manager who hired the new employee and the team the new employee becomes a part of in facilitating this is equally important or perhaps more. The care exercised and effort invested by an organization and the hiring manager in getting a new employee should extend till the time the new employee settles down in the "new environment" and starts contributing.

The first 90-100 days are important for a new employee to settle down and start finding comfort in the new environment and satisfaction in the new job. After all, well begun is half done.

Managing Changes

The thought that "most of that change is self-driven, not externally imposed" - is perhaps true, to a certain extent, for the physical changes to human body but not entirely for the non-physical changes (intellectual, spiritual, etc.)

Changes are constant and inevitable and since they cannot be avoided they need to be managed for smooth transition to the changed state. In that sense change management is a very positive and powerful management tool.

Changes that are forced by difficult circumstances on an organization ("the boat is leaking, we are going to drown") are accepted more easily as there's no choice but to change the status quo. However, changes that are for the betterment of an organization ("can we make the boat go faster?") are generally not accepted easily as people have a choice to continue with the status quo.

It is very true that no one likes to be changed however the very nature of human existence is about change and more change. Human beings change constantly from the time of taking birth to growing up, then aging till the time of finally departing from this world.

Don't Hold Back Long

The suggestion to say or do a thing that is holding a person back is a wonderful idea. It is also true that saying or doing a thing is helpful in flushing out the blockage in a person's thought process so that he/she can then start thinking beyond and move on.

This happens in both cases - whether the outcome of saying or doing a thing is positive or not so positive. Not saying or doing a thing for a very long time can lower self confidence and create mental stress as well. So in that sense this is a good psychological method for a person to keep mentally relaxed and charged up.

On the other hand, it is important and helpful to take a lot of care while using this method. Overuse of this method by a person can result in him/her appearing overconfident and brash, or even rude, and others may look for ways to avoid such a person.

In this respect, Aristotle's saying regarding anger ("Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry...") is applicable to a great extent. It is easy to say or do a thing but to say or do a thing at the right time, in the right way and to the right degree is very important.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

3 Stooges and Their Great King

Replace 3 with any number of your choice - 4, 5, 6 or whatever you would like.

This is the story of very many organizations especially small business enterprises.

The king in such organizations walks across the premises like a lion in the jungle. And for her to feel great, she would have loyal stooges always in the tow.

The stooges are part of the inner circle, the elitist core team.

Others are outsiders and of no real consequence.

And how do you know who the stooges are?

A simple observation is what it takes to know who belongs to the inner circle and who doesn't. The stooges go for lunch with their king and they have bigger rooms as compared to the outsiders.

The stooges have generally inflated egos even bigger than the big rooms they get from the king.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The 10 Million Dollar Gage for Employee Engagement

How much money is more than adequate for any general employee working in an organization? This is a seemingly simple yet a very hard question to answer. Money is supposed to be an important element influencing employee engagement. So what happens when money is kept out of consideration while determining the drivers for employee engagement.

With the above as the backdrop, the 10 million dollar gage for employee engagement is a useful construct to understand the level of employee engagement in an organization.

Let us assume 10 million dollar is more than adequate for any general employee working in an organization. What than means is that if a general employee gets 10 million dollars he rises above the need to work for purely economic or financial reasons.

So what would be the factors that would influence the engagement of such a general worker with the organization supposing he is given 10 million dollars. Following scenarios could be thought of as the possibilities that will emerge.
  • Employee wants to continue working in the same field and in the same organization. This is the case of an employee who is passionate about the work she is performing. It also shows the strength of the culture and working environment in the organization.
  • Employee wants to work in a different field but in the same organization. This is the case of an employee who has lost passion about the work she is performing and wants to get into another area she is interested in. It, however, shows the strength of the culture and working environment in the organization.
  • Employee wants to continue working in the same field but in a different organization. This is the case of an employee who is passionate about the work she is performing. But it shows the culture and working environment in the organization has room to improve.
  • Employee wants to work in a different field and in a different  organization. This is the case of an employee who has lost passion about the work she is performing and wants to get into another area she is interested in. It also shows the culture and working environment in the organization has room to improve.
  • Employee does not want to work at all and wishes to quit the rat race. This would mean the employee was not enjoying the work she was performing and also not enjoying working in the corporate world. She was working due to lack of any other choice. And probably the only motive was to have some means to pay the bills.
The table below captures the above in a summarized form. It is clear from the table that there exists the case where someone may be wanting to quit the rat race altogether. This in some sense speaks about the prevalent culture in the corporate world, in general.



For any organization knowing the number of cases where the general employee would want to work in a different organization is a highly pertinent information. Higher employee engagement would mean working towards a situation where such cases are minimized.

HR folks in many companies run employee engagement/satisfaction surveys with lot of fanfare and drum-beating. These exercises become yearly rituals and provide good sound-bites to the top guys in management and HR. However, they generally fail to delivery anything concrete. The 10 million dollar gage can perhaps serve the purpose in a better manner and more efficiently.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Old Boys Club Culture in Organizations

Many small organizations stay small forever and eventually disappear. There are several reasons that may arise due to factors external to the organization however the stronger reasons have to do more with internal factors.

One big reason for the above to happen is the prevalence of old boys club culture in such organizations.  Such a culture is characterized by the following:
  • There is a king bee who is the owner, founder and the ultimate boss
  • The king bee is surrounded by a close-knit group of stooges who have one answer for anything and everything from the king "yes sir, what sir"
  • Stooges due to their proximity to the king act like kinglets (similar to piglets when one talks of a pig, interestingly these two situations may not be that different, really speaking)
  • The stooges have big egos and humiliate, demean and put down others. For them it is as if others don't exist and don't matter.
  • When a cake is being cut, the king will get the biggest piece, the stooges will also have big pieces and others are simply told to get lost. The sub-stooges (stooges of stooges) ensure they get good pieces of the leftovers of the cake.
  • Professionalism and positive element in such a culture is pretty low and to sustain the dominance of the old boys club the stooges are put on the heads of professionals hired from outside by creating strange reporting structures. 
  • When any senior professional hired from outside brings up valid issues with one of the stooges the other stooges jump on to the poor professional's head and show him down.
  • The stooge the senior professional is forced to report into defends the other stooges and advises "improving relations with the other stooges" conveniently ignoring the non-professional and negative behaviors and acts of the other stooges.
  • Since the king and the stooges will never get fired in such an organization they maintain a hands-off approach to management and create funny rituals to perpetuate it.
Any senior professional hired from outside in such organizations should move on without wasting any time. She would realize in no time how difficult it is to survive with nuts around.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stuck in a Dead-end Job

Getting stuck in a dead-end job is a reality especially for those who work in business organizations that have not been seeing adequate growth and where the organizational pyramid keeps getting fatter at the top every year.

Here are some of the ways in which one gets stuck in a dead-end job:
  • One outgrows the current role but the next level job is simply not available. In this case the person will have to continue in the current role and if she is not able to move out will get stuck.
  • One becomes a senior professional in a company after having worked for several years. In this case if the person has not kept abreast of the changes in the market in respect of skills she carries and has in some sense fallen behind will get stuck.
  • One is assigned to some special initiatives by the management. This is a clear indication that the management doesn't care whether the person stays or not. The person will find that the accountability to achieve something keeps on increasing gradually but the authority to get things done stays unchanged and may at times gets diminished.
The biggest problem from those who are stuck is to the organization's culture. Such people would typically show following behaviors and characteristics:
  • They carry big ego around and try to make others, especially those lower in the hierarchy, realize their weight
  • They are too demanding as well as pugnacious and try to prove that they are always right and others are wrong.
  • They are full of conceit, false sense of pride and superiority and carry a sadistic and condescending attitude.
  • They are highly cynical and question everything for the sake of proving a point and to show their importance.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Here are some typical signs of a toxic workplace:
  • Many people write funny mails starting with statements like this - "Bringing to your kind notice that this is another instance", "I am surprised to know that", "Needless to say that", etc.
  • Many people (even who are supposed to be senior/mature managers) pounce on anyone who makes a mistake. And the mistake is highlighted time and again in every meeting to show down the person who made the mistake.
  • Many people are too turf-sensitive, deeply indulgent in blame game, totally political, highly hierarchy-conscious, and carriers of jumbo-sized egos.
  • Many people are deadwood and performing roles that could have been performed by people many years junior, they are generally there because they are in dead-end roles with no growth potential. Hence they need to protect their turfs vehemently at other's costs.
  • Many people are silent schemers who would keep a wry smile on their face and try to show how genuine they are but act/behave in a contradictory manner.
  • Many people are pushing their stuff to others or delaying it indefinitely and yet are still not held accountable for such actions.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Characteristics of Coterie-Managed Companies

Working in a coterie-managed company is an extremely challenging proposition. In such companies the co-founders and their loyal lieutenants are the "Insiders", everyone else is an "Outsider".

Such organizations are characterized by following:
  • The co-founders and their loyal lieutenants are short on ethics. When a loyal lieutenant leaves the company and rejoins immediately (such people can't thrive in other organizations) his employment continuity is shown with no break.
  • The co-founders and their loyal lieutenants maintain tight control by demeaning professionals hired from outside. Artificial reporting roles and lines are created to make sure professionals hired from outside remain puppets in the hands of loyal lieutenants.
  • The co-founders and their loyal lieutenants demonstrate time and again to professionals hired from outside their true place in the system (which is basically no better than that of a second grade citizen).
  • The co-founders and their loyal lieutenants go for lunch together. By virtue of being the elite of the company, lunch is served in a special way.
  • The co-founders and their loyal lieutenants may seem to disagree on certain matter over email but that is more of a facade to mislead professionals hired from outside.
  • The loyal lieutenants would gang up on the professionals hired from outside and many activities which should have been managed by them are conveniently downloaded to professionals hired from outside in the name of organizational interest.
  • The loyal lieutenants would also gang up on professionals hired from outside by maintaining tight control over the information that gets shared with professionals hired from outside (which is basically bare minimum and sketchy at the best). 
  • The co-founders would allow only their loyal lieutenants to have direct reporting into them. For areas where loyal lieutenants have zero competency requiring professionals to be hired from outside, such professionals will be made to report to one of the loyal lieutenants (who will have zero idea about what it takes to get work done in that area) . The idea is to show professionals hired from outside their "true place", second guess all their decisions, control resources, withhold information and essentially continue to maintain their "Outsider" status.
  • The loyal lieutenants would harass professionals hired from outside by maintaining tight control over resources. Requests by professionals hired from outside  for addition to their team will be brushed aside and ignored and instead will be asked to managed with scarce resources whereas the areas looked into directly by the  loyal lieutenants would be overstaffed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Toxic Leaders and Incompetent Managers

One of the key reasons for an organization to struggle to grow is the presence of toxic leaders and incompetent managers in such organizations.

Toxic leaders carry a chip on their shoulders. They believe and behave as if they are the ones on whose shoulders the organization is being run. They come across as know-it-all, arrogant and rude in their interactions with others. One can spot them in meetings easily - they would be using the cuss words, disparaging others, putting others down, showing how smart they are, etc. They would also be showing their arrogance and over-smartness while responding over emails.

The problem of toxic leaders gets compounded when the senior management chooses to ignore such behaviours. Often times such people are blue-eyed-boys of the senior management and have the blessing hand on their heads. Such people will generally run into issues in case the senior management changes.

Incompetent managers reach their positions by virtue of their loyalty to the top brass and believe in being good old soldiers who would not loose a moment to say "Yes Sir". They would over commit and under deliver. In fact, they would push their activities to others like asking the people from other departments to perform their departmental activities.

Such managers cause frustration in those who are forced to report into them. This problem gets compounded when such a manager doesn't understand the ABC of what someone reporting into them is doing, They would second guess or stay silent only to give a surprise during the performance reviews. They typically demotivate those below and are not be fair in their dealing with others.

The top brass in such companies is responsible for allowing such situations to develop. Such companies will fail to attract professionals and even if trick someone into joining them would not be able to retain them.

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