How to deal with banks ?

In an Indian city, most of the ‘immigrants’ need to deal some way or other with an Instritution called Bank. This institution can be public and private in structure. This does not matter for this insider note.  Most of the immigrants (in their 20-40) are connected with banks in the following way:

a. Home Loan, b. Car Loan, c. Home Renovation Loan, d. Consumer Upgrade Loan, e. Personal Loan [ Marriage, Credit Card o/s payment, Loan for unanticipated debt, curative loan for previous toxic loan), f. Buy-Now-Pay-Later (with compound interest) loan, g. Go holiday and pay later loan, h. Personal Loan,i. Loan against metal (gold), j. Education loan (commit now, educate later, pay now),k. Loan against securities,l: Business Loan,m: ‘I don’t know loan’ (signing on the dotted line)

Salary Account / Savings Account/Business Account / DP

———————————————————————————–

Axiom I  : Banks are very good slaves.

Axiom II : Banks are terrible masters.

Lemma (i) : When you keep your money in a bank, bank is your slave. You control this slave using ATM card, cheque-book, digital banking and also by the threat of hiring another slave (competitor bank next few blocks away)

Lemma (ii) : When you borrow from a bank, bank becomes the master and you become a slave. You are controlled by EMI, MAD (Minmimum Amount Due), penalties, compound interest, credit score or worthiness. There are other more instruments bank can command to control you. The most interesting : sending a bunch of ennuchs to your home where they impersonate as persuasive collection agents.

Corollary

1. Borrow as less as possible. Minimize borrowing

2. Live below your means.

3. Build your happiness on things / experiences which need less and less borrowing

4. Borrow only for the 4 things : education which will teach you a new skill, home, business where you see a clear way of earning more than investing after a finite interval of time.

Wordsmith’s rambling guide in living in Indian cities (2014 +)

[This post is addressed to 20+ Indians as well as those non-Indians who will choose to live in an Indian city] 

I have lived, on and off ( 8 months on an average per year) for last twelve years in Calcutta and that makes 96 months – 24 months away from the magic figure of 120 months which in modern living qualifies one to own a home in a city – 120 months EMI contract for home loan. This gives me some authority to write this guide for a ‘special’ and ‘specialized’ kind of living.

Calcutta has been a city of settlers since early 1700s. The tradition continues. The tips, let me again remind you is for a special kind of temperament.

Observation, Knowledge, Application (OKA) : The best drainage system and overall city planning India had was in Horroppa and Mohenjadaro. This remains valid still today. Urban development in Indian cities is not necessarily linked to better, smoother and aesthetically beautiful living. There appears to be a fundamental conflict of Eastern mind ( honourable exception : Japan and Singapore) with technological application and urban-infrastructure. Be critical about the convenience and smoothness of life as told.

OKA-2: India’s core genius lies in synthesis and not analysis as far as food is concerned. Hence, food in most of the hi-end are in-authentic in a sense of more synthetic. In general, this inauthenticity is directly proportional to the higher end. In Indian cities, do research and you shall get best of everything in obscure places rather than the ‘happening’ places. That explains the mirabilis Indica – there is almost no institution in India where you can have food which is eaten in the household. Hence the only option is to befriend an Indian and get a dinner invitation. 

OKA-3 : John Stuart Mill argued and rightly that he need not go to parties and places having invisible social elevators because as a scholar he is already at the topmost station of life. Every party, clubbing are an implant. I always wonder, everytime I go to Esplanade that why we do not have a Piazza which was a need for a tropical city. Only explanation appears to me that British thought that they would stay here for some geological aeons and with inevitable climate change, Calcutta will become more like London and will be inconvenient if we have an open Piazza. Avoid all parties and clubbing because it is too artificial and from OKA-1, it will drain your energy.

OKA-4 : A Bengali Babu used to admonish his English and European friends of the danger of working hard in a tropical climate. He was right. Many young Ox-Cam man, the flower of British youth were consumed by the tropical climate and also by the overwork in establishing the Nuevo Pax Romana in the Eastern Termimus of Europe : Calcutta. Choose a vocation / profession that does not demand hard work. Unless you have genetic immunity, you shall die young or in middle-age if you do not heed to this notice. 

OKA-5 : One of the greatest sons of Bengal – Hutum – Babu Kaliprasanna Singha used to write kind of small snippets in his Naksha. None of the intellectuals of Bengal since then could penetrate into a behaviour pattern he observed. He codified it in an elegant formula and every day, I find the formula confirmed by observation., He mentioned a word – shakh - which is combination of fancy, hobby, fetish, habit and then comes the generalization, no less powerful than Saha ionisation formula.

Calcutta citizens are ruled by their shakh. To satisfy the shakh, one does by wasting millions and one does using pennies but shakh is to be satisfied at any cost.

The corrollary is clear : Do not be ruled by shakh. Be away from those who are governed by shakh. 

OKA-6 : In Calcutta, you will be considered a great man if you are simply not rude and speak respectfully and with genuine feeling to people like waiters, parking slot officials, tellers, peons, ATM security guards, auto-wallahs, rickshaw pullers, taxi-drivers, hotel securities, pan-sellers and such officials, professionals and freelancers. The reward is tremendous so much so that your millionaire friends will envy you. In these decades, I have a rich collection of these people and they are like a committee. Here are some services I get which I am sure you never got.

  • Advance SMS from the chef / waiter if there is a good and fresh fish preparation.
  • A mission critical and timed intimation of availability of parking slots and best parking slots
  • intimation that ATM is not working
  • Insider information – priceless information as which officer is to be approached for loan.
  • getting best vegetables (and also not the best ones)
  • Public bus waiting at your doorstep with a sms
  • Taxi Drivers giving you clue about best eatingh places for breakfast, dinner and lunch – locality wise and reference to the owner directly
  • In Government offices, your work will be done a jiffy. This includes passport renewal, birth and death certificate, trade license, tax return – almost everything of federal and state.

Be respectful and really interested in these people. They can do things for you which none can do for you. Even if you are nephew of so and so.

OKA-7 : This is very very important and is at the heart of all economic thinking since Ancient Greece to Professor Amartya Sen. For spending as mentioned in OKA-6, behave as if you are a king (retail spend). For liabilities to institutions (Bank EMI, malls, consumables, other city tricks like Holiday etc, car loan), behave as if you are beggar and avoid them as much as you can. The result : you shall have more to behave like a king to people who will make sure you get facilities which a king will not get. Really !

OKA-8 : Every Calcutta citizen will be unanimous in advocating development. However, very few has any idea what it is and how it will take shape and how it may affect him. I am writing this as I saw a builder’s advert in a road where he compared his tallish tower as of living in Manhattan. So be it. However, if you are 20+, you need this Machiavellian advice, here and now

One of my classmates was born in North London in the seventies and the family had a home, a place with front-yard and back-yard. With development and what not, the prices escalated and now he told me while he is not able to afford the same home for his children : My city has become the playground of trans-national plutocrats. 

Development will ask its price. You may be geograophical beneficiary of the worshipped development but at a certain point, your very wish will throw you into the periphery. On this process, you have no control. Hence think !

OKA-9 : If you are really interested to enjoy in an Indian city, do the following in order

  • Try to connect to freelancers and time rich and cash poor species. They will give you information which will enrich you if you have the good sense
  • Avoid the so-called successful ones – they are overworked, possessed, serving many masters, no time and most important – they may die young.
  • Visit the parks where you will find old men who will make you a philosopher. You shall learn direct training and verbatim commentary on profound issues like a) Cross Cultural Marriages b) Frustration c) Growth and its victims. You will also learn the art of listening. I have now such 7-8 ‘mentors’ who made me realize that my work towards Wordsmith Ashram is a proper move.
  • If you are looking for a girlfriend with wife-worthiness, small establishments is the niche.
  • If you are looking for a boyfriend with husband-worthiness, small establishments is the niche.
  • The greatest problem of Indian older generation is loneliness. In their youth, the issue was money and consumables. Columbus, amend in the immigration law of 1965 in the US, fanatic focus on score, study and rank in entrance tests, genetic plus all combine made dollars in and malls sprouting but the senders of the dollars are all away. If you just have the patience of listening, you have all. I lived in a Salt Lake house like a Rajah just becasue the landlord – a Bengali gentleman of old school liked myself listenting to him attentively. He offered me a rental which was 50% than market price !
  • Read the history of the land written by those who were not tenured professors, hacks, academic turned politicians, party-men, media-men ( In India, men and women who are 30 – 40 and are in India were were all at the bottom 20% of the talent scale. They went in this direction because in their 20+, they were not qualified to go anywhere. So, I always read Indian media men / women with this immutable statistic and fact)

OKA-10 : The final one. If you are really interested to live in the city for some time like a Rajah (not like most of its inhabitants), go further from the centre and get hold of a living space at the least price and least running cost. Do not lose heart. The city will spread and you will be city-dweller. This place will have all those people whom I advised you to be-friend. They will be your friends. As the city expands, their land title will rise and many will be offered very high prices by promoters. They will need a friend whom they can trust.

You are that friend

 

Taxation, Big Data and opportunities (for freelancers in India )

As long as you are alive, you need to pay tax. As a matter of fact, in civilized mankind, you need to pay tax for cremation also – direct or in-direct. So, in life and in death, you cannot avoid taxation. Tax and Death are verily the only sureties in life.

For last decade and a half, in India, tax net is increasing. It will continue to increase. PAN is familiar as PCO (Public Call Office) was in our youth. The tax net is not only increasing, the net is worked up with other ‘networks’ and what is happening is a network of networks. There are hoardings in the city by Tax Department which starts ‘ We are vigilant’ and then there are figures which seem more like a Big Data summary. e,g 40,67547 people deposited more than 10 Lac in cash in their savings account this year.

We may ask with unwilling suspension of disbelief :

a. How these figures are arrived at ?

b. What are the underlying principles guiding the process (the above how)

c. What will be the evolution of this process ?

I shall speculate on the first two questions. The 3rd question leads to opportunity for freelancers.

Big Data 

Yes, the process must have something to do with Big Data. It is unlikley that the process is a manual one. Now if not manual, there will be a process and that process will be algorithm driven and there will be flags associated. There will be false flags also. Like any logical system devised by humans for humans will fall short as soon as nuance and complexity come in ( Google Translate, Automated Voice Agent etc). With ever more ‘transactions’ being radiating from a single data set (PAN —> investment, spending, expense, hi-value movable and immovable asset, travel etc), the system will be continuously evolving. This is not new. Global payment and ecommerce platforms analyse massive amount of subscriber data and they have anti-fraud, risky, suspicious flags and sometimes, admitted by the institutions that there happens false alarms.

Evolution and Opportunities

This process will evolve and one thing is sure : it will have to handle more and more data (increased tax net). Hence, just like SEO as a profession has emerged because Google works on an algorithm which is continiously evolving and is being anticipated, similarly, a new breed of tax professionals will emerge who will study the Big Data of tax and will anticipate what does (or does not ) trigger flags and how to pass through safely.

Opportunities :

  • Freelancers of India can see tax advisory, TEO (Tax Engine Opimization), Tax Guidance as a neat, interesting, rewarding and scalabale profession with a growing customer base.
  • With more and more digitization in tax assessement, collection and reporting, , customer location and TEO location will not matter much. This is very significant, especially for small towns and cities.
  • Any freelancer or small business owner with interest in the domain enjoys a very nice competitive advantage because he /she understands the needs, problems and issues of his / her customers (freelancers, sole traders, start-ups, small business)

Today, I was sitting in Calcutta’s Princep Ghat in the afternoon overlooking the body of water Sir Princep saw some 120 years back and was discussing with a friend. The friend, a very senior veteran of India’s IT campaign in four corners of the world was toying with the idea learning and becomiing a licensed professional of alternative medicine. The thought struck me that I can also think of becoming a TEO !

Yes, it makes sense….

Tax and Death are only surties of life and professionals who deal in these two themes in any way will never run out of business.

 

[Fiction] Calcutta Millionaire’s Dinner

My friend Chintamani was born and grew in a 10X8 room in one of those dated and fragile houses near College Street. In this room, he studied, slept, read and introduced me to a Bengali magazine called Dafa 302 and also to Kalika – the televaja institution in Surya Sen Street which I consider as the only contemporary institution of Calcutta (I am not forgetting 200+ year Institutions few hundred feet West of Kalika) which can be said to be first-class, global-leader, authentic, confident, genuine, innovative and glorious.

Chinta’s mother – a portly Mukherjee used to feed me dishes of such excellence that I have developed a weakness for Mukherjees. Should I been a top boss of a Consulting Firm or Corporation, you must have found some Mukherjee lurking somewhere with whom I must have been indicted for doing something called ‘Insider Trading’. Chinta grew up there and with a high genetic plus, rose and rose and finally became a mover and shaker ( what to move and what to shake ?)  in a large multinational corporation in Calcutta.

He dutifully did the romance in College Square and in those days ( mid 1990s), romance did not cost much and men and women could eat jhalmuri or some kabiraji and it was a very nice, low-maintenance affair.

In 2007, Chinta sold off the Dafa 302 memorabilia filled house and shifted to a tallish Complex in Calcutta East. He also had a longish car and and his childhood love – now a well-groomed corporate lady managed various complex issues for ‘global customers’.  I met him after some 12 years, while taking editorial walks one evening in East Calcutta city park while trying to cook some story.

I spotted him and went ahead and asked and 12 years fell off just like the barber’s thread wipes the hardened facewash. After customary information exchange, I came to know that he is a millionaire now and with both of them working, total family earning is little more than an average American’s earning.

I congratulated him for being a true millionaire and also being very successful executive. He could detect the sincerity and accepted. His mobile rang and he mumbled, ok, yes…ok….

“Wife.. stuck for few more hours in the office for a presentation to be pitched tomorrow’, I never played basketball and ‘pitching’ is something I could never feel at home with.

I remembered the old dishes and my tongue after many bitter taste of life and liquids in general still felt young. He sighed and reported of passing of both his parents quite after they all shifted into the new habitat.

‘My father died may be because I forecefully shifted him from our old home, mother followed him. She became uninterested in life after father;s passing.’

I fell silent.

The summer heat was bearable now, a half-shy moon was shining and Chinta called his driver, handed him some money. The driver went and the car sped off.

I asked : what is that ?

Chinta told with a morose face : ‘ I have asked him to bring two top ramens for dinner.

I visualized the fabulous lunches and dinners the man has been accustomed two decades back.

He opened his office bag, took a small bottle and drank directly from it. The sweet sickly smell notified that water of forgetfulness is nearby,

He lit a Dunhill and offered me one. The smoke apostrophied our silence. Then suddenly be burst out laughing.

” Tell me, how much was our pocket money those days ?’

I remained silent for the question had the answer.

‘Look, in those days, I used to eat like a king, earning nothing. Now, you say I am a millionaire and perhaps I am. But see my dinner.’

‘Buy why?’

He smiled, lowered his voice, coughed – not for Dunhill for sure and said :’Because my cook has taken leave for 4 days and today is the second day and this was yet to be tasted.’

 

 

 

Micro Review of a research paper : Skill Portfolio management and future-proofing of competitive advantage

Wordsmith friend, confidante and colleauge for three decades Pradipta Chakraborty, a veteran in Global IT consulting practice with TCS has published a research paper in Cutter IT Journal entitled Skill Portfolio Management:: Future-Proofing Your Competitive Advantage and is available here http://www.cutter.com/itjournal/fulltext/2014/03/itj1403e.html

The paper’s titlle has all winged-words and each ‘keyword’ opens vistas which are fast changing. Skill, Skill-Mix or portolio (first came into wide circulation in 1970s in management pratice), Future-proofing, competitive advantage (first coined by Adam Smith some 200+ years ago). The paper first identifies the looming and invisible shadows of demographics, rise of emegering and emergent economies, technological changes and skills needed thereof. In individual level, for us freelancers and seasonal workers, the following paragrpah is very suggestive and somewhat makes the invisible shadows visible

Future of work. Work will continue to be one of the most consequential aspects of our life. However, influenced by the technology enablers and economic forces, it is likely to be perceived by individuals and organizations as something beyond conventional employment. For individuals, multiple careers and micro-work, rather than lifelong employment, will be the new normal. Organizations will tailor employment patterns to synchronize with business needs. More contract workers and freelancers are likely to be seasonally engaged. The way we work and the driving motivations that impact our working consciousness will be transformed. Whereas the industrial revolution fostered consumerism and desire to acquire wealth and property, the new generation of technology will shift the priority toward the quality of experience over the quantity of consumption  (italics mine) Collaborative participation of experts will be inevitable. Specialization will be expected in combination with broad generalist skills (i.e., the T-shaped worker). Work will be more modularly defined, with flexibility built around time, location, and remuneration patterns.

 

If we agree to this picture of future of work, then successful organizations of the future’s key ability will remain to switch-channel-deploy-withdraw the skills just like a top batsmen does his business (of hitting a ball) and timing is critical of applying skill. This means that this management cannot be delegated to our standard HR practices which in most large organizations cannot manage even large number of people properly, what to speak of managing port-folio of skills almost in real time. 

The conclusion follows quickly and what the paper concludes as well. This management has to be a hi-level task and officer of CIO or CEO level needs to be supervising this. In micro-level, this is happening where deployment is almost happening at real time. Have you observed how Amazon tells you, in real time who are reading the book you are viewing now. 

We freelancers find good and bad news both from this global practice paper from a professional who has written in a simple language ( very less consultant speak) and in a clear manner. The paper shifted, softly from an airbrush picture ( looming shadows of gigantic proportion on the globe) to close range picture (how to create a map of work-area, skill-area and roles within an organization). I learn the following 

1. If you anticpate and develop skills needed by those organizations, these organizations will value you more than their employees.

2. If you still nostalgic about the full-term anf life-long or at least two decades of loyalty in an organization, you better start a retro/vintage website. Nostalgia sells well, if packaged properly.

Thanks for Pradipta for sharing this with me and now by implications with Wordsmith’s patient readers.

April Fool and Entrepreneur

My friend Sushovan is an enterprise builder and he has achieved one of the rarest things in India : to build, run and continue to grow a SME level business enterprise in Calcutta. Leaving a secure, cushy and generally stale corporate job while being a Bengali gentleman and a man of Calcutta (which discovered the product, first time in India called : Government Job somewhere in 1800s), he has been the true revolutionary. He confirms his calibre in his post Fool’s Day – entrepreneur’s day. It is worth reading for anyone in Bengal or interested to know Bengal. The post proposes that April Fool’s day should be celebrated as the entrepreneur’s day. He argues with example and at the end, you really agree that he is right. He also demolishes a myth, a dangerous myth that has strarted circulating where a young man incapable and unemployable as a an unskilled labourer considers himsellf cut out to be an enterprise builder and lo, this becomes a lifestyle statement.  

I am putting some notes below his structured summaries :

Family/Relatives:

This guy is a fool. The job was good with safely and security in life. Unnecessary he puts himself and family into trouble (if left job and started a venture to realize the idea).

This guy is useless. He could have opted for a job was good with safely and security in life. Unnecessary he puts his career into stake.  (If started a venture after completion of study).

 

It is quite natural. Once upon a time, a pregnant lioness was escaping a hunter and during the escape, she gave birth a cub. The cub was raised by sheep and after years, the cub ate grass and bleated like a sheep. One day, a lion preyed on the flock and found the cub. He approached and the sheep was running away in fear. The lion took him by force and showed in a pond that he is not a sheep but a lion himself. It was a freak that he was brought among sheep. You may be a lion among sheep. De-condition. 

Friends:

He has grown big now. But he neither spends money in treating us not help us to grow in his company. He forgot our past friendship. We are only Fools since still thinking on him.

 

Everyone in this world wants to associate with something he ‘thinks’ or ‘speculates’ to be of benefit to him. Even when there is no benefit perceived by him, still he follows hearsay and other’s opinion. This comes from not understanding the karmic law of desire and deserving. Tell you friends : First deserve, then desire and do not speculate. They will not listen to, though.

 

Ex-Office Friends:

Clever guy. Saved lot of money during job. Now enjoying life with independence as he is not answerable to anyone. But he wants to make us Fool keeping himself low in profile.

In Bengal, there are too many clever people and too less really intelligent people. Men of purified intelligence are almost non-existent. This proliferation of too many ‘clever’ ( chalak in Bengali) men made one of the greatest Bengali’s of all time to admonish the fellow-men : No great work is achieved by chalaki. He used this exact word. The complaint of low profile is actually a pschological balm for them : He keeps a low profile, he is not succesfull or could not do much. Didn’t I tell you long back ? Do you smell the smell of deep-fried chalaki ?

Business man:

Nonsense person. Keeps on venturing into ideas. No sense of business, ROI and profit. He cannot be successful in life.

Rabindranath Tagore once told in one of his essays : ‘The person who has saturated himself by reading the lifestory of tycoons like Rockefeller can naturally argue that what is the need of having biography of a person like Jesus Chirst whose net worth was negligible. However, if we just shift the metric of accounting, the whole picture changes.’  A business man is like what an art-dealer to a painter. Van Gogh died penniless and hungry, his art-dealer now is a millionaire. 

Fellow Business Partner:

Always talks big beyond reality. No idea how to make it successful. No control on situations. Always freaks out. Wasting my time spending time with this Fool.

See first entry entitled : Sheep might have raised a lion

Employees/Subordinates:

Boss always exploits us. Business is in full swing. But he always keeps on crying and deprive us. We are not Fools even though he tries hard to prove us so.

There are two types of men. One who obeys to learn how to command. One obeys ruefully because he thinks that to be in command does not need qualification but freak or chance or some hidden advantage. Add this with a communistic past, this sentiment is as clear as Euclid’s Fifth postulate. 

Neighbors:

He is big shot now. Earns lot of money in business. But do not like to spend social causes in the locality. He forgot his past and root. No point fooling us.

When a society does find most of the doors of wealth creation either monopolized or non-existent, it feeds on anything it finds has anything to do with wealth. The population loses sense of proportion and magnifies absurdly. 

Customers:

Now he is a big business man and sucks us by premium. He keeps on talking of competitive prices, but never extended any benefit in terms of discounts or free services. We are not fools. Next time we need to see alternatives beyond him

As a revolutionary, you need to rebel against revolution. From serving other person’s customers (an employee), you have rebelled and have your own customers. If you find your customers are not worthy of you, they need to be amupated. Fire them ! 

As a true revolutionary, do the unthinkable – fire your own clients, suppliers, employees, associates if your business so demands. No one but you are the true custodian of the business  !

Tax – National, Global, Cosmic

It is the end of March and very taxpayer is busy and so are the tax-collectors. As our work’s span is increasing so there are arising situations and issues which need global tax framework. Very sharp minds are at work to resolve and make the framework. 

Tax and Death are the only sureties of life. Ordinary taxation of a country itself is too complex. Imagine how complex the global taxation framework will be. 

Government of any type: monarchy, democracy, plutocracy any type demands and collects tax. The right to tax citizens is one of the fundamental, rather existential right of a state. 

I rose very early today and took a walk in Calcutta’s Eastern parks and the sun was rising. A small red ball initially and then it became a while orb. I sat down in a bench and remembered my adolescent years when I wished to be a physicist. I could not become (like youj seldom get your first love) one but the effort was sincere. I studied from the Iwonian awakening to the Quantum physics and did quite hard work by the time I was eighteen. I was thinking that even a very slight change in the radiation of the stupendous thermonuclear reactor will burn everything till Mars into cinders. Who is maintaining this cosmic power station ? Who is reining (law and order) of this institution called the sun ?

Do we need to pay any tax for the services the sun has been offering without fail ? Let us say this solar tax. Who collects solar tax ?

What is the currency the tax needs to be paid ?

I took an auto and went to Ahiritola Ghat, further South to the Ganges. In the ghat, I saw people taking bath and offering their prayers. The prayer in Sanskrit is like this :

Ehi surya sahasrangshu bhaswate vishu-tejase

jagat sabitre suchaye karmadayine 

eso arghya om namo sree surya namo.

[ Oh the thousand-eyed Sun, illumined by the effulegence of Lord Vishnu

  Purifier of the world, Kindler and Giver of work,

I offer my prayer in all humbleness to you, the sun-God ]

This acknowledgement is the tax. This acknowledgement of the services taken in humbleness is the cosmic tax.

This acknowledgement can be offered to water, air, fire, earth, one’s breath, one’s eatables, in one’s mind or acknowleding this in any work.  The cosmic tax collection is so subtle and so sophisticated that it can collect tax from all these agents. 

If a petty planet like earth can conceive of Global Taxation Framework, the Cosmic Government must have designed the Tax Collection. 

The next important question is : Who heads this Cosmic Government of which we are a subject ?