May 20, 2016

Starting Your Own Business / Professional Practice - Part 1

A person starting his own business is often cautioned against making such folly. If you fail, there are thousand monkeys to come around and scream "I Told You So!" on your face. If you succeed, there are thousand pigs calling you greedy and money minded. Your failure is attributed to your lack of wisdom and foresight, and your arrogance of not having listened to the sagacious lazy bum. Your success is, of course attributed to unethical means, greasing the palms of the high and mighty, and sale of your soul to the devil. 

I am not ignoring the fact that there are people who are genuinely interested in your life, and would be by your side, rain or shine. They share their views matter-of-factly and heartily wish you on your success, and steadfastly support you during periods of distress. All without making any hurtful wise ass comment, unlike the loathsome bums, who will be waiting to scavenge on your failures.

The group of bums who, like the agony aunt, are always ready with an answer to all your existing problems and future problems, even if you don't have one. Every time you ignore them you run the risk of being spoken badly about on your back, and more so if either fail in your endeavour or succeed beyond their imagination. This is when the uncharitable remarks will start. You'd be accused of falsifying your tax returns, bribing the people around, doing dirty works and literally pimp your way up. The assertions are not only cheap, they border on slanderous accusations only to discredit your success, with the sole intention of putting you down. 

One should recognizes the fact that the such people haven't got an iota of idea as to the basis and reasoning behind your success and wealth. To understand this, one has to understand not just business, finance and valuation, but the rationale behind why do people work, and what motivates people to set up business, and what are the considerations in a business transaction, and how the entire business idea transforms into a business model and then the business itself. One should also understand what it means to create a value and creating livelihood to thousands of people. One shouldn’t forget that almost all the business idea starts from a desire to excel in a field and make good the abilities that we humans are endowed with.

Why do people work?
If someone thinks that it is only for money, they should probably be reminded of their ignorance. Money is a motivation, but not the only or sole motivation. Admittedly, with money we can be financially independent and have a control over our life. With money you have more resources at your disposal to direct it the way the life should progress. But the substantial reasons aren’t money or money related. Even if it is, there is nothing to be ashamed about, the way the now irrelevant Communists would make you believe.

People like to be productive. Men and women, endowed with all the abilities the nature can offer, would like to put to use that productive ability to create new things, improve existing things, eliminate inefficiencies, make a difference to people around them, make them happy, and touch their life in the most pleasing way as is possible.

People do feel obliged to supply their skills and abilities to those who need it. In the trade off, if you can make money, then so be it. If more people need it, and you provide your services to whoever is offering the best value for your services. It costs money even to just exist.

People get job satisfaction when their work pays them enough to fulfil their most important needs. People get satisfaction when the work they do pays them fairly, for the contribution he or she has made. A satisfying job gives a sense of personal achievement by presenting them with new challenges and helping people grow and be creative.

People desire to work because a satisfying work makes them feel good about themselves. People can see themselves gaining experience, expertise and status, and being acknowledged by their colleagues and superiors. A good and satisfying work gives people a social life and a socially and economically protective environment.

To work is both a responsibility and a desire. To work is both a pleasure and divine proposition. Work gives me rewards. Work gives me status. Work gives me satisfaction. Work gives me hope. Work gives me happiness. Work gives me a purpose for a life. The most depraved human being is the man without a purpose. And I never wanted to be one, and never was.

Why should one do business rather than work under the directions of someone else?
Most businesses are borne out of passion and conviction about the ideas of its promoter. Great business ideas are the ones that promoters are absolutely in love with, and that makes them work harder and smarter, and would definitely want to make a success. And in channeling ones efforts towards that goal, one is better prepared if the one who is ideating is fully in charge of its implementation as well. Being in business not just ensures that there is little lag in the implementation of the idea, it also ensures that the end result is the one that was envisioned at the beginning.

Being absolutely in charge of things helps you nurture your ideas from a vision to something truly elevating and inspiring. Being your own boss gives you that luxury of consistent support, which is just what any great idea needs. Heck! Even an ordinary idea to become something truly remarkable needs such support and nurturing, and not the constant acidic idea killers. Working under someone else’s directions, though risk averse, can kill any great idea, more so if that someone else isn’t involved in the germination of the idea and wouldn’t be a certain companion in the entire process. If that boss turns out to one parasite, to reap rewards on your ideas, you can happily say good bye to your own progress.

Being in business also creates better value for your ideas and your support group. With better idea, comes better returns. With better returns, you pamper yourself with little luxuries that you have always aspired for. With higher income at your disposal, you are empowered to do good to the society, helping out the needy and deserving. With the accumulating wealth, you leave behind hope and a responsibility to your progenies to carry on the same productive and helpful path.
[To Be Continued]

April 22, 2016

The Alcohol Prohibition Stupidity of Odd Even Proportions

How about banning sex to stop rapes in our country? That's how profound the talk about alcohol prohibition sounds these days. The trouble with all the talk on "Prohibition" is that these stupid ideas sound the most utopian. Exactly the same way as the way "Odd Even Scheme" sounds and turned out to be in reality. Not everything that sounds "morally right" is in fact morally right. When the talk should be about better monitoring than prohibition, we have the whole gamut of politicians of all colours, shapes and ideologies suddenly converging on one point - Let's Prohibit Alcohol.

What good happens if alcohol is prohibited? Nothing tangible. People will end up warming up to some other addiction. The only case against alcohol, and I admit that it is a very valid case, is that its addiction is destroying families. Now, for every one family that is getting destroyed due to the addiction of one of its family member, mostly the male earning member, there are hundreds which still enjoy alcohol without losing sight of family or social priorities. Why should they be punished?

Alcohol, was and still continues to be a recreational drink. Lot of people enjoy their drink with their friends and relatives. Heck, it is often an excuse for many families to meet each other up. Not that they can't meet without a glass of alcohol, but it pretty much gives them a reason to meet. In these days of hyper busy schedules and extended working hours, a pint of alcohol doesn't do any harm. I am told that many alcoholic beverages do have some medicinal properties. And overuse of anything can harm you big time.

Take the case of Cannabis. It is among the most addictive drugs available across the globe. It is not available for everyone across the counter. People still do get access to it. The point is not about its prohibition. It is about its medicinal properties. It is established as an support remedy / assistive medicine for chemotherapy, for cancer treatment. It also has properties for reducing muscle spasms. It may also have many other properties. But the point, can a blanket ban on such item sound reasonable, considering the fact that cure for cancer is yet to be found? 

The point of the matter is banning alcohol doesn't give you anything except a moral standing in the general polity. And the way in which it is being propounded, it appears that alcohol will continue to be available in Five Star Hotels. This brings us to the next issue. Why should the affluent have access to recreational drinks when the poor cannot get a pint? Or let me phrase is differently. Why should the poor be denied recreational drinks which the rich and mighty have access to? Are we to understand that only the family of the poor gets destroyed due to the drink addiction? Or we to understand that only the poor are naive and stupid to sink themselves into alcohol at the cost of happiness in their family?

In which part of the world, has prohibition been extremely successful? Countries across the globe which have tried prohibition, have only reversed those decisions, after a period of time. Prohibition only gives rise to illicit trade and country made arrack, in the most unhygienic conditions, and causing even more deaths. To address addiction, we need education. And instead of sensitizing people to the ill effects of "overdoing" their drinking habit, talk about prohibition can at best be treated as rubbish.

As in the case of affirmative action for the socially backward communities, instead of addressing the need for basic education, our politicians ruined the country by reserving unduly higher number of seats in the institutes of higher learning, this dimwitted approach for "total prohibition" smacks of insensitivity and impracticality. 

In a country where intolerance was very recently discovered (May 2014, to be precise), and the "freedom of expression" reigns supreme, I wonder why the "freedom of consumption of alcohol", which is such a minor freedom, and one that gratifies self without much trouble to other, should be denied? Btw, we hear that obesity is a bigger menace these days. Overeating of anything causes obesity. How about banning food therefore?

April 1, 2016

Shut Up and Study

This concludes my three part rant on CA Course and the examination system. The previous two parts can be found here and here.

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Some time in late 1999 or early 2000, as I was looking forward to my CA Foundation Examination, I bumped into Raja Ganapathy (if I remember his name correctly), a senior from a different College (St. Joseph's, Trichy), CA Inter Student, one among the three or four students who had cleared the CA Foundation Exams some two years back in our town. 

There was the typical CA wannabe's question to him "Anna, is the exam tough? How to prepare? Should I study more than four hours every day? Where to attend tuition classes? Is it okay if you don't attend the classes? How did you clear the exam?" etc. And I got a response that I still rate as the best input I have ever received on studies. "I didn't go about asking others. It is not such a great puzzle that you can't figure out on your own. It requires just basic intelligence and common sense. I am pretty sure you can figure out all by yourselves."

No empty motivations. No stupid pep talks. No gassing around. Just plain straight talk. And I still pretty much convey the same thing to my students. And that pretty much addresses many student's downfall in the exams.

Among the more specific reasons are detailed below -
One, Atrocious Time Planning - This should easily rank the number one reason for the pathetic results that we are so much used to. Many would be reluctant to accept the fact that they didn't allocate adequate time for studying and revisions. They constantly underestimate the time required for completing a few areas, and overestimating the time available. "Three Months x 30 Days Per Month x 12 Hours is equal to One Thousand Eighty Hours for seven papers, at an average of around 150 Hours per Paper" may sound good if mouthed by Captain in Ramana. If mouthed by a CA Student, we can be pretty sure that the chap is building his castle in gases.

These kind of computations often create an impression of abundance. Fact remains that adequacy of time depends on a host of other factors such as (a) Our own ability to comprehend;(b) Our preparation status on the date of mouthing the above dialogue; (c) Extent of syllabus which we are yet to take up even for the first time; (d) Our ability to make a fair estimate; (e) Our understanding of our own strengths and weakness; (f) Our own character to accept our limitations; (g) Our propensity to break our own time schedule / feeling bored. We can add a host of other reasons as well. But these are the primary ones that affect the time schedule

Two, Reverence for Few Subjects, And Irreverence for Few - Auditing, Information Systems are arguably two of the most neglected subjects in the CA Course. Neglected by the students. I for one, have more often rated a students quality solely based on two papers - Costing and Information / Technology Systems. Two of the most logical and practically relevant paper, driven more by common sense, than anything else. 

However, sadly, many students flunk in Information Technology. Not because they didn't study. But because they don't take it seriously. Infotech / ISCA classes are among the least sought and most bunked classes. That pretty much shows where these subjects stand in the eyes of the students. At IPCC level, analysis of results for five exams on the trot showed us that the average marks in Information Technology was the lowest of all the 7 papers. Barely 36. Less than the pass mark. I just hope students realize the importance of the paper and start giving it a bit more respect.

Three, Paying for Classes, but not attending. Admittedly, the classes can be boring at times. Or most of the times. After you start attending, you end up bunking big time. Till the classes start, almost every student is fervently hoping for no outstation audits, planning for the kind of excuses you can given for attending classes, if some long distance audits are assigned etc. 

On top of these, there is good amount of "research" on extremely resourceful and useful sites meant for CA Students, and Facebook Groups. The research ranges from who is the best faculty, how many hours does he take, is it a he or a she, where is the location, will the class notes be adequate, will I pass by attending his classes. After the choice is made, and the initial excitement of having registered for classes of "THE" faculty, the excitement wanes off and the element of boredom creeps in, and occasional bunking starts.

Nothing wrong with bunking. Being a teacher, for me to say this, would sound odd, but I have my reasons. I firmly believe the kids who have the ability to fill up the gaps (due to bunking or missing classes or whatever), are better endowed and better prepared to meet the travails of exams. But bunking because it is boring is such a sad thing. You don't pay money to watch "Sheila Ki Jawani" for god's sake! Classroom discussions on any technical paper can at best be interesting, and rarely entertaining. Part of the interesting bit is also attributable to the student's own view on the subject.

Four, too many cooks, spoil the broth, is an adage one can easily associate with the life of a CA Student. When for one single issue, someone seeks the hundred opinions and inputs from multiple people, and still remaining confused, and therefore, googling a bit more to get even more confused, on a range of issues from how to study, where to do articleship, where to attend classes, what kind of books to buy, when to buy books, when to attend classes and what not.

Understandably, everyone around us can appear to be wiser than us, at some point of time or the other, and therefore, it may make sense to seek some guidance. However, one should also remember that our ability to wade through such confusions and taking a decision, and sticking by it, and learning from experience is what makes us real professionals. With many people to guide, a student is not guided, but his life made more miserable.

Five, the challenge of reconciliation. Every teacher has his or her own methods or approaches when it comes to taking classes. Some prefer the traditional whiteboard / blackboard model of classes. Some prefer the digital mode (including yours truly) in the form of live content creation using Excel or the Browser. Some prefer the Power Point Model / Flash Content Model. These are just methods of communicating. 

In terms of content, different people have different approaches to a particular problem or a specific type of interpretation. And all of them can be correct or wrong. As a teacher or author, almost every tries to do justice in terms of the content that they give the student. And in many cases, these contents will invariably different from the one you have in the books of ICAI. Such differences need not be explored into, unless you are not convinced with the explanations of the teacher. 

As much as Valmiki's Ramayana is different from Kamba Ramayana, even normal humans can have varied interpretations of the same idea, and all of them can be correct. Spending hours together on checking which of the method is correct or model is appropriate is barely a smart approach for cracking the exam code. As a student of a commerce professional course, it is imperative that a student recognizes the fact that this course or the area of our work is not an exact science.
Six, being dishonest to self - The least acceptable reason would probably be this. Inability or reluctance to accept that we may not be as good as we wish to be, and given the fact that executing is entirely a different game than planning, one should have the basic sense to accept that we are not infallible. We can lose even in the most basic things that we think to be a cake walk. 

A simple case of planning to distribute invitation for some family function to ten of our friends and relatives, and eventually distributing barely four or five should have taught us how bad we are at planning or at executing or in both. Execution has too many variables, including our own ability and planning has too few. 

The point here is that we are not equally endowed in all aspects. We cannot compare ourselves with our friends or peers. We are not made alike. We are not exposed to the same aspects of life in the same manner in the same time. Our experiences are different, so are our abilities. Realizing this earlier, and accepting this, or at best recognizing this will help assess ourselves better.

"If He Can, Why Can't I", is arguably the dumbest approach to feel motivated. This shallow piece of shit, which passes around as a motivating talk, is nothing but a gallon of foul smelling toxic gas. Sometime the answer to that question is this - I am not as good as the other person. Period.

Seven, the Others - Too much gassing around, asking too many suggestions on how to study, worrying too much about "tough" exam questions, which may never happen at all, idolizing faculties too much, "blindly" following whatever the faculty says in the classes, which may not always be correct or true; focussing too much on "rote learning" (already blogged in detail here), are easily among the reasons that contributes to deplorable results.

What about the Magic Remedy? Study for 16 Hours? My note on the miracle cure is blogged here.
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