Swati CA

Swati_CA column in The Hindu Business Line

Monday, December 31, 2007

Culture couture: What’s wrong in partying?

Another year will pass away into oblivion tonight. Three hundred sixty five days of experiences. New moments will precede older ones. Some will give in. Others will fade. People reflect on what they have done while others chalk out New Year’s resolutions. But why is Mr Sharma arguing with her daughter?

“This is the last time, I am saying this. No party on New Year’s Eve,” screamed the 48-year-old housewife. Pointing out that partying was never our culture and an unnecessary evil that was trying to carve out its own niche in our Indian system, the mother thought finally she had won the battle of words. Unlike men, women fight it out on the basis of their arsenal of words. Mostly.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Serving food justice to all

We all have at sometime or the other looked at the streets that at daytime look the busiest. Traffic, shops, and scores of people in hurry make for a great combination! At night though, it is a different picture altogether. Recently, I was dropped home after attending a rather dull social gathering at around 12 at night. The tyres went bust on the highway, compounding our problems. My house is one of those which is not on the main road and neither does it have a pathway that can accommodate a car. This means that I actually have to walk around 20 feet, after getting down from the car. At night, it does give a shiver!

And that night as I was getting back, I witnessed something terrible. An old lady scrounging from a packet that smelled ghastly from 50 steps away. A child who stood beside her (maybe a relative) told her to put her hand deeper into the packet. The ordeal of braving the obnoxious smell, standing barefoot on wet ground and searching in the darkest of alleys were all just for a fistful of rice.

That’s depressing. It never bothered me till then that there are around 90 crore people in the world who are chronically hungry. To most of us these people are invisible till we encounter them. The next day, I did a few things. First I tried to find out who the lady and the child were. Nobody seemed to have a clue. Then I surfed the Internet to find and I came across an interesting Web page: http://sabkokhana.googlepages.com/home. Just to see that there was somebody who had felt the need to do something was sobering.


Debt-trap and beyond...

It’s the same moth and candle story. For those of you who are unaware of what we are speaking of, moths have an unexplained attraction for light. Due to their nocturnal nature, most often the only light source that moths come across are candles. They die shortly afterwards; for, they are too late to rescue themselves from the searing heat. This somewhat explains Ramu’s story. He is a 38-year-old division head at my company. After passing out with a diploma in engineering, Ramu got an MBA and soon was in august company. It’s hard to be judgmental on people you know, at least professionally, is it not?

Maybe the lifestyle, societal demands or his own weakness got the better of him. “I don’t know Swati, how I landed myself in this mess…there are sixteen credit cards that have reached their credit limit, one car loan, one house loan, a stash of money that I need to payback to my relatives,” gasped Ramu as he broke down.

Like most people, I was about to leave when my boss asked me to wait for an email that he expected to contain some critical information. At around eight, I gave up my wait and was heading for the exit, when I saw Ramu sitting in the corner, with sore eyes.


Thin margins on large volumes could be a recipe for disaster

Ever wondered how the retail stores offer super discounts? If you are like everybody else, you buy the tangiest pickle jar (yes, the large one) and simply love your store that offers you great deals everyday. But if you were someone like me, then you would stop for a moment to figure out how you can have two jars at the price of just one! They must be crazy or else. Brace yourself for the two most important words in business: margin and volume.

Most businesses buy/procure raw materials at cheap prices and then offer it to you after adding a margin (which includes cost of storing the product, packaging, manpower, profits, etc.) The best, and arguably the biggest, businesses boast both margins and volumes. But increasingly, some businesses are growing large by just doing one side of the business well. And that’s where the danger lies for the small guy.


Mutuo caveo

Mutuo caveo: Borrower beware

Hundreds of years ago moneylenders used to send “lathials” to collect their dues from poor farmers. The borrower put up with a lot of insult starting from expletives, physical torture and finally ended with the farmer’s cattle or crop finding their way out of his home.

Centuries down the line, the borrower’s situation hasn’t changed much!

“Own that new vehicle you have constantly desired, with a small help from us.”

“Our interest rates would surprise you.”

“Worried about paperwork? Calm down.”

Funny how the catchy advertisements by banks don’t mention a word about the rogues that arrive at your doorstep when you fail to pay up an EMI!

Welcome to the world of loans where borrowing can be a handicap, literally, if you were go by the events that have unfolded recently.

What has attracted more attention is not the quantum of compensation ordered recently by The Delhi State Consumer Commission, but the sheer brutality of the violence on an innocent person who was in no way connected to the loan doled out by the errant bank.