Friday, November 04, 2016

Why I am Impressed with Macedonian Millennials

Over the last 4 weeks, I have personally been recruiting a team of interns for our office in Skopje, Macedonia, and we are close to having 4 recruits onboard. Equipped with a wonderfully efficient new ERP that facilitated scoring over 2000 social-media contacts generated over 3 months, I managed without the help of an assistant, to schedule 10 interviews and zero down on 4 hires. For me this is a minor success, given how hard it has become to hire motivated and qualified IT talent world over, particularly in markets we operate - India, Macedonia and Germany. 

Along the way, I came to appreciate talking to a crop of Macedonian Millennials, perhaps all the way enjoying the contact with the "kids" (as I like to call them), who clearly lie outside my own professional demography.

I was impressed with the honesty of the young women and men. I cannot remember of an instance when I felt the interviewees exaggerated their credentials and abilities. Or even consciously concealed information. One girl told me that her passion is social work, helping underprivileged children obtain access to computers and connect to the Internet; and that she was a nature lover. When asked how these noble passions connected to the E-Commerce programmer-job she was interviewing, she did draw a blank for an awkward moment, but seemed to remain in comfort about her answers from a minute ago.

I was impressed with the professionalism. I didn't hear back from Martin a very strong candidate whom I was compelled to make an immediate offer at the end of the interview on a Friday evening to consider over the weekend and write back to me on Monday. A bit concerned at the prospect of losing a future performer, I sent out one of those canned message to the effect of "if you have decided otherwise, please inform us the same, so that the position can be freed up for other candidates by ... (2 days later)". On the date of the deadline, Martin replied saying he just wanted to make sure that I received his reply from Monday that he had written after intensely weighing his options over the weekend. Unfortunately this mail had gone down somehow in all the mailboxes I use; to be found of course in a minute of searching.

I am impressed with the zeal. Richard was the first intern we recruited and has already been at the job for a month. Both I and our General Manager in Skopje were shocked to receive a call one evening from him, that he was quitting! I immediately called him to find out what happened, and what Richard said surprised me as a first in my career as a manager. He said he's quitting because he wasn't convinced that he was adding value to the company he expected of himself, because he wasn't closing the tasks assigned by his manager, solving problems, and the whole thing was making him feel useless. True to his word, he had a tough job coping with the stresses of being a part of a new company. The sense of commitment I saw in this Millennial that evening was a pure delight. He of course would back to rejoin his duties after a day's break for clearing up his mind.

In all the interviews I scheduled, there was not a single no-show, a different experience than we have in another part of the world.

Needless to say, I am proud of these young people, and rest assured that our future is in good hands.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

New Generation Indian Movies

Telugu

Aithe

Hindi

Killing Veerappan
Raman Raghav
Airlift
A Wednesday

Director's to Watch

Anurag Kashyap
Sujoy Ghosh
Neeraj Pandey
Sriram Raghavan

Other Sources

TVF Movies on YouTube

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Space-Spending, a Minor Frontier

India cherishes it's space-exploration industry, mainly through it's public institutions. Below is it's 2015 spending compared to other major world-economies, prior PPP-adjustment.


Sources:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Profit Tax Rates

My friends in business would find this table of profit-taxation interesting.

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/

UAE was a surprise.
Germany at ~30% and India at ~35% are bangers on corporate profits.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Putting Horse Before the Carriage: Profit First, Cashflow Next

As an SME owner, I've had the enriching experience of steering my companies through many difficult times. Few are so hard to overcome as the classical cashflow bottlenecks. You know you will have it available in 2 weeks, when that one client will pay, but there is payroll to process tomorrow.
Managing those bottlenecks, as an entrepreneur, your main goal of running an enterprise, to make a profit, remains a secondary aftermath, never actually knowing how the year would close.
Often, the balance-sheet refers to a profit, but there isn't an actual cash-balance to pay it out to the entrepreneur.

I have seen this happen in my SMEs over a decade of operations, before a simple idea occurred, of "putting the horse in front of the cart", in other words, putting profit before cashflow. We have since started to book a certain percentage of our revenue into a dedicated bank account (which we call our "diet account"), as soon as customer payments flow in, and forget about it. Which percentage of put-away you transfer to the diet-account depends on your expectation of profit as an entrepreneur, sector-specific benchmarks, your intuition of operating your business etc. Pick a reasonable percentage.

An important hack is to make sure that the diet-account does not have access by online banking or mobile-banking, isn't accessible to your accountant, and as much as possible concealed from your chattered accountant doing monthly tax filings. You will be protecting your profit for the daily operative cash requirements better this way!

I have been practicing this simple, almost household-sophistication, method for 4 months in one of my companies as of date of publication, and am already seeing accessible profits accrue.

There are of course 2 sub-challenges yet to overcome.
  1. Make sure that the balance-sheet also shows more or less similar figures.
  2. Sustain the practice over 1-2-3 years, to actually prove the merit of this procedure.
At some point, this profit-centered method has an inevitable impact on the operations of the SME, forcing it's managers to ensure a positive cashflow co-existing with guaranteed profits.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Litmus Test for Starting a New Business

While planning the strategy for a new business, before starting to execute, ask the following questions. They are sort of a Litmus Test for if we should enter the market or not.
  1. Are we disrupting the target market?
  2. Do we have resources to deliver?
  3. Can we sell enough to grow?
  4. Filled out the Business-Model-Canvas?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Daily Machine Learning

This is a post to list a few daily AI applications.

An alarm clock that knows you are awake and won't ring.

Easy one, a web browser which can find "similar pages" to the webpage currently being read.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Yet Another New World Order

Zeitgeist was eye-opening enough, and along with the Venus Project, inspiring. But while both concepts did a great job of painting a picture of a utopian future, neither helped to connect in my mind the present world-order, with that Utopia.

That being such, here're a few things that could improve living conditions, at least in the industrialized world.

Nationalize following industries:

1. Food production, processing and distribution.

2. Research, production and distribution of medicine.

There are a few necessities for life - air, water, food, shelter, medicine, education, security and some would argue information (facilitated by Internet). A society aspiring for a "high standard of life", could aspire to guarantee these basics to itself.

Essentially, these industries should remain outside the domain of profit-making.

While the above sounds utopian at it's own level, it leaves the key question of innovation open. Can the public-sector in these "necessary industries" produce innovation (like NASA and the BBC), comparable and better useful than the private-sector?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

We Forgot the Family

I haven't presented my argument yet.. :)

I find the views above, Bhagat's included, being based on a single snapshot in time and socioeconomic cross-section. The conditions have of course evolved over a larger time-span, differently for many types of women, and must be addressed as such. Say what you say, do what you do, you won't be able to change the present social conditions for the "modern" woman. It's too late - these circumstances were programed over 50-100 years ago for you. Here's what happened:

Long long ago, physical work provided food and shelter. Men have more physical energy hence controlled those emenities. Some 49,900 years passed like that. Same pattern in all cultures: men work/till/hunt, women care for home & family. Time to time, people had amusing debates and  serious fights alike, about which activity was more important. But men dominated for sure (hence such terms like "partiarchical societies" got introduced into common language).

Plus-minus 100 years ago, whatever reason triggered that, women started to ask questions like: Who are these SOB men to dominate us? Can't we do more, outside the home? Equal rights sounds only fair - why can't we have em? Thus began an unprecedented evolutionary event that unleashed the energies and talents of the woman - that's half the human resource, about whichever social cross-section we debate!

It turns out, an unlikely social component took maximum advantage of that event, and actually controls it till date: Industries. Industries realised, we can use all this (wo)manpower (and in recent years brainpower).  Women got themselves educated, became independent, and felt more empowered. Industries benefited due to expansion of the workforce. They encouraged the education system to train more.  This was all btw. thanks to western societies. Left to themselves, oriental societies _may have evolved differently.

I guess this was what got called Emancipation. So far so good - mission accomplished. But there was one problem. Mothers were starting to see their kids less than they would like every waking day. And the other way around is true too - kids spend more time with strangers like teachers, classmates etc than mom.

This puts the whole concept under the microscope again. The modern woman asks, "am I better off at home, or in an office?" Do I have 2 legs in 2 boats? Oh wait, I have to work, coz we need the money, and also, I'd like to preserve my independence (read $€Rs.)  Besides I didn't put myself through 16+ years of education to "stay home".

This is where the "industry controls it" point comes. Here in the western world, and increasingly in India, double-incomes are quasi-mandatory, if you wanna live a "normal" life. By the time you have paid off insurances, the home-loans-till-retirement, kids education, a few niceties to sweeten life, set a tiny little aside for the rainy day, you are waiting for another check from the industrialist.
You all know, that in our parents' generation, all these things were possible in a single income, and they never carried debt.

So Mr. Bhagat may expand his bullet-points into a few books, to cover the under-the-surface complex matter.

I don't think Emancipation or Women's Liberation is a inherently negative. But I ask myself, if it ever took off in the right direction.

In the meantime, believe it or not, the hunting and gathering apes called "modern men" have evolved too. But that's a story for another day!