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 

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.

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"

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!

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!

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!

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. 

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.

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?".

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".

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

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