Friday, November 30, 2007

Ayurveda - A Healing Medical System

Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest medical systems. It originated in India and has evolved over the past thousands of years. Ayurveda is fundamentally different from conventional medicine which is practiced all over the world. Conventional medicinal treatment attempts to address the symptoms while Ayurvedic medicine attempts to address the root causes of the disease. For example for a severe back pain, a conventional medicine doctor will treat you with pain killers, physiotherapy and surgery. However an Ayurvedic doctor will determine your (constitution)"dosha" and advice herbal medicine, dietary changes and yoga. Ayurvedic medicine has never really caught on in developed countries because of the strict dietary changes that come along with the treatment. In the fast pace life in western countries, people are used to quick fixes and do not pay attention to diet regulations. This is changing as Medical Tourism exposes westerners to the benefits of Ayurveda when they travel to India. People suffering from chronic diseases like Diabetes, heart disease and obesity are now willing to make lifestyle changes.

It is difficult to find Ayurvedic doctors in the US as there is a very small market for this profession. However patients who are looking to get Ayurvedic consultation should visit the Ayurveda Portal. The ayurveda portal has several functions like consultation facilities with specialized panel of doctors, education on ayurveda: its history, principles - vata(Air), pita,(Fire) kapha(water/earth) theory, various treatment methods and herbal plants used, search facility on ayurveda hospitals, resorts and a global ayurveda directory.

In the US, Ayurvedic herbs can be bought from Banyan Botanicals which sells Ayurvedic products and herbs online. All their products are "USDA Certified Organic” and can be purchased online. However before purchasing any product a patient must see a Ayurvedic doctor and only on his advice buy the necessary herbs.

As the world becomes a smaller place and the easy and west come together, Ayurveda will grow in the western countries just as a conventional medicine is growing in the developing countries. Choice may not always be the best thing, but for patient suffering from chronic diseases having multiple choices for treatment can potentially enable him to enjoy benefits of both forms of medicine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dance to Indian Tunes Online


It all started with SecondLife! Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely created by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of residents from around the globe. Now we have Dance Mela, a Indian website that allows you to choose an Avatar, take dancing lessons, choose a Hindi tune and dance in a room of your choice! This is how it works -
You open a free account and start getting used to dancing. You learn dancing quickly and then you want to have exclusive clothes, buy gifts for friends etc all of which costs you real cash. All these virtual items are sold to you at a price. And guess what it doesn't cost the company anything to make them!

Here are some of its striking features :
  1. Your character (avatar) grows fat if you don't dance well or for a time period. Of course they want you to become fat so that you will buy slim pills from their shop!
  2. The more you dance, the more your experience points grow and you can wear exclusive clothes.
  3. You can hang out in a dance room which holds about 6 people. Avatars generally hang out and socialize in these rooms.You can even create your dance room.
I am surprised to see how concepts like these are catching up fast all over the world especially with the younger generation. I wonder what tomorrow will bring as more and more kids prefer to have a second life and spend all their time on their computers. Now will they prefer to dance online rather than dance in real life?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is Kiyani good for India?

I am glad that Prez Musharraf has stepped down and is signaling free elections soon. General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani took charge as Pakistan's new Army Chief from President Pervez Musharraf today. Unlike in India, the Pakistan army chief's position has a big role to play in domestic politics and foreign relations.

So, as this story unfolds in the media and experts do their analysis, I attempted to look up some information on whether Kiyani would be good for India. Here is some information that I found in the internet media today that is most relevant to Indians.

  • He has been the former head of the ISI (Pakistan Intelligence Services).

  • His Colleagues say Kiyani is more knowledgeable about al-Qaeda than any other army general.

  • He oversaw troops during the standoff with India after the attack on the Indian parliament. Insiders say it was his expert handling of the situation, and his constant contact with the Indian command that kept the eight-month stand-off from becoming an outright war.

  • He is said to have good relations with some of the country’s civilian political leaders, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

  • Those who know Kiyani say he’s smart, tough, talented — and pro-Western.

It is a known fact that Pakistan's ISI has been providing logistic support to the Kashmir terrorists (Kashmiri freedom fighters - in Pakistan's perspective) and helping them infiltrate India's borders but at the same time he has proven his ability to influence politics and the army to avoid a war with India during the Indian Parliament bombings. His good relations with Bhutto and Musharraf are a plus for India as Musharraf will be president and Bhutto will probably be the next Prime Minister in Pakistan. Bhutto has suggested in many interviews that she would push for good relations with India. Since he has the insights into Alqaeda, it is fair to assume that he has pretty good insights into the Kashmiri terrorists. If Musharraf and Bhutto are in power, he is likely to be able to control cross border terrorism in India.

Kiyani seems to be the right choice after Musharraf in aligning the Pakistan army's strategic objectives with the war on terrorism. Although, it seems that he has enough influence and control in the army to ensure that a Kargil does not happen again, only time will tell us whether Kiyani is good for India!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Gulabi Gang

"They wear pink saris and go after corrupt officials and boorish men with sticks and axes."

Indian States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are plagued with social evils of dowri, caste system and corruption. About two years ago, a group of women got together in the state of Uttar Pradesh and decided to fight corrupt officials and social evils. Apparently they have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of grain to the poor. They dress up in a uniform of pink sarees and have attacked a policeman after they took in an untouchable man and refused to register a case.The state's police force is known to be extremely corrupt and finally we are seeing the efforts of citizens to bring about a change.

Read the following articles about this gang -
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/world/south_asia/7068875.stm

This is another example of the Bottom up approach seen in the Indian society where the ordinary citizens are fighting the evils of corruption. Uttar Pradesh is arguably one of the most backward states in India and very little of economic development has happened there. Hats off to these women for achieving what they have!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Microfinance - An opportunity for millions

Have you ever wondered why there are people in the some parts of the world who earn less than $2/ day? Why can’t these people break the shackles of poverty and come to the mainstream and live like us?

In my opinion the one word answer for the questions above is "Opportunity". Opportunity means access to credit, access to health care and access to education.There are lots of areas in the world where people don't have access to basic necessities of life.

A large population in the US has a net worth and savings rates in the negatives, but they can live a decent quality of life in spite of being buried in debt. I am not advocating that being in debt is a good thing, but having access to credit provides the borrower to chance to repay debt again and again. In the backdrop of this macro environment, a slew of debt consolidation services are available that helps a borrower with his debt obligations.

Among the people who earn less than $2/ day, many are sincere, honest people who probably would not misuse the credit opportunities avail to them but sadly enough; they have had no such opportunities to break through the vicious cycle of poverty

It is our expectation that governments in developing countries should take a lead and provide opportunities to poor people. I agree the government can be a facilitator and help with favorable regulations but every organization whether profit or not profit needs to be self sustainable without government intervention. So, if a long term solution to education and health care are sought these organizations must be self sustaining. Similarly for people to benefit in the long term and break the vicious cycle of poverty, they must not receive donations but sustained credit access that grows as the repayment grows.

This principle was tested by Muhammad Yunus, a renowned economist from Bangladesh and Grameen(Rural) Bank was born. He has started an industry called micro finance and is now practiced in many countries around the world. Leading Banks like ICICI Bank, Citibank are now offering a range of products related to Micro finance in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Boliva, Brazil, and Egypt.

In the next few posts, I will describe ways for people in the developed world to be a part of this fascinating industry and in the bargain help needy people create sustainable economic livelihood for themselves.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Diversify Currency with Everbank


If you are in the US and hold most of your cash in dollars it may be worthwhile to convert some of your holdings to another freely traded currency like the Euro, Yen etc. Such a strategy would not only hedge your current dollar positions but reduce the risk of losing real value in case the dollar depreciates further against other currencies. If you prefer your entire portfolio to be in the US itself then you must consider currency options by EverBank.


Everbank is a FDIC insured Jacksonville, Florida based online bank that provides a number of currency diversification options to customers. All deposits are FDIC insured up to a $100,000 for bank insolvency. However the impact of the currency market fluctuations is not insured. Besides the currency options, Everbank offers all the regular banking features like Checking Accounts, Money Market accounts etc.

Currency Options

  • World Currency CD: This option allows the customers to diversify into a single foreign currency of choice like the Euro, British pound, Canadian Dollar and even the Indian rupee. These CDs can be of 3,6,9 and 12 months tenure and renewable. The interest rates offered are different for each foreign currency and the minimum deposits required is $10,000.
  • Multi Currency CDs : Everbank offer a different CD's each comprised of multiple foreign currencies from countries with specific regional strengths and/or geopolitical and economic development. This option gives the customer an option to diversify into multiple currencies by opening a single CD. These CDs are available in 3 and 6 months only and the minimum deposit required is $20000.
  • Metal Select Account: This account allows the customer to purchase gold and silver within 1% over the traded market price EverBank Metals Select Accounts deliver simple and low-cost opportunities to add these valuable commodities to your investment portfolio.

Risk of Investment

Although FDIC insurance will protect you from bank failure up to $100,000, it's important to understand that your deposit will be susceptible to loss or gains due to currency price fluctuations. Various geopolitical and economic influences can affect a currency's value.

As the global economy expands and countries do more trade with each currency fluctuations are bound to increase. Whatever may be your investment goals. Currency diversification strategy must be incorporated in your financial portfolio management!




Saturday, November 24, 2007

Outsource Anything!

NRI's often wonder how to get the simplest tasks done in India when they are away in another country. These tasks range from servicing their official documents like birth certificates, PAN numbers, degree certificates or retrieving their transcripts from college. When such a need arises the NRI frantically searches for contacts in India like friends, relatives and requests them to run these errands. Capitalizing on this niche need of the Non Resident Indian , yourmaninIndia.com is a unique service that addresses such needs. Infact, the site also promises to assist NRI's in property related issues, Travelers Insurance and Health Insurance for the elderly.

"Often wondered who to contact for anything in India?To get your certificates?To run errands for your parents?Or just brighten up your Grandmom's day with a bunch of flowers? Responsible. Efficient.Trustworthy. YourManinIndia is a concierge service for NRIs "
"No task is too small, no effort too big".

Regular Requests
The website has many defined errands that are listed on the website.

Official documents
Birth Certificate NABC
Degree Certificate Marks Transcripts More

Property
Buy/Sell property Find a tenant
Property maintenance Advice on Realty More

Immigrant / Non-Immigrant Services
Education certificate Attestation - GCC
Certificates attestation for any country
Legalisation for EU countries More

Family and Friends
Keeping in touch Health care
Errands and Assistance Find a friend More

Investment and Legal
PAN/Filing Tax Banking assistance
Investment Advice Legal Counsel More

Travel
Air/Train Bus tickets Passport/Visa
Airport pickup/drop Travellers Insurance More

Other services
Educational Assistance Relocation to India
Party/Events Astro - Numerology More

Cost structures for such errands has already been determined and are listed on the website. An example of the Cost structure is shown below -

Task

Service Fee

Vendor (or)
Task Fee

Indicative time for task completion

Order

Official Documents from India

Birth Certificate

Birth Registered - Born in Hospital - City

$ 22

$ 86

30-45 day/s

Order

Changing Non Availability to Birth Certificate - City

$ 22

$ 108

45-60 day/s

Order

Changing Non Availability to Birth Certificate - Other Places

$ 27

$ 135

60-90 day/s

Order

Birth Registered - Born in Hospital - Other Places


$ 27

$ 108

45-60 day/s

Order

Unique Requests What makes the service attractive is that a user can request an errand to be done in India that has not been requested before using the ASK form. Queries about such request can be sent to the company like asking about pricing details, length of time etc.

Check Account Status
Once you are registered as a member with this service and have placed a request the user can login to 'My Account' on the website anytime and check the status of your order. The user will also receive email alerts from their customer service personnel whenever a status update is made to the order.

YourManinIndia.com which is just over three years old and is enabling a number of Non Residents Indians to outsource these tasks and has developed itself into being a professional at executing them.
So NRI's if you need anything done in India think about yourmaninIndia.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Working for Environmental Justice

India has been a dumping ground for all developed countries over the past two decades. Now with a booming economy, an equal amount of waste is being produced domestically. All this waste is polluting the environment and posing a health risk to millions of citizens in India. Besides India is among the top 5 countries for CO2 emissions. Keeping in mind all these environmental risks, it is our general expectation that this issue would be on top of the Indian government's agenda. In the process of finding out the Indian government's stance on this issues, I came across a website which is run by a group of people who have taken it upon themselves to fight for a non toxic environment(http://www.toxicslink.org/)

“We are a group of people working together for environmental justice and freedom from toxics. We have taken it upon ourselves to collect and share information about the sources and dangers of poisons in our environment and bodies, as well as about clean and sustainable alternatives for India and the rest of the world.”

Some of the key features of this website are
After reviewing information and press releases from this website it is evident that the Indian government is not addressing the issue of toxic waste in the environment effectively. But the website does a great job in explaining the issues and the fight of the common man to address this issue. Someone has wisely said that "China grows because of the government and India grows inspite of it ". This is an excellent example of a group of people coming together because the government is not doing enough to bring about a change.


Indian Mutual Funds - Online Service for Investors

There are a number of ways that Indian Mutual fund investors can avail of electronic account statements from Mutual funds. In my experience , most mutual fund companies respond to emails within 48 hours. However one of the fastest and efficient ways to get an account statement by email is by using camsonline.To avail any of the services at camsonline.com, an investor must have specified an email address when opening his/her account

Computer Age Management Services Pvt. Ltd. (CAMS) offers a comprehensive package of Transaction Processing and Customer Care services to the Mutual Fund industry in India.Currently CAMS provides this comprehensive package of services to 17 Indian Mutual Fund families as service provider.

If you have invested in any of the mutual funds below then you can go to this website for all your service needs. In my opinion the most convenient is the "Mail Back Services" section which allow an investor to get a copy of their account statement , transaction details etc without having to remember the folio number. The investor has to enter the email address which is searched through the AMC's records for a match and then all associated folios are packaged together and sent encrypted to the registered email.

ABN AMRO MUTUAL FUND
AIG MUTUAL FUND
BIRLA MUTUAL FUND
CANBANK MUTUAL FUND
DBS CHOLA MUTUAL FUND
DSP MERRILL LYNCH MUTUAL FUND
FIDELITY MUTUAL FUND
HDFC MUTUAL FUND
HSBC MUTUAL FUND
ING MUTUAL FUND
KOTAK MAHINDRA MUTUAL FUND
LOTUS INDIA MUTUAL FUND
OPTIMIX
ICICI PRUDENTIAL MUTUAL FUND
SBI MUTUAL FUND
STANDARD CHARTERED MUTUAL FUND
SUNDARAM BNP PARIBAS MUTUAL FUND
TATA MUTUAL FUND
UTI MUTUAL FUND

Mail Back Services

Request Account Statement


1) AMC Name :The first step is to choose the AMC(Asset Management Company) name. This is the name of the mutual fund that you have invested in.

2)Folio Number:Notice that the folio number is not mandatory. if an investor has multiple folio numbers under one AMC;by leaving the folio number blank, CAMS mails out a consolidated account statement for all the folios in that account.

2)Registered email is required and it must be the same that has been specified when opening or servicing the account. This email address is the same where the account statement will be emailed.

3)Delivery Option: The account statement is delivered as an encrypted attachment OR as link to the CAMS server. The latter requires you to enter the user id and password to view the account statement.

Request Transaction Statement

This service provides the transaction history of an investor at an AMC as an excel sheet for reconciliation with an Accounting system.

Consolidated Portfolio Statement

If you have a number of folios in many Mutual Funds,you can use this statement to get the most recent status of your aggregated Portfolio - including other products - emailed back on demand to your registered email address. The emailed Statement contains balances by security, Cost Value, Market Value, period of holding and return on investment.

Investment Performance Statement

This statement provides your Investment Performance, Capital Gains and Income for the current and last Financial Years emailed back on demand to your registered email address.

Statement Delivery Option

If you have registered an email id with your mutual fund investment, you can set the delivery of your account statement by email over here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Day With Dabbawala


The Bombay Tiffin Box Suppliers Association, an association of 5,000 lunch deliverymen who are called Dabbawalas (literally tiffin box carriers) in local parlance have finally started their own Web site and a text messaging order taking system that enables them to bag orders real time instead of depending on secondary sources like references or word-of-mouth.The website claims that the Dabbawalas are developing a software to begin accepting orders over the internet.

More than 175,000 or 200,000 lunches get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, there is only one mistake in every 16,000,000 deliveries and the system has registered a Six Sigma performance at 99.999999 rating.

The BBC has produced a documentary on dabbawalas, and Prince Charles, during his visit to India, visited them (he had to fit in with their schedule, since their timing was too precise to permit any flexibility). Owing to the tremendous publicity, some of the dabbawalas were invited to give guest lectures in top business schools of India, which is very unusual. Most remarkably in the eyes of many Westerners, the success of the dabbawala trade has involved no Western modern high technology.The New York Times reported in 2007 that the 125 year old dabbawala industry continues to grow at a rate of 5-10% per year

The official website of the Dabbawalas is http://www.mydabbawala.com/ recently launched in June 2007.

If you are curious and enamored like me over the success of the dabbawalas you can actually spend a day with the dabbawalas in Mumbai. The day involves actually collecting the dabba from the customer, delivering it, having lunch with them and actually taking the empty dabba back to the customer.

The procedure is simple as mentioned on their website.
"
This is how it works:
1- Please contact us for the request for the " A Day with Dabbawala".
2- The day may be arranged for single person or a group.

3- You will have to report to our Andheri office or directly at the residence of Dabbawala at about 8AM.
4- If required, we will arrange for a English speaking guide to help you discuss with Dabbawala.
5- You will go with Dabbawala to the customer and collect the Dabba.
6- Then you will travel in local train with Dabbawalas to the destination station.
7- At the destination station , you will do sorting and arranging with Dabbawalas.
8- Then you actually travel with Dabbawala and deliver the Dabba to customer.
9 - Then you take lunch with the group of dabbawalas.

10- After this the empty Dabbas are collected.
11- The you return back to station with empty Dabbas.
12- Again you travel in local train and reach the starting station. It will be fun this time with Dabbawala in local train as the customer is served and Dabbawalas are relaxed.

13- After reaching destination station the Dabba is returned back to customer and this finishes "
A Day with Dabbawala".
14- If required any of the above points may be escaped by you and you may be part of a particular event."






Use Pixels to Reach NRI's


In my previous post about Marketing to Non Resident Indians , I discussed ways to reach out to an NRI audience. Last night I came across the website www.nrimarketing.com which uses Pixel Marketing to reach out to Non Resident Indians.This website has been started by Pallav, an Indian who emigrated to the US in 1993. He has divided his front page into 10000 Blocks which he is selling ad space to various companies that cater to the niche target segment of Non resident Indians. Each block is 10x10 pixels making a total of 1,000,000 pixels. You can purchase these blocks and place your own image/logo in them with a link to your site. Once a block has been ordered ($0.10 /pixel >> 1 block = 10pixels x 10 pixels = 100 pixels = $10 ), You provide your ad, a link and a tag line. Users will see a tag line if they mouse over your square.

His current clients include

TeenPattiParty.net - Indian Teen Patti & Poker Web Site
Netflix.com - Online Movie Rental - Free Trial
Fropper.com - Indian Dating, Friendship and Social Networking Site

You must be wondering on how this works and why would users advertise on this website. The website has a Google page rank of 2 ( which is pretty good) which means that Google rates the website as 2 in a scale of 1 to 5. If users look for specific key words on the Google search relating to NRI this site ranks up in the top few . For example if I search on Google with key wards "NRI Marketing" this website comes up first.

Below is the example of what it would cost to own space on this website

  • 1 block = 100 Pixels = $10.00 =
  • 4 blocks = 400 Pixels = $40.00 = OR
  • 6 blocks = 600 Pixels = $60.00 OR
More about pixel marketing can be read by clicking here

If you are an upcoming website and your target audience is Non Resident Indians then you must consider buying some space on this website.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Right to Information Act


In one of my previous posts I spoke about the Economics of Corruption which explains the root causes of corruption and how the issue relates to the economic progress of various countries. With a slew of foreign enterprises looking to do business in India ,the Indian Government has taken a number of steps to reduce corruption. Not many people are aware that the Indian parliament has enacted the "Right to Informaction Act 2005" giving citizens of India access to public records.
  • Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
  • The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination.
  • Proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
The Act specifies that citizens have a right to:
  • request any information
  • take copies of documents
  • inspect documents, works and records
  • take certified samples of materials of work.
  • obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts
The official website is http://www.rti.gov.in/.The website explains the procedures to request information from various government agencies in a comprehensive manner. It also provides details of Public Info Officers who are designated to receive the Request for Information Applications on behalf of the government. Each Ministry and Government of various states have their own Public Info Officers.

I searched on various search engines and was surprised to see the amount of information posted by various government agency websites about the RTI process ( Some of them are listed below).

There are a number of reports in the media about proposed legislation that may weaken the RTI application. Assuming the RTI Act is not weakened , its a great tool in the hands of the citizens to make governmental offices accountable for their actions. When used collectively by all citizens it will force transparency in the government processes and slowly but surely reduce corruption.

Now,its up to the citizens of India to play their part in using this tool to address the issue of corruption.

Here are some useful links that I have found related to RTI


Indian Government RTI Official Website
Department of Commerce
Ministry of Personnel ,Public Grievances and Pensions
Information Service Portal
Government of Puducherry
Kerala Government
CDAC
Hindustan Organic Chemicals Ltd
Indian Council of Agricultural Research

Ministry of Environment and Forests

The State of Maharashtra

Controller General of Patents Designs and Trade Marks
Ministry of Communications and Technology
NCST
Government of Assam
Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority
India Meteorological Department
Department of Information Technology

Ministry of Corporate Affairs
Government of Andhra Pradesh
Commercial Taxes Department

Government of Kerala
National Institute of Fashion Technology
Ministry of Food Processing Industries

Rajasthan Governemt
Coir Board

Doordarshan India

Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Revenue
Government of Haryana
Bureau of Indian Standards
Burhanpur
Ministry of Steel
Government of Delhi
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
India Meteorological Department
Government of Uttar Pradesh
Government Of Karnataka
Ministry of Environment and Forests
National Consumer Disputes Redresal Commission
Government of Gujrat
Commissionerate of Higher Education

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of Meghalaya
Pune
Ministry of Earth Sciences
Software Technology Parks of India
Ministry of Power
Ministry of Finance Department of Expenditure
Ministry of Textiles







Saturday, November 17, 2007

Confident About Your Vocabulary?

FreeRice.com is a sister website of the website poverty.com. The website has a goal of ending world hunger by testing your vocabulary. Its a unique business model as it gives its users an opportunity to test their vocabulary on the website and for every word that you get right, the United Nation donates 10 grains of rice. This is made possible by sponsors who advertise on the website.

When you play the game, advertisements appear on the bottom of your screen. The money generated by these advertisements is then used to buy the rice. So by playing, you generate the money that pays for the rice donated to hungry people.


"Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide"


Please click on the image on the left and help reduce world hunger.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Islamic Finance in India

Islamic Finance

Islamic banking refers to a system of banking or banking activity that is consistent with Islamic law (Sharia) principles and guided by Islamic economics. In particular, Islamic law prohibits usury, the collection and payment of interest, also commonly called riba in Islamic discourse.

The Difference with Traditional Finance

  1. The first is the no-interest rule. That is, you can not earn interest on a loan nor be required to pay interest on loans.
  2. The second difference is that money is to be invested only in worthy causes. This is largely equivalent to the western concept of socially responsible investing.
Key Features
  • The Islamic financial model works on the basis of risk sharing.
  • The customer and the bank share the risk of any investment on agreed terms, and divide any profits between them.
  • The main categories within Islamic finance are: Ijara, Ijara-wa-iqtina, Mudaraba, Murabaha and Musharaka.
  • Ijara is a leasing agreement whereby the bank buys an item for a customer and then leases it back over a specific period.
  • Ijara-wa-Iqtina is a similar arrangement, except that the customer is able to buy the item at the end of the contract.
  • Mudaraba offers specialist investment by a financial expert in which the bank and the customer shares any profits.
  • Customers risks losing their money if the investment is unsuccessful, although the bank will not charge a handling fee unless it turns a profit.
  • Murabaha is a form of credit which enables customers to make a purchase without having to take out an interest bearing loan. The bank buys an item and then sells it on to the customer on a deferred basis.
  • Musharaka is a investment partnership in which profit sharing terms are agreed in advance, and losses are pegged to the amount invested.

Global Market

  • Spread across 70 countries, Islamic Finance has grown to almost a trillion dollar industry.
  • The Prospect for the industry are quite bright given strong demand for financial services from a large segment of about 1.4 billion Muslim populations .
  • Islamic Finance is growing at a rapid pace of 15-20% per annum globally, currently estimated to be worth approximately USD $ 300 Billion today.
  • Retail and Investment banking Shari’ah compliant products are helping to unlock trillions of dollars of funds lying dead with high networked individuals and corporate world globally, who follow Shari’ah principles in their day to day business and investment and thus would not participate in usual financial transactions.
Indian Market

Macro Economic Trends Favouring Indian Expansion
  • Even though Islamic investors turned to Islamic countries like Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia, their economies provide limited opportunities and too inadequate to absorb the huge investment potential of the Arab Islamic countries. So, the Islamic investors are now coming forward to invest in India, as it is the best option with a large number of companies qualifying Shariah investment norms
  • Changing political situation in America and European countries after the terror attack on World Trade Center and falling GDPs of Europe and North America have forced rich Islamic investors from the Gulf countries to look for investment opportunities in South East Asian countries, including India.
Market Potential
  • There are several districts where Muslims constitute a majority and in a number of industries Muslims have traditionally maintained a larger presence.
  • Since the last two decades, India has continuously managed an average saving rate of above 20 percent of the GDP.
  • Considering their relative economic backwardness even a 15 percent saving rate for Muslims would place over Rs. 40 billion of investible resources with them annually. Besides, there are properties worth billions under the control of Awqaf (Trusts). Zakat (2.5% tax imposed on the wealth of rich people for distribution among the poor and destitute) potential of the Indian Muslims still remains largely untapped and underutilized.
  • Indians working in Middle East and Middle Eastern companies flush with petrodollars can also be a good source of financial resources for Indian financial institutions offering Islamically permissible financial services.

Key Developments in India

Islamic Finance is in the early infancy stage in India and is expected to be a big business in the coming years

CARMA - The Carbon Emissions Database

Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) is a massive database containing information on the carbon emissions of over 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies worldwide.Data is freely available for not-for-profit publications, broadcasts and websites.

China and the USA lead the pack with the largest CO2 emissions followed closely by Russia and India. It is interesting to note that US produces relatively the same emissions from 9190 plants compared to China who has 1697 plants. It seems that the US has taken considerable efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions from its plants. China uses only 2.09% of Nuclear energy as compared to USA which used 19.55% of Nuclear energy for its needs.


Top 5 Countries with the Largest CO2 emissions (Spreadsheet 1 )



France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy. This is due to a long-standing policy based on energy security. Belgium has seven nuclear reactors generating more than half of its electricity.Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Lithuania has relied increasingly on nuclear energy for electricity generation.

Top 6 countries that focus on Nuclear Fuel for their energy needs(Spreadsheet 2)


Water is Lesotho's only significant natural resource. It is being exploited through the 30-year, multi-billion dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), which was initiated in 1986. n 1998, the hydroelectric plants of Norway and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) provided 99 percent of each country's power; and hydroelectric plants in Brazil provided 91 percent of total used electricity.

Top 6 countries that focus on Hydro Fuel for their energy needs


Israel tops the list of countries that focus on fossil fuels and very little on other sources for their energy needs.

Top 6 countries that focus on Fossil Fuel for their
energy needs




Disclaimer

All the data in spreadsheets is shown and displayed is from CARMA (www.carma.org).
All other data has been collected from various sources on the internet

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Economics of Corruption

India is ranked 57 in 2007 corruption rankings for 179 countries along with China ,Peru, Mexico and Brazil with Finland, Denmark and New Zealand ranked at No 1(least corrupt) and Mynmar at 149(most corrupt).


Have you ever wondered what is the root cause of corruption? Why are some countries more corrupt than others? How does economic status of countries influence their corruption rankings?

In India, we face corruption at almost all governmental offices, quasi governmental agencies and sometimes even public sector companies. We are asked to pay bribes to get simple tasks done like making a drivers license, renewing a passport etc. It is extremely frustrating for a person, who is not used to surviving in an environment, where you need to bribe for everything.

Low Level Corruption is corruption in the most basic form wherein the task of getting work done involves bribes. This is mostly seen in clerical governmental jobs, police officers, license agents etc. In my opinion, this form of corruption is a result of a society where there is a big gap between the rich and the poor. In India, some can afford private schools, luxury cars, leisure and travel while some cannot even afford the basic necessities of shelter, food and clothing.

Lets take a look at some police constable salaries in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra to get a perspective:Yes , India is growing economically , but can the enforcer of law and order (the constable) provide his family with their basic needs in this salary? This constable is left with no choice but to accept bribe from his fellow country men who take advantage of his vulnerability. This is the plight of many of the governmental officers and clerks whom we interact with on a daily basis.

The pay scale of the government employees has a direct relation to the amount of tax revenues earned by the government. A bulk of these tax revenues comes from corporate taxes and personal income tax. In a nation of 1 billion people, only 35 million Indians pay income tax. (You read that right: 35 million people, not 35 per cent of Indians.) .However, the government is responsible to support the large section of the poor by offering them subsidies for health, education, gas etc.

As more and more people will benefit from the economic boom, the need to offer subsidies for the government will reduce.At the same time the government will be able to generate more tax revenues as the per capita incomes will go up and more people will fall within the tax brackets As tax revenues will go up, it is highly likely that the salaries of government employees will go up as well, which will diminish corruption.

I have observed and known a number of business men in India who do everything possible to avoid taxation, but are the first to criticize the government for corruption. Everyone whose income is above the taxable income must pay their dues to help diminish corruption.As this trend increases , the government will be able to expend resources to implement existing laws against corruption. Laws are of no use if they cannot be implemented. But implementation requires resources like man power, money etc which can only be increased by additional tax revenue.

However ,High Level Corruption is an outcome of greed and the only way that can be prevented is to have stringent laws that require jail term and no bail. Even then, this kind of corruption can only be reduced and never be totally prevented. Even in developed countries like the USA, you will find corruption in the government and large companies in various forms.

Countries that are rated highly by the corruption index like New Zealand, Denmark etc are fortunately positioned to pay decent wages to their governmental employees. These employees enjoy comparable lifestyles to others in the population. However China ,Peru, Mexico and Brazil have similar income gaps between the rich and poor and hence their ratings are similar to the Indian ratings.

So lets do our bit ! Pay our taxes with an aim to better our quality of lives by minimizing corruption!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Marketing to the Non Resident Indian

The Asian-Indian population has emigrated tremendously from India over the past decade and a half all over the world. Indians have immigrated to the USA, Middle East , UK and parts of Europe. It is safe to assume that all these Indians follow common lifestyles wherever they are and form a niche demographic segment. A number of companies are looking to target this segment with their products and services but there is no comprehensive database available to reach out to these million potential customers.

How does a marketing company reach out to this lucrative demographic segment?

Understanding the NRI
The first step for any company interested in marketing to these customers must take steps to understand their customer i.e demographics, lifestyle, age groups, median income etc. Most of these immigrants of the last decade ( Ages 25-40) are savvy internet users and will be found online.

JuxtConsult is a New Delhi based Research and Advisory consulting company that sells a comprehensive syndicated report called the NRI Online 2006.The snapshot of the report is sold for 2,247 INR / 60 USD. The full report is sold at a price of 168,540 INR / 4,500 USD.The report is made from a sample survey of 1000 NRI’s from different parts of the world. Their findings highlight their profiles as well as their preferred online and offline ways and means to stay connected with India. Click here to go to the Report Main Page.

The report would provide insight to
  • Who are they (Location, Gender, Age, Occupation, etc.).
  • Physical Connectivity with India (Frequency of travel to India, visit indiv idually or with family, reason for travel, etc.)
  • Technological connectivity with India (Preferred medium for information and communication)Informational connectivity (Frequency of usage of communication channels,) .
  • Financial/Economic Connectivity ( Assets ,investments and remittance aspects) Their Net Usage behavior, Website preferences and Media preferences in staying connected to India on a regular basis.
Although a sample of 1000 is very small it does provide some benefit in buying this report as you can further segment this demographic on the basis of lifestyle attributes. At this time, I could not find any other report that could provide this information.

Purchasing the Contact Information

Depending on the nature of the business, one may need to do email marketing, postal marketing or telemarketing. EbusinessIndya is a Hyderabad firm from India that sells databases of consumers, companies from all over the world. I observed that they had databases varying from African Businesses to databases in European Metallurgy Industries.

The complete list of its databases can be found after clicking the link Complete List of Databases .

The company claims that their data is current and the database contains 170,000 Non Resident Indians contact information. This database has been prepared from NRIs living in 35 different countries. The database is cheap and can be purchased for a price of a $100 or 4499 rupees. All data has the name, address, email ids , foreign addresses and Telephone numbers

Online Advertising

As mentioned earlier in the article most of these Indians

can be found on the Internet. A number of websites that are frequently visited by NRIs list the demographic profiles of their customers, media kit information on their websites. I have provided some details and links below.

1) Sify

The Sify portal claims that they get 1.5 million unique users broadly spread across the United States, South East Asia, Europe and the Middle East.Its networks include NRI Channels ,Samachar,Return2India and Bawarchi.

Sify Links

2) Sulekha

has emerged as one of the most successful online advertising media to reach Asian Indians, particularly those living in US. This website is frequently visited by Indians to post and view classified information , get news updates and are now even blogging.

Sulekha Links

3) Rediff is an online portal with news,blogs,classifieds ,shopping and an email website frequently visited by NRI's . To advertise here you would need to fill up the online form here

4) TimesofIndia is India's largest news paper with a big online presence. They offer an epaper that is a scanned copy of the daily newspaper that is distributed in Indian metros like Delhi, Mumbai etc. They also circulate the Economic Times for business news and the stock market. The online sites are comprehensive and largely cater to the NRI customers around the world.

Times of India Links

5) CricInfo.com Cricket is the favourite sport among Indians and Cricinfo is the gateway to cricket news from around the world. In my opinion this is a great site to reach out to all types of NRI Men as cricket is largely followed by men.I did not find an official advertise page with them but you can click here and fill the form after choosing the "Advertise" option from the drop down.

There are a large number of websites that Indians frequently visit all of which cannot be possibly listed. I have attempted to list the most common websites that are visited by Indians for cricket, news and classifieds.

Print Media Advertising

A number of Indians emigrated before the dot com era of the 1990s. If your business model requires you to reach out to this sub segment then you must consider the following print media options

1) Indian Express is one of the largest Indian Newspapers in India. They also print and circulate this newspaper in the USA.


Indian Express Links

  • Readers Survey
  • Circulation details
  • Rate card
2) Silicon India magazines "SiliconIndia" in US and "SmartTechie" in India circulate to over 100,000 subscribers monthly.The website does not display a rate card, circulation or demographic information. However all questions can be emailed to http://www.blogger.com/advertise@siliconindia.com

A number of other magazines like India Today, Business Week can also be used for advertising means to reach the Non Resident Indian.




Monday, November 12, 2007

Reality of Child Labor

Recently GAP, the clothing chain in the United States has withdrawn a line of embroidered blouses on the news that garments were stitched by children. Time Magazine Article

Banning Child Labor

India has a large number of children living in poor economic conditions. These children work because if they don’t work, they would starve to death. The Indian government does not have the delivery mechanisms to reach out to these children in a population of over 1 Billion. The government probably does not even have an accurate count of the number of such underprivileged children in the country. Even if they attempted to compensate these children, the money would never reach the children due to corruption that exists within the government.

So, if a ban on Child labor would be imposed today it would only cut off their lifeline. Besides, these children would be vulnerable to other ailments plaguing the society like sex trade, drug trafficking etc. The ground realities demand that banning child labor is an inappropriate solution at this time.

Western Hypocrisy

Countries in the west have gone through a similar phase of economic development in the late 1800s and early 1900s when children used to work. Today they are pressuring developing countries to adhere to standards of child labor but companies force manufacturers in developing countries to keep costs low. To maintain low costs, manufacturers hire young children to do the jobs. Whenever a story like the "GAP incident" unfolds, the media makes a big hue and cry about Child Labor but almost never explains the reasons of child labor in some countries. To prevent loss due to reputation, the companies then stop doing business with the manufacturer but look for other manufacturers who have a different name but the same business model. The story always goes a full circle and the core issue is never addressed.

A Phased Approach

  • The Indian government needs to address issues of corruption within the government to ensure that appropriate compensation can be delivered to the millions of underprivileged children. With the current forex reserves at an all time high, affordability is no longer the issue but delivery needs to be improved.
  • The government should educate its citizens about population control.
  • Some of the schools in rural India have poor class rooms and inadequate teachers. Children do not benefit by studying in such schools. The number of public schools needs to be increased and their standard of education be raised.
  • The government should enforce existing laws in regards to minimum wages, number of hours worked ,right to education ,preventing children from working in hazardous conditions, etc.

India MUST achieve its goal of banning Child labor and providing education for all children, BUT it cannot be done in a day. The issue needs to go through the regular economic cycles and the government needs to address issues listed above to ensure that we have a country where no Child has to Work.