Things to Learn from Japan

10 things Japan Taught us from the Recent Tragedy!

01. THE CALM: Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.

02. THE DIGNITY: Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.

03. THE ABILITY: The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn’t fall.

04. THE GRACE: People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.

05. THE ORDER: No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.

06. THE SACRIFICE: Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

07. THE TENDERNESS: Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.

08. THE TRAINING: The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.

09. THE MEDIA: They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

10. THE CONSCIENCE: When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly!

Hope we all learn atleast Two from the above!

Meet Baba Ramdev

BS 23/3/2010

Meet Baba Ramdev, the swami who owns a Scottish Island

Baba Ramdev runs a multi-crore empire, owns a Scottish island and is now entering politics —his billion-plus TV viewers give him the confidence he can pull it off.

Three Delhi Police constables are on duty outside the house, sprawled on plastic chairs. They don’t frisk you; before you can ask, they tell you how to find the person they are here to guard. The staircase is decorated with marigold. The devout have left their shoes, slippers, sandals and even ankle-length boots outside the door. A bevy of people — young and old, rich and poor, men and women — are here to see Swami Ramdev. It is the house of a follower. Ramdev is here on his way from Sikkim to his ashram in Hardwar. In a few days, he is off to Nepal, where the president, as well as the prime minister, is his disciple.

India’s well-known ascetic is seated on a sofa with his legs folded under him. He is draped in saffron, and his high-heel wooden sandals are under the chair. His torso looks supple. Ramdev, of course, is Indian rubber. His lunch has been served — cut mango, chikoos, grapes and watermelon. "I haven’t eaten any grain or cereal for 13 years now," I am told. New-age yoga guru, PT instructor to the masses, healer to the rich and mighty, enemy of multinationals, television star, homophobe and now an aspiring leader — it’s certainly not easy being Ramdev.

Educated Indians have always been sceptical of godmen. Their sex, land and financial scandals — mostly sex — get exposed with unfailing regularity. What has worked for Ramdev is that he has put physical fitness first, and has taken religion out of Yoga. He has had his share of controversies, though. Communist leader Brinda Karat alleged that his medicine had bone powder. Tests carried out in laboratories found the claim unfounded. The sale of Ramdev’s medicine went up manifold. Neo-liberals have found his opposition to homosexuality primitive and galling. Undeterred, Ramdev says he wants to change the country for good. Next elections, his people will contest every seat of Lok Sabha.

On his agenda are removal of corruption, large public works for development and making systemic changes in accordance with traditional Indian wisdom. Food for me has also arrived: Preparations of gourd, potatoes and cottage cheese, puris of buckwheat, raita and kheer. The crockery is brand new, the stickers haven’t been removed. A spread for Ramdev has also been brought; he agrees to have a morsel or two. Ramdev is willing to debate each of the three agendas.

A strong role for the government is an open invitation to corruption, I argue. "What is lacking is the will power to end corruption," says he. The extent of black money in the country, Ramdev says, is Rs 30,000,000 crore. The government should recall all currency in circulation and issue a new one — all unaccounted money will fall into its hands. That money can be used for power, irrigation, waste treatment etc. Seventy per cent of the country is below the poverty line, 400 million people in villages are landless and another 400 million are without jobs. Ramdev’s solution is to give up to one acre to all the rural landless and raise minimum wages to Rs 10,000 a month. "And punish the corrupt with death," says the ascetic with that trademark twinkle in his eyes.

The legal and educational systems, he thunders, were imposed on us by the British to serve their own needs; there is no reason why we shouldn’t have our own systems. "What freedom is this," he asks. "Our law says that not one innocent should be punished, even if a hundred guilty go free. We should see to it that all guilty get punished; if that includes one or two innocent, so be it." The buckwheat puris are delicious and melt in the mouth. More are on offer, but Ramdev asks the host not to force me. Rasgullas are brought for us, purchased obviously at the market. The host insists these are home-made. Ramdev knows better but still digs into the grandfather of all desserts.

However radical his thoughts may sound, I realise that Ramdev oozes confidence. This is because he thinks he has the numbers all worked out. About 30 million, says he, have attended his Yoga camps. Each of them goes back to a family of five to seven. So, that’s at least 150 million votes. He is also on television round the clock. That, claims Ramdev, gives him viewership of 1 billion! Then there are the latent supporters, says he. "Even evil idolises truth. Ravan’s brothers wanted Ram to win. A philanderer doesn’t want his kids to follow his footsteps."

He also has a huge fan-following amongst Muslims. "I am the only saffron-clad accepted by the Muslims," says he. Muslims, Ramdev has said, can recite verses from the Koran while doing Yoga. Ramdev says he has thought of a name for his party but will not disclose it to me. He will not contest elections. He wants to have an organisation of up to a million people in each district, and aspires for power at the Centre and not at the states because that’s where real power lies.

Is there a role for private enterprise in Ramdev’s world view? Definitely, says he, but the government needs to fix prices of all goods and services and, thereby, control profits! He says he knows most large businessmen and what kind of obscene money companies make.

Ramdev himself runs a business of no small proportions. This includes hospitals, the media and herbal products. He sells medicine worth Rs 25 crore every month; sale of his books and CDs fetch Rs 2 to 3 crore. He has set up a food park near Hardwar with an investment of Rs 500 crore. All told, Ramdev provides employment to 13,000 people. "What are your profit margins," I ask. Sixteen per cent, says Ramdev, but quickly adds that his operating costs and retail margins are way below others and that’s why his products are priced on an average 50 per cent below rivals.

"But you must be a rich man," I tell Ramdev, "Haven’t you bought an island off the Scottish coast." The island of 700 acres, Ramdev counters, was a gift from the Poddars of Glasgow (Mr Poddar is from Bihar, Mrs Poddar from Nepal). Somebody has even gifted him 95 acres near Houston. Then there’s something similar in Canada. Individuals have also contributed towards the Rs 500-crore food park.

"But why do you hate multinationals? Even several Indians like the Tata group have now become multinational corporations," I ask Ramdev. They take out a lot more money than they bring in, he answers, and take away more jobs from traditional craftsmen and local businessmen than they bring. Fuzzy logic indeed, but Ramdev speaks with conviction. Multinational corporations are not required. The Rs 300,000,000 crore of black money is more than enough to take care of all Indians. This is more economics than I can digest in a day. Ramdev’s aide whispers in my ear that my time is up.

I get up, but want to know about Ramdev’s healing powers. (He has been censured for claiming to cure AIDS; Ramdev, in turn, claimed he was misquoted.) How has George Fernandes benefited from his cure? "When he came to me, he couldn’t take a step; he now walks half a mile," says he. "Weren’t you called to cure Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bad knee? He had to go for surgery finally," I counter. "He did not follow my prescriptions," Ramdev answers. I take my leave.

There’s a camera crew and a foreign correspondent waiting for Ramdev in another room. A family of six well-proportioned Sikhs has come for the Swami’s darshan .The constables ignore us on the way out.

Investors turn to wealth managers for best bets

ET 25/3/2010

A growing number of investors are turning to wealth managers to decide where to invest their money to generate a decent inflation-adjusted return.

Assuming that an investor has put Rs 1,000 in the stock market for 10 years, yielding an average annual return of 15%, his investment would have multiplied to Rs 4,045 at the end of 10 years. However, taking into account a nominal inflation rate of 10%, the real rate of return would only be an average of 5%. Thus, after adjusting for inflation, the absolute value of his investments at the end of 10 years will only be Rs 1,628.

“So far, a lot of clients were not sensitised to comparing inflation rates and investment returns and tend to largely focus on nominal returns. However, as the high inflation rate continues to make headlines, investors are becoming more worried over how to generate inflation-adjusted returns from their investments,” says Hrishi Parandekar, CEO, Karvy Private Wealth.

While equities and gold figure at the top of the list, many wealth managers are telling investors to allocate a part of their funds into long-term private equity (PE) and real estate assets. Over the past one year, the prices of essential commodities have more than doubled along with the escalating cost of services and education. This has forced many whose income have not kept pace with the increase in prices to dip into their savings to meet major expenses.

Says Sanjay Kumar Maheshka, MD & CEO and member, group corporate strategy, Prabhudas Lilladher Fund Advisors, “The returns are not linked to inflation strictly, but also to other things such as global factors. Returns during financial year 2009 have been bad, the returns in general in the past five years have been far in excess of inflation adjustment.”

Most of the advisors assume a nominal annual inflation rate of 5-6% for working out a long-term plan of their clients’ finances. The wholesale price index (WPI) in India was at a 16-month high at 9.89% in February.

Mr Maheshka says that he expects inflation to fall in the next six months. “We still recommend equities and balanced funds as major asset classes for the investor with a medium-to-long-term perspective. In the short term, a correction in the equity market cannot be ruled out.”Mr Parandekar reckons that the best way to beat inflation will be to take an exposure to equities which, in the Indian scenario, is fundamentally driven by macro-economic growth.

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Rule your bank, or it will rule you

Rediff 10/07/09

If poet Horace had been alive today, he might have written: "Rule your bank, or it will rule you." Most of us pay tidy sums to our banks as interest and fees even when most of it is avoidable. Understanding how banks charge you will let you gain more from your banking relationships.

Channel costs. Like any other business, banks, too, are trying to cut their costs. You can help by transacting through a channel that works out cheapest for the bank. The branch is the costliest. Next comes the ATM, followed by the Internet and your fixed line or mobile phone. It helps you too.

For instance, at ICICI Bank, a duplicate statement will cost Rs 100 at a branch or customer care centre (non-IVR), but Rs 50 through customer care (IVR), ATM and Netbanking. In fact, the last three can take care of most common banking needs. Get the drift? Embrace technology.

Know your charges. When you opened your last savings account at a bank did you ask for the rules and regulations and list of charges? Few do. While some banks will mail it to you after you have opened the account, most won’t even bother.

But you should know your rights, obligations and the bank’s charges. Once you do, you are, for instance, likely to be more careful about maintaining your average quarterly balance. So, be aware.

Go paperless. If you use paper instruments, someone at the bank has to deal with them. If you use computer-based automated channels, they don’t have to. That keeps costs down for banks and, in turn, for you. So, rather than write a cheque, pay your bills either over the Internet or the phone. For loan repayments, opt for the electronic clearing service option. So, shun paper, save the trees and money in the process.

Smart deposits. As for earning more from your bank deposits, you can use sweeper accounts. Here, as soon as a specified amount above what you want in the account accumulates, it goes into a fixed deposit. Amar Pandit, CEO of wealth management firm My Financial Advisor, says, "In a sweeper account, you can earn interest of 4-10 per cent."

Debt control

Apart from these, your other banking relationship will broadly pertain to loans. The thumb rule for keeping things in control here is never to spend borrowed money to buy anything that is not an asset you can liquidate to pay off the debt. Look at the ones who perpetrated the sub-prime crisis. The borrowers who could not repay the loans had to turn in the assets that the banks held as collateral.

If you have borrowed to get an asset that can be sold, even if prices fall, you will still be able to get out with a few bruises at worst. Typically, asset-backed loans are those for homes and cars or two-wheelers. At a stretch, you could even include study loans. While the last is a little different from the first two, you still have an ‘asset’ you can work to pay off the debt.

Careful with credit

If you spend borrowed money recklessly you might be asking for trouble. The same applies if your credit card bill is bigger than you can pay off in one go and you aren’t sure when you’ll be able to pay it off. These are typically unsecured loans and, in most cases, the money has not created a saleable asset. Thus, in a crunch, the bank will haul you up for non-payment or, in the least, charge you interest at high rates.

Unless an asset is held as collateral for the loan by the bank, you will bear the risk of a fall in value – a recipe for disaster. Borrowing to buy shares expecting to book profits from a price rise in the short run is also a bad idea.

Below the bottomline

If the balance in your account goes below a specified limit, you will have to pay a penalty as well as other charges for various transactions

Penalty charges (per quarter)*

HDFC Bank: Rs 750

HSBC: Rs 750

ICICI Bank: Rs 750

Kotak Mahindra Bank: Rs 750-1,200

Standard Chartered Bank (StanChart): Rs 750-1,500

Punjab National Bank (PNB): Rs 40-150

Cost of transactionsing

Call to customer service (non-IVR)

HDFC Bank: Rs 50 per call
ICICI Bank: Rs 50 per call

Cash transactions at branch

ICICI Bank: Rs 60 per transaction (1st 3 transactions/qtr free)

HSBC: Rs 50 per transaction (1st 2 transactions/qtr free)

Dormant account

State Bank of India: (SBI): Rs 30-50 per quarter

StanChart: Rs 1,000 per annum 

Inoperative account (a higher level of dormancy)

PNB : Rs 150 per quarter
HSBC: Rs 150 per quarter

Cheque charges (for leaves over and above the free ones per quarter)

ICICI Bank: Rs 5 per leaf
SBI: Rs 2 per leaf

*Charges are for regular saving accounts for urban customers
The list is not exhaustive. Check with your bank for full details

Interest in rates. Even while taking a home or a car loan, it still pays to look at a few points to ensure that you are getting the best deal. Both are available at fixed and floating rates. While a home loan is against an asset that will most likely appreciate, it is worth taking the risk with a floating rate. The car, however, will be a depreciating asset and the EMI will not be significantly higher if you go for a fixed rate. Besides, you will know exactly what your liabilities are.

Compare them all. While choosing the lender, apart from the interest rate, look at (a) processing or administrative fees, (b) legal fees payable to the bank, (c) technical or valuation charges payable to the bank, (d) stamp duty charges, and (e) pre-payment charges. A comparison should direct you to the right lender.

Simply put, a bank is primarily a custodian of your wealth. For a fee, it keeps your money safe. It also lends you money depending upon your credentials and assets. If you spend what does not belong to you in the first place, you are likely to have things spinning out of control. Else, you should be just fine.

Heavy load

Banking facilities can cost a lot. Take a peek


Closing an account

Kotak Mahindra Bank: Rs 600 (within 6 months)

HSBC: Rs 1,000 (within 6 months)

SBI: Rs 150 (within 1 year)

Urgent cheque issued over the counter

HSBC: Rs 50/leaf

ICICI Bank: Rs 100/5 leaves

Payment of credit card bill via cash at branch

ICICI Bank: Rs 100
HDFC Bank: Rs 50

Duplicate statement

StanChart: Rs 100

HDFC: Rs 100 (branch), Rs 50 (phone banking or ATM), Rs 30 (online, mobile banking, IVR)

Replacement of ATM/debit card

ICICI Bank: Rs 200/card

PNB: Rs 100/card

PIN regeneration

HDFC Bank: Rs 25

ICICI Bank: Rs 25 (free through Instapin at branch or IVR customer care)

Duplicate passbook

HDFC: Rs 100
ICICI Bank: Rs 100 (Rs 25/ page for updates)

Stop payment

ICICI Bank: Rs 50/cheque

HSBC: Rs 100/request

Unarranged overdraft

HDFC: Rs 100/transaction plus 18% interest per annum

Cheque returns

ICICI Bank: Rs 100-750

HDFC : Rs 50-350

The list is not exhaustive. Check your bank’s website for details

VIFS Launched


VRIDHI Institute of Financial Services

Empowering your Eternal Asset” 

For details Click Here

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