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UNDP – Sustainable Development Goals

One of the reasons I started this blog is to investigate the evolution of Humanity. If I remember right, it is Deepak Chopra who said, “you are not a drop in the ocean, you are an ocean in a drop”. Humans, as social beings, not individuals alone, but are individual members of the society at large. We wouldn’t have been members of society without the existence of the society around us. We so take the existence of society around us for granted that we hardly even notice it’s there. But the society as a whole has an influence on us and the society as a whole consists of individual members. So an individual and the society cannot be separated. In a way, the individual and the society are the same, just like a drop in the ocean, and the ocean are the same. I believe that the way I think and act can, and has, an effect on not just the society, but the physical universe as a whole.However, for the this discussion I would like to only put the society into the perspective and not the universe, because the correlation between the social phenomena and thinking is much more tangible than the correlation between the social phenomena and the physical phenomena of the universe. Since a lot of variables around us contribute towards our individual evolution as a human being, I considered my thinking as Human Development.

When I started researching the term Human Development, I realised that I am not the inventor of the term. United Nations already had a programme in place called Human Development – a term which was invented by Dr. Amartya Sen. Human Development is a part of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). For years, UN has been publishing their yearly Human Development Report (HDR). This post is a reminder that the UN has a very powerful programme in place with Sustainable Development Goals.

I am not a part of the UNDP; and UNDP does not know who I am. But I invite everyone to have a look at these links and move towards these goals step by step in whichever way we can contribute.

Think and Grow Rich Principle 5 Exercise: Imagination

Topic: Imagination

Man can create anything that he can imagine.

Man’s only limitation, within reason, lies in his development and his use of imagination.

There are two forms of Imagination: Synthetic Imagination and Creative Imagination

Synthetic Imagination:

  • Arrange old ideas, concepts or plans into new combinations
  • Works with the material of observation, education and experience which it is fed.

Creative Imagination:

  • Finite mind of man has connection with the Infinite Intelligence. It is the faculty through which hunches and inspirations are received.
  • Thought vibrations from the minds of others are received.
  • This Earth on which you live, you, yourself, and every other material thing are the result of a revolutionary change, through which microscopic bits of matter have been organised and arranged in an orderly fashion.
  • The story of every great fortune starts when a creator of ideas and a seller of ideas got together and worked in harmony. Carnegie surrounded himself with people who could do all that he couldn’t do.
  • Ideas are intangible forces, but they have more power than the physical brains that give birth to them. They have the power to live on after the brain that creates them has returned to dust.

Writing a Business Plan

Preparing a Business Plan

The Business Plan

Venture capitalists view hundreds of business plans every year. The business plan must therefore convince the venture capitalist that the company and the management team have the ability to achieve the goals of the company within the specified time. The business plan should explain the nature of the company’s business, what it wants to achieve and how it is going to do it. The company’s management should prepare the plan and should set challenging but achievable goals.

The length of the business plan depends on the particular circumstances but, as a general rule, it should be no longer than 10 pages. It is important to use plain English – especially if you are explaining technical details. Avoid jargon and general position statements.

The following are essential areas to cover in your business plan.

Executive Summary

This is the most important section and is often best written last. It summarises your business plan and is placed at the front of the document. It is vital to give this summary significant thought and time, as it may well determine the amount of consideration the venture capital investor will give to your detailed proposal.

It should be clearly written and powerfully persuasive, yet balance “sales talk” with realism in order to be convincing. It should be limited to no more than two pages and include the key elements of the business plan.

Background on the company

Provide a summary of the fundamental nature of the company and its activities, a brief history of the company and an outline of the company’s objectives.

The product or service

Explain the company’s product or service in plain English. This is especially important if the product or service is technically orientated. A non-specialist must be able to understand the plan.

Emphasise the product, or service’s competitive edge or unique selling point.

Describe the stage of development of the product/s or service (seed, early stage, expansion or MBO). Is there an opportunity to develop a second-generation product in due course? Is the product or service vulnerable to technological redundancy? If relevant, explain what legal protection you have on the product, such as patents obtained, pending or required. Assess the impact of legal protection on the marketability of the product.

Market analysis

You need to convince the venture capital firm that there is a real commercial opportunity for the business and its products and services. Offer the reader a combination of clear description and analysis, including a realistic “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

  • Define your market and explain in what industry sector your company operates. What is the size of the whole market? What are the prospects for this market? How developed is the market as a whole, i.e. developing, growing, mature, declining?
  • How does your company fit within this market? Who are your competitors? For what proportion of the market do they account? What is their strategic positioning? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the barriers to new entrants?
  • Describe the distribution channels. Who are your customers? Comment on the price sensitivity of the market.
  • Explain the historic problems faced by the business and its products or services in the market. Have these problems been overcome, and if so, how?
  • Address the current issues, concerns and risks affecting your business and the industry in which it operates.
  • What are your projections for the company and the market?
  • Assess future potential problems and how they will be tackled, minimised or avoided.

Marketing

Having defined the relevant market and its opportunities, it is necessary to address how the prospective business will exploit these opportunities.

  • Outline your sales and distribution strategy.
  • What is your planned sales force?
  • What are your strategies for different markets?
  • What distribution channels are you planning to use and how do these compare with your competitors?
  • Identify overseas market access issues and how these will be resolved.
  • What is your pricing strategy? How does this compare with your competitors?
  • What are your advertising, public relations and promotion plans?

Business operations

Explain how your business operates, how you make the products or provide the service, first in brief and then in more detail.

  • What are the sources of raw materials? Who are your suppliers?
  • What are the labour requirements?
  • What is the company’s approach to industrial relations?
  • Outline your company’s approach to research and development.

The management team

Demonstrate that the company has the quality of management to be able to turn the business plan into reality. The senior management team ideally should be experienced in complementary areas, such as management strategy, finance and marketing, and their roles should be specified. The special abilities each member brings to the venture should be explained.

  • A concise curriculum vitae should be included for each team member, highlighting the individual’s previous track record in running, or being involved with, successful businesses.
  • Identify the current and potential skills gaps and explain how you aim to fill them. Venture capital firms will sometimes assist in locating experienced managers where an important post is unfilled, provided they are convinced about the other aspects of your plan.
  • Explain your controls, performance measures and remuneration for management, employees and others.
  • List your auditors and other advisers.
  • Include organisation chart.

Financial projections

Consider using an external accountant to verify and act as “devil’s advocate” for this part of the plan. AVCAL has a range of national and regional corporate members who could help you with this. You should search AVCAL’s member directory.

  • Realistically assess sales, costs (fixed and variable), cash flow and working capital.
  • Produce a pro-forma profit and loss statement and balance sheet. Ensure these are easy to update and adjust.
  • Assess your present and prospective future margins in detail, bearing in mind the potential impact of competition.
  • Explain the research undertaken to support these assumptions.
  • Demonstrate the company’s growth prospects over, for example, a three to five year period.
  • What is the value attributed to the company’s net tangible assets?
  • What is the level of gearing (i.e. debt to shareholders’ funds ratio)?
  • How much debt is secured on what assets and what is the current value of those assets?
  • What are the costs associated with the business? Remember to split sales costs (e.g. communications to potential and current customers) and marketing costs (e.g. research into potential sales areas).
  • What are the sale prices or fee charging structures?
  • What are your budgets for each area of your company’s activities?
  • What are you doing to ensure that you and your management keep within these or improve on these budgets?
  • Present different scenarios for the financial projections of sales, costs and cash flow for the short and long term.
  • Ask “what if?” questions to ensure that key factors and their impact on the financings are carefully and realistically assessed. For example, what if sales decline by 20 per cent, or supplier costs increase by 30 per cent, or both? How does this affect the profit and cash flow projections?
  • Keep the plan feasible. Avoid being overly optimistic. Highlight challenges and show how they will be met.
  • Relevant historical financial performance should also be presented. The company’s historical achievements can help give meaning, context and credibility to future projections.
  • Consider the amount and use of capital required and exit opportunities.
  • State how much finance is required by your business and from what sources (i.e. management, venture capital, banks and others) and explain the purpose for which it will be applied.
  • Outline the capital structure and ownership before and after financing.

Exit

Consider how the venture capital investors will exit the investment and make a return. Possible exit strategies for the investors may include floating the company on a stock exchange or selling the company to a trade buyer.

Further advice

As further direction, below is a guide from serial entrepreneur Dr. McKaskill on developing a comprehensive, informative and appropriate investor presentation.

The Investor Pitch – by Dr. Tom McKaskill, FCPA

Credit : Avcal Australia

Importance of the Mother Tongue

I lodged a service request with LG India toll free number for an air-conditioner. Yesterday, I chose English as preferred language. I gave the guy 5 on 5 on the satisfaction feedback. He tried pretty well (I gave him 100%) for his communication, though he was obviously speaking from a memorised script. English obviously wasn’t his first language. But I go by the standard of communication and not grammar. I felt however, that there is an unconscious obsession with English. At first I thought of switching to Hindi with this guy, but he stuck with his English, probably as a standard of his Training and Service. It is not his first language, definitely not his natural language.

Today I had to call LG again. This time I selected Hindi (out of Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and English, in that order). I gave the girl 5 on 5 this time, too. This girl, too, was speaking from the script in pure Hindi (unlike the Hindustani we are used to speaking most of the time). However, I felt that the communication this time was much more fluid.

Earlier on when I returned to India, the autorikshaw guys in Mumbai would start speaking to me in Hindi. I would insist on Marathi, unless the driver was a non-Marathi-speaker. Initially I used to struggle with both Hindi and Marathi, though I am proficient in both. After nine years, I have begun to realise that English doesn’t flow as smoothly as it used to then. I will not forget English, but I have to make a conscious effort to speak in English in a multiliungual culture.

I feel that we should use the mother tongue (those in India know better what I mean) over Hindi, and Hindi over English.

Though I realise that English is an important language, it is not the only language. Thanks to the British for giving us English, but I think we Indians have given it undue importance. Other languages should not be undermined by English. There have been benefits of the British system of Education, but there are flaws too.

A language should be spoken with proper grammar. However, it is the Communication that matters. For that, I feel, the natural language is the best, not an adopted one.

p.s. I have also been a student of German.

You might like to read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_India

 

Role of Education in Social Development

Role of Education in Social Development

If you are reading this, of course you have internet access. Whether you are from the developed or the developing world, you are privileged because you don’t know what it is like to live in an African country where people can’t get one square meal a day – Education is a far cry! I live in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) which is the financial capital of India. A large population of India isn’t far different from the people from those African countries. To be honest, even I don’t know what it is to starve. Mumbai is a metropolis; and unlike the underdeveloped parts of Africa or the villages of India, Mumbai is a land of opportunity. There is economic disparity. There is uneven distribution of wealth. There is pollution. There is poverty. There are many such factors which make India a developing country and not a developed one. In spite of all this, Mumbai is a pretty safe city to live. I am Indian born Australian citizen who now lives in India. Privilege is relative. For an Australian living in Australia, to compare Australia and India, it is a privilege to be in Australia. However, when I see the struggle of the underprivileged people – the labourers, I consider myself privileged. To me, internet access is a necessity and not a privilege. I am now on the higher side of 50; and I have a bachelors degree in Electronic Engineering and a masters degree in Information Systems. I do not know what it is to be uneducated. When I consider all this, I consider myself privileged. It is this education that granted me the admission to an Australian university for a postgraduate course. Being educated therefore for me is not a privilege, but a fact of life.

If you can read this, you have been oblivious to the fact that you are literate. You belong to those people in the world for whom literacy (education) is a basic necessity just like food, clothing and shelter. During the school days we were taught that food, clothing and shelter are the basic necessities of life. It may be true. But without basic education (the school curriculum which taught us that) we would still be hunting animals, cannibalising, killing other humans for survival.

I have seen documentaries about how the human race evolved. Some skeptics challenge evolution itself. But at least as a society, I think it is quite all right to say that we evolved as a society. In India, it is documented that the modern school education began only during the advent of the European invasion. The British rule was mainly responsible for the modern Indian education system. Before that India was not a unified nation, but a land of kingdoms independent of one another. Education and literacy existed in a different form then. Before the advent of the printing technology, knowledge was passed from generation to generation by memorising texts. People knew how to read and write, but it was not enough to write huge books. Modern technology caused communication to penetrate the society in a far different way. Later on it became a fact of life. I was born in independent India(India achieved independence from the British rule in 1947). So I have not experienced the British rule. I have not experienced the Indian freedom struggle. I have only read about these things. I was born in 1966, but my schooling began in 1971 i.e. twenty four years after independence. By then India was a well established democracy. Both my parents were government employees. Both of them were well versed in English and the local language – Marathi. My mother who did not pursue university was fluent in English because of the environment she worked in. My father pursued the university education and got a degree in liberal arts. He further got a degree in Law. All this education, thanks to the British rule, happened in English in his case. As a result, he was well read, articulate and hence belonged to the elite world by Indian standards. His background was humble. But modern education gave him the platform to be a part of the affluent society by those standards. If it were not for his education, he would have probably been growing rice and milking cows. The modern Indian middle class, which is where I belong now, is an outcome of the educational system which India has adopted, or rather, been forced to adopt. Indians may love or hate the British. But it is they who brought the modern educational system into India. It is the twenty first century and India is experiencing an economic boom. Retail is growing and is providing employment opportunities to even those who have little or no education after school. However, in this organized sector, work itself is education. A lot of these young employees have had their education in the English medium and are fluent in English which is the business language in India. In addition to the many, many regional languages, Hindi is the national language. However, English is still the business language and is spoken in most urban areas. Anyone who has been to school has working knowledge of English. With some experience, people even speak it fluently. These retail employees are able to be a part of the English speaking business world of elite India. A lack of school education would most probably deprive them of the privilege of the English speaking world. English, after all, provides them with a larger platform as they can communicate with a wider audience. This economic disparity, I notice far more distinctly in India than in Australia. It is difficult to find anyone in Australia who does not know how to read or write. Education is a fact of life in Australia where I spent thirteen years of my life. For many people below the poverty life in India Education is a privilege.

The modern society has a replicable structure. Modern society has an economy, infrastructure, healthcare, educational institutes and government. Underdeveloped or unstable countries look to emulate the countries which have stabilised these aspects of their nationhood. A large country is a large society; and the size is its strength. All these factors, and many more which I might have overlooked, need a large intellectual input. It needs strategic thinking. Larger, developed countries have mastered these areas of their national existence. They have educated their citizens in managing these areas of their civilisation. In mastering these competencies, they have put in years of effort. They have made their mistakes and corrected them. In a developed country like Australia, not everyone needs to go to University. University education does offer better opportunities, but not everyone can cope with university education and not everyone has the opportunity to study further. However, it is far easier for an Australian to make a decent living compared to an equivalent Indian just after school. The difference is that in Australia, the educated society has built enough infrastructure to employ and to train people after finishing school. Australia has built a more efficient economy compared to India. The people who finish school are much more in tune with the current economic requirement compared to those in India.

An educational system should be in tune with the economy.

The rationale behind this blog

  1. To create a better world
  2. To address the inefficiencies
  3. To determine the factors influencing the inefficiencies
  4. To learn about the socio-economic influences
  5. To learn about government
  6. To learn about culture

These are just some of the things that got me started on this blog. These are the things that I started reading about. Reading gave me a different perspective about life. However, how these things stack up in real life, I am not sure. So I decided to blog about these things.

I am hoping that a lot of readers read my blog and contribute to it. Since the Internet defies the physical boundaries there would be multiple perspectives available to a lot of these points in discussion which normally fall within Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Education, Politics and Culture.

Why is it that things work a certain way in Australia, another way in the US and Europe, another in Asia and yet another in Africa?

On this blog, I want to take a realistic approach to life. I don’t want to overlook the faults and call myself an optimist. At the same time, I don’t want to focus purely on the faults and be a pessimist. A food stain on a nice white shirt cannot hide. The shirt becomes nice and white only after the stain is washed away. Any science goes into the finest detail to solve problems. A lot of times, the problems that Science solves, or attempts to solve, are created problems. Those problems exist only in the educated mind. The educated mind ponders over an issue for a long time and comes up with an out of the ordinary perspective which no one had thought about. However in my case, I am not a genius. I believe in Collective Mind.

Together, we can think much better than just one person.