Friday, January 23, 2015

Information highway or information lane?

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=394473

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another article published by Gulf Daily News in Your Views Section today - "Facing Challenges"

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=392486

Facing challenges

New country, new people, new work environment, opportunity to learn a new culture and a tax-free salary package; a dream for any expatriate to choose to work in the Gulf countries. However, the initial excitement fades away if homework is not done properly. Later, it turns into a challenge as well.
Income of an expatriate has to be divided into three '“ one portion to spend for living here, one portion to be sent home to take care of their parents or family left behind, and the third goes into future planning '“ as most of them have pension-less jobs offering no security post retirement.
So the direct conversion of dinars into home currency might have created an excitement, but when the same gets divided into three portions, it makes you blink at the stark reality. One has to lead a below average life here to save for the other two portions.
The income tax-free package too turns out to be an illusion as huge expenses are involved in annual travel back home and buying gifts for near and dear ones.
Insurance, investments in mutual funds, equities or properties, home loan, personal loan and equated monthly instalments eat away any of your desires of leading a comfortable life. And most importantly, when one works long enough in the Gulf and returns home he or she realises that all their lives were squandered thinking about tackling the future, with no focus on the present.
People from developing economies get excited about the improved conversion rates on their currencies. They have apps installed on smartphones or laptops to constantly check the current rate.
But stop for a moment and think whether the increase of one point (or one unit) gives people back home any increased buying power. Does the cost of living offset the additional income?
Websites that offer free financial consulting, retirement planning and investment tips scare you when they calculate and present that you need few tens of thousands of dinars today to lead a better post-retirement life. And how in the world the average earning expatriate is going to generate this few tens of thousands of dinars in one go?
Gulf countries do not offer citizenships or long-term residence permits. A few avenues have opened up such as residences for business owners and property investors. However, not all expatriate employees can avail of these benefits.
Dollar pegging keeps inflation under control, which makes employers to keep the salary levels same for several years altogether.
Therefore, the financial growth is fairly static over the years while the industry's salary standards grow constantly, if not dramatically, across the world.
So, after spending several years, one may find their peers back home are more or less getting the same salaries as you do and are lucky enough to spend their lives with their families.
Mohan Krishnamurthy
http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/source/XXXVII/278/pdf/page06.pdf
http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/source/XXXVII/278/pdf/page07.pdf

Friday, December 19, 2014

Westbound Flight now available on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Launching Almoayed ICT, Kingdom of Bahrain

Sunday, 10th August 2014

Almoayed Group is one of the leading ICT solutions providers with more than three decades of dedicated ICT and associated technologies experience in Bahrain, the GCC and Middle East region.
It was established in Bahrain in 1982 by chairman and founder Nabeel Almoayed, with the vision to develop, deploy and support innovative, quality and sustainable ICT solutions and services that meet the needs of valued customers in Bahrain and the region.

The company has since established a track record as a leader in the IT sector. It has played an integral role in the development of the kingdom’s “technology infrastructure”, and in the process has developed a wide range of strategic partnerships and alliances with technology industry leaders such as Cisco, IBM, Avaya and EMC, just to name a few.

Almoayed Group is now proud to introduce Almoayed ICT – a consolidation of the various existing divisions and group subsidiaries currently operating within the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

The newly-registered entity will incorporate Almoayed Data Group (ADG), Almoayed Telecom (Amtel), Almoayed Networks (Amnet) and other subsidiaries under one unified structure. “Our aim is to create a platform for future growth,” said executive director Dr Nawaf Almoayed.

Strategy

“Unifying our various entities is a key part of our long-term strategy, and will provide us with the necessary framework to achieve our growth targets.

“The new entity will be better geared to serve our customers by combining resources and expertise under one roof and will serve to reinforce our position as a turnkey solutions provider for all our customers’ ICT requirements.”

The ICT sector has been identified as one of the key sectors and prioritised for development by the government of Bahrain in its National Economic Strategy.
With this news Almoayed ICT reaffirms its commitment to Bahrain Economic Vision 2030 by providing the latest in cutting-edge technologies and IT infrastructure requirements for the kingdom.
With a highly experienced, qualified and dedicated workforce, Almoayed ICT is at the forefront of service and quality.

“The ICT industry is inherently one of the most dynamic and fast-changing industries, and our organisation has evolved pro-actively over the past three decades,” said Almoayed Group Chief Executive Parag Bhave.
“We are proud of our history that is synonymous with Bahrain’s development and progress in the past 30 years and our technological capabilities continue to evolve and grow.
“Our customers depend on us to build and deploy effective and reliable solutions and to provide comprehensive, trustworthy business support.

“Under Almoayed ICT we will be better positioned to provide a more comprehensive and wider range of solutions to our valued customers covering all fields of ICT.”


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Gulf News Article on one of my mentors: Mr. Ramesh Mahalingam

Developing a ‘fuzzy’ business like consulting

IdealMC is an independent consulting and advisory firm
  • By Manoj Nakra, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 21:00 October 18, 2013
  • Gulf News
  • Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News
  • Ramesh S. Mahalingam, Managing Director - Ideal Management Consultants, at this office in Al Rostamani Tower B.
Ramesh started Ideal Management Consultants (IdealMC), a consulting / advisory company, after acquiring diverse experience as a CFO and in investment banking. The value offering of IdealMC has evolved and morphed over time. Ramesh ‘crafted’ the service offering to the needs of the market. IdealMC now has 10 employees.
 
What does IdealMC do?
 
R: IdealMC is an independent consulting and advisory firm. Dubai has had a number of consulting firms that were off-shoots of auditing companies. Very few companies offered consulting and advisory services to the SME sector. I saw a niche, and set up a boutique firm to occupy this space. In due course two things happened: we moved up the ladder to serve mid- to large clients, and we added training to our offerings.
 
Where was entrepreneurship in you?
 
R: After becoming a CA at 21, I imagined I would set up my own firm one day. Since then, I worked in diverse business sectors to gain diverse experience – in FMCG, shipping, oil & gas and investment banking. Working with top names in each of these sectors gave me a solid foundation and exposure to global best practices.
Years later, when my father retired after 38 years of service with a single employer, I felt his loss of identity, his feeling of being unemployed and unsought. This made me decide that my “retirement” should be in my hands. This, in a sense, rekindled the thought of entrepreneurship in me.
 
Your first assignment?
 
An HR job that came from a large retailer – to advise and implement the HR integration of a mid-sized service company they had just acquired. Our challenge lay in integrating two diverse companies with no commonalities in business or staffing. Since the office was not yet ready, the three of us operated from home and had meetings across the dinner table. Our need to deliver on the assignment was greater than readying the office.
When did you know the company had started?
From the very first assignment. I had an instinct that this would work. Our clients liked what we did, and referred us to others. We built our service offerings assignment by assignment, all based on client requirements. Gradually we saw it fall into three broad verticals: management consulting, advisory and training.
 
When did you need additional people?
 
We started off as a team of three, all of us highly driven to create a name for the firm. My initial concerns were “as a small firm would we be able to hire more such committed talent?”
Fortunately, we were able to find intelligent, talented and highly dedicated people relatively quickly, within the first few months.
 
Was it a cost issue?
 
Set up costs were not big. Around AED 350k got us the license, office space, visas, and furniture. The challenge was to manage the cash flows till we received our first payment.
 
Any surprises?
 
While I had envisaged the firm to focus on finance and cost management, our first assignment was in the HR area! Since then we have undertaken several HR assignment for diverse clients. Another unexpected green pasture was training which we entered into in response to a client’s request.
 
Any challenges in recruiting?
 
On average we hired a person every month after our first assignment till we reached 10.
I believe that every team member is an entrepreneur and stakeholder in the firm – an ‘emptreneur’. Our HR policy is designed to reward each person for business originated and mandates delivered.
 
Have you been recruiting from the beginning?
 
Recruitment is an ongoing exercise since I believe in getting the right people on board when they are available. We have been recruiting right through the recession in the belief that assignments would follow. Fortunately they have.
 
Any tense moments?
 
Yes, every time we send out a proposal and the client is close to decision-making. It’s a positive tension. Most of our clients have been good with paying for services provided, sparing us from unproductive stress.
You are a little uncomfortable soliciting business. How did you overcome this?
I don’t think I have overcome it! Rather than soliciting business, we try to promote ourselves as a firm, hoping our work speaks for itself. We love referrals – and have landed several assignments in this manner.
 
Is this your customer acquisition strategy?
 
Our primary strategy is to let our work speak for itself; and to follow it up with a thorough conversion process. Our proposals are detailed and comprehensive. They inspire confidence in our ability to execute.
 
Why do clients choose you? Is it a balance of quality and price? Or they want a boutique guy to do the work - specialization? Or they feel that big guys don’t pay attention?
 
I think it is because clients like our “solutions” approach; our commitment to the “spirit” of the assignment and the passion we exhibit shows in our work. We want to be the best regarded consulting firm.
My exposure to multiple industries and the diverse roles I fulfilled in my career makes it possible for me to advise clients with practical solutions. Clients see our Directors engaging actively on each assignment and feel they are getting their money’s worth while hiring us.
 
How did you select this niche?
We work with a mix of small, medium and large clients. In some cases they gave us relatively low-risk work to see how we performed; before we were able to get strategic assignments from them.
 
Your customer focus changed?
 
For us every assignment is significant. The diversity of clients and the range of assignments have constantly tested our team’s versatility. We now have a critical mass of delivered work to be able to confidently take on larger assignments.
 
How did you evolve pricing for your services?
 
We learnt along the way. We now have a scientific system wherein we estimate the time required by each resource level to complete an assignment and price the work accordingly. We also have a set of tools that help us track our performance, time and cost for each team member.
 
What worries you today?
 
How to keep up the reputation built thus far. How to make that favorable first impression each time we engage with the client.
 
Would you walk away from a job or a company?
 
Yes. We have done that when we are not comfortable with the declared intent of the client. Integrity is all important to us.
 
How long does it take you to win a job?
 
Between 2 days and 9 months.
 
Have you changed as a person?
 
Yes, the buck stops with me - I now have to think of all possibilities and consequences before making a decision, whereas earlier the parameters were limited and defined. The plus side is that from being a functionary operating within specific limits, I now have a lot more latitude.
I now have the added responsibility of signing my own paycheck and approving my own leave application!
 
Did you have to unlearn something?
 
It’s been re-learning rather than unlearning. No stereotypes, no rigidities. If I have to meet a client at 11 at night I do it.
 
Manoj Nakra, currently with Apparel group, is a mentor to DubaiSME members.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A past overtaken by a fast moving world

Gulf Daily News 8th August 2013 - http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=358869

These days newspapers often have stories about the global recession, an increase in unemployment, gross domestic product, growth rates, crude oil prices or falling gold prices, but I sincerely doubt this makes any sense to the common man.
Generation after generation we hear older people saying "in our day" or "in those days" - and I have started saying the same. Is it just that we are aging, or has it been always the way the world has progressed?
Let me rewind to a time when I was comfortable carrying a BD20 note in my wallet and would be unable to spend the whole amount in a week. What has changed?
Well, to start with, the need for communications has increased. Earlier, the justification was that businesses needed to always be connected. Now, it's the same even for individuals. So the once non-existent cost of mobile phones, mobile Internet, home Internet, Internet dongles and WiFi charges have come into play.
Secondly, super malls have cropped up everywhere.Simple purchases of groceries, milk and yoghurt do not happen anymore. You take a shopping cart, start browsing through the stalls, pick up anything and everything (often required items and mostly non-essential items on offer or sale).Now the shopping experience is all the more different and of course, all the more expensive.
Thirdly, the food joints offering the world's cuisine all within driving distance have turned us into food explorers. If it's a one-time venture, fine! But it doesn't stop there. You then have to introduce your friends to the newly-discovered restaurant. "That particular cheese item, what was it, ah well, that was very authentic.""You must try this..." I'm not sure whether we can really figure out whether the Italian or Mexican dishes on offer are authentic or not. How good are we at judging the authenticity of a particular cuisine? Nevertheless, every trip costs you something - an unplanned and non-essential expense.
Four, there is the ever-growing need for home electronic gadgets. It's amazing. Remember the simple Yashica, with 36 photos a film roll? You had to wait until you finished the entire roll and then rush to the photo studio - and then wait till the guy developed it in a dark room. The expressions on your face to see a few of your photos that were overexposed or underexposed. Forget about the excitement and thrill of seeing the photos, it wasn't expensive then! Now you have flashy digital cameras, camcorders and mobile phone cameras. Terabytes of storage are required to store the photos. Will you ever find that "one day" to sort the photos, delete the bad ones and retain the good ones? Maybe take a few for printing? Nope! What used to be considered a small business is now available in most modern homes. And you keep buying these expensive portable hard disks to store those precious moments, which you are never going to view again! At least not frequently! The habit of showing your photo albums to guests is no longer to be seen.
Five, don't forget the days when we used to play merrily and return home by dusk. Inexpensive, eh? Now modern children are tuned to PlayStation and Xbox. If you can afford the capital expense of buying the consoles, what about the games? BD15 or BD20 for a game? Come on! That used to be my weekly expense before the dawn of this new era! What has changed?
Everything around except the people of my generation and, of course, most of you readers in sync with what I have written. Now, is it time to go shopping? It seems there is some special offer on digital cameras!
Mohan Krishnamurthy