Saturday, December 29, 2001

Budget 2002: The citizen's charter

Open reinvestment avenues for newly created wealth; amend laws to breathe life into dead sectors like housing.
Gautam Chikermane
JANUARY IS when finance ministers hold court with the bigwigs of business and the fat cats of finance, so their demands can be heard ahead of the year’s budget. That exercise this year will be conducted between January 7 and 9. The average citizen is unrepresented, and goes unheard, in these confabulations. So, here’s an attempt to lend voice to some of his demands and recommendations to create a framework that is conducive to wealth creation by and for that average citizen:
Column in Outlook Money

Monday, December 17, 2001

There's much more to life than your job

People who equate self-worth with status find life turned upside down when they are handed a pink slip.
Gautam Chikermane
RECESSION WAS already looming on the horizon when four aircraft decided to ram it home to you. In less than a week after September 11, thousands lost jobs; in less than a month, hundreds of thousands more; over the next one year, 24 million are expected to be jobless. In an increasingly networked world, the effects of these job losses have been felt far and wide. Here in India as well. Layoffs don’t just affect your income, your financial security. All too often a job loss brings in its wake a fast-diminishing sense of self-worth, self-possession. With no phones to answer, no car to drive in, nowhere to drive to, nobody to deal with–all the familiar trappings of being successfully, gainfully employed–it’s easy to feel desolate and redundant.
But it’s also a misguided feeling. If a job alone decided our status and gave meaning to our lives, this whole business of creation would have been quite meaningless. Sure, a job is important–it’s our means to a regular income and to a position in society. But most important, it’s a vehicle of self-expression. There is such a thing as our calling, our dharma. When we’re lucky, the work we do is the work we were meant to do. When we’re not so lucky, we either find meaning in the work we do, or lead meaningless lives that pivot on the paraphernalia of our job–salary and status.
Column in Outlook Money

Saturday, December 1, 2001

Two-timers will rule

In these uncertain times, the key to staying employable is to acquire new skills and work on alternative careers.
Gautam Chikermane
IT’S NO longer in the realm of idle speculation or caged in the fertile minds of futurists–the age of simultaneous careers is upon us. It’s right here, knocking at your mind’s window, urging you to get going before you’re asked to go. If that sounds alarmist, here’s an eye-opening statistic: the International Labour Organisation estimates that 24 million jobs will be lost worldwide by the end of next year. In your 40s, even if you are safely ensconced in your career, you’ve probably gone as far as you can. As Peter F. Drucker points out in his latest article in The Economist: "A growing number of highly successful knowledge workers of both sexes–business managers, university teachers, museum directors, doctors–‘plateau’ in their 40s. They know they have achieved all they will achieve. If their work is all they have, they are in trouble."
Last month, in the US, I saw the first, most obvious signs of "trouble". During the one month I was there, the big American companies handed hundreds of thousands of workers the pink slip, even as the government did all it could to protect the profits of the very same corporations through a $150 billion bailout package. The story is only slightly different here. When we launched Intelligent Investor in July 1998, industry was in the throes of a recession and pink slips were flying all over the place. When the great dotcom dream soured, we witnessed a replay of the predictable industry response to slowdowns–mass layoffs hiding behind smart euphemisms like restructuring, rationalising, rightsizing...
Column in Outlook Money

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Saving is not equal to investing

We save to tide over difficult times. We invest to pursue financial goals like a comfortable retirement.
Gautam Chikermane
AT 22.3 per cent, India’s savings rate is respectable. And yet India, and Indians, are not wealthy. This high-savings-poor-savers contradiction occurs because we believe in saving for a rainy day rather than in creating wealth. We look at putting money aside for emergencies or even for a comfortable retirement, not to make our money grow and create wealth. We seek the security of keeping our capital intact rather than taking a well-planned risk with it. We focus on saving rather than on investing. One of the problems is our belief in this equation: saving = investing. I have seen even experts confuse these two words and use them interchangeably. While on the face of it they may be the same–in that both sacrifice present consumption for future use–in spirit, they’re not.
Different goals. People save in anticipation of uncertainties–a sudden hospitalisation, being out of a job for six months and so on. It’s all very well when there’s a cheque coming at the end of the month or when business is growing. But when things aren’t so good, this money helps them get by without too much misery. On the other hand, people invest to pursue life goals such as building a house, financing a child’s marriage or a comfortable retirement.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

UTI is... UTI is not... UTI is...

More than bad management or low returns, the problem at UTI is a structure that encourages corruption.
Gautam Chikermane
DESPITE ALL claims and actions to the contrary, in its functioning, in its structure, in its very reason for existence, the Unit Trust of India (UTI) is, quite simply, a mutual fund–a medium not only for saving money but equally to create wealth and meet life’s major financial objectives. There are seven main characteristics that make a mutual fund. Had UTI adhered to them, the current crisis would have only been one of bad fund management or low returns–a problem not entirely restricted to UTI. These seven points are why mutual funds are the best investment vehicles, not only in India but across the world. In my opinion, in five of these, UTI scores ‘Poor’, in two it scores ‘Fair’. Overall score: Poor.
Professional management. When an asset management scheme (AMC) floats a scheme, it brings into the product a few of the top minds in the field of finance. These are experienced and skilled professionals whose job is to research companies, analyse industries, crunch numbers, evaluate the future, observe stock prices, interest rates, currency fluctuations and so on. They then match these analyses with the objective of the investors. Only after this rigorous exercise do these professionals buy stocks, bonds or gilts. So, for a small fee, you get the services of these professionals, services that would otherwise be impossible for you to avail of. UTI’s score: Poor. Due to its large holdings, the skills of fund managers have not been allowed to develop, as they are prisoners of inter-scheme transfers (a fund on which there is redemption pressure sells to one which new investors are buying). Besides, research took a backseat in the past few years, as investigations reveal.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

The Essential Drucker

An essential, but incomplete, compendium from the mahatma of management.
Gautam Chikermane
AS I eagerly await Peter Drucker’s next book (the last one, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, was published in 1999), all I get are compendiums–Peter Drucker on the Profession of Management (1998) and, now, The Essential Drucker. No one’s complaining–be it a book, an article, a collection or a speech, there is always a freshness and a deep insight into everything this mahatma of management touches. Even in his early-90s, Drucker is, in a sense, much younger than many young writers (including myself), and more open, more incisive than all of us.
This collection–put together by Drucker himself–is essential, but incomplete. Essential writings on management, the individual and society include masterpieces drawn from his 30 books in a 60-year-long career. So, we have The Information Executives Need Today, a must for all leaders; Picking People: The Basic Rules, a must for every manager; and The Second Half of Your Life, a must for everyone. It is incomplete because it is my firm opinion that Drucker can’t be sliced: in every book, he takes up a theme and expands on it in great detail, and surgical procedures don't do justice to that theme or his handling of it. How, for instance, can you encapsulate the vastness of his 1985 classic Innovation and Entrepreneurship in five small excerpts?
Book review in Outlook Money

Sunday, July 15, 2001

Invest well to spend smartly

The here and now is all very well, but you need to save and invest to take care of your future needs.
Gautam Chikermane
TRUE, THE starving stomachs of the 40-year-long Socialist era had to be filled. So, now that the economy has been liberalised, cars, TVs, VCRs, CD players, chocolates, jeans, shoes, drinks–just about everything the wealthier classes had aspired to earlier–are being bought as if they will disappear tomorrow. Much of this buying is financed by debt; so not only are they spending much of what they have, they are borrowing to do so! But the race for the latest goodies is never-ending: it could be a Furby for your daughter today or a holiday on the moon tomorrow. The question you need to answer is this: what are my financial priorities? Let me explain. I’m listing three absolutely essential, absolutely ‘boring’ things all of you will definitely have to spend on. Make sure you’ve planned for them before you buy the next fashion statement.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Saturday, June 30, 2001

Which risks should you take?

Risk goes far beyond the usual volatility-reward equation and applies as much to earning money as to investing it.
Gautam Chikermane
IN MY previous column, Are they Investing or Gambling?, I had shown a methodology of climbing the ladder of risk by according 5 extra percentage points to each rung of higher risk that investors climb. So if ‘risk-free’ government securities give you a tax-adjusted return of 17.1 per cent, the next level of risk, say a mutual fund, should give you 22.1 per cent and so on. This was a simplistic, back-of-the-envelope, directional look at risk. But what is risk? How much risk can we take without getting financial indigestion? Is one man’s risk the same as another’s? Or is risk-taking a highly individual activity, a solitary journey towards wealth creation?
What is risk? The most common way of defining risk is something like this: the fluctuation in the return on your investments and, leave alone the potential for or extent of growth, the possibility of losing all your money. There is also this commonly used mantra–high risks translate into high rewards–which need not be true all the time, as the recent carnage in technology stocks showed.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Thursday, May 31, 2001

Are they investing or gambling?

You are gambling when what you buy neither assures you safety of capital nor gives you a reasonable return.
Gautam Chikermane
AT THE end of every stock market scam, particularly when share prices start falling sharply, the one common refrain heard is: the stock market is a gambling den, of the gamblers, for the gamblers, by the gamblers. Last week, one investor who had lost a lot of money in the recent carnage told me, "The stock market is a satta. I’m not coming back again." Interestingly, he said the same thing eight years ago, when he lost money in the securities scam.
He’s not alone. A look at the trading volumes will tell you far more about the departure of investors from the market than any number of newspaper pages or analysts’ reports. Compared to a daily turnover of around Rs 6,300 crore on the National Stock Exchange on December 6, 2000, the daily turnover today is around Rs 1,900 crore–a fall of 70 per cent! The quantity of shares traded has fallen to 97 million, almost half its value, in less than five months. The scam has taken its toll.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

In search of enough-II

We, as a civilisation, suffer from the never enough syndrome: the more we have, the more we want to have.
Gautam Chikermane
The one whose appetite is satisfied loathes honey, but to the hungry mouth every bitter thing is sweet. –Proverbs 27:7, Bible
Satish Patel from New Delhi has been one of our earliest, most regular and steadfast readers, encouraging us when we do good work and reprimanding us when we slip up. This time he’s pointed out something so basic, so simple and so obvious, that I wonder why I didn’t think of it before. In my previous column, I had explored the limits of wealth we want, and was wondering when we’ll ever have Enough of it. In response to which Patel writes: "There is a lot of truth in your musings (In Search of Enough, April 30). However, I believe that somewhere down the line the inexorable Law of Diminishing Returns would start to take effect. That’s when people face lifetime crises. And, perhaps, start contributing to others’ wealth–shrinks and doctors."
For those who are not students of economics, the law of diminishing returns is an economic principle that lays down that the application of additional units of any one factor of production– labour, land, capital–to fixed amounts of the other factors yields successively smaller increments in the total output. For instance, if more and more labourers are added to harvest a farm, at some point each additional labourer will add less output than his predecessor did, simply because he has less and less of the fixed amount of land to work on. A long-time characteristic of Indian agriculture, economists have called this ‘disguised unemployment’. First hinted at by sociologist-economist Thomas Robert Malthus in his 1798 paper, Essay on the Principle of Population, this principle was later accepted as an economic law underlying all productive enterprises.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Monday, April 30, 2001

In search of enough

Reinvent yourself while pursuing new goals and you will move up.
Gautam Chikermane
He is the richest who is content with the least: Socrates
When I started my career, it was at a low-paid job in the low-paid profession of journalism. My first paycheque was for Rs 1,650. I would take a morning bus to office and an evening bus back home, watching with great delight the spring blossoms in Delhi. I would not eat out or buy too many things. I was happy, but... I thought if I made Rs 5,000 a month, I would be a rich man. When I did begin to earn Rs 5,000, I would sometimes take my wife out to a Chinese joint and splurge Rs 250 on a lavish lunch. I was happy, but... I thought Rs 8,000 was a salary to aspire for. And this aspiration has gone upwards in a spiral dance, making me prance from one foot to the other, in search of ‘Enough’.
I am not alone. So many people leave so many jobs everyday because they aren’t being paid Enough. When they look at their investments, it’s the same story: in the best case, their investment in Infosys has trebled, but they think that’s not Enough for them to sell–it could treble again, they feel. When they drove a bike, all they wanted was something, anything, on four wheels; now their Maruti 800 isn’t enough–it’s not big enough, it’s not cool enough, it’s not worthy of their status; it’s just not Enough.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Saturday, April 28, 2001

Schools that Learn

New, interesting ideas for old, moribund institutions.
Gautam Chikermane
As my daughter readies to enter school, I am filled with dread. Cursory research tells me that what is imparted to kids in the name of education will only destroy whatever true learning they are capable of -- classrooms like prisons; teachers who treat pupils as trophies to be marketed or as pariah dogs to be ‘disciplined’; institutions that neither question nor allow questions.
Schools that Learn is a collection of 191 pieces by 113 writers, which discusses advances in education. It explores new ideas, pursues new thoughts, and presents exercises that people are adopting to help make institutions more like learning organisations. It suggests that the one-size-fits-all education system that serviced the 19th century industrial world may not work as effectively today. I agree: our children will be more ‘global’ citizens than we, and will need to be creative, original, individual -- things our schools neither provide, nor can provide. A new way is needed. What that is, I have no idea -- neither does the book, but it gives interesting directions, stimulating possibilities.
Book review in Outlook Money

The Internet Bubble: Inside the Overvalued World of High-tech Stocks

Time you geared up to face the internet shakeout.
Gautam Chikermane
The epilogue says it all:
An Open Letter
To: Internet Company Investors
From: The Authors
Re: Sell Now!
The bottom line to our analysis is very simple. With very few exceptions, every one of the 133 public Internet companies listed in our Internet Bubble portfolio is overvalued. Our advice to Internet investors is equally simple: If you hold any of these stocks, it's time to sell.
Book review in Outlook Money

High tech, high touch

How technology has become the god we love to hate.
Gautam Chikermane
The 70-year-old man couldn't understand it. All he knew was that the Indian Airlines flight to Jodhpur had been cancelled. For this man, a metals trader in Jodhpur, the computerised schedules were formidable. He hobbled behind the customer services man but the customer services man was busy with other younger, more aggressive, stronger men. This went on for a while, and as I boarded my flight to Mumbai (three hours late), I noticed him being taken to a taxi, his tension-filled creases intact.
The old man lingered in my head for a while. Being not as old myself, I thought it must be his "industrial age" thinking that prevented him from understanding the simple things in life -- the various technological screens we live with (computers, TVs, cellphones, and their application to airlines). I didn't understand that what he needed was the human touch. Or so John Naisbitt told me in the two hours to Mumbai in his latest book, High Tech, High Touch.
Book review in Outlook Money

Profit patterns

The key to business success is to see the ever-changing shifts in patterns.
Gautam Chikermane
Profit Patterns
Are there really "30 ways to anticipate and profit from strategic forces reshaping your business", as Profit Patterns claims? Or even 10? My opinion: no. But I believe books like this have a function: they study businesses, they relate and marry theories and practices, they provide insights. The last is the most valuable -- which is why I read them. And the five authors, all from Mercer Management Consulting, don't disappoint.
The book "is the 'codebook': the specifics of how to identify the shifts taking place in your market so that the performance of can be raised to a level similar to that achieved by reinventors."
Book review in Outlook Money

Management Challenges for the 21st Century

Peter Drucker never disappoints. This time, he's got valuable lessons for the future.
Gautam Chikermane
A couple of books ago, Peter F. Drucker, the father of management, had declared that like the brilliant composer Giuseppe Verdi did at age 80, he too would continue to strive for perfection. This is what he wrote in his 1997 book, Drucker on Asia: "I resolved that if I ever reached an advanced age, I would not give up. I would strive for perfection even though, as I well knew, it would surely, always elude me." Drucker today is 10 years older than Verdi was then. And, like Verdi, he doesn't disappoint: Management Challenges for the 21st Century remains, as all his earlier 31 books, refreshingly -- and predictably -- insightful.
Of course, if you have been following the works of this master, you would have read much of what he has to offer earlier: the chapter on new paradigms of management was published in Forbes; the one on knowledge worker productivity in the California Management Review; the ones on information and managing the individual in the Harvard Business Review. There is a sound strategy of a learner behind this: "The best pilot-test for my writings, I have found, is to pre-publish sections of a forthcoming book in magazines." I might add that the one other place where you can see Drucker's forthcoming book is following his thoughts in the interviews he gives in magazines -- Wired and Inc, among others.
Book review in Outlook Money

At any cost

At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit
There's more to it than a good-looking bottomline. For one, there's people -- you and I.
Gautam Chikermane
The bottomline: this is one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. One that is making me question my beliefs, convictions, and expectations out of my money, in a way that no other has. It is harsh in its straightforwardness, unpretentious in its balancing of values that run counter to one another. The hypothesis -- that beyond a point, capitalism, competitiveness and the free market need to be controlled -- is convincing: reduntant workers committing suicide on being laid off, dangerous radioactive chemicals running amuck in clear streams, bribes, illegal price fixation, ugly defence deals. The treatment is ruthless. And it reads like a thriller.
The book is not so much about Jack Welch and the company he heads -- General Electric, the world's most valuable company (its market capitalisation on November 23: $309.2 billion, or Rs 12,97,800 crore, against India's GDP of Rs 11,49,000 crore) -- or the management trends of the US economy, or even the ghastly acts that respected companies commit in trying to reach their ends, as it is about you and I, and our place in the new capitalism. An otherwise fine -- possibly the best proven -- system that has reached its nadir. A point where the bottomline is everything.
Book review in Outlook Money

Friday, April 27, 2001

A Future Perfect

Neither worship it nor throw stones at it -- just learn to live with globalisation.
Gautam Chikermane
Hindustan Lever is an ‘Indian’ company, with brands that are part of many Indians’ lives -- Dalda, Lux, Lifebuoy. But 74 per cent of it is owned by UK-based Unilever. Infosys Technologies is an ‘Indian’ company, almost all of whose turnover -- and profits -- comes from services delivered outside India. Americans can buy its shares on the Nasdaq as easily as you can on the National Stock Exchange. ‘Foreign’ institutional investors own a huge chunk of this company. So, how ‘Indian’ are Lever and Infosys? Globalisation affects your investments like never before.
You worked for a head-hunting firm that had good business from a big software company. Then, the software company got taken over by a US-based leader, which had its own German head-hunting advisor. Your company closed down. You joined a Finnish cellphone company at four times your last salary, stock options (at the Nasdaq) aside. Globalisation affects your very source of livelihood.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Sunday, April 15, 2001

A deadly mistress called greed

When you invest in a stock you think will quickly give you 30% be ready to lose as much as quick.
Gautam Chikermane
WHAT ON earth could make a man kill his children? When the answer is ‘money’, a crime that could have been tragic seems only appalling. Forty-year-old Sanjay Agarwal and his wife Sapna (33) decide to do away with their lives–and take those of their two innocent children, Ashita (10) and Chirag (6), as well. They killed themselves and their children by hanging from a fan in their house in Delhi on March 21. Reason: Sanjay, who worked with Omkar Securities, suffered heavy losses in the recent stock market crash, the second in 12 months, lost his money, his clients. And his life.
Five days earlier, on March 16, Virender Kumar Aggarwal (48) of Hissar (Haryana), and his wife Ramkali committed suicide at a hotel in Delhi’s Paharganj. In his suicide note, Virender, a head cashier at Punjab National Bank, admitted to pilfering Rs 70 lakh from the Bank Employees’ Cooperative Society. He was a known stock market gambler, but no one believed he would gamble the society’s savings away. He did. Why?
Opinion in Outlook Money

Saturday, March 31, 2001

Uncertain rewards

It's always better to invest in a basket of stocks than in the one great stock. Any fall will never be as hard.
Gautam Chikermane
THERE IS a principle of physics discovered by Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976), best known as the founder of quantum mechanics, that demonstrated that certain pairs of variables cannot be measured together. Specifically, in a 1927 paper, just five years before he received a Nobel Prize for physics in 1932, Heisenberg concluded that the more precisely one determines a sub-atomic particle’s (electron, for instance) position, the less precisely can one determine its momentum. A forecast of the particle’s trajectory is, therefore, subject to an unavoidable inaccuracy. This is called Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.
This ‘unavoidable inaccuracy’ reflects itself on the stock markets, too. There is no certainty that just because a company has been performing consistently well, it will continue to do so. There is no certainty that an undervalued stock will not remain undervalued forever. There is no certainty that a mutual fund that has generated decent returns in the past will continue to do so in the future–that’s the reason why securities regulators the world over have funds publish this statement in their prospectuses: "All mutual funds and securities investments are subject to market risks and there is no assurance and no guarantee that the fund’s objectives will be achieved."
Opinion in Outlook Money

Thursday, March 15, 2001

Invest in the instrument called you

There is one law you must obey so that You can continue to generate wealth: You must grow.
Gautam Chikermane
...a world in which people work with their brains instead of their hands.
Wired magazine’s definition of ‘New Economy’
Wealth creation has had a direct link with investments: the more you invest and the longer you allow those investments to compound, the more you accumulate. Saving (the money you don’t spend now in the hope that it’ll grow so you can spend more of it tomorrow), therefore, is a major part of this exercise, the others being the risk, the returns, and the duration of the investments. So, we invested in financial instruments ranging from government securities to company bonds and fixed deposits to stocks. The experts told us it was wise to diversify, so we spread our investments in instruments that gave varying returns, which took care of our short- to long-term needs. To this diversified basket of securities, I propose to add one more instrument: You.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Wednesday, February 28, 2001

For your child's sake?

There is only one way to put a great fortune to use: giving while you are alive to causes you think are important.
Gautam Chikermane
Poot kapoot to kyon dhan sanchay/ Poot sapoot to kyon dhan sanchay Why bequeath wealth to an unworthy son/ Why bequeath wealth to a worthy son
-–Sant Kabirdas (1398-1448)
One of the flimsiest and commonest excuses for not parting with the wealth one accumulates in one’s lifetime is that the wealth is being created for one’s children–their education, their security, their financial freedom. One has chosen to be an entrepreneur, struggled and created wealth against all odds so that one’s children can go ahead and become poets, if they should be so inclined. There should be nothing they want and not be able to get simply for lack of money. After all, society didn’t help me when I was in need; so, what moral grounds does the same community, government, nation have to expect this philanthropy from me, these people ask.
Ironically, the answer is: for the very same children on whose tiny shoulders they put the gun and shoot off this excuse. In June 1889, millionaire businessman Andrew Carnegie–whose millions could finance the US economy for much more than a month, unlike Bill Gates’ billions, which may be able to finance it for two days–wrote a beautiful article that extolled the rational virtues of charity and broke all the myths associated with the subject. His aim was to explore the options one had in respect of what to do with one’s wealth after one passes on. According to him, there were three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of: "It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or, finally, it can be administered during their lives by its possessors."
Opinion in Outlook Money

Friday, February 16, 2001

Opportunities abound

The wealth creator suddenly has greater access to the one missing factor of production: money.
Gautam Chikermane
As you read these lines, there’s an exciting career being born in this country, a career that could also generate remarkable wealth. If you venture into it, you will get a monthly salary that will range from above average to lavish. This is aside from a heavy pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow–if you get to the end, that is. I’m talking about entrepreneurship. With the changing nature of the big picture, smaller opportunities are coming at us at warp speed. Yes, the Internet and its slew of accompanying technologies is the one major driver of this career, but even outside of the bits and bytes, our country is changing–for the better. Indians are sitting at the cutting edge of the digital revolution, new prosperity is forcing markets to mature, corruption is down, licences are virtually over, and most important, the face of capital markets is changing.
India has been, is, and hopefully will remain, a nation of entrepreneurs. The one change that the financial markets are driving today is putting resources in the hands of the prime driver. The entrepreneur suddenly has greater access to the one factor of production that has been missing in her quest to create wealth: money. For four decades after freedom, India Inc remained chained and enterprise was sacrificed at the altar of greater good, or socialism. Hence the licences, the inspectors, the harassment, the corruption, the babus, the politicians–a mixture potent enough to shoo away the most dynamic among men. And yet Indian enterprise survived. But only just. It could not, for instance, ensure economies of scale that have helped China advance so much so fast–go to any shop today and you’ll know what I’m talking about: for virtually every Indian product there is a cheaper and better Chinese product available.
Opinion in Outlook Money

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Why do you want to make money?

There's more to wealth than what it can buy, how it can grow, what it can give you.
Gautam Chikermane
WHY WOULD anyone want money if not to be wealthy? Why would anyone want to be wealthy if not to be happy? Why would anyone want to be happy if it were not an instinct? And yet, the common belief is that the wealthier you get the unhappier you end up. While I don’t think generalisations of this kind can be taken as the gospel truth, it would be equally unwise to let our motivations about money go unresearched, unanalysed, unthought-out, simply because we as part of the ‘instant’ civilisation believe it’s an esoteric and a complex subject, or that it’s better to make money than to think about and understand why we want to make it in the first place, better to create wealth than to think about creation. But unless we tackle, or even attempt to grapple with this so very typical moral-material problem, one of our primary motivations and guiding star, money, will become a thoughtless process.
Neither of these two quests is unique to our society; the pursuit of wealth and the reasons for that pursuit have existed eternally, across time and space. Since time immemorial, men have sought, and fought bitter battles for it, be it in the form of animals for prehistoric man; land, cowries, bronze, silver and gold during early civilisations across Egypt, Mesopotamia and India; coins and notes after that; and now, information. Philosophers have matched this quest with equal enthusiasm. Wealth was an important, if not the primary, chapter in the literature of the Vedic period in India where the canons of life in its entirety—body, mind and spirit - were carved out. The world’s greatest epic, the Mahabharata, has detailed discussions on wealth in many of its pravas (cantos). These discussions are not without apparent contradictions. At one point, the book extols the virtues of material wealth: "A person without wealth is more dead than alive." Or: "The loss of wealth is misery." And at another: "The dross of wealth consists in hoarding it." But read deeper, and the ambiguities disappear.
Opinion in Outlook Money