Business

Oct 102014
 
PB asks pensioners to invest in capital market
By Dilina Kulathunga
The country’s Treasury Secretary yesterday asked the pensioners who live on interest received on fixed deposits to invest their money in the stock market as going forward, further lowering of interest rates is inevitable.

According to Dr. P.B Jayasundera, country’s burgeoning capital market offers an attractive investment alternative for those suffering from lower interest rates on their
bank savings.

“We can already see some concern over low interest rates by those who live on interest income from traditional savings for which the capital market could provide alternative opportunities”


“We can already see some concern over low interest rates by those who live on interest income from traditional savings for which the capital market could provide alternative opportunities,” said

Dr. Jayasundera addressing Sri Lanka’s first post-war international capital market conference.
In Sri Lanka, a large number of retirees live on interest received, having put all their retirement benefits in bank fixed deposits, as they consider banks offer them a safer option to any other investments out in the market.   

However, with the Central Bank lowering their key policy rates to multi-year lows in recent times, commercial banks have reduced their deposit rates at a faster pace than the lending rates, leaving pensioners highly vulnerable.

According to recent Central Bank data, Sri Lanka’s one year fixed deposit rate has dropped to 8.18 percent by end August from 12.82 percent a year ago.
It was only recently the Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal asked pensioners to put their moneys into business startups and also to stat new ventures with their retirement benefits, a proposition which led to debates given the appropriateness of the suggestion, given the ability to take such high risks by them.

According to professional fund managers, when providing investment advisory to the retirees, they are usually advised to invest their savings in fixed income securities as they are unable to take risks when they grow older.

However, Dr. Jayasundera said although money interest rates are low, the real rate of interest is higher due to low inflation prevailing but told this theory is hard to sell.
“Economic theory of course argues that, the real rate of interest is what matters. This is hard to sell until money illusion disappears, that is the tendency of the people to think of currency in nominal or the face value terms rather than in real terms or in terms of purchasing power,” he explained.
When an economy moves into an advanced status it is natural that the nominal interest rates trend downwards.

Oct 102014
 
How smartphones are ruining relationships and work ethics


It is no secret that our habits, whether at work or leisure, have been transformed overnight with the arrival of the smartphone. We are all guilty at one time or another of spending more time interacting with our smartphone than with people. It’s no longer just the younger generation that is glued to phones but our generation as well. In the olden days, while waiting for a meeting or at a restaurant or the airport, we used to read books – at least the magazines on the table. Now we check our phones; we Facebook, Tweet, text, play games or read on our phones.

Damaging smartphone habits

Smartphones are great and enable us to work seamlessly. We can email on the move, text and do just about (almost) everything that we do on our computers. But being consumed and totally taken up by our smartphones in a social context can be bad. We need to be mindful that spending time with the phone can become a habit that’s hard to break. And before long, we have become anti-social creatures, who crave the company of none.

In 2009, billionaire businessman Tom Golisano was so put off by the phone habits of New York Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, that it is said Golisano engineered Smith’s eventual ouster. The reason? At a meeting between the two, Smith spent more time on his Blackberry than talking and interacting with Golisano. The businessman later told the media that talking to Smith had been like talking to a wall.  

Most of us do not realize how damaging smartphone habits can be. We need to be able to control our interactions with technology rather than allowing technology to control us. It must be a deliberate move on our part and can be done if we put ourselves to it. We need to be mindful of the time spent checking our phones when in social company – this is especially relevant during the time we spend with our families.Using smartphones, for some, enhances their ability to multi-task. But there are times when it can go wrong when we choose to read detailed emails off our phones – it can result in not being able to grasp and understand the context and not allowing a detailed response.

It is also dangerous, although for some it goes with the career, to stay connected 24/7 via the smartphones or the tabs – dangerous to health and relationships alike. We have to unlearn this bad habit and allow ourselves sometime to switch off – if not the phone, then at least ourselves.

Teach art of conversation

Staying tuned on the smartphones may also be distracting us from the real issues. Problem-solving skills, brainstorming, strategic planning, all of it used to be tasks that called for us to sit and think. All too often, we find ourselves tempted to check status or check mail on the smart devices we carry everywhere we go. It is not uncommon to find people who take their smartphones to the loo with them. Most are totally consumed by it – the look on their faces tells it all.

It is not difficult to spot just how much technology has got us wired – to our devices. Just watch families at dinner or the airport. Every member of the family will be wired to a device, instead of talking and connecting as individuals. Although it comes naturally to kids, it is up to us to initiate social interaction and teach them the art of conversation.

I remember reading online about children in the US, during the power outages resulting from the storms hitting New York, didn’t know what to say to each other or talk to each other when their devices were drained of power and they (the devices) could not be recharged.

In addition to inculcating the need to engage in social interactions in the next generation, it is imperative to remember that we must make an effort to manage devices in a manner that allows us to escape the grips of technology. When was the last time you watched a sunset live (not on YouTube)? When was the last time you sat down with a good book, not Kindle or iBooks? Or just watched the greenery around you, in a moment of silence?

Where to draw the line

We must be able to fit in those extra bits and pieces into our lives in order for us to function better and live better. Human beings did not engage in technology for thousands of years but still were able to live fulfilling lives; now that we do, we have to be able to continue to engage our spirits, our minds, our souls and ourselves in a manner that enables us to experience deep satisfaction inside – the kind that can only come from thriving inter-personal relationships, whether at work or home.
Sometimes it is good to walk away from all devices and just spend time doing the things we used to do before devices took over. Painting, reading, having tea with someone, going to the beach, actually visiting someone in person rather than on Facebook – these used to be the ways in which we relaxed and spend downtime. Those options still remain the best ways to unwind and enrich our lives.Technology is fine – smartphones and other devices are the modern marvels that empower us to get more done. Those who are house bound due to physical limitations find escape and social interaction via devices on Facebook and other social networking sites, which have become fantastic choices for them. Being able to share accomplishments, frustrations and achievements with friends instantly online is great too – we have to be able to know where to draw the line between technology and living life on real terms.Now that we have taken the plunge with our smartphones and devices, there is no turning back. We have to be able to make the kind of choices that allow us to take over our lives and lead those lives in meaningful ways outside of the devices.

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)

Oct 072014
 
Power of compelling leadership inspires exceptional performance

arry Posner, in his best-selling book – ‘The Leadership Challenge’ – says that the qualities we want in a leader are essentially the same ones we want in a friend or co-worker or a partner, ‘except for one’. In leaders, we also need to see an additional dimension – we need to know their ‘vision’ if we are to enrol in their cause. Leaders must visualise and formulate a ‘compelling’ future that enrols others. This is where the bus stops and you should get down if you realise that leadership is not for you.

In the past few weeks, we studied authenticity and trustworthiness create the basis for committed relationships. People who are authentic and trustworthy are generally good and fair. They can be suitable candidates for genuine friendship. But, it doesn’t mean that we should follow them – anywhere. These two important virtues are necessary but insufficient to create committed followership.

To be willing to act of our own free will and choose to follow someone, we must experience something distinctly different. We must feel ‘compelled’.  Ask any successful leader and he will tell you that any version of success required committed ‘action’ toward goals. And action requires teams of people assembled around leaders lined up with a shared vision. Compelling leaders create a following that is different from one of ‘believers’ (like spiritual teachers or gospel preachers). Leaders inspire followers who commit not just their mind but also their time and energy.  

Compelling leaders, on the other hand, will lead by the power of their competence

Compelling leaders in an organisation are the strategic difference between exceptional achievement and mediocrity.

Difference

It happens all the time in all kinds of organisations. Someone is placed in a position of leadership, but he lacks the skills to engender loyalty, attract followers and use risk as a technique to grow and learn. These are the positional leaders that can bring organisational growth and employee achievement to a halt.
Positional leaders lead by the power of their position. They can lead only when they are the ‘top’ players’ bracket. They think what they don’t know is unimportant. They manage the actions of others. They use only their current knowledge. They would rather play it safe, taking minimal risks. They blame others for failure. They force their followers to obey them.

Compelling leaders, on the other hand, will lead by the power of their competence. They are leaders from any position. They understand what they know and don’t know. They take action. They are always actively learning. They take calculated risks. They learn from risks that fail or succeed. They are followed without any pressure.
The first powerful reality is that positional leaders can learn the principles and practices they need to become compelling leaders. The second powerful reality is that people at all levels of an organisation can use the principles and practices of compelling leadership. If an organisation has an abundance of compelling leaders, the achievements, success, and profitability would follow at all levels.

The high-impact programmes of compelling leadership deliver the leadership principles, strategies and actions that can make the difference in any organisation – the difference between exceptional achievement and mediocrity. These programmes are motivational, stimulating and humorous – while delivering action-oriented and practical how-to steps that you can use today!

Skills

Many of us are capable of this compelling leadership. But being a compelling leader is not simple and natural for most. It’s more than just recruiting and building a team or company. It’s about being more than just inspirational.

Below are skills you must master to create a movement of people who will step up and do something important and powerful.

1. They show strength. 
Some leaders are stronger than others. Weakness can come from character, but often it comes from a lack of belief in the mission. Compelling leaders are resolved. They embody faith and commitment to their message, which builds a belief in their authenticity. Their strength is rich and deep enough for others to not only observe it but to draw from it.
To be a compelling leader, you must choose a cause worthy of your faith and share your inner strength boldly and generously.

2. They connect empathetically. 
Many leaders lead with appointed authority. But compelling leaders don’t worry about acquired authority. Instead, they practice empathy as a means for inspiring people. They explore how people tick and what they care about, so they are able to address people ‘where they live’. By sharing rather than telling, they draw people’s interest into the mission at hand and motivate them to get involved.
To be a compelling leader, you must be approachable and relatable to attract and retain those who will join your journey.

3. They inspire with vision. 
Leading people through tasks makes them dependent and reactive. Compelling leaders can clearly articulate a vision. They paint a picture of something better for people to live and breathe. They describe their message in clear, straightforward language and relate the emotional components in a way that is easily absorbed by those ready to move forward.
To be a compelling leader, you must be a great storyteller. You must detail for people a desirable future worthy of their efforts.

4. They attract doers.
 Leaders are judged as much by their teams as by their actions. Compelling leaders attract many but choose to build teams only with proactive people who are self-driven and objective-oriented. The opportunity to work with high performers then becomes additional incentive for others to join or to step up their game. A team with a compelling leader carries out its tasks with a sense of fun and camaraderie, further enhancing the experience and the performance.
To be a compelling leader, you must be selective about those who join your team. You must reward those who are self-starters and forgo the weak that will deplete morale.

5. They earn respect.
 Many leaders have authority bestowed upon them. But a title or salary is not sufficient to command top performance. Compelling leaders gain authority from their performance and how they relate to people. They earn respect of people through small actions of success and connection. Then people trust that leaders have a right to be heard and followed. They may not have ‘all’ the answers, but they know how to move forward in a humble and inclusive way.
To be a compelling leader, you must never assume authority. No matter your position or tenure, you must treat every day as an opportunity to be gracious and earn respect.

6. They instil confidence. 
Many leaders direct action without providing the support and tools to achieve the objectives. Compelling leaders make sure that all the tools are there for people to execute from day one. They make sure that everyone on their team is prepared physically and mentally for the journey ahead so the team can handle any obstacle in the path. People are far more likely to step up when confident they have the knowledge and tools necessary for success.

Positional leaders lead by the power of their position

To be a compelling leader, you must research, plan and prepare. You must help your team feel secure and prepared for the challenges it will undertake.

(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at lionwije@live.com)

Oct 072014
 
Private credit growth falls to new low

Despite much optimism over the 2H14 private sector credit growth, the latest data shows that Sri Lanka’s banking sector credit to the private sector firms and the personal customers in July has dipped to a new low of 0.8 percent from a year ago.

According to a monthly economic and business sector bulletin issued by a local management consultancy, the 0.8 percent credit growth has been the lowest since more than six and a half years ago.

“Credit to private businesses and personal customers grew just 0.8 percent year-on-year (YoY) in July 2014 to Rs.2,481.9 billion, a 56-month low,” Gradient Alliance said.

The local consultancy blamed the higher import tariffs, consumption taxes slapped on the consumers and also the scarcity of certain commodities for the existing private credit situation as they have not only lowered the disposable incomes but also dampened the consumer confidence

Sri Lanka’s private credit growth has been behaving in the opposite direction to the monetary policy actions and the published economic growth figures, a scenario identified as ‘creditless growth’ by economists.

Sri Lanka’s private credit growth fell from a high of 34.5 percent in 2011, 23.5 percent in 2012, 8 percent in 2013 and further down to 2 percent in June 2014. But the economy grew by 7.6 percent and 7.8 percent in 1Q14 and 2Q14, respectively.

The Central Bank (CB) targets a 16 percent private credit growth for 2014.

The extremely low credit growth is despite the CB cutting its key policy rates by 125 basis points each from December 2012 through January 2014, leaving the Standing Deposit Facility Rate (SDFR) at 6.5 percent and Standing Lending Facility Rate at 8 percent for the ninth consecutive month.

After releasing the first half (1H) credit growth data, CB Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal reiterated that there would be a relatively high private credit demand in the 2H.
Meanwhile, it was only recently Nations Trust Bank PLC CEO Renuka Fernando stated that traditionally the 2H credit growth had been higher than its 1H in the banking sector.  

The Central Bank a couple of weeks ago announced a reduction in the interest rate paid for the excess moneys parked by commercial banks in its Standard Deposit Facility (SDF), if a bank uses the facility more than three times a calendar month.

Accordingly, a commercial bank can keep its excess money in the SDF at an annual rate of 6.5 percent only three times during a calendar month and further deposits will be paid a lower interest rate of 5 percent per annum.

This was done with the intention of forcing the banks to lend these excess liquidity, which amounts to as much as Rs.300 billion, to the productive sectors in the economy, without letting to idle at the CB.

Last week, it was revealed that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the personal customers were reluctant to borrow, despite the lending rates remaining low due to uncertainty over the ability of the authorities to sustain the rates at the same levels for a foreseeable future.

Beside the negative impact from pawning loans, which still remains sluggish, Gradient Alliance identifies prices of trade and industry-related activities becoming too expensive as another factor for the weak credit growth

The local consultancy blamed the higher import tariffs, consumption taxes slapped on the consumers and also the scarcity of certain commodities for the existing private credit situation as they have not only lowered the disposable incomes but also dampened the consumer confidence.

“For example, in construction, the cost of construction material is at an all-time high, prices of motor vehicles are high due to the revised valuation methodology and high import tariffs, food prices are increasing due to higher import levies on select goods and scarcity of select vegetables,” they said.

Oct 052014
 
Tea promotional cess finally at disposal

he much-awaited utilization of ‘tea promotional fund’ is expected to be put into its intended use before the end of this year, as 50 percent of the fund will be returned to the tea exporters to strengthen their existing promotional campaigns, according to the Plantation Industries Minister.

Started four years ago, the tea promotional budget has grown to become a US $ 50 million (Rs.6.6 billion) fund, but an exporter will have to spend part of the company’s promotional budget in order to obtain moneys from the government.

“Fifty percent of this fund will be at your disposal. You would of course have to spend some of your money to get our money. This is a matching fund that we have put in place,” said Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.The disposal of the fund will complement with how much an exporter could afford to spend on promotional campaigns. However, the budget will dispose funds up to a maximum of US $ 1 million in the case of a single exporter.

Speaking at the 15th Annual General Meeting of the Tea Exporters’ Association (TEA) last week, Minister Samarasinghe said he would present the Cabinet paper within the course of this month and was optimistic he would receive the approval.

“The Cabinet-appointed negotiation committee has finalized their report and forwarded to me. I am in the process of studying this report and I am hopeful that I would be able to go before the Cabinet within the course of this month.

I don’t see any issues as far as the Cabinet is concerned as we have followed the procedure. I am hopeful that you will be able to start utilizing this fund during the course of this year,” he said.


The marketing and promotions levy of Rs.3.50 per kilogram of tea exports commenced from November 1, 2010, in addition to an existing export cess of Rs.6 per kilogram. But up till now the levy was not put into its intended use despite repeated calls from the exporters for many years.

Minister Samarasinghe’s decision to match the disposal of funds to the company’s own promotional expenditure appears to be a positive move as this will make the companies to earn this money instead of automatically being eligible to receive.

Despite the money is contributed to the fund by the exporters, the government may require to monitor whether the exporters are spending these moneys for the intended purpose.     

Meanwhile, the reappointed Chairman of the TEA for his third term, Rohan Fernando, welcomed the government’s decision and made no complaints on the method of fund disposal.

The tea promotional budget is the largest fund ever had with the Sri Lanka Tea Board and the minister urged the tea exporters to spend the moneys on penetrating new markets as well as re-enforcing the existing markets.

Oct 032014
 
Int’l construction standards could help hub ambition - Rishad
ri Lanka’s construction sector claims only 7.3 percent of GDP. However, the sector is much more important than these numbers would indicate. There is a strong SME presence in this sub-sector,” said Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing the inauguration event of six international exhibitions -International Exhibition on Windows and Doors, Aluminium Extrusion, Roofing & Façade, Glass, and Second International Exhibition on Sri Lanka Wood simultaneously at the BMICH yesterday.

“Firstly, the construction industry has become the clearest sign of the new economic growth phase, thanks to the vision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In that, the immediate proof of our strong economic growth, could also be seen from the construction sector activities. As you may already be aware, more than 65 percent of our economy is the SME sector. SMEs therefore are our economic driver. Therefore I do not have to tell you of the, importance of it to our economic growth and employment generation. This is one reason, why we should pay close attention to our construction sector at all times,” he added. “The construction sector becomes ever more important as we aim to become the economic hub of Asia. In other words in the new international phase of the country, our construction sector development too needs to be in par with international designs and innovations, for us to achieve the hub status. It is here, that today’s inauguration of not just one but six international exhibitions, and a Forum, all at the same time becomes an industry and an exhibition milestone that we should commend. Wood, Glass, Aluminium, Roofing, Windows & Doors are all familiar items in our lives.  But today, all these are, seen at an international level display here.”  

The one-of-a-kind event is endorsed by the Industry Ministry with many private sector co-sponsors and associate partners, and an international event by Futurex. Joining Minister Bathiudeen on the occasion were Nawaz Rajabdeen (Chairman, Industrial Development Board), Prem Anveshi (Managing Director, Futurex Group), Bandula Egodage (Chairman & CEO-EDB) and reps from sponsoring firms -JAT Holdings, Alumex, and Leitz Tooling.

“Exhibitions such as these help the SMEs most unlike for the rich who have resources to fly out and import technology” said Prem Anveshi (Managing Director, Futurex Group) addressing the event, and added: “For SMEs such finances are not possible and international exhibitions held in their own country, such as these, they are able to see with their own eyes the new technology. That is where the revolution takes place.”

According to the Central Bank, in 2013, the construction sub sector grew by 14.4 percent, driven by highways, rail & road development projects, mega hotel projects, condominiums and housing units.

Oct 032014
 
All set for sri lanka’s second int’l capital  market conference
The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) in collaboration with Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (SEC) will host the country’s second international capital market conference on October 09th.

Sri Lanka hosted its first international fund mangers conference way back in 1998, when the country was going through a separatist war.
The event is scheduled to be held at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa is to inaugurate it.

According to a media statement released by SEC, the conference will bring together capital market industry participants and institutional investors.
“The conference would provide an excellent opportunity to understand the potential investment opportunities available in the capital market and post war economic growth. Participants will be able to meet and interact with government officials, regulators, issuers and market intermediaries and hold one-to-one meetings with CSE-listed companies.”

 A distinguished panel of speakers will touch on investment opportunities available in the Sri Lankan capital market as well as experiences of investing in Sri Lanka.
Treasury Secretary Dr.P.B Jayasundara, Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, SEC Chairman Dr.Nalaka Godahewa and CSE Chairman Vajira Kulatilaka have been invited to speak at the forum.

 During the post war period, CSE’s broad market index, the ASPI recorded a growth of over 300 percent from 1,800 to 7,200 level. Market capitalization too appreciated significantly by over 350 percent.

Meanwhile, the average daily turnover of the CSE has increased from Rs.464 million to Rs.1.2 billion in five years since 2009. During the post war period, the Net Asset Value of Unit Trusts has gone up from Rs.6.7 billion to Rs.75.7 billion.

 “Sri Lanka’s economy is expected to reach a level of over US$ 4,000 per capita before 2016. Accordingly, gross investment needs to rise above 33 percent of GDP. Reducing the savings-investment gap alone would not promote growth. It is equally important to recognize mechanisms that could mobilize savings to productive investments,” the statement noted.  This forum is part of a series of activities planned by CSE and SEC to educate local and foreign investors of the investment opportunities available in the Sri Lankan capital market.

The SEC and CSE recently concluded successful investor forums in Mumbai, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York. In addition, forums have been conducted throughout the country to educate the general public as well as other stakeholders. Forums of this nature have had a positive impact on the market.
 The CSE has recorded a YOY growth of 22 percent and has become one of the best performing markets globally in 2014. Foreign investors account for nearly 30 percent of the total market turnover and foreign investors continue to be net buyers in the market with net purchases of Rs.10 billion in 2014. The total net foreign inflow during last three years exceeds Rs.70 billion.

 Platinum sponsors for the event are Ceylon Guardian, Citi Bank and NDB Capital Holdings while the silver sponsors are Deutsche Bank, Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation and Sampath Bank PLC. Bronze sponsor is Hatton National Bank PLC and Sri Lankan Airlines is the official airline partner.

 The forum comes at an important juncture when there is significant worldwide focus on Sri Lanka’s growth prospects and it is anticipated that it will generate an overwhelming response from fund managers based overseas.

 More details on the conference can be obtained by accessing: http://www.capitalmarketconference2014.com

Oct 032014
 
How inspiration and role models can be powerful sources in closing gender gap


We all have our favourite TV shows – from the law enforcement shows such as Police Woman of yesteryear to LA Law, Law & Order Special Victims Unit and the Policewomen in real-life series to hit medical shows such as ER, Gray’s Anatomy, etc. These shows have all had strong female leads or support characters that have been found to inspire women to make deliberate choices of law enforcement, law and medicine.

As we all know, TV and films have always inspired us; whether living in Asia or the US, or anywhere else, given the global village that is the reality today, movies and TV that connect the world are also its greatest influencers. While TV and radio may be full of role models for specific careers, what about the others who want to pursue other careers and are talented?

Innovating Women  

According to Gender – Global Entrepreneurship & Development Index (Gender GEDI), there is a well-felt gap between finding role models, who can inspire women and the women aspiring to find such inspirations.

Vivek Wadhwa, who crowd-sourced and funded his book ‘Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology’ with Farai Chideya, says that according to his research, men and women of same educational levels share the same abilities when it comes to entrepreneurship and success. The only factor he says is that women tend to place a higher value on business partnerships and personal and professional networking than men do.

Women are often marginalized and left out of internal power structures, according to Whitney Johnson, the founder of Rose Park Advisors, an investment firm built on the principles of disruptive innovation. Johnson cites Harvard Business School Professor Boris Groysberg in Innovating Women.

Wadhwa encourages women to look outside the box – Innovating Women is full of role models for women, not just from the ranks of entrepreneurs but also corporate executives and venture capitalists.

All of us know how some of the world’s best known and recognised companies have been built on a singularly powerful idea that the founders were inspired to innovate. There are many men and women out there who continue to build strong businesses on ideas and concepts they were inspired to create. Without inspiration, businesses would not thrive; there would be no future even for the existing ones.

Potential to be inspired

There are smart women out there who have built successful businesses on ideas and concepts they themselves have experienced; clothing for larger sized customers, pregnancy fashions, childcare programmes and many other business ventures have been fired by needs felt by consumers. Still others have been inspired by the ways in which the existing companies have not fulfilled the identified needs.

Innovating Women features women from multi-disciplinary ranks. Among them are Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, a peer-to-peer microfinance organisation that connects entrepreneurs seeking funding with funders around the world, Mari Kuraishi, co-founder and President of Global Giving, an online marketplace, that connects those who do good work with those who want to support them, Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture fund that uses an entrepreneurial approach to solving poverty worldwide, Danae Ringelmann, founder of Indiegogo, who helped create the crowdfunding industry and Lynn Tilton, founder and CEO of Patriarch Partners, a holding company with investment in more than 75 companies and revenues in excess of US $ 8 billion.

Most of the women mentioned here have been identified for their capacity and capability to go beyond the traditional profit-oriented business concepts. With crowdfunding becoming a popular and a powerful platform throughout the world, women are finding avenues to build businesses and concepts, even to change the world, easy to come by.

Concepts that a few years ago may have been limited to paper or worse still, end up in waste paper baskets for want of funding are now being backed and funded by people around the world. Thus, in real terms, potential to be inspired enough to do something about a passion or an idea is huge.

Changing the perspective

Wadhwa’s research, according to Forbes, further confirms that women thrive in business when other women step forward or take the trouble to mentor and inspire other women. That seems to be relevant especially when you take into account the fact that women everywhere more or less have to deal with the same issues of childrearing, managing households and of course, managing a company or a career in the middle of all of that.

To know that another woman has been through it and is able to assure you that children do grow up and that household duties don’t last forever but can be managed, is in itself an inspiration.

Thus, at the end of the day, inspiration is what most women – and men would need to change the perspective and start thinking outside the box. Inspiration can come from just about anywhere – a film, a TV show, a book or someone whom you know. The talent is in identifying what inspiration drives you enough to go out there and make the difference.

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)

Oct 032014
 
Some MBAs are not worth the paper they’re printed on

A few days ago we interviewed seven candidates with MBAs for a senior leadership position. Most of them we concluded could not even manage or lead their way out of a paper bag – but think they’re there, because they have an MBA.

Having an MBA doesn’t predict whether you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned to the real world and – most important – it seems to have very little bearing on whether or not you’ll be able to continue to learn, to keep acquiring the skills and knowledge you’ll need along the way. To add to this list, today there are some MBA degrees out there that are barely worth the paper they’re written on.  

For a start, an MBA does not really make you a ‘Master’ of anything? Also, accredited business schools are churning out MBAs like factories and it is high time the authorities set high-quality assurance standards that are reviewed annually, in addition to the quality of teaching.

Having an MBA is no guaranteed path for business leaders, but to be a successful business leader you need to know the basics of business, finance, human resources, supply chain, marketing, technology and sales.  The MBA degree helps managers learn these skills so they can succeed as leaders.

A good MBA programme should incorporate real-life experiences, such as real-impact projects with companies, rather than having them as standalone courses or worse, electives. The curriculum should include many such experiences, structured to cover a spectrum of company sizes, stages, industries and economic and cultural contexts.
Students should be taught to compare and contrast different work experiences, enabling them to develop the ability to read situations and draw from a repertoire of responses. A good MBA therefore, is expected to provide on-the-job leadership training.

Selecting a College

In general, students before they select a college should, consider the institute’s history, brand name, faculty, accreditations, infrastructure, industry and international affiliations and other such indications of its true standing. One can get insight by interacting with the institute’s alumni, current students, faculty and administration. There is a lot of information on websites and online forums as well, although not all of it is verifiable or can be authenticated.  Work experience helps the applicant firstly to get accepted and the work experience can help the student to connect the principles and concepts learned during the MBA programme with the day-to-day work.

Without experience, the student may not grasp the relevance of the ideas being taught. That would however depend to a large extent on the quality of the work experience the student has had in a company. Generally, in two or three years, the applicant who has had leadership responsibility can recognize the importance of strategy, organisation, finance, marketing and other topics.

If the applicant works in a narrow area, e.g., engineering or sales, the experience will have less meaning. Part-time MBA programmes are helpful for students who must work to cover the tuition fees or not willing to leave full-time employment.

Because classes are scheduled outside of normal business hours, it is therefore possible to earn a degree while you work full-time. On the other hand, doing a part-time MBA could put enormous pressure on personal life and the time demands of the degree may put enormous pressure on work output. 

Specialist MBA

Business as we all know is comprised of many parts, finance, marketing, technology, supply chain, human resources, etc.  The first few years of anyone’s career often require an individual to work in a silo. A specialist MBA can be very handy for functional experts sitting in shared service or in an expert centre to move their career to the next level in the function.

Also, a specialist MBA programme would provide training that goes beyond general business management to provide functional expertise in areas like HR, finance or marketing.  Specialist MBAs are now a very popular branch for graduate students looking to become functional experts.

Mushroomed

The one to watch is generally the accredited MBA. These MBA degrees have mushroomed all over the globe, including in Sri Lanka. Do these programmes deliver real value to MBA aspirants? The market test says, ‘yes’ because demand (applications) exceeds supply (spaces available).  The real test is whether the MBA programme one follows and completes can boost one’s career opportunities and help the person to excel in the current job.   Therefore, before jumping into an accredited programme, studying the external ratings of the programme and talking to past and current students of the institute can be very useful. This would ensure that you are in good hands and your education investment would finally, pay off. In a knowledge economy, those who have more insight and knowledge have an edge over the rest. Education is a source of knowledge and it differentiates employees, so it will continue to be a valuable commodity. The top programmes will continue to have more and more demand and they will keep increasing the fees.  The lesser-recognized programmes will probably filter out or price their product to attract the candidates they can hope to attract.

The one takeaway you should get from this piece: if you do decide to go for B-School or you are hiring a MBA for a leadership position, do your research, find out which schools and programmes are considered to be reputable and relevant to your chosen field or business.

(Dinesh Weerakkody is a thought leader in HR)

Oct 012014
 
NDB gets US $ 75mn credit line from Proparco and FMO
roparco, a French development finance institution, has allocated a US $ 60 million credit line to National Development Bank PLC (NDB), with an additional US $ 15 million from its Dutch counterpart, FMO, under a joint facility to support the financing of projects in the renewable energies, agro-industry and water supply sectors.  

The signing of the loan agreement took place in Rotterdam in the Netherlands on September 29, 2014 by NDB Deputy Chairman Ashok Pathirage together with Chief Executive Officer Rajendra Theagarajah.

NDB was founded in 1979 by the national authorities as the country’s development bank and started developing on the retail market in 2001. It now offers all the services of a universal bank but retains its DNA as a development bank, which makes it an ideal partner to support projects that contribute to sustainable growth and job creation in Sri Lanka.

Proparco’s financing package is a validation of our country and of NDB’s successful scaling up of its loan portfolio across the country

NDB enjoys real expertise in financing long-term projects (18 percent of its portfolio), particularly in the renewable energies sector. Since 1997, it has supported 26 mini-hydro projects and half of the eight wind farms in Sri Lanka.

NDB is also very active in supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs), for which it has developed a specific range of banking products. Over 3,000 projects were financed in 2013.

This credit line provided by Proparco and FMO will finance projects in the renewable energies, agro-industry (particularly tea and rubber plantations) and water supply sectors that require long-term financing, which is in short supply on the local market and are among the key sectors for the national economic strategy (Unstoppable Sri Lanka 2020).

The support for independent power producers (hydro, wind or biomass) will meet the strong growth in the country’s electricity needs, while limiting its heavy dependence on fossil fuels, which weigh on its budget deficit (oil accounts for 25 percent of total imports) and its carbon footprint.

In terms of water supply, due to sustained efforts over the past decade, Sri Lanka is one of the first countries in the region to have achieved Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In order to reach universal coverage by 2020, the sector remains a priority for the government, which has launched regulatory reforms with the aim of creating a climate conducive to investments in water supply and sanitation services.

“Proparco welcomes the signing of this co-financing with FMO to support an institution that is committed to the main areas of sustainable development. With strong growth in Sri Lanka’s financial sector, this financing will contribute to reinforcing the local financial system,” said Deputy CEO in Charge of Investments Marie-Hélène Loison.

“Proparco’s financing package is a validation of our country and of NDB’s successful scaling up of its loan portfolio across the country,” said NDB Director and Chief Executive Officer Rajendra Theagarajah.

“The long-term tenor of the syndication enables us to pass on this benefit to our clients.”

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