Folks! Fear Not, You Can fight Recession!



Its depression. Recession. Layoffs, Downsizing. All of these in some form have affected many of us, especially our kith and kin who have long been living and working in the till-recently-rich sheikdoms of the Arabian Gulf. Reports yell of thousands making their way home daily.

Many of those displaced have had to cut short their careers during their crucial mid thirties or late forties. In the absence of any social security or doles of any kind available to the expatriates, almost all of the erstwhile non resident Indians are literally left in the lurch, left to fend themselves off their not so lofty savings but still with undiminished dreams of better lifestyles. What has the home front to offer them as they hit base?

No doubt they make succulent bite for those active in politics to discover a ready-made platform to nurture the age-old caucus concocted to uphold expatriates' rights. Its election time! The returning expatriate, this time with less than cabin luggage in hand, hold forth only bleak prospects for even the smart moochers. Probably the only majority NRI - funded project at home in Kerala to boast balance sheet plus is the airport at Nedumbassery. But as any savvy investor would note, times are not for selling stocks or book profit, but buy more with hopes of happier years ahead. Your author witnessed the promoters, years ago as they toured the Gulf touting the project as one that would attract even small time investors with no investment backgrounder knowledge. Many even thought the airport would provide them jobs and some considered it their pension as per promoter hype. So much for job viability. Its doubtful if the company has authority to bend the rules of engagement to sympathetically provide employment to the returnees.

The other much hyped GIM (Global Investors Meet) held sometime in 2003 proved to be a no-brainer save a few retail developments. But they too proved to be intermediate body shops or training schools for employees bound for later transfers to the enterprise's overseas outlets. So much for report checks on home soil.

The bright side holds promise too for the returnees. Listed here are some of the sectors that should appeal an informed entrepreneur and professional alike. India, especially Kerala is ripe for service driven industries now more than ever with its salubrious weather at the least.

  • Tourism
  • Catering
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Event Management
  • Creative Arts including Casting
  • Logistics
  • Home based opportunities
  • Infopreneurship

Tourism - way out of recession

The campaign to promote Kerala as God's Own Country is a success so far. Although the flip side is the varying rip - off rates the hospitality trade charge the tourist, business seems to be booming in spite of the recession. On an international scale, our rates and tariff still must be attractive to the foreign operators. The displaced people can aspire to become part of the tourism enterprise. Demand exists for people with multilingual lateral skills but willing to bend their own stands towards fixed incomes and hours of work. Tourism also offers opportunity on the virtual platform in the sectors as Internet intermediary broking liaison with tour planners, travel agents, air carriers, charters and destination businesses. Cost effective web connectivity should help such projects with early take offs and can expect fast results if service quality is not compromised. Tourism itself has vast scopes in diversification in sub-sectors such as in-house subcontracts of food and beverage outlets, boutiques, merchandising, fleet operation as well as labor outsourcing. Adventure tourism is another area where Kerala has much uncovered turf. Mountain treks, white river rafting are but a few of them. If entrepreneurs have facilities of meeting one another and engage themselves in focused brainstorming, the tourism segment holds forth promising employment for investors and wage earners alike.

Catering - get out of recession

Recently the visual media is ablaze with culinary shows – another indicator of society's changing tastes. Indians love to celebrate anything and everything. Births, yes, deaths, anniversaries, weddings, religious festivals, victory in academics and sports ... Cases show that existing catering infrastructure cannot cope with demand, prompting a plethora of opportunities for the ambitious entrepreneur. Its quite natural that the once flourishing Gulf hospitality industry has made a lot of qualified manpower redundant in the wake of the economic recession. They can hope to immediately plug into a booming sector back home. Home based catering, industrial catering support, festive catering are but a few of the beckoning arenas of opportunities.

Healthcare

This is one of the sectors which can be labeled recession proof. There are plenty of opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurs in the various segments in healthcare delivery. Nursing, physiotherapy, health studios, ayurveda are only to name a few. Although the nursing profession continues to attract a lot of the state's human resources, worldwide demand continue to be on the rise.

Education

Long since considered a model for education and academic brilliance, Kerala has much scope as a locale for setting up schools and universities. Guidelines laid down by quality assurance bodies such as the NAAC(National Academic Accreditation Council) and regulators such as the UGC and the CBSE are to be adhered to when planning to set up schools and colleges. With the global downturn already affecting places like Dubai, Kerala can do well to re-attract students, faculty and promoters to look at home-ground once again, another shield against recession.

Event management

This sector has gained much popularity thanks to the flourishing media channels including the FM stations becoming popular fast. The glitter is enough to attract talent of all orders as there is plenty of room for growth in width and depth. Demand is on the increase for professionally managed events ranging from birthdays to Star Nights to funerals. Typical earnings in front line functions range from Rs. 20,000 to upwards of Rs.100,000 per event, even in recession times! There are back end responsibilities too as this is one profession where greater the attention to detail is accorded greater its impact on profitability and repeat business referrals. A flourishing subcontract culture has developed too around this segment as it is a challenge to orchestrate the highly varying demands from the target clientèle for rolling out such events. Fleet transportation, dance companies, florists, decorators, audio-visual acoustics, comperes, security staff are but a few of the functional sub-segments that compliment Event Management.

Creative arts

A whole new set of genres have been thrown open in this significant sector. With specialised skills and knowledge beginning to command a premium, the country is seeing an explosion in the quest for training and acquiring skills in the once dwindling DTP (desk top publishing) arena. No longer limited to delivering word processed laser printed hard copy, the desktop and its state of the art software has opened up challenges and opportunities galore to the creatively equipped. Those displaced in this sector abroad will find ready to grab opportunities in the exciting arena once they reach home. With the required hardware, software and broadband connectivity one can easily go 'live' and establish a near-complete ambit of related activities starting from work acquisition to delivery of finished projects. Pre-press, animation, audiovisual, on line and off line marketing, consumables and so on make an almost endless ancillaries that sustain and add value to creativity in the coming months and years.

The traditional roles of the creative apparatus around the movie maker too has received tremendous boosts with the rapid development of television serials, commercials and related subcontracts. Basic infra necessities such as props have undergone cycles of sophistication. Electronic instrumentation has replaced most of the old carpentry out of set design, and the Titanic has more effects developed off a desktop workstation than could be contemplated at the time when BenHur was made!

The sheer demand for skilled manpower too has gone up steep in the area of casting. Tight production schedules propelled by wavering public tastes and oscillating viewer ratings keep the panic demand on for casting experts, always on the lookout for talent in singles and groups. The recent Oscars for India-made Slumdog Millionaire and its crew have achieved role model status for those with their hearts on a tinsel career both on and off camera!

Logistics

Paul Zane Pilzer has predicted the explosive growth of home based shopping and delivery service in his bestsellers. The amazing success of the on line bookseller Amazon dot com is adequate example of the growing demand for goods and services made available entirely by Internet connectivity. Tight demands on shipping and delivery have added challenges, opportunities and investment into the thriving logistics industry. National couriers have formed exciting partnerships with international brands such as UPS and DHL further fuelling demand for personnel at all levels of service from pilots, truck drivers, dispatchers, IT pros, call center staff apart from last mile service providers. Operating as franchise models, this sector too will exercise pull in all categories, franchisees to employees, but with immediately deployable skills. The Gulf is well known as an import cum transit base for everything large and small. A lot of our people already make up a talent pool in the significant logistics segment. Although the author guesses they may still be retained there, opportunities at here with comparable benefits should pull them home.

E–commerce is fast expanding here too. Well organized logistics apparatuses should continue to thrive for a long time to come as our country too is discovering the many benefits of de-urbanization of industries and home based business.

Home based opportunities

The nearly 'zero investment' attraction should alone be an interesting option for people averse to financial risks. If the recession and the ensuing bloodbath taught any lesson to employees and employers, it must be the stark realization of not having to depend on a single source of income for the family. Indians are well known for their ingenuity and creativity in the traditional high-value trades such as the crafts. Never lacking in creativity we have gained a worldwide reputation in software design and turnkey delivery.

Although the local governments continually fail to understand the basic traits of this potent segment, the stress must be on empowering every home based IT entrepreneur to perform to his/her best by NOT displacing them from their homes and hometowns and force them to work in the highly touted 'technoparks', nothing else than white elephants for the common man. Exciting developments in capacity and speeds in telecom infrastructures have made broadband available at almost every doorstep in our country, Kerala having major landing nodes for some international fiber optic carriers. Denying people of this basic need along with amenities such as water and power is nothing short of criminal, biased only to protect and promote the infamously thriving real estate mafia. The returning expatriates, if anything, must rally united in force to make this particular issue heard and voice their concerted protest to bring about a legislative reversal to current threats and help implement true decentralization of governance and authority back to the people, right in their homes in their home towns! Tall order though, the accompanying amenities should also be geared up with efficiency!

With web hosting anyone can afford, a host of opportunities beckon the techie and less than tech savvy. A lot of excitement is happening on the web, celebrating its 21st year in existence. The world wide web is better described as as chaotic wilderness that characterizes the network in its present shape. Defying all predictions the international 'open' network carries all sorts of things in an ever exploding bundle, ranging from vedanta to porn.

A place to exercise self-discipline the medium has attracted all elements in society – the lofty to the less than lofty. Opportunities are boundless in this fast expanding arena where sophistication and tech-enhancements are every day events. Beating the print media by giving interactivity to everybody, the Internet will continue to flourish thanks to the least governance attitude by most of the regulators round he world.

It must be correct to state that emerging electronics may even have been one of the causal factors of the recession. Industrial age automation of the heavy industries caused the great depression of the thirties making hundreds of thousands redundant from their bread winning jobs. Automation has always brought economic benefits to the common man but at a price! In the twentieth and the current century, the personal computer and the Internet have been the greatest drivers to progress and economy but at the heavy price of mass redundancy that brought down the one-time monopolies of transport and fossil fuel based industries.

Internet in the least and at best, reduced the need to travel. Future watchers predict that in the future we will step out of homes only for basic community interaction – leisure and worship! (Paul Saffo). Distance is dead. With video streaming technologies at our fingertips corporations with cross border presence find it highly cost effective to connect their functionaries at their desktops, lowering their travel - fuel bills and adding a big plus to their bottom lines while releasing chunks of lost time back into productivity.

What is in store for the common man in this context?

How can the Internet, the emerging technologies and the common man benefit now, faced with the threat of crashing economies? In other words, how can anyone and everyone actually 'benefit' from this supposedly negative situation?

In the preamble to his vastly popular essay 'How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession', Steve Pavlina says:

“ A recession is possibly the best time to launch a new business or to expand an existing one. It’s also a great time to get ahead in your career. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, so let me explain.

First, the media goes nuts during a recession. They turn a little bit of negativity into a mountain of pessimism. This makes a lot of people financially paranoid. People become socially conditioned to expect the worst.If you buy into this social hysteria, you become a victim too.But if you tune out such stupidity (not watching TV helps a lot) and maintain a grip on rational thought, you’ll see some amazing opportunities popping up everywhere you look.

During such times people get scared and start cutting back on expenses. They cut some of the fluff from their lives. They stop buying so much stuff they don’t need.This causes some businesses to do poorly, especially businesses that don’t provide stuff we really need. We can live without new credit cards and gas-guzzling SUVs for a while. Those non-essentials can be put off. We also become more sensitive to receiving genuine value. When we spend money, we want to make sure we’re getting a fair deal.Consequently, businesses that provide genuine value can actually do better during a recession. More people will flock to those businesses in tough times, while the fluff businesses will become more and more paranoid.In the USA there are a lot of fluff businesses. Many are based on the moocher mindset, trying to extract money without providing fair value in exchange. A lot of the dead or dying financial companies are like that. The American auto industry has been contracting as well, at least in part because they’ve been creating inferior products that people don’t really need. A lot of people have been learning that job security doesn’t mean much these days. More than 500,000 Americans learned this lesson in just one month in 2008 when they lost their safe and secure jobs.”

Direct selling

Avoiding the intermediaries that inflate price and marketing expenditure is the best attraction to an increasing trend in direct sales. Business to Customer is the emergent paradigm. The Internet has added only muscle to the power of direct marketing providing interactive connectivity between the maker and the consumer. As Paul Zane Pilzer modeled, home orders will be delivered, even in your absence, to a securely enclosed ante-room in your home where the delivery person will enter by swiping his id card (you would already have 'cleared' him in your white-list), thereby completing an on line transaction.

Almost all interactions ranging from banking, continuing education, on-demand home entertainment, grocery shopping, pharmacy are already on line. More manpower will be needed to process the back end operations including professionally run logistics.

The Creative Consumer!

Consumers along with the manufacturers of the goods and the service industries discovered a huge potential in gaining leverage through the direct selling channel at the same time cutting a lot of the traditional intermediate fluff. It is common habit for human beings to refer and recommend. If you enjoy a good product you will naturally be inclined to promote it. First among your neighbours and family, then among your social groups. Quick to capitalize on the trend, companies began offering quantity discounts on products favored by the consumer.

Consumers became staunchly loyal to the producer and began actively promoting products among their 'warm' circle of family and friends. The difference between the consumer's purchase price and the end user selling price is the retail profit for the promoter. In order to help avoid inflated inventories (read tied capital) manufacturers encouraged their prime promoters to stagger their purchases and conveniently place their orders on 'auto-ship' mode (similar to 'standing orders' and 'auto-debits' at banks). The consumables industry benefited most from this arrangement. The consumer in turn 'auto-ships' to his customers relieving them too of inventory burden.

You can see the shadows of a typical franchise business model here which too has blossomed in good times. The flip side was large capital tie-ups and unsure returns. Adding to the franchising woes is the compulsion of the franchiser on location, inventory and space commitments. An NIIT franchise or a MacDonalds cannot be run from your homes, neither can you sub-franchise these businesses to your friends!

Independent marketing networks

As a natural extension of the direct selling channel manufacturers discovered yet another channel of distribution in their loyal consumers. They began expanding the scope of marketing and distribution by empowering the product consumers – now distributors – by training them in basic business and marketing skills and giving them the freedom to appoint limitless distributors under them. Although hugely popular in the West, this model has gained considerable ground in India since ten years.

The unique attraction to this business model came in the form of zero to paltry entry costs and the freedom to choose your own pace in switching roles between a consumer and a promoter. Early enthusiasm and unprofessional distributor conduct did bring a lot of bad name for this new business model. Unwanted inventories were loaded on unwary consumers as commission hungry promoters scoured the length and breadth of the country chasing the get-rich-quick dream.

In spite of the bad publicity, our country has nonetheless produced considerable numbers of achievers in the network marketing sector, people who took the pain to learn, practise and train others to become successful by leveraging effort.

Significant growth opportunities exist in two sectors of this expanding business model, ones in which the returning expatriate can excel with ease. After all, it is dreams that encouraged people to leave home and migrate to foreign lands to seek fortunes. The same 'frontier' spirit can be exercised with positive results and returns in the network marketing arena. One area of focus is the immense demand for training in sales and networking, the other being the actual operations of the business either as an extra income source or a full time career.

Economic pressures continue to worsen as the recession slips in to the next stage – worst, where governments may be forced to print more paper currency! The remedial measures are to be taken now.

The model of the home based business is to be studied in greater detail and depth. It will appeal to both the resident people as also the returning expatriates. This essay is intended only to act as an overview of the viable activities one can enter without worrisome capital investments or menacing manpower.

Infopreneur

No product or service to sell? No problem. You can generate on line income by taking what you know and love about a specific subject (based on your hobby, job, pastime, previous experience, etc.) and building a theme-based content site around it. Become an information publisher... an infopreneur!

It is a fact that everyone knows something about something! This is true to a great extent for people who migrated abroad to seek successful careers in diverse fields. Certainly they must have come across situations challenging their education and skills. With a never-give-up attitude, the ambitious ones decide to start specializing in knowledge niches related to their careers.

The same is true of talent back home. Faced with the constant challenge to improve performance we have no other recourse other than finding resources to deepen our understanding of subjects and areas that will eventually impact positive results. Those who are passionate about their subjects of expertise, why not make a venture out of letting others know about them by publishing them?

On line publishing has come to the rescue of the cost conscious infopreneur. There are many formats to choose on the Internet. You could start with simple e-mail attachments, first establishing your credentials as an expert in your subjects. You could later upgrade yourself into having your own websites.

The unique selling proposition (USP) here is to project yourself as the attractive option for those seeking assistance, information and tuition on your specific expertise and knowledge. Through info-publishing you could thus build an entire business by creating and publishing great content on subjects you love – from Latin to lobster farming!

The Internet after all has become the most powerful information superhighway! People have discarded old ways of looking up dictionaries and yellow pages for sourcing information. Why not position yourself as the expert in your area of knowledge and deliver credible, relevant and quality information to your audience?

We discussed in brief the opportunities that exist now at home in two angles, one of a professional operative, earning salary and the other of an independent functionary in entrepreneurial models.

Counseling is a must before you start any venture. Another entire article will analyze the opportunities and challenges presented by the independent network marketing and infopreneurship as careers and will help you, the reader, make decisions on what is best for you and, more importantly, why.

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