IntroductionWhen the entire external world around us changes, we are also affected by it in one way or the other. For example, the 2001 crisis, when the twin towers attack took place in the USA, had a huge spin off. Several businesses across the world were affected. There was a big recession of sorts. Only low cost warriors survived. The next big wave of recession, happened after the global financial crisis happened in the USA in 2008. How do we understand the nature of such crisis and come out of such problems, is a big lesson in itself.
Allied to this learning are capabilities we need to become bullet proof. The capabilities are a) accurately understand the current and near future realities b) understanding how realities can affect us c) preparing for the bullet proof capabilities/situations and d) being prepared for further challenges.
The term "bullet proof capabilities" refers to all skill sets and abilities that one needs to pursue to cross and manage any uncertain times. It also means financial security for the individual in terms of being fully equipped to handle any crisis with a very cool attitude, as he or she will be ready to take up alternate sources of revenue mobilization in a very tight situation. In other words, the least common denominator is very strong for the individual. This is the ultimate litmus test for acquiring the Bullet proof capabilities and also being prepared to face any eventuality.
Accurately understanding current and near future realitiesIt may seem like a cliche, but it is not. Trade wars between China and US are now for real. The new reality will positively see some realignment of trade practices between India and China and possibly between India and every country in Europe, as a safe guard against the expansionist and horribly protectionist policies of USA.
There will be a global churning, and in the economic sphere, even India may be affected to a great degree. Already, the advent of robots is changing the Indian working landscape. Contract jobs are here to stay. There is no "permanent " job anymore. These are all realities. Yet, there will be some organizations, like the FMCG organizations, where the growth will not be so much affected by global trends. People need to bathe daily with soaps and also wash their clothes. They also need to eat and hence the packaged food industry can only grow upwards.
Similarly, people love eating outside, particularly in double income families. This will increase the players in the online food market and so on. These trends are likely to continue.
On the one hand, there will be a huge churning and only the fittest and highest qualified, that is, the IIT/NIT and IIM/ISB crowd will garner all the managerial jobs. Even on the shop floor, entry level employment will be restricted to the top engineering colleges in the entire country.
Inflation pressures will only increase. There is no escaping high prices everywhere.,
Understanding how realities can affect usLet us make no mistake. Let us not live under any illusion. The tough times are coming. For those who are unemployed, and aspiring for Government jobs, the only way is to excel in the competitive examinations. For the plus one student, the action is already on. The next five hundred odd days will make or break one's career. So, be prepared for the hard grind.
Since inflation will simply eat our savings or potential to save, the only alternative is to be prepared to devise all coping mechanisms to deal with this changed reality and work one's way up. There is absolutely no escaping from harsh realities. Even housewives may have to chip in with additional income as tailors, teachers from home, or owners of small businesses and so on. Every single additional source of revenue needs to be explored and taken up very seriously.
Preparing for the Bullet proof capabilitiesThis,, in reality is much more than mere common sense. It means working towards building of a corpus of money, that can be invested in a good mutual fund and the income from the same,on a monthly basis, should never be touched. In fact, if this is put into another corpus and reinvested, it will be even more fine.
This financial security preparation means two things: a) reduce all expenses right now, more so, those focused on wants b) look for revenue earning opportunities with disposable income. For example, five wives of middle level executives got together and started a business on making novel toys with waste material. The training was imparted by an external agency. The entrepreneurs had firm orders from one single foreign source. Since the cost of production was relatively low, the women had a superb business, each of them making almost the same kind of money as their husbands. This was possible, since they identified the right market.
This is exactly what can be called as "Bullet proof capabilities". For example, the rural folk have savings in gold and these can be pledged any moment, the family is in trouble. In fact, the post-2008 crisis in India, was averted largely due to unaffected rural Indian demand for various goods and services. We need to learn thrift and money making from them. A renewed interest in agriculture is seen among urban folks, more so, as this income is not taxed.
This is also one superb method of developing financial security. Getting the right sort of experience is more important than doing the same job day in and day out. The latter may bring with it job security, but this can become a nuisance if the technology changes very fast and the old skills become totally outdated or when the young guys in Management decide to check the 45 plus people out of the company. This happened after 2008, in India.
The only hope is the corpus that can save us. Similarly, it is foolish for even the hard core ISB professionals to spend as if there is no tomorrow. Their focus should be on saving. The uncertain times are back with a vengeance. So, while acquiring the right sort of experience is important, saving enough money for the future is very important too.
The attitudinal change also needs to happen. Those employed should be prepared to venture into entrepreneurship of a simple kind, if the need so arises. For example, in most tier 4 towns, there is still a huge need for small super markets, for which the budget is not much. The business will still continue to boom. This cash and carry business will still succeed, as no Big Bazaar or Reliance Fresh can ever come to these small towns.
Being prepared for further challengesTough times may require harsh responses. And the best way of managing these challenges at the individual changes, is to simply embrace the requirement of change. For instance, those who left for Mumbai alone, and put their families in Chennai or Bangalore or Mysore or even Coimbatore, and took up all the learning experiences, only available in Mumbai, in crucial areas like say, capital markets, have now got secure and superb jobs in the Mutual fund industry. The answer to any situation like that is : guts, and the risk taking ability. After all, it takes just two hours to fly back home. Those who are very successful and make three hundred thousand rupees as professionals in Mumbai, do not worry about spending five thousand to enjoy their weekends with their families.
The key: Mumbai. It is this only city that offers the most dynamic, money-oriented careers. It is not New Delhi or Chennai or even Bangalore. This is exactly what we mean by being prepared for further challenges. Another challenge would be further education of children. The key is to instill creativity and hard working capabilities and not put children in environs where rote learning is only encouraged.
Life is a whole package. The key is to always look for the best answers in a given situation. This is more important than taking "just like that" decisions, Tomorrow's battles in the real world are going to be won by multi-faceted personalities and the key is to ask: are we encouraging our children to develop appropriate capabilities in this direction? If the answer is yes, then we have a big preparedness for change, as far as our children are concerned.
ConclusionSome dimensions of developing bullet proof capabilities have been described above, based on observation of several successful people. It is no means exhaustive. However, the key is to act on the triggers suggested. Like for example, building for financial security. Once the basic building blocks are firmly in place, we would have acquired at least some capabilities.
So, let us get going with the right answers -- the right responses -- for building such capabilities. Right now.