Business, Entrepreneurship

Five reasons why Shipping is an interesting career choice

Why the shipping industry is an interesting career choice

I used to work for a stock exchange for nearly 3 and half years after my B-School stint. Hence when I decided to shift to the shipping industry, quite a few eyebrows were raised. I myself wasn’t sure what I wasn’t walking into when I joined Maersk Line India Pvt. Ltd.  (Part of AP Moller Group, Denmark) As part of their Global Leadership Program (MLGP) this year

However, nearly half a year in the firm, and I find the industry and extremely interesting one to work with. Quite a few myths were broken down as I settled down in the industry that is hardly known in B-School campuses in India, let alone people from other walks of life

First let me give a brief idea about the industry. Shipping can happen either in containers (the ones you see in Bollywood movies – used to carry apparels, automobiles in normal containers and food products like fruits or fish in air-conditioned ones- Maersk Line is into container shipping industry for example,) or in open large metal plates (known as break-bulk shipping – use to carry minerals, crude oil etc).

Let me list 5 aspects of the industry which makes it an interesting career proposition:

  • The application of knowledge acquired in B-Schools

Mugged up those macro-economic books? Know everything about international trade? Discussed FDI in retail over cups of coffee? Well, if there an industry if you can apply all those you learnt, it is this industry. Which markets India should import from or export to? Which industries and which seasonality should one look at? The application of those economic and finance fundamentals and correlation with your daily work is what would define our work here


GTI-shipping-industry

Photo taken by author – containerized cargo is being lifted by cranes from a vessel

  • The people

Well, we do use a lot of gadgets at work– we have our iPads and Blackberries and Laptops, but at the end of the day, we work with our colleagues. And the shipping industry has perhaps the most diverse group of people working under the same umbrella organization. From people who work in ports, operating gigantic cranes to lift containers, to people who use the most sophisticated software to record data and keep it in a usable form, there are people with knowledge in wide range of human endeavor

  • The depth and variety in the industry

In most industries in this world – you work either in the manufacturing or the service sector. Here is an industry where you can work in the two extremes – you can be in sales or customer services, or you can be in the frontline operations, giving details of vessels that leave or enter the ports and related technical information

reefer-shipping-industry

The inside of a reefer container (temperature controlled, used to carry sea food etc) (photo by author)

  • Chances of exciting global roles

Most of the big shipping firms are headquartered outside India, or have significant operations outside India. It means a good performance can lead to exciting roles, globally. And these would not be the usually “big economic hubs” like London or New York. But can include exotic places like Brazil, Central America, Western Africa and the Middle East. This also means an opportunity to work with, interact and know people from different cultures – exchange notes on food habits, arts, literature and lifestyle

  • Responsibilities at young age and matching remuneration

The shipping industry is a very young industry. The average age across shipping companies and functions barely touches 30. Hence the responsibilities and ownership of business processes come early.

young-workforce

A young manager at work in the MLIPL office

However, the variety of roles, non-repetitive nature of work, opportunity to undertake interesting rotations and hands-on experience with a great mentor-buddy system means the industry rarely burns out people. Plus, a senior role at young age means good remuneration, bonuses and incentives, and subsequent low rates of attrition. It’s very difficult to come across people who have worked in the industry for less than 5 years

Overall, a very interesting career prospect indeed!

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Finance, Technology

How Technology is changing the Wealth Management/Personal Finance industry

We all know about the sophisticated wealth management services provided to HNIs (High Net-Worth Individuals) by big banks. Advertisements for these services can be seen at places like airports, swanky hotels, galleries, golf courses etc. Have you ever wondered how it works and what services are provided to these wealthy people?

This business has 3 elements

a. Products (read exotic financial products designed by investment banks)

b. Relationship Managers and

c. Customers

A relationship manager (typically a guy in a suit from a premier B-school) solicits the client and explains how he can multiply his wealth by entrusting the responsibilities to his particular bank which essentially means investing in a plethora of financial products. For doing this the bank takes a substantial management fee (x% of wealth managed) out of which a hefty commission is paid to the RM.

This model makes Wealth Management and financial advisory expensive. So what do the middle class and upper middle class do if we want to invest effectively and grow our investments while ensuring that the downside is limited. There is an ever increasing list of asset classes like gold, commodities, Mutual Funds, Insurance, Real Estate, Pension Funds, Equity and debt etc. Add to this the increasing number of insurance policies, Mutual Funds, and debt products. This is making an average consumer confused and vulnerable to wrong/ sub-optimal decisions.

In India we are not used to looking at investments along with goal based financial planning and retirement planning. We rely on friends, colleagues, words of wisdom from parents, uncles and random websites/blogs.

Enter technology

The solution lies in technology. How about building a sophisticated online self-service platform where users can manage their financial portfolio themselves for little and no cost. Technology can provide advisory to a user based on his financial profile about how much to invest and where. Add web 2.0 to this and you can create a social network where people can share feedback and help each other avoid making mistakes. There can be a limited offline support if someone wants additional help. How does it sound? This, I believe, is the future of Personal Finance. An internet based technology can create an integrated financial solution with a strong advisory component.
Last 1-2 years have seen a number of ventures coming up and notable among them are investmentyogi, Rupeetimes, personalfn, Apnaloan (only for loans), Arthamoney, iTrust, various finance journals and personal finance sections in Business portals. Each of them is trying a different model to cater to the market.

The new generation platforms have following key capabilities:

• 360 view of assets and liabilities
• Transaction initiation capabilities
• Custom reporting
• Communities

For example investmentyogi provides a complete financial dashboard to an individual. You can get your customized Financial Planning done and track all your investments and liabilities at the click of a button. It also tells you how to invest, where to invest and how to plan your taxes in advance apart from online tax filing features. There is a vibrant community which helps in sharing of information. The focus here is on sound unbiased advisory delivered through the internet.

Arthamoney is trying to build a superstore where all kinds of products in different asset classes can be compared and bought.

Apnaloan provides a platform to compare different loans from different banks and apply. You don’t have to spend valuable time getting quotations from different banks.

Even large Wealth Management companies are waking up to this reality and realizing the business potential in “mass affluent” class which is defined as a class having lower asset size than HNIs and UHNIs (Ultra High Net worth Individuals) but having much larger volumes. Many companies are trying to build self service platforms to cater to this class using internet as the delivery channel. One of the biggest advantages of this medium is the potential to acquire the most relevant information for decision making.
Where will this industry be 5 years down the line?

It’s always a very difficult question especially in these fluid and volatile times. But at this point of time it’s easy to draw an analogy with retail industry. Till about 4-5 years back we had mom and pop stores selling FMCG and other stuff while the FMCG companies were directly reaching out to the customers through advertisements in different media channels. An average customer would go to a store and ask for his favorite product or brand. But enter organized retail and the balance of power seems to be changing (except for this blip due to recession). A large retail chain can literally dictate prices to a FMCG company and it can influence customers to buy a particular brand, such is the power of organized retail.

Now think about how Mutual Funds, Insurance, Loans and Credit Cards (all personal Finance products) are sold as of today. Typically a MF is launched and huge hoardings come up overnight. A 15-20 day campaign is done on TV, Radio and Print. Consumers go to the distributor they know and buy it. But as the number of MFs , insurance policies, Banks providing different kind of loans and kind of cards is increasing the consumers are getting confused and taken for a ride by making wrong decisions. There is too much of information asymmetry in this distribution model.

Solution to this problem is organized retail but this time it’s going to be online as the products are not tangible. The industry is going to move away from mom and pop distributors and FMCG model to online super stores where you can compare every product, get advisory, manage all investments and have complete peace of mind. Investmentyogi and many others are trying to do just that. Providing seamless and rich customer experience with a focus on quality and reliability will be the key differentiator among the new age personal finance companies. It will be interesting to see the action unfold.

The author, Suryadeep Agarwal is a management graduate from IIM Calcutta from the batch of 2008 and is currently involved in a startup called InvestmentYogi. If you want to feature your startup on strat.in, please write to us on contribute at strat.in .

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Planning

fLAWed

Another post from Megh. You can check his previous post here.

Today started early, partly because I had early morning testing to complete and partly because I was running way behind schedule. So, when I shook myself awake at 8.15, a full half hour before designated lift off, I knew this day would pan out in exactly the same way that most others had over the years, slow and groggy to start, an hour of productivity and endless doubts on the career path of choice. The sudden realization that this pattern repeats itself a lot also doesn’t help out too much with my life. The productive time at work, if isolated wouldn’t even fill a diary entry. This conclusion has led to sudden and mostly certain beliefs in my subconscious :

1. Productive time is essentially a by product of non productive time. Essentially when you get tired of wasting your own time, you do something rebellious that goes against the wishes of your fun loving self, you get work done 🙂

2. Non productive time is a necessary but not sufficient condition for some (and I stress some) work to be done by the end of the day.

3. By corollary, incentives that link your performance to your pay are generally kidding themselves because as you might already know, our performances are linked to our unproductive time, the causality of which, itself being variable causes HR hotshots to have nightmares and a constant need for tinkering to resolve these issues.

This rather strange rendering of whichever law hovers dangerously close to infringing on Parkinson’s law didn’t make a lot of sense at first to me. But soon I realized how importance the voids in our day to day activities are. It’s like when you look at Universal Soldier and Dolph Lundgren. He could do anything he wanted but he over heated after a while and couldn’t continue. Ok…bad example, Cheetahs and their day to day activities basically involve chasing down deer/gazelle/[placeholder] and eating them. This main activity is non-descriptly divided to sub tasks, not the least of which is to keep their body temperature below the level where they start conking off, so the cheetah dudes in effect play a delicate balancing act. Which brings us to Economics and the changing theories of professors who are harping on “Optimize” rather than “maximize”. Thus we should consciously work towards optimize and not maximize, so in effect not only is working too hard bad for you but so is working hard. Hardly Working does more to conjure up productivity than any of the former 🙂 Maybe the dictionary definition of optimize will have to be tailored specifically for separate people, maybe its sleep and a recharge of batteries for some people, maybe its a sutta for most others.

If we need vacations to recharge ourselves from working too hard,

maybe mini vacations where we talk, gossip, idle and bitch
are just another way to increase your productivity pitch 🙂

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