How The Government Can Get 400,000 cr. to fight the Covid Slowdown
It’s obvious now that the lockdown will hurt India’s economy. And just as other countries are doing, we’ll need big stimulus to start pushing it back into gear. There’s a number of things that this process will involve: Old businesses can take time to come back to life. Because workers would have migrated, supply chains disrupted etc. They will need help to survive through a time when their factories or offices are shut, and to have paid intermediate salaries or rent. New businesses will have to be encouraged. Just as some businesses will need help, some of those will die. And those businesses will have to be replaced by others who are new and just getting in. Think of the barber shop that’s shut because it couldn’t pay rent for two months, but then people in the area will still need haircuts. Giving people and small businesses money directly into their accounts will probably become a necessity, to encourage people to spend or to pay for some of the damage caused due to the lockdown. The government will have to kickstart spending in a very large way – from better healthcare, to more infrastructure (to provide job) or simply to allow for the economy to rise again. This costs a ton of money. A rough estimate would be, say, Rs. 400,000 cr. The government doesn’t have this kind of money right now, and raising it by selling assets or issuing debt is enormously difficult. Because the debt it has is already quite large, though not as much compared to the western governments nowadays. However, it doesn’t need to take more debt. There’s money the government rightfully owns which sits idle in a very specific place. Here’s how it can get Rs. 400,000 cr. now. This kind of money doesn’t grow on trees, so what nonsense is this, Deepak? (I can hear you think) But bear with me, because I’ve thought this through. The money may not grow on trees, but there’s one big mega uncle who prints it, and generates a large amount of profit. It’s called the RBI. We have written earlier that the RBI has way too much money sitting in its balance sheet that it shouldn’t have. These are called “reserves” (very different from forex reserves). Read: The RBI is hoarding too much capital. Essentially, these are very large numbers of retained earnings, that has gone up even more now with this crisis. The extra earnings can be given back to the government, which can then spend it. Now, RBI makes a lot of money from multiple sources: It has nearly 10 lakh crore worth of government bonds, which, at 6.5% will give it roughly 65,000 cr. in interest per year. It also has, now, 35 lakh crores of Forex assets, (lets not call them “reserves” yet) , up over 6 lakh crores in the year. Yes, the RBI has bought a truckload of dollars this year. The forex reserves earned them over 74,000 cr. last year, and we expect this year to be a little more – probably 90,000 cr. all things considered. That is an income of 155,000 cr. already. Apart from this there is a big other benefit. Now the RBI owns all these dollars – it bought them when the rupee was lower (on average, probably Rs. 55 or so). When the dollar depreciates, to balance the accounts, the difference is placed in a Currency and Gold Revaluation Account (CGRA). The CGRA already had over Rs. 6 lakh crores last year. This year, considering the RBI has 450 billion dollars in foreign assets, that will add Rs. 4-5 per dollar as revaluation profit – around Rs. 200,000 cr. more in the CGRA. Due to accounting changes, and due to sales of dollars (around $30 billion in the full year) we should see around Rs. 60,000 cr. as a realized capital gain this year with the RBI. For details, here’s a good Ananth Narayan article, but note that I simply do not agree that such a profit is not a real profit – it’s as real as any rupee printed. The RBI doesn’t spend much: 7,000 cr. on employees, 5000 cr. on printing currency and this time, probably 10,000 cr. on payment of interest. What are you saying Deepak? All these big numbers…. Okay, ignore the nitty gritties. Simply put, RBI has a potential profit, this year, of around Rs. 200,000 cr. This is money it can remit straight to the government this year. Doesn’t it do that always? Well, no. The RBI is not very happy to be paying the government anything, to be honest. They keep building random “buffers” to avoid having to pay the government. See what all they have: Contingency fund: 200,000 cr. Why? We have no idea. The RBI never participates in any contingency whatsoever; all bank rescues are funded by the government or the PSUs or such. The RBI doesn’t even like to buy anything that isn’t government bonds, so they never take any balance sheet risk. There is no need for a contingency reserve at the RBI. And that too, 200,000 cr. – that’s more than 30% of India’s fiscal deficit! Come on. You might keep a little bit here, but to hoard such a large number here is unnecessary. Currency revaluation account: Now, over 800,000 cr. This is basically reflecting the fact that RBI bought dollars at Rs. 55 or gold at Rs. 1600 per gram and now the dollar is at 75, and gold is at 3800. This is huge. They keep adding to this fund every year, needlessly – a change in accounting procedure may help remove it. Asset Development Fund: Rs. 23,000 cr. Again, why? All major things owned by the RBI are now, by decree, transferred to the government. Examples: SBI, NABARD, NHB. Why should the RBI keep a reserve for this, especially when they have collectively spend less than 5000 cr. in the last five years from such a fund? What’s the point? Other stuff: Rs. 200,000 cr. This contains items like unrealized gains on Government bonds and foreign bonds Again, this should be a profit but is not recorded as one just so that they can avoid having to pay the government. (One simple way to record it is to sell all the bonds and buy them back instantly, converting all the unrealized gains to realised profit) In total, the RBI has a Rs. 13.5 lakh crores of extra profit (retained earnings of sorts) on its balance sheet. Every year, it generates a large profit and just keeps a good portion in each of these sub clauses, and avoids paying the government. In a partial correction, last year, they discovered that the excess on the balance sheet was too large, and paid out Rs. 1.76 lakh crores as dividend, but it still leaves a huge amount of room for more. You said Rs. 400,000 cr…. Yes, I’m coming to that. The RBI’s balance sheet is Rs. 47 lakh crores. The “equity” stuff on the balance sheet, which includes the “extra” stuff we talked about – is more than 13 lakh crores. That’s like 27% of their balance sheet. According to the recent Bimal Jalan committee report, the RBI should have a total buffer of about 21% – around 9.8 lakh crores. Given that they have more than 13.5 lakh crores – roughly 400,000 cr. can be given back to the government as dividend. But what will they sell to give dividends? Oh they don’t have to sell anything. The RBI has an account for the government. (It’s the govt’s banker). So you transfer from one account (the retained earnings) to another. That’s all. ￼Well, what happens when the government spends the money? It goes to a bank account with some bank. So that banks account with the RBI will swell up and the government’s will reduce. The RBI balance sheet doesn’t change – only the constituents do. Wait. Why all this now? Let’s get serious. This is a massive economic blow for the country. We will easily lose over 4% of GDP just to the lack of activity for a month. This has to be made up by massive government spending. That spending has to be financed. Already, the highest expenditure of the govt is interest payments. (Over 5 lakh crores in interest. The next highest entry, defence spending, is 40% lower!) The government may still need to borrow but why should it borrow when the RBI, which is owned by the government, has all the bloat sitting inside it? That’s like saying I have a lot of fixed deposits but let me go borrow money instead to pay for my urgent medical bills, even though I’m reeling under interest payments. The country needs help. We need to relax the ridiculously huge buffers maintained by the RBI in order for the government to spend. The RBI could pay a lot more – but this year, a 400,000 cr. payment looks very achievable without stepping on some toes. I’m not even asking for the government to eat into RBI’s already created massive reserves. Just that they take what profit would have been generated in this one year, instead of allowing RBI to bloat what is already much larger retained profits than required. Remember, most central banks have much lower retained equity as a percentage of their balance sheet. RBI is at 23% currently. Brazil is at 1%, Russia at 13%, South Africa at 1% and the closest perhaps is Germany at 13%. India’s RBI has simply way too much in terms of retained earnings and buffers. In the times of a crisis, you have to use buffers. This is a crisis. This is what a buffer was meant for. I know that a vast crowd will cry tears about how this undermines the independence of the RBI or some such random spiel, but this is not a time to listen to them. It’s time for us to place money in the hands of those that will shoulder the burden, and to not let it lie in forever-unused buffers like within the RBI. Note: What about inflation, you might ask. There will be no inflation by this; none of the above will cause balance sheet expansion of the RBI. And btw, the whole world is inflating and doing so heavily. And they’re all going to support their own countries with specific packages. In that context, there is very little likelihood of any inflation – in fact we’ll have to fight deflation in a slowdown. https://www.capitalmind.in/2020/04/how-the-government-can-get-400000-cr-to-fight-the-covid-slowdown/
Roughly 2 years after creating a company in China at my kitchen table, we’ve pivoted, tripled our staff and opened new offices. We’re changing the way e-commerce manufacturers import from China. Here’s how I did it.
I started a sourcing company that focuses on helping e-commerce sellers get products manufactured. Selling on Amazon is a popular topic these days, but I want to focus on the growth of my business and how we got where we are today. I love reading about the growth of companies, both small and large. So here is me giving back. Ask whatever questions you want, I’ll try to be as open as possible. TL;DR My progress in building a company where I can act as an operator and not a micromanager The Beginning 22 months ago I updated /entrepreneur of my minor progress in quitting my job at a product development company where I set out to help businesses get products manufactured from China. You can read about it here: 14 Days in, and what started as an idea, is becoming a global business. After starting the company and hiring a small Chinese staff working out of my apartment, in Shenzhen, China, we began getting a lot of clients by word of mouth and basic networking. The business model was simple, we act as the eyes, ears and boots on the ground in China for our customers. Our customers ranged from medium and large scale Amazon/eBay sellers, to brands that you can find in Wal Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Tesco and Target. Our profit margins were pretty good, because we were acting as the middle man and paying factories with our clients money, our revenue was much higher than our profit. But our risk was minimal as we were never holding inventory. It wasn’t before long before where we had multiple millions of dollars in sales, which looked nice, but our profit margins only ranged from about 1% - 10% per order. I realized we needed to scale, as my goal was to create a company, bring in talented operators and oversee operations without having to micromanage. Trying to Scale Attempt 1: Traditionally, Chinese companies scale via internal growth. The more employees you have, the bigger and more profitable you are. Our competitors have teams of 100+ people working in single offices. I don’t like this idea. Too much management, too messy and the overhead is too high. I tried to switch my clients over to a recurring revenue model. Nobody was biting. We tried to increase our profit, but the market was too competitive. The only possible option I saw to grow was to add a sales team and add more sourcing agents. - Again, an idea I did not love. Trying to Scale Attempt 2: China works based on scale. The higher the order quantity, the better it is for everyone. Because of this, we would often get weekly requests from small quantity e-commerce sellers who we’d constantly turn away because their order sizes were too small, and the work wasn’t worth the reward. I never liked turning people away. I had a client come back to me and tell me that there are no services out there who understand the business model of an e-commerce seller. I decided I was going to find a way to help these types of e-commerce sellers. A serious gap in this industry was identified. The only services out there for e-commerce sellers were training courses teaching new sellers how to make millions on Amazon. These were just courses, nothing different from the affiliate marketing, forex trading, work from home courses that new age entrepreneurs are seen creating as a way to earn a quick buck. Sure, some of this stuff was helpful, but there are still a ton of people out there who were actively selling online, they’ve surpassed the beginner mark and they are struggling to grow their business and deal with China at the same time. Having identified that group, our target customer was created. The Problem: We know that manufacturing works based on scale. So the larger the order, the lower the price, the greater the profit. Accepting to work with small sized importers was too dangerous in the existing model of sourcing suppliers, offering product quotations and hoping the client bites. There is way too much work involved just to offer a quotation, and hope the client was serious enough to place the order. The Pivot: We created a new service, outside of our existing website where the goal was to guide importers through the entire process of working with China. We’d act as the project manager, offering our purchasing office and resources in China in an outsourced model where we’d become a part of our clients company. We built an a la carte menu and offered our existing services to anyone who wanted them in a buy it now, productized fashion. They could purchase a sourcing service where we’d provide them with a list of qualified suppliers for a product they wanted to manufacture. They could purchase our negotiation service where we would negotiate for 8 days on their behalf. Clients could even have multiple samples shipped to our office in China, and we document them and ship them all together to them, saving them hundreds of dollars in shipping fees. This service took off! We got tons of orders as a lot of people began talking about us on various forums and groups. But apparently this was not good enough. Everyone said, can you guys just do everything for us? At this point, I had hired some marketing consultants and had close friends following what I was doing. Almost everyone was telling me to just create a full package and offer everything. I was reluctant at first, I told them all it would never work, there were too many unknown variables. Eventually I caved it. I stayed up for 48 straight hours planning the restructuring of the entire business model. Previously, we were using Chinese sourcing agent who we’d train and have them work from home to source suppliers for these e-commerce clients. This process was great, as the overhead was much smaller, but it was not super reliable. I stuck with the idea and built a service where clients could come to us with their product idea, we’d give them an idea of its feasibility, cost, etc. and then we’d get moving acting as their purchasing office. Total transparency. The client would know who the factory is, something most sourcing companies keep as a close secret. The goal was, for the client would be in the loop with everything, but would rely on a single representative at our company to handle all aspects in China for them. The Marketing: We built a list of 300 email subscribers we found via three Facebook groups. These 300 people were going to be our beta testers. We started a drip series email campaign that would educate them about the pitfalls when dealing with China, scare them of the risks, and sell them on our service. The day to launch was near. We were hoping for a 3% conversion rate from this list. That would have been enough for us to validate the new service and let us know whether or not to continue down the road of offering a service to this type of importer. Five days after the launch our conversion rate from the drip campaign was roughly 30%. We were not equipped to handle that amount of sales. Frantic, I shut down the site, emailed all customers and informed them our site is down so we can focus on their orders. In the weeks to come, I transitioned from half of our sourcing staff working from home, to a full staff in our office. Then we began interviewing and hiring like crazy. Brought three new sourcing agents on, left our small office and rented a new office which provided us more room to grow. Rebuilding: Once the shock wore off, reality began setting in. This idea was not only validated, the problem was not demand, it was supply. The past couple of months we’ve been building training programs, adding a management team and structuring our company to fit the mold of my original goal, operating and not micro managing. Now, I have two strong managers. One manages the sourcing team and the other manages the account reps. We were able to build team leaders who are responsible for solving day to day problems, leaving me to focus on growth. All work is based on metrics, each employee is graded on their work, and the bonus structure is set up according to the monthly performance metrics. We have a lot planned in the near future. It is definitely exciting to be paving the way in an age old industry with a modern approach. We are starting to see competition, and as an MVP in an arena of this size, that is to be expected. Our main focus is on continuing to strengthen our core, come out with new services and make sure all of our early clients are heard and their problems get solved. We’ve been approached by some pretty large companies both in our industry and outside interested in investing in us. I am still the sole owner and we’ve yet to take a single investment. That time may come, but I am going to be picky with who we choose. It is an exciting time for us, we’re not perfect by any means, I 100% work by the philosophy where you need to be ashamed of your initial launches and attempts, anything you’re not ashamed of, you took too long to release. I purposely left out our company name as I’d love to focus on the business growth, and I’m not interested in plugging anything at this time. Some things we’re working on now:
Better content management - we don’t have a great blog or content schedule. This is probably killing us in sales.
We’re working on rebranding our name. Multiple marketers said our name sucks, and we need something to captures our ultimate goal more precisely.
I’m slowly allowing myself to trust the management I’ve put in place and focus on the big picture as they are doing a good job with the day to day. - This took a lot of hesitation before I could give up a lot of power, now, I couldn’t be happier.
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