CIBIL: Improving your credit score

Typically, we procrastinate checking our credit scores until we are actually in front of the loan officer. The assumption that a steady salary credit, good account balance and no loans translate into good credit history, which may not be entirely true. Furthermore checking the score after we have made a major expense decision like home, car, credit card, marriage, personal, medical emergency etc. exposes us to the risk of loan processing getting delayed or the terms (rates) being unfavorable.

Step 1: log into free Cibil credit score website if you are from India.

Step 2: If your score is abnormally low then it might be better to get a more comprehensive report. Follow up on adverse entries and check for clerical data entry errors. If your credit card account was overdue by a couple of weeks, once in a blue moon, then such entries can be mitigated if you talk to your bank and explain to them the true reason. Even for genuine negative entries, try to talk to the bank to restructure or settle so that the report is not glaringly red.

Step 3: Have a discipline and catch up on your financial obligations. If you are unable to pay your emi due to increase in interest rate, talk to the bank and get the loan tenure extended. Remember taking this step when your loan is still in good standing gives you an advantage to negotiate.

Step 4: There are no shortcuts to sound financial habits. Have a budget, plan your expenses and pay down a debt. A friend of mine missed a payment because he wanted to invest in LIC. One needs to apply common sense, there is no merit is defaulting (delaying in his context) and risking penalty charges or rise in interest rates for a discretionary planned expense.

Step 5:  Remember credit score history does not build up or improve over night. Some people take 2 years. So be patient, consistent and plan your finances. A good score will not only able to pay for your dreams but will also help you negotiate better rates to make it more affordable.

It is counter intuitive, but having no credit obligations is actually bad for your credit score. CIBIL uses past data to make a judgement on not only your ability to pay but also your willingness to honor the obligations. Hence having a small loan or a credit card that you are keeping in good standing will be good for you. Ultimately, the goal of a good credit score is to be able to pay for the lifestyle when you want it. So don’t be averse to debt, just be mindful of the scale of gearing & your capacity to sustain it.

emotional vampire or friend in need?

Are you helping her because she is your friend or because walking away will make you feel guilty? How often your depressed friend ever used words like suicide, divorce etc. when you are not able to meet her? Why are you mentally drained after every interaction, is she charging her batteries through you? Where to draw a line? How come of the 100 persons in her life, you are the only one left to share her burden? Through FoG (Fear, obligation or guilt) you are slowly giving up control of your life and becoming a marionette.

Some people like to wallow in their sorrows and no matter what you do can pull them out of their comfort zone. Depression as a ruse of some lonely souls to emotionally manipulate others. They abuse your sympathy and take advantage out of you to con you out of a few hours of uninterrupted companionship. Con-artists and pretenders go for monetary gains which makes it spot entrapment. Emotional manipulation on the other hand feeds on your own kindness to trick you over and over again. Even after years of support, one is confused if they were manipulated or they genuinely made a difference. Why?

Humans are biologically wired to respond to a distress call. Call me shallow, but there are not many things that are more satisfying & fulfilling than helping a fellow human being in need. Naturally if someone confines in you privately their vulnerability, fears, problems or conditions, your hormones will force you to go out of your way to help it. During evolution, it helps strengthen the bonds of kinship in tribes and improve the chances to survive a disaster.

Here are a few lessons I have learned the hard way:

  1. Meeting venue, timing & duration should be closely watched. Is it more as per your convenience or hers? If the meeting was abruptly over or rescheduled because she found something more intriguing then know your pecking order in her life.
  2. They will take calls, check messages in the middle of the session, but will get angry if you did the same. Also unlike a dialogue where both parties share their experiences, the meetings are mostly unidirectional. They control the context, situation, what points to discuss and for how long. Although throughout the dialogue you will feel you are the sage giving advice, but in reality they are just humoring you.
  3. If you spend hours analyzing the situation, root causing the problem, thinking of all the pitfalls/scenarios to come up with the perfect solution…. Just to realize she has not bothered to even consider it… then don’t be a fool and repeat your folly again. Your undivided attention is valuable and reserved for friends and family only.
  4. Manipulators are completely unreachable when the times are good and will hog your every second when they are lonely and have nothing else to do. Then you are like that doll that big girls play with when they have nothing else to do. In fact you are never part of their happy memories because she has different set of friends for good moods and sob moods. You are probably a sponge with the sole purpose to wiper her tears.
  5. Manipulators are victims in everything. Life sometimes deal us with a bad hand in cards, but if your work, marriage, friendship and everything around you are falling apart that it is probably a fictitious projections or payback of their past deeds. Are you being overwhelmed by red-taps, unnecessary dependencies and complications then probably it is a figment of her imagination. How come there is only bad news, negative surprises in a person’s life?
  6. Cribbing about marital discord is normal but if someone uses the word divorce or suicide twice, call in the experts. Anyways you did not help the last time. Our life is a sum of all out decisions, her’s is in a rut and she expect the same fate for you.
  7. Try introducing them to a religious group, social group or a hobby/activity. If the person is not making even a slightest step to recover on their own then surely all they are doing is feeding on your emotional availability.
  8. Be watchful if you are being used as a Guinee pig to hone her story telling skills. Is there a consistency in the sequence of events? It is normal to repeat a dramatic incident, but not ok to make it more intense. Emotional vampire will jump from one drama to another. No matter how bad your day was, she has been through worse.
  9. Even though you are not really close, does she project you to be the only sane thing in her life? Her relationship with spouse, boss, colleagues, parents, kids, in-laws is always a mess and you are the only person who has supported her? Chances are she is manipulating you. If you have common friends, try to cross check her story (without betraying the confidence) you might find multiple centers of the universe.
  10. Manipulators like salespersons often do general probing to understand your thought process, establish your baseline and understand your bias, weakness and soft spots. Be wary of this hidden agenda and manipulation esp. if the incidents in your life are being twisted and rubbed on your face.
  11. Don’t force a depressed person into doing something against their own will. They will deliberately screw the opportunity and hold you accountable for their losses. They will start new things (often many at the same time) but never see it through. Then they will hold everybody else responsible for the fate.
  12. Some will even go to the lengths of creating a honey trap for you… an opening which allows you to personally take advantage of the person. Even if you did it out of pity, it will be a hole from which you can never come out off. FOG (fear, obligation & guilt) are the key words.

Everyone goes through phases of depression and without the support of friends and family recovery will be hard. However, you need to decide if it is chronic or a temporary phase. Is the person and your relationship worth the time & energy you are investing? If your attention is not yielding results and you are not qualified to be a psychiatrist then don’t play as one. Allowing someone to feed off your emotions, time and friendship only helps the manipulator hone their skills and tighten their grip on you.

never ending vikas

For selection of Adityanath as UP CM, Congratulations to all of us. Modi has once again shown his brilliance in selecting ‘Right persons for Right jobs’ All three Northern State-Haryana, Uttranchal UP will have great CMs.
Centre is already full of Gems. Giriraj must become Defence Minister. Gadkari to be sacked and replaced with Sadanand Gowda   even if he is not in BJP and Smriti should be back in Education.MP CM should also be replaced with Uma Bharti. The rule is not entirely about Hinduism as several elements were missing esp the Hindu rate of growth.
I feel Smriti Irani was as wonderful as Suresh Prabhu with Railways, only our Sexist Media was against her. We all must be aware about brilliant Turnaround of Railways- profit of 15000 CR (dividend+surplus) turned into loss of 15000 cr  (0 dividend); negative growth in freight achieved after 3 decades, 200 percent growth in  deaths due to accidents. Though he should not get all the credit, may be turnaround in profit is due to great performance of Indian Economy and pay commission. Accidents are mostly due to spurt in terrorist activities, is it because of Demonetisation?

Crony Capitalism in India

Look at the Forbes list of 50 richest Indians and ask yourself three questions:

  1. Are they rich because of government connects, concessions in licenses, political/mafia connects?
  2. What is the share of their wealth generated from regulated markets vs competitive markets
  3. Are they rich because they were born rich?
  4. Do they operate/do business from India?
  5. What is their R&D spending, market research (not ad/promotion spending) as a % of revenue.

You will be surprised to find strong parallels between Indian rich & famous and Chaebol of South Korea of robber barons of America. Talk to any Indian businessman, bulk of his time would be in getting the approvals, compliance certificates/NOC, collecting receivables and resolving union, banks, transport & supplier problems. There is little time left for strategy, innovation, consumer research and all the 100 reasons that gets you excited in the first place.

The first thing most business do after they become profitable is to buy the real estate. Which is odd, if someone after years of struggle has found a winning formulae to reap profit, all their focus & attention should be in going all in, expanding & making the most before completion catches up. Rentals are 2-4% annually of the real estate cost, so locking your precious equity capital in there is counter intuitive. However it just proves my hypothesis that even though India is a market of 1.2 billion souls, the small business don’t have what it takes to compete in the big leagues because of the crony capitalism

Paytm & US presidential $1 coin act

US treasury under its presidential $1 coin act – 2005 allowed individuals to buy $1 coins through credit cards. The scheme a federal government measure to increase circulation of small coins with current president’s pictures throughout the nation, but was misused and used to rotate credit card debt. Since there was no postage or handling charge, people raked up huge credit card rewards points through this scheme. This person earned 4 million reward points. Many individuals deposited sealed bags that US treasury had shipped in the banks without even bothering to open them up.

Those who don’t read history are doomed to repeat it. In November 2016, Paytm allowed people to charge their credit card and immediately withdraw the money to their bank accounts. So, if my credit card spend today (first day of billing) will not be due next 45 days (30 day credit free period & 15 days of payment period). Furthermore, I could use the withdrawal to pay off my previous month’s credit card debt allowing me to rotate the debt. In the process the user can rake up a huge rewards (like the $1 coin act) points effectively creating wealth for nothing.

Coupons and promotional schemes often have unintended consequences and it is the job of the strategy & product planning team to borrow a leaf from Nash’s game theory. Rather than blaming the customers and singling out employees of nationalized banks the company should refine its own business model. Chalk out a revenue plan to pay for the services it provides. Almost everybody with a credit card also has a debit card with him or her. If you give someone multiple options, they will use what is most rewarding for them (in terms of convenience, economics, liquidity etc.) Most ecommerce websites allow for multiple payment options, but they always ensure that refunds are processed back to the original payment mode. If you roll out a system which is so flawed that it literally begs everyone to manipulate it, then one should not cry when taken advantage off.

Camping & trekking tips (part 2)

I am planning to revisit Kumar Parvat, the highest peak of south India after 8 years and here is the list I am planning to carry:

  1. Backpack: I have seen people carrying laptop bags, school bags to proper backpacks with aluminum strips for lumber support. Pick whatever you believe will do the trick. A couple of tips:
    • Firstly, it should be strong and study enough. A torn backpack is a hassle that you do not want to witness.
    • Secondly it should have provision to hang things (bottles, shoes, tents, mats, poles etc.)
    • thirdly it should have enough pockets that you can retrieve things easy without having to empty the whole bag just to locate a sun screen
    • Have a separate bag for camera and other sensitive equipment. This will give you freedom to roughly use your main pack
    • Always carry some duct tape, rope or strong plastic string along. There is no limit to the possible uses of this.
    • Have some plastic bags handy for wet-soiled clothes. If you are planning monsoon or riverside trek prepare a dry-sack.
  2. Water: a sipper integrated in your backpack is ideal. Allows you to keep hydrated without having to stop for breaks.
    • Few things to remember is that you would need at least 5 liters of water for a dawn to dusk travel. Also even boiling eggs and rice and consume good 2 liters of water if your account for slow wood fire & open air cooking. If you are going beyond 24 hours, you need to plan for sourcing the water locally. Same if you plan to cook.
    • Typically boiling is ideal but often not practical. Chlorine tablets leave a bad after taste. Therefore, choice is yours, but don’t venture untreated water on your first time.
    • ORS/Gatorade: Walking under the sun can cause fatigue and electrolyte imbalance. So some sugar, salt might be good. However avoid sodas or fruit juices which can become sticky/messy if spilled.
  3. Comfort, warmth & shade
    • A Chunni (summer) & shawl (winters) is ideal. As a bandana it protects against the sun. as a makeshift bag, it can be used for foraging. It doubles up as a bed-sheet & creating a seating space in the group. Ladies can use it as a makeshift-curtain to secure privacy
    • Rather than buying a single extra warm jacket dress in layers. Also it allows you to change the layers that have become damp because of rain or sweat without having to bother for the spares.
    • Tent: Even in the areas without snow, one should be careful about Morning dew, winds & rain. A tree shade can be a poor man’s tent. Otherwise you could use 1-2 space blanket (silver colored lightweight sheets)
    • Only in movies you will see people sleeping on a pile of hay or bushes. I have found them filled with enough bed-bugs to make my skin crawl. Most sleeping bag have a temperature rating to tell you the amount of insulation. On a hot summer evening a simple bed sheet might be ok, but I prefer a sleeping bag as the zip gives safety against bugs & reptiles creeping & crawling during your sleep.
    • Do not forget a quick-dry towel, some extra pair of undergarments & socks.
    • Do carry a simple cap, hat or a bandana.
  4. Food & consumables:
    • Energy foods: Granola, dry fruits, Candies, dates (khajoor) and anything that can allow you to have a quick bite without taking a break is always welcome. When in doubt, go for ones that are heaviest in calories. Treks are great time where you can have indulge without feeling guilty.
    • Apart from Snacking, try to eat food which is similar to ones that you normally eat. Don’t overload your digestive tracks with only meats, fats & sugars (esp. on trips with a lot of hunting & fishing).
    • Even if you detest canned food, have a few pouches of ready to eat food handy for the rainy days
  5. Carry some extra candy bars to give as gift to locals or fellow trekkers. There is no better way to make a few friends along the way.
    • Also keep some cash handy for various permits & payments. However divide it into various pouches to prevent extortion by someone greedy.
    • Also carry a glass jar to bring back souvenirs (could be a wild mushroom, a unique insect or even a flower that you encountered during the way)
  6. Foraging & Cooking: if you plan to spend a month in the wilderness then you do not have a choice. As a rule, don’t eat any fruit/berries unless you are absolutely sure about the local flora & fauna. Also foraging is a bonus but not very reliable. Hence, try to be self-sufficient as far as possible and plan for foraging & cooking only if the conditions are conducive.
    • Even if you don’t plan to cook, do carry some aluminum/silver foil. Just wrap around a few tubers or eggs and bury them below your campfire to get a fresh warm breakfast in the morning.
    • Remember cooking involves gathering firewood, which can be hard after dark or during rains.
    • Pots & pans, which can add to your weight. but you need it if you plan to boil water.
    • While everybody welcomes foraging, people’s opinion differ when it comes to hunting & fishing. So discuss it with your group before you pack your gear. Also keep all the permits & approvals handy before you unpack them.
  7. Shoes: for most purposes a simple running shoe with good grip will suffice. However if you do plan to buy trekking shoes, wear them for a couple of days prior to get used to it.
    • Always carry extra shoe laces. You might need them to prevent against leeches crawling up your pant.
    • Also pack for flip-flops for gathering water from the pool, a walk in the bushes or other evening activities for which you won’t like to burden with the task of wearing a regular heavy shoes.
    • Carry some medicines for foot blisters & corns. Foot injury is the primary reason why your partner might have a great experience but you will be begging to return earlier than planned.
  8. Pole, staff or a walking stick: It is a tool that allows you to carry heavy loads for longer distance on foot. If you buy a telescopic pole, it can also help you cross streams, give your fellow trekkers a hand when they need and knock down a few juicy fruits on the way.
  9. Small stuffs (but don’t ignore its weight when measured collectively)
    • Torch Matches & lighter (I prefer lighter because it is waterproof, buying flint might be overkill). A few bits of paper from an old newspaper are a perfect tinder. Don’t carry lighter fluid unless heavy rains are expected.
    • Duct tape, Rope or strong plastic string, needle and thread (esp. the thick ones) will always make you win friends in the trekking groups.
    • Knife (a simple folding knife is good but a swiss knife is often an overkill). If you have to clear the bushes with make the trail for others, then do carry some gloves & a heavier hunting knife.
    • First aid kit with lots of bandages for scrapes and bruises. Remember to carry all your prescription medication. In addition, it might not be a bad idea to store an extra pouch in your friend’s bag.
    • Extra pair of spectacles might be good if your power is high. Avoid using contact lens. If you are unable to disinfect them properly or get exposed to too much sand, it can damage your cornea.
    • Tissue paper, toiletries, sunscreen, mosquito repellents, moisturizer, your daily necessities. But don’t use too much of perfume or after shave, or things that might attract wild animals.
    • So many people forget hand-sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants that I am writing it as a separate point. Remember you will be in dirt all day and in contact with vegetation that are rotting for weeks.
    • Carry some extra batteries & memory cards. Cellphone reception is almost ubiquitous these days and might be good if you are reachable. But do carry your phone in a simple zip pouch. don’t buy a solar charger esp for the trip. chances are that you will be moving during the day and hence no time to charge.
    • Always have a trail map handy in your front pocket. A printed terrain map is often more useful than electronic maps. Also knowing the expected sunrise & sunset times & weather forecast is always useful for planning for rest spots.
    • A watch & sunlight is often all the compass that I need, but you can carry a compass esp. if trekking in desert without many landmarks. However a pair of binoculars is often handy esp. if there are a lot of birds around.
  10. Music, pack of cards or even a ball makes great recreational tools for the evening. From dawn to dusk you will be busy, but there is nothing to do after sun-set. A pen and a dairy is also quiet useful for the evenings. So plan for something even if it is action under the covers. However try to limit alcohol, cigarettes or weeds as recreational distractions. why would you like to numb your senses during dark, unprotected and in the wild? thats just a disaster waiting to happen irrespective of how large your group is.
  11. Lastly, please bring back all your garbage and take care of mother nature esp. when it comes to unattended fires. Even if it is from a cigarette butt.

You don’t have to  carry everything, talk to your fellow mates if you can save some weight by sharing the stuff. However remember to distribute the important stuff among travelers. You don’t want all your water in one back, food in another and clothes in the third and discover that you are separated from the group.

There is no universal list and the list changes with your physical condition, climate, duration of the trek & the terrain. Hence, please use your judgement.