Author Archives: Phyllis Carpenter

Facebook Page VS Website For Alwar Business

Alwar Business We’ve been asked by a few Alwar business owners lately “Do I need a website if I have a Facebook page?”

Alwar Business

The answer depends on a number of variables including:

  • Your target market and how they seek and use your services,
  • How competitive your market is,
  • The type of business you are in
  • Your business plan and goals for growth.

In the majority of cases, we recommend having both as they complement each other in the overall marketing mix.

[Also Read:- Top 20 Wine Blogs to Follow 2020 ]

Why Just Having A Facebook Page Is Not Ideal

1. Not Everyone In Alwar Is On Facebook

We did some crunching of Alwar Facebook usage statistics and found nearly half of all adults in Alwar don’t have a Facebook account. A proportion of these adults may be elderly or the ‘other half’ of avid Facebook users, but we personally know dozens of people in our own circles who don’t because it’s not their thing.

Having a website can help you reach those non-Facebook users who will seek out your service in other channels (eg. Google, in the paper,  in print directory or old fashion word of mouth referral) and want to look at your web page before contacting you. A website gives you more scope than a Facebook page to create a strong brand impression and clear service offering – particularly to those who are not used to (or averse) to Facebook.

2. Websites Are Better For Search Engine Listings

Facebook pages don’t come up as high as web pages or directory listings for searches on your products or services. A website gives you much more scope to optimize for high search engine ranking.

You can get by with just a free online directory listing, but websites are generally clicked on before directory listings in search results so having a website that comes up high in the results will put you ahead of your competitors. And having a website that is optimized for sales conversion will put you in front again.

3. Not Everyone That Uses Facebook Uses It For Interacting And Transacting With Brands

Of that 53 % of Alwar adults using Facebook, a great deal of them will be ‘light’ users – logging in irregularly and not necessarily interacting or following brands – preferring traditional methods to do this.

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4. Only A Small Percentage Of Your Facebook Followers Actually See Your Posts

In late 2012, Facebook changed its EdgeRank algorithm to reduce the amount of brands’ Facebook page posts are seen in fans’ news feeds. This may have been a deliberate move by Facebook to force page owners to pay for reach using promoted posts. Whatever the reason, less people are seeing your updates now.

5. People New To Town Don’t Have Local Connections For Referrals

Are you missing out on these people?  Two years ago, We were one of them. Nearly all our current personal and professional service providers in Alwar were found from Google. Most new residents will use Google to find new services. And chances are your Facebook page won’t come up in the results unless you have optimized it for keyword related to your products and services. Your Facebook page might come up high for searches on your brand name, but most new residents won’t be familiar with it and won’t search for that.

6. Facebook Search Is Not Good For Local Business

Does anyone actually try to look for local services using the Facebook search? If they created an advanced search that allowed you to target locations and categories, then it would be a different story.

When Having Just A Facebook Page Is Ok

Alwar retailers with physical stores in town are prime examples of businesses that can use Facebook instead of a website.

Most NEW customers will find your store by going past it in the shopping center or in town. Or they will find out about the store from friends on Facebook. Very few, if any, will find your store by doing a google search for “shoes” or “fashion” or “gifts” first. So it’s not so important for you to have a website that comes up in Google. Unless of course you want sell your products online and drive sales from markets outside Alwar (refer to the case study below).

Facebook makes it easy for shop owners to promote new stock and sales promotions to drive repeat business to their store.

So What’s Right For You?

Consider The Purpose Not The Channel

Our answer to whether you need a Facebook Page or a website is to take a holistic view of your marketing and start by considering your target market and how they use media and don’t start with the channel or medium and how to use it. Facebook may be the best customer retention or customer service tool, but a website may be better for branding and new customer acquisition.

When developing your marketing plan and deciding which channels to pursue always start with who is your target market and consider the following framework:

  • Acquisition Strategy – how will you acquire NEW customers (eg. Google, Direct Mail, Advertising, Referrals)
  • Retention Strategy – how you will keep existing customers loyal and generate repeat business (eg. Facebook, email, SMS)
  • Growth Strategy – how will you get more value out of existing customers through upsells and cross-sells
  • Customer Service Strategy – how will you make yourself available to customers (service hours, service channels, response times)
  • Brand Strategy – how will you create a distinct brand personality in the market (eg. PR, sponsorships, events, Facebook content marketing)

[Also Read:- The 15 Best Beer Brands in India]

Consider Your Return On Investment

When deciding whether to invest in a website, consider how many new customers/sales your website needs to generate to get a return on your investment – assuming you will have that same website for 2 to 5 years.  Websites don’t have to cost much money. There are dozens of low-cost Packages for small businesses which are ideal if you have a small budget. Hiring a professional web designer is best if you operate in a competitive market and need SEO (search engine optimization) expertise or if you rely on your website to drive sales, quotes or provide a service. With a growing number of web designers in Alwar, the cost is coming down.

Similarly, when investing in Facebook promotions or campaigns (taking into account the costs of giveaways, advertising and Facebook application fees), consider and set sales targets for the channel and not just how many new fans you will get.

Case Study

Alwar lingerie retailer, Centralplus recently invested in setting up an e-commerce website (online shop) to complement their physical store. They also have a Facebook page.
The online shop sells only basics and popular styles – things that existing customers will re-order without needing to try on or come into the store. We ensured the website was optimized for Google searches (SEO) when we built it and now it’s attracting online sales from all over India– specifically women – women who wouldn’t have found the business if it only had a Facebook page/shop. They’ve opened themselves up to a new market for growth just by having a search-optimized website.

Online Surveys make it a smooth participation!

Have you been trying so hard to complete online surveys lately and experienced issues within the surveyor during the survey that didn’t allow you to continue or the survey just crashed when you’re almost done with it?  Quite frustrating right especially when you’ve spent so much time filling in all the questions and eagerly wanting to finish it off and get your much-deserved points?  When online surveys don’t work, there are a lot of factors why this may occur.

Online Surveys

It could be that your internet connection is not fast enough, you didn’t have the latest version of Flash player installed, your browser’s javascript is not enabled, you’ve clicked on the wrong button, the study has reached its needed responses, you didn’t qualify, or the study has technical errors that need to be reported.

No matter what the circumstances are, surely there are ways you can make that survey taking experience a better one.
Let us help you with that! Here are online surveys taking tips to help you guarantee that participation and not turn that valuable time of yours to waste.

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1.    Make sure you have a good internet connection.  All online surveys require a solid internet connection to ensure your survey experience is smooth with no disruptions.  If you are experiencing internet disruptions lately, it is best to contact your internet service provider and get it sorted out before taking another online survey.

2.    Take online surveys one at a time.  Taking more than one survey at a time affects data and your participation may not be recorded.  Our clients validate all data submitted and ask that all members provide accurate and consistent responses based on the time designated for each study.   When you don’t adhere to these requirements, you will not be able to continue with the survey.

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3.    Make sure your browser’s Javascript is enabled and a new version of Flash player is installed.  Almost all of our online surveys require flash content and with no flash player installed or when your Javascript is not enabled, you may not be able to see selections or images on the online survey and it can either crash or get stuck at any given time.  Please make sure you have the latest version of Flash installed and enable your Javascript.  Here’s how to do it: http://www.enable-javascript.com/.

4.    Make sure your profiles are up to date.  It is important that you keep your profiles updated each time your situation changes.  The more updated your profiles are, the more online survey opportunities you will receive and the greater your chances are in qualifying for more online surveys.

5.    Don’t speed through online surveys.  All online surveys have designated time frames to finish.  When you rush through surveys, it means you are speeding which will highly affect the data returned to us. Take your time and read all the questions carefully.  Some questions may be tricky; therefore it’s important that your responses are consistent and accurate.

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6.    Take surveys in the country where it’s offered.  Our survey community is only offered in India.  Taking surveys outside the country whilst on holiday or business trips, will not allow you to continue and/ or your participation will not be recorded.   Please make sure you are only taking online surveys in the country and location you initially registered with to avoid running into issues.  We also advise you to refrain from accessing your account in public computers as this may create issues with your account.

7.    Contact support immediately when all else fails.  If the study really has technical errors, it’s always in your best interest to contact the OpinionWorld Support Team immediately and submit a ticket so the survey can be investigated and we can possibly send you a new survey link to continue.  However, if the study has been closed due to technical problems, you may take advantage of your next online survey opportunity.

Blues in the Green: The Budget 2020 Conundrum

The recently released budget 2020 by the Finance Minister of India has few talking points on climate change and the need for action to fight different environmental hazards like air pollution and disasters and encouraging investment in renewable energy. In this piece, we try to understand the budget’s implication for adaptation to climate change and building resilience. Does the budget actually budget for the adaptation needs of the vulnerable?

Budget 2020

Adaptation has historically been a poor cousin of mitigation, with funds and finance more often flowing towards the latter. The intangible nature of adaptation means its benefits are hard to measure and spread widely across sectors, scale and time. With the vagaries of climate change manifesting themselves in increasing magnitude across continents: from bushfires and heatwaves to floods, cyclones, storm surges, landslides and droughts, the need for investing in adaptation grows ever more important.

This holds especially true for a developing country like India, which is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change with its rainfall-dependent agrarian economy and long coastline. The new budget focusses on disaster resilience, along with agriculture and irrigation. The 16 point action plan to revive agriculture focuses on important initiatives like NABARD’s refinance scheme for agriculture, Krishi Udan scheme to boost exports, zero-based natural farming (ZBNF) and measures to improve the situation in 100 water-stressed districts across states. While these measures would help in contributing to adaptation needs and help to double farmers’ incomes by 2022, the allocations for these activities may not be sufficient enough to compensate for adaptation deficits.

The budget has once again skipped the much needed replenishment of the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC). Without it, the standalone funds for adaptation will remain difficult to be accessed. Hence, mainstreaming adaptation into overall developmental policies and programmes becomes more important. The Finance Minister’s speech was along similar lines, where she said that efforts will be made in various sectors through normal budgeting process. While this means adaptation should be able to tap the existing finance avenues in different departments and schemes, it is not so straightforward in reality. Without clear definitions and well thought out strategies it is difficult to mobilize support and action for adaptation across sectors and stakeholders. For example, use of the allocation for agriculture and irrigation sector (INR 2.83 lakh crore) and schemes like MNREGA for promoting resilient activities need to be considered, even though MNREGA’s allocation has been slashed in this budget. Additionally, it is important to mobilize private sector funding, using innovative means of financing like green bonds, infrastructure bonds and resilience bonds.

Read More:- 4 Tips to Optimize Your Office’s Network Infrastructure

Adaptation at its root, is a local issue, and requires involvement at the local level. The Global Commission on Adaptation announced 2020 as the ‘Year of Action’ to accelerate adaptation, stressing on the need for funding for local governments and communities along the frontlines of climate change. This will enable them identify, prioritize, implement and monitor climate adaptation solutions. It is time for India to amplify local level action and leverage our institutional structures at the local level to facilitate successful adaptation. In this regard the latest initiative by Kerala is worth highlighting. The Kerala state government has mooted a plan to formulate Local Action Plans on Climate Change, particularly for vulnerable districts.

Budget 2020 2

The budget perhaps raises more questions and offers fewer solutions for adaptation. However, this should not act as a deterrent. Adaptation is a complex issue and there can be no one-size fits solution. The entry points for adaptation are context-specific and depend on the climate vulnerabilities as well as available technology, institutional capacity and associated costs of implementation at the local level. WRI’s ongoing work through its climate resilience program has demonstrated the value of seeking a pragmatic approach in revitalizing the State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs) with a focus on district-level planning for resilience and developing different strategies to mobilize climate finance at the state level. This would help state governments as well as other stakeholders at the ground level to incorporate climate concerns across different sectors and verticals, while also utilizing available resources in an efficient manner. If tapped in the right way, to mainstream adaptation and resilience at the local level, the budget 2020 could serve as a useful stepping-stone.

4 Tips to Optimize Your Office’s Network Infrastructure

Network Infrastructure Although a lot of business functions are rapidly moving to the cloud., it is not yet a practical option for many businesses to migrate totally. First, the technical know-how that’s required might not be readily available, especially in smaller businesses. Secondly, there are also advantages to keeping your data and processes in-house.

If you’re able to optimize your office network, you’ll find that your staff can store and process data quickly and efficiently, which will translate to better business efficiency overall, and more profits. Everything rests on getting your network infrastructure right though, and here are a few tips on doing just that.

Network Infrastructure

1. Audit your network.

Before embarking on any major optimization efforts or even upgrading, it’s crucial to first understand exactly where there are issues in your network. Are your computers the real bottleneck, or are your staff in need of training to take full advantage of the facilities you’ve provided? If it is either of those things, then you’ll need to take steps to fix those issues, independent of any network optimizations.

If you find that your network is the problem, you’ll need to identify exactly what parts of it need fixing. You can do this by troubleshooting and testing all the different components in isolation.

2. Re-train your employees on best practices.

It’s one thing to have top-of-the-line equipment, and it’s quite another for your employees to be able to use it to full capacity while avoiding mistakes that could cause issues for them and other workers. Don’t assume that your employees are already tech-savvy. Take the time to produce a checklist and walk them through it regularly.

One mistake that often happens is when a few employees hog network resources, thus making the connection too slow for others. Sometimes, the employees in question might be doing something completely unrelated to your business. While it may seem that a few people streaming Netflix during lunch shouldn’t be a problem, each additional person can add to the strain significantly. Emailing very large files instead of using cloud drives is another common area where you can make a quick fix.

3. Parition your network using VLANS.

Not all network requests are equal, in terms of urgency as well as priority. The best way to ensure that requests of higher priority get more network resources is to implement VLANS in your network. While it can be a complicated process, the concept is simply that you can create separate networks within your single office network.

Those networks can share resources and infrastructure, but be designed to allow requests from one or more of the virtual networks to take priority whenever there’s a shortage. This is very important in allowing the C-Suite to conveniently make a crucial video conference with a top client, for instance. It is also helpful from a security perspective, since breaches into one VLAN would be easier to contain than one that gets into a single network.

4. Monitor and maintain.

No matter how well you optimize your network now, it won’t remain perfectly optimized in perpetuity. You’ll need to keep an eye on the network performance and metrics to be sure that things are purring on as they should. In order to do that, you might need to make use of specialized tools, or have an expert take a look if you don’t have an expansive in-house IT department.

According to Peter Di Stefano, Principal Product Marketing Manager of AppOptics , “It’s crucial that the tests are performed regularly and all faults and bottlenecks identified are fixed as soon as possible to avoid a deterioration. Even though you might have to shell out some money, the benefits in terms of business efficiency would more than make up for it.”

Related: Expect From the Indian Fintech Industry In 2020

In all, the imperative of having a well-oiled network for your business cannot be overstated. In some cases, it can be the difference between success and failure, but even when it’s not fatal, a poorly optimized network will have an impact on your business efficiency and profitability. Use the above tips to tweak your network and make sure your business is on the fast track.

Expect From the Indian Fintech Industry In 2020

The fintech industry in India has grown exponentially in the last few years. With new start-ups propping up in the space every day, and funds flowing in, it is not a surprise that technology, erstwhile unheard of, is emerging from within. From the government’s initiative to digitize the country to global corporations placing and expanding their bets on tech companies in India, the outlook looks bright for the fintech industry.

Fintech Industry

Here’s what some fintech start-up founders and company leaders have to say about the trends that they noticed in 2019 and what they expect from the upcoming year.

UPI and Credit Demand

The Indian government’s flagship payments platform – the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) – has seen wide adoption since being introduced to the public three years ago.

“UPI has completely transformed payments in the country – ease of use, interoperability and instant settlements,” said Mayank Kachhwaha, co-founder at IndiaLends.

Founded in 2015, IndiaLends is a credit underwriting and risk analytics platform that focuses on the underserved strata like the urban lower-middle class, self-employed individuals and those from non-tier I cities.

However, despite digitization and the massive success of a platform like the UPI, one thing still holds true for the credit landscape in India, according to Kachhwaha. “India needs a lot more credit, now more than ever.”

Neobanks

India’s fintech space has also recently seen the advent of neobanks – financial service providers who are completely digital and have no branches.

“The year witnessed the maturing of business models of neo-banks across a wide range of business operating areas,” said Vinay Bagri, co-founder at NiYO.

Bengaluru-based start-up NiYO works with banks and employers to offer salaried employees benefits such as healthcare or food allowances through its platform.

Bagri is confident that 2020 will bring cheer for the fintech industry and neobanks. “Traditional banks will continue to embrace technology and digital disruption like never before, and their partnership with neo-banks will grow stronger and deeper,” he said.

Read More:- Top 5 Reasons Why Open Offices Concept Are Better

Adoption By Institutions

One would continue to see the gap growing between financial institutions that adopt or develop artificial intelligence and machine learning related capabilities and those who don’t, according to Jonathan Bill, co-founder of CreditMate.

“Just as we will see (a gap emerging between) those that have truly embraced technology at the heart of their business or are only claiming to have done so,” said Bill.

CreditMate is a Mumbai-based debt collection start-up backed by fintech unicorn Paytm.

“With technology streamlining processes such as application management, underwriting, and eKYC, digital lenders can disburse the loans in as little as 24 hours post the initial application,” said Alok Mittal, chief executive officer at digital lending platform Indifi Technologies.

Mittal said he sees post-approval documentation and use of the Goods and Service Tax Network for extending better credit facilities to Indian businesses as two big opportunities for next year.

Digitization of SMEs

The government recently approved the introduction of e-invoicing for business to business transactions.

“It (the mandate) will mark the next phase of growth for software products that will pave the way for the digitization of Indian SMEs,” said Vinod Subramanian, chief executive officer at Logo Infosoft, which provides GST solutions to Indian organizations.

Subramanian added that 2020 will be exciting for software as service providers “as more and more Indian SMEs adopt and start using technology for their business processes.”

Voice-based Commerce

2019 has seen the growing accessibility to newer technologies such as smart speakers, which has helped people access information with simple voice commands, said Kumar Abhishek, co-founder at ToneTag.

ToneTag uses sound waves to enable offline, proximity-based contactless payments on any device.

Voice-based commerce will be a dominating trend in 2020,” Abhishek said.

The likes of Amazon and Google have been pushing agg

Top 5 Reasons Why Open Offices Concept Are Better

Do you know one idea that Google, Twitter, Whole Foods, YouTube, and Red Bull all have in common? It’s the fact that those companies have great open offices. Although the idea of open offices could be quite contradictory, we could say that the approach to an unorthodox open office styles does create a better work environment. With that in mind, the employees will have a higher work-life satisfactory, which will result in higher productivity on their end.

Open Offices

On that note, why should you build or make a company with an open office layout? And what about the controversial ideas behind an open office? Well, I have created a compilation of the benefits of having an open office. So, if you are interested in what open offices could offer you and your company as a whole.

5 Reasons Why Open Offices Concept Are Better

1. Interaction Between Employees

With the idea of an open office layout coming to mind, it is more or less impossible for you to not communicate with the other employees. This will help you improve productivity by having a chance to brainstorm with your co-workers for a certain project or tasks. In addition, an open office doesn’t constrict you to just stay in one location or your own cubicle. If you are comfortable working on the sofa, go right ahead. In a way, you have the chance to build up your network and connections while also increasing teamwork, which might brush up your collaboration skills for future use.

2. Approachability

Without any barrier between you and the person next to you, it would be easier for you to socialize with others. I’m not saying that you should do it the whole time (except those of you with that job requirement), but also that it makes you seem more approachable for others if they need help or just want to talk to you. It does increase and strengthen the bond and trust between you and others, which gives a higher assurance for better work quality and of course, increase productive efficiency on your respective parts. This will also allow you to work closely with your superiors and will somewhat train you to be less intimidated with your higher-ups. I would say that this point is a hidden gem for increasing your productivity.

Read More:- India’s Push to Achieve Better Data Governance

3. Games and Relax Areas

This might be the most important point out of all. Although you have an open office space, it is very crucial that you supply anything that could make your employees’ work lives better. Some companies added a snack bar, others have an open mike stage while most may adopt the idea of having games and sofas at your office. It is very important for you to be aware that your employee’s lives matter too. Without anything that they could diffuse their stress with, they might not be able to perform well as how you expect them to be. Therefore, with the installment of a gaming station or working on the sofa, it will increase the contentment of everyone’s work life and health.

4. Headphones

Other than having a place for you to relax for a while, I would say that having your own personal space is also needed in an open office setting. This is where the headphones come in. For instance, if you are in dire need of concentration but the office seemed too much of a distraction to you, it is quite essential for you to use your own headphones. It is true that using headphones is the same as escaping from the real world but it won’t be the case in this kind of setting. Of course, the music you play might disconnect you with what is going on all around you but it does help you get your work done. So, bosses, please don’t restrict your employees from using headphones.

5. Jump-in Openly

For any of you who are new to open offices, I might mention that this point may assist you. I would say that it is the idea where there are no physical barriers between you and the others. In a way, this helps you to learn about the company’s culture and vibe quicker and also lets you absorb or observe the work ethic all around you. It is one of the greatest gifts of an open office and also an easier chance for you to prove your capability to others. Not only that this will let you grasp the whole idea of the company quicker, but it also gives you a shortcut to increase your productivity.

What Are Some Other Reasons Why Open Offices Are Better?

Hi everyone! As you could see, these are what I’ve seen as the benefits of an open office layout. For those of you who are considering to create an open office, this might help you with deciding what kind of space you are looking for or what additional areas you can include in your office.  Again it is highly important for you and your employees to have a balanced work-life, therefore please do take these points into consideration. For those of you who are currently working in an open office setting, what kind of relaxing areas or stations does your company supply you with? Please don’t hesitate to tell us below and share your opinion about open offices.

India’s Push to Achieve Better Data Governance

Since the launch of the Digital India Program, the country has witnessed tremendous growth in digital infrastructure and initiatives in innovating e-governance policies that can lead to digital empowerment of citizens. Affordable access to the internet and an encouraging regulatory system has made India the country with the second-largest internet users in the world and has powered its digital economy.

Governance

The rapid technological advances have led to large volumes of data being generated by various activities, thus, increasing the dependence of business on data-decision making. However, this fuels the question of personal data protection, a key issue facing the policymakers. India is proposing a ‘fourth way’ to regulate personal data distinct from the approaches of China, European Union, the United States through India’s draft Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill that is due to be passed by end of the year.

The Data Governance framework constitutes of three major players – Data Fiduciaries (DF) those who control the means of processing personal data, Data Processors (DP) who process data on behalf of DFs and Data Principal those whose personal data is processed. DFs and DPs share a fiduciary relationship and it is their duty to protect the rights of Data Principal. The PDP Bill contains a number of other checks and balances that ensures the interests of the Data Principal such as the processing of data in a fair and reasonable manner.

The Bill also provides the appointment of a Data Protection Authority (DPA) that consists of a chairperson and six members, with knowledge of at least 10 years in the field of data protection and information technology. The DPA is empowered to draft specific regulations for all data fiduciaries across different sectors, supervise and monitor data fiduciaries, assess compliance with the Bill and initiate enforcement actions, and receive, handle and redress complaints from data principals.

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A brief summary of the draft bill: 

  • A single law that governs both private and public entities,
  • Sensitive personal data includes financial data, passwords such as bank account or credit card or debit card or other payment instrument details, physical, physiological and mental health conditions, sexual orientation, medical records and history and biometric information,
  • Mandatory storage of a copy; critical personal data is stored only in the country,
  • Cross border data is permitted if it is approved by the regulator or the government,
  • Data breached must be reported to the regulator and regulator will decide if the individual will be notified based on the severity,
  • Imprisonment up to five years for certain kind of offences.

Most technology giants thrive on data generated by their users and as the Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani said ‘Data is the new oil’; we will need to watch and see how the bill creates the legal regime of how data is used, shared and stored in India.

Financial Planning Decisions Every Woman Must Make

Today, the progress women have shown in various spheres of life has been nothing short of phenomenal. From heading top MNCs globally to representing the country in Olympics, women are leaving no stone unturned to make their mark in the world. However, when it comes to managing finances, women continue to remain largely dependent on their spouse or father. They need to break away from this age-old practice and start taking control of their finances.

Financial Planning

Sharing with you some of the decisions that women must take in order to be more financially independent:

Be financially confident

One of the reasons why we continue to be dependent on others for managing finances is because of our unwillingness to familiarize ourselves with financial terms and decision-making process. What we do not realize is, financial independence is not just about saving or earning money, it also empowers us to utilize it wisely.

Start reading about financial planning and then have an open conversation with your parent, partner, or even a financial advisor about how you wish to kick-start your investment and savings journey. I would recommend you to make smaller investment first and gradually increase it once you become more comfortable with managing it on your own. Slowly take charge of your money.

Maintain emergency fund

An emergency fund assists in tackling financial emergencies such as sudden job loss, accident or severe illness, wherein your regular income inflow stops temporarily. You may choose to maintain a separate emergency fund, or consider having one with your spouse. In case of latter, ensure both of you contribute to this fund every month. Ideally, your emergency corpus should be at least 3-6 times your monthly expenses.

You can consider parking your emergency fund in high yielding savings accounts offering interest rates up to 7.25%, since these provide highest form of liquidity along with minimal risk.

Invest instead of merely saving

Understand the difference between saving and investing, and how important the latter is to achieve various financial goals. Instead of merely keeping your hard earned money idle in your bank account, consider investing this in various investment instruments. Avoid restricting your investment to safer investment options and instead, go ahead and explore other investment avenues such as mutual funds.

Read More:- Indian Insurance Industry: Mega Trends to Watch Out For

Prioritize financial goals

Identify and prioritize specific financial goals, in order to make investments according to your investment horizon and risk appetite. Make sure each of your investment has a specific financial goal.

Women are usually inclined towards safer investment options such as Fixed Deposits, PPFs or NSCs etc. On the contrary, I would recommend you to consider investing in equity-linked mutual funds as well. ELSS not only helps save tax, they outscore other investment options when it comes to returns, lock-in period and taxability of gains. Also, consider making separate investment for each goal. Debt fund is good option for short term goals (less than 3yrs). Opt for balanced fund for goals that are 3-5years away and invest in equities only for long-term goals that are at least 5years away.

Save enough for your retirement

Do not deprioritize retirement just because you have a support system as this may prove to be grave financial mistake later on. Start planning for your retirement as soon as you have a steady job as this would give you more time to grow your money through the power of compounding. Remember that delaying retirement investment for later time may cost you more.

Purchase adequate term and health insurance

A vital step towards protecting your family from the uncertainty of future is to purchase adequate term as well health insurance. Term insurance protects your family financially in case of your untimely demise, by providing an assured sum to them, at lower cost. Opt for term insurance amounting to at least 10-15 times your current annual income.

Given the rising cost of healthcare in India, relying on your savings or employer’s health policy would be a big mistake. Hence, it is important for you to have a health insurance policy in place. You can either choose one that is specially designed for women or buy a regular health cover with maternal and child care benefits. Choose for a family floater plan if you have dependent family members.

Indian Insurance Industry: Mega Trends to Watch Out For

Indian Insurance There is no path more hazardous than the one taken in attempting to predict what the future entails. Given that the world we live in is in continuous flux and every industry faces uncertainties, this is more true today than ever before. Who would have thought even a year ago about de-globalization in a world that was being rapidly globalized over the past few decades?

Indian Insurance

The world may still be flat, but it is not immune to the socio-political and technology changes which will either raise new walls or pull down the existing ones. The implications of these changes on jobs, productivity and economies in general are unknown today. Despite the challenges of predicting the future, I take solace in the fact that over the ages, human ingenuity has made life better for society-at-large.

A business like insurance will not be immune from some of the mega-trends that stare at us today. I consciously use the word mega-trends for events that I believe are going to be irreversible in the coming years. The primary one among these is ‘digital’ which will manifest itself in multiple ways for customers, distributors and the back-office operations of insurers.

Insurers can tap in to open ecosystems

Always-on, mobile devices allow for context-aware, personalized interaction models where insurers can reach out to consumers like never before. Insurers can get deep insights into customer behavior, based on internal and external data sets. Machine learning technologies will allow for intelligent, predictive and learning capabilities to offer virtual advice and automate decision-making processes such as underwriting.

Biometric identification can help prevent fraud and secure customers’ personal data without compromising customer experience. Insurers can tap in to open ecosystems of developers to create value-adding solutions like never before. In a world of hyper-connectivity, insurers can build digital ecosystems for different product categories.

Product-centric and channel marketing-driven

The traditional insurance model was largely product-centric and channel marketing-driven. The new age model will turn this on its head with the customer at the center and a suite of digital technologies, services and ecosystems to tap the customer. If incumbents are unable or unwilling to change their business models, they will cede space to new participants. Nothing prevents search engines or e-commerce platforms with hordes of customer information from disrupting the insurance sector. An equivalent of the ‘Banks vs. Wallets’ battle, while unimaginable today, could emerge in the insurance sector too.

One often-asked question is whether digital will make the existing distribution channels redundant? I, for one, believe in the contrary. Technology is rapidly equipping distributors to become more productive, and thereby to improve their returns on effort. An agent equipped with greater knowledge of the customer and supported by a digital virtual assistant is likely to be more successful. There is still some time for robo-advisory and other such platforms to scale up, both in terms of reach and domain knowledge, for them to make a difference to consumers in the next few years.

The digital push post-demonetization is leading to a migration of more customers into the formal banking system. Bancassurance, with greater insight into the consumer purchase pattern and real time connectivity, can help nudge the customer to purchase a variety of insurance solutions. Micro-segmentation and a targeted approach, backed by analytics, will help improve conversion ratios and reduce customer dissonance. Open architecture ecosystems in bancassurance will push insurers to improve customer value propositions and service standards. A greater presence of banks in the hinterland will help increase the penetration of insurance across the length & breadth of the country at lower fixed costs.

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An additional opportunity will be to leverage the ‘India Stack’ architecture which enables insurers to on-board customers in a paperless fashion. Insurance today is largely seen to be lagging behind other consumer-driven sectors in ‘ease of purchase’ parameters; re-engineering of the policy issuance value chain will create a huge dif­ference in customer experience.

In several other industries, regulations have lagged behind technological innovation, causing friction between corporations and regulators. The insurance industry and the regulator need to learn from other indus­tries to minimize such friction.

Insurance sector is in a unique position

Another mega-trend is ‘ageing’ which is slowly but surely driving up the dependency ratio. In simple terms, the population of the elderly will increase not just in absolute terms over the next two to three decades but also as a percentage of the overall pop­ulation. In a society that still has substan­tial savings in physical assets or in short du­ration, open-ended financial assets, the opportunity for ‘value migration’ both from physical and short duration financial assets is tremendous.

With greater inter-state mi­gration within the country for job opportu­nities, emergence of nuclear families and limited social security instruments, the ‘pro­tection gap’ in India is amongst the highest in the world. The insurance sector is in a unique position to offer disciplined savings vehicles for the long-term and protection against either the risk of dying early, or liv­ing longer through a suite of product offer­ings. Historically, built on the edifice of a tax saving platform, the sector needs to be­come an integral part of any financial plan­ning exercise.

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There are a few other areas that insurance sector management teams would need to stay sharply focused on. Attracting and re­taining talent is one of these. Insurers who offer superior employee value propositions will enjoy greater loyalty in an era where the workforce is younger; geographically mobile; technologically skilled; demands more flexibility such as work-from-home; strives for work-life balance; expects greater learning opportunities; and is more aware of what competitors, both within and out­side the sector, have to offer them as a val­ue proposition. The human resource prac­tices of insurers would need to be grounded in this new reality.

Very soon, most insurers will also deal with a more diverse set of shareholders, either due to a listing process or an accelerating wave of mergers and acquisitions that the industry is witnessing. Greater public scruti­ny and demanding shareholders pushing for sustainable and profitable business models will help create greater transparen­cy for the sector & push insurers towards higher efficiencies and superior customer service standards.

Over the next couple of years, GST will be another discontinuity that the country will face. Applicability of different tax slabs can significantly change the affordability and thereby influence the growth of different product categories.

The challenges posed by the above changes are not insurmountable; the opportunities to grow and become more efficient are humongous. However, the sector can ill-afford uncertainties like the ones it faced in the earlier part of this decade. It is only with great effort that a renewed model of sus­tainable growth has re-emerged for the sec­tor; for the fruits of this model to be reaped, all stakeholders need to work to­gether in tandem.

Here is how the new Income Tax rules affect you?

With the new economic year, new changes in income tax are going to have a definitive impact on individual portfolios. This time around, it is important for all professionals to gear up and plan investments accordingly so that they can have maximum benefits once the changes implemented in taxation. First and foremost individuals need to get accustomed to the new rules and regulations, implemented from April 1, 2018.

Income Tax

In the personal income tax bracket, there is no change in the tax ceiling but in case of corporates, where profit doesn’t exceed Rs 250 crore, the new tax rate is 25%. There is a surcharge of 10% of income tax in case net income is between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore whereas it is 15% in case net income exceeds Rs 1 crore, subject to marginal relief. The education cess of 4% is applicable instead of 3% and definitely, this is going to increase the burden on middle-class taxpayers.

The senior citizens (age of 60 and above) now face an additional deduction of Rs 40,000 on interest from bank deposits. No TDS will be counted till the amount remains within Rs 50,000. Meanwhile, they are also going to get a higher exemption for medical insurance and medical related expenses of Rs 50,000 which was Rs 30,000 earlier.

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In case of treatment of specified diseases, the deduction limit in case of medical expenditure has been increased to Rs 1 lakh under section 80DB. For women who have just started working, they can definitely ask her employer to reduce the contribution to EPF (Employee Provident Fund) to 8% during the first 3 years of employment which is otherwise 12% of basic. No doubt, this will be a win-win situation in net profit.

Investors with a long-term capital gain via indirect equity mutual funds are now scheduled to pay 10% plus surcharge as LTCG. Anyhow, this is subject to a relaxation of Rs 1 lakh per year per person and the value to calculate purchase price will be 31 January 2018 (the Budget announcement date). Interestingly, from now on, non-employee subscribers also have the benefit of tax-free withdrawal from NPS (National Pension System) from April 1.

This exemption is currently not available to non-employee subscribers. On Single premium health insurance policies, the deduction is to be allowed on a proportionate basis for which the number of years for which health insurance is covered or provided.

One must not forget that 10% tax will be levied on dividend income from equity mutual funds. This 10% tax is referred to as Dividend Distribution Tax. In case anyone fails to file Income Tax, he will need to pay Rs 500 as penalty per day instead of Rs 100. The penalty of non-adhering to the notice has increased to whopping Rs 1000.