Posts tagged "salary"

If You Thought The West Had Banking Troubles…

There are so many things that defy logic and explanation in India that I’ve virtually given up writing about them on this blog but I feel motivated enough to write about yet another absurd Indian practice that angers me while at the same time amuses me. It’s labeled as being more efficient and yet you end up with multiple dormant bank accounts that never get used again.

When I arrived in India in January 2008 I had to open a bank account to receive my salary. Nothing unusual about that, the company brought in the representative from Standard Chartered (a British bank which rather oddly doesn’t operate in Britain), I filled out some documents, gave 10 million forms of ID along with a blood sample, and then, just to make sure I really was who I said I was, they made me copy out my signature 10 times to ensure it matched EXACTLY each time.

Apparently in India no one can forge a signature and it’s the most secure method against someone stealing your identity – according to my boss, anyway.

So I got a Standard Chartered account and I was happy, they even upgraded me to a Priority Customer because they reckoned they could make some cash out of me. As far as I could tell, being a Priority Customer meant you could flash a little black credit card around and pay 2,000 rupees (about 26 pounds) a year for the privilege of proving to the lowly shop assistant that you were far superior to them. (or in the immortal words of Harry Enfield: “I’m considerably richer, than yowse“)

But then disaster struck. My company decided that Standard Chartered was the most evil, money grabbing, greedy bank in existence (and since it’s British, they are almost correct in that allegation, but I think surely RBS must take that crown) and effective immediately, no further dealings would be done with them.

So how does that affect me?

Well, *deep breath* in India (the country that basically developed the software that powers the modern global financial system and built all the websites what we use for our online banking to send payments at a click of a button and who provides all the telephone banking support to the westerners), all businesses, big and small, are unable to process staff salaries to different bank accounts because I suspect they lack the technological means to do so. I mean, entering an account number and sort code for each employee is pretty high tech, right?

The inability to enter an account number and sort code in to the salary processing software means that a company will do a tie up with a bank and make all their employees open a salary account with that one bank and only pay salary to accounts with that bank – banks here apparently DO have the ability to send payments to their own customers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re currently paying your mortgage or loan with another bank, if you switch jobs or your company decides to use another bank for salary processing you are forced to have the additional headache of making sure there are always enough funds in the old account to meet the monthly repayments.

I had my Standard Chartered account, I was expected to feel special with my little black card, and to all extents and purposes, I was quite happy to bank with an English bank.

But the relationship didn’t last, the company decided that all 200+ employees must open new accounts with a bank called Axis Bank who promised lower fees, better service and the deal clincher: a free pen worth 500 rupees. They do love their freebies in India.

For an entire week the representative was in the office assisting the staff fill out the reams of paperwork and helpfully pointing out that their signatures were out by as much as 3 mm and it absolutely had to be exactly the same otherwise they might not be who they said they were.

Filling Out Paperwork Becomes Part Of Your Life In India

Filling Out Paperwork Becomes Part Of Your Life In India

Being a foreigner in a country that prides itself on inefficient bureaucracy I obviously had even more paperwork than everyone else because I could easily be here on false pretenses and actually trying to subvert this glorious country back to the dark colonial times. This meant I needed passport copies, residential agreements, visa documents, tax documents and loads of passport photos which had to each be attested by two different people that it was a good likeness of me.

Two weeks later I got all the paperwork back because the signatures on two of the documents didn’t match exactly and they were worried that I might not be who I said I was – I sometimes do the ‘g’ part of Claridge a bit different and that was the problem here, a quick glance and you couldn’t tell the difference, but closer inspection would reveal that the loop on the g wasn’t as big as on the other signatures. This Is India where your identity is determined by a signature 🙂

The fact that the account representative sat there and watched as I duly signed each document infront of him was apparently meaningless – “but sir, if your signatures don’t match exactly, you could be anyone!” “yes, this is true, when I put my new glasses on, some people do mistake me for Gandhi” – but he didn’t get the joke “no sir, Gandhi is Indian only”.

Eventually, after much practice, and with the account representative getting more and more agitated that this stupid foreigner couldn’t even make his signature match up, I managed to get 10 signatures to match so perfectly even the eagle eyed desk wallas couldn’t notice any difference.

Yay! I now had a new, entirely pointless, bank account with Axis Bank. No more money went in to Standard Chartered, but Axis Bank decided that I could continue feeling superior and gave me a new platinum card (which was actually black) for a better price of 1,500 rupees a year and came with numerous advantages and benefits such as being able to use it in any ATM in India* (*you may be charged for withdrawals from non-Axis Bank ATMs) and swipe it to pay for my shopping in at least 10 stores all over India. What’s more is that it comes with built in anti-fraud measures such as having your signature on the back which is totally unique to only you. Oh yeah. Living the dream!

Quite soon, with my new ultra cool, signature-secure Axis Bank account I forgot all about Standard Chartered and started making fixed deposits and building a nice little nest egg, but it wasn’t to last. This is India. And in India expect not just the unexpected but something to blow you away so completely that defies all logic and reasoning in the real world.

My company decided that Axis Bank were greedy, money grabbing, thieving robbing bastards[1] and they’d rather rot in hell than have anything else to do with them. Turns out that the low-rollers, those that didn’t get signature-secure little black credit cards, were not treated in the same way that ‘privileged’ customers such as myself were dealt with. Because many people earn such small amounts, Axis Bank decided that they needed to be charged a monthly ‘low usage fee’ so that the bank could make more money out of them and ensure that the poor and downtrodden stay poor and downtrodden. Whatever next? Signature-secure debit cards for the housekeeping staff? Perish the thought!

Anyway, can you see what’s coming?

I have to open another new bank account because Indian companies are unable to pay salary to people who have accounts with different banks. Emerging super-power indeed!

The hunt for a new bank began, the management looked at HDFC, SBI, Barclays (yay! British!), Citibank and more. Then along came a Standard Chartered rep who asked if the company would be interested in switching to them, “Hah! No way!” was the company reply “but we’ll give you a free pen worth 1,000 rupees for switching to us” “Ooo, where do we sign?”.

Back full circle, the company is again signing up 200+ employees to get Standard Chartered accounts so that they can be paid their salary.

Me: Ah hah! I already have a Standard Chartered account, here are my details.
Them: Ah hah! Your signatures don’t match, you could be ANYONE! You must go to your local branch 15km away and prove that you are Peter Claridge and then they will make a final decision on whether you are actually Peter Claridge or not. And oh, because you haven’t used your account in over 12 months you have incurred a banking fee of Rs 2,500, would you like to write us a cheque or would you like us to deduct it from your next salary credit?
Me: You still use cheques here?
Them: Yes, it’s very secure because it has your signature on it

The Red Tape And Bureaucracy Is Incredible

The Red Tape And Bureaucracy Is Incredible

We’ve now reached a bit of an impasse because the finance director is screaming at me to get my Standard Chartered account sorted so the company can pay me, I’m saying hell no, pay me to my Axis account here is my account number and sort code and the Standard Chartered account rep is begging me to make my signatures match.

I asked why on Earth companies in India are unable to pay people to the bank account of their choice and I got a tirade of abuse back from my boss on how I think the West does everything so much better and that it is easier and more efficient for companies to pay everyone in the same bank.

Easier for companies maybe, but at the current rate if I stay in India for another 3 years I’ll end up with 6 different bank accounts – and according to my boss that’s far more efficient! TII 😀

1 Phrase borrowed with permission from my father

Who Cares What Your Dreams Are

I asked my friend a question the other day, I don’t think they got why I was asking it though. The question I asked was: At what point is a country sufficiently developed enough that the people are able to pursue a career in a field that actually interests them instead of doing what pays the best.

Yes, it was an uncharacteristically deep and loaded question for someone of my nature. But it was after several bottles of super-strength (not below 6%) Kingfisher and in these circumstances such musings are often liable to surface from hidden depths.

You see, in India, for most of the lower-middle classes (and particularly in the rural areas, the middle classes) it’s the parents who decide what degree the child should pursue. It doesn’t matter if the child has aspirations of being a nurse, an accountant, a fireman, an electrician, a designer or a retail manager; the parents will tell them what degree to do.

For the most part the parents will choose an Engineering based degree because this gives them a greater chance of earning more money. One of the most popular courses is called Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA), which is basically a programming degree because until recently, there has been a strong demand for programmers as the IT outsourcing boom continued.

Parents will put their children on these courses (and in cases where the students can choose, they will put themselves on the course) because IT pays so well compared to all other industries and is also accessible to the less wealthy – unlike a career in banking, law or medicine which is still the preserve of the wealthy kids who have had a very good private education.

It doesn’t matter if the student is particularly interested in IT, programming or computers. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have any aptitude towards the subject. All that matters is that it can potentially give a high paying job. Interests and ultimately job satisfaction considered optional, or maybe even a bonus.

Actually, a job as a career adviser in India is probably the easiest job in the world. “Programmer. Next!” “Call centre. Next!” “Programmer. Next!” “Call centre. Next!”. I might make enquiries!

To further their chances of employment based on academics, the vast majority of students will do two degrees, usually 3 years of Bachelors of Computer Applications and then another 1 year to do their Masters of Computing Applications.

So now we have the case where a company takes on trainee programmers, fresh out of college and holding high academic marks with their multiple degrees, yet because they have no passion or enthusiasm for the subject they are hopeless as a software developer. I’ve seen a number of freshers who’ve been so spectacularly bad you wonder how on Earth they got through university (or even managed to get dressed in the morning).

(On a separate note, I would love to know how job worthy kids in England and America are when they come out of university)

The tragic part of this is that often families will take out large loans to send their kids through university, doing courses the child has no interest in but in the hope (and sometimes expectation) that they will get a well paid job based on the degree. When this doesn’t work out and the developer has no aptitude towards software development, sometimes through no fault of their own, they have basically wasted three to five years of their life and the family may have put themselves in to huge amounts of debt.

In the company I work for, if a developer fails to make the grade we try and accommodate them by training them to become a software tester, but you can’t force someone to be good at something if they’ve got no passion or interest. In our most recent programming recruitment drive of 15 freshers, who were highly qualified on paper, after 5 months only one remains as a software tester. We had to let the others go because they failed to make the grade.

Often I will interview an SEO analyst or a designer and when I ask them why they are doing this as a career the reply is “I wasn’t good enough to be a developer”. I know of people who might have three degrees in computing but since their aptitude is zero they are employed to press CTRL-C / CTRL-V (that’s shorthand for copying and pasting for you non-nerds out there!) all day. As a ‘career’. I’m certain they have great talents, but it’s not in IT and it probably wouldn’t pay them as much.

I do think that India might be shooting itself in the foot for the future development of the country. Too many students are following computer and programming related degrees and will fail to make the grade in the business world. Their skills and talents lie in other areas – area’s which India will undoubtedly need over the coming decades, but right here, right now, software development pays many, many more times than anything else (a Policeman with six years of service would earn less than a trainee programmer fresh out of college), and I think that’s going to be a problem in the long run.

Essentially I believe that the IT industry is sucking India dry because it’s not producing a wide enough variety of talented students in different fields, it’s producing millions of mediocre programmers.

Taking another example to illustrate this, I’m desperately looking for a content writer who has English as good as mine (and it should be noted that my English is pretty terrible so it shouldn’t be too difficult!). Since most universities teach in English and English is a second or even first language for most people you’d have thought this would be quite easy but even if a student had an aptitude for the English language, they’d have gone to study programming because English as a skill isn’t seen as being as ‘valuable’ as programming, so due to the laws of supply and demand, I will pay a good content writer more money than a programmer because they are a rarity and hence more valuable!

So this takes me back to my original question and the blog title. Who cares what your dreams are in India, become a programmer and earn more money. Or that’s the plan for now anyway.

A Second Income

There is no real point to this post, just general / random musings 🙂

Being quite an independent minded kind of person, when it comes to making money, I always like to be in control of how much I earn. This can be very good, but if you are relying on your own efforts and you become lazy, you can fall flat on your face, err, as I found out…oops!

This is why I currently like the concept of having a job where your salary meets your basic living and lifestyle needs and the second income allows you to easily cover any one off expenses without getting in to debt or allows you to save some money – which far too many us don’t do!

I do believe that the days of staying with one job are well and truly over – we live in a much more fluid kind of business world. The older generation, the kids of the 50’s and 60’s, were always taught to find a good stable job with a large employer, keep your head down, work hard for 40 years or so and retire for a quiet life.

This was all very well when the large industrial companies were growing and trade unions had seemingly unlimited power to prevent any layoffs. It was also very well when society expected you to conform to certain rules and norms such as getting married in your early twenties, having 2.4 kids, buying your home, taking a single vacation per year etc. etc.

Nowadays things are a whole lot more flexible. Tying yourself down to one particular role or job could be damaging in the longer term because as soon as we hit uncertain times like we have now, the large company you sought out for stability doesn’t consider the personal impact when it cuts 5,000 jobs.

Society has also changed to a more self-centered one where we look to buy the latest gadgets, go on expensive foreign holidays, take weekend city breaks to various places on the continent, being less frugal with money, spending more and saving less.

Ever since I first started out on the internet, I believed that it could provide a good second income. At times it provided an incredible income to me.

However, I now think it’s more important than ever that people look to create a second income to build up a nestegg. Salaries barely cover our lifestyle choices so there is very little left over to save. A second income can help supplement any savings you might be able to make.

I personally run a couple of websites which have earned a small, regular income for the last 6 months or so. I spend less than an hour a week on them, yet they continue to make money on autopilot, allowing me to build up savings back in the UK.

Having the second income also means that when you are a bit more extravagant that you should have been (and some of us just can’t help but spend money when we get it), it is offset by your second income.

For example, yesterday I went shopping to buy a ‘smart’ collection of clothes for any work meetings and occasions. In total it came to £100, which is a bit crazy (I do live in India!), but included shoes, shirts and trousers. This is way more than my salary will allow me to spend, but my second income offset it because in the last week I earned £100 and didn’t work a single hour to make that money!

The second income has allowed me to make some investments back in England (albeit at shockingly bad interest rates) and enables me to be a bit extravagant now and then without putting the income from my salary under pressure.

The internet makes it possible for anyone to earn some additional money, but it needs to be approached with an open mind and with the right mindset. Some people, who are very close to me, could easily be earning $1,000 or more a week if they chose to make money for themselves, but instead their mindset believes that they should be working for a salary from a company – extremely frustrating for me when they have such a wealth of talent.

You should also be careful that generating money for your second income doesn’t end up taking more time than your actual job! Another area to be careful with is that you are not compromising your work position, if you are a logo designer and offer freelance logo design services this creates a conflict of interest that most companies will not accept!

Another point to consider is that you should probably be looking to supplement your income, not replace your income. Even if you are only able to generate $50 a week, that’s $2,600 from (hopefully) very little work, if you can save that, over the years it builds up savings that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Important: Obviously if you do create a second income, you should be reporting this to your tax authorities. I have no idea how this works in other countries, but I fill out my tax return each year online! Don’t be cute and try to avoid taxes! In England the tax threshold is around £6,000 a year, which will be taken up by your salary (and, err, if it doesn’t, might want to pop down to the job centre!), but even if you earn less than this, you need to declare it!