Shine Your Light

eShe’s ‘Shine Your Light’ personal-growth workshops for women kicked off with the first edition on January 12 in Delhi. Mirr Investments founder Namrata B Durgan also participated in this unique session and shared her insights on financial planning for women. It was a day of learning, laughter and loving ourselves a little more!

 

(Video by Ananya Jain for eShe)

I Drove Two Hours to Give a Talk – to an Unexpected Audience

Mirr founder Namrata B Durgan was invited by a multinational company to give a talk on money matters to its employees. But she wasn’t prepared for this one little detail.

namrata-durgan-IBM talk

Not long after eShe published an interview of me, I was contacted by a senior executive at a multinational technology company to deliver a talk on managing money at their office in Noida. Enthusiastically, I prepared my script and mused over the best points to put in my presentation. My husband Sanjay, a financial advisor himself, decided to accompany me for the long drive from our home in Delhi.

On the morning of the talk, the two of us got dressed in our ‘corporate best’, smart bags in hand. I set the location on the GPS and we drove off from home, full of optimism and a sense of attempting something new. As someone who is out to create financial awareness (my company motto is ‘Indulgence is freedom’), I’ve given talks on money management and investment to many groups of women – ranging from villagers to urban entrepreneurs.

But to address the employees of one of the world’s largest companies with 380,000 people on its rolls was an entirely new ballgame.

We arrived two hours later, traffic-weary, but the executive who had contacted me gave me a warm welcome restoring my cheer. She led me through the hi-tech office to the conference room. “This is my moment,” I thought to myself as we walked down the pristine corridors, my pulse racing madly. “These are some of the most brilliant minds in the world. And here I am, about to teach them about money.” Shivers of nervous anticipation ran down my spine. This was my make-or-break moment.

We arrived at the conference room. The executive paused for a fraction of a second, clicked the door handle, and then, with a flourish, opened the door wide. “Welcome to the conference room,” she announced with a big, dazzling smile.

“This is it,” the words boomed in my head, as if they would erupt out of my ears. I stepped into the room with as much confidence as I could muster.

I was not prepared for what I saw there.

It was empty.

Stark, chilled, corporate. Empty.

I looked at the vacant chairs – was one moving there in the corner? – and the lone laptop at the head table. My long drive, my makeup, my power point presentation, my notes, my nervousness that morning – all flashed in front of my eyes. Is this what I had geared up for? An empty room?

In the same instant, a realisation struck me. It was going back to the ‘source’. To nothingness. We all run around being busy, doing things, while the truth is emptiness. Silence. No mind. Just playfulness. Life is too short to take things seriously. Seconds ago everything was systematic, serious, protocol- and strategy-driven. Then the door opened and it was all empty. Zen.

And when I realised the divine paradox in the situation, I was subjected to another internal test, as a volcano of hysterical laughter threatened to erupt from inside me.

It took me an enormous amount of emotional energy and intense centering to suppress it.

I cleared my throat as the lady led me to the laptop. “It’s a webinar,” she explained, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world. She pulled a chair back and invited me to be seated. “You may begin.”

The sheer absurdity of it. I stared, tongue-tied, at an indecipherable screen with a few boxes and words moving about.

The cursor blinked. The white walls closed in. “Hello, welcome to my talk on this bright morning,” I began without conviction, a question mark lilting my words. I fiddled with my hair and face, until Sanjay – equally dazed, I hasten to add – indicated that I was being watched. Instantly, I froze. You can’t see us but we can see you, rang a chorus of evil voices in the recesses of my brain.

My ‘talk’ went along falteringly, sputtering and stopping in jerks and fits, until the executive – no doubt one of the most brilliant minds in the world – typed out a speedy instruction on her device that went out on the company’s vast intranet to all those who had to suffer my feeble exertions: “Ask something.”

A male voice sounded from the laptop, asking a question – about how safe mutual funds are. A sudden light went on behind my eyes. My heart bloomed. There was life out there. This was audience feedback. I could answer this. Another question came up, and another. And before I knew it, I was chatting happily with the laptop like a long-lost friend.

“That was quite something,” Sanjay and I discussed in the car. “They’ll probably never invite me again.”

Three days later, they did. This time, they gave me a human audience.

Then three of those humans invited me to give talks to their individual teams across four cities: Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi.

I narrated this to a friend.

“So you’ll travel now to Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and their office in Delhi,” she asked with a puzzled look, “to give more talks to empty rooms?”

A fortnight of pressure-cooked laughter erupted like Mount Vesuvius, wracking my bones until I doubled up, clutching my tummy, tears streaming down my face.

You gotta love technology.

Ready, Set, Grow : eShe Magazine Profile

Women’s magazine eShe carried a profile about MIRR Investments founder Namrata B Durgan in its June 2018 issue. eShe is a Delhi-based monthly magazine which “looks at the world through ‘the female gaze’, and through the lives of its women, their joys and challenges.”
The magazine’s name is derived from the Hindi word “Ishi” which is another name for Goddess Durga.
The profile on Namrata covered how she was inspired to launch MIRR Investments to help Indian women discover financial freedom.

Screenshot from 2018-06-01 15-26-26Screenshot from 2018-06-01 15-26-49Screenshot from 2018-06-01 15-27-04ESHE MAGAZINE - JUNE 2018 COVER

Investing in India Versus the West

InvestingInIndia

How India looks like for overseas investors at a time of global uncertainty, as explained by economics and NRI expert Kul Bhushan.

Dear overseas Indian investor, where will you keep your money safely? In the UK? Really, after Brexit and the emerging economic slide?
In the USA? What with its huge deficit, debt and slow economy.
Perhaps anywhere in the west, then? What about the almost negative rates of interest after you deduct inflation from your returns? Add to that the global political scenario getting bleaker with increased violence.

So let’s face it, India is the best bet right now. In the current global economic slowdown, India is the fastest growing economy with over seven per cent growth.

The passing of the constitutional bill for goods and services tax (GST) on 3 August 2016, marked a historic day in the economic history of the nation. As a major economic reform post the liberalisation of 1991, the passage of the GST bill will finally lead to the realisation of the ‘One Nation One Market’ dream.

Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal calls GST ‘Brexit in reverse’ which means that while Britain left the bigger market of Europe, India has created its own bigger single market for goods and services.
This means extra economic growth estimated at between two and three per cent after the bill comes into action which is targeted for 1 April 2017.

“This is India’s biggest single tax reform since independence,” wrote an Indian management consultant settled in the USA.
Simply put, GST is a single tax on goods and service that includes VAT, service tax, central sales tax, excise duty, entertainment tax, additional customs duty, special customs duty, octroi and entry tax, purchase tax, luxury tax, and taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, and many other taxes at the state level.

GST will simplify the taxation system, bringing in more revenues and efficiency. But how does it all impact the overseas Indian investor?
Higher economic growth means better returns for investment. India seems to be at the cusp of a new era of economic growth and development and this bodes well for investors to look at equity investments as a powerful tool for long-term wealth creation.

When overseas Indians deposit their savings in India, they can expect higher returns than in the west.
When they invest in equities or mutual funds, they can hope for even better returns as the market will become more bullish and when they invest in industry, the single market could bring in higher profits.

The real test of GST will however lie in its implementation. The digital infrastructure for collecting GST is claimed to be in place but tax officials will have to be re-trained by April 2017.
If India fails in the proper implementation of GST, then it may result in little or no benefit in economic growth and lower inflation.
But chances are that the Modi government – which worked hard to get GST passed – will make it a success. And that makes India the top destination for diaspora funds and investment.

More about MIRR Investments

What Women Want… on Wall Street

At last, here’s a movie that portrays women taking on the male-dominated world of Wall Street. Equity, directed by Meera Menon, revolves around Naomi Bishop (played by Anna Gunn), a seasoned female investment banker holding her own in the fiercely competitive world of big money.
“For me, I guess the simplest answer is, I like money”, Bishop honestly states when asked what makes her really get up in the morning.

Equity has been getting positive reviews with one critic hailing it as “the she-wolves of Wall Street”.
The fact that there’s never been a female CEO at any of the 22 largest U.S. investment banks says a lot about gender inequality in finance. The irony couldn’t be more obvious at a time when Hilary Clinton has become the first U.S. female presidential nominee.

Equity is not only correcting that imbalance on-screen but also behind the camera. The film’s leading producers are women as are the scriptwriters, while the mostly female-led cast is directed by a young Indian American woman director.

“The film is about women in power and their relationship with money,” Menon said in an interview. “All of these things are newer to explore because they’re not necessarily things that historically women have been associated with.”

As Bishop says in the film, “I am so glad its finally OK for women to talk about success.”
It’s the kind of line that should inspire women worldwide to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.

More about MIRR Investments

Female Leadership + Fintech = Financial Revolution

FemaleLeadershipFintech

The world of finance has traditionally been a male domain but Indian women are smashing through the glass ceiling to emerge as leaders, especially in banking. This management revolution is happening at a time when fintech, or financial technology, is rapidly changing India’s financial ecosystem.

Some of India’s leading banks are headed by women such as Arundhati Bhattacharya (SBI), Chanda Kochhar (ICICI), Shikha Sharma (Axis Bank), Usha Ananthasubramanian (Punjab National Bank), Naina Lal Kidwai (HSBC) and Kaku Nakhate (Bank of America Merrill Lynch India), among others.

This trend is indeed ground-breaking indicating that India is at par, if not ahead, of many countries when it comes to gender equality in banking.

A report in The Quint suggested that some of the reasons why women have made such an impact include their ability to be natural team players, multi-taskers and flexible managers while adding that “women also traditionally tend to be more careful with money”.

Taking an international view beyond banking, a recent study by the Centre for Financial Research at the University of Cologne indicated how women approach financial management. The study indicated that female fund managers switched around their portfolios less than their male colleagues. An analysis on Investopedia offers further insight on “the unique ways women approach finance”.

With women heading some of India’s top banks coupled with the growing impact of fintech, it should be no surprise if the country is heading for a financial revolution. A recent report by KPMG India titled “Fintech in India” states that “the traditionally cash-driven Indian economy has responded well to the fintech opportunity, primarily triggered by a surge in e-commerce, and smartphone penetration.” The transaction value for the Indian fintech sector is estimated to be approximately US$ 33 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach US$ 73 billion in 2020 growing at a five year CAGR of 22 percent.

With banks targeting the millennial audience – India has the world’s youngest population with over 350 million people below the age of 24 – fintech is expected to play a major role in attracting this crucial demographic. Moreover, with 277 million internet users, India has just overtaken the U.S. to emerge as the world’s second largest internet user after China.

In other words, fintech powered with female leadership can give India a unique standing in the global financial market while giving you, the consumer, better options on how to manage your money.

More about MIRR Investments