SELF-EMPLOYED ENTREPRENEUR, CONSULTANT AND ACCOUNTANT
A Campaign to Turn the U.S. Economy Around, and Develop a New Model of Economic Development and International Trade
I came to the USA in 1981 as a PhD. student in marketing and international business. I began analyzing the causes for the poor state of the U.S. economy at that time. Diagnosed that so-called ‘free-trade’ was the major culprit. Began a single-handed campaign to turn the situation around by voicing my opinion at Northwestern University, and later in trade center meetings in Chicago and Milwaukee, WI with exporters while developing and marketing software for automating export operations.
As an unknown foreign non-economics student, the task of convincing American government and business leaders that ‘free-trade’ was ruining the U.S. economy by destroying its manufacturing, resulting in loss of high-paying jobs, was formidable. The job was all the more difficult when 98% of the world’s economists, including Nobel Prize winners, who were well-entrenched in academia, national governments, the U.N. and the World Bank, believed in the Theory of Comparative Advantage (TCA) which postulates that free trade benefits all nations and consumers by lowering prices.
The reality of the situation, however, was that the so-called ‘free-trade’ was actually unfair trade with everyone free to sell their products and services in the USA, while denying free-access to U.S. products and services in their markets. I also advocated a managed approach to the economy, rather than a laissez faire approach.
No amount of voicing my ideas, however, convinced anyone to change their opinion about the benefits of the one-sided so-called free trade. But, in 1990 I saw another opportunity to make a difference. The U.S. auto industry had been in continuous decline in the 1980s. Even when by 1990 the quality of American cars had somewhat improved, Americans were still not buying GM, Ford or Chrysler cars. The reason was that they had sworn off buying American cars because of poor quality. Now they were unaware that the quality of American cars had actually improved. I went to Detroit and met auto company executives to offer my services to convince the American public that buying American cars and other products was in the best interests of the country. It would create higher-paying manufacturing jobs, which then via the multiplier effect would create more professional and service jobs. No one were willing to retain my services.
But I felt that doing something about the auto industry and American manufacturing was too critical to not act on my own. So, I started a publicity campaign on own initiative to convince Americans to buy American cars and other manufactured products. The American public responded. The U.S. auto industry revived, and became highly profitable. It led the U.S. economy out of the 1990 – 1991 recession and to its longest continuous expansion, since World War II.
This, however, still did not change the thinking of the world’s economists about the fallacies of TCA in actual practice. Finally, after three months of research on the theories of international trade and economic development, I wrote a paper in September 1996 that showed the tautological (or circular) reasoning used to provide empirical evidence for the theory. The circular reasoning in the TCA is that it posits that nations export products in which they have comparative advantage. And how do we know a nation has comparative advantage in a particular product? By the fact that it is an exporter of the product! That is circular reasoning. The evidence failed to explain the pattern of international trade in sophisticated manufactured goods, which was the trade of greatest interest to the USA and other developed economies.
In the paper, titled “Comparative Advantage: Believe in it and go to the Poor House,” I proposed a new model of Economic Development and International Trade. I also criticized the use of econometrics and misuse of mathematics as tools for economic analysis which was leading to such circular reasoning. I explained that certain economists inebriated with their mathematical ability had driven all right-thinking economists out of academia, government and world banking institutions by labeling their analyses as unscientific as they did not use mathematics to perform their economic analyses.
My criticism finally caught the eye of some Nobel prize winners in economics, including Milton Friedman, who realized that theories of international trade were in fact based on circular reasoning. It finally led to the worldwide acceptance of my “elegant” model of economic development and international trade, after I had waged a fourteen-year long battle single-handedly. The model also made recommendations for managing their respective economies by developed and developing nations. It is now used by nations around the world for national and regional planning for economic development.
The model has benefited American consulting firms (like McKinsey) in helping them find consulting assignments in other nations to help them with economic development. It has also helped American firms to market their products and services globally.
America is the most important consumer market in the world for all nations. The way American firms could market their products and services abroad would be to require nations to reciprocate access to the U.S. market by providing access to their markets for U.S. manufactured products and services. This would require coordination as the Japanese government coordinated the export efforts of Japanese firms through it Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
Value of this contribution can be very easily verified from professors in business schools at Northwestern University (my alma mater) and other leading universities.
Explained How a Currency Becomes a Reserve Currency
After writing the paper on the Theory of Comparative Advantage, I explained how a currency becomes the reserve currency. Explained that a nation has to put dollars in the hands of foreigners by being a net importer from them.
Further explained that a nation could obtain foreign exchange in 2 ways: earning it by being a net exporter of goods and services, or through foreign currency loans. But the foreign currency loans have to be ultimately paid back. They can be paid back only with foreign exchange earned through net exports.
Recently China has been trying very hard to replace the dollar with its yuan as the reserve currency of the world. But based on my analysis, I have explained that cannot happen as China remains a major net exporter in the world.
Analysis of the Internet that Led to the Dot.com Bust
In 1999, a new model of the Internet was emerging. It appeared that Internet startups would take major market share away from large companies, by having nothing more than a web site with the ability to make price comparisons between offers of the same product from different manufacturers. Some Dot.com startups had raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital based only on a business concept, without having written a single line of software code. After carefully applying marketing channel theory, showed that this business model was based on a faulty understanding of marketing channels.
All marketing channels have to perform certain channel functions such as physical possession of product and carrying inventory, ownership, advertising and promotion, sales negotiation, financing, risking, ordering, delivery of product, payment and collections. Different members of different channels perform these functions at different levels.
The Dot.com startups had no business of their own. They performed limited marketing channel functions. Therefore, at best, they could function only as one of the members of a business’ one marketing channel, if at all. This analysis led to the Dot.com bust, saving tens of billions of dollars in venture capital.
The same analysis, however, was used by Amazon to become a full retailer instead of merely remaining an online book seller. The key part of the analysis was that each channel has to perform all the channel functions combined at a competitive price as compared to competing channels.
Entrepreneurship – Software to Automate Export Operations and Information Technology (IT) Services Outsourcing Revolution
In a joint-venture with a small software company, developed a software package to automate export operations. To assess exporters’ needs, analyzed the operations of over 100 exporters of various sizes and developed the system requirements that would meet the needs of almost all exporters. Designed the databases, data entry screens, order entry screens, export document formats and sales analysis reports. After the software package was developed, marketed it to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller export management companies. Also sold the company’s custom programming and contract programming services. The marketing efforts doubled the size of the company within one year.
After the success of the software company, I started dreaming about the possibility of hiring top computer programming talent from India and placing them as contract programmers in American and British companies. For top talent, I felt that I would be able to charge $50 -75 per hour while paying the programmers about $25-35 per hour, compared to the $3-5 per hour they would be earning in India. Having lived the first 30 years of my life in India, I was aware of the quality of IT talent available there at low cost. Recognized the opportunity for making large profit margins. This idea in 1985 actually initiated the IT outsourcing revolution, and led to India quickly gaining global lead in outsourcing services. Such companies now boast market capitalization of tens of billions of dollars.
Helped IBM with Business Strategy, and Improve Computer Chip Design and Software
While marketing computer software and programming services with the small software company, met many IBM hardware clients who discussed their experiences with the company. Based on this information, I analyzed IBM’s business and in 1989 suggested that the company start offering consulting services. The suggestion resulted in IBM’s Consulting Division, now part of IBM Global Services, which employs more than 100,000 professionals. Over the past decade and a half, the computer business has changed considerably. But for nearly two decades IBM Global Services was the most profitable business segment of the company.
Also suggested the use of mathematics to make software programs more efficient. The suggestion benefited Microsoft, IBM and other large software companies in writing better software programs. It also helped IBM, Intel and others to develop faster computer chips. IBM has also benefited from my sales techniques.
Transformation of the Financial Services Industry
But in 1997, I got involved in the investment business as a broker and then as a financial advisor. My first job was with a small brokerage firm where the stock brokers pushed the stocks that the firm was pushing. Whether the stock did well or not, the brokers made money while selling the stock initially to their investor clients who were buying, then again when they were selling after it had plummeted in value. The investor was getting the short end of the stick. I also heard a horror story of an accounting client who was recommended a single stock which fell in value to one fourth within a year.
At that time, discount stock trading firms such TD Ameritrade were becoming popular. I questioned why people were buying stocks through brokers when they can buy them through discount brokerage firms at a fraction of the trading fee. Why pay a broker to buy a stock when one can buy it at a fraction of the cost at a discount brokerage firm? My campaign led to the demise of traditional brokers such as Merrill Lynch.
My next experience in the investment industry was as a financial advisor with Ameriprise (at that time known as American Express Financial Advisors). I loved the way the financial advisors of the firm did financial planning for their clients. But I saw three practices in the firm that I did not appreciate. These practices were designed to maximize the fees for the financial advisor, at the expense of his client. The first practice was selling the firm’s own mutual funds that provided a higher percentage of commission for the advisor than other mutual funds, even when the returns to investors were significantly lower in the firm’s own mutual funds as compared to the returns on industry leading funds. I realized how much impact even a one or two percent difference in annual returns can make in the retirement wealth of an investor after a lifetime of investing.
The second practice of the firm that I did not appreciate was the firm’s fees for the financial advisor for managing the assets for the investor. The firm charged at least 1% annually for the assets managed. I thought that was too high. These fees were charged whether the investor made a return on his investment that year or not. I realized that an advisor needed only 50 clients with an average investment of $500,000, and the financial advisor could earn nearly $200,000 a year after expenses with very little effort.
The third thing that I witnessed that disappointed me very much was the firm’s wealth advisory services for wealthy clients. The returns the wealthy clients made on their investments were well below market returns. As a financial advisor, I would have to sell such services to clients. I did not last very long with the firm because I committed to selling only the best performing mutual funds even if it meant lower fees for myself.
This practice further transformed the financial advisory and brokerage services industry. In addition, the Mutual Fund analysis firm Morningstar also changed its services. At that time, the firm was selling its Mutual Fund analysis services to financial advisory and brokerage firms. But after voicing my concern about the practices of the financial services industry, Morningstar started marketing its Mutual Fund analysis services directly to investors at a much lower cost. Now individual investors have access to Morningstar mutual fund research, and can buy and sell mutual funds on their own through discount brokerage firms such as TD Ameritrade. This has reduced the costs of investing for individual investors so that they can keep most of the returns on their investment on their own, rather than putting their investments in a bag with holes which the financial services industry had become.
A Restaurant Study that Led to a New Business Strategy
In the 1980s, American eating habits were changing from consumption of red meat to more white meat. Black Angus Restaurants, a nationwide restaurant chain wanted to evaluate its market positioning as a steakhouse. Statistically analyzed nationwide marketing research mail survey data from above 3,300 respondents and wrote the research report for NFO Research. Recommended that the company maintain its positioning as a steakhouse, because for about one-third of consumers, a good meal out meant a good steak, and the restaurant chain was rated number 1 or 2 as a steakhouse in its markets. Also recommended that the restaurant add a few non-steak entrees for the benefit of customers who were members of a party but preferred to eat white meat. All recommendations were accepted by the company. These market positioning recommendations led to the development of other national restaurant chains such as Outback Steakhouse and Longhorn Steakhouse.
Suggestions to Help Create Jobs in Florida Implemented
Governor Rick Scott of Florida has a vigorous program through Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) to increase employment in Florida and one avenue being pursued is to attract American businesses to relocate to Florida or expand operations in Florida. Offered a new way to analyze potential businesses to target sales efforts. In addition to selling Florida on its low tax climate as well as weather, advised EFI to tell businesses to view Florida as the third largest consumer market in the USA. EFI has been using this sales strategy very effectively and Florida’s job growth continues unabated. These suggestions can be verified from Mr. Gray Swoope, now CEO of VisionFirst Advisors, LLC, who was CEO of EFI at that time, or even from EFI.
Suggestions for Maintaining Good Health and Disease Prevention
I have offered numerous suggestions for maintenance of good health and preventing diseases. All these suggestions were based on personal experiences.
Explained that the failure of many organs of the body is caused by overeating and eating too much of the harder to digest foods such as fats and oils. By overeating, a person wears down his organs due to overuse. However, if one changes one’s eating habits, organ deterioration can often be reversed. But the organs do not fully recover to their original health. In effect, there is a net wearing down of the organs with each bout of overuse. For example, kidneys filter the blood. If we eat too much protein, then some of the broken-down compounds are not absorbed by the body and have to be filtered out of the blood by the kidneys. Eating too much of the same foods will strain and wear down the kidneys, leading to kidney disease. However, if one reduces the intake of such foods, kidney disease can be reversed. The same can happen with heart disease.
Advised of the role of spices and wine (particularly red wine) in killing germs in the body. Advised of four ways to get rid of colds and coughs: a) Use of garlic, ginger and honey; b) Red wine; c) Eating a high calorie dinner and then going to sleep with heavy clothing and covers to sweat it out for the night; d) Relatively spicy food with ginger, garlic, onions etc. prevents coughs and colds. Many doctors and those in the healthcare profession think that whoever finds a cure for common colds and coughs is worthy of receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Advised controlling acidity with alkaline foods such as vegetables, but preventing the body from becoming too alkaline. If the body becomes too alkaline, then the individual will require digestive enzymes to digest food. In that case the individual will have to reduce intake of alkaline foods and use more acidic foods such as proteins and fruits. On the other hand, if a person is eating too much proteins, then the body becomes too acidic, leading to acid reflux and other such problems. In such cases, eating more alkaline foods such as vegetables will restore the PH balance in the body. Besides these, many other suggestions have been given for maintaining eye and dental health, use of vitamins and supplements, weight reduction, and fighting infections.
These may seem like common sense remedies, but the tremendous value of these breakthrough “original” discoveries in preventing and healing diseases can be easily verified from the Schools of Medicine at Northwestern University and other leading universities.