In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
This time we write about Moneylife Foundation, our very own initiative to spread financial literacy and help investors
Nearly four years ago, when we launched Moneylife, a personal finance magazine, we wanted it to be different. At a time when media space is for sale, we were determined to put the reader first and provide unbiased information without easy compromises. It was tough; because when big and profitable media houses compromise, it is that much tougher for a tiny publication to hang on to principles. Incidentally, the pressure to compromise comes less from competitors than from the regulators, who are even more intolerant of criticism than industry.
Happily, Moneylife has rapidly gained acceptance among readers over the years. But it is not enough. We believe that far too many people are clueless about how to be smart with their finances, keep their savings safe, make prudent investments and protect themselves and their families through appropriate insurance. Many youngsters end up in a debt trap because they are unaware of the steep interest charged on cash withdrawal or roll-over of credit-card payments. Many don’t know that penal interest rate is triggered for all fresh transactions, when they have an outstanding payment.
Many senior citizens continue to be endlessly harassed over Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) and end up losing a part of their interest because of the callousness of banks over the filling up of a simple form.
Investors in the capital market usually operate on the basis of bad advice from a host of financial intermediaries. Broker and bank accounts are misused because investors are unaware of having signed a Power of Attorney in favour of brokers and often don’t read transaction statements.
Another vast grey area is the pathetic level of grievance redressal in India. An investor or consumer of financial services has to deal with lack of advice on how to complain or is unable to reach service providers.
Ironically, often investors and consumers are not to be blamed. Often it is the regulator who creates problems by framing stupid rules and procedures. India does not even have a clear assessment about the actual reach of technology and the extent of its acceptance among ordinary people for financial transactions.
With these issues in mind, we have launched Moneylife Foundation, a knowledge and advocacy initiative for investors and consumers. It is registered as a not-for-profit trust and is working at spreading financial literacy through workshops, round-table meetings and awareness campaigns. It will engage in advocacy to improve policies and bring about regulatory changes to protect investor rights and grievance redressal, counselling and research.
As a first step, we have set up Moneylife Knowledge Centre, which is a workshop-cum-reading room with a separate counselling centre at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. The reading room is stocked with some of the best books on business, finance, investment and economics; we also have biographies of companies and leading industrialists as well as magazines. This facility is available free of charge to anybody who wants to enhance their knowledge of finance. It is especially a boon for students. We are also in talks with experts to enhance the counselling facilities. Membership to Moneylife Foundation is free and we already have 650 members in less than two months of existence. You can register online at http://www.moneylife.in/register.html and get information about forthcoming workshops and activities. For the registration form, email: [email protected]. More details about the Foundation and its activities can be found in www.moneylife.in. Clearly, we have an ambitious agenda, and it will be fulfilled only if we the people turn this into a movement to assert our legitimate rights. Like all not-for-profit organisations, we depend on donations for our activities. More importantly, we need volunteers to take our mission forward. So do join us.
305 Hind Services Industries Premises,
Off Veer Savarkar Marg, Shivaji Park,
Tel: 022-2444 1060
Amritha Pillay profiles ‘The Hub’, a common platform for NGO start-ups in Mumbai
A number of NGOs working for different causes from one common platform to save costs—if this is what you are looking for, your search would end at ‘The Hub’. Perched near the steps of the famous Mt Mary Church of Mumbai is an ordinary-looking building. On its fourth floor is The Hub which literally vibrates with positivity. You could even call it a melting pot of Mumbai’s NGOs.
Just a few months old, the Hub provides an office and address to around 30 social-sector start-ups. These include groups working for senior citizens, women’s rights, sexually abused children, the blind and others. “We wanted to ensure there are groups working for various causes rather than having a number of groups working for the same cause,” says Pooja Warier, who co-founded UnLtd India (along with Richard Alderson) which supports the Hub and funds other social start-ups in the city.
“When we first started work for UnLtd India, we realised there was no common place that we could work from, like ‘The Hub’ in London,” said Pooja. This, coupled with frequent requests for space from social start-ups supported by UnLtd India, led to the creation of The Hub. While, The Hub is focused on supporting social start-ups, professionals such as designers, writers, job-recruiters and film-makers who are willing to help these NGOs with their expertise, are also welcome here. “The job recruiter with us helps NGOs working from The Hub to find people at subsidised rates or no charges,” says Pooja.
The Hub is run with contributions from the members, which range from Rs1,000-Rs11,000 per month, based on the duration of use, the space occupied and what they can afford. The same arrangement applies to workshop space.
A lot of thought has gone into planning the space. “We chose Bandra because it is ideally positioned and The Hub is also not very far from the railway station,” says Pooja. Its bright, cheerful and well-lit interiors too get a thumbs-up. It is also designed in a way that an open space can be created in 15 minutes flat.
The 1,500 sq ft Hub accommodates 24 work-stations and can host up to 100 people or more for events. This space is used for workshops and conferences for the NGOs working at the Hub. This amiable workspace is equipped with free facilities like coffee-vending machines and water purifiers.
To make The Hub its office space, an NGO must talk to the directors and fill an application form. If they are genuine and have been working in their field for a while, the application is accepted. As the space is meant to help start-ups, NGOs will have to leave the place once they become self-sustaining.
Pooja believes that the best thing about The Hub is the people involved with it. “At no point of time did we have a single person who thought that formation of the Hub was a bad or stupid idea,” she adds; “and they even help to take care of it.” The Hub in Mumbai is a one-of-its kind institution in India. However, Pooja and Richard wish to support formation of similar hubs in various cities across the country. “We would be very happy to share our experience and learning with those who wish to form similar hubs in other Indian cities,” says Pooja.
The Hub started just a few months back and needs to be supported with donations and funds. “The Hub aims to be self-sustainable and run on contributions from members. With our current projections, we will break even in our third year of operations. Until then, we will need a certain amount of grants to cover running costs, develop tools that can be shared by The Hub members (for instance, a start-up kit) and support some members who are unable to afford our fees,” says Pooja. In future, it also plans to provide more value-added services.
Candelar Building, 4th Floor,
26 St John Baptist Road,
Near Mount Mary Steps,
Bandra (W), Mumbai 400 050
Tel: +91 22 32163287
Email: [email protected]
Amritha Pillay reports on an NGO that is dedicated to helping senior citizens live and die with dignity
Sailesh Mishra personifies social activism; he gave up a well-paid marketing job to work for Dignity Foundation, an NGO that works with senior citizens (previously featured in these pages). He later set up the Silver Innings Foundation, which he financed and founded a year-and-a-half...