Monthly Archives: August 2016

Technology on Our Society

When we speak of the impact of technology on society, we always talk about the positive effects of technology and about how technology has made life easy. We talk about the Internet as an information resource and a communication platform and conveniently ignore the fact that an overexposure to it leads to Internet addiction. We often discuss how technology has made life easy but easily forget that it has made us overly dependent on it. Have you thought of the impact of technology from this point of view? Let us look at this aspect of technology here.

Impact of Technology on Society

Think of the days when there were no computers and no modern means of transport. Human life was highly restricted due to the unavailability of technological applications. Daily life involved a lot of physical activity. Life of the common man was not as luxurious as that of modern times, but he was more active. Exercise was integrated into routine physical activities. It was contrary to the sedentary lifestyle of today, which leaves no time for exercise and fills days with inactivity and laze. Today we don’t want to, and thanks to the advancement in technology, don’t even need to walk, move around, or exert ourselves physically to great extents in order to get things done. We have the world at our fingertips.

We think of technology as a boon to society. I am afraid; it’s not completely a boon. The Internet has bred many unethical practices like hacking, spamming and phishing. Internet crime is on the rise. The Internet, being an open platform lacks regulation. There is no regulation on the content displayed on websites. Internet gambling has become an addiction for many. Overexposure to the Internet has taken its toll. In this virtual world, you can be who you are not, you can be virtually living even after you die. Isn’t this weird? Children are spending all their time playing online and less or almost no time playing on the ground. Youngsters are spending most of their time social networking, missing on the joys of real social life.

Think of the days when there were no online messengers, no emails, and no cell phones. Indeed cellular technology has made it possible for us to communicate over wireless media. Web communication facilities have worked wonders in speeding long-distance communication. On the other hand, they have deprived mankind of the warmth of personal contact. Emails replaced handwritten letters and communication lost its personal touch. With the means of communication so easily accessible, that magic in waiting to reach someone and the excitement that followed have vanished.

Moreover, we have become excessively dependent on technology. Is so much of dependency good? Is it right to rely on machines to such an extent? Is it wise to depend on computers rather than relying on human intellect? Computer technology and robotics are trying to substitute for human intellect. With the fast advancing technology, we have started harnessing artificial intelligence in many fields. Where is the digital divide going to take us? How is our ‘tomorrow’ going to be? ‘Machines replacing human beings’ does not portray a rosy picture, does it? It can lead to serious issues like unemployment and crime. An excessive use of machines in every field can result in the under-utilization of human brains. Over time, we may even lose our intellectual abilities. You know of the declining mathematical abilities in children due to use of calculators since school, don’t you?

The impact of technology on society is deep. It is both positive and negative. Technology has largely influenced every aspect of living. It has made life easy, but so easy that it may lose its charm some day. One can cherish an accomplishment only if it comes after effort. But everything has become so easily available due to technology that it has lost its value. There is a certain kind of enjoyment in achieving things after striving for them. But with everything only a few clicks away, there is no striving, there’s only striking. With the developments in technology, we may be able to enjoy all the pricey luxuries in life but at the cost of losing its priceless joys.

Tips to Starting a Green Business

A green business is involved in manufacturing products or providing services that are environmentally friendly. All business operations in such organizations are committed to follow eco-friendly principles so that the environment is not adversely affected. They aim to gain profit without compromising environmental concerns. To motivate entrepreneurs to start new businesses that are environmental friendly, green business grants are provided by many government and non-government organizations. These grants can vary from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars, depending on the business project and the organization granting it. Any business, big or small, which is based on an eco-friendly model, can apply for a green business grant.

Grants for Green Businesses

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Grant
The EPA or Environmental Protection Agency of the United Sates awards grants to small businesses which are based on the ‘go-green’ concept. These grants are awarded annually in the form of a two-year contract. Entrepreneurs with green business ideas submit their proposals to the agency, which then selects proposals that are eligible for grants. For a business to qualify for this grant, three criteria must be fulfilled. First, the business must be science and technology based. Second, it must be based in the U.S. and third, it must have less than 500 employees. Under the EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, new businesses are awarded grants in two phases. In the first phase, businesses are given $70,000 for a period of six months to carry out research. Once the research work is complete, businesses submit a new proposal to the EPA. In the second phase, EPA gives $225,000 to grant holders for two years.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Grant
Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research program, small businesses with eco-friendly ideas, in the field of agriculture, are awarded grants in two phases. Businesses in the research phase receive grants up to $80,000 while the ones in the second phase receive up to $350,000 depending on the size of the project.

U.S. Department of Energy Grant
Entrepreneurs with green business ideas for energy use, energy production, environment management or nuclear nonproliferation, can qualify for grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. These are again awarded in two phases. Phase I and II grants are for feasibility study, and research and development respectively. The holder receives $100,000 for nine months in the first phase and the same amount over a two-year period in the second phase.

State and Local Grants
Small green businesses can also apply for grants that are awarded under the state government and local programs. Every state has its own set standards for businesses to qualify under these programs. The information regarding programs running in each state can be obtained from state government websites and business portals.

Community Conservation Enterprises Grant
Community Conservation Enterprises or CCE currently awards grants to small green businesses that are initiated in Central America and Mexico. These range from $500 to $2000. The CCE supports business which help in improving quality of life of local people by providing products or services that protect the environment and use natural resources religiously.

Other Green Business Grants
Many corporations and non-governmental institutions offer grants to businesses that want to take a step forward to protect the environment. For example, CBS, a media giant in the United States, offers grants to green business projects. Another company, Retensa, also motivates entrepreneurs to enter into eco-friendly businesses, by awarding many grants from time to time. Some public utility companies also help people who wish to start eco-friendly businesses or expand an already existing green business.

Everyone knows how fast natural resources of our planet are depleting. The negative impact of various industries in the world is a big cause of concern. To make businesses realize this fact, and motivate them to take measures to work towards a cleaner and greener environment, green business grants are awarded. This initiative not only benefits the business owner, but also mankind and our planet.

Affecting Business Drastically

Every business has one goal, to maximize its profit. This can be done by analyzing the demand of consumers, providing appropriate supply, along with maintaining quality of goods and services. However, there are many factors that affect this simple operation. Owing to these economic elements, the sales, production, and procurement of a business get adversely impacted.

Economic Factors That Influence Businesses

Demand and Supply
The demand and supply are two principal factors that affect the working of any business model. The demand is the will and ability of consumers to purchase a particular commodity, while supply is the ability of the business to provide for the demand of consumers. Suppose, a mobile phone infused with latest technology is introduced in the market, it will have a higher price because of its demand in the market. Its prices will continue to increase if the supply does not meet the demand.

For instance, in the year 2000, weather played havoc with the sugar crops of Brazil, which is the largest sugar producer in the world. This led to a decrease in the supply of sugar, which in turn resulted in a steep rise in the sugar prices. However, after the initial price rise, the market forces came into play and the demand for sugar became equal to the supplied sugar.

Marginal and Total Utility
Utility is the amount of satisfaction, that is derived by consumers from the consumption of goods. It so happens that after continuous and successive consumption of units of the same goods, the satisfaction that is experienced by a consumer starts decreasing. This often results in short-term or long-term fall in sales. Some organizations prepare for the launch of another brand, before the fall in utility and sales is experienced. The launch of new brand ensures that the revenue trend of the business does not fall. Diminishing utility is among the external factors affecting business.

For example, when we buy a pizza, the first few slices give us immense satisfaction. However, there is a fall in the satisfaction levels, when we are eating the rest. Let’s assume, the marginal utility derived on the consumption of the first slice was 90. However, due to diminishing utility, the second slice had the score of 80 and the third slice was just 70. The satisfaction derived on consumption will be in a decreasing order.

Money and Banking
Banking facilitates monetary and fiscal policies that affect business and also the customers of the business. Money in circulation dictates the purchasing power or rather the demand of the consumers. On the other hand, the banking facility dictates the borrowing capacity of individuals as well as the business. The banking policies play a decisive role in affecting the prices of goods and interest rates along with investment and asset prices. The monetary polices of countries also influence the economic activities and inflation. This whole dynamic process is also known as monetary policy transmission mechanism.

Economic Growth and Development
Economic growth dictates the amount of finances that the society at large is earning and development indicates the volume of money that is being invested into channels of long-term upgradation. Among all the economic factors, development is the most important one, as a business has to cater to the demands of an economically dynamic society. For example, the luxury brands perform well during an economic upturn, much more than the companies which produce essential offerings.

Income and Employment
Other important aspects of the economy that affects a business operation, are the employment density and rate of income. The per capita income and density of employment determines the rate of demand, density of demand, and also the purchasing power of the people. For example, during an economic upturn, there are employment opportunities which generate income that enables people to possess a stronger purchasing power. On the contrary, as the employment density and income rate go down during recession period, the purchasing power of the people also diminishes.

General Price Level
Another very important aspect of the economy that plays a part in the growth of business is the general price levels of commodities. Costs of raw materials, paying power of people, cost of production, and cost of transportation are some of the most important components that determine the general price levels and in turn, lower the profit margin of a business.

For example, an increase in the price will reduce the total revenue generated as there might be a dip in the demand. Let us assume that we have bought 16 pizzas for the price of $4. However, after an increase in the price of pizzas, we may get to buy only 8 pizzas even after shelling out $6.

Trade Cycles
A trade cycle plays a part in fluctuating the costs of goods and commodities in an economy. Prosperity, recession, depression, and recovery are the phases of a business cycle that affect the demand and supply of all goods. Also, trade cycles often affect the general price levels of essential and non-essential commodities.

Inflation is a phenomenon that occurs when there is too much supply of money in the economy that is not supported by the output of goods and services. As there is a lot of money floating around, the prices of goods also increase in order to sustain the businesses, resulting in the increase of costs of raw materials which are needed for production. A hike in the prices of raw materials, thus, also increases the cost of a product.

In simple words, the buying capacity of people decreases, when their incomes remain constant but the prices of products and services increase. This affects the demand for the goods. For example, in 2008, Zimbabwe faced the worst case of inflation, which proved disastrous for its economy and led to the abandonment of its currency.

During recession, companies face a decrease in sales revenues and profits. To curtail cost, they resort to cutting back on hiring new employees, making capital expenditure, marketing and advertising expenditures, research and development activities, etc. This not only affects large organizations, but also the small ones which act as vendors to these big companies.

Smaller organizations may find it difficult to survive in recession due to lack of financial funds or availability of loans. Also, people may shift their preferences to slightly affordable products during recession or may not spend on luxury items at all. This will also have a negative impact on the demand for these products. Factors like falling stocks, lack of dividends, below par quality, employee lay-offs, bankruptcy, etc. during recession may also affect the business adversely. For example, in 2007, when the banking industry was unable to face the meltdown of the mortgage market, it inadvertently led to a free fall of the stock market and a decrease in consumer spending. It also set into motion a chain of events that resulted into a global recession within a year.

Exchange Rate
When a company buys certain goods from a US-based organization, it will have to convert its currency into US dollars for making the payment. If the currency of the buyer is stronger than the US dollar, it will be beneficial for the company. However, if it is weak, the company will have to shell out more money. This was an example of an export business. A similar logic will also be applicable to the import business. Moreover, price competition in the international market often leads to fluctuating prices. This is because a foreign company in the US market may increase or decrease its prices depending on the changes in the exchange rate.

Suppose some time ago, 1 pound was 1.5 US$. However, today, it may decrease to 1.3 US$ if the value of dollar appreciates. This will cause the imported goods from UK to become cheaper for the consumers in the US. However, this will not be a good news for US exporters as UK consumers will find that they are getting lesser returns for a pound’s worth.

Rate of Interest
The rate of interest has a direct impact on the loans that business take to sustain or propel their growth. The higher the interest rates, businesses find it difficult to commit to projects that require investment. On the contrary, lower rates make it easier for people to borrow money in order to buy cars and houses. Low loan rates also provide an opportunity to people to spend more on other things, thus creating a demand for various goods and services, and thereby spurring the growth of economy.

Government Regulations
There are several government agencies that regulate businesses for the safety of humans, animals, and environment. Some industries are heavily regulated and introduction of new laws discourage uncontrolled growth of factories and plants. For example, a coal-powered power plant may be asked to be shut down because of an environmental threat it poses. This may affect a business drastically.

Every changing factors in an economy affect the working of businesses. Hence, companies need to have a foolproof strategy and contingency revenue reserves to cope with such dynamic changes. It is best to take calculated risks and expand a business when the rates of interest are low and the demand is high.

Business Networking and How is it Applied

Networking is a very important component of any business. It is a medium to extend goodwill, share information and technology, and also add to the profitability of the venture. The business-to-business network or B2B is a strategy designed to meet the ever-increasing need to effectively route and apply fresh ideas among businesses. Recently, networking via meet-and-greet events has taken the whole exercise and outcome to the next level.

How is it Applied
The key to true business-to-business networking is the establishment of an understanding between two or more businesses, that are connected in some way or the other. The connectivity is established for both to benefit from the presence of the other. The application goes beyond the standard shake-hands-and-exchange-your-business-card events, that are often wrongly considered as forums for networking opportunities. The B2B strategy is applied to the existent business network or a new one, in order to increase revenue. It is essential to understand the interdependency of the market and industry prior to adopting the strategy. It operates through the development of relationships with existent and new clients, and learning new skills via exchange of business information, technology, and support.

Efficiency of B2B
The level of efficiency largely depends on the ability to listen patiently, and focus on how you relate to or co-ordinate with an individual or organization, in a way that the business profits. It is important that the interaction takes place within an exclusive space. This ensures that all the resources involved are directed towards immediate and long-term gains, and favorable results for all the parties involved. It also relies on the size of the networking group and the quality of information being shared.

B2B and the Entrepreneur
Any business is like an offspring of the entrepreneur. It gives him the opportunity to tie up with resources outside the business, to thrive and survive the competition well. It is initiated to complement the operations, that are common to the group, which eventually lead to the desired expansion. Networkers can capitalize on the experience by first and foremost, establishing connectivity with people or companies they would need for coexistence and growth.

The Networking Rostrum
Business networking is now professionally pursued with the dedicated services of ‘networkers’, who organize and facilitate easy accessibility and connectivity. When networking, time and effort is invested in helping each other. The rostrum is shared by like-minded people and businesses with complementing or dependent operations. There are highly effective networkers that ‘work the net’ into the function, with a common goal in focus. It is designed to create a win-win situation and cultivate a rapport between participants.

It is absolutely fine to first establish what the whole exercise has to offer your business. You should listen to every segment of the ‘net’ and then build a relationship with one or more participants. Remember, it is always a two-way understanding. You should be specific on referrals and reciprocate help whenever required. It is, but appropriate, that you make the most of the forum available, by participating in the network functions and being a part of the executive.