Friday, August 14, 2015

Start Up Entrerpreneurship

Once a fall back plan is in place and financial risk is taken care off and atleast 3 years of personal sustenance is worked out only then a person should think of a start up. The following steps might help : 

1) An idea well debated within the peer group and mentors 

2) A proper revenue model in place 

3) A 3 year revenue-growth plan drafted on paper 

4) Focus on team building for these 3 years

5) Refrain from focusing on bottom lines for 3 years. 

6) Once a team in place enjoy the start up journey.

Beyond Branding

Brand is much beyond unique design, symbol or a logo which creates an image in the minds of the target audience. In a start up world it has more deeper connotation. As David Oglivy, the great adman has said:
“Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.”- David Ogilvy
So how a start-up can approach the branding in his/her set-up. I can share my thoughts from the retail perspective since I tried following the same in my retail business. The steps which might help are as follows:
Step 0: The entrepreneur needs to create his own credibility by way of employing fair practices among his stake holders - investors, partners, employees.
Step 1: With efficient services and ensuring good quality products to his customers he can create a credible image for his own store/firm. For this he can employ loyalty programs and promotional activities
Step 2: Once he is successful in retaining his customers and has created a strong loyalty for his store/firm, he can start creating his own private label.
Step 3: By continuously engaging the customers by way of innovative communication and on ground activities around his private label he can develop it as a brand.
Thus Branding for start up is not mere creating an image of the product or a service. This comes at a much later stage. Branding starts with creating his own image as a reliable entrepreneur since it would have a cascading effect on the other aspects of his business.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Kalima Tayyiba

While reciting the Holy Quran I came across the following ayah which refers to the term – Kalima Tayyiba. Experts have defined this as ‘Pure and Good’ words.

إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُوَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّـهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا
-          (Surah-e-Fatir, ayah 10)

“(Whoever desires honour (should remember) that all honour is with Allah. All Kalima Tayyiba ascend to Him, and all good deeds He exalts.)”
While explaining the above verse Farman Ali Saheb mentions in his footnote that all good and pure words ascend to Allah (SWT) and they are accepted by Him. There is no further explanation or clarification given by him on this. Hence it can be safely inferred that every pure and correct word that has ability to ascend to Allah (SWT) is a part of Kalima Tayyiba.  Simply put we can say that every pure word that gives nearness to Allah (SWT) is a part of Kalima Tayyiba.

è Kalima Tayyiba encompasses a vast terminology but by way of pondering upon various ayahs we can strive to find those specific pure words in the holy Quran that Allah (SWT) has liked. If we wish to seek His nearness and want our good deeds to be exalted we should embellish our gatherings and conversations with these Kalima. Hence let us begin our search.  
In the ayah no. 6-7 of  Surah-e-Hamd, the first surah of the holy Quran, we urge Allah (SWT) to guide us to the straigth path.This is a path taken by the few chosen faithful believers of Allah (SWT) upon whom Allah (SWT) has bestowed His favours. And with this verse Allah (SWT) has left us to ponder and contemplate to find a way to His straight path and be amongst His chosen servants. Thus He says:

  • “Ae Imaandaro Khuda se darte raho aur Uss ke (takarrub (kareeb hone) ke) zariye ki joostaju main raho aur Uss ki raah main jihad karo taake tum kamiyab ho jao.” – (Surah-e-Maida, ayah 35)
“(O you who have believed, fear Allah and seek the means [of nearness] to Him and strive in His cause that you may succeed.)”- (Surah-e-Maida, ayah 35)

Here Allah (SWT) wants His believers to strive for the means of His nearness. Relating this with the ayah of Surah-e-Hamd, we can say that we might get Allah (SWT)’s nearness if we strive for the straight path taken by His chosen faithful believers. Hence we might infer that under the guardianship of these chosen believers we may rest assured about remaining steadfast on the straight path and be nearer to Allah (SWT). But what if we falter in choosing our guardians?:

  • “Aur jin logon ne Khuda ke siwa (auron ko apna) sarparast bana rakha hai aur kehte hain ke hum to unki parastish sirf issliye karte hain ki ye log Khuda ki bargaah main hamara takarrub badha denge iss main shak nahin ki jis baat main ye log jhagadte hain (qayamat ke din) Khuda unnke darmiyan issmain faisla kar dega beshak Khuda jhoote na shukre ko manzile maqsud tak nain pahonchaya karta.” – (Surah-e-Zumr, ayah 3)
“(And (as for) those  who take guardians besides Him, (saying), We do not serve them save that they may make us nearer to Allah, surely Allah will judge between them in that in which they differ; surely Allah does not guide him aright who is a liar, ungrateful.)

In the ayah no. 35 from Surah-e-Maida Allah (SWT) has instructed us to strive to seek the means of His nearness while in the above ayah from Surah-e-Zumr, He has cautioned us against choosing our own guardians to seek His nearness. Logically we can say that the means of His nearness is also chosen by Allah (SWT) Himself and He hasn’t empowered us to choose our own guardians as this might lead us astray. This point can be further proved by the following ayah:
  •  “Aur tumhara Parwardigaar jo chahta hai paida karta hai aur (jise chahta hai) muntakhab karta hai aur yeh intekhaab logon ke ikhtiyaar main nahin hai..” – (Surah-e-Qasas, ayah 68)
  •  “(Your Lord creates what He will and chooses (for His tasks) whomsoever He will. It is not for them to make the choice.)”

He has created the chosen believers as the rightful guardians upon us and only through them we can seek Allah’s nearness. What remains for us hence is to find and identify these guardians if we wish to remain nearer to the Almighty.

è Thus we may infer that if we believe in the guardianship of these duly chosen guardians we achieve nearness to Allah (SWT). Their conduct and virtues should be inspirational lessons for us and hence embellishing our gatherings by mentioning them would be part of Kalima Tayyiba. But not choosing the right guardians may lead us away from the Almighty’s proximity and towards disgrace and punishment.

The above mentioned inference would be proved as we progress with our article. In the mean time let us try to further ponder upon ayahs to understand the divine guardianship. We would contemplate on the following ayah which was revealed during the gathering of Ghadir-e-Khum:
  • “Ae Rasool jo hukm tumhare Parvardigar ki taraf se tum per naazil kiya gaya hai pahoncha do. Aur agar tum ne aisa nahin kiya to samjhlo tum ne Us ka koi paigham hi nahin pahonchaya aur tum daro nahin Khuda tum ko logon ke shar se mahfooz rakhe gaa aur Khuda hargiz kafiron ki qaum ko manzil e maqsood tak nahin pahonchata.” – (Surah-e-Maida, ayah 67)
  •  (“O Apostle! deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people.”)

After the revelation of the above ayah, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) raised Hazrat Ali (as) and announced “Man Kunto Mawla ho fa hazaa Ali un Mawla” at Ghadeer-e-Khum in front of the Haj pilgrims. And with this revelation Allah (SWT) appointed Hazrat Ali as Prophet (SAWW)’s successor and ‘Vali’ (Guardian) over the ummah.

(Ref: Durr-e-Mansoor, Vol 2, P 298, Egypt, Tafseer-e-Fatah ul Qadeer, Vol 2, P 60, Egypt, Tafseer-e-Fatah ul Bayun, Vol 3, P 89, Egypt, Tafseer Mazhari, Vol 3, P 353, Daarul Isha’t Karachi, Sawaiq e Mohraika, P 40 & 120, Sunan e Tirmidhi, Vol 2, P 298 and many more)

A close observation of the above ayah reveals that it ends with a statement :

  • Allah will not guide the unbelieving people.
While Surah-e-Zumr, ayah 3 ends with the statement:

  • Allah does not guide him aright who is a liar, ungrateful.
Thus from these two ayahs the result which we get is – A person who rejects the call of Man Kunto Mawlaho fa hazaa Aliyun Mawla is a non-believer. To remain a believer he needs to believe in the guardianship of Imam Ali (as). But if he believes in the guardianship of someone else apart from Imam Ali (as), he is a liar and ungrateful person as per the holy Quran.

Subsequent to the announcement of the leadership of Imam Ali (as) at Ghadir-e-Khum the following ayah was revealed:
  • “Aaj Maine tumhare din ko kaamil kardiya aur tum per apni ne’mat poori kardi aur tumhare iss Deen-e-Islam ko pasand kiya.” – (Surah-e-Maida, ayah 3)
  •  “(This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.)

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri has narrated that this verse was revealed on the day of Ghadir e Khum when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) declared that Ali (as) was the leader of whom ever he was the leader. Abu Hurairah has also narrated this and has said that this verse was revealed on 18th of the month of Dhul-Haj when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) returned from Hujjat al-Widah (the last pilgrimage).

 (Ref: Durr-e-Mansoor, Jalalluddin Suyuti, V3, P 19, Tafseer Ibn Katheer, volume 2, page 14, Tarikh by Khatib al Baghdadi, V8 P 290, 596, Yanabi-al-Mawaddah from Abu Hureira by Al-Qudoozi Al-Hanafi).

The holy Prophet (SAWW) said about the guardianship of Mawla Ali (as):
  • “Allah is Great on the perfection of religion, completion of bounties and Allah’s satisfaction with my messengership and Ameerul Momineen Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (a.s.)’s mastership after me.– (Ref: Tirmizi, Nisaai, Hakim Neshapuri, Ahmad-e-Hanbal, Tabari)

è Kalima Tayyiba is that which brings honour to us and Allah (SWT)’s nearness. On the guardianship of Imam Ali (as) the religion is perfected and Allah graces us with His limitless favours. The belief in the wilaya of Imam Ali (as) is essential for us to remain a believer and a grateful servant of Allah (SWT). Hence acknowledgement of Mawla Ali’s Wilaya is Kalima Tayyiba which we need to believe in.

In order to further substantiate our above result let us see the following ayah. But before that let us return to Surah-e-Zumr - (ayah 3) which was mentioned in the earlier section which conveys that Allah (SWT) dislikes those who take others besides Allah (SWT) as their guardian, claiming that these guardians would bring nearness to the Almighty. Thus Allah (SWT) does not like that the believers should consider someone else beside Him as their guardian. Keeping this in mind let us see the following ayahs:

·         “Ae Imaandaro tumhare vali (malik sarparast) to buss yehi hein Khuda aur uss ka Rasool (SAW) aur wo momineen jo pabandi se namaz adaa karte hain aur haalat-e-ruku main zakat dete hai. “Aur jisne Khuda aur Rasool (SAW) aur unhi Imaadaron ko apna sarparast banaya to Khuda ke lashkar main aagaya aur issme shak nahin ke Khuda hi ka lashkar ghalib rehta hai.”” – (Surah-e-Maeda, Ayah 55-56)

“(Verily your Vali (Guardian) is only Allah and His messenger and those who believe; those who establish worship and pay the poor-rate while they bow down in prayer. And whoever takes Allah and His apostle and those who believe for a guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant)”

As per the ayah, Muslims have 3 ‘Vali’ (guardians) above them. They are Allah (SWT), the Holy Prophet (SAWW) and a Momin who pays the poor-rate while bowing down in a  rukuThe momin referred to in the ayah is Ameerulmomineen - Mawla Ali, who gave his ring to a beggar while bowing down in a ruku. (Ref: Imam Nasai in Saheeh-e-Nasai, Aljam’a Bain-ul-Sihah-ul-Sittah, Sa’labi)

Unlike the ayah of Surah-e-Zumr where Allah (SWT) shows His displeasure towards those who consider others as guardians alongwith Allah, in this above ayah He has shown us the appointed guardians beside Him. They are – Allah (SWT), the holy Prophet (SAWW) and Mawla Ali (as). Considering them as our guardians is a passport to enter the triumphant party of Allah. And this the great honour that every believer strives for. Hence our inference is substantiated here that the acknowledgement of the wilaya of Imam Ali (as) is a part of Kalima Tayyiba as it honours us with the entry into the invincible party of Allah.

The holy Prophet (SAWW) has said to Imam Ali (as):

·         “O Ali, I swear by He who controls my life, verily on the Gate of Heaven there is written ‘There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger, Ali ibn Abi Talib is the brother of the Prophet’ this Kalima was inscribed two thousand years before the creation of the Universe”.

Modern day Hanafi scholar Mufti Ghulam Rasul in ‘Hasab aur Nasab’ Volume 1 page 116 has recorded the same Hadeeth on the authority of Jabir .
(Ref: Manaqib Ali bin Abi Talib, page 91, Hilayat al Awliya, Volume 7 page 256, Tareekh Baghdad, Volume 7 page 387, Meezan al Itidal, Volume 1 page 457, Zakhair al Uqba, page 66, Majma al Zawaid, Volume 9 page 111, Tadhkiratul Khawwas al Ummah, page 26, Kanz al Ummal, Volume 5 Page 36)
There are few more ahadith of the holy Prophet (SAWW) which instruct us to follow the path shown by Imam Ali (as) and discuss his virtues in our gatherings:

·         “Embellish your gatherings by mentioning Ali (as).”
(Ref:  Mustadrak Al-Sahihain of Al-Hakim Al-Nisabori, 3/109; Musnad Ahmad, 4/368, 5/419; Al-Khasa’is of Al-Nisa’I, 9; Ibn Al-Maghazeli, 16; Al-Manaqib of Akhtab Khawarizm, 94; Tarikh Baghdad of Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi, 8/290; Yanabi^ Al-Mawda).

·         “Ali (as) is the Imam of the pious, the prince of believers, and the leader of the resplendent.
 (Ref: Mustadrak Al-Sahihain of Al-Hakim Al-Nisabori, 3/129; Kenz Al-Omal, 6/153.)

·         The Caliph Umar also said in the praise of Imam Ali (as) : “Get to know! No honour reaches the position of excellence without acceptance of Ali as the (Wali) guardian.”  (Ref: Sawaiq al-Muhriqa, page 176, published in Egypt)

è In the introductory section we have gone through an ayah from Surah-e-Fatir, let us again reflect upon the same ayah and conclude this article.

إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُوَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّـهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا
-          (Surah-e-Fatir, ayah 10)
-          “(Whoever desires honour (should remember) that all honour is with Allah. All Kalima Tayyiba ascend to Him, and all good deeds He exalts.)”

The ayah says that the seekers of honour should remember that all honour is with Allah. He bestows His Honour and Mercy on whomsoever He wishes. Pure and good words (Kalima Tayyiba) have the ability to ascend to Him. And by virtue of these words He exalts the good deeds.
When  Adam (as) committed a mistake and repented Allah (SWT) turned towards him with His Mercy. The below mentioned ayah conveys this:

إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ  فَتَلَقَّىٰ آدَمُ مِن رَّبِّهِ كَلِمَاتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ
-          (Surah-e-Baqra, ayah 37)
 “(Then Adam received Kalimat from his Lord, so He turned him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.)”
The ayah says that after Adam (as) received Kalimat from Allah (SWT), He (SWT) turned towards Adam (as) mercifully. Thus Adam (as) was honoured by Allah’s Mercy and was forgiven by virtue of these Kalimat. So which were these Kalimat?

The commentators and Islamic scholars have agreed that these Kalimat are the names of Panjetan Paak (as) i.e. Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh),  Ali (as), Fatema (sa), Hassan (as) and Husain (as). (Ref: Durr-e-Mansur, Suyuti, vol 1 P 16)

It was because of Zikr-e-Ahlulbait that the mistake of Adam (as) was forgiven and Allah (SWT) turned towards him with His limitless Mercy. We, the children of Adam (as) and seekers of Allah’s Mercy should remember this and follow his footsteps by indulging ourselves in Zikr-e-Ahlulbait as it is the prominent part of Kalima Tayyiba.

A prominent Islamic scholar Abu Naeem Isfahani in his esteemed work Hilayath al Awliya, Volume 1, Page 66-67, records this Hadeeth on the authority of the Sahabi Abu Burdah:
  • “There is no doubt that Allah (SWT) has made a promise to me with regards to ‘Ali. I asked my Lord ‘What is it?’ Allah (SWT) said ‘Listen’, to which I replied ‘I am listening’. Verily Allah (SWT) said ‘Ali is the Flag of Guidance, Imam of the Saints, and the Light of Truth for those that follow me, and is that Kalima that has been made compulsory upon the Believers. Whoever loves him, loves me, whoever angers ‘Ali, angers Me, O Muhammad convey this good news to ‘Ali…”(Ref: Hilayath al Awliya, Volume 1, Page 66 & 67)
Our beloved Imam Ali Bin Musa Al-Reza (as) has also said about the ayah on Kalima Tayyiba from Surah-e-Fatir (ayah 10) that “To Him do ascend the good words (Kalima Tayyiba) These are the words – ‘There is no god but Allah, Muhammad (SAWW) is the Prophet of Allah and Ali (as)  is the Guardian from Allah, and the rightful Caliph of the holy Prophet (SAWW), and their Caliphs (as) are the Caliphs of Allah.’ – (Ref: Tafseer Imam Hassan Al Askari (as) – S 184)

è In conclusion we may say that:

  • The acceptance of the wilaya of Imam Ali (as) and rest of the 11 Imams from the household of our beloved Prophet (SAWW) is a prominent part of Kalima Tayyiba.
  • It is a passport to enter the triumphant party of Allah (SWT). It makes us eligible to receive His bounties, favours and nearness.
  • It is in our own interest to embellish our gatherings and conversations by Zikr-e-Ahlulbait (as) so that Allah (SWT) always sees us Mercifully.
  • We should be thankful to Him that He guided us to the righteous Imams and perfected our religion.
  • Let me end by mentioning that on the day of Judgement we will also be questioned about the wilaya of Imam Ali (as) along with being inquired of our belief in the Unity of Allah, the Prophethood, the revealed books and faith as per the hadith of our beloved Prophet (SAWW). May Allah (SWT) bless us and hold us steadfast on the straight path. Aamin

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It's our Culture

“It’s our Culture, Sir.” Does it sound familiar? Perhaps this is one sentence we must have heard umpteen times at different places. India being a melting pot of various cultures this is a universal statement across the country where one part of India is different from the other. Culture is a mix of rituals and social behaviour of a particular group of people. A South Indian culture is in stark contrast to may be a Punjabi or a Gujarati culture. Thus it makes it easier for a person to mould his behaviour when he is meeting a particular group of people belonging to a specific culture. The truth is that culture provides identity to people.

Same holds true in the business context as well. A company which does not focus on culture might lose its identity. It is important for a first generation entrepreneur to simultaneously nurture a work culture in his enterprise along with the day to day focus on business operations. The work culture is the value system based on the vision and mission of his set-up. It is strongly influenced by the ideology of the entrepreneur and his own personal values. The behaviour and attitude of employees, fairness in business transactions, and commitment to individual work profile are some of the important aspect of corporate culture.

The culture of a business set-up works as a brand-stakeholders touch point and thus it helps in creating image of the company in the market place. For the first generation entrepreneur creating a culture for his enterprise is relatively easy as he is starting from the scratch and can mould the culture as per his vision and values but for an established company it is a tougher job as Raghu Krishnamoorthy, Vice President GE writes:

“Culture is often associated with the individual at the helm — so much so that the return of a former chief (Steve Jobs returning to Apple, A.G. Lafley going back to P&G) is often intended and viewed as a kind of restoration. However, true culture turnaround requires a complete psychological shift across the entire organization. It is relatively easy for new organizations to start with a clean sheet of paper in creating a culture. But for organizations that have been around for a while, the shift involves quite a bit of shedding and rewiring.”

A business set-up or an enterprise is affected by Macro and Micro environment and hence to have a rigid work culture is not advisable. Of course a certain basic principles should be laid and right values should be in place based on the entrepreneur’s vision but the culture should be ever-evolving to make the operations smooth in a dynamic macro-micro environment.
It is also essential for an entrepreneur to continuously monitor the culture in his organization. With certain companies it is observed that the philosophy statement adorns the back wall of employee’s work place but it hardly finds place in his work practice. Values on paper are ineffective if not practiced with honesty and integrity.

In order to have an effective work culture in his set-up, the first generation entrepreneur should follow the following 7 steps:

  • ·        Define his vision and goal
  • ·        Define his mission to achieve the vision
  • ·        Define work culture based on the above & keep it evolving
  • ·        Identify the right values he wishes to inculcate
  • ·        Monitor the implementation of these values in his set-up
  • ·        Take steps if values are not followed
  • ·    Integrate the work-culture as a part of important HR practice and reward the best employee purely on his ethics, values and culture he followed

We, at Hearty Mart have a work philosophy and it is mandatory for our employees to start their day after reading this philosophy collectively like a pledge every morning –

“A successful businessman is not just a person earning a huge profit or with a big bank balance. True businessman is driven by a passion to do something good. To bring in change. To do whatever possible for his stake holders, so that they can run the business well. To nurture the business like a parent till it is strong enough to run on its own. That is business and that is success.”