Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Café Blue Ginger

by Moiz Damani

Cafe Blue Ginger; the restaurant, initially launched at Café Blue Ginger at Galleria 919, did not do business as expected. Even though with one of the most profound owners; Mr. Hussain Tariq and the food craver Mr. Hassan Raza, the business eventually had to close down for around a year in lieu of some of the problems that it faced.

The location was one of the major strategic uncertainty, since the area was confined to a specific target audience: the students and foreign nationals. The location was not the primary point/place where one could find a restaurant. Even though the location primarily thought of was a posh residential area with a good target market; demographics aimed at students for hangout and foreigners, along with residential owners nearby the place. But the demographics were very much restricted since others could hardly make it to the place, considering the parking space restrictions and location itself. The uncertainty of location had a grave impact on sales, which eventually led to the complete idea being re-considered whether or not to continue.
Secondly, the location was also surrounded with the police residential area, which meant government intervention was most likely to occur. Café Blue Ginger at Galleria 919 had to close down because of reservations from the police regarding security concerns. The business could not thrive well also because it had a lot to look after apart from cuisines, which led them to under perform.

Lastly, one of the most important uncertainties that realized closure was the security threat prevalent in the country. Universities came under attack in early 2010. As a result, university areas were completely well planned and secured, making it impossible for any threat to materialize. Café Blue Ginger at Galleria 919 suffered gravely after that since it was not possible for outsiders to locate the place easily amid security barriers. Also, the location it self was barred from parking, making it inconvenient for the customer to park far too beyond the vicinity of the restaurant. The business thus, had to be closed down.

Never the less, the business has again done its soft relaunch at the corner location on main Zamzama boulevard. The location is ideal for business, however, do pose some uncertainties to the restaurant. Previously, the location was not prone to competition. However, the new place has BUTLERS CHOCOLATE CAFÉ, a very successful and thriving business in the similar industry. Similar is THE DELI, and CAFÉ AYLANTO nearby. The major strategic uncertainty that the business pose to is an already giant competitor with a set customer base existing at Zamzama.

Secondly, the business needs to define its target audience to make sure it has a set customer base. The business owners must realize the possible target audience, their sense of taste, lifestyle and mentality. Most of the elite at Zamzama are professionals; with a peculiar demand of style, along with other offerings. The age group consideration is of most importance at this stage to avoid uncertainties. Cafe Blue Ginger would be available for lunch and dinners, with Eclectic. Mediterranean French, Italian & Continental specialties. The business had predefined its target market. But in order to make sure the business is successful, some aspects such as the cuisine, ambiance and pricing strategies (considering food inflation) have to be looked at.

Since Zamzama Commericial is saturated with many restaurants that cater to the need of consumers for family lunch, and dinners, Café Blue needs to think of a better and unique offering to differentiate from the other existing restaurants. This would avoid a possible strategic uncertainty of collision with restaurants with the same offerings. Pricing also is an uncertainty that needs to be looked; even though the target class is elite, pricing on a variety of occasions are taken into account by customers, especially when the restaurant is booked for family events. With food inflation rising up to maximum levels, the restaurant needs to fix a pricing strategy to satisfy both: the consumer and the business for profits/going concern.
Some of the major strategic uncertainties that were identified in the prior location did realized and had a severe impact on the business. However, the new location is a better decision then the former and some major uncertainties identified include changing demographics, competition, pricing, place, offerings, and the layout/ambiance.

Moiz Damani is presently a student at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, pursuing an MBA degree with specialization in Finance.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summers Summerised!

Hmm…ok so life has been a bit busy these days on my side: joined an internship at a pharma multinational and things are really going good. So what next? Could I expect a job or something from the new place? I could only hope to get one! Well anyways, life goes on and so does work. There are ample of opportunities out there and one should not commit oneself to sticking at places where they feel down. “Employability” should be the motto: a place where an employee is empowered means everything to me when I think of a proper “work place”.

Apart from work life discussion, there are things in life that I am really led down by. Its my university in specific that Im talking about currently. August 2010 showed me one of the ugliest sides of Szabist when everything turned out against me for doing nothing wrong. I had recently completed my bachelors in May: yes guys I was finally a graduate. It just couldn’t have been better then this! Life was good. However, a few days later, I had to experience the sluggish economy impacts in the form of bad job market, reference issues (parchi as you may call it), and the never ending problem of transport, in the form of heavy loaded busses! Argh! Life isn’t so easy after all.

What I decided then, was to connect again with contacts I made through previous internships at Siemens and PSO. I had a number of a few top level people, who were nice to me during the tenor of internship and had offered me full support when I graduate. Well, here I was, standing at Siemens SITE again, hoping that the business unit manager who headed me would allow me in. much to my dismay, things did not turned out the way I thought. I kept waiting for 2 hours and the response came out negative: I was asked to communicate only through email. Not considering it as a lost hope, I decided to continue my approach of reconnecting with “good people” I found through internships.

Apart from my continuous job hunt process, I had heavily relied on EDC (even though I’ve had bad experiences previously – got disapproved from internships even after clearing all the interview requirements!) Oh well, this is life I guess, especially when it comes to Pakistan =). God Bless us all and our Beloved Country.

I wasn’t able to get hold of any jobs through EDC, though it helped me out in getting an internship at the pharma company I mentioned about above.

So I was talking about my bad experience at Szabist. Yes, it was a bad one, and most importantly for doing nothing illegal. Actually, I decided to start off with MBA sooner than my batch mates, i.e. in Summers of 2010. I came across and interesting course, Investment Banking, which I thought would really help me out in getting to know about the mechanics of investment firms and how profit is actually made. Although I did come across various new information that doubled my love for making money through stocks, yet the environment and tone of the study was purely bookish. I wanted some real exposure, possibly some investment firm practical mechanics: how they work and make judgements about stocks etc.

Well, back to the bad experience story. My life became miserable when I found out in August that a new MBA policy had been devised by the university: a 1.5 year MBA program with some modifications in the grading policy. It was easier now to clear a course than before. But, the twist in my life came when, despite the fact that I had graduated in May 2010 and the policy practically applies to all my batch mates (and off course, me) I was deprived of it. Therefore, I had do a 2 year MBA with a grading plan of the previous batch.. This was just insane! I couldn’t believe how the administration could do such a thing to me, and the other two along who took courses in summers. We insisted on changing our ids (09XXXXX) with (10XXXXX), but a big NO was our fate.

It was not until we finally decided to go to the dean to decide our fates. He then finally approved our MBA 1.5 year plans, but with the old grading policy. Now how good is that? Is it a deal worth it? “Nothing else could be done” was the reply when asked. Is this fair? I don’t think so. But the admin doesn’t seem to realise.

Well, this is our (my) fate as of now. We (I)) have to follow the rules. Rebel is not an option for us (me), or else its dismissal. I hope things do turn out well when I join back in Spring 2011.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Equities Market in Pakistan

The equities market plays a very important role in any economy to generate capital requirements. It is an essential part in mobilizing funds for medium and long-term debts that help firms emerge. The growth of Pakistani equity market however, has been stagnant and has not been fully utilized in its years of performance.

Historical evidence and analysis shows that the equities market in Pakistani gained importance and much appreciated growth in the 1960’s, but later the momentum was disrupted due to the political uncertainty and nationalized policy of the 1970’s. The economic growth however, changed its route to private equity investments in the 1980’s which helped the overall market sentiments regarding equity investments to improve.

It was only in 1990’s when the market regained its strength when the equities market was opened for foreign investment and inflows. The measures, stated by Hussain and Ali Qasim (1997), describe the measures taken for the revival of the stock market in Pakistan. The first states the opening of the market for foreign inflow of funds in the form of investments to the market. The second is the process of privatization of public entities. The third mentions the deregulation, and privatization of the economy which takes into account the privatization of commercial banking industry. And fourthly, liberalization of foreign exchange restrictions which also includes the freedom to Pakistani nationals of obtaining dollar accounts in banks.

However, due to political instability and violence, the authors state that developments were at a halt and the markets were not able to emerge properly. However, the market did perform in the midst of the turmoil and was able to generate new IPOs particularly through the listing of Pakistan Telecommunications Company (PTC) and Hubco Power.

The tide of political violence remained till the late 90’s when the power shifted to Nawaz Sharif. Some of the measures that the government took in 1997 are stated by the two authors were the exemption of CGT (Capital Gains Tax) till the year 2001, tax exemption for bonus shares issued, tax removal on dividend payout for all mutual funds activities, tax exemptions for foreign investments in government and corporate securities, and increase in sectoral investment limit by provident and pension funds from 10 percent to 20 percent with investment ceiling increased from 1 percent to 5 percent in one company.

The market in the period Musharraf era progressed like never before. The market reached up to new heights and the economic indications of the country set waves across the international investors, providing them reasons to invest in the equities market of Pakistan. Much of the stocks traded were at a discount that led foreign capital into the country.

Presently, the equities market is performing exceptionally well. Recently, the IPOs for Wateen were successfully launched, where the offerings for the share allotment oversubscribed, indicating small investors willingness to invest in new public companies. The market index as of July 3, 2010 was 9730.

The Importance of Primary Equity Market for Pakistani Markets

Pakistan experienced growth in the equities market during the past five years from 2003 – 2007. The importance of the growth can be judged by the fact that the economy progressed in the previous years leading to growth and economic development. The growth of the equity market leads to much liquidity required by public companies, whose aim is to increase profitability through investments. Thus, the importance of the primary equities cannot be ignored and should be marked as the backbone of the economy. The country needs to pace up expansion of the market in terms of its size and volume, for which the primary equity would pay an enormous role.

The market however, after the growth years entered into the cycle of recession, where stock market slowed down, starting from the year 2008 which eventually lead to a liquidity crisis and the KSE literally at a halt for three months. The year 2009 saw the least number of IPOs emerging for capital funding requirements. Only three public offerings (IPOs) were seen in the calendar year 2009 in the midst of depressing values and investor risk aversion strategies after one of the worst financial crisis that lead to many losses for the small investors, the primary target of IPOs.

With no offerings made in the first half of the year, power companies, in an attempt to fill out capital shortages for power generation, issued IPOs to tap the local market for investment. However, a low turnout was seen by Mr. Muhammad Sohail, CEO of a leading Top line Securities Company, where he mentions that only 20,000 investors showed interest from a base of 250,000, according to the CDC sub accounts information available. This shows that more than half of the small investors had suffered huge losses in the stock market crash.

It was seen in the KSE in contrast to the bearish 2009 market position, where only 3 IPOs were offered to public, 10 IPOs were launched in 2008, with many companies being financial sector firms raised a total of Rs 7.4 billion. In the past, 2004 and 2005 were the best years in terms of number of IPOs. A total of 17 IPOs were floated in 2005 to raise an amount of Rs 36 billion. The three IPOs offered in 2009 were worth Rs 1.1 billion in comparison to 10 IPOs worth Rs 17.7 billion issued in 2008, and Rs 36 Billion in 2005. Reviewing from the figures only, the extent of crisis in 2009 in the stocks can be visualized.

While comparing the volume of issuance of IPOs of this decade from the 1990s, we clearly see a decline in the issuance. The period of the 1990s was one of the golden times for issuance of IPOs, where many company were starting off its operations and decided to approach the money market for capital funding, causing the listed firms at KSE to increase from 487 in 1990 to 767 in 2000. We review that offerings in this decade fell by two third in comparison to the 1990 period. Thus, with the information present and analysis made, it is important to review macroeconomic policies and set up an environment for foreign and domestic investment to allow growth prospects for the Pakistani equity markets.

Moiz Damani is currently a student at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, pursuing an MBA degree with specialization in Finance.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Introduction to Primary Equity Markets

The equity market is a term used in synonymous to the much popular and layman term – The Stock Market. The equity market in any country plays a vital role in providing liquidity to companies that want to raise capital for investments in company infrastructure and development, or to invest in some portion of the economy that would yield the best returns to the company itself and its shareholders.

The equity market or the stock market is a bridge that narrows the gap between investors and issuers. It is a market through which provides access to companies to capital, and in turn, to the investors in the form of holdings in the ownership of the company; thus, providing hope of capital gain in the form of price appreciation of the shares of the company or through other modes such as dividends, bonus and rights issuance.

The equity market is divided into two sub forms: the primary equity market and the secondary equity market. The primary equity market is one where new companies offer the market new shares, termed as – IPO (Initial Public Offering). The purpose of this initiative of distributing new shares to the market is, as explained, to generate new capital for the firm/company from pool of investors. IPOs are used as a source to generate funds for long-term debt purpose as opposed to the short-term debt provided by banks/financial institutions. Similarly, other ways of primary form of equity issues are through Rights issue, and offer for sale.

The concept of IPO is usually to allow ownership of the company to mass public in general to utilize and accumulate pool of funds available from small investors. However, in the United States, the remaining shares that have not been consumed by the general public are offered to banks/investment firms willing to buy those remaining shares. These banks/firms are called underwriters. At times, single major companies are also the ones allotted all the IPOs on the preferred price by the company that releases it, thus giving no chance to the general public to invest.

Moiz Damani is currently a student at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, pursuing an MBA degree with specialization in Finance.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Development of Debt Market in Pakistan

The article summarizes views of Mr. Khurram Baig, in his article, "The Development of Debt Market in Pakistan", which discuses the bond market of Pakistan and covers the issues and problems that it has been facing since years which are some of the leading factors hampering the overall debt market. The equity market, in contrast, has progressed all over the Asian region; but the debt markets in Asia, and in Pakistan, have not been able to develop.

Even though the size of the debt market in Pakistan is 43% of its GDP, much of the issues have been done by the government securities, which have not been able to set a good benchmark for other private corporations for launch a similar type of issues. Although the need for corporations and entities for a secure term financing is essential, the article mentions reasons such as lack of capital, expertise and trained staff, which is hampering these corporations to do so.

The demand for a debt market has emerged effectively now, considering the need to gather together the savings from retail, large individual and institutional investors for long term financing. However, there are some problems identified by prominent leaders, which are causing a slow growth.

One of the problems is that the short term bonds introduced by the government are causing problems in setting benchmark for the secondary market trading. It is not possible to place a consistent bid as a result of different profit payments. Another problem identified is the TFCs not being considered as an investment for banks while displaying list of investments for SLR to the State Bank.

In an attempt to liberalize and deregularize, the need to spread awareness to the retail investor regarding many saving schemes such as the NSS is important. Also, different schemes should yield different benefits in the form of returns to avoid clashes. The attempt to introduce foreign currency accounts for non-residents, and exemptions to it from zakat, and other taxes is a positive approach inn favor of the debt market.

However, there are some limitations specified in the article: the first being the small size of the market. For international investments, small markets are not a lucrative opportunity to invest. The fact that only a few private corporations are credible to issue bonds and the secondary market not being liquid enough makes it really a harsh environment for investment. Lack of regularity and a set framework for both issuers and investors in debt market is also a reason for its slow progress in Pakistan. With lack of proper accountability of companies within, it is difficult for the investor to trust issuers where the level of risk rises.

Another reason is also the lack of a credit rating system in place, and the mixture of Islamic and conventional mode of financing, which yields different returns and thus, causes problems for investors, with a varying/unclear benchmark for returns.

Apart from the problems specified, the country risk is also one of the major factors for lack of investment in the bond markets. With credit ratings below benchmark, Pakistan’s debt market is always skeptical because of low For-ex reserves. There is an option of hedge funds to invest in the discounted price bonds, but then the quick possibility of withdrawal of funds from the market make the situation tenser for Pakistan, considering low reserves. Also, the cost of capital has risen tremendously considering the servicing high interest rates.

With the removal of TAP systems, introduction of new debt instruments such as FIBs and STFBs, along with the initiation of secondary market for each, and also, the auctions for OMOs regularly in an attempt to further widen the secondary market, the opportunities for foreign investors have increased.

The risks to foreign investors include the currency risk, where a change in the exchange rate affects investments badly. Hence a profit earned by investing in a period of time has no real effect as it takes more rupees to buy a dollar in terms of devaluation. Apart from that there is inflationary pressure that makes the prices go up every often leading to interest rate risk. This eventually leads to a rise in the cost of doing business.

The role of State Bank to keep a check on the SLR position of banks is important since banks are the tool to implement the nation’s monetary objectives. The role of brokers in providing assistance to execution of capital market activities cannot be ignored in the overall scenario of monetary management.

With control of various problems identified such as the country risk, economic risk, which includes currency risk, inflation, weak secondary markets, lack of proper rules and framework mechanism, and the cost of doing business, Pakistan has the potential to strive back on its own. But the issues need to be addressed on an urgency basis to ensure prompt results.