Saturday, 3 May 2008

Empowering the Indian Youth


The Malaysian Indian community is waking up to the critical need for urgent and effective self-help measures from a community standpoint. Skimpy attention has been the way of officialdom for the past 50 years of independent Malaysia.

This proposal suggests a funding mechanism to promote self-help measures. Starting in a small way it envisages capacity to evolve into a sizeable and sustainable collaboration. Through networking among friends and relatives, willing and able Indians are to pool their resources through periodic contributions into a common vehicle. Part of the money will be used to fund selected social transformative projects, principally education and training, health and distress relief as organised by non-profit organizations around the country. Surplus cash is to be invested in well balanced and well managed funds globally and locally to accumulate the capital so that the vehicle becomes self-sustaining over time. Public involvement, good governance, professionalism, transparency, accountability, and web-based communications are cornerstones of the proposal.

The readers are expected to provide further input into enhancing the value and effectiveness of this proposal and to participate actively in the subsequent and agreed course of action.

1. Introduction

The need for community collaboration among Malaysian Indians had never been more urgent than today. This paper is intended as an aid to discussions in arriving at a consensus on specific measures that can be undertaken by Indians to help themselves through pooling of funds. The proposed idea is based on the “Do It Yourself” approach as a means of economic self-sufficiency.
The broad strategy is to empower the young Indians of Malaysia principally through education and training using pooled and sustained resources.

The term Indian is used in this context to represent the target segment among Malaysians who declare their ancestry as originating from South Asia.

It is acknowledged that ideally all of the disadvantaged Malaysian youth irrespective of their race should be included in an initiative of this nature with participation of all Malaysians. Perhaps some day in future this will actually happen.

In the meantime, it is an entrenched practice and policy of the Malaysian government supported by constitutional provision to provide differential care for the majority Bumiputra community. The Chinese who form the largest minority group in the country have moved ahead and firmly established self-sustenance and growth positioning themselves strongly in business, education and industry not only locally but also internationally.

Although some Indians have made significant progress through their own efforts, by default it is largely the Indian youth, the majority of whom are Tamils, that is bereft of hope and requires action on the part of Indian society.

There are historical reasons from pre-independent times for this dire situation, but more importantly the scant attention given by the officialdom during the last 50 years is single biggest factor.

Hence this initiative takes the view that all Indians are from one big family where family members willingly come forward to offer mutual help towards collective success.

2. The proposal
This proposal envisages the setting up of permanent machinery in the form of a locally registered organisation comprising Malaysian Indians. Its mission will be two-pronged as follows:
  1. To provide transformative grants to selected social development projects.
  2. To facilitate linkages to professional and business advisers registered with the Society for people who are undertaking self-employment or entrepreneurship or any expansion of existing businesses.
To facilitate the accomplishment of its missions, the Society will act as a vessel for receiving lump sums or periodic contributions from members, well-wishers and the successful beneficiaries of the programme.

The surplus funds are to be invested in secure forms of investments, both locally and globally in suitable portfolios under expert guidance. The proceeds may be used to provide grants to suitable transformative projects selected by a panel of experts and using objective criteria.
The second part of the proposal will allow a registered panel of professional and business experts who can provide advice on pro-bono basis or on special cost basis to fellow members of the society.

a. Rationale
This initiative is based on the reasoned view that the community’s critical need takes the form of adequate and sustainable funding as well as the wisdom of the advisors to stay and support key initiatives for the young Indian and his or her enterprise.

It is the vision of this initiative that the young Indian, if given the opportunities and space to flourish, would rise up to meet the demands and challenges the new millennium places on him.
The concept finds it inspiration from the planting of a good seed in a suitable environment and taking care of it until the plant is able to grow well and be able to provide shade, fruits and support various life forms. Careful replication and nurturing would lead to a forest of thriving trees evolving its own ecosystem for future sustenance.

b. Focus areas

The target group is the young Indian from primary school level up to tertiary educational level. Focus will be on the following key areas:

  1. Quality education

  2. Good health

  3. Distress relief
Part of the efforts to rejuvenate the Indian youth could involve continuance of proper life-long education. This would help the youth to adapt and evolve intellectually in an ever changing fluid environment.

c. How much to contribute

In allocating a portion of their assets or earnings, the existing models used by the Chettiar community could provide useful basis.

For millennia in traditional Chettiar-run temples in India, capital is accumulated through mahamai, an annual voluntary percentage contribution made from the total capital investment and profits of the firms operated by Chettiars. The rate of contribution varies. The money collected by the temples is re-lent to community members at low rates for on-lending to the public at market rates. This can be considered as a fore-runner to modern day cooperatives. However, the following need to be institutionalised as a community practice:

  • Personal emphasis on regular contributions as a discipline with the amount according to individual capacity

  • No transfer payment from the society to the individual as a moralistic equalizing factor.

  • All funding made available to the young Indian be based on the principle of investing in human capital that in turn generates greater benefits to the society as a whole
d. Governance
In undertaking this initiative, there is no other option to exercising the best practices and good corporate governance. Accountability and transparency are key cornerstones

i. The Strategy for increasing Contributors

The promoters of this idea should start with their protem committee. After having agreed to a plan for increasing contributors, the initial target will be to register 100 contributors among relatives and friends.

Each of the hundred contributors will encourage their respective friends and relatives to become contributors, using the same standard supportive material and process.

Apart from individual contributors, organizations such as companies and associations too are to be encouraged to become contributors.

ii. Simulations on Accumulations

To further understand the behaviour of the accumulation a simulation was done based on a number of assumptions. If each person’s monthly contribution is limited to 3 years, and that periodic withdrawals are allowed to fund actitivities, it is noted that a near equilibrium state is reached towards the end of 8 years. By then an annual withdrawal of RM200,000 can be made perpetually although expenses can be rising moderately.

Simulation was done for a period of 93 months. Assumptions included 1% attrition p.m. in the number of contributors, return on investment at 10%, tax excluded, high income contributors form 5% component at RM500 p.m., middle income contributors form 15% at RM150 p.m., and moderate income contributors form 80% at RM50 p.m. Contribution period is 3 years each. First year withdrawals for funding to amount to RM50,000 increasing to RM100,000 in the second year and going on to RM200,000 per year. Expsenses assumed to be RM24,000 during first year, thereafter increasing by RM6,000 per year thereafter. Expenses include staff salary, internet expenses, office administration and other communications. Space is expected to be free.

iii. Transformative Projects
The following entities are examples of who can be invited to submit concept papers for a single year or multi-year funding program, after attending a workshop on the requirements and paper submission:

  • Existing non-profit organization or a collaboration of non-profit agencies
  • Social entrepreneur(s) or group of community activists partnered with an appropriate non-profit organization
  • Consortium of temples
  • Consortium of schools

iv. Program Eligibility

The following types of programs that benefit the Malaysian Tamil community are likely candidates for consideration:

  • A cutting-edge program that has not been tested previously in any location in Malaysia but tried elsewhere in the world with success and can be adopted for trial replication.
  • A program that has been piloted anywhere in Malaysia, and proved to be viable and is proposed for community-wide implementation
  • Publication of books in Tamil, English and Malay on achievement imagery targeting the young Indian
  • Research proposals that would have direct positive impact on the progress of the young

v. Vision for the Community
Malaysian Indians should aspire to works towards becoming the cream of the society as duly acknowledged by everyone, through their conduct and achievements.

Challenging yet achievable goals are important in shaping not only community efforts but also personal lives.

vi. Key concepts adapted from Peter Senge which resonate which traditional Indian philosophy.

  • The Society is a product of how its members think and interact. Policies and rules alone do not create an organization. As Maharishi Ramana said, " One cannot legislate a society into goodwill".
  • The Society is a learning organisation. Knowledge and learning are living systems, not always readily apparent to the eye.
  • Hence in ensuring success of this initiative, communications and continued learning from each other are vital.

vi. Characteristics of achievement motivated people
Professor David McClelland of Harvard University observed that some people have intense need to achieve but not others. His research showed the following as some of the key characteristics of achievement-motivated people:

  • The capacity to set high personal but obtainable goals
  • The concern for personal achievement rather than rewards for success
  • The desire for job-relevant feedback (e.g., how well am I doing?) rather than for attitudinal feedback (e.g., how well do you like me?)

vii. Frugal life
In the USA, a study conducted in 2001, showed that the highest concentration of millionaires came from the minority communities of Russians, Scottish, and Hungarians in that order but not the from the majority English.

In a further study focusing on the Scottish, it was found that they were frugal and living well below their means. This allowed the Scottish to save and invest more than the others in the same income group. It was also found that the Scottish instilled their values of thrift, discipline, economic achievement, and financial independence in successive generations. These values are also typical traits among most self-made millionaires.

viii. Key Success Factors (Five disciplines as adapted from Peter Senge)

  • Personal mastery that includes proficiency, skill and vision of the all participants.
  • Basing our mental models that shape our behavior and attitudes, on data, agreement on the data, and understanding of the data-based reasoning.
  • Clear Shared visions of the organisation, and not just the vision of the leadership, agreed freely among all members and spread mainly through personal contacting.
  • Team learning through research papers, status updates, dialogue, classrooms, internet, books and other media. Communications is the key.

Systems thinking where one develops awareness of the complexity, interdependencies, and leverage. Systems thinking facilitates viewing of problems and goals as components of larger structures with feedback loops and not as isolated events. It is interesting to note that a 6th century Tamil scholar Peruvaayin Mulliyar in his book “aasaara kovai”, has outlined the eight benefits arising from good personal discipline and conduct.

This paper is intended to kick start discussions towards decision-making and commitment towards undertaking this initiative. All of the ideas presented herewith are open to challenge and further improvements.

The basic idea of pooling resources for collective economic gain is not new, and what may seem formidable can be achieved with good planning, commitment and execution aided by today’s environment of high technology, legal safeguards and knowledge world.

By taking the DIY approach, Malaysian Indians should be able to set an example for the rest of the world where minority groups can succeed even in disadvantaged positions.

As stated by Saint Thiruvalluvar (1st century B.C), "painstaking efforts will pay, even where God deems it impossible."


Sathia said...

The above was first written before the March 2008 General elections of Malaysia. Since then much has changed.
Even as this article argues for self-help measures among Indians for reasons that they are most neglected lot, the author acknowledges that the same principle of self-help can be used to uplift Malaysians as a whole

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