To be or not to be a millionaire

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 19 Aug 2017, 19:37:52

To be or not to be a millionaire

Maswood Alam Khan
Who doesn't dream to become rich overnight? Most people fancy to make a mountain of money quickly; but unfortunately, they won't because they live in ornate castles in the air. My suggestion to such a dreamer: "Play the lottery, get lucky and win to become a "kotipoti", the Bangla synonym of the word 'millionaire'. The problem, as I myself bitterly experienced, is that if you lose money in lottery, you need another bit of luck to repeat the process, a process that is more addictive than smoking or drinking. I have always been a shameful loser; can't remember how much money I had drained on lottery by buying at least one "Powerball" ticket for one dollar every time I would go to a shopping mall while living in Maryland, USA.

My dream to become rich sparked on a Sunday afternoon in 1979, I was then a young banker, as I was reading a provocative story about travelling by train in Europe. The story seductively described how the train takes you from one city to another, how one could relax in sophisticated splendour inside the train, how a traveller could spend most of the trip watching the scenery, and, above all, how a train allows you to get to your destination while you sleep, saving you the cost of a hotel ! Fascinated by the story, I made a vow to myself: "I must travel all over Europe by Eurorail and must make money quickly to meet the huge expenses." But how?

My father, on my behalf, when I was a school-goer, opened a savings account in my name in the Post Office at Sadarghat in Dhaka. To develop in me savings habit he would encourage me to keep all my petty savings in the Post Office Account. Amazingly, my every deposit of savings in the account got instantly doubled as father would contribute an equal amount every time, just like a 'contributory provident fund' where both employee and employer contribute. All my petty savings and my scholarship money added up by father's generous contributions to built up a 'huge' savings in my account. To my surprise, after my father had passed away in 1978, I discovered myself as a very rich man with Taka 30,000 in my Postal Savings Account.

My father was frugal and I was just the reverse. I squandered all my savings in a matter of nine months: Taka 10,000 for a new Honda motor cycle, Taka 10,000 spent on expensive dresses, mostly of Pierre Cardin brand, bought mainly from Vogue, an upscale retailer which was situated at Purana Paltan, Dhaka, and with a view to undertaking my dream tour to Europe I invested the rest Taka 10,000 with a jute trader from Bhoberchar Union in Gazaria, who was popularly known as "Nana" to all of us who worked in Agrani Bank in Narayanganj.

Every month our Nana would hand me Taka 300, a huge dividend when my salary was Taka 600! Nana, my first business partner, gave me a total of Taka 1,200 and then, alas! he suddenly disappeared into thin air. From that day on, I promised--with my left hand tugging my right ear and my right hand the left ear--that I would never do any partnership business. Business, as I subsequently realised, has never been in my ancestors' bloods.

But, have bloods or genes anything to do with success in business? Are there really any genetic attributes responsible to entrepreneurial success? Or, spiritual blessings? Some of our guardians would say, as the wise old saying goes, business insight is gained when one is in his or her mother's womb. You must worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh together, as the Hindu community believes, before you embark upon a business. They firmly believe Lord Ganesh or Goddess Lakshmi smiled at Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they founded'Google' back in 1998.

Scientists engaged in digging into genetics have neither confirmed nor ruled out, with 100 per cent guarantee, the possibility of God's hand in creating 'born entrepreneurs'. There are people, sadly like me, who put in extensive time, research and money to come up with a business proposal that flopped miserably, while others, who are perhaps blessed with genetic endowment, put in practically no effort, but had come up with a marvellous proposal that clicked mysteriously.

It is true that those people who are really determined, and who have a genetic makeup to their advantage, emerge as successful entrepreneurs. History has time and again showed that entrepreneurs are mostly self-made and a true entrepreneur does not believe in fatalism. Gods and Goddesses also hate those who believe that 'whatever is meant to happen will happen'.

If one finds lottery as a ladder to be wealthy too expensive, it is up to him to choose the route that best suits him and he should have no excuse to not to become a millionaire. One easy way is to marry a rich person or be a celebrity. It is pleasant to note that nowadays youngsters who find no possibility of making money out of thin air are dreaming to be superstars. A young boy who finds writing algorithmic codes too clumsy should not be prodded to become a software engineer. One should rather look at his feet and ankles, if they are sturdy and strong, and tell him the story of Neymar, the Brazilian professional footballer who now plays as a forward for French club 'Paris Saint-Germain'. Today Neymar is worth Euro 210.7 million.

Unfortunately, there is another way many of our countrymen have chosen to become millionaires overnight: Become a crook. They are drug dealers, gun runners, money launderers, public fund looters, and you name it. They are, however, not in peace as they are constantly hounded by other scoundrels.

It is, however, wise to not get rich fast and become a millionaire overnight. It is better to start building a business from the scratch.

Let me conclude this piece with an old story titled: "The Boy and the Hazelnuts" A little boy happened upon a large, stone pitcher filled with tasty hazelnuts. The boy slipped his hand through the narrow opening of the pitcher and grabbed a huge handful of hazelnuts, but found that he couldn't pull his hand back out of the pitcher. The boy yanked and yanked, but couldn't pull his hand out, and so he started to cry. A man standing nearby said to the boy, "If you were satisfied with less, you could pull your hand out easily."

The lesson: There is nothing wrong with big dreams, but sometimes when you try to grab everything at once, you end up with nothing at all.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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