How to do business?

During a religious sitting, Murshid Jee asked one of his older disciples, “Haji Sb, when can someone start a business?” Haji Sb replied, “As soon as he can understand accounts, my lord.”

Murshid Jee smiled and asked, “How much does he need to understand accounts before he could do business?” Haji Sb had no reply to this. Murshid Jee remarked, “A boy needs only to learn 2+2=4 to do business. Rest is up to fate.”

Saleem had never paid any attention to studies until sudden demise of his father. He was just 16 when the responsibility of the house fell on him. He looked for work only to find that, at best he could work as a sweeper in some office.

Entering an office, he was commanded by a clerk, “Sweep today, and if we like your work, the job will be yours.” Saleem swept the floor all the day and came to the clerk in the evening. The clerk approved his work and asked him to email his credentials for processing. E-mail? Saleem wondered. “But sir, I don’t have a computer, I don’t know how to operate one,” he conceded. The clerk laughed and mocked him for not knowing how to email. He gave him 100 rupees, and said, “This is today’s wage. Email must be sent. Take help from a friend to send the e-mail. Otherwise, the job will be given to someone else.”

Saleem hung his head and left. When your father dies, and poverty knocks the door, even the enemies turn their faces. Where could he find a friend for the email? He set off on his bicycle towards his house, surrounded by strange whispers. Mother’s starvation, sister’s tears, and younger brother’s patched shirt — all were tearing him apart.

The bicycle was heading home, but the young man’s mind was set on the graveyard. Unconscientiously, he came out towards the graveyard and reached his father’s grave. He hadn’t cried so bitterly even over his father’s dead body, as he did when reality hit him hard on that day. It is not easy to fill your father’s shoes. His tears had moistened the yet wet soil of his father’s grave. There was still some time left for the sun to set.

Leaving the burden of that day on his father’s grave, he got up to go home. There was a vegetable market on the way home. Unbeknown to himself, he turned to the vegetable market and bought onions for the 100 rupees he had earned. On reaching his front door, he realized that the onions he had bought for Rs. 100 had been sold for Rs. 150 on his way back home.

Coming to his senses, he realised, he had been hawking “Onions for sale,” on his way back. When he saw the money, he looked up at the sky, and laughed with tears. It was as if he had just regained consciousness. He called upon his father, and said, “Oh Father, behold, God has put His hand on the heads of your children. When Fathers leave, God Himself puts His hand on the heads of the helpless orphans.”

Cackling with joy, Saleem entered the house. When his mother asked about his job interview, he exclaimed, “Oh my dear mother, I will not work in that small office. I have got a bigger job to do now. God has hired me.” He gave 50 rupees to his mother and said, “Don’t worry mother, Allah will not let your orphans to be ruined.” His mother was shocked to see this changed Saleem.

Her son thanked God all the night along, talked to his father, and left early in the morning with his 100 rupees. He started buying vegetables from the market every day and sold them in the streets on his bicycle. In a day, he would make 4 to 5 round trips from the market to the house. Making both ends meet became easier and easier as time went by. Saleem’s stature improved, so much so that, one day Saleem himself became a big market merchant and started buying plazas in the city. Saleem became an English babu with a big office of his own.

A journalist, once, came to interview Saleem, and he could not help but be impressed by Saleem’s story. Before leaving, he said to Saleem, “Sir, give me your e-mail address. I will mail the transcript for your approval before publishing it.” Saleem with a smile on his face, said, “I don’t have an email address.” Shocked at this, the journalist remarked, “Sir, you have grown from nothing to a big gun, but you have never learned how to use a computer! Do you have any idea how high you could have gone if you had learned computer skills with time?” Salim smiled. He said, “Yes, I guess. Today I would have been sweeping the floors in the same office, which refused me the job of a sweeper when I was 16.”

Business is not about money, or education. Business is about hard work, dedication, honesty, and experience. On April 28, the government announced a ‘Small Business & Industry Support Package’. The volume of aid money and the method of indirect distribution have also been explained to some extent.

But the minister forgot to mention what the government means by a ‘small business’. Does this mean a grocery store? Or will the chickens and eggs be distributed again? And what will be considered a small industry? For those blessed friends who own sugar industries, every other business in Pakistan is small. Moreover, the people who are affected by Corona are entitled to the aid money. Does that refer to the people who have lost their jobs due to lockdown? This is worrisome.

How this aid money will benefit a man who has next to zero experience of owning or managing a business. Then again, according to last year’s bills, this year’s bills will not be collected from these new businesses. Now, there is a loophole in this, too. Small shops have minimal electricity bills. What will be the benefit of government assistance, in actuality then?

Wisdom demands government to act wisely, not hastily. Announcements of “assistance” can bring temporary benefits and consolation, but not for long. The Japanese say: Catch a fish and feed it to a child, you have fed him once; teach the child to fish, and you have fed him for life. The actual need of the hour is mass training of the populace. In any case, congratulations to those who feed on misappropriated aids and relief funds. Another opportunity is there for them.

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