It is a grim scenario out there. This is especially true of sectors such as real estate or financial services, where the impact of the global financial crisis has resulted in dramatic measures. While reporting for this issue's cover story package on mutual funds, we found that a combination of emotions such as fear and apprehension, and real events had left a visible impression on the fund managers, investors and those working in allied segments. Even the cabbies and restaurant owners at Mumbai's Nariman Point, which houses most of the financial services firms, were feeling the heat from the meltdown.
The retail investors were rattled, to say the least, by the fall in the NAVs of products that they considered safe. They were more hurt by the reactions of the fund houses. "I was sold a long-term story, but no one told me about the possibility of short-term pain," said one. Others felt that the funds which were aggressively selling their products until a few months ago were either refusing to take calls or had stopped all communication. "I no longer get glossy brochures and letters exhorting me to invest in funds," said one.
Fund managers either blamed their bosses for the mess, or felt jittery about their personal finances. "I joined this fund house because of its pedigree. Now, I realise that the disclaimers about past performance do apply," said one of them. Another revealed that he was worried about how he would fund his son's education abroad. "If the crisis wasn't enough, the fall in the rupee has added to my woes," he said. The fact is that every fund manager is struggling. Restaurant owners claim that business is down because the employees of financial services firms no longer make their customary daily visits.
But there is an upside to this mayhem. Reality check has become the norm. Salaries are becoming more realistic; so are expenses as employees are being forced to scale down their travel, entertainment and other expenses. More importantly, productivity and efficiency have become paramount as employers hope to extract more work from employees. Therefore, when the dust settles down, you may witness the emergence of a lean and mean India Inc, which focuses on performance. This means that anyone who is an asset today will remain so tomorrow.