Post about "Finance"

The Lure of Easy Money: Islamic Finance in the Age of Capitalism

Money. Money makes the world go round, or, well, any direction you want if you own it. So, when it comes to easy money, boy, it makes the world go haywire! Easy money – that is earned without the sweat and toil, normally, required for earning a livelihood. Who wouldn’t, at least, be tempted by it?Society and its priorities change with the seconds of the change in time. Whereas morality and integrity were of utmost significance at a time in an obscure past, the priority of society, today, is amassing heaps of wealth. One may question, why not? If, having more zeros after a figure in your bank statement, surely, means having a greater influence and a vaster dominion over the world, then why are you playing the guilty conscience card on us?Well, but, I say, wasn’t it us, in the first place, to form a direct proportion between wealth and influence in the world? You, seriously, cannot tell me that this is how it has been since time immemorial! About time we embarked on some insightful journey, wouldn’t you say?If money was really directly proportional to influence, then the exemplary case of the second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab r. a., for instance, would be a scientific anomaly!It was in 637 AD that after a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, the Muslims finally took the city. While Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, had fled, Sophronius, the Greek Orthodox patriarch, surrendered the city on the condition that no one was to be harmed. The terms were observed and the patriarch gave the key to the city to Umar ibn al-Khattab r.a.Umar r. a. entered Jerusalem, to sign the peace treaty, with humbleness, walking in by foot alongside his servant who was comfortably being conveyed by a camel. Umar r. a. and the servant had been travelling by foot and on the camel in turns (Muir: 135).When Sophronius met the Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen, Umar r.a., one of the most influential men in the history of Islam and the rest of the world, he was dressed in his travel-stained battle tunic, while Sophronius was attired in sumptuous robes. Sophronius was very surprised to find the Commander of the Muslim world dressed in anything but royal clothes and even questioned Umar r.a. about the simplicity of his apparel, to which he replied that Allah SWT doesn’t “demand extravagance”.The Patriarch then explained that he did not wear all the regalia to adorn himself but to ‘check the confusion and anarchy in the world’ and he was “God’s office”. In other words, for the sake of appearances, he had to portray in his dressing that he was a representative of God. It is, indeed, the concept of appearances that has confused us as to what influence is in actuality. That confusion has, consequently, led to forgetting the reason behind the creation of lofty appearances earlier in time, even if it was a result of flawed thinking.Sam Polk, a former hedge-fund trader and founder of a non-profit organisation, Groceryships, brilliantly scrutinized the reality of the addictive rat race of amassing money in a New York Times article saying that the money-spawning Wall Street, in reality, is “a toxic culture that encourages the grandiosity of people who are desperately trying to feel powerful”.Thus, today, the focus of our society has been reduced merely to the goal of generating easy money. Money that is easily earned does not worry about the path or means chosen for reaping it. Every professional field has ample of evidence with this regard, in fact, every professional field has become an example of this problem.Whether it is a doctor prescribing extra medications or recommending unnecessary laboratory tests to earn extra commission; or a judge ‘fixing’ a case with a politically influential defendant in return for a nomination to be elected to the District Court; or even a teacher passing a failing student, who goes to his/her house for private tuitions; or the role of media in selectively portraying jigsaws of a scenario that misrepresents the entire picture of truth to please governments and ruling powers of the world; the evil of easy money tempts and ensnares us with its shiny traps in every sphere and every nook and corner of our lives.Deep down everyone knows between right and wrong. Every one of us feels a pang of guilt when we are about to board the bus leading to bribery, dishonesty, greed, et cetera. The effects of friction between our conscience and our choice are terser, initially. However, with time and continuality, the friction smoothens out and choosing a wrong, but an easier path, to our goals doesn’t seem to disconcert us.In fact, calculated steps are taken by big businesses and governments to erase the divide between what is the right or wrong method and/or means of earning an honest livelihood, as it, ultimately, means expansion and prosperity for them in this chain reaction. So is the case with Islamic finance and the concept of Sukuk – Sharee’ah bonds.A conventional bond is a certificate which, as per the terms set, when once bought from the issuer requires the issuer to pay the holder of the bond the face value in addition to the agreed amount of interest when it reaches maturity, or to pay other benefits, such as prizes given by drawing lots, or payment of a fixed amount, or any rebate. It is an asset-based investment, where the holder of the bond, strictly, does not have ownership of any tangible assets associated with the investment they made, save the certificate.According to the Islamic Fiqh Council, having any kind of dealing with bonds of the above stated terms is haraam (forbidden) no matter whom it is issued by and no matter what name it is given as a disguise, according to the Sharee’ah (Islamic law), because they are riba-based loans, and riba (interest) is haraam in Islam.The reason why Islam strictly forbids dealing in interest in any arrangement is because it is deemed an exploitation. In Islam, if a person contributes towards the capital of any business, they should be entitled to ownership of the associated assets and an equal bearer of the profits and loss of the assets they are backing.There have been Muslims, who, despite knowing that interest is forbidden in Islam, have voluntarily dealt in it, because of the lure of easy money. However, there has been a great number of Muslims, who have consciously avoided going down this path, adhering strictly to their religious doctrines. This, evidently, was a big loss for banks and businesses that were interest-oriented. Therefore, to include that large section of the Muslim population that avoided dealing in interest-based money, the big fish in the world of finance, came up with the idea of “Islamicizing” banks and other concomitant businesses, and as a result, bonds, too.What started off with a fa├žade of a sincere attempt at creating Islamic banks, which was a huge success among the Muslim masses, very soon overtly degenerated into the capitalist pothole. The only difference that remains today betwixt common banks and Islamic banks is the inclusion and/or exclusion of the term Islamic. The products on offer at Islamic banks are the same that are offered by a conventional bank, barring the difference in English and Arabic terminology.Semantics does not really qualify as a stamp of religious approval and, frankly, accounts to nothing. A spade is a spade no matter what colour it comes in. The fact is that 97% of the world’s money is intangible, created not by the governments, but by banks when loans are made. That money is only visible in our bank statements. Therefore, if banks were creating Islamic finance products, it obviously was not going to be based on tangible cash, as it only existed in electronic form.Correspondingly, Sukuk (bonds) are also one of the concomitant features of “Islamic” banking and have been extensively endorsed by many Islamic banks. The market of Sukuk has rapidly augmented in recent years with a net worth of billions of dollars. So much so, that CNBC called the year 2014 as the year of Sukuk bonds.Traditionally, what differentiated Sukuk (bonds) from conventional bonds was that the buyer of Sukuk became its legal owner of a portion of an/some asset sold by the issuer. The buyer is then allowed to rent that portion of the asset(s) to the issuer.Consequently, the assets should be tangible, with physical substance rather than an intangible asset. Perceptibly, this concept is much more secure than that of the conventional bond dealing with electronic money – a substitute for hard cash.It was not that the concept of Sukuk was drastically different than conventional bonds that made it such a hit, but, predominantly, the fact that they were backed by religious scholars that ignited its phenomenal growth. Since Sukuk issuers did not follow this traditional concept but a tweaked concept of Sukuk bonds, where the buyer does not get ownership of the assets that he/she buys. The namesake Sukuks were just as intangible as the conventional bonds, which is in violation of the Sharee’ah.According to a Bloomberg’s report, Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, chairman of the Bahrain-based Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), an authentic authority on Islamic finance, stated that 80% to 85% of Sukuk issued were not in compliance with the Sharee’ah.But, as stated earlier, corruption and its infesting claws have reached every capillary of the human world, and thus, in order to procure the respectability of religion and beguile the uninformed Muslim, and, of course, the partially tempted Muslim, Islamic approval is bought from dishonest and immoral, shady ‘scholars’. As per a BBC report, a Dubai-based investment banker revealed that the same products that are offered at conventional banks and businesses are created, however, for them to be Sharee’ah compliant, the banks keep trying their luck with Islamic scholars by calling them up one after the other, until finally, one cedes into the easy income in the form of a handsome bribe and sells his services that include, the glowing Fatwa (seal of Sharee’ah approval).Even the method of gaining an approval is not an example of ingenuity, just like the products. Obtaining approval via bribery in the financial market has been in existence since a long time. You can draw a parallel with the way investment banks bribe rating agencies to award their conventional bonds with a triple A rating.In consequence, with the endorsement of this ‘legal’ deception, the same conventional banking products, albeit with a new dress of Arabic terminology and religious sanction, are sold to millions of this fresh, unexplored sector of the Muslim population, which was difficult to access prior to this stroke of imitativeness.Nonetheless, all is not gloomy. What still remains with us is of great significance and that is the liberty of choice.Times are tough, we have to walk on tiptoes to safeguard ourselves from falling victims to the lure of easy money, yet we have the independence of making our decision, whether it is to yield into the materialistic world or honour our sense of conscientiousness.We will be beset with fraudulence and trickery every step of the way, whether exploiting us in a disguise of religious sanctity, or through some other agency that appeals to our sense of right and values. But then again, essentially, we have been bequeathed with the faculty of thought, analysis, and making calculated decisions. What decisions we make will be decisive of who we are as individuals.The Panama Papers incident should make us question whether the ‘influential’ public figures of today were successful in earning respect for themselves through their scheme of making easy money. That should serve as a reminder and what we should ask ourselves before giving into ways of generating easy money is: whether it really is going to make us more influential, or not? Whether earning money through someone else’s hard work, actually, accounts for anything, or not? Whether influence exists without values, without honesty, without honour and integrity? Whether influence really is directly proportional to the accumulation of wealth?

Brainstorming The Ideas for Influencing Your Mobile App Audience

Once the app is downloaded, you have little time to take a sigh of relief, and then again start focusing on making things easier for the them till their goal is achieved.

According to the AppsFlyer, an app marketing company, the global uninstall rate for apps after 30 days is 28%. Entertainment apps are most frequently deleted, whereas apps based on Finance is least frequently deleted. No matter which app category you belong to, your strategy should be to remain in the mobile phones of users for a long time, and not just sit around but to fulfill your purpose as well.

If we analyze the encounters of users with an app step by step, it can help us unveil the critical factors that influence mobile app audiences, so that we can work upon those and achieve our purpose. Here are the details:

Step1. Finding Your App in Appstore

For this, we have to first find out what exactly users type to search an app. Based on a research, it has been found that 47% app users on iOS confirmed that they found the app through the App Store’s search engine and 53% app users on Android confirmed the same.

What have been their search queries? Interestingly, as the per the data provided by the TUNE research, 86% of the top 100 keywords were brands.With little scope for non-branded categories, most of the keywords were either of games of utility apps. Common keywords in the non branded category are: games, free games, VPN, calculator, music, photo editor, and weather.

Leaving brands aside, if we analyze the user-type of a Non-branded category, we will get two types of users:

1. Users are informed, and they know what they are search

2. Users are exploring possibilities, have no precise information in mind.

If you are a mobile app development company, targeting non-branded users, then your efforts must be directed to creating apps that compel these two types of users. To do so, we have to analyze once they are on an app store, what keywords they use to search. Regina Leuwer, with expertise in marketing & communications, bring some light to the subject. She reached out Sebastian Knopp, creator of app store search intelligence tool appkeywords, who shared with her the data of unique trending search phrases. And according to that data, in 2017, there were around 2,455 unique search phrases trending in the US.

Now, if we study these data to get information, we will find that name of the app is critical to attract the attention of the users.

If your app belongs to non-branded category, then make sure your app name is similar to the common search queries but also unique in comparison with your competitors. So that when your app name is flashed, they click it on to it, finding it purposeful and compelling both.

Step 2. Installation

Remember your users are on mobile devices has limited resources, from battery to storage and RAM to Internet. Everything is limited. So better create an application that is easy to download or say get downloaded with 5 minutes. One critical advice here:

1. Keep the application file size small.

If you are a developer, use APK Analyser to find out which part of the application is consuming maximum space. You can also reduce classes.dex file and res folder that contains images, raw files, and XML.

Step 3. Onboarding

After the user has successfully downloaded your mobile application, don’t leave anything on assumptions. Guide them properly. This you can do through an onboarding process, where users can learn the key functionality and where to begin with the mobile app. Below are the 3 things you need to keep in your mind when creating an onboarding process for your users.

Short and Crisp: The entire guidance of features and functions should be completed within few seconds, with easy options loud and clear option to skip.

Precise Information: Don’t introduce them to the app. They already know what they have downloaded. The objective to inform about the key functions and features.

Allow Users to Skip: Let the tech-savvy users skip the intro. Your app is to meet their requirement and not to have a friendly session.

Step 4. Purpose and UI
Here, the stage is set for your app and it is the golden chance for you to impress your users. What is needed here is the collaboration between purpose and UI of the app. It totally depends on the problem-solving capability and ease of use of the mobile app. Interface design plays the critical role, allowing the users to access features of the apps easily and quickly to perform the task for what they have downloaded the app. When it comes to interface design, make sure that the design is interactive and task-oriented. Here are some factors that you must take care off while creating mobile app interface:

1. Usability: The Mobile phone is an epitome of convenience and if your users find it difficult to use your app, then there is no way there are going to make the space for it in their mobile phones. From screen size to the color of the app, there are many factors that are equally critical and need attention.

2. Intuitive: To create an intuitive User Interface, you have to read the mind of the users, and develop a model based on that. The next should be precise, clear and ‘obvious’ in an interface.

3. Availability: Key features should be hidden in the drop down menu or even if so, it should be obvious for the user to look into the drop-down. An intricate work of design and research is required to make essential features available for the customers and they don’t need to navigate here and there.

If you need more help with the user-interface and innovative ideas for a mobile app, write to me [email protected] and I promise to get back to you with interesting mobile app designs.