When in need of change…

‘Getting by’ can be a daily struggle. Most of us on this island struggle to get by on an everyday basis. What’s the struggle really? What’s causing it? Is there anything that can be done to avoid or ease it?  

The struggle, no matter what the situation, no matter who the individual, is real. The struggle to live; a content and a comfortable life. Take a look around you – from the man who comes to the door every Monday to pick up the garbage to the employee sitting at her office desk waiting for the next paycheck, are dealing with difficulties every single day of their lives. Money; as we know is hard to come by and yet, spent easily.

It isn’t really about bad management. Us Sri Lankans don’t just waste away our money. Okay, maybe a few of us do. Rather on the wider scale of things, it’s the cost of necessities and the laws of this country that are taking it away as it comes. Atop every necessity required, there’s a tax imposed. Atop savings, there’s yet another tax.

Chairman and Founder of Ceylon Solutions, Marion Mariathasan immigrated to Kansas at the age of 9. He may not have spent most of his years in Sri Lanka, but maintains a close connection as the company’s development team overlooked and managed by CEO Sanjeeva Wijaya, is based here. “I’m very much a Sri Lankan at heart, and I understand there are struggles faced by the middle-class in my motherland. There are core fundamentals, ethics and values in order to develop a successful company. At the root of such a company, lies the hardworking employees. If we don’t give in to the notion of keeping them happy, supporting their ideas and investing in their well-being, then what’s the point?”

Marion Mariathasan

“I’ve come to understand that my most valuable experiences over the years have come from traveling, and the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with. I’ve learned that humility and kindness are virtues I admire the most, and that no matter the level of education, wealth, power and status, everyone is equal. The depreciating rupee value has made me understand that this creates tough living conditions for our local team based in Sri Lanka. Which is why, as a company, we agreed to increase everyone’s salary from the month of November, 2018,” said Marion.

As the cost of living rises, the daily struggles continue. How much is a 1,000 rupee note worth today? If you step outside your home, is it enough to get by? If you aren’t someone who takes public transport, getting from one place to another will cost you more than a couple of rupees. Your three meals will cost you a few more. There are bills to pay. Rent to settle. Taxes that eat away at your bank balance. Children’s education. Personal expenses. The list goes on.

We fail to understand the notion and similarities of every living human. We fail to understand that along with the rise of the cost of living, a stagnant salary isn’t going to suffice. “As a company, we want our employees to have a work environment that is healthy and uplifting; a life that is just so too. An unchanged salary hereon, isn’t going to make the cut when people struggle to make ends meet. We want our employees to live a happy and content life and in order to do that they must also be happy in their workplace. The most important thing is to help one another, give back to the community and this is certainly one way of doing it,” he added.

Marion and I further discussed how passionate and career-driven Sri Lankans can be, and yet why they continue to struggle and get by in life. “People don’t have an incentive to work harder, to be better and to come up with better or new ideas. There’s a hierarchy when it comes to a working environment – something that does not exist within our company. Creating different levels of standards means a junior employee is afraid to voice his or her opinion and is most often simply told what to do, instead of being allowed to grow and express him or herself. We mustn’t restrict our employees this way; we should be encouraging them to speak out, to voice their thoughts and opinions. Myself along with Sanjeeva and the rest of the team believe we should be making them feel valued and important instead of the other way round.”

Most often, businesses and companies tend to fail, have employee containment and job satisfaction issues due to these very reasons. Ceylon Solutions on the other hand believe in putting their employees first – allowing them to feel valued and thereby creating a healthy work environment. Billionaire philanthropist Richard Branson once said “look after your staff first, the rest will follow” and by all means, this rings true.

It’s about time there was a change in attitudes. A change to support one another, not just as employees of a company but as individuals. A change that allows growth, encourages stability, and also brings about a deeper sense of understanding one another. I find that what is most lacking throughout the struggles that we face every single day is empathy. If we have empathy towards one another, then we’d understand one another, and we’d support one another and grow together. Marion and his team at Ceylon Solutions provide a fine example of what empathy can embody and how it can change the lives of the people of our island. Perhaps their actions would someday drive others to do the same.

Ceylon Solutions was founded in 2005 and is based in Denver, with offices in New York City, Dallas as well as Sri Lanka. It is a software development company committed to delivering high-quality development services. Based on each client’s specific needs, the company handpicks a personalized development team of experienced coders and engineers in Sri Lanka, while still operating under US law.  

http://www.ceylonsolutions.com

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Living by the Latte Factor

At the beginning of every year, it’s always the same mind frame – try not to over spend; it’s about time I spent wisely. It never works, or rather is works for a short while and then not, and then again for a while and then again not. A friend of mine recently brought to light ‘the latte factor’. I immediately assumed this had to do with cups of coffee but how daft was I.  

According to Modesty Money, the latte factor is unconscious spending on the little everyday things that do not add value to our lives. This got me thinking. I mean, who doesn’t unconsciously spend on a cup of coffee in the morning, or a chunky moist brownie in the evening, or a new stylish pair of shoes on whim? There’s also the weekly stash of snacks you buy just to munch on while you watch your favourite tv shows, the soft gummy candy, the luscious scented handmade soap, a new journal with a funky cover that all adds up to little everyday things that really don’t add much value to yours or my life.  

How does this little spendings every now and then cause a dent in your bank account? Here’s an example – a weekly cup of coffee from a decent café in town could cost you say Rs. 500. For a month, that’s you spending Rs. 2,000 and for a year that’s Rs. 24,000. The number may seem to surprise you, but this is just assuming it’s one cup of regular coffee a week. Say you have twice that amount a week? That’s Rs. 48,000 a year spent on cups of coffee alone. Bet you didn’t imagine that!  

I’m someone who loves to eat out. My best friend and I tend to try out new restaurants and cafes so we bust quite a bit of cash on food and drinks. It’s something we love to do so I feel it doesn’t really fall into the category of the latte factor but here’s an example of how overspending can really cause a dent in your bank account if you aren’t mindful about it. Let’s said a single meal costs you Rs. 1,500 at a decent restaurant, this may include a regular drink or iced beverage. Twice a week? That’s Rs. 3,000. For a month that’s Rs. 12,000 and for a year? A whooping Rs. 144,000. I’ll let that settle in before you read further.  

What the latte factor does is shed light on the dangers of habitual yet unconscious spending. Rs 500 here and there won’t look like much but with a bird’s eye view of your every day or every other day spendings, it presents a clear and yet scary image of your financial habits.  

Recognizing the latte factor and changing a few habits isn’t going to make you rich. What it’ll do is, regulate or somewhat discipline your everyday spending habits in the long run. In reality, putting a complete stop to our habits and things we enjoy buying is extremely hard. I’ve been trying for a week and well, I feel like a cheap dud but I know I’m just cutting down on unnecessary spending so I tell myself it’s okay. The occasional cup of coffee or new book is alright. You deserve it. You see, the latte factor isn’t about holding on to every last cent or rupee until you’re old and wrinkly; it just sheds light on the unnecessary parts of literally throwing away money for no good measure or with no meaning.  

According to Modesty Money, the latte factor is about looking at everyday spendings and cutting down on what does not bring you joy or has no proper value to you. That is what needs to be eliminated. Cancel that gym membership you’ve had forever because you’ve not been going. Don’t give it to the temptation of a sale just because the prices would be reduced. Don’t turn your home cooked meal away and run to the nearest best café in town just because you feel like it. Think about it. This is about curbing unnecessary spendings, saving your hard earned money and possibly even investing wisely.

Good luck!