Friday, August 3, 2007

Perceptions of others

I had a insurance salesman come to see me on the farm yesterday. I was in shorts and a banyan working in my kade, serving my customers, weighing 10 kilos of my red samba to sell him, and cutting some seeni kehel to give him.

He patiently waited and then once I was free, started talking to me on the merits of all the types of insurance, for my enterprise. He was from Sri Lanka Insurance, and just moved to this area from Panadura, and was renting a house. All his children work abroad. He gathered that I had lived overseas for many years and that I had come back to Sri Lanka to make a go of it here. He saw what I did for a living first hand selling my rice that I grow in my paddy fields in Hingurakgoda to a customer at my Kade in Godagama, and assumed it was an amusing pastime for a man of means.

I had to gently explain that I had mortgaged my last insurance policy with Sri Lanka insurance, that my mother had started 20 years ago and which still has 10 more years to mature, so that I can raise funds to run this business. It was a 100,000 I had borrowed.

He found it incredulous that I did not have the funds to pay a monthly premium of any sort, and that I only wanted a term policy, so that in the event of my death, someone can continue to run this for a time, without being forced to make a hasty decision arising out of a lack of funds. He said that they did not sell a term policy, which in my opinion is the simplest of insurance policies, and because agents don't get large commissions and is a pure actuarial calculation on expected life expectancy with no investment attached, I was shocked that they did not offer it.

My intention here is just to show an example of the continuous problem I face with people who make assumptions of my life, and this happens with my friends past and present who really don't know me and what I am about. I am working hard to build a business from my boot straps, with a starting point being an existing farm that I inherited from my father, which was not cash flow positive. It is as simple as that. I do not have any funds of my own to invest, I just have to build on what I have and work at making the whole venture successful.

As a result of this I have been forced to isolate myself from many people, as they assume I have funds and am living the high life. People look at the value of the property and not what I am attempting to do from it. If I explain to people I actually do not spend any money on myself, as I have to meet my expenses, they don't understand. I have a gross income of about 200,000 a month and expenses slightly higher than that so I need to borrow to fill the gap, and eventually have to repay my loan, even the loan I borrowed just recently from my insurance policy.

I have about 8 peoples wages to pay, then I have to make my lease payment on my Tata cab as well as the maintenance which has been very costly. I then have to spend about 18,000 a month on Diesel as I travel to Polonnaruwa to bring my produce. This cost is rising daily. I have to repair and replace all the time. I need to get an electric water pump for Godagama as the old Kubota 2inch kerosene pump as just given up the ghost. I need the pump as I have to irrigate the plantings, and fortunately the rains in the past few months has allowed me some delay in making this commitment and setting aside about 15,000 for it as I have to also buy electrical wire from the pump to the house to run it.

The people on the farm can attest to the fact that only one meal is cooked in the house, due to the price of LP gas, and I am very economical eating the left overs from the Kade, thereby incurring almost a zero cost of food.

I have to buy fertilizer, plants, seeds, and essentials for farming. My dairy is currently running at a loss in cash flow terms, as I only get 22/- for a litre of milk and I am trying to get my customers to buy fresh milk from me at 40/- a bottle in the morning instead of them buying powdered milk at 200/- for 400grams, a far more nutritious alternative in my opinion.

All these measures to earn a living working seven days a week, none of my staff work seven day weeks. Its a struggle, it has its ups and downs, but when bureaucracy as shown in the articles below intercede making my already difficult like harder, that's when one feels the odds are stacked against people trying to make an honest buck.

Today Friday, was delivering 500 King Coconuts, but to make it economical I need to deliver 700 nuts. However the weather is against me now in selling that quantity and had to settle for less. I have a different task everyday and a different set of obstacles to face. I am glad I am healthy to carry on, but my irritation level rises when those who should know better come up with asinine assumptions that are just not true.

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