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Phd Student / PhD in Management Science
« on: October 17, 2014, 03:47:09 PM »

PhD in Management Science

The doctoral programme in Management Science offers students the ideal opportunity to research in depth as a prelude to an academic or consulting career.
Aims and student support

The programme is highly interactive with a large number of students in operational research, operations management, and information systems and e-business. There are many opportunities to interact with faculty, industry, and co-students, both formal and informal. This offers a supportive environment in which to study.

For highly qualified students both home, EU and overseas, scholarships are available. In particular, the department has a large number of enhanced studentships available for UK students. Students may also be funded through scholarships from their home employer.

Each student will have a member of staff appointed as a supervisor to guide the research study. Where it is helpful two supervisors may be appointed. Part-time students working a significant distance from Lancaster may additionally have a local research adviser.

Students are assigned a study room and new computer, and as they progress through the programme are funded to attend appropriate conferences and workshops, both national and international.
Programme outline

The first year of study is normally a probationary year for all research students. During their first few months, students normally spend their time in a review of the literature in their chosen area of research and conduct initial research to help to develop a more precise topic for their thesis. Students are encouraged to attend any of the Masters courses or research training courses offered by the Management School, where this is appropriate to their personal development or research goals.

Formal assessments of progress are made at suitable intervals, with the first taking place no later than the end of the first fifteen months of research. If all goes well, the student is confirmed as a PhD student and continues the research to submit a thesis for the award of a doctorate, typically within 3+ years. Alternatively the student may be allowed to submit a thesis for the award of MPhil.
Choosing a PhD research topic

Students considering applying for a PhD should choose one (or two) of the following areas and write a brief description of the research they interested in,

    Forecasting and Market Modelling
    Risk Management
    Health Systems
    Systems/Soft OR
    Information Systems and Technology
    Supply Chain Management and Modelling

Details of the different research areas are given through the links above. If there is a particular topic you are interested in we encourage you to write to a potential supervisor directly. But it’s always better to work on topics close to the supervisor(s)’ interests.

Note that the department does not supervise in all areas of management. Potential students interested in other topics should visit here.
Funding for PhD students

The department has a large number of studentships available for EU/UK students and a limited number for overseas students. The department welcomes applications from all quantitatively strong students, even those with no background in operational research or management science; and applicants with strong backgrounds in operations management, information systems and associated business disciplines. In addition to internal funding, these stem from some major grants.


Please refer here for detailed information about the funding.
Alumni and job opportunities

A doctorate in Management Science  from Lancaster University Management School offers many job opportunities, both within university education and research and within industry and commerce, in particular consulting. Profiles of recent graduates are available here. For example, distinguished graduates of ours have held jobs in the UK Universities of Bath, Warwick, Strathclyde and Lancaster.

Europian Union / Scholarship in Icelandic
« on: October 17, 2014, 03:34:28 PM »
Applications are invited for Icelandic Government Scholarships available for the period from September 1st 2015 to April 30th 2016. Approximately 15 scholarships will be awarded for students of modern Icelandic. Icelandic as a second language is comprised of both theoretical and practical fields of study.

Europian Union / Scholarship in Belgium
« on: October 17, 2014, 03:32:34 PM »
Scholarships in Belgium

Scholarships : Call for Applications 2015-2016 is now open.

The application form can be downloaded from our website here.,/

Europian Union / Scholarship in Finland
« on: October 17, 2014, 03:30:27 PM »
 Finnish Government Scholarship Pool

Are you looking for the list of successful applicants 2014-2015?

The Finnish Government offers scholarships of 3-9 months for Doctoral level studies and research at Finnish universities or public research institutes. The Finnish Government Scholarship Pool programme is open to young researchers from all academic fields. The scholarship cannot be applied for Master's level studies or post-Doctoral studies/research.

China / Various link in China
« on: October 17, 2014, 03:28:10 PM »

Copyright / Copyright infringement: Bangladesh & India perspective
« on: September 07, 2014, 10:36:47 AM »

Posted : 07 Sep, 2014 00:00:00
Copyright infringement: Bangladesh & India perspective

M S Siddiqui

Coping of products of competitors has a long history as a practice ignoring the right of the innovator. Japan gained western technology in the form of reverse engineering after Second World War and exported products to Asian countries and developed their economy. They are rightly followed by Korea, Taiwan and China to offer products and equipment at a very low price and become economic powers. They were fortunate that the patent and copy right laws could not apply effectively beyond the borders.

Now the world is almost a single market with reforms applied by the multilateral agreement on Trade related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). All WTO members are pledge-bound to TRIPS rules for IP rights and protection of infringement of copyright.

Copyright protects literary (whether in written, printed or digital form), musical and artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, broadcasts, programme-carrying signals, computer programmes etc. It is for protection of the rights and interest of both authors and publishers.

Piracy of books is a concern and also a cheapest mean of collecting books. The physical property (the book) is separate from the intellectual property (the content) contained in it. Ownership of the book is not the same as ownership of the ideas expressed in it. Expression of those ideas belongs to the author. The publisher has a separate copyright in the published edition or the typographical arrangement.

Copyright consists of a whole bundle of rights: the right to reproduce a work; to publish it in a certain territory; or in a certain language. It enters into force through agreements between authors and publishers.

The standard copyright law includes the "first sale doctrine." It says that after that first sale, the buyer may sell or otherwise dispose of that book. A buyer may safely sell or give away any book published in the same country without fear of violating the copyright law. The copyright law prevents from copying a book, but not from reselling the copy bought from the publisher.

The Copyright Act does not say anywhere that someone may copy as much as he likes as long as it is not for commercial purposes. The regulations to the standard law offer certain concessions for educational institutions and for non-profit libraries. These include a defined number of multiple copies strictly for classroom use or discussion, but exclude compilations.

These days unscrupulous publishing industries in many countries practise rampant piracy of books -- textbooks, professional books (scientific, technical and medical), as well as scholarly journals.

The marketing of pirated books at stoplights in New Delhi has reached epidemic proportions, despite repeated complaints to the Delhi authorities. All varieties of pirated books, from poor quality cover-to-cover photocopies and obviously pirated cheap reprints, to hardbound, high quality copies of medical reference volumes, are readily available. The Nilkhet market near the University of Dhaka is the centre of photo copying of books for students. Most of the books are from India with mark "for Sale in India" and some books from USA and Europe. Both Bangladesh and India are in infringement of copyright of US or European copyright holders.

One of the reasons for piracy in Bangladesh and India is the poor purchasing power. A study on Bangladeshi book market observed that the respondents do not want to pay more than Tk 250 per book. A majority of the Indian publishers reports pricing a bestseller at as low as 95 rupees to boost legitimate sales.

The worst sufferers of piracy are the western authors and publishers. Some US and European publishers have authorised publishers in India of their books intended for the Indian market. But there are plenty of books pirated regularly and sold and distributed through out the country as a clear reflection of absence of any mentionable punitive measures. The US has placed India this year (2014) on the Priority Watch List with an Out-of-Cycle Review (OCR) highlighting the increasing importance of the role of IP in the world's second most populous country. The other priority watch listing included Pakistan in the region. The book market in Bangladesh is yet to be under such scanner, but it was very much under watch for piracy of disk and CD. Indian authors and publishers have concern of piracy of their books in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has an updated law of copyrights since 2000 but it needs further modification. There is both civil and criminal remedy in case of infringement of copyrights. Civil suits provide remedy for claiming compensation for infringement of copyright and loss of profits as well. The owner of the copyright can go for civil suits in which actions such as-- search order injunction and damages can be sought. Administrative remedies consist of moving the Registrar of copyright to ban import of infringing copies into Bangladesh, when the infringement is by way of such importation and the delivery of the confiscated infringing copies to the owner of the copyright. They can destroy counterfeit/pirated goods, if the act of infringement is proved by the court of Law. Criminal remedies provide for the imprisonment of the accused or imposition of fine or both, seizure of infringing copies.

It is expected that over time the copyright situation in this region will improve through awareness building, improvement in financial capacity and effective enforcement of law.

India is both beneficiary and loser as result of infringement, and Bangladesh is a beneficiary in the short run. Bangladesh and India can work closely to prevent infringement of copyrights with active administrative and judicial support.

August 4, 2014 by Benedict Dellot
Filed under: Enterprise

This week the RSA and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation launch a new project exploring the living standards of the self-employed. Over the course of the coming months our aim will be to pinpoint the particular economic and social challenges facing people who work for themselves, consolidate emerging thinking around how these might be addressed, and build up a network of support organisations willing to collaborate on the development of practical and policy interventions. The rationale for the project is unpacked below.

Self-employment in the UK is growing rapidly. Since the turn of the century there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of people working for themselves, which equates to an extra 1.4m workers. The result is that 1 in 7 of the workforce are now self-employed – one of the highest figures in living memory. Nor does this trend show any sign of coming to an end. Over the last 6 months alone an extra 300,000 more people have turned to self-employment. Should these rates continue, the RSA predicts that the number of people who work for themselves will soon be greater than the size of the public sector workforce.

The fact that this community is growing is seldom contested. Where there is disagreement, however, is in what lies behind the boom and whether the growth in self-employment is a ‘good thing’ for those involved, as well as for the nation as a whole. For some, the increase witnessed in recent years is a sign of a fragmented labour market and a deeper malaise in the wider economy. For others, the trend is indicative of a resurgent entrepreneurial spirit in the UK, and as such should be welcomed and actively supported.

Whatever the viewpoint taken, it is clear that the labour market is unlikely to return to business as usual in the foreseeable future. Indeed, the RSA’s recent report on self-employment, Salvation in a Start-up?, argues that high rates self-employment should be seen as a permanent feature of our economic landscape rather than a fleeting phenomenon brought about by the economic downturn. The implication is that government and others should begin designing policies and interventions that go with the grain of this structural shift, whether that is in welfare, housing or education.

Currently, however, many of the self-employed believe they are overlooked by the state. Only 14 per cent of those surveyed in an RSA/Populus poll said that the government adequately supports people like them, and just 11 per cent that the welfare system is fair to the self-employed. Particular concerns have been raised that Universal Credit has been designed with little regard for those who work for themselves, since it requires the self-employed to reach a minimum income standard in a given period that few will realistically achieve. Similarly, the Mortgage Market Review has been called into question over its recommendations that are likely to make it more difficult for the self-employed to access mortgages.

These issues matter especially because the self-employed are one of the most vulnerable groups in the labour market. While polling by the RSA found that the vast majority (88 per cent) of the self-employed are happier working for themselves, their financial situation is typically worse than those in employment. Our analysis of the Family Resources Survey shows that median weekly earnings of the full-time self-employed are 20 per cent lower than their counterparts in conventional work, while research by the Resolution Foundation found that only 30 per cent are contributing to a pension, compared with over 50 per cent of employees. Indeed, it is likely that a large number of the self-employed will be part of the growing group of people in ‘in-work poverty’, as highlighted by JRF’s research.

In recent years the government has sought to support the business community through a number of measures, including the establishment of the StartUp Loans scheme and various tax and regulatory breaks such as National Insurance Contribution holidays. But these have overwhelmingly centred on the business entity rather than the person running the business. With multiple studies highlighting the precarious nature of self-employment, in future government policy and non-state interventions will increasingly need to focus on the latter – improving the living standards of the self-employed and enabling them to flourish as individuals. A key ambition should be to reduce poverty levels among this group, and to address the disadvantages faced by certain communities, for instance the self-employed in particular BAME groups.

The purpose of this project is to map the key challenges facing people who work for themselves, as well as to understand the nascent thinking around support that is developing in this area. Several research organisations and advocacy groups have begun to explore the issues facing the self-employed, and each will have their own views on which support mechanisms are best. The unions, for example, are likely to concentrate on addressing issues such as false self-employment, while think-tanks such as the Resolution Foundation will have ideas on how to adapt elements of the welfare system such as Universal Credit and pensions. The RSA is particularly interested in how the self-employed can act together to support one another, including through new co-operative models.

By bringing this emergent thinking together, we can ensure that the support community achieves more than the sum of its parts. The ambition of this project is not to generate fully-formed plans for policies and interventions, but rather to lay the groundwork for their development by mapping the landscape of challenges facing the self-employed – including those facing particular groups such as migrant communities and disabled workers. Future phases of the project will flesh-out in greater detail how our thinking might be turned into practical action.

Business Information / Factoring: A better alternative to L/C
« on: August 31, 2014, 11:10:50 PM »
Posted : 23 Aug, 2014 , Saturday

Factoring: A better alternative to L/C

M S Siddiqui

Payment for international trade is an issue that usually poses difficulties to businesspersons and other stakeholders. In international trade, both the buyer and the seller are concerned with the completion of the deal. The buyer wants to be sure that he receives the goods of the quantity and quality as agreed. On the other hand, the seller is eager to receive payments on time once he has sent the goods. In order to meet these demands, various methods of payment have been developed.

There are basically four methods of making payment in international transactions. These are: i) cash in advance, ii) open account, iii) documentary collection and iv) documentary credit.

Under the cash in advance payment terms, the exporter receives payment before the ownership of goods is transferred. An open account transaction is a sale where the goods are shipped and delivered before payment is due, as per agreement for payment after a certain period of time, which is usually 30 to 90 days. A documentary collection on account of letters of credit (LC) is a transaction whereby the exporter receives the payment after sending all shipping documents (Invoice, Packing List, etc.) through his bank to the importer's bank. A documentary credit is a commitment by a bank to a bank of the seller on behalf of the buyer that payment will be made to the exporter provided that the terms and conditions stated in the L.C. have been met, through the presentation of all required documents. In addition to these, another option, Factoring, is being used by the businesses of different parts of the world for settlement of trade transactions.

L/C is useful when reliable credit information about a foreign buyer is difficult to obtain, but the exporter is satisfied with the creditworthiness of the buyer's foreign bank.  L/C is a commitment by a bank on behalf of the buyer that payment will be made to the exporter's bank provided that the terms and conditions stated in the L/C have been met. In Bangladesh, about 90 per cent (both in terms of the number of cases and amount) import payments from the country is made through L/C and 75 per cent (in volume) of export payments are obtained through L/C and the other methods such as documentary collection which accounts for about 32.50 per cent and advance payments for an insignificant 0.5 per cent. The other two methods -- cash in advance and documentary collection -- are less used methods for international trade payments.

L/C is a contractual agreement between the importer's and exporter's bank, whereby acting on behalf of their customers banks make payment to the exporters against receipt of stipulated documents. L/C is a separate contract from the sales contract on which it is based; therefore, the bank is not concerned whether each party fulfils the terms of the sales contract. The bank's obligation to pay is solely conditioned upon the seller's compliance with the terms and conditions of the L/C. In L/C transactions, banks deal with documents only, not goods. Due to the condition of security and margin requirements, the importers face serious time constraints and other problems for opening an L/C.

The importer may face the risk of non-delivery, short shipment, late shipment and failure of banks during the period of settlement, although some of the risks can be minimised by having a well-formulated international sales and purchase contract. The importer's bank may also face the insolvency of the importer.

The conference of International Institute for Unification of Private Laws (UNIDROIT) on Factoring held in May 1988 defines that Factoring is an arrangement between a Factor and his client which includes at least two of the services as: (a) finance, (b) maintenance of accounts, (c) collection of debts and (d) protection against credit risks. Usually, the Factor pays the client about 80 per cent of the value of the receivable and the remaining amount is paid by collecting from the debtor after the deduction of charges.

There are different institutions currently at work to support and strengthen the mechanism. Among these, the prominent ones are the International Factors Group (IFG) and the Factors Chain International (FCI). These are associations of Factoring organisations or Factors from all over the world. IFG was founded in 1963 as the first international association of Factoring companies. The original mission of IFG was to help Factoring companies to conduct cross-border business acting as correspondents for each other.

Factoring can be classified as Domestic Factoring and International Factoring. Domestic factoring can be: (1) Bulk factoring, (b) Maturity factoring, (c) Agency Factoring, (d) Invoice discounting and (e) Undisclosed factoring. It can be again of two types such as: (a) Factoring without recourse and (b) Factoring with recourse.

The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) convention defines international Factoring as "an agreement between an exporter and factor whereby the factor purchases the trade debt from the exporter and provides the services such as finance, maintenance of sales ledger, collection of debts, and protection against credit risks". There are various forms of international factoring. It basically depends on the exporters' needs and cost bearing capacity, and security to the Factors. These are: "Two factor system", "Direct export Factoring", "Direct Import Factoring" and "Back to Back Factoring". Among these types, the Two Factor System gives some added benefits.

The Two Factor System requires completing the payment settlement under the two Factor system where the Factors are situated in different countries. The Factors communicate with each other through IFG and FCI for credit checking and assignment of invoices which facilitates fund transfer.

The system involves four agreements, one between the exporter and the importer, one between the export Factor (Bank) and the exporter and one between importer and his Factor (Bank), one between the Factors themselves. It is important to bear in mind that the import Factor's obligations are to the export Factor alone and they include determining the importer's credit rating and the actual collection of the debts. The import Factor assumes the credit risk in relation to approved debts and is responsible for the transfer of funds to the export Factor. On the other hand, the export Factor is responsible to the import Factor for the acceptance of any recourse.

Factoring supports the exporter to predict the cash flow with its flexible form of finance and guaranteed payment on time. The export Factors immediately finance up to a certain percentage of the eligible export receivables. The export Factor checks information about the debtors in the importing country from its own database and if the information is absent in the database, the Factor collects information about the Factor with the help of the counterparts in the importing country. Thus the exporter knows about his clients in detail which helps him to have a healthy portfolio. Factors use different hedge strategies to protect the clients from the risk of currency fluctuation. In Factoring, the banks of importer and exporter became part of the three contracts and work together to execute the deal with less risk and hassle of breach of contracts.

Factoring is gaining popularity in international trade as a better alternative to Letter of Credit. The disadvantage of the system is the expense involved but considering the risk in other options and lengthy procedures, it is considered a better choice for both importers and exporters.

In Bangladesh, Factoring is practised by different NBFIs (non-bank financial institutions) like IDLC, United Leasing, Lanka Bangla Finance and others at domestic level. Among commercial banks, the Eastern bank Ltd. and Trust Bank Ltd. are practising Factoring on a very small scale. This has become possible in Bangladesh due to the publication of a guideline on domestic Factoring by the central bank. Bangladesh can go for international Factoring through enacting a law as done by other countries.

The writer is a legal economist.

Creativity and Entrepreneurship: What’s the Link?

Content provided by a guest contributor.

Business and creativity aren’t generally thought to go hand in hand. The idea is that you have either creative head-in-the-cloud types or practical business types.

But then there’s the entrepreneur, who both creates an innovative new offering, and uses business savvy to try get the market to catch it.

The entrepreneur is more than a business person, but also a creative. The intrepid entrepreneur performs a balancing act between the brain’s left and right hemispheres. So how does the link between entrepreneurship and creativity work?
The chicken or the egg

One way to look at the link is to ask whether an entrepreneur first starts off being creative, or being practical. In other words, which comes first, creativity or practicality? The chicken or the egg?

A common perception is that the entrepreneur must first have that creative spark to get the ball rolling – that initial “eureka!” moment. And that business savvy is required thereafter to bring the idea to fruition.

But that might not always be the case. While a preliminary creative idea is important, that doesn’t mean that creativity isn’t needed throughout the entire process. According to Martin Zwilling, a Forbes contributor, “Experienced entrepreneurs will tell you that the initial idea is the easy part, and it’s the later implementation and the competitive business marketing that are the real creative challenges.”

Sometimes the channels you use, the way you package an idea and how you go about marketing your product requires just as much creativity as that original creative burst of inspiration.

Also, sometimes that “eureka” moment need not be the most creative, innovative idea the world has ever seen to make for a highly successful entrepreneurial endeavour.

Sometimes, what makes many entrepreneurs successful isn’t that they had a once-in-a-lifetime light bulb moment. It may be that their ingenuity lay more in their innovative business solutions. They might even use an idea that’s already been done before by someone else, but tackle it anew from a different perspective, or repackage it in a different way. How often do we see something become hugely successful, even though the idea has been done before by someone else?

Sometimes an entrepreneur is criticised for recycling an idea, but shouldn’t credence be given for being able to look at something that’s already been done, and see a way to do it a different way? After all, creativity just as much recreation as it is creation.

What’s more, like another Forbes contributor, Paul Brown, says, the best entrepreneurs aren’t the ones who come up with the greatest ideas. They’re the ones who solve market needs. So while creativity is a lauded quality of the entrepreneur, don’t forget that a firm, practical grasp of the market is just as important.
What does creativity even mean?

Perhaps we shouldn’t even be thinking of creativity and business-savvy as mutually exclusive concepts.  Creativity requires seeing the connection between seemingly unrelated components. While this is a creative function, it sounds like some kind of real-world practicality would be useful here too.

Entrepreneurs, and others, would do well to exercise both their left and right brains (metaphorically speaking of course, because the left/right brain dichotomy is a myth). There’s a use for the artistically minded to go to business school, and for business types to flex their creative powers.

So asking whether a successful entrepreneur should first begin with a creative idea, or apply creativity during the phase of implementation, is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg? It can’t really be answered, doesn’t really matter, and at the end of the day you need both anyway.


This article was brought to you by Boston City Campus & Business College, one of South Africa’s premier tertiary education institutions.

Copyright (c) 2013, the credited author

Angel Investor / The Purity Of Angel Investing
« on: January 19, 2014, 11:51:21 PM »
The Purity Of Angel Investing

Though I have made a few angel investments here and there over the years, it has never been my primary approach to investing in startups. I joined a venture capital firm when I was 25 years old and have been working at a venture capital firm ever since. I grew up in the business of investing other people's money and that is how I have gone about investing in startups ever since.

Over the past five years, I have watched The Gotham Gal build a portfolio of angel investments. She has invested in almost fifty companies in the past five years and if you include things like restaurants and retail establishments, that number grows to closer to sixty five. She is investing our capital but these are her investments.

As I watch her select her investments and then work with them, I am impressed with the purity of intent that comes with being an angel investor. She invests in people she has confidence in and she invests in businesses that make sense to her. When she engages with her investments, she is giving her advice.

Compare and contrast that with a venture capital firm. A venture capital firm is in business to make money for its investors. They must invest in things that they believe will make money and they must be able to rationalize and explain their investments and their investment strategy. A venture capital firm has multiple partners and its investment decisions are based on the consensus of those partners. The advice an entrepreneur gets post investment reflects the inputs of all of the partners of the firm, not just the partner managing the investment.

There are some great strengths that come from the venture capital firm approach. At USV we have benefited greatly from our work to develop an investment thesis and then evolve it over time and be rigorous in our application of it. We also benefit from the collective insights and intelligence of our partnership and broader investment team.

But the more people you put around a table, the harder it is to make really gutsy investments. And the more you stick to your disciplined investment strategy, the more you say no to people and projects you like personally.

When people ask me about the startup investments I am most impressed with, the Mike Markkula investment in Apple and the Andy Bechtolsheim investment in Google are the ones I always talk about. These were people who took out their own checkbook and backed some people with an idea they thought had merit. And they were rewarded handsomely for these investments. They took 100% of the risk and got 100% of the rewards.

Yesterday at lunch my daughter Emily asked what I plan to do when I retire in the next ten or fifteen years. I replied that "I plan to do what Mom does". It looks like a lot of fun and I think I might be pretty good at it.


Angel Investor / Entrepreneurial activity boosted by angel groups
« on: January 19, 2014, 12:03:07 AM »

Entrepreneurial activity boosted by angel groups

Published on 10 January 2014

Mark Williamson

SCOTLAND's business angel groups have made a major contribution to entrepreneurial activity in the country, an expert study has shown.

Academics from the business schools at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities found groups of angels investors had played a key role in ensuring that wealth amassed in Scotland was used to support potential high-growth firms in the country.

"In the absence of angel groups, this capital would likely be invested with traditional fund managers, with no assurance that it would fund entrepreneurial businesses in Scotland," said Professor Richard Harrison of Edinburgh University.

Suggesting Scotland has been punching above its weight in terms of angel investment, he said groups helped overcome the potentially small scale of the market resulting from a historic low level of entrepreneurial activity in the country.

The report, co-authored by Professor Colin Mason and Tiago Botelho of Glasgow University, found groups organised around experienced angels helped to attract funds from a wider range of people with money to invest.

The authors concluded Scotland had enjoyed a "particularly significant" growth in angel groups over the past decade.

In 2002, there were just two groups in Scotland, with about 70 members.

The LINC Scotland trade organisation works with 19 angel groups with a combined membership of just under 1000 angel investors.

Groups in Scotland provided a total of £22.5 million to companies in 2012, compared with £6m in 2002. They have harnessed Government funding to increase their firepower through the Scottish Co-Investment Fund.

The study found angels are filling the funding gap for firms seeking up to around £1m funding which was partly caused by the contraction of the venture capital industry.

However, Professor Mason, cautioned: "There is a new gap emerging for businesses that need further rounds of growth funding in excess of £1m."

He said the bank-supported Business Growth Fund may help to meet demand but suggested angel groups might also consider recruiting other co-investors and working with crowd funding platforms.

The study found more evidence the effectiveness of angels could be increased by their working in groups than suggested they would be better working alone.

The advantages for angels include better deal flow. Entrepreneurs could use groups to access a pool of wealthy, experienced backers.


Prophet Muhammad SAW / Eid Milad un Nabi or Prophet Birthday
« on: January 14, 2014, 10:27:27 AM »
Eid Milad un Nabi or Prophet Birthday: Bidah or Islamic?
It is not permissible to celebrate (Jashn e Eid ) Milaad un Nabee (the birthday of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), nor the birthday of anyone else, since this is from the acts of bidah (innovations) that have been newly invented into the religion. Neither did Allaah's Messenger (Prescribed Laws) [pbuh], nor the Rightly Guided Khalifahs (Abubakr, Umar, Utham and Ali [May Allah be pleased with all of them]), nor the Companions, nor any of their followers from the first three excellent generations, celebrated this day - and they were the most knowledgeable of people concerning the Sunnah (the Prophetic guidance), and had the greatest love for Allaah's Messenger (pbuh) and were the foremost in following his Shareeah
It is known that our Prophet(pbuh) is the best of all the Prophets and the last of them and the most perfect of them with regards to conveying the Message and advising the people. So if celebrating his milaad (birthday) was a part of the religion that Allaah - the Most Perfect chose, then the Messenger(pbuh) would have most certainly explained it to his Ummah, or he would have celebrated it himself, or his noble Companions radiallaahu 'anhum would have celebrated it. However, since nothing like this happened, then we know that the celebration of milaad has nothing to do with Islaam whatsoever. Rather, it is from those innovations which the Messenger (pbuh)warned his Ummah from.

Assalaamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (May peace mercy and blessings of Allah be

According to the most correct opinion of the Scholars, the Prophet (pbuh) was born in the city of Makkah in the year of the Elephant (in the year 570 or 571CE), in the month of Rabee'ul-Awwal.
• Fifty five days after as narrated by Al-Haafidh Ad-Dimyaati Al-Shaafi'i
• A month (thirty days) after as narrated by Mughlatay Al-Hanafi
• Forty days after as narrated by Ibn Sayyid An-Naas Ash-Shaafi'i

There is an agreement amongst the Scholars that the Prophet (pbuh)was born on a Monday, since he (pbuh) was asked about fasting on a Monday, and he said: "On that day I was born and on that day Revelation descended upon me."(Muslim (2/820) and Ahmad (5/297). However, as regards the exact date of his birth, then the Scholars have differed about thisImaam an-Nawawee (d.676H) - rahimahullaah- said: "There is on agreement that he was born on Monday in the month of Rabee'ul-Awwal. There is a difference of opinion whether this day was the 2nd, 8th, 10th or 12th day of the month - and these ore the four most well-known opinions concerning this."Tahdheeb Seeratun-Nabawiyyah (p.20) of Imaam an-Nawawee.
Prophet(pbuh) left this world on Monday morning, the twelfth of Rabi‘ Al-Awwal, in the eleventh year of Al-Hijrah. He was sixty-three years old when he died. (Sealed Nectar)

Certain miraculous events are reported to have occurred at the time that the Prophet (pbuh) was born. However, most of them are not authentically related, rather they are da'eef (week) or mawdoo' (fabricated) and therefore cannot be relied upon as decisive proof; such as:

■ The narration which relates that some of the galleries of Kisraa's palace broke-up and collapsed,
■ That the sacred-fire of the Magians died-out and
■ That some of the churches on Lake Saawah collapsed and sank down.
Related by Imaam adh-Dhahabee in as-Seeratun-Nabawiyyah (pp. 11-14), who said: "This narration is munkar ghareeb (rejected).
However, it is authentically related that the Prophet (pbuh) said: "I am a result of the supplication of my father Ibraaheem and the glad-tidings brought by 'Isaa '(pbuh). And my mother - when she bore me - saw that a light shone out from her, which lit up the palaces in Syria ... "
al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak (2/600) and Ibn Katheer in al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah (1/229) who said: "Its isnaad is good and strong." Refer to as-Saheehah (no.1545) of Shaykh al-Albaanee for a detailed discussion concerning its authenticity
IV) Definition of a festival in Islam or when should we celebrate?
 Let me quote to you a hadith:
Anas (radhi allahu anhu) said: “The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) came to Madeenah and the people of Madeenah had in Jahiliyah two days of play and amusement (they are the day of Niarooz (New Years Day) and the day of Maharajaan (Final Day of the Year). So, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: "I came to you and you had in Jahiliyah two days of play and amusement. Indeed, Allah has replaced them for you by that which is better than them: The day of Nahr (slaughtering) and the day of Fitr (breaking fast)." [(saheeh) Musnad Ahmad (3/103, 178, 235 and others)]

The verdict of Islam is thus very clear. There are only two festivals in Islam, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr,
V) Allah says follow Quran & Messenger Teachings, prohibits innovations (Bidah) into religion
The commands mentioned in the Qur'an and Sunnah to follow the laws of Allah and His Messenger, and the prohibitions on introducing innovations (bidah) into the religion are quite clear.

Definition of Bidah: ((Linguistically bid'ah (innovation) means 'a newly invented matter'. The Sharee'ah definition of bid'ah is: "A newly invented way [beliefs or action] in the religion, in imitation of the Sharee'ah (prescribed Law), by which nearness to Allaah is sought, [but] not being supported by any authentic proof - neither in its foundations, nor in the manner in which it is performed)). Imaam ash-Shaatibee (rahima-hullaah) in al-I'tisaam of ash-Shaatibee (1/37)
Allah says in Quran:
1) "Say (O Muhammad to mankind): 'If you (really) love Allah, then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Qur'an and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins'." [al 'Imran 3:31]
2) "Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord (the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad's Sunnah), and follow not any Awliya' (protectors and helpers who order you to associate partners in worship with Allah), besides Him (Allah). Little do you remember!" [Quran al-A'raf 7:3]
3) One day as The Prophet (s) sat with his companions, he drew a straight line in the dirt, he then drew a series of line branching off from either side of it. When the companions aasked him what it meant, ... he recited the following verse: "And verily, this is my straight path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His (Allah's) path." [al-A'nam 6:153] (Reported by Ibn Masood and collected by Nasai, Ahmad, and Darimi)
4) And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "The most truthful of speech is the Book of Allah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad, and the most evil of things are those which are newly-invented." And he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Whoever innovates anything in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), that is not part of it will have it rejected." (Narrated by al-Bukhari, no. 2697; Muslim).
5) According to a version narrated by Muslim, "Whoever doe anything that is not in accordance with this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), will have it rejected."
6) Ibn e umar r.a said: Every innovation is an astray even if people understands it good.
7) Prophet (saw) said: "...Beware of newly invented matters, for every invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is a going astray, and every going astray is in Hell-fire." [Wa sharrul Umoori Muhdathaatuhaa, Wa kulla Bid'atin dhaialah, wa kulla dhalatin fin-naar"] (Sunan An Nisai, Vol 2, Book 19, Hadith 1579, Sahih. Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi)
8) Abdullaah Ibn Masood (ra) - said: "Follow and do not innovate, for indeed you have been sufficed, and every innovation is misguidance." (Saheeh. Reported  in Az-Zuhd of Imam Ahmed p. 162, Ad-Daarimee (no. 211), Al-Bayhaqee in Madkhal (no. 204), Wakee' in Az-Zuhd (no. 315), Ibnut-Tararaanee in As-Sunnah (no. 104), Ibn Nasr in As-Sunnah (p. 23) and by Mujaahid in As-Sab'ah (p. 46))
9) Sufyaan ath-Thowree (rahima-hullaah) mentions:((Innovation is more beloved to Iblees than sin, since a sin may be repented from but innovation is not repented from)).
10) al-Fudayl bin 'Iyaad (rahima-hullaah) mentions:((I met the best of people, all of them people of the Sunnah and they used to forbid from accompanying the people of innovation
11) al-Hasan al-Basree (rahima-hullaah) mentions:((Do not sit with the people of innovation and desires, nor argue with them, nor listen to them)).

12) Imaam Maalik (d.179 AH) said about bidah: "Whoever thinks that there is such thing as a good innovation in Islam, has accused the Prophetصلى الله عليه و سلم of treachery because Allah said "This day I have perfected your religion...". So what was not religion then, is not religion today" (Al-'Itisaam as-Shaatibi 1/38) He also said, "How evil are the people of innovation, we do not give them salam
13) Imam Abu Haneefah said: You should adhere to the way of the Salaf, and beware of EVERY newly invented thing, for it is an innovation (bid’ah
14) Imam al-Bukhari said, "I have met more than a thousand scholars ... (then he named the more prominent in each of the lands he visited) and I found that they all agreed on the following points: ... they all used to prohibit bid'ah - that which the Prophet and his Companions were not upon, because of the saying of Allah, '...and hold fast to the rope of Allah and do not separate.' "
VI) Ways in which innovated birthday of prophet(pbuh) is celebrated
Among the reprehensible innovations that people have invented is the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh) in the month of Rabi' al-Awwal. They celebrate this occasion in various ways:
■ Some of them simply make it an occasion to gather and read the story of the Mawlid, then they present speeches and qasidahs (odes) for this occasion.
■ Some of them make food and sweets etc., and offer them to the people present.
■ Some of them hold these celebrations in the mosques, and some of them hold them in their houses.
■ Some people in these gatherings involve in haram and reprehensible things, such as free mixing of men and women, dancing and singing, or committing actions of shirk such as seeking the help of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), calling upon him, seeking his support against their enemies and so on.
■ Some of them believe that Prophet (pbuh) is actually present at their milaad celebrations, so consequently the participants stand to greet & welcome him. However, this is from the greatest of lies & the worst form of ignorance, because Prophet(pbuh) shall neither come out of his grave before the Day of Judgement, nor will he meet anyone, nor attend their gatherings.
Whatever form it takes and whatever the intentions of those who do this are, there is no doubt whatsoever that it is an invented, haram innovation which was introduced after the three best centuries in order to corrupt the religion of the Muslims.
VII) Origin of Celebrating birthday of Prophet (pbuh)
This haram innovation was introduced by Shia Fatimid dynasty after the three best centuries in order to corrupt the religion of the Muslims. The first person to do this after them was the King al-Muzaffar Abu Sa'id Kawkaburi, the King of Irbil, at the end of the sixth century or the beginning of the seventh century AH, as was mentioned by the historians such as Ibn Khalikan and others.
Abu Shamah said: the first person to do that in Mosul was Shaykh 'Umar ibn Muhammad al-Mala, one of the well-known righteous people. Then the ruler of Irbil and others followed his example.
Al-Hafidh Ibn Kathir said in al-Bidayah wa'l-Nihayah (13/137), in his biography of Abu Sa'id Kawkaburi: "He used to observe the Mawlid in Rabi' al-Awwal and hold a huge celebration on that occasion … some of those who were present at the feast of al-Muzaffar on some occasions of the Mawlid said that he used to offer in the feast five thousand grilled heads of sheep, ten thousand chickens and one hundred thousand large dishes, and thirty trays of sweets … he would let the Sufis sing from Dhuhr until Fajr, and he himself would dance with them."
Ibn Khalikan said in Wafiyat al-A'yan (3/274): "When it is the first of Safar they decorate those domes with various kinds of fancy adornments, and in every dome there sits a group of singers and a group of puppeteers and players of musical instruments, and they do not leave any one of those domes without setting up a group (of performers) there.
The people give up work during this period, and they do no work except going around and watching the entertainment. When there are two days to go until the Mawlid, they bring out a large number of camels, cows and sheep, more than can be described, and they accompany them with all the drums, songs and musical instruments that they have, until they bring them to the square… On the night of the Mawlid there are performances of nashids after Maghrib in the citadel."
This is the origin of this celebration on the occasion of the Prophet's birthday. More recently idle entertainment, extravagance, and wasting of money and time have become associated with an innovation for which Allah has not sent down any authority.
Celebration of Milad un Nabi via Juloos (procession) started first in undivided-India (prior to independence) in lahore, Pakistan on 5th July 1933/12th Rabbi ul awwal 1353.
Ahsan writes in the newspaper of famous novelist Naseem Hijazi : In Lahore the 1st Eid-e-Miladun Nabi procession/juloos was taken out for the first time on 5th July 1933/12th Rabbi ul awwal 1353. For this license was taken from the britishers (Newspaper Kohistan 22 July 1964). The Milad un Nabi procession was taken out by muslims citing the reason that hindus and Sikhs take out procession of their leaders, so even we have to do the same (Newspaper Kohistan 22 July 1964).
So the reason to start milad un nabi procession was clearly to follow the foot stpes of non-muslims even though:
Prophet (pbuh) said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." (narrated by Ahmad, 2/50; Abu Dawud, 4/314). And he said, "Be different from the mushrikin."(narrated by Muslim, 1/222, no. 259) – especially with regard to things that are the symbols or rituals of their religion
Muslim should not do any action until they know the ruling of Allah concerning it.
 Celebrating the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh) is forbidden and is to be rejected for a number of reasons:
1 – Celebration not part of Sunnah: It is not part of the Sunnah of the Messenger (pbuh) or of the khalifahs who succeeded him. Since this is the case, then it is a forbidden innovation, because the Prophet (pbuh) said: "I urge you to follow my Sunnah and the way of the rightly-guided khalifahs after me; adhere to it and cling to it firmly. Beware of newly-invented things, for every newly-invented thing is an innovation (bid'ah) and every innovation is a going-astray." (Narrated by Ahmad, 4/126; at-Tirmidhi no. 2676).

"This day, I have perfected your religion for you." [al-Ma'idah 5:3]
Adding something extra and claiming that it is a part of the religion, but the Messenger (pbuh) did not bring this.
 "By remembering the death of Beloved peace be upon him, companions could not celebrate with shocked hearts (of people). So they did not celebrate mawlid neither they were dis hearted in the grief of death". [Meelad un Nabi, Chapter no: 7, Page no:454 Minhaj ul Quran Publications]   
Sahabah who were the most knowledgeable and the best people. Therefore, it is a duty upon Muslims to reject this act.
2 – Celebrating the birthday an imitation of the Christians: because they celebrate the birth of the Messiah isa ibn mariam (pbuh). Imitating them is extremely haram. The hadith tells us that it is forbidden to imitate the kuffar, and we are commanded to differ from them. The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them."(narrated by Ahmad, 2/50; Abu Dawud, 4/314). And he said, "Be different from the mushrikin." (narrated by Muslim, 1/222, no. 259) –
. The Prophet (pbuh) forbade going to extremes in praising him, as he said: "Do not extol as the Christians extolled the son of Maryam. For I am just His slave, so say, the slave of Allah and His Messenger (abduhu wa rasuluhu)." (narrated by al-Bukhari, 4/142, no. 3445; al-Fath, 6/551
 Allah says"O people of the Scripture (Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah 'isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, ("Be!" — and he was) which He bestowed on Maryam (Mary) and a spirit (Ruh) created by Him." [al-Nisa' 4:171]
Our Prophet (pbuh) forbade us to exaggerate concerning him lest the same thing happen to us as happened to them, so he said: "Beware of exaggeration, for those who came before you were destroyed because of exaggeration." (narrated by an-Nasa'i, 5/268; classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih Sunan al-Nasa'i, no. 2863).
A small Bid'ah leads to a big Bid'ah, a small sin leads to a big sin, then the sinner becomes pleased with his sin until he considers it permissible and he becomes destroyed! A classic example of this is the incident which occurred during the time of the Sahaabah:
'Amr ibn Salmah said, "We used to sit by the door of Abdullah ibn Mas'ood before the morning prayer, so that when he came out we would walk with him to the masjid.  (One day) Abu Moosa al-Ash'aree came to us and said, 'Has Abu 'Abdur rahmaan come out yet?'  We replied, 'No.' So he sat down with us until he (ibn Mas'ood) came out.  When he came out we all stood along with him, so Abu Moosa said to him, 'O Abu Abdur rahmaan!  I have just seen something in the masjid which I deemed to be evil, but all praise is for Allaah, I did not see anything except good.'  He enquired, 'Then what is it?'  (Abu Moosa) replied, 'If you live you will see it.  I saw in the masjid people sitting in circles awaiting the prayer.  In each circle they had pebbles in their hands and a man would say, "Repeat Allaahu Akbar a hundred times."  So they would repeat it a hundred times.  Then he would say, "Say Laa ilaaha illallaah a hundred times."  So they would say it a hundred times.  Then he would say, "Say subhaanallaah a hundred times."  So they would say it a hundred times.'  (Ibn Mas'ood) asked, 'What did you say to them?'  (Abu Moosa) said, 'I did not say anything to them.  Instead I waited to hear your view or what you declared.'  (Ibn Mas'ood) replied, 'If only you had ordered them to count up the evil deeds they acquired and assured them that their good deeds would not be lost!'  Then we went along with him (Ibn Mas'ood) until he came to one of these circles and stood and said, 'What is this which I see you doing?'  They replied, 'O Abu Abdur rahmaan!  These are pebbles upon which we are counting takbeer, tahleel and tasbeeh.'  He said, 'Count up your evil deeds.  I assure you that none of your good deeds will be lost. Woe to you, O Ummah of Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam!  How quickly you go to destruction!  These are the Companions of your Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and who are widespread.  There are his sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam clothes which have not yet decayed and his bowl which is unbroken.  By Him in Whose Hand is my soul!  Either you are upon a religion better guided than the religion of Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam or you are opening the door of misguidance.'  They said, 'O Abu Abdur rahmaan!  By Allaah, we only intended good.'  He said, 'How many there are who intend good but do not achieve it.  Indeed Allaah's Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said to us, "A people will recite the Qur'aan but it will not pass beyond their throats."  By Allaah!  I do not know, perhaps most of them are from you.'  Then he left them."
5- False belief of prophet(pbuh) present in milad celebrations: One of the strangest matters also is that some of them believe that Allaah's Messenger(pbuh) is actually present at their milaad celebrations, so consequently the participants stand to greet and welcome him. However, this is from the greatest of lies and the worst form of ignorance, because the Messenger (pbuh) shall neither come out of his grave before the Day of Judgement, nor will he meet anyone, nor attend their gatherings. Rather, he shall remain in his grave until the Day of Judgement, whilst his noble rooh (soul) resides in the highest of places with his Lord in the home of the exalted, as Allaah - the Most High - said: "Then you shall surely die, then you shall be raised-up again on the Day of Resurrection." [Soorah al-Mu'minoon 23:15-16].
The Prophet (pbuh) said: "I will be the leader of the children of Aadam on the Day of Resurrection, and I will be the first for whom the earth will split open, and will be the first to intercede and the first whose intercession will be accepted." (Muslim (7/59), from Abu Hurayrah). So this noble aayah (verse) and this noble hadeeth - and those verses and ahaadeeth with a similar meaning - prove that the Prophet (pbuh) and others that have also died, will only come out of their graves on the Day of Resurrection. And this is a matter about which there is an agreement amongst the Muslim Scholars, there being no difference between them.
6. It causes hypocrisy and not love to grow in the heart: Hence, you will find the innovators, when it comes to the waajibaat they are negligent e.g  wear the dress which is not below the ankle,stop shaving the beard…., but when it comes to their Bid'ah they are the first in the queue!
7. It brings death to the Sunnah: That is why you will find that those who celebrate the Mawlid once a year, they rarely observe the Sunnah of fasting on Mondays.
Ibn Abbas (d.67 AH) said:"When Bid’ah is created then the Sunnah dies, and continues to die until Bid’ah is alive and the Sunnah is dead” (Tirmidhi 187).
 8. It causes chaos and divisions within the Ummah: No group has ever split from the Jamaa'ah except by way of an innovation. So when they return back to the Qur'an and Sunnah then Allah will give them back their honour and will establish them upon the Earth. Allah said:
"Allah has promised those amongst you who believe and do righteous actions that He will certainly grant them Khilafah (succession) on the earth, as He granted it to those before them; and that He will grant them authority to practice their religion, the one that He has chosen for them; and He will change their state from one of fear in which they lived to one of peace and security, providing they will worship Me alone, not associating any partner with Me. But whosoever disbelieves after this, then they are the rebellious ones." (Holy Qur’an 24:55)
IX) Discussing arguments of those who celebrate Mawlid
Those who think that this bid'ah should be continued produce specious arguments which are flimsier than a spider's web. These specious arguments may be dealt with as follows:
 Prophet (pbuh) is constantly kept alive by the Muslim,such as:
► When his name (pbuh) is mentioned in the adhan
►When his name (pbuh) is mentioned in the iqamah
► When his name (pbuh) is mentioned in the khutbahs,
► Every time the Muslim recites the Shahadatayn after doing wudu
► Every time he sends blessings upon the Prophet (pbuh) in his prayers or when he(pbuh) name is mentioned, and
►Every time the Muslim does a wajib (obligatory) or mustahabb (recommended) action that was prescribed by the Messenger (pbuh).
 For Allah is not mentioned in the adhan, iqamah or khutbah except that the Messenger (pbuh) is mentioned after Him; this is sufficient veneration, love and renewal of his memory, and sufficient encouragement to follow him.
Allah did not refer to the birth of the Messenger (pbuh) in the Qur'an, rather He referred to his Mission, and says (interpretation of the meaning): "Indeed, Allah conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves" [al 'Imran 3:124]
"He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves." [al-Jumu'ah 64:2].
Mawlid– They may say that celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh) is indicative of their love for him; this is one way of showing that, and showing love of the Prophet (pbuh) is prescribed in Islam!
 The answer to that is that undoubtedly loving the Prophet (pbuh) is obligatory for every Muslim; he should love him more than he loves himself, his child, his father and all the people – may my father and mother be sacrificed for him –. Loving him dictates that we should obey him and follow him, for that is one of the greatest manifestations of love, as it is said:
"If your love is sincere then obey him; for the lover obeys the one whom he loves."
Loving the Prophet (pbuh) implies keeping his Sunnah alive, adhering firmly to it, and avoiding words and deeds that go against it. Undoubtedly everything that goes against his Sunnah is a reprehensible innovation (bid'ah) and a manifest act of disobedience. That includes celebrating his birthday and other kinds of bid'ah. A good intention does not mean that it is permissible to introduce innovations into the religion. Islam is based on two things, purity of intention and following [the Prophet (pbuh)]. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"Yes, but whoever submits his face (himself) to Allah (i.e. follows Allah's religion of Islamic Monotheism) and he is a Muhsin (a doer of good) then his reward is with his Lord (Allah), on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." [al-Baqarah 2:112]
Submitting one's face to Allah means being sincere towards Allah, and doing good means following the Messenger and implementing the Sunnah.
  Mawlid– Celebrating the Mawlid and reading the biography of the Prophet (pbuh) on this occasion, they are encouraging people to follow his example!
We say to them that reading the biography of the Prophet (pbuh)and following his example are required of the Muslim all the time, all year long and throughout his life. Singling out a specific day for that with no evidence for doing so is an innovation, and every innovation is a going astray. (Narrated by Ahmad, 4/164; at-Tirmidhi, 2676). Bid'ah does not bear any fruit but evil and it leads to a person distancing himself from the Prophet (pbuh).
We find in the biography great details about .but the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh) was never considered to be an important event in Islam. What is important however is his mission, his life, his path, his teachings, and his traditions.
 Mawlid– Using as evidence the fact that many people in many countries do this and may quote: Ibn Mas’ud said: “Whatever the Muslims collectively deem as good is good with Allah and whatever the Muslims collectively deem as bad is bad with Allah”. How can such a large majority be wrong?
 This hadith has been taken out of context. The full hadith is:
“Allah looked into the hearts of mankind and found that the heart of Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم was the finest, so He chose him to be his beloved and sent him with His message. Then Allah looked into the hearts of everybody else and found that the hearts of Muhammad’s صلى الله عليه و سلم companions were the finest, so He made them succeed His Prophetصلى الله عليه و سلم and made them fight for His religion. Therefore, anything which the Muslims collectively deem to be good is good with Allah and anything which the Muslims collectively deem to be bad is bad with Allah.” (Ahmad 3600).
As- Sindhi said: “The ‘Muslims’ in this narration is obviously referring to the companions. Therefore, the consensus must be that of the companions and the consensus of others cannot be included, let alone the agreement of a single group of people on one opinion...”
The notion that the Ummah as a whole are united upon celebrating the Mawlid is a fallacy. The scholars of the Ummah never united upon misguidance, rather they spoke in refutation of this celebration ever since it’s invention. From them we have the likes of:
The prophetصلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Indeed the Jews split into 71 sects, all of them in the hell-fire except one. The Christians split into 72 sects, all of them in the hell-fire except one. My Ummah will split into 73 sects, all of them in the hell-fire except one, and it is the Jamaa’ah.” (Ibn Maajah 3992)
Here the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is informing us that the majority of the Ummah will end up in the hell-fire.
Furthermore Abu Shaamah (d.665 AH) said: “The order to stick to the Jama’ah means sticking to the truth; even if those who stick to the truth are few and those who oppose it are many, since the truth is that which the first Jama’ah from the time of the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم and his companions were upon. No attention is given to the great number of the people of futility coming after them.” (Al baa’ith ‘alal bid’ah wal hawaadith P.19)

  miwlid– They say that celebrating the mawlid comes under the heading of bid'ah hasanah ("good innovation") & may quote some practises introduced by 4 rightly guided caliphs to justify milad celebration
Our response to that is that there is nothing good in innovation. The Prophet (pbuh) said: "Whoever innovates anything in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), that is not part of it will have it rejected." (Narrated by al-Bukhari, no. 2697; al-Fath, 5/355). And he said, "Every innovation is a going astray." (narrated by Ahmad, 4/126; at-Tirmidhi, no. 2676). The ruling on innovations is that they are all misguidance, but this specious argument suggests that not every bid'ah is a going astray, rather there are good innovations.
Al-Hafiz ibn Rajab said in Sharh al-Arba'in: "The words of the Prophet (pbuh), 'every innovation is a going astray' is a concise but comprehensive comment which includes everything; it is one of the most important principles of religion. It is like his words 'Whoever innovates anything in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam), that is not part of it will have it rejected.' (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 3/167, no. 2697; al-Fath, 5/355). Whoever innovates anything and attributes it to Islam when it has no basis in the religion, this is a going astray and is nothing to do with Islam, whether that has to do with matters of belief ('aqidah) or outward and inward words and deeds."[Jami' al-'Ulum wa'l-Hikam, p. 233]
During the era of the 4 khulfa-e-rashideen, the khalifas introduced so many things due to some reason but those things were only for limited period of time because they cannot make shariya. These practices were started by rightly guided khalifas, it was accepted by all consensus of muslims (Al-Muhajireen and Al-Ansar) during their era and their actions are supported by 2 hadiths from Prophet(pbuh):
Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Those of you who will outlive me will see many controversies, so follow my sunnah and that of the rightly-guided Caliphs" [ibn Hibban and al-Hakim, Abu dawood Book 40, Chapter Model Behavior of the Prophet (Kitab Al-Sunnah)Number 4590].
Allah will never let my Ummah agree upon misguidance, and the hand of Allah is over the group (Jama'ah)[Saheeh Al-Jame 1848,Silsilah as-Saheeha 3/319 no: 1331].
Be it that we take all of the practices of the rightly guided caliphs, then there is no way to achieve it because they (sometimes) differed. And if we reject all of their practices, then this is clear misguidance ..... we take from their practice which is in agreement to the book of Allah and to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah Peace be upon him
nor are they anyone closer to the 4 righlty guided khalifas that can bring changes.

'Umar said: "What a good bid'ah" meaning innovation in the linguistic sense, not in the shar'i (technical) sense. Whatever has a basis in Islam, if it is described as an innovation, is an innovation in the linguistic sense, not in the shar'i sense, because innovation in the shar'i sense means that which has no basis in Islam.
Compiling the Qur'an into one book has a basis in Islam, because the Prophet (pbuh) had commanded that the Qur'an be written down, but it was scattered, so the Sahabah compiled it in one volume so as so protect and preserve it.
The Prophet (pbuh) led his companions in praying Tarawih for a while, then he stopped doing that, lest that become obligatory on them. The Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) continued to pray it separately during the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and after his death, until 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with them) gathered them behind one imam as they used to pray behind the Prophet (pbuh). This was not an innovation introduced into this.
Mawlid– They may say that Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays citing the reason "as for Monday, it was the day I was born." (Muslim 1162)?
 The Prophet  صلى الله عليه و سلم commemorated the day of his birth NOT THE DATE. Other narrations mention that he also fasted on these days because Monday was the day when he started receiving the revelation (Muslim 1162), and Mondays and Thursdays are the days when the record of our deeds are raised up to Allah (Tirmidhi 747). Also, it is forbidden to fast on an eid day; if the Mawlid was a legitimate eid then why did the Prophetصلى الله عليه و سلم fast on it?
 It is important to mention here that within Arab custom, an individual is recognised by the date of his death and not by the date of his birth. In fact, the date of birth is often not known, hence, the difference of opinion with regards to the date of the Prophet'sصلى الله عليه و سلم birth.
l Hasaan said I heard Sufyaan AtThawree (tabaein) say, " The isnaad is the weapon of the believer. So if he does not have a weapon then what will he fight with?"
Imaam Muslim mentioned in his introduction to his Saheeh that 'Abd-Allaah ibn al-Mubaarak said: The isnaad is part of religion. Were it not for the isnaad, whoever wanted to could say whatever he wanted to.

 Assalaamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (May peace mercy and blessings of Allah be on all of you)

Be Alert / Yes, the FBI and CIA can read your email. Here's how
« on: November 16, 2012, 10:51:06 AM »
Summary: "Petraeus-gate," some U.S. pundits are calling it. How significant is it that even the head of the CIA can have his emails read by an albeit friendly domestic intelligence agency, which can lead to his resignation and global, and very public humiliation? Here's how.

The U.S. government -- and likely your own government, for that matter -- is either watching your online activity every minute of the day through automated methods and non-human eavesdropping techniques, or has the ability to dip in as and when it deems necessary -- sometimes with a warrant, sometimes without.
Read more

ZDNet: Politics, tech, and sausage-making: big data, big mistakes, and General indiscretion

CNET: Petraeus reportedly used draft e-mails to converse with mistress

SmartPlanet: Why nothing is private: How the FBI can read your emails

That tin-foil hat really isn't going to help. Take it off, you look silly.

Gen. David Petraeus, the former head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, resigned over the weekend after he was found to have engaged in an extra-marital affair. What caught Petraeus out was, of all things, his usage of Google's online email service, Gmail.

This has not only landed the former CIA chief in hot water but has ignited the debate over how, when, and why governments and law enforcement agencies are able to access ordinary citizens' email accounts, even if they are the head of the most powerful intelligence agency in the world.

If it makes you feel any better, the chances are small that your own or a foreign government will snoop on you. The odds are much greater -- at least for the ordinary person (terrorists, hijackers et al: take note) -- that your email account will be broken into by a stranger exploiting your weak password, or an ex-lover with a grudge (see "Fatal Attraction").

Forget ECHELON, or signals intelligence, or the interception of communications by black boxes installed covertly in data centers. Intelligence agencies and law enforcement bodies can access -- thanks to the shift towards Web-based email services in the cloud -- but it's not as exciting or as Jack Bauer-esque as one may think or hope for.

The easiest way to access almost anybody's email nowadays is still through the courts. (Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's true.)

The 'save as draft' trick

Petraeus set up a private account under a pseudonym and composed email messages but never sent them. Instead, they were saved in draft. His lover, Paula Broadwell, would log in under the same account, read the email and reply, all without sending anything. The traffic would not be sent across the networks through Google's data centers, making it nigh on impossible for the National Security Agency or any other electronic signals eavesdropping agency (such as Britain's elusive GCHQ) to 'read' the traffic while it is in transit.

    Saving an email as a draft almost entirely eliminates network traffic, making it nigh on impossible for intelligence agencies to 'traffic sniff.'

And yes, terrorists and pedophiles have been known to use this 'trick', but also sophisticated criminals also use this technique. It eliminates a network trail to a greater or lesser extent, and makes it more difficult to trace.

But surely IP addresses are logged and noted? When emails are sent and received, yes. But the emails were saved in draft and therefore were not sent. However, Google may still have a record of the IP addresses of those who logged into the account.

However, most Internet or broadband providers offer dynamic IP addresses that change over time, and an IP address does not always point to the same computer, let alone the same region or state every time it is assigned to a user. Even then, recent U.S. court cases have found that IP addresses do not specifically point to a computer, meaning even if the authorities were sure that it was Petraeus, for instance -- though IP addresses very rarely give the exact house number and street address -- it would not stick in court.

As is often the case, human error can land someone in the legal spotlight. 37-year-old Florida resident Jill Kelley, a family friend to the Petraeus', allegedly received emails from an anonymous account warning Kelley to stay away from the CIA chief.

But when Broadwell sent these messages, it left behind little fragments of data attached to the email -- every email you send has this data attached -- which first led the FBI on a path that led up to the very door of Petraeus' office door in Langley, Virginia.

Get a warrant, serve it to Google?

There's no such thing as a truly 'anonymous' email account, and no matter how much you try to encrypt the contents of the email you are sending, little fragments of data are attached by email servers and messaging companies. It's how email works and it's entirely unavoidable.

Every email sent and received comes with 'communications data,' otherwise known as "metadata" -- little fragments of information that carries the recipient and the sender's address, and routing data such as the IP addresses of the sender and the servers or data center that it's passed through. Extracting this metadata is not a mystery or difficult, in fact anyone can do it, but if you have the legal tools and law enforcement power to determine where the email was passed through -- such as an IP address of one of Google's data center in the United States.

    Email is surprisingly similar to the postal system, especially when it comes to the communication "metadata."

The system is remarkably similar to the postal system. You can seal the envelope and hide what's inside, but it contains a postmark of where it came from and where it's going. It may even have your fingerprints on it. All of this information outside the contents is "metadata."

That said, even if you use a disposable Gmail account -- such as, for instance -- it's clearly a Gmail account, and Gmail is operated by Google. Sometimes it just takes a smidgen of common knowledge.

Ultimately, only Google had access to the emails. Because it's a private company, it does not fall under the scope of the Fourth Amendment. If the U.S. government or one of its law enforcement agencies wanted to access the private Petraeus email account, it would have to serve up a warrant.

In this case, however, the Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA) would not apply. Even the Patriot Act would not necessarily apply in this case, even though it does allow the FBI and other authorized agencies to search email. However, in this case, above all else, the Stored Communications Act does apply -- part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The act allows for any electronic data to be read if it has been stored for less than 180 days. In this case, the law was specifically designed -- albeit quite some time before email became a mainstream communications medium -- to allow server- or computer-stored data to be accessed by law enforcement.

However, a court order must be issued after the 180 days, and in this case it was. Reporting from London, the BBC News' Mark Ward summed it up in a single sentence:

    Once it knew Ms. Broadwell was the sender of the threatening messages, the FBI got a warrant that gave it covert access to the anonymous email account.

And that's how they do it. No matter which way you look at it, no matter how much the government or its law enforcement agencies want the data or the proof of wrongdoing, they must almost always get a court order.

And Petraeus is no different from any other U.S. citizen, U.K. citizen, or European citizen -- and further afield for that matter. What it always boils down to is a court order, and it's as simple as that. It's not ECHELON or an episode of "24" using hacking or cracking techniques; it's an afternoon in a fusty courtroom with a semi-switched on (and preferably sober) judge.

That said, it doesn't grant unfettered or unrestricted access to a user's inbox or email account, but when an alleged crime has been committed or law enforcement starts digging around, it allows a fairly wide berth of powers to request access to electronically stored data.

Former assistant secretary to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Stewart Baker told the Associated Press:

    The government can't just wander through your emails just because they'd like to know what you're thinking or doing. But if the government is investigating a crime, it has a lot of authority to review people’s emails.

So there it is. A court order is all you need to access a person's inbox, but sufficient evidence is often required in order to do this -- particularly through the Stored Communications Act, or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

It sounds obvious, of course, that's because it is.

That said, if there is reasonable suspicion albeit lacking evidence, or a U.S. law enforcement agency is dealing with a foreign national outside of the United States, that normally requires a secret FISA court order to be granted in order to proceed with the interception of data or warranted access to an email account, for example.

Outside the U.S.: Is it still 'just' a court order?

A simple court order is all it takes and it can apply to anyone in public office or the man on the street holding a sign warning that "the end is nigh."

But it's OK; you're in Europe, or Australia, or Asia. The U.S. can't use their laws against you in a foreign country because, well, you're outside of its jurisdiction. Again, sorry to burst your privacy bubble but that excuse didn't wash with the European Parliament, it shouldn't with you either.

If you're a European citizen with a Microsoft, Google, Yahoo or Apple account -- or any email offered in the cloud by a U.S. company -- which is most consumer email services nowadays -- it is accessible to the U.S. courts and other nations through various acts of law, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) or the PATRIOT Act, in which the latter amended much of what the former had implemented in the first place. 

("Oh great, he's talking about the Patriot Act again," says everybody.)

It's worth noting a common few misconceptions. Since first reporting this some years ago (and subsequently sparking a trans-Atlantic diplomatic row, whoops) analysts and experts alike, some who are under the thumb of the cloud companies themselves, claim that the Patriot Act -- to use the umbrella, common term -- does not allow the U.S. government or its law enforcement agencies the powers that others (*cough* including me) claim.

Let's just run through a few examples of false claims on top of false claims:
Myth    Fact
The Patriot Act is the magic wand that allows the U.S. government unrestricted access to any data, anywhere, anytime.     Untrue.
The Patriot Act gives the U.S. government unprecedented access to data hosted by U.S. companies anywhere in the world.    Untrue.
All countries have similar legislation that gives the authorities a means to requisition data on cloud services, to investigate and prevent acts of terrorism.    Unt... actually, quite true.

It doesn't give "unrestricted" or "unprecedented" access to date outside the U.S., because for the most part these warrants must go through a special FISA court. The trouble is even though there is some level of accountability via the FISA courts, these sessions are held in secret and there are no public minutes or record to go from, so swings and roundabouts.

Only in exceptional cases where warrants are not issued is when there is an immediate threat to life. But because these courts are secret, there's no definitive and ultimate way to know for an absolute fact that the U.S. authorities don't just bypass the FISA courts and skip ahead with their investigations anyway. (You only really have my word -- and my sources in the U.S. government, such as legal counsels and spokespeople, to go on.)

    Pretty much every country around the world has 'Patriot Act'-like legislation. It's just where to look for it.

On the third point, other countries do have similar laws and this should be noted. (I personally thought it was relatively common knowledge, forgive my naivety.) The U.K., for instance, has the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act that can be used to acquire data from a third-country via a U.K.-based firm, just as the Patriot Act can be used on a U.S. firm to access data in a third-country via a local subsidiary.

But in terms of where the major email and cloud providers are based -- the United States, notably on the West Coast -- it means that U.S. law must apply, in spite of foreign laws that attempt to or successfully counteract the provisions offered in U.S. law. Not many major cloud providers operate solely in the U.K., whereas Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon are all U.S. headquartered with a subsidiary in the U.K. and other countries.

The lesson here? We're all as bad as each other and no legally or financially reasonable place is safe to store data if you're a massive criminal or looking to stash a bunch of secret or uncouth documents away from the authorities.

As for Petraeus, he may have been careful but in spite of his counter-terrorism knowledge and clever tricks in going under the radar, ultimately there was a weak link in the security chain -- and no matter how far you go to try and cover your tracks, often it always falls down to two things: human error, or sex.

Topics: Privacy, Government US, Legal, Outage, Security, EU, United Kingdom   

Banking / Managing risk in commercial banks
« on: November 13, 2012, 10:37:55 PM »
Managing risk in commercial banks
Published : Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mamun Rashid

It was 1992. I was then the public sector affairs head at the ANZ Grindlays Bank. At that time there was growing fear that there would be short supply of cement in the country. Subsequent to a heated debate in the parliament and newspaper editorials, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the public sector trading entity, decided to import 100 thousand tonnes of cement from an East European country through open tender. We from the corporate bank seriously tried for the letter of credit (L/C) for that import and ultimately the L/C worth USD 22 million was opened through us. I being the Relationship Manager (RM) concerned was very happy about this and wanted to share the good news with my mentor Mr. Suronjon Chokroborty, the country credit manager. Mr. Chokroborty, asked me three questions- 1) Have you opened the L/C? 2) Have you realized the L/C commission and required margin? And 3) what are the shipment terms? My replies were- 1) It was obvious that we have taken the required L/C margin from TCB and realized the commission, i.e. our earnings, 2) shipment terms said, there will be three shipments through chartered vessels, first two carrying 30 thousand tones each and the last one 40 thousand metric tonnes 3) we have successfully routed the L/C to the foreign trade bank of the country through our Singapore branch. The `credit guru' Mr. Chokroborty smiled. While I pushed him hard to know the reason, he replied- there won't be any shipment unless the goods are being loaded into the mother vessel in the outer anchorage through `lighterage', since the said East European port does not have enough depth in the harbor for a 30 thousand tonne-ship. If lighterage cost is added to the export price, the contracted exporter would no longer be the lowest, he added. Believe you me, there was no shipment. The TCB had to trigger the performance bond issued and take the exporter to the court. I still wonder how Mr. Chokroborty could understand this. One answer could be, he really had all the qualities of a 'risk manager'.

Upon taking over as the public sector affairs head in 1992, I became a credit initial holder at ANZ. I was accredited as a certified credit professional at Standard Chartered Bank in 1996, after passing all the 14 module exams organized by the OMEGA, London. During my professional banking career, I did attend many basic, intermediate and advanced credit as well as risk management courses. However, I faced the real test of a credit officer, while I was made the Group Special Asset Management(GSAM) head at Standard Chartered Bank as well as while undergoing some audit assignments, following the Asian meltdown in 1997 and afterwards. I became a senior credit officer (SCO) at Citibank in 2005. My tremendous interest in macroeconomics, country risk and market risk along with complex audit assignments at Citi brought me this most coveted designation for a corporate banker. I was a business SCO till my last days at Citi and always tried my best to judiciously apply my credit discretion.

Young bank executives do often ask me, how a credit can go bad? My background as a Risk Officer for almost 15 years, taught me, credit usually go bad due to: 1) wrong borrower selection or inappropriate client need assessment, 2) wrong structuring of the facilities, 3) security or collateral shortfall, 4) weak internal cash generation in the business leading to recurring past dues, 5) lending on the basis of reputation of the borrowers without looking into their business fundamentals, 6) ignorance or under estimating the competition, 7) economic downturn or investment in the business segments other than the core ones . Added to these are, of course, weak credit assessments, failure to understand foreign exchange risk where cross border exposures are taken and corruption of the lending officers.

I have seen many credits going bad in Indonesia due to the failure of the lending officers to understand the foreign exchange fluctuation risks. Many loans in Malaysia went bad due to working capital being used to finance projects, almost similar to that of Bangladesh. In Taiwan many middle market loans went bad, because tenor provided was less than the trade cycle. Fierce competition in India forced banks to keep their eyes shut with regard to security or collateral shortfall or even weak financials. Most East African credits went bad due to failure in facility structuring and thereby borrowers were taking away huge sum of money for unrelated purposes. In Latin America cases were more related to taking large exposure in foreign currency, while in Europe and even North America, it was drastic reduction in underlying asset value or security provided, thereby making the `exit' impossible or extremely tough without huge `hair cut'.

One needs to do a `in depth' need assessment, that is how much the client needs to run his/her business and in what form. There is a saying- if you push out too much paste from a toothpaste tube; you won't be able to take this back. One has to look at the business model- how much is the projected turnover, what is the tenor of an end to end transaction and then derive at a figure. Even if one derives a figure, one has to know, how much of that would be bank financed and how much by the owners. I have also seen credit going bad, because the borrower needed the facility for 150 days, whereas the facility the bank offered was only for 120 days which the borrower had to accept under duress.

We have often seen, relationship managers marketing a credit under some agreed security and collateral parameters and disbursing the facility by keeping some documentation pending. If there is no `approval covenant' monitoring system, security perfection may remain pending for years and ultimately going bad. One should always try to take best of the securities or `nearest to clients' heart' properties mortgaged. Regular benchmarking of the security value vis-a-vis outstanding should be part of the credit culture.

I have also seen loans going bad due to non compliance with regulatory imperatives like waste treatment plant, river pollution or even neighborhood pollution in India. The social activist groups forced the agencies to close down the plants. Faulty title of land, grabbing of school or prayer places also created problems in erection of plants, thereby forced the companies to relocate and thereby increasing the project costs. Death of the key person without any proper succession also puts many loans into jeopardy. Business being not relevant to the core strength of the key entrepreneurs also didn't help many repayments. Most importantly one has to be with the winners in each of the business segment, not with the losers. If one would want to penetrate further into the client segment with some security/collateral or even inadequate cash generation or some other compromises, in that case pricing must be reflective of the inherent risk or government must subsidize to encourage money flowing to those hungry segments.

All along as a risk manager, I remembered what our credit teacher at Grindlays International Training (GRIT) in India Mr. Kartikeyan taught me- ` before approving and especially disbursing money against an approved credit, consider as if it was your own money'. He added-' taking risk is a banker's job, but it should always be a calculated risk with enough mitigants identified'. Kartikeyan further added- ` you only earn 4/5 percent net profit from a credit or loan but you lose the entire amount plus the reputation, if your credit discretion is not applied judiciously'.

(Mamun Rashid is a banker and economic analyst. E-Mail:

Suneth Jayawardhane, works at Oracle Insight team and world-class expert of the software industry, speaks about evolving technology and business-to-business relationships
In an era of rapid commoditisation and increasing competition, companies are focusing on delivering a superior customer experience to differentiate themselves and enhance customer loyalty. Those who are successful have been rewarded with customers ’ willingness to pay a price premium, to recommend the brand, and to consider offered brand extensions, which in turn create opportunities for generating higher revenues.
Customer experience is the sum of observations, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings arising from interactions with a provider of goods or services. It is not limited to a single transaction, but driven by the sales and service lifecycle of the product and service — before, during and after the transaction. Furthermore, it is comprised of both rational and emotional elements and shaped by interactions across all channels and customer touch points.

This article seeks to understand business-to-business (B2B) transactions, explore how they differ from business-to-customer (B2C) transactions, and analyse critical success factors in delivering a superior customer experience.

Business-to-business transactions

A customer’s expectations when buying consumer goods is very different from the complex purchasing cycle of a business product or service. The complexity of the B2B relationship requires a more intimate prospecting effort, sales process, and service delivery. Consolidation among the business customers in B2B environments has only further added to this complexity through customers’ increased bargaining power.

The complexity of B2B relationships renders many customer experience principles that are more commonly associated with B2C scenarios less relevant. Customer contact interactions in B2B relationships will typically be more frequent, occur across more touch points, and may typically involve many individuals from various functions and departments in the buying decision. A B2B customer’s needs are generally understood by a series of interactions over a longer period of time, and develop through strong relationships between a company and its customer. The success of B2B relationships will depend how well your company can understand needs and deliver to multiple decision-makers.

Let’s explore several of the key differences between B2B and B2C relationships which directly impact customer experience:

B2C transactions generally have one or two key decision-makers. B2B transactions often engage multiple stakeholders, often with different opinions and agendas, within the same customer.

Sales cycle:
A B2C sale is typically swift — sometimes impulsive — while other sales require hours or even months for a consumer to research a product or service and complete the purchase. A B2B sale is typically a much longer sales cycle, requiring weeks, months or even years to complete a transaction.

B2C sales are typically a standard product offering, while B2B tends to be a more customized product or service offering.

Role of emotion:
B2C sales frequently involve emotion on the part of the consumer; a B2B sale is generally driven by an economic business decision often structured around a standard procurement process.

Service delivery:
Service levels in B2C environments can be very specific and measured; they are not tailored to an individual customer, but rather to a group of customers exhibiting common characteristics. Service offerings for B2B customers usually involve a strong emphasis on service levels which are monitored and measured by key performance indicators (KPIs). These service levels can be tailored to an individual customer or to a class of customers (e.g. channels).

Critical success factors

As with any customer experience strategy, the seller has to define the desired customer experience, design a customer experience strategy, and execute the strategy. Defining the experience involves identifying customer values and needs by customer segments. Design involves defining the customer experience plan and standards for each customer segment, and executing ensures delivering the customer experience strategy to standard across all customer touch points, and continuously optimizing it.

There are several key focus areas to deliver a superior B2B customer experience:

360-degree view of customer:
Obtaining a holistic, accurate and real-time (or near real-time) view of the customer across your enterprise is the single most important element in delivering a superior customer experience. Access to customer master data spanning sales, marketing, service and accounting (e.g. credit lines and history) provides a complete view of customer interactions across all touch points. This holistic view is also valuable when segmenting customers and targeting future offerings.

Customer Data Management

Coordinating many resources and stakeholders internally and externally is key to execution of the B2B sales process. The longer and more complex sales cycles require the collaboration of many members across multiple departments, requiring effective and secure customer data management and access. To improve collaboration, companies can take advantage of social CRM capabilities which enable effective collaboration among team members to generate leads, identify references and develop targeted sales campaigns. Customer data will include account, contact, and transaction (e.g. sales and service history) information as well as customer documentation (e.g. past contracts). An opportunity management process which is designed around key opportunity milestones facilitates reporting and forecasting. It also avoids excessive administrative burden, which is necessary to effectively pursue a sales opportunity and increase close rate.

Service excellence:
Increasingly, companies have confronted product commoditization with superior service. Service organizations need to be able to effectively obtain the necessary data to open a case, route it to the right personnel to resolve the issue, and conduct surveys to gauge customer satisfaction. Collection and reporting of key service metrics not only helps measure service performance, but also used to ensure that customer-specific, contractually obligated service parameters are met. In addition to differentiating from competition, companies excelling at service have also been able to generate more revenue from added services functions and cross-selling products.

Product management:
Customers often have detailed requirements and product specifications, which can result in highly customized products specific to a customer, an application, or an industry. Two products which might look identical might have very different requirements (e.g. grade of raw material or authorized suppliers) in order to comply with customer specifications. Hence, the need to manage such customer requirements is crucial to winning and maintaining a B2B customer’s business.

Employee training and empowerment:
To deliver a superior experience, a company has to not only create the right organization structure to service its customers, but also foster an atmosphere which emphasizes the customer experience throughout the organization. Due to the multiple touch points a customer will have across a supplier, sellers need to create consistency in communications and interactions. While decision trees and basic guidelines can help direct personnel responding to inquiries in a B2C setting, B2B environments often require the use of discretion to respond to customer situations. Hence, training personnel and providing the right level of guidelines to act optimally under such unique circumstances while ensuring a positive customer experience is vital.

A significant portion of a company’s total revenue can be generated through B2B transactions and often a single customer. The loss of such customers can have serious consequences on a company. The combination of rapid commoditization, consolidation of customer base, strong reliance on large customers and resulting intense competition only emphasize the need to create a very positive customer experience for business customers.

Suneth Jayawardhane brings more than 10 years of experience in strategy consulting and software industries. At the Oracle Insight team, he has engaged with a variety of customers in high tech, consumer goods, manufacturing & automotive industries. He joined Oracle from Siebel Systems, where he helped design front-office software strategies for clients in manufacturing and public sector industries through conducting business need assessments, developing business cases and software roadmaps.


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