Thursday, November 13, 2014

An Essay on Commerce as a Profession

Well may this age be called the age of commerce. Different countries no longer strive for self-sufficiency, nor do they undertake production to meet purely nation needs. Today what one country lacks is supplied by another country: what a particular region produces soon finds a market in neighboring regions where it happens to be scarce. Each country shares its surplus with others. Exchange and barter of commodities are now cared on, on an international scale. The middleman undertaken the task of distribution and makes a profit out it. The banker acts as an expert intermediary who smooth’s exchange problems. With the growth of mechanical production the chances of doing business have greatly expanded. Hence the prospects are unlimited for those who have surplus production and wish to extend regional and national markets on an international scale. The whole world is lying before them, - tempting, challenging, offering immense scope to one who has the intelligence, imagination, initiative and daring to take the one step forward that is needed.

Under capitalism, national production is left to individual who have capital and what is known as the instinct for doing business, which means producing cheap and sling dear, thus ensuring a margin of profit. But something more than this is also required. Character and a degree of specialized knowledge are indispensable. To succeed in a commercial line honesty in necessary. The sharper’s market is a limited and a temporary one, for engaged in the job of getting the largest profit in the easiest way he remains blissfully unconscious of the speed with which he is crashing to his ruin. Next to honesty, one must be hard-working. This, of course, is the minimum needed for success in all spheres of life. It is good if a businessman has in addition the capacity for creating confidence both in his assistance as well as in his clients. This involves that indefinable quality called personality. He must be reasonable, persuasive, sweet-mannered and high-minded. He must subordinate purely selfish considerations to human qualities. Hence a modern businessman needs a background of culture, - not necessarily the couture patented by a university, but a culture imbedded through association with finer types of me\an. “a true-bred merchant is the best gentlemen in the nation,” said the author of Robinson Crusoe, only one must see that one does not abuse gentlemanly virtues for ungentlemanly ends-to betray confidences, to be false to trusts. Some degree of imagination also is necessary to ensure that proper investments are made in anticipation of a rising carve of demand. This comes naturally to one who has the specialized training to study market conditions depending on national and international factors. Imagination has to be controlled by appropriate knowledge so that it may not degenerate into a gambling with destiny. He is a bad businessman whose itch for profits makes him gamble with chances. If one wants to succeed in a commercial venture, one must know how to moderate expectations. Above all he must be patient, for as the economist says, wealth is only deferred enjoyment. One must know how to stand with impatience has ruined may promising careers.
Modern business is a highly complicated after. If is an elaborate machinery with wheels and counter-wheels nicely adjusted and regulated to well-planned ends. Hence a good businessman must know the ins and outs of this complex organization. He must have aptitude for finance, an eye for organization, a knowledge of accountancy, a capacity for control and direction. That is why we have so many institutions for training businessmen, like the Sydenham College of commerce at Bombay or the institute of business management at Calcutta. It is also good to serve a period of apprenticeship in some commercial form to acquire proficiency in the technicalities of trade.

The scope for a hard-working intelligent young man in the field of commerce is great. There are as many branches as there are temperaments suit. One may take up banking or insurance. One may devote his capital and industry to the building up of a factory for producing commodities. One may enter profitable in the immense export and import markets, a retailer’s shop is by no means to be despised, and a wholesaler’s business in the gateway to ever-widening business enterprise. Choice has to be made according to temperament and opportunities. Hereditary factors are often a deciding element. Unexpected opportunities may offer immediate inducement. For the young man of character and training, the scope is immense.

The immediate end of trade is, of course, a purely selfish end, - that of making money. But if this were that sole purpose of trade, it would put the merchant on the same level with the unscrupulous robber. Indeed as Nietzsche reminded us. “Merchant and pirate were for a long period one and the same person,” and he went on to say that “even today merchant morality is really nothing but a refinement of piratical morality”. But there is another aspect. Commerce has always been a great civilizing force. “We exchange ideas when we exchange fabric.” We make friends when we persuade buyers and sell our goods. We open up the gates of international association, and that means an addition to knowledge, an incentive to invention, a call for peach and goodwill:

Generous commerce binds
The round of nations in a golden chain.