When people ask me what I do, I usually tell them that I am a software engineer at heart. And then there is usually a moment of timelessness, as we respectively see who blinks first. I am sure that this predicament is not mine alone, and that I have a whole tribe of my own out there, who too must be struggling to convey what exactly they do – how they add value to the world that they are robbing. 🙂
And then sometime ago, I attended a software engineering conference, where a very respected software engineer, several years my senior in the field, and a million times more accomplished, famous and wealthier, had this to say – “When people ask me what I do for a living, I have now got a proper reply. Here it is. I tell them – ‘My grandfather was a horse-thief, my father was a used-car dealer, and I, am a software engineer.’ ”
So, coming back to my car chronicle, I had this old car to sell, and new car to buy.
Enter – Used-car dealer Krishna!
For the sake of brevity, lets call him Used-car Krishna! Here was a pure, unadulterated Krishna!
He purred like as if he had nothing but my highest interest in his heart. He would take care of the whole thing. Sell the old car. Show me a range of new cars. Get me the best prices. Arrange any finance I need. And also fill my refrigerator up, as a freebie. All at no extra cost. Their dealership had been serving the society for more than five decades now. And this used-car Krishna who was now my trusted-advisor was a second or third generation person from that family of Used-car Krishnas!
Krishna asked me how many kilometers my current car has done. 60 K, said I. He then examined the papers of my current car, his face taking on the look of Don Bradman facing a ball, and deciding how best to hit it for a six. He then put on his most trust-inspiring expression and gave me four options, one straight, and three crooked. We could go for the straight option of course, except that I would not get as good a price. I would be foregoing some 20 or 30K. I chose to go straight. And then he was so quick on the kill that he was willing to sign a cheque straightaway, which made me wonder if I had been made a lemon.
And then he smoothly switched gears, and got onto discussing how he could help with arranging finance for my new car purchase. He sang such a melodious number! I came away thinking that I could be getting a fascinating deal where I had to pay just 6 % interest.
And before I could say Henry-Ford, Used-car Krishna had landed in my house in the evening. He brought along some snake-oil salesmen from a new car dealer, and two new cars (one purposely made to look dull compared to the other, higher priced option). He also brought along a finance man, who he said would meet me next day, with all paper work done, and a few signatures from me on the cross marks on the forms, well the loan would be done, and the new car could be mine!
But being a software engineer, I am trained to do V & V – verification and validation. And so I went to my Accountant Krishna and asked him about financing options, and told him the deal offered by Used-car Krishna.
Accountant Krishna had recently purchased a new car himself and so was fresh with battle wounds. About the deal offered by Used-car Krishna, he lifted an eyebrow and hid a smirk, and asked me a few questions on the detailed terms, for which I had no answers. He wanted to know how the loan offering was structured. Interest on diminishing balance or not, cut off to the day or month, how the repayment EMI was accounted for, how the loading of principal and interest was divided over time, whether there was a penalty for pre-closure etc. Seeing me bewildered, he gave me a small lecture on hidden costs in such deals.
And then he told me about the discounts that could be expected. He advised me that I should break up the transaction completely, so that I did not let the banker, the Used-car dealer, the new car dealer, the insurer, and the accessories suppliers, to gang up as one front. I should deal with each separately, look them in the eye, and get a better deal from each of them, individually.
And to think that I had been thinking that this was a simple straight-through-processing type done deal. Ho hum!
– To be continued –