The ques­tions ranged from who con­ducted the first de­mon­eti­sa­tion in In­dia to which bank is lo­cated on Di­agon Al­ley. meets the four young sparks

Sowmya Aji

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature -

Mr. Mo­han has a credit card debt of ₹ 20,000 and he wants to go on a hol­i­day. What should he do first? Pay off his debt Save for his hol­i­day Take an­other loan for his hol­i­day Can­cel the hol­i­day plan About 180 school­child­ren aged 13-17 an­swered such ques­tions, which could stump a sea­soned char­tered ac­coun­tant, as part of the an­nual Na­tional Fi­nance Olympiad (NFO) or­gan­ised by the In­dian In­sti­tute of Fi­nan­cial Mar­kets and eco­nomic­ “Have you heard of the James Bond, Samu­rai Bond a nd Pa nda Bond? ” a sk s 16 -ye a r - old Rak­shashri Natara­jan. They are bonds is­sued in the fi­nan­cial mar­ket.

The James Bond, ac­cord­ing to 14 -year- old Shivani Gowda, is the one that is re­deemable af­ter seven years, in hon­our of the fic­tional Bri­tish spy’s code of 007.

Sid­darth Vi­nay, 17, ex­plains the Samu­rai and Panda bonds: “When non-Ja­panese com­pa­nies is­sue bonds in Ja­pan in the yen, they are samu­rai bonds. Panda is the ex­act same thing in China.”

Samyukta Ka­math, 13, pipes in: “There is also the Dim Sum bond. It is the re­verse of the Panda, where com­pa­nies is­sue bonds in Chi­nese ren­minbi out­side of China.”

These four stu­dents, from the Na­tional Acad­emy For Learn­ing (NAFL) in Ben­galuru, have walked away with the ₹ 1 lakh prize for win­ning the NFO for 2016-17. Ev­ery mo­ment of their jour­ney to the fi­nal on Fe­bru­ary 2 is fresh in their minds.

“I had no idea about eco­nom­ics or fi­nance. I just par­tic­i­pated in the fi­nance Olympiad like I do in all other com­pe­ti­tions,” Samyukta con­fessed.

Shivani said: “Even the thought of fi­nances and eco­nom­ics was daunt­ing.”

Now, af­ter the event, these 8th stan­dard kids ca­su­ally talk of dif­fer­ent kinds of cheques, de­posits and bank­ing in­stru­ments, men­tion names of top fi­nance-re­lated books, their au­thors and why they are fa­mous, name CEOs of multi­na­tional com­pa­nies with­out bat­ting an eye­lid and speak with fa­mil­iar­ity about Raghu­ram Ra­jan and Ur­jit Pa­tel (for­mer and cur­rent RBI gover­nors).

“It’s so cool to talk about all this with our class­mates,” Samyukta said. The con­test was a humdinger, with ju­niors Shivani and Samyukta miss­ing out on a ques­tion in the first round, leav­ing them at the bot­tom among the top three teams, in­clud­ing one from Delhi and one from Chandi­garh.

“It spurred us to per­form bet­ter as we had to catch up at any cost,” said Sid­darth of class 12, who along with Rak­shashri of class 11, con­tested the se­nior rounds. Rak­shashri aced the buzzer round, which in­cluded a ques­tion on the tra­di­tional halwa cer­e­mony be­fore the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Union bud­get, while Sid­darth picked up the slack by an­swer­ing all ques­tions on fic­tional bil­lion­aires such as Tony Stark (Iron Man), Un­cle Scrooge (Don­ald Duck’s un­cle), Bruce Wayne (Bat­man) and Richie Rich. They raced to the top of the ta­ble as Shivani and Samyukta cheered them from the au­di­ence.

The ques­tions ranged from who did the first de­mon­eti­sa­tion in In­dia (Shah Ja­han) to the cur­rency of Den­mark (Dan­ish krone). Stu­dents were shown clips of films such as ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and asked to iden­tify what was tak­ing place on the screen. “It was trad­ing of penny stocks,” Sid­darth said.

There were also ques­tions that tested their un­der­stand­ing of fi­nan­cial con­cepts and aware­ness of cur­rent af­fairs and gen­eral knowl­edge. The USP of the team, how­ever, turned out to be their knowl­edge of fic­tion. While Rak­shashri an­swered a ques­tion on which com­pany was fea­tured in the novel Shoe­bag (Nike), the cru­cial ques­tion in the fi­nal buzzer round was: which bank is lo­cated on Di­agon Al­ley? “We knew the an­swer, of course, but we had lost some points in the pre­vi­ous ques­tion. So we just bet 10 points on the an­swer. And we won,” said Shivani. Di­agon Al­ley is where the wiz­ard peo­ple’s bank, Gringotts, is lo­cated, in the Harry Pot­ter books.

The grind that the stu­dents went through to pre­pare for the event had them study the dif­fer­ences be­tween fis­cal and rev­enue deficit, recog­nise com­pany sym­bols from stock ex­changes around the world, learn fi­nan­cial land­marks such as the first coun­try to make coins (Baby­lon). They di­vided up the top­ics among them­selves “as there was no other way we could have cov­ered ev­ery­thing oth­er­wise,” they cho­rused. Rak­shashri, who has cho­sen eco­nom­ics as her elec­tive sub­ject, was nat­u­rally in­clined to ab- sorb all of it. For the other three, though, it was an en­tirely new ex­pe­ri­ence. Samyukta will now take eco­nom­ics as her elec­tive and wants to use that in her fa­ther’s busi­ness when she grows up. Sid­darth and Shivani are opting for com­puter sci­ence, “but the knowl­edge we have gained from do­ing this fi­nance Olympiad will al­ways be use­ful for us,” they said. Two things im­pressed the stu­dents: War­ren Buf­fett’s quote: “Rule No. 1: Never lose money and Rule No. 2: Never for­get Rule No. 1” and the con­cept of spend what is left af­ter sav­ing, not save what’s left af­ter spend­ing.

“We will ap­ply these in our lives,” all four young­sters said with firmness.

“It is very good train­ing for the stu­dents and helps them in their lives. The process was also re­ally in­ter­est­ing,” said NAFL eco­nom­ics fac­ulty mem­ber K Pad­ma­vathi, who along with col­league Sridevi, men­tored the stu­dents. This is the sec­ond year the NAFL has won the Na­tional Fi­nance Olympiad, a com­pe­ti­tion that’s four years old.

School prin­ci­pal Indira Jayakr­ish­nan is all praise for her stu­dents: “We try to of­fer a pro­gres­sive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment where we en­cour­age stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in a va­ri­ety of com­pe­ti­tions that test their met­tle. We are de­lighted to win the NFO two years in a row!”

(L to R) Shivani Gowda, Samyukta Ka­math, Rak­shashri Natara­jan (hold­ing the tro­phy), Sid­darth Vi­nay

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