Dr. Subodh Simon Karmarkar, Doctorate in Management, Author, Public Speaker, Gestalt therapist, a thought leader and advocate for presencing, balances life and family with a five day, fifty hour work week. Dr Karmarkar interfaces with his global team, enjoys speaking to entrepreneurs and leaders on healthy, productive workplace environments and work/life balance. He is proficient in five languages, Russian, German, English, and two Indian. Dr. Karmarkar is the CEO and Founder of www.RefundWiz.com, the first AI/ML smartphone e-filing tax return app.
Life will provide some pivotal moments that are an invitation for soul searching, which at its core is a rigorously honest self-appraisal. There is a well-known prayer that starts with “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What may seem like an ugly moment could very well be a window of opportunity.
I was once working toward a promotion at a nationally recognized company. The numbers I had posted as a manager were off the charts. Twice I was asked to apply for a promotion and twice I was overlooked for a promotion. In both situations there was never any feedback. My boss and the entire leadership team that interviewed me for two days for each
promotion, did not even take the time to give me feedback, nor did the so-called “Human” Resources/People Center.
Poor leadership experiences come from companies as large as Google to as little as a small light manufacturing company and everything in between. My own experiences of working for exceptionally horrible leadership and organizational cultures is the playbook of how I do not want any of my organizational cultures to be.
In this case, being mistreated by poor management was a good thing. The entire experience led me to move forward on something that had caught my attention some time ago. On LinkedIn I call myself a serial entrepreneur. I’m driven to look for a void and I seek to fill it. I’m attracted to the marginalized, the vulnerable, because that’s where I started at the age of five…
I came from India to Chicago in the late 60s, when my culture was not yet represented. I didn’t speak English and I wasn’t the right color. I was eager to board my first school bus and get to know my new friends on this great adventure to America. But I was spat upon. I thought, “What does this mean?”. I was perplexed, somewhat hurt, but not angry or afraid. I didn’t retaliate, only tried to understand. Very quickly, I learned English by watching the Electric Company, Sesame Street and the Ray Rayner Show with Bugs Bunny.
As a grown up, after launching an ethno-centric substance abuse detox and rehabilitation center, I was privileged to facilitate awareness and treatment solutions to the Indian American community and to receive a nomination as Sony Entertainment South Asian Person of the Year. I am an
ad hoc advisor for Mentra, a hiring platform for neurodiverse individuals. I am a contributing author for “Diversity and Inclusion in the Global Workplace” through the “Center for Workplace Diversity”. My guiding vision has been and will always be, to serve the marginalized and the culturally diverse. To that end, my latest development meets many of my heart’s desires.
While consulting for another well known company, I witnessed firsthand, countless times, Spanish speaking callers desperately seeking help in their attempt to file tax returns. Staff kept repeating their go to response, “no habla espanol”. This tremendously hard-working ethnic group was subserviced. There are fewer than 10,000 Latino tax preparers and over 62 million Hispanics in the US. I recall observing my father, also from India, learning English, in complete fear and overwhelmed with anxiety when it came to filing taxes. The jargon used in IRS publications is daunting, even for English speakers.
There are also a number of other pitfalls in the tax filing process… The legacy companies have pushed to create complex tax forms. The bait and switch tactics of “free filing,” has left a sour taste for all consumers when it comes to tax filing software. Predatory lending practices take unfair advantage of hard-working individuals, many offering advances to their refund at egregious interest rates, among other incentivizations that often don’t deliver. In addition, tax laws change year after year and the fear of receiving a letter from the IRS is horrifying.
My genetic make-up consists of a relentless drive to help the marginalized and vulnerable segments of our society. The opportunity to combine my technical, therapeutic and leadership backgrounds all joined
forces to create Refundwiz. I wanted to innovate and create something different, so I found a gap that needed to be filled, the underserved and under-resourced Hispanic community.
There were a number of challenges to tackle in the financial services space for this demographic…
Access to financial services is not universal across ethnicities in the United States. Of the 31 Million Households in the U.S. considered to be under-banked, Hispanic households represent 33%, or 7-8 million.
In the last decade, the Hispanic demographic group increased by more than 50%. Approximately every 30 seconds someone is turning the age of 18 and entering the tax system. The majority of the entrants from the new generation demand purpose-built financial applications. As this latest generation enters the tax system, most have an affinity for Spanish brands, or at least Spanish/English brands
Internet service is limited among the marginalized in general. Legacy companies’ strategic plans are to drive tax filers to use their concierge-type services via their proprietary software. Yet many Hispanic households do not have home broadband internet services. Their primary method to connect is via smartphone.
Language remains an issue. The IRS did not publish in-language filing instructions and forms in Spanish until 2021, and even with that, the jargon is not clearly defined.
Historically many from this demographic group may be well versed in their country of origin’s financial literacy, but have never received education in US financial literacy. While many tax filing companies claim there is a Spanish version of the software, lazily these companies have relied on copy and paste translation. Coupled with that, they still use the same confusing tax lingo that is published in IRS bulletins and instructions. Reading IRS instructions is daunting in English. Just imagine the challenges and fears that one faces if English is one’s second language!
The last challenge applies to all demographics. Consumers today demand purpose-built financial applications. For a once-a-year event, like filing taxes, no one wants to spend days learning tax software and tax code. Should one take that on, the anxiety that is common-place can drive a person mad. Almost every administration in the White House has aimed at making tax-filing simpler – only to have gone the other direction.
Enter the Refundwiz app, the world’s fastest, easiest and most accurate tax-filing solution. Refundwiz is committed to providing life-changing financial technology solutions to under-served communities, starting with the hispanic community. Subscribers install the app for Android or I-phone, then use their smartphones to take pictures of their W-2 and government-issued IDs. The captured data is parsed in real-time and returned to the subscriber for confirmation. With the attestation that the data provided is truthful and accurate, Refundwiz prepares and files the return with the IRS. It’s as easy as Uno-Dos-Tres, five minutes, start to finish. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, RefundWiz eliminates the possibility of tax law interpretation and human data entry
errors. The proprietary RefundWiz algorithm will deliver the optimal outcome.
Using technology to overcome resource gaps is at the center of our mission. The Hispanic community is traditionally under-banked in America. RefundWiz takes aim at this issue by driving all Member cash flows through our Prepaid Debit Card. Tax Refunds are loaded onto the member’s debit card and monthly dues are debited from the “Mas! Card”.
Refundwiz can be used by English speakers as well. The apps will always be natively in Spanish, but both apps have English options.
The journey has been long, but gratifying. I’m proud of our product and brand. The www.RefundWiz.com algorithms and ease of use answers all of the above to make tax filing and banking painless for Spanish and English speakers.
If you’re reading this and thinking of a business or product idea that’s been ruminating within you… The lyrics from Chumbawamba come to mind! “I get knocked down but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.” Yes, I’ve been knocked down. If you’ve ever been knocked down, sometimes it’s hard to get up. If you find yourself in life’s journey questioning your purpose and meaning, then start with recognizing your strengths and weaknesses. For weaknesses, take steps in filling those gaps by asking for help. Focus on something for which you have a passion. Understand what it is that is broken, and ask yourself these questions: (1) What is broken? (2) Will my solution fix the problem? (3) Is this the right time? (4) Am I the right person?
Starting a business is essentially signing up for running back-to-back marathons with the energy to do sprints within the marathon. Acceptance will be the key during this emotional rollercoaster ride. IF you are up and flying high, it is right where you are supposed to be. If things are looking a bit glum, don’t worry that will change and you will fly high again. The first step is to ensure that you are solving a real problem that others have expressed as a pain point. Next is to ensure that your solution is wanted, that there is a market. A great example of this is Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a program embraced by those who want it and not by those who need it. Similarly, understand your customer and make your solution to be something they are open to try. Third is to make sure the customer is willing to pay for using your product or service. Fourth is to know the market you want to enter. Do your research. The research links in this article don’t even make up a fraction of the research for Refundwiz.
If you start with wanting to go global, it is highly unlikely anyone will take you seriously. If you start too narrow, the revenue projections may not cover the costs. In terms of revenue projections, conservatively if you think it will take one year to break even, I would add two more years to that projection. Make sure you have sufficient funds to carry you through the lean pre-launch and post launch weeks and months.
Make a list of your personal assets i.e. your strengths in running a business and those areas in which you struggle. Take as many online courses as possible to shore up your areas of vulnerability.
Get legal matters out of the way as early as possible, much of which can be done online. File your LLC or corp. File trademarks with attorneys that specialize in this domain. Secure your brand and proprietary product names with URLs. File for patents. Clear the local business licensing, even if working from home, often called a “Home Occupation Permit”. Lastly, make certain that you are taking the time for self-care. Investors want to know you are going to be around to protect their investment.
As a serial entrepreneur I have held a steadfast belief that every new company I have engaged in must meet two levels of criteria: “Will it help a segment of our society?” and “Will it make money?”
A well-known verse from Chapter two of the Bhagavad Gita offers precise instructions regarding the science of work:
● Do your duty, but do not be concerned with the results. ● The fruits of your actions are not for your pleasure.
● Even while working, give up the pride of “doership.”
● Do not be attached to inaction.
Have the courage to change the things you can!
Data USA: Tax Preparers – https://datausa.io/profile/soc/tax-preparers
FDIC – How America Banks
Pew Research – Hispanic Population
Pew Research – Home Broadband
Every 30 Seconds – www.every30seconds.com