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Guzman Y Gomez’s co-founder and CEO Steven Marks.

Guzman Y Gomez

SYDNEY — When Steven Marks landed a job at a top Wall Street hedge fund, he thought he had it made.

Marks, then 23-years-old, was one of just two grads in his year to earn a place on legendary U.S. investor Steve Cohen’s New York equities team — a feat for a guy born on the wrong side of the tracks in 1970s Brooklyn.

By 27, he was heading up a London trading desk, enjoying life off Chelsea’s iconic Sloane Square. But, by 30, the sheen had worn off and Marks yearned for a fresh start.

“People think you have to have one career, but that’s just not true,” said Marks.

So, he decided to turn life on its head, and booked a one-way ticket to Australia with a dream of starting over.

People think you have to have one career. But that’s just not true.

Steven Marks

Co-founder and CEO, Guzman y Gomez

From fund manager to founder

Seventeen years on, Marks is the co-founder and CEO of Guzman y Gomez, the Australia-born Mexican casual-dining chain hoping to give the likes of Chipotle a run for its money.

Marks started the business in 2006, a few years after relocating Down Under, and has since expanded to 115 locations across Australia, Singapore and Japan.

But, as he told CNBC Make It in Sydney, it’s a success story that started quite by accident.

Guzman Y Gomez’s signature burrito bowl.

Guzman Y Gomez

“I had these plans to build a hotel by the beach,” recalled Marks. However, while struggling to get his plan off the ground, he stumbled across another idea entirely.

“I really missed good Mexican food,” said Marks, noting he’d been “spoiled” in New York.

“They didn’t know what good Mexican food was in Australia,” he continued. “Most people thought black beans were olives.”

So Marks took it upon himself to show them, investing “everything” he had saved from Wall Street into creating a brand he believed couldn’t fail.

The reason you become an entrepreneur is because you think you’re going to do something better.

Steven Marks

Co-founder and CEO, Guzman y Gomez

“I poached the best staff from Latin American restaurants and brought in chefs from Mexico,” he said.

It was all part of a determination picked up early in life to do the best job he could, said Marks, who teamed up with Robert Hazan, an old friend from the States, to launch the venture.

“I grew up very entrepreneurial and I knew I didn’t want to just copy somebody else,” Marks said. “The reason you become an entrepreneur is because you think you’re going to do something better.”

Building a brand

It wasn’t an easy sell, however, Marks noted.

“We really had to educate the market,” he said, recalling running regular free burrito days to win customers.

But, according to Marks, by doubling down on Sydney and creating locations in “triple A real estate,” he was soon able to establish a strong following.

Guzman Y Gomez’s outlet in Wollongong, Australia.

Guzman Y Gomez

“I was obsessed with making people love the GyG brand,” said Marks.

“A lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of going wide and spreading their business too thinly,” he continued. “But I kept things concentrated in Sydney for the first few years.”

Lessons from Wall Street

That approach soon caught the eye of investors, who were keen to back the growing GyG brand.

However, Marks said his days on Wall Street had taught him to choose his investors carefully, and rather than take money from people who weren’t aligned with his vision, he opted instead to keep hustling.

“I believe pain is a privilege,” said Marks.

“The people who wanted to invest, I didn’t want them to. So we just had to make it work, even when we were running out of money.”

Three years in, and with six restaurants to their names, Marks’ patience paid off and he and his co-founder struck a deal with the team behind McDonald’s Australia, whom he said shared his passion with and helped fuel the company’s domestic and international expansion.

“I can’t stress more that the board needs to be aligned,” Marks said. “That is so important.”

A U.S. homecoming

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wireless headphones, earbuds, photo manager

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What to buy for the frequent-flying road warrior who sees it all in their travels? Here are creative gadgets that can make upcoming 2020 travel that much more comfortable.

Wireless earphones: Nuheara’s IQbuds Boost

Nuheara IQbuds Boost

Courtesy of Nuheara.

Eliminate the endless noise pollution of airports, planes, trains and city life with these wireless earphones. The Nuheara IQbuds Boost drown out sound without the added bulk of larger noise-canceling headphone models. They also sync via Bluetooth to enabled devices to enjoy up to eight hours of music, audiobooks or even white noise, with improved sound quality that can be customized to different environments. Those with reduced hearing will especially find the sound capabilities to be exceptional.
Summary: A travel-friendly pair of noise-reducing earbuds with solid audio quality
Price: $299

Portable charger: myCharge Hub Turbo

myCharge Hub Turbo portable charger.

Courtesy of myCharge

No one likes stressing over a low-power signal on their smartphone or tablet, but that’s less of a worry when packing the myCharge Hub Turbo 10,050 mAh portable charger. This is the brand’s first charger that features built-in lightning and USB-C cables for the fastest recharge. You can charge two devices directly and a third using the USB port on the side. If Murphy’s Law teaches us anything, it’s that when you need power the most, you’re least likely to have it — which is why this all-in-one portable charger can easily save the day.
Summary: A must-have power charger to quickly recharge mobile devices
Price: $110

Trackable charger: Nomad PowerPack

Nomad PowerPack.

Courtesy of Nomad

If you’re looking for a portable power device — but you’re known to misplace things easily — then Nomad’s trackable PowerPack fits the bill. It can be synced via Bluetooth to Tile, an app-based tracking device that can locate everything from your wallet to your phone. This easy-to-grip power bank means it won’t slide out of your pocket or briefcase when traveling, and it delivers a whopping 9,000 mAh of power through three power ports: two USB-C ports and one USB-A port.
Summary: A compact battery pack for those with a history of losing their tech devices
Price: $120

Laptop charger: Mobile Edge Core Power

Mobile Edge Core Power laptop charger.

Courtesy of Mobile Edge

What is a traveler to do when the laptop battery is at the bottom of the power barrel, and there is nary an outlet in sight? Most power devices are not strong enough to juice a laptop, but the Mobile Edge Core Power laptop charger does the trick. With an AC outlet (plus numerous USB ports), it comes with an incredible 27,000 mAh capacity and can charge a laptop in about four hours.
Summary: A reliable battery for laptop users who are away from power outlets for hours at a time
Price: $200

Keyless lock: Friday Smart Lock

Friday Smart Lock.

Courtesy of Friday Home

The Friday Smart Lock delivers security and accessibility to your home at the touch of a mobile button. This retrofit lock allows for keyless entry via Siri or the smartphone app. Use it to allow friends to have access to your home or to let neighbors bring packages or mail inside. It’s also great for those who need help with plants or pets while away. The battery-charged device comes in multiple colors to match any style; it also keeps an electronic log of every time it is used. And, it’s easy to attach; help comes in the form of a video app, but the universal base plate makes it a cinch to install.
Summary: A convenient keyless entry system to grant access to your home via your phone
Price: $299

External hard drive: My Passport from Western Digital

My Passport by Western Digital.

Courtesy of Western Digital

When it comes to storing password-protected and encrypted data on a hard drive, the 5TB My Passport Portable external hard drive from Western Digital offers a lightweight solution that can easily slide into a briefcase or purse pocket. Add to that its USB 2.0 compatibility and rugged design, and you have a winner when it comes to protecting data while on the go. This is especially useful for travelers who manage sensitive information or those who frequently power up in crowded airports or office buildings. This is the brand’s slimmest 5TG storage device yet.
Summary: A portable, palm-sized device to back up and secure your data wherever you go
Price: $150 (PC version) or $160 (Mac version)

Photo manager: ibi Smart Photo Manager from SanDisk

ibi Smart Phone Manager by SanDisk.

Courtesy of Western Digital

Frequent travelers love to capture their experiences via photo, but there are limits to online and cloud storage space. Sandisk’s new ibi Smart Photo Manager tackles that problem, while also collecting all your photos and videos into one convenient place. The app stores your photos while you’re on the road (instead of you having to download them to a computer, for example), and once you’re home, ibi backs up whichever devices, social media platforms and cloud accounts you’ve synced with it. It’s got enough capacity to store more than 250,000 photos or 100 hours of video. The app also allows people to quickly edit photos on their phones and add friend and family groups for easy sharing.
Summary: A sizable device that provides peace of mind and organization to snap-happy travelers
Price: $130 (1 TB version)

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RBI did the ‘wrong thing’ by not cutting rates, Mark Mobius says

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Mark Mobius, Executive Chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group.

Anjali Sundara | CNBC

India’s central bank was wrong to keep its benchmark interest rates unchanged on Thursday, according to veteran emerging markets investor Mark Mobius.

The Reserve Bank of India surprised markets by keeping its repo rate — the rate at which it lends to other banks — unchanged at 5.15%. Prior to the decision, economists predicted a sixth rate cut from the central bank amid a notable slowdown in the Indian economy.

“I think they did the wrong thing,” Mobius, who is founding partner at Mobius Capital Partners, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Friday about the RBI. “I think they were reacting to the short-term situation with inflation, which is mainly caused by food prices, and, specifically, onion prices.”

In October, India’s annual retail inflation rose to 4.62% on the back of higher food prices, Reuters reported. That was a tick above the RBI’s medium-term target of 4%.

“They should have lowered rates,” Mobius said, adding it could improve business confidence in the country and may help to solve some of the debt problems in India’s financial services sector. He explained that the country is “going through a big adjustment right now because of the reforms that have taken place, particularly on the taxation side,” referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark Goods and Services Tax reforms.

The government has struggled to collect sufficient revenue since its new tax schemes went into effect in mid-2017. Recent reports said the GST structure is set to be reviewed.

“This is an adjustment that people have to be accustomed to and it takes time. But next year, I believe that this will do well — they would have made this adjustment and realize the reforms are having an impact,” Mobius said, adding he remains bullish on India. Many micro, small and medium-sized businesses have struggled as a result of the new value-added taxes.

‘Puzzling’

The central bank had already cut the repo rate by 135 basis points this year to stem the economic slowdown. Last week, India reported its economy grew at the slowest pace since 2013.

That made Thursday’s move “more than surprising,” according to Jehangir Aziz, chief emerging markets economist at J.P. Morgan. “I thought it was very puzzling.” Aziz explained on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that since monetary policy is forward-looking, the RBI’s decision was confusing in terms of the “framework within which they are operating.”

For its part, the RBI said in its policy statement it felt appropriate to pause at this stage in light of the current growth-inflation dynamics.

Aziz said apart from inflation concerns, another reason that could explain the central bank’s decision Thursday is a worry over India’s growing fiscal deficit.

“I think the other reason could be, which they did not state, is that they are concerned about what happens to the fiscal deficit outturn,” he said, adding, “there’s a possibility that in February, when the (new) budget comes out, the outturn could be much worse than what people are thinking.”

The budgeted fiscal deficit target at the moment is 3.3% of GDP and if it widens too much, then investor confidence could be affected. India surprised with a $20 billion fiscal stimulus package in September, which mostly focused on a corporate tax cut that analysts agree makes the country more competitive. More fiscal measures are expected next year.

Aziz, however, pointed out that the corporate tax cut would not help to shift demand in the near term. Instead, if India had reduced its GST rates, there would have been an immediate impact on consumer demand, he said.

“There was a way in which they could have better utilized the space,” Aziz said. “Unfortunately, they did not. So, we really have to wait and see whether truly in the medium term, this corporate tax cut actually helps India or not.”

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Police chief calls for peace ahead of march

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Pro-democracy protesters participate in a “5 Demands” mass rally on December 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.

Anthony Kwan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Hong Kong’s police chief has urged citizens to demonstrate peacefully ahead of what is expected to be a large-scale pro-democracy march on Sunday, an event planned amid a lull in violence in the Chinese-ruled city.

Police on Thursday gave a rare green light to the demonstration, organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, the group that called the million-strong marches in the summer. Sunday’s march is a key gauge of the pro-democracy movement’s support following its sweeping victory in local elections.

Speaking to reporters before departing for a “courtesy visit” to Beijing, newly-installed police commissioner Chris Tang urged Hong Kongers to set a global example.

“We hope our citizens can show the whole world (that) Hong Kong people are capable of holding a large scale rally in an orderly and peaceful manner,” he said. “We urge the organizer to assist the police on maintaining the order.”

Tang was traveling to meet with senior officials from the ministry of public security in Beijing and is expected to return to Hong Kong on Sunday.

The unrest in Hong Kong is the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

The former British colony has been wracked by six months of pro-democracy protests sparked by a now withdrawn China extradition bill and which have broadened into calls for greater democratic freedoms.

Escalating violence last month saw a dramatic university siege that pitted protesters against the police.

Despite the increasingly violent tactics adopted by some protesters, pro-democracy candidates achieved record gains in the Nov. 24 local elections, winning almost 90 percent of the seats after the highest ever voter turnout since local polls began in 1999.

Hong Kong has enjoyed a period of relative calm since, a state the new police chief said he hoped could be maintained.

“In the last two weeks the city was relatively peaceful,” he noted, “When the citizens have a chance to take a breather, we hope the violent people will really stop engaging in illegal activities.”

Later on Friday, protesters plan a smaller rally against police use of tear gas, which they say is excessive and harming innocent bystanders. The police has said its use of force has been restrained.

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