December 22, 2006

Yuletide beckons!!!

I'm off to Mumbai for a week. Its nice to get away from the drudgery of Pre Placement Talks, academic rigour :), and the usual hustle and bustle of Change Masters. There are lots of things to look forward too, like:

(1) Making tea and drinking it in my mug
Middle finger to all you dip teas of the world. Welcome to the original brew, simmering on a hot flame
(2) Eating pork and pork derivatives
Damn Gurgaon for its obsession with chicken and mutton. You are not a meat-eater if you haven't tasted pork marinated for three days in traditional Mangalorian curry.
(3) Possibly assist the sweet making activity of home
Kalkals, Marzapans, Newrios, Guava cheese, Jujubs, Cookies, Cake ... my mouth is watering as I write this
(4) Playing Christmas carols full blast
(5) Midnight Mass on St. Anne's grounds
Rather its after Mass thats the happening part ;) Gatecrash a few parties if possible
(6) Catching up with the ol' gang
And their better halves / to-be better halves. I guess I'm the only bachelor in the group :(
(7) Mom Dad's silver jubilee on the 26th
Can't think of anything to get them
(8) Possibly a few weddings since its wedding season

I'm loving it!
Mumbai here I come!!!

December 5, 2006

Poker and Walker ... a nice combination

Well this was not inspired by 'Casino Royale', the latest Bond flick. It all happened when I was in Mumbai last month for Avenues at IIT-SOM for Avenues 2006, a business simulation game. On the way back we Mandevians played poker. For me it was the first time. And at the end of two days and countless games I made a profit of Rs.2.00 Obviously the stakes were small with cover charges of 25p and a stop loss at Rs.20. Nonetheless it was a great experience. We didn't have tokens but Harshit Jain made good the absence with his chopdi (notebook)

A few days ago we played poker again in the basement of the hostel. This time it was different. First, it was international. We had participation from Belgium, France, Germany, Morocco and India. Second, there were tokens finally instead of the chopdi toting Harshit Jain. Third, we had Johnie Walker Black Label for company.

The exchange students were good players. Its a different thing that Verghese always ends up winning some. The tokens added to the jazz and the JWBL was superb. I decided to have the Scotch neat. Bloody smooth. Three large ones later I was still feeling good. And mind you, no hangover in the morning.

I was wiped out in the first round and went to play some table tennis. I returned later to play for Verghese and as lady luck would have it I had two aces in my hand and one round later I had another on the table. Undoutedly, I cleaned up a huge pot I dunno how much coz by then the Black Label had had its effect. As for the net winnings, as usual I broke even. No profit no loss!

L-R: Tim, Thibaut (both from Belgium), Slyvia (Italy, onlooker), Moi, Verghese (Indian reps!), Robert and Evaristo (both from Germany)

Hasan (Morocco) had gone to get some stuff hence not in the pic.

December 1, 2006

Finally ... it is finished!!!

Ah finally it is over. There has been loads of work in the past few weeks. For starters it was JP Morgan's all India case study on the valuation of a Chinky company. At the end of it all I was haunted by Free Cash Flows and Excel sheets. However my team members Porter and Sanky and me learnt the inside out of valuations. It was a good learning experience.

Then came the autobiography on self for the course on Self Development and Interpersonal Relations. The prof wanted something of a minimum of 20 pages. Poor me. I started typing and along the way I got so carried away and it went to 31 pages. The autobiography looked good at the end of it all and believe it or not it made me relive some of my happiest moments. Yes I also got a bit sentimental in between. Autobiographies are a good way to explore yourself and they actually help you understand yourself better. Everyone should write an autobiography!

Simulataneously, I was working on a course of independant study on 'Corporate Renewal' We have an option here of taking a CIS in lieu of a full credit where we study a subject of our choice for the entire term. Obviously the perks are that there are no classes, no quizzes and that you define your work and your pace. The cons are that since one is free one tends to not work until the advent of deadlines.

So thats what took all my time and kept me away from blogging all this while. Will be coming up with updates soon!

November 13, 2006

The takeover

India was taken over by the British after the 1857 revolt. Yep it was a bit crude. Gold (the princes got 'em) instead of cash and slavery instead of share swaps. MDI was taken over yesterday in a 1:1 pure student deal. For every student sent abroad we have now, albiet a lil' late, a French student. ESCP-EAP, Paris has pumped in additional capital to strengthen the 'balance' sheet. Yep the male-female ratio looks somewhat balanced now. Caveat: The additional 'capital' is in the form of venture capital. Our people will be returning in a months time and these people will return then. Has the makings of a sexy takeover (though temporary).

Sample this. I get up early on Sunday morning. BTW 9:30 AM is extremely early for a Sunday. I walk into Change Masters Mess for my masala dosas and I am greeted to a sight of a mess full of firangs! I rubbed my sleepy eyes and thought for a minute that my eyes were playing tricks. Worse I thought it was a hangover of the JP Morgan case competition (which had made me work in the Computer centre for one week straight 24x7). I pinched myself. It hurt. Yep there were 54 guys and gals (hot ones too!) from France for a one month course on 'Management of International Projects'. Whatever it is! I'm not complaining but seriously it feels like we localites are on exchange!

November 12, 2006

Project Lean (and Mean ;) !)

It seems that I have 14% body fat. (Calculate) . Though the method is crude and highly subjective, you can take it as a nice approximation. Evaristo, one of my friends from Germany has roughly 8% by the same calculation. And today I have decided to reduce body fat to single digits. For the past few weeks I have been on 'Project Cut-the-tummy'. Apparently fat around the waist doesn't go through ab crunches. It seems you can have a great set of abs hidden under layers of fat. Jogging, sprinting and aerobics will burn that fat away. And of course there is the good food habits that one must cultivate to eradicate fat. In keeping with this I have cut down heavily on the bad habits developed in the past 18 months at MDI:
(1) Insisting that my sandwiches have a 2-3 mm layer of butter
(2) Taking a slab of butter with anything and everything during breakfast
(3) Putting 2-3 tablespoons of refined sugar with my lime juice
(4) Eating all the oily stuff in the world
(5) Eating loads (and I mean huge loads) of rice

One might ask what prompted this change of heart. I happened to chance on one of my old photographs from 4-5 years ago. I had six pack abs then. I immediately stood up straight and looked down. I couldn't see my toes :( *shame-o-shame* It didn't help that friends here in the hostel had started pulling my leg about the portly tummy I had developed.

That was 2 weeks ago. The progress is good. I can see my toes now :) Hopefully in a months time I hope to burn the shit. Cheerio

October 25, 2006

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 9 - Mundane things & Alls well that ends well)

The small things that go on to make a great trip. Some bloopers ...

Me asking the receptionist: "Is this Dal lake the same as the one in Kashmir"
Harshit (after some apple cider) sees parallel water pipes between two cottages: "I din't know there was a railway track here"
Pradeep (when being told that Smirnoff was sold at 900 bucks a bottle): "We got it at McLeodganj for 400." We were subsequently driven off by the theka owner. I think word had then spread around that there were three guys who are easy targets for conmen. We bought some shitty liqour from this theka guy at a ridiculous price.

Watch this space for some more witty ones if I remember them.

We got a better deal when coming back. A straight bus to Delhi. 10 hours flat. 2 hours later we were back in the Hostel. It was a great experience. The month looks to be full of travelling. Im off to Mumbai on the 26th to represent MDI in 'Colloseum' at 'Avenues 2006' - The management fest of SJMSOM IIT Mumbai. It seems to be a nice trimester!


Dharamsala trip (Chapter 8 - Second day at McLeodganj)

St John of the wilderness is the oldest cathedral in North India. Built in 1853 it is known for its unique gothic style. The church grounds ar filled with coniferous trees and the whole atmosphere is still and calm. Also buried here is Lord Elgen, some Brit bigshot celeb of the 1800s.


St. John of the wilderness

Tibetian Childrens Village - is a school. We were just in time for their annual day celebrations. It was a great experience. When you enter the complex you feel like you are in the Collosuem. The accompanying music was great too!

From here we trekked to Naddi - supposedly the highest point of Dharamsala. On our way back we went through quaint villages.

And finally we visited the most famous landmark at Dharamsala - The Buddist Monastery and the home of the Dalai Lama.

The prayer wheels. Each wheel is filled with some prayers and everytime you roll the wheels, the person is granted the prayers in it. Wierd ... I turned the wheels without knowing whats inside! Just hope it was meant for some good.

The throne of the Dalai Lama. Pity he wasnt there!

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 7 - McLeodganj)

Well you just can't describe this place with words. You have to see it to believe it. The best part of the trip.

McLeodganj market

On the way to Bhagsur

The Bhagsurnath temple

Behind a cottage ... picture perfect

Trinetra cafe. Stop for refreshments

The trail to the waterfalls

The Bhagsurnath waterfalls

Shiva cafe ... last point for the trek ... about turn!!!

It was Old Monk for company. Kept us warm throughout the trek on a rainy day. Lunch was Tibetain. Tofu, Thuppa (tibetain noodles), Thukpa (clear soup), Tibetian bread and veggies. That was almost the end of day two.

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 6 - Dharamsala)

Some pics ...
Capturing evening in Dharamsala

What people here do for a living. We demand a course on this topic next term. Entreprenuership will have a new meaning!

The hotel which looted us ... Damn its the other way around here. Private hotels are cheaper!

The view in the morning. The small town on the mountain and the Himalayas in the background.

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 5 - The Gypsy Kings)

With Harshit at Jalandhar bus stand a.k.a East Berlin

With colourful experiences behind us we continued on our quest. The local vehicle dropped us finally at Jalandhar. The bus stand at Jalandhar looked like East Berlin from the past. Rubble and debris all over the place. Not that it did matter, what was worse was that there is nothing called an enquiry desk, no timetable, nothing. Just conductors shouting destinations. We took a bus to Pathankot. They screened a Punju movie 'Dhee Jatt Di' which mysteriously rewinded every now and then. If that wasn't enough, they started blaring Punju music. Punju music also runs along similar business models explained in the above post. There seems to be one singer (or all of them have a similar tone which seems unlikely!), there are standard beats, standard lyrics too. Most songs revolve around 'Pind' (village), 'mitran' (friends), 'daroo' (alcohol but whiskey in this case), 'gaddi / truck' and similar rustic themes. Such amazing levels of economies of scale. If only Indian manufacturing had taken a leaf out of the Punjabi music industry we would have beaten the Japs at concepts like Lean Manufacturing.

Enjoying 'Dhee Jatt Di' enroute to Pathankot - Cheap entertainment for cheapos ;)

Another striking feature is that Punjus have their personalised metric system to measure time. No two persons gave us a common estimate of reaching Dhramsala. Huge volatility in their estimates, ranging from as low as 2 hours to 8 hours!!! As usual I bow to their brilliance.

Pathakot is a lovely place. Alcohol is available at unbelievably low prices. Possibly because its a cantonment area. (Tip: If you wanna go on a holiday you know where to go!) With Old Monk for company ;) we boarded a bus to Gaggal. From Gaggal we took a bus to Dharamsala. Finally after 24 hours and million bus changing operations when we got down it was heaven. We felt like Gypsies.
After a 24 hour ordeal ... Finally in Dharamsala

We went to a Himachal Pradesh Tourist lodge. 440 bucks later we realised that there were cheaper options. What the hell. We resigned ourselves to Old Monk.

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 4 - The Great Indian Con Trick)

If you thought that was the last of the studboys you are wrong. Morning brought us to Ludhiana where the bus stopped. LS and HS announce that this is as far as the bus will go and that he will put us on a different bus to Jalandhar! Some of the passengers scooted. Others, around 20 of us stayed behind. To cut a long story short the bus driver was beaten up, the conductor called his henchmen and before we were witness to a bloodbath we also decided that it was in our best interests to hit the road.

Now lets spend some time on the business model of our studboys. First they have a variable charge for all the forty passengers. In this case, the fare ranged between 240 and 400. Expenses like border tax, road tax are dealt with by playing 'Good Cop - Bad Cop'. The driver is the Bad Cop who runs away with the bus stranding the conductor / owner with some passengers. The Good Cop cries in front of the police, it fits in because the anxious passengers are around who have no clue whats going on. Fortunately, the police in this case are Sardars too. They fall for it hook, line and sinker! The bus meanawhile heads on, the others hitch a ride (who cares anyway). Somewhere at a major city along the way comes the coup de grace! The studboys put you on a different vehicle to your destination, Downgrade you from a luxury bus to a local vehicle, Pay a nominal amount to the new guy and scoot off. Wonderful I must say and I was totally impressed by the conceptualisation, planning and implementation. Pity they don't teach strategy at BSchools!

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 3 - The kidnapping ... almost!)

The bus stops at the border and some of the passengers including Verghese get down for a chai / smoke, etc. After around 2 minutes, the bus driver LS, sudddenly locks the door, jumps into the drivers seat and veers off the road into the wilderness!!!

Me and Harshit startled as we are, rush to the cabin and question LS, telling him about our friend (verghese). LS assures us that all is well and in 5 minutes he will tell us everything. The bus meanawhile jets like crazy in what was a bullock-cart path. It turns sharply at corners wide enough to let two cows pass. All this would have been OK if the bus had its lights on. But LS was apparently playing Chor-Police in realtime with real cops. The bus lights, headlights, etc was all OFF. The bus was rushing through the fields now in the dark without headlights, occasionally turning on the lights to search for firm ground!!!

At the other end, the police who were negotiating with HS were stunned too! How can you leave your passengers behind?! they asked HS. The reply was even better,"My driver is mad. He drives off likes this and leaves me stranded too. I dont know what to do." I have to hand it over to HS. What a looney way to answer the cop. And before one thinks this to be jest guess what, the cop (Sardar that he is!) believes the reason and murmurs something about how he cant catch the bus now that it has disappeared!!! Crazy place!!! Hilarious people these Punjabis!!!

The first thought that went through my mind was that the 40 of us would be sold as slaves to the Pakistanis. Too Drastic!!! I toned the thoughts down to getting robbed at gunpoint and being left in the jungle. Verghese meanawhile was asked to hitch a ride to Jalandhar on a truck. Fortunately, the negotiations (Harshit, me and onearmy guy versus LS) worked and he finally stopped the bus in a quarry. Some phone calls later (obviously it was my phone) LS decided to head back and pick up the others who were left behind.

We pick up the others some distance before the border and again get into the bushes to avoid the police. As luck would have it the police caught us again. This time LS cooly tells the police that he bribed the police some distance down the road and he can collect his share from there!!! Talk about transperancy! After 90 minutes of nerve racking moments we were finally on the road again, towards Jalandhar.

PS: Due to the stress and anxiety of the situation we were not able to take pictures here.

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 2 - The studboys)

At ISBT, we found that there was no direct bus to Dharamsala due to Diwali. We would have to change buses. The best option was Pathankot. But one dingy agent with an open air office wanted us to tour Punjab. So he convinces us that he has our best interests in mind and tells us to go through Jallandhar. Ahem! we have no choice or as Subir would put it, our BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) was low. So we say WTF! How bad can it get! and trudged to the bus where we met the studboys.

Lets call them Laurel and Hardy Singh (LS & HS respectively). The driver, LS was a thin bearded sardar. Along with him was HS the conductor, a fat Sardar in three-quarters and sports shoes. If you heard them speak you would prolly think one (LS) was chanting prayers while the other (HS) was lamenting. HS's voice made him sound like the biggest loser in the world. He was almost crying at times. Little that we knew beneath the loser face and sad voice was a master strategist, logistics expert and a don at negotiation.

The vehicle used by the studboys. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the studboys. The biggest loss of the trip!

We left ISBT towards Jalandhar at 10:30 odd. After some dozen stops at random petrol pumps where they keep on filling 10 litres of diesel (?) per stop, they realise that the police is following them in a jeep. At the last petrol pump HS gets into the police jeep and negotiates. The bus moves ahead of the jeep and reaches the border. Dunno which state we were crossing coz it was dark. The issue of negotiation was some tax which HS dint want to pay. It was irritating that we were stopping so frequently but I would not have complained only if i knew what was coming ahead.

Dharamsala trip (Chapter 1 - The plan)

Mid terms behind us, we decide to go on a random trip. Names of places come up like the participants of a beauty contest. The judges Harshit, Verghese and myself look at the only parameter to make the decision - Pranesh, who knows every nook and corner of North India (because thats all that he apparently did during his four years of engineering:))

After considering the budget, logistics and the sightseeing opportunities, we try to rope in some more guys to share the fixed costs :) . C'mon an MBA should help you somewhere! Unfortunately our marketing fails and the shared costs comes down to the taxi that Pranesh was taking to the airport :( So the three random guys that we are, we pack off our bags in the direction of Dharamsala.

Get Set Go! L to R - Harshit, Verghese and me

We reach the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT) and there we meet the studboys!

October 19, 2006

"For the best lessons I learnt in life, I didn't receive any marks"

It's one of those one liners ... not borrowed, not made up ... but straight from the heart of one of my friends here.

One of the drastic changes in me over the past one year is the utter disregard for meaningless numbers. If you are interested read this and this. I was not like this always. I used to measure myself with grades and marks and feel depressed if I didn't meet the standards which I set for myself (most of which were so high I could never achieve it without losing my sanity!) Extreme ambition basically drives you mad. Somewhere along the line I attained Nirvana (Thanks buddy for your company!). And thats when I decided that some bloody number with two decimal places is not going to decide who I am, what I'm going to do in life and what I'm going to achieve.

Rock on Abyuthvad!!! ... please come up with some more pearls of wisdom, we need more people like you in this world of RG.

Genius vs Opportunity - How I pulled off a coup!

Yesterday we had our mid term exam on 'Influencing & Negotiation Skills'. It was a unique experience. We were given a case with predefined roles and we had to negotiate to reach a settlement. There were issues in the case which were integrative (where both the actors could see common ground) and distributive (win-lose types). Each issue had a payoff associated with it. Based on the options that the actors agreed upon, they got the respective points for that option. The first 45 minutes were devoted to understanding the case and designing the strategy for negotiation. The next 60 minutes were meant for actual negotiation role play. And in the last 45 minutes we had to detail the process we followed and estimate what the other party's score based on the perceived payoff. The case was that I was a director wishing to make a movie. My partner was the VP of a production house. We has issues like the choice of lead roles, locations, budget, schedules, infrastructure, my pay package, bonus, editing, etc. The cumulative score of both parties had to be higher than other pairs to secure a higher grade while at the same time you had to get a higher score than your partner for a better relative grade. Tough call!!!

We started the exam with draw of lots to select our negotiating partners. I'll call my partner VP. In the 2 minutes before we proceeded for part 1 (strategy) I did a small background check and was told that the guy was extremely good with numbers, will prepare in detail and has work experience of 7 years. Going into the paper I was prepared for being inundated with numbers and analysis.

Numbers have been kind to me in all exams till date. In examinations that matter the guy who set the paper has been kind enough to give us problems without too much of math, the kind that has more letters of the alphabet than numbers. The only way to deal with an analyst style of thinking is to keep him busy. Ask him doubts. Make him calculate. Keep on revising offers to make him working on the payoffs. (Refer to a course called 'Leadership and Managerial Effectiveness' for the gyaan!)

Well I have to say that VP was good. Way beyond good. He played shock and awe. Basically he would link up points, lead to an offer, lead me to a position and then suddenly make a counter offer that I just could not refuse because of the statements that I made in the lead up to me taking a stand. What probably saved my arse was the fact that I saw it coming just before I fell into his trap and instantly set into throwing arbit data, statements and some emotional stuff (They call it the snowballing strategy in theory!). After about 30 minutes I saw we were getting nowhere. Well I was the guy to blame because I was about to fall in his trap twice and both times I had to use the snowballing thingie. It was getting too much because our VP was essentially on a roll, I was stalling and time was running out. And thats when luck turned my way!

Before we go further I should tell you that our course facilitator loves to bluff. One of his bluffs here was to give a zero to the pair that did not reach a settlement. For all the genius at negotiating that he was, VP could not call this bluff. There was no mention of the zero in the question paper and it was a verbal agreement. The facilitator used it as a tactic to get students reach an agreement, because if they did not, it would be extremely difficult for him to judge the candidates. Imagine him giving a zero and the student challenging the decision. How could he substantiate it, especially when he has explicitly stated time and again that a 'no agreement' is better than getting conned.

Coming back to our exercise, the following was the conversation 5 minutes before end time.
Me: "I want to back off from this deal. I can find other production houses"
VP: "I too can find other directors"
Me: "Fine then. Lets sign the settlement sheet saying that we didn't reach an agreement"
VP" "But we both will get a zero"
Me: "I don't mind."

At this time the prof waltzs past, smiling benovelently. VP looks up to him and making a grave face shakes his head. The prof warns 'Zero for both' before disappearing past the door.

VP makes another offer which sounds ridiculous. I flatly refuse.

Me: Please write 'No Agreement' and sign the settlement sheet.
VP: Here you write it. (Maybe he thought I was bluffing)

I take my pen out and ask for the correct phrasing of the sentence. VP seeing that I'm serious makes another offer. It sounds better but not good enough. The invigilator asks us for the sheet, which is still blank. I tell him to collect it on his way back.

With VP in a corner. I start making my offer. I ask for some and concede some. VP makes a few changes. It looks much better. I get what I want in my section 1 report. VP not looking too happy walks off.

I later come to know that we almost ended up with the same number of points, albeit me a lil' higher by 50 points. I am later told that VP is admired for his negotiating skills by faculty and students. Cumulatively we didn't get the highest but we did well and considering that the odds were against me I think I did well to contain him (I am told he said that I drove him nuts!)

And so before I end this long post, something I learnt today: The situation decides the winner ... upto that point in time you can sit back and marvel at genius (Aptly demonstrated by Italy in the World Cup this year)

October 17, 2006

The greatest overtaking manoeuver ever

This is one of the best overtaking manoeuvers I have seen in F1. Obviously it involves one of my favorite drivers - Mika Hakkinen (the other is Kimi Raikkonen) and in my favorite team - McLaren.

This was at the SpA Francochamps in Belgium during the 2000 season where Mika overtook Schumi and Ricardo Zonta by zooming past the inside line. I won't say more. Watch the video for yourself.

October 14, 2006

The next monopoly called Google!

Google has the Midas touch. Everything it touches turns to gold. The latest is the beta version of Blogger, the blog company it acquired in 2003. Though it has taken 3 years in coming, the beta version rocks!

Apart from the fresh look from staid old templates, its much easier to insert third party code like hit counters from bravenet. The new design is modular. You can fit modules called page elements and drag and drop them to design your own layout.

There are many other features like cutomising your colours, labels and archiving options which were not possible with the previous version. But this post is not about my blog. If you look carefully Google has been doing a lot of integrating in recent times. Will they one day pose a challenge to Microsoft?

With Google docs , mail, social networking and beta blogger it looks to be the next Office Suite. I guess the next development will be a presentation software, database software aka Powerpoint and Access. Just look at the brilliance of it all, Google has eliminated piracy (anyone can access it with a google account), cut down development cost (code changed at Google's labs results in new software worldwide) and has reduced time to market to zilch. It also bought youtube recently

Even entertainment will be online. Just imagine on demand music from youtube. No artist will sell CDs. Instead google will buy the exclusive rights and then you can hear it streaming from the net. No more music piracy! There will be ads running alongside (If you were wondering about the business model!). Also as I have posted earlier this year, it will also give them valuable customer information. Will this mean an online Office in a few years? The last nail in the Microsoft coffin will be a Google OS.

Of course, we are assuming that the internet will be omnipresent. It will take some time (a decade or two maybe) when most of the developed and developing world will be wired to the net. By then Google will pretty much where Microsoft is today, possibly way above it. Unless Microsoft does something spectacular I can see Google serruptitously eating away at Microsoft's market. For a company which began with core competency in Search it has come a long way!

October 9, 2006

Illuminated yet again?!

I posted this last year. I still stand by it. Another round of silly games. I wonder how can anyone assume that the public is that stupid to not see through the 'disguised' market research; and worse assume that the corporates who approve budgets for things like this are equally stupid. I dont know of any corporate who has made a corporate decision committing hundreds of crores of rupees in future investments to projects based on a market research conducted on a sample size of 50-100 people.

I admit, HLL did launch Bru sachets last year. Did Illumina play a major role? I have serious doubts. I have explained it in last year's post. Read it. I won't repeat the stuff. The bottomline is that it is plain bullshitting. You bullshit sponsers to fund your fun and frolic. They bullshit by claiming to fund Market Research while in fact they are just trying to maintain relationships or satisfy an alumnus within their organisation who is pushing for the event. It's just a matter of whose shit stinks more! But people tend to get into self confirming biases. Since they put the effort it must be meaningful and good. Has the world moved on? We don't know. We designed the games, we drew and painted it all, the corporate (who since he's committed a few lakhs pretty well approve something!) has approved it. It is good! Ain't we the next big thing in MR?!

I am not here to bash my institute nor am I downplaying the effort put in by my batchmates and juniors. But I am against blatant following of traditions. Could the concept be changed? Can we do some real market research by actually going to different places in and around NCR. Can we actually identify socio-economic-classes and conduct research in villages, towns, cities, etc.? Can't we research different regions and their buying behaviour? Can't we build a repository of information which will become the motherlode of market research? Can't we conduct the research beforehand and then invite corporates to a grand finale cum diwali fair? For all this we have to start much earlier and get proposals atleast 3-4 months before the final event. No, such things won't happen. Radical thoughts are difficult to implement. Following traditions is easier. However, I feel the current trend is unsustainable. Both for learning and for the institute's reputation.

I stand to become unpopular with comments like these and people will raise issues like the 'spirit of Illumina' and the like. But won't the entire exercise become more meaningful? Won't you be actually helping the clients who sponser the event? Wouldn't you be learning more? Won't that make you as a marketeer stand out in the crowd. Yes, it will take out the fun of making props and being awake all night. But won't you have fun actually working as a team and researching different kinds of consumers across regions? Is Illumina just about its spirit? Is it just the fun of making props? I think Illumina means much more than that.

PS: I helped out in drawing and painting of the props too. Not because I'm a hypocrite but because my friends had gotten into it and as a friend I thought it my duty to stand by them when they needed me.

Alternative opinion here

October 6, 2006

The Alchemist: From chalk to iron in 5 minutes

We have great people in India. Some of them are potential Nobel laureates. One such character is a guy whom we shall call His Hose (name not disclosed for obvious reasons). He has shaken the walls of academia with revolutionary ideas. Let me tell you a story.

As it transpired, HH was wandering around the lush green MDI Campus on 8th August 2006 thinking of the next big thing in technology. The thought that he had to submit an assignment on Strategic Management in the next one hour meant nothing to him. Not that he could not appreciate the finer points of value chain analysis that had been the subject matter of the last few strategy classes. He was thinking strategically on a much larger scale. He was planning a coup which if executed well, would earn him handsome returns.

HH had been concerned about India's iron ore reserves. Not that we (India) are lacking in any way. But he was looking at making India 'The' place for steel manufacturing. We had the coal, we had the ore - but did we have enough that could make the world sit up and listen? Did we have the bargaining power that could translate into political power.

As he was mulling over these thoughts, he came to the Computer Centre (CC) and saw a fellow classmate take a print on his Analysis of the Cement Industry. And then it hit him! Yes, we were abundant in limestone! If only we could make iron from limestone what a great nation we would be. What a Nobel Prize winning effort! Surely those idiots in Sweden would grant him this honour. It was the time to take over the world! (Psst ... the idiot who worked on the cement industry would be mysteriously crushed in an alley as HH was giving his speech in Stockholm ... at least that was the plan)

The unsuspecting victim took a print of what was 5 hours of effort. Smiled that he had put in his best. This was fresh industry data, the fruit of an internship at one of India's leading cement company. There was also a table at the end of it all that was the icing on the cake. It was the cost structure that detailed the value chain. It was this table that would make all the difference and it actually did.

HH sneaked up to the computer used by the victim. In his exuberance and joy, the victim had forgotten to delete his work from the public domain. This was HH's moment of glory. A few keys and 5 minutes later he had a process to make iron from limestone. The method used was a 'replace all' function, thanks to Microsoft Word. Everywhere 'cement' appeared, it was now 'iron'. The deed done, HH submitted his research.

The dissertation had things that HH considered were the result of out-of-the-box thinking. There were things like blasting chalk and passing it through kilns to get iron clinker, and subsequent processes involved grinding the iron clinker to get Portland Iron. There was a flowchart to prove it all. His point proven, HH took off to the Alps to celebrate.

People may be stupid, but the last thing that they want is that someone tells them about it. For all his ingenous thinking, HH forgot this axiom. His ideas didn't go down well with academia (as I said he shook them with his 5 minute cameo). There was a committee instituted. They looked at his tall claims and rubbished them. A search was called for. The victim unaware that his work was under controversy was called for. He was questioned, grilled and almost rusticated for being the input that caused the mess. The poor guy was bewildered. He argued, laid the facts straight, provided supporting evidence and after four hours of convincing he was finally in the clear.

HH's fate hangs in the balance. He stands to get an F for 'F'uturistic thinking (Which could be revoked under a 'forgive and forget policy'). After verification and cross checking his claims have been thrown out of the window. It has been attributed to delusions of grandeur, hallucinations and wot not. But all will be forgotten when HH returns from the Alps. After all we are Indians and we are a toleratant lot.

October 3, 2006

The power of dreams

I found this on a site I used to maintain long ago. I was a budding web designer way back in 1999. Unfortunately web designing is a thing of the past now and I haven't updated the site since last November. Incidentally, all I did was update the home page, that is the first page that loads after you enter the site. There was a section called 'My Inspirations' where I have written two major influences on my life (till that point in 2001). Much of the other data (about McLaren's specs, past relationships, etc.) is obsolete. Other stuff like ambition, goals, etc have got refined. Anyways here is something from there which I put up 5 years ago that I would like to share ...

"Right from my youngest days I had always hated business. Partly because my father was a small time proprietor and things couldn't be worse with small timers. Payment of dues was such a problem, that I swore never to be associated with business. I thought Science was the best thing to do and landed up studying engineering. Simultaneously I was making plans to further my studies in the technical realm of aerodynamics at a foreign university. (Partly because I liked the term, and partly because it sounded so complex it baffled my friends). During the sophomore year, on a sultry afternoon while in the Machine Shop, chatting with my colleagues about their favourite novels Komal suggested that I read "As the crow flies" by Jeffery Archer.

Reading had always been a passion, though I had dropped the habit on the commencement of the engineering course. Now with some time to spare and with renewed vigour I set out to search the novel. Having found it after quite some effort, I read the book not as any other ordinary novel, but stopping at times to reflect on the extraordinary life of the protagonist, Mr. Charlie Trumper.

What particularly caught my attention was Mr. Trumper's entrepreneurial spirit despite his lack of formal training. From a small cart of vegetables, he goes on to build America's first mall. I found his attitude, courage, and vision exemplary.

Almost two months after I had finished the book, when I found myself still thinking of Charlie I knew that business was where I was going to be. That day onwards I started reading business magazines, financial newspapers and God knows what. I dropped my plans of studying aerodynamics and thought that an MBA would give me more leverage in this regard. Now I'm waiting for my time to come as an MBA. Only time will tell!!!"

That small incident in the lathe shop somewhere around this time of the year in 2001 is the reason I will be graduating from MDI in a few months. It has been a journey of dreams and though I thought I would have liked to be realising it through a dream institute I am happy that I landed here. Though the entrepreneurial dream may not be an immediate objective, (I plan to open a restaurant someday!) I still am fascinated with Charlie Trumper's style of influencing and negotiating and his business sense in acquisitions and being close to customers. It was also my first introduction to the stock market (there is a brief mention in the book). I plan to re-read the book to relive those memories.

When I look back and reflect, much of my ambitions and goals in those formative years are still with me today. Along the way, they have got refined to be more focussed. And yes VJTI, Siemens and MDI have given me a lot to be ready to face those lofty goals I have set for myself.

Dare to dream! Like the Alchemist says "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it"

September 27, 2006

The Entrepreneurs Paradox

I haven't seen too many successful entrepreneurs. Maybe thats because they say that 90% of entrepreneurial ventures bite the dust! Many claim success in the short term, but few have that what we in management jargon call 'a sustainable business model' to remain in operation despite the trials and tribulations of business.

To cite a personal example, Dad ran a business which had to be folded in the tech meltdown of the early 2000s. We weren't in tech, but the far reaching effects of the tech bubble and some bad decisions had a double whammy effect on what was an unsustainable business model.

However ever since I took a keen interest in business management somewhere around my second year of engineering, I have come across business which have pulled through tough times and in some cases earned super normal profits in good times! What's the secret of their success?

Before I get into that let me explain the entrepreneurial mind. From what I have observed, their mental makeup is to move fast and nimbly at that. And when you actually ponder about it, you will realise that you can't move fast unless you are nimble! Another striking feature that I have come to appreciate is their concept of opportunity cost. If they can earn a higher percentage elsewhere, successful entrepreneurs have sold businesses that return less. No sentiments, no emotions, nothing. Contrast this with entrepreneurs who try to flog their existing business in the eternal hope that good times are around the corner. Lastly, they like to keep things operationally simple.

So have you got a clue of what I'm talking about? There is one metric that can capture all that is said in the above paragraph, but it is bloody subjective. Return / Effort can be as subjective a metric as you can get. It differs from one entrepreneur to another and thats the beauty of it all. Whether it is Nikunj in Mumbai, Mansur in Bangalore or Ramesh here in MDI, I have found this to be a commonality in their thinking. And last of all, today the master confirmed my thoughts. After the class on 'Behavioural Finance and Business Valuation' (BFBV) I decided to read Warren Buffet's 2004 letter to his shareholders. His commentary on MidAmerican, where Berkshire then owned 80.5%, confirmed my thoughts on entreprenuers. I don't know if it applies to the same extent in the corporate world, where committments are on a much larger scale and the reputation of many people is at stake when radical decisions are made.

Successful Entrepreneurs are a celebrated lot. The press drools over them and others admire them. Ask the entrepreneur and he will cite hard work, courage and perserverance as the inventory of attributes he utilised to be what he is (I will add common sense). However, It is a paradox that Returns / Effort is a metric to get there!

September 11, 2006

Goodbye Kimi and all the best at Ferrari

Kimi Raikonnen moves to Ferrari next season. Though emotionally I would have liked him to remain at McLaren, rationally the time is just right for a change. Frankly I don't know whom to support next season. I have been a hardcore McLaren fan right since I started watching Formula One way back in 2000. Mika was the star at the Silver Arrows (It was sponsered by West) then and I took an instant liking to his style. It was a fight to the last race at the Japanese Grand Prix. Unfortunately Schumi won and Mika lost the opportunity to make it a hat trick. But what stood out was a 21 yeat old kid with just 23 race events to his credit in the Sauber car. People wondered what was about him that he had to be woken up from deep slumber 20 minutes before his maiden F1 GP. Nonetheless that kid impressed me with points on debut. Welcome Kimi Raikonnen!

Mika in the meantime had a listless season in 2001 with more engine failures and technical problems. One of those moments that will probably rankle in my mind forever was at the Spanish GP when with just a few hundred metres to go on the final lap, Mika's McLaren stalls! At the end of the season, Mika announced that the next year would be his year off. Though the sabbatical shocked many, since many thought that the Finn has much more racing left in him, Mika thought it best to leave when he was still regarded as a F1 great. And who was to fill in the shoes of the Flying Finn at the McLaren stable. Enter another Flying Finn! And so partly due to friendship and mostly due to talent Kimi replaced Mika.

The next seasons saw Kimi come close to winning the championship crown in 2003 when he and Schumi were separated by 2 points and again in 2005 this time with Alonso. If it were not for the Mercedes screwups, Kimi might have well been Champion in 2005. There were brilliant driving moments in all these seasons. Many times Kimi has started from the back of the grid and landed on the podium; something I consider the hallmark of a great driver.

Readers might wonder why I am not paying tributes to Schumacher, whom almost the entire world considers to be a legend. Well he is a great driver but I have a certain emotional thing for McLaren, my first love. It was the first team I truly enjoyed watching, be it pit-stop strategy, the flair of the drivers Mika and Kimi and also the colours of the car!

Which will make it very difficult for me to support a team next season, since Kimi will move to Ferrari. But then Kimi has a better chance to be World Champion at the RedDevils than at Silver Arrows. All the best Kimi, may you make history in the sport that is F1!

September 9, 2006

The term that went by ...

So another term awaits. Officially its the last term, since post this grades will not be counted for placements. Also this term will see all the activity that there is to MDI; Imperium, Illumina, Delphique (if it happens!). Lots of firang chicks and parties too ... But this post is more about the term that went by.

Term four started with a bang at least for me. I was pumped up after the summer experience and put considerable effort into academics. The results of the mid term finally gave me some academic relief. End terms I dunno but whatever happens I hope it pushes the CG in the right direction! Possibly it has also been one of the most hectic trimesters in terms of extra-currics. Unnati & Monetrix both became very demanding; not to mention a sagging Delphique.

There were some very good takeways from the last three months. First and foremost has been the course on 'Leadership and managerial effectiveness' or LME as it is popularly called. LME has helped me identify many areas of self improvement. It has also helped me understand myself in a much better way. There is a lot about it that I can talk about but then I can't compress 33 hours of fun, learning and gyan into a post coz it will not do justice to the course and also I am not that prolific a blogger to spend so much time on it :)

Talking about courses, Strategic Cost Management was one course whose learnings will last for a lifetime. There has been Consumer Behaviour which did not meet my expectations but has given me a structure to think nonetheless. One major grouse against the course is that I can't enjoy ads now. It puts me in a particular analytical framework and I start thinking as to what did the brand manager / advertiser want to convey here. Investment Management has been good enough to convince me to restructure my personal investments! International Corporate Finance was bad. The maximum that I could salvage was the awareness of certain financial terms.

And there have been the forgettable ones. Product and Brand Management was one, where I did nothing of Product Management and only the 'Branding' function of Brand Management. All we saw was ads and since I had better things to do with my time I didn't attend post mid term. The only strategy that I learnt in 'Strategic Management' was how to avoid being thrown out of class. It was utter bad handling of a course that could have been taught much more meaningfully. I guess the mid term and end term feedback submitted by students should be published to show what disgrace has been brought to the word 'Strategy'.

Apart from the courses there was Samaritans that suddenly became the leading light of the extra-curricular activities. Though we initially cribbed about it, now after the presentation week most of the corporates seem to be impressed with the kind of work that goes on. At least the perception is such. Plain and simple marketing! Then there were the usual haggles, scuffles, mud slinging and chaos that you get when you put more than three people together. So with close to 300 people in one hostel, it wasn't anything out of the blue.

And then there was the Induction for the juniors! The interviews for the various clubs committees and the parties thereafter. Good ROI for me since I gave just one party last year and got 2 in return this year he he ...

The new term may start without a bang. This is because half the batch is in Europe on the Exchange programme. Anyways these 3 months will flit by faster than I can possibly imagine. Lets hope everything turns out well.

August 31, 2006

Identity crisis ....

There are few things that make me disrupt my well planned schedule and force me to post. Well currently I'm mighty pissed off because my name has been through the muck and into the dung. Not that I have been framed or something, But that each and every son of a motherless goat has decided that it is his / her birthright to spell my name incorrectly.

It all started with the Maharashtra Government when some pighead decided that the Father's name has to be appended to an individuals name. And so, my Christian name of Gordon Maxmillan D'Souza was undone and redone to D'Souza Gordon Gerald. Yeah, the surname has to be written first. Bloody clanish mentality. Even today people are more famous by their surnames. Maharashtrians still refer to each other as Patil, Pawar, Deshmukh, Waghmare, etc.

If that was not enough some smartass in college decided to call me Go-vardhan. I joined in the fun. I did not mind it then. But what I really do mind is people calling me Gordan. (Pronounced: Gor-done). WTF!!!! My name sounds more Isreali rather than Scottish.

I am frustrated with efforts to correct peoples mistakes. I think I should name my kid some simple name which can be easily pronounced in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarathi, Dravidian scripts, European languages, Hispanic, Mohamedean languages, etc.

If this is not enough, word has been going around that I'm a Mallu!!!??? Give me a break guys!

PS: This was posted in utter frustration and the pressure of an end term on 'Investment Management' and 'International Corporate Finance' on my head. Not to mention a Unicorn who insists on honing my presentation skills for 4 hours in between the 24 hours that the above two end terms take place. Under no circumstances is it to be inferred as instability of character or egoistic manifestations. I just lost my temper. That's all.

August 28, 2006

The Haitus ...

Have been off blogging for quite some time now ... basically due to lack of sleep. Not that I have been burning the midnight oil or anything like that. But that I have been abused in the name of academic rigour. It has been submission week(s) at MDI for the past fortnight with every professor worth his salt tormenting us poor souls with deadlines ;) Sounds like I'm in a prison camp or something, right?! ... Well not exactly. There have been the drunken nights after the parties. Clarification: The parties were held to commemorate the announcement of deadlines.

Apart from that there have been 'Student Affairs' matters which required resolving matters at 4 AM in the morning after which all sleep vanished due to the senile show on display. Thankfully I'm not part of the beleaguered lot that is forced to listen to psychedelic speeches. As someone put it, "It felt like I was clicking on a hyperlink on every sentence!" So the pain was cut short ... but the post hoc discussions and analysis blew away any chance of catching a few winks.

This place keeps on surprising me ... but that can be the subject of some other post. Right now, I am in the crazy world of end term exams and also considering the fact that we have a term break after the exams, I will be blogging infrequently.

And finally as always exciting thoughts come to me during the exam time. This time I have thought of recording the moments in the short but eventful time that I have been here. This will not be some sort of 'Snapshots from Hell' or a 5 point someone. (For those who dint know, I am actually a 5 pointer!) I am planning a more enriching and juicy mix to entertain me (and others who share similar sentiments) after I leave. I have got a rough idea as to what to include what not too; in fact I have been allocating chapters to 'great' personalities on a temporary arrangement. My co-author is Ramesh , a friend and pretty interesting chap too. Judging from our contrasting writing styles it should be a good read.

So I guess unless the earth rumbles or the Unicorn speaks (the Unicorn is one of the characters in my to-be-book!), its gonna be some time till the next post. Wish me luck for the end terms! ;)

August 13, 2006

Tough questions!

Some time back we had a guest lecture by a guy from Saatchi & Saatchi on culture and values in Indian advertising. One of the remarks he made really got my attention. He said," Values are something you are willing to pay a price for" And then he proceeded on to say "Scribble down some values that youa re willing to pay a price for."

The next two minutes were probably one of the most baffling moments I have ever come across. (The 1st place was taken by TP Ghosh for his mid term paper on International Corporate Finance). I thought and thought hard. Have I ever been willing to pay a price for anything in times of crisis, adversity, etc. Even if I had, my mind was not allowing me to remember it. And so at the end of it, I scribbled something that had been true with 80-85% accuracy levels. And that was true with all the things I thought were my values. It was with some accuracy level. Still I wasn't satisfied because I didn't find anything I thought strongly about.

On the negative side, it may sound too rigid to stand by something 100% of the time. All situations are a result of the actions of humans; and most of the time there are a reflection of others actions (exception is if you live in isolation!). Hence the need for flexibility. For eg. If being on time is something you are willing to pay a price for. There will be situations when others will be late. At such times are you willing to pay a price by losing the person or are you willing to be flexible and get on with life?

Great insight to have nonetheless. BTW do you have something you are willing to pay a price for? ;-)

August 11, 2006

Hence proved!

Ha Ha ... seems like Bhavishyavani! Just some time ago I wrote a post on meaningless numbers. And in less than a fortnight it got proved. The subject in question this time round is 'Consumer Behaviour' and the culprit is yours truly!

I have no clue what CB is about. Just that each consumer behaves differently and there are clusters of consumers who behave in ways that are common to some of them. So if you have to sell anything to them, you gotta get into their shoes and understand them. Period. I do not know any jargon, have almost been an NPA (Non Performing Asset) for my academic group, and understanding consumers actually baffles me coz I have my own style of buying, selecting, etc which I have observed doesn't fit in the way others (normal people) go about their shopping. Which means that I should be a dud at CB.

Fortunately or Unfortunately (I don't know which!) I seem to be in the very top percentile of the class for the mid-term. Yeah its just the mid terms and things can change significantly for by the time the end term is behind me but for the moment my marks say that I am a person who understands CB better than most of the others in the class. And so my theorem 'Grades are meaningless' seems to hold (a lot of!) water. They can be manipulated. Hence Proved.

PS: I am wondering if there is ever a system which is foolproof enough to mirror a student's skills

August 5, 2006

Mountain delight ... Part 7 All good things come to an end

It was a wonderful trip. I guess if one actually spent some time on understanding himself and others he would gain maximum benefit from the course. Some final pics.

Contemplative here ... looking at the mountains when Bhobe decided to use me as a guinea pig to test the finer points of Evaristo's cam!

Pranesh, as usual the stud of the North, seems to know all the Godforsaken places in the world. Here he led us to a steep cleft in the rock face which led to a place he called 'The Rock'. Me with my fear of heights decided not to do any 'chavagiri'. I lay down quietly on the rock with largest surface area. Great pic no doubt!

A jungle path behind the rocks!

Stepped mountain slopes.

Stepped slopes again!

And then it was evening. Time to pack up and head for the aademic rigour of MDI ... :(

Mountain delight ... Part 6 (Cliff capers ... Rock Climbing)

Rock climbing required a lot of understanding of the rock face to know where to put your foot. It also required more cheering / motivation and a lot of coaching. It tested the aspects of how well your team gelled together, and a leader as a coach. Pranesh led with strategy, Deepa led as a coach. 'Google' Guglani led as a motivator. Others coordinated the effort. I chipped in with my usual 2 cents. It provided us with many insights about ourselves. Above all it was a very physical activity.

We had to scale this

Another view of the same rock. This looks less scary!

My years at the pull-up bar at home came in handy when my turn came. Not too difficult considering the fact that I had an 'A' in Physical Training in School. I slipped once but the rope held me well. Finally I scaled the rock. Would have loved it if someone had actually taken a pic of me when I was climbing! :(

In the pic above, arms raised in victory.

The cheering party.

Other views of the valley below

Mountain delight ... Part 5 (Cliff capers ... Rappelling)

Rappelling was another exercise where we had two teams with one appointed leader. The idea was to observe how groups behave when the stakes are high, when risk is increased and to observe the transition from group to team. Different aspects of leadership were observed at different parts of the exercise and one had to seamlessly slip into those many roles. It was a good experience, since the feedback from the previous day really helped.

Myself .... shit scared at first, but took to the challenge. Dint follow the instructions of the observer. Got a lot of flak for that.

Got into the groove of things later on. Biggest grouse is that I dint smile for the camera. At this point I swivelled around twice, and banged the rock face. Minor bruises. Anyways I touched base soon. From base, it overlooked the valley below. A stronge breeze was blowing and standing there actually felt like you were lording over the area!

Base. The end point for the rappelling exercise.

Pic taken from base

Other views down the cliff

The surrounding mountainside

And some more of the mountainside

August 4, 2006

Mountain delight ... Part 4 (The morning after)

Well ill type less & let you just admire the beauty of the place

View from the resort of the valley below ...

The morning sun as seen through the branches of the trees in the resort.

Another one of those picture perfect moments...

Can you see the Himalayas in the distance? Look carefully. There is a faint hint of the snow capped mountains.

Self indulgence ...

We were here .... the lodge in the background. Foreground we had to use cheap models! Jetwani, Justice, Neta, Sameer Dhar.

Another view from the resort.