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.