October 25, 2006
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
October 19, 2006
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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"