Monday, November 29, 2004

The road to Manali…

It’s official! I and three of my friends are set to go to Himachal this term break – to witness what’s known as the Switzerland of India – Shimla, Mandi and Kullu-Manali. As many other good things, it all started as casual talk sometime back. A couple of my other friends who went to Manali earlier this year showed us some breathtaking pictures. That planted the seeds of thought. I personally got very involved with the whole thing after witnessing the ‘Heemalayas’ vicariously – through the movie ‘7 years in Tibet’ starring Brad Pitt. If nothing else, the movie really showed the ‘roof of the world’ in the most positive light possible. You could’ve noticed me reading Dalai Lama and Tibet stories the next couple of days after seeing the movie. Such was the effect!

A talk to my other equally-interested-in-travel friend (Arun), a combo was ready. Yet another casual bounce off of the idea on a couple of friends, the program was already on its shoes. With four of them raring to go, things happen real fast. Infact, apart from saying ‘yes’, I really didn’t participate in the logistics part of it, apart from saying ‘yes’es frequently – whenever I was asked whether one choice or other is fine. Thanks exclusively to my friends, much of the work is already done. Guys have got digital cameras as well. So, if I just take my laptop, unlimited number of snaps can be taken and transferred to the lappie… with just the batteries as the variable cost. 

Our itinerary:

29th December – Enter Holidays; Start from Indore.
30th – Delhi to Chandigarh
30th night – freak out in Chandigarh
Next day – Chandigarh to Manali; Mandi en route
3 days in Kullu-Manali (Rohtang pass would unfortunately be closed in winter)
A couple of days in Shimla (SBI quarters)
Return to Delhi through Chandigarh
Delhi to Agra - to see the dream called The Taj.
Enter Sadman; Exit holidays; Back to business - business school that is.

There is this website about Himachal Tourism that adds real fun to the whole thought of journey. Everything about the place, what to do, what not to do, and even a travel checklist is mentioned.

Some of the irresistible links (that would really pull you in!):

Abou Shimla…

Or the adventures in store…

The only hitch is that it’s winter time when we reach there. Temperatures in most of the places would be around 5 degrees, and it for sure would be close to zero in the Manali area. All the places would be snow covered, and we won’t witness the pristine side of Himachal. Additionally, the Rohtang pass would be closed due to snow. Although I don’t intend to do earth-shattering heroics in snow, I do love to trek/rappel for some distances. Lets see what’s in store.

Only hope that one month passes soon, and the next 9 days crawl. [But I know for a fact that the exact opposite would happen! :) ]

If you’ve been to these places, or if you are somehow used to sub-zero temperatures, please do pass on some tips. For, we are virgins of winter travel!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A life chasing dollar dreams

I now am studying in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. My brother is doing his MBA in Chennai, and my parents are in Coimbatore. Post engineering, I was in Bangalore, away from the family. You probably got where I’m heading: We are all separated, each one in different directions. The reason for the separation is obvious: chasing employment, dreams and greenbacks. Ofcourse, as most other things in life, all this has a cost – and a terrible one at that - degradation of the traditional family system.

Come to think of it, all this chasing greenbacks and stuff is ironical from the viewpoint of the concept of being in a family. Without making it drab, the point is whether we are doing justice to the very meaning of life. Ofcourse, self-proclaimed neo-Xers would argue that with the advent of technology and the like, miles have become meters. But then, speaking from the heart, there doesn’t seem to be any end for this chasing greenback. As children almost all of us would’ve thought that we want to get somewhere and get satisfied with that. But there is this thing called peer pressure that sets standards far more than what we thought existed. The end seems to be nowhere. There is no such thing as getting satisfied.

I remember the story of the one of the ex-presidents of Oracle India. He got his education from Harvard. That’s something. But then, delve into the circumstances he was in, his life was anything but rosy. Since he had a poor monetary backing, as every other guy from India studying in US is, he had to take up the part time employment, and he used to clean restrooms. You read that right! I suspect most of his life now is on an airplane hopping across destinations in some corner of the world in search of a prospective customer, or to streamline a strange-sounding business process. Needless to mention - his family life is in shambles.

This blog follows the article from the editor of JAM magazine, an IIMA passout:

The following lines are noteworthy:
Status is like an onion comprising endless layers. No sooner do you crack one ring than you become obsessed with getting to the even-more-exclusive ring inside that one.

In a tiny crevice in their hearts, I think most MBAs know something is missing from their lives. The ugly question might rear its head - is making more money for X hedge fund or relaunching lemony detergent Y the reason I was put on Earth?
Although I qualify neither as a complete MBA or a manager, all this is some food for thought.The point that’s driven home – hard and fast – is whether we are all driven by the zest to make the 6-8 lac salaries, or are we really destined for somewhere – not anywhere? And, are making a meaningful life en route to glory?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

5 ways to hijack a class

6 months is a pretty long time. It’s time enough for one to learn how a classroom works, and I sure have learned a lot about classrooms. This post is intended to help out students - err... participants - to get the maximum out of the over-abused ‘Class participation a.k.a CP’ element that makes about 10-15% of the grades of most of the courses. For the uninitiated: IIMs – and, I suspect, several other B-schools – apportion marks for making ‘quality contributions’ to the flow the class. The intention is to make the sessions interactive. That’s one reason why we are all consciously referred to as participants and not students.

Proviso: All disclaimers apply. Since the author loves living with unfettered impunity, people who choose to follow these strategies are on their own, although the author wishes them the best in life!

Simple choices to make effective CP attempts:

Platinum choice 1: We all love dogs. I sure did love ‘em every bit. When I was in school (20th century), we weren’t allowed to take dogs to classrooms – and that made me feel bad and separated. My dog didn’t live to see this day, but I urge everyone to take pets – especially dogs; cats'd be ok too - to classrooms. There is every chance that you’d be close to your loved ones, and the noises your dog make would definitely be lost in the barking around. In fact, if you are clever to have noticed, humans are better at barking, especially in classrooms. Some research somewhere said that dog as a species is going to become history, thanks to humans who stole their USP – barking that is. With your pet closeby, classrooms would be a comfortable place to ramble on.

Platinum choice 2: This is the easiest! Since seat locations are fixed, find the guy in the other class who sits in the same position as you – like 3rd in the left last row. Both of you should then coordinate and pose similar – haircut, French beard, jerkins etc. Beg, threaten or frighten him to make him study and participate in the class. Better if you could make him do every thing so that you can enjoy life watching others battling for airtime. In all probabilities, you might get half the credit your ‘clone’ gets. This works best if you are towards the last rows in class – considering the age and eye-sight problems of most professors.

Platinum choice 3: Read a lot about the world - particularly about globalization - before and after joining a B-school. Coz if you know more about the ‘global’ phenomenon, you’ll have a 50 m head start in a 51 m race. For example, knowing that the strategy for making a product successful is ‘reduce costs, improve quality, and improve customer satisfaction’ [which is a global strategy] would help you earn points without competition in almost all of the marketing classes. No one can ever doubt the working of this strategy. It simply works every time. Some intelligent professors would try to catch you, in which case you could pretend sleeping. That’s tantamount to portraying that you toiled the whole night.

Platinum choice 4: Try to concentrate on studies and on lateral thinking. If you read Finance well, you could use that to earn the maximum points in a marketing class. Throw some complex sounding cost analysis for a product, along with esoteric financial argot in an arrogant, nerd-like tone. You being in an IIM, there’s very little chance that the professor would suspect your integrity and intelligence. Give a break of atleast one session before using the same strategy again.

Platinum choice 5: Gain work experience before joining a B-school, or speak to people who have work-ex. Freshers always have a nitpicking question of what one could gain out of working for one or two years. I insist you guys to listen to B-schoolers with work-ex. Every dime of what’s taught in B-schools has been experienced first hand by most of the participants with work experience. Speak about a good, organic work culture, work ex guys have inevitably seen them. The same guys have also seen a bad, bureaucratic work culture. Work ex guys are all ‘been there, done that’ types. Really! The work experience prospective B-schoolers gain in two years would easily exceed the experience gained by our grandparents who would’ve worked for 40 years putting in 12 hours a day.

Finally, all the best!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Snapshots from hill

12th November began, in short, like “a yet another day”. I woke up at around 8.00 in the morning, went through the usual routine of breaking the fast, and spent some time on the laptop. The fact that it was Diwali made no difference when the day started. Fortunately, it was a holiday (second in the term) – and we needed it badly after the macroeconomics midterm exam that got over the previous day. Diwali was celebrated on 11th in TN, and that was reason enough for my mobile to be silent throughout the day. I, for one, really didn’t expect anything interesting the day. I didn’t attach adequate importance to those mails from the Cultural Committee speaking about the events in store.

But what came out was a totally different experience. Things took a turn for good during the evening when the Rangoli started. The work done by some of the teams was… breathtaking, considering the fact that the majority participants were guys! An hour-long puja followed, and then started the real show. Crackers! Yes, in huuuuuge numbers. Some 20 of us were blasting the way to glory for about 90 minutes. The whole area was in smoke – things were barely visible. I haven’t seen such a magnitude of display anywhere before – no exaggeration this. There was a deafening blast in some corner every second, and multi colored sparkles and streaks of light enshrined the whole area. The fact that we literally burned thousands and thousands of money is a completely different thing!

Some of the snaps taken…

Isn’t Diwali truly a festival of lights??

Setting the night sky on fire…

No, this isn’t a photo of Shiv Sena activists...

Guys going wild... [Counter clockwise] – Arun (Fin Whizkid), Yours truly, Nirmal (LOL!), Venky (Baba… no compliment this :-P), Bhaskar (KGP guy… rest is implicit!), Jam (Of Arthur Anderson fame) and Manoj (The Karunanidhi clone).

The Best Indian Business School Blog Competition

It's official. I'm participating in the Best Indian Business School Blog competition conducted by ISB, Hyderabad. The challenge is to become the first or second link if a Google search is performed with the title of this blog as keywords.

Google seems to work the following way:

1) It periodically crawls over web through the links accessible from different websites and caches the data - possibly in an ultra-fast random access memory. For example, if it accesses site A, and site B has been linked from A, site B would be scanned for changes. Updates would possibly be made on its copy in cache.
2) A link from site A to site B would be considered a vote from A to B. The vote would carry weightage depending on the popularity and relevance of site A. This way, Google calculates the number of votes to all the cached websites.
3) Whenever the user performs a search using the keywords, it shortlists and displays the page depending on the rank the page receives and the presence of the keywords.
4) Google seems to have taken a hard stand against Key word stuffing - placing abnormal amounts of keywords in the website to improve page rank.

This is a simple explanation of how Google works. Given this working, I'm surprised my blog was ranked some 700 odd the last time when I checked. I have a decent number of links to my blog [Type "link:" in Google], and I have placed the keywords in the posts as well. So, evidently, there seems to be a lot more in Google than what's being made public, and I'm losing somewhere.

I really am not too keen on winning, but being rated 700 odd is... sick! Let's see if things improve in the coming days.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Counting sheep before sleep?

When the wise guy wrote "Too many cook spoil the broth", my guess is he himself probably wouldn't have been too assertive about the line. For, I suspect there wouldn't have been MBAs then. After spending about five months with groups on different occasions, one thing has cemented strongly within me: It's damn tough for a group of MBAs to work together to give the optimal output. We might think that if one guy is capable of doing a job in 5 minutes, a group of five would do 5 jobs in the same time. But in reality, this is just wishful thinking. I guess the phenomenon applies equally well to other groups as well, as long as it’s an intellectual group trying to solve a complex problem.

I'm not trying to say that there are inherent problems with the people in the groups. As far as I could see, it’s just that people don't tend to give the maximum in a group, thereby severely affecting the time and efficiency of the output. Most of the time, even if a group of 10 equally talented guys (theoretically, atleast) meet, it's only two or three who do the job. Some of them 'chill out’ while some of them just play the role of Devil's advocate. Again, I'm not trying to find fault with people. The problem is with the system called 'Group work'. Every time a group meeting is over, six of us would have wasted (yeah, wasted is the word) six hours for doing a job that would've taken 3 hours for a guy who works sincerely. Many a times, individuals feel that their points have lost in the phalanx of thoughts that originate in the meeting. Many others would’ve just been there in the chaos, which is mere waste of time considering that the world provides interesting things like movies and games to invest time on.

The problem with the group work could be due to 'social loafing'. For starters, it’s a phenomenon where people try to delegate the work to others and ‘chill out’, hoping that others would complete. Ego-clashes could also be a potential problem. Another behavioral theory says that ‘Abilene Paradox’ comes into effect, where people try not to displease others by contributing their controversial albeit constructive viewpoint. Whatever the reason is, I've come to believe that group work doesn't even come close to how we think it should ideally be. My views are shared by most of my batchmates, give or take one or two self-endorsed nerds.

Now, the most pertinent question is whether our behavior could be changed in an organizational setting after the learnings we go through. We've learned all about the behavior of humans at work, the different motivational and psychological theories. Do we really make sure that we apply them to make the world a better place? I personally don't see any positive change in any of the groups before and after the several ‘promising’ and positive sounding courses. So, if the answer is no, what is the real point in learning at all? What is the guarantee that we'd apply everything in the organizations to create a cozy atmosphere?

Nice questions to think while waiting to get into wonderland (sleep that is). A definite alternate to counting sheep!

A useless & admittedly nonsensical note: There is this competition called “The best Indian Business School Blog” that is conducted by ISB where yours truly would probably a participant. There are no rules or guidelines mentioned to become the Best Indian B-school blog. So, gimme some ideas, if any, to become the "best among the Indian Business school blogs" …

Friday, November 05, 2004

See through the 'IRIS'

All of us are busy with IRIS work. If I say I couldn't update my blog because of IRIS, it'd be nothing but sheer excuse. But I gotta say that we are indeed really busy, and activities and meeting people from other B-schools score over updating the blog. Nevertheless, since I wrote something about IRIS for the news reports, I decided that I'll put the same content here.


Indore is all set to explode. For, IRIS the annual management fest of Indian Institute of Management Indore (IIMI) has already begun. Filled with a unique set of 22 events spanning all the domains of management, IRIS is set to boggle the best of minds from all over the country. Close to 200 participants from 17 of the crème-de-la-crème of the management institutes of India have landed in the hallowed portals of IIMI to take part in the multifarious challenges in front of them.
Mr. Pradeep Bhargava, the Managing Director of Newage AVK SEG India, formally inaugurated IRIS at 3 pm on the 4th of November.
The opening day saw a multitude of games that marked beginning of the fest. First in line was the marketing event ‘Marksmen’, followed by ‘Fix the Mix’, the on the spot ‘Melange’ competition. Several teams stared hard at their elimination from ‘Fix the Mix’ and ‘Marksmen’ right after the preliminary rounds. ‘Word War’, another marketing event, tested the bargaining talent of the future managers to the hilt. ‘Word War’ truly makes sure that only the fittest of the buyers and sellers survive, by simulating a free market environment where multiple sellers and buyers compete with each other for survival space.
If you thought IRIS is all about management alone, you couldn’t have been more mistaken. With fun and music filled exuberant parties in the night, IRIS never stops to engage the participants. The ‘Informals’, true to its name, is a set of events exclusively designed to stimulate and test the non-intellectual part of the participants. The various events of ‘Informals’ are interspersed throughout the four days of the fest to achieve a proper brain-and-bliss balance.

IRIS doesn’t stop there. Keeping up with the tradition of bringing top-notch music bands to Indore, IRIS this time brings Indian Ocean, one of the most original and creative bands in Indian history, to Indore. The band has several accolades behind its name, which includes the ‘MTV Artists of the month’ award. Indian Ocean has also performed in various international locations spanning USA, UK and Japan.