Friday, January 27, 2006

Wah, Taj boliye!

Bill Clinton once said, "There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have seen the Taj Mahal and love it and those who have not seen the Taj and love it.". I'm glad to be finally in the first half.

And how?

The absconding

A taxi that we hired was stopped in the MP-Rajasthan border for a border RTO check. When the driver went in to the police shack and took 10 minutes, we smelled a rat. In the mean time, we watched the policemen shamelessly collect a note or two from all the passing carriers. They were least bothered about our presence. As we were watching the passing vehicles, the driver came out. Everything looked ok since he wasn't hurt and all. With 5 of us were sitting inside the Toyota Qualis, he quietly passed the vehicle and suddenly stopped a moving vehicle. We were all absolutely clueless as to what he was doing. The door of that vehicle opened, our driver popped in, and off vanished the vehicle into thin air.

As simple as that. Five of us were stranded in the border of two of the least developed Indian states inside a Qualis without it's driver, without a clue of what went wrong and what our status was. Thankfully, the policemen were co-operative and stopped a bus for us. What came as a pleasant surprise was the inspector recognizing what an IIM is!

The visit

To cut everything short, Taj was magnificent. That first look of the entire monument as it softly glistens in the evening light is the killer. I was more impressed with the long view than the up-close look, more so since so many tourists were crawling all through.

Anyway, the best part of the trip was that Agra was neither too hot nor too cold. Our evening -visit plan also ensured us proper sunlight.

We took all sorts of intricate snaps. Here are some.

The beauty. The magnus opus.

Right perspective view.

One side of the Taj, as dusk sets in.

View of the main entrance, from Taj.

India in L'Oreal's e-Strat Business Challenge

I always like competitions at international level since I guess it's a real indicator of where one stands in terms of potential and competition.

L'Oreal's e-Strat Business Challenge is exactly that: A strategy competition at an international level.

The top teams from each zones (there are 8 zones in all) get a full-expenses paid trip to Paris. I guess more important than that is the chance to 'prove a point' in the international scene among some 1500 contenders who started step 2.

India comes under Zone 8, along with numerous chotu countries. Incidentally, the first two slots in the zone go to two Indonesian teams and we have one team from IIM Indore standing at the 3rd, which is international rank 15, of the 31,000 teams registered from 2190 B-schools spanning 125 countries. Great! There is just one more level to go the finals. Here's wishing them all luck since they are pretty much the only chance for any Indian team to make it.

I came to know of this through my own neighbor who is a part of that team. My other neighbor's team stands 68 in the international ranking. Guess I'm living among a bunch of lunatics! :)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Battle of the brands

It all started when I decided to buy an external DVD writer. There were two types of issues, which would’ve left any common user confused and irritated.

What looked like a simple spend “3000 on a writer and a thousand on a USB casing” affair lasted for a week, set me pondering, wondering, frustrated, and irritated.

The first decision I had to make was to choose between Samsung, LG, Sony and HP DVD writers. All cost somewhere between 2900 and 3100 Rs in the Indian market. I really haven’t had this problem of so many strong brands in the same price range till date. It would usually be three brands, one costly, one cheap, one very popular etc, and the decision would’ve been simple. Now it looked tough. More so since the likes of Sony, with their falling brand name, are competing on the basis of same price. Sony had always been selling at a premium range, far costlier than other brands, competing on the basis of brand value alone. But, with serious Korean competition around, it had been one of the biggest brand-value losers, at a time when Samsung has been the biggest brand value gainer. Samsung’s brand value had gained 186%, the highest among top-100 brands. It’s now among the top-20 global brands, ahead of Sony, all in a record time. India story has been different though. Of the two, it’s LG who’s the winner in Indian soil.

Net-net, I had a serious decision to make. All were popular brands, with more or less the same specifications.

The decision

I heard from the dealer that HP had poor supply and service. It was the first to be out. Based on feedback from my friends, I planned to choose one of Samsung or Sony, but technical reviews on the web were inclined towards Sony. The decision was made. It was Sony in the end. Again, this decision was based on technical reviews; something common users would not have resorted to. Relying on the dealer would be a bad idea since he would push the item with the largest margin.

Why computing is still technical

Since I use a laptop, and the additional DVD writer had to external, I had to purchase a USB adapter casing. In simple terms, it’s just a holder for the DVD writer, with an independent power supply, making it a stand alone unit. Right from the word ‘go’, I had compatibility issues. The writer just refused to write DVDs at any speed. It’s been three days of changing drives and calling the dealer, but the problem has still not been resolved. Wonder what I would’ve done if I were a non-techie. With all the jargon and technicalities around, and with the dealer himself not being sure of the problems, I would’ve been terribly lost. These are some times when I appreciate the likes of Windows for making the world simple, unlike Linux when the amount of jargon alone would suffice to keep off common users.

By the way, I still haven’t resolved the problem, but I’m hopeful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The path less trodden by...

Sidin, IIMA alumnus, one of the most famous bloggers, and one of the key inspirations for B-schoolers like me to start blogging is giving up his ATK consulting job in favor of... writing!. (Link via SambharMafia)

The path less trodden by?

Wish him all the success.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mumbai it is

Wanted to mention this here for a long time now... here I go.

I've gotten placed in Atos Origin, Bombay division as a consultant. Right now, I'm pretty thrilled with the profile et all. This experience was very, very unlike my summer placement experience. But all that later! :)

Anyway, looks like Mumbai it is. I was telling everyone a month ago that I would ideally avoid cities like Mumbai and Delhi, but I guess I liked the job profile so much that I had to take the offer. Plus the fact that Atos is still small in India and has a presence only in Bombay left me without other-city options.

In all, it was a pretty neat close to 2005. With this... it's the beginning of the end, what with just under 50 days left before we pass out. It's complete wrapping-up time - classes are few and far and my other official responsibilities here (as IT club Secy etc) would also get over in about 10 days. What's left is lots and lots of time to ponder over. I'm planning a quick vacation somewhere to Rajasthan and later to Munnar. In the meantime, Chandoo is asking me to squeeze in a biking expedition somewhere in the middle. Let's see how it works out.

Again, all the best everyone for a great 2006. It sure looks like a great year, atleast for B-schoolers.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Happy Pongal 2006

It's that special time of the year. Missing home when you know something great is happening. Pongal here is going to be yet-another-day, but for the special dinner that we might catch up with. But Pongal is Pongal nevertheless. Celebrations would be on, vicariously at the least.

Happy Pongal everyone.

Image courtesy: 123 Greetings.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

One more day

Today was terrific. The first day of UtsAha! went very, very smoothly. It's been quite a long time since I felt good for doing something with both the heart and mind and then succeeding in it. The media work for our marketing fair UtsAha! 2006 was demanding, and I guess I put in a decent effort right from its inception, which in itself was 6 months back.

Just one more day to go. Barring few classes, my life in IIM-I would come to a virtual close 24 hours from now, what with all the major personal and official events being over. Someone told me there are about 50 days to go officially, which, if past is any indication, would scoot off in packing things up. I never feel sentimental - or atleast, I don't like to admit it, even to myself - about leaving places and moving ahead, but I'm not really sure how it's going to be this time. It's been one hell of a ride and I really learned a thing or two. [Ending this part abruptly]

The point is: just one more to go. Hope to get back to blogging/blog-hopping/mail-responding within 2 days.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year everyone!

'New year' days are great. The countdown to midnight is the icing on the cake.

New Year 2004: I was in the thick of things in Brigade Road, Bangalore.
New Year 2005: I was in Manali, reeling in the terrible icy chill.
New Year 2006: I'm at the campus. With sentiments running high, with just under 2 more months to go before graduation, with about 240 folks around, the countdown was cheerful, colorful and sparkling. Literally. Firecrackers went up; champagne was sprayed; colored beams and lights filled the vicinity; the dance floor was lit with a soft red glaze, and the cheering shook the hill.

Wish you all a Happy and Prosperous 2006!!!