Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Enter girls, exit boys

“Girls outperform boys in exams. Pass percentage of girls higher than boys.” Come exam-results season, the newspapers are awash with similar headlines. According to a (great) article “The trouble with boys”:

In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. The number of boys who said they didn't like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001.

Very true. Life outside a classroom is much more interesting. I personally don’t remember the last time when I was interested in sitting in a classroom to listen to a monotonous lecture (Discussions are alright though). And I can’t recollect a single time when I was happy to write a 2/3 hour exam. The only thing I was keen on doing was to ‘get through with it as soon as possible’.

As per “Gender gap in education” (comments section): (Reworded)

Schools reward traits such as ‘sitting quietly in classrooms, listening without disruptions, working in groups and doing homework properly’, which are all better suited for girls. Boys are much better off in a chaotic, competitive environment where a free-talking and aggressive atmosphere prevails.

While the trend in the west is that girls are found in larger numbers and are performing better in schools and colleges of all sizes, I see a slightly different trend in India. Taking the pass percentage and grades into consideration, what is clearly visible is that girls in India are doing much better than boys in schools and under-graduate colleges. But on the other hand, I find the share of boys to be significantly more in post graduation courses. The ratio is even more skewed towards boys in (so-called) prestigious institutions such as IITs and IIMs.

Digging more, there seems to be interesting reasons behind this phenomenon.

It is written all over the articles (linked above) that that boys have an advantage in anything mathematical and technical while girls are better off in language skills – reading and writing. So, with a curriculum that focuses more and more on reading and verbal skills, girls are said to have an advantage when it comes to schools. And the heavy mathematical oriented entrance exam papers (CAT and IIT-JEE) are said to be the stumbling block for many girls to get into IITs/IIMs, apart from the fact many girls don’t opt to do a post-graduation course.

In all, I think the reason for girls outshining boys when it comes to school and undergraduate exams is because they are more willing than boys to put up with the system. Things could be made much more interesting by allowing some amount of free talk in classes, having short objective papers instead of really long 3 hour exam papers for which you have to memorize page 1 to end of the book.

But the much bigger (and very overlooked) question is: Should one shine academically to be a successful person career-wise? I think the answer is a straight no. If this is the case, grades and marks really don't matter and all one's got to do is to get a decent pass mark to prove a moderate level of commitment.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The under-exposed Madrasis

As for as Television is concerned, two things are going horribly wrong for young ‘madrasis’ – the ones from/in Tamil Nadu. One, there is a real lack of quality news and programs in native language, and two, there seems to be a dearth of good channels.

Most of the programs in Sun TV (particularly after sunset) are geared - I guess - towards housewives or people in the 40+ age group. That explains all the long episodes where there is a 90% chance of someone crying any point of time. I’m shocked to see some cry-baby episode or other running all through from evening till midnight. There was a time when I used to wait for the 8.00 pm news, but not anymore. International and business news get mere seconds of air-time while local finger-pointing politics gets a huge amount of attention. Every incident, however trivial, is being reported as one filled with ‘Pathatram’ or ‘Peethi’. It’s kind of funny to see so many people complaining about the same thing – just do a blog search to know what I’m talking about.

As far as music is concerned, there was a time when I used to occasionally stumble upon and spend time on Sun Music. Not anymore. The song selections are crass and boring (to say the least), and what more, the people hosting the programs are, well, to put it mildly, less-sophisticated. Here’s an unbeatable incident that Kaps reports. Do read it... it's real fun.

The only break is in the form of SS Music. Albeit being a tad overly metro-oriented, the song selections are definitely good. The only hitch is in their juggling around 4 languages that upsets the viewer. In all, it looks like there is no proper ‘madrasi’ music channel at all. Needless to speak about news.

The situation is grave for ones who stay out for most of the state for most of the time – people like me. You are doomed if you want to get a feel of the native language. The only Tamil network that gets selected by cable-operators around the country is the Sun Network. There are possibly numerous other channels transmitting their programs, but what counts is what is being picked up by the local cable-wallas. So all we get to see in say Delhi or Indore is the Sun Network. And that is the end of all dreams of seeing something in the native tongue.

To sum it up, I guess it’s high time some other channel fills the gap – targeting the young, upwardly mobile city-based ‘madrasi’ crowd.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Vista? No thanks!

A lot of people have been put off by the delay in the release of the new Windows Vista and the Office, but I’m definitely, definitely not one of them.

A new OS from Microsoft would mean that the whole computing environment changes and all our existing machines would soon be rendered obsolete.

A hardware expert says Windows Vista rated a 1GB RAM monster of a machine as moderately powerful (score 3 on 5). What would become of erstwhile not-so-low-end machines like mine – with 256 MB RAM? So, as far as a new release is concerned, so late so good!

Here are some screenshots of Windows Vista (via Slashdot). It certainly looks like one of those Linux GUI variants. Is anybody else thinking there are lots of useless graphics all over (shadow effects, translucent effects, 3D effects etc) – which only means slowing down the computer? Yes, I particularly hate the ‘slowing down the existing computer’ part coz every time a new OS comes in, all the existing hardware becomes almost useless in a couple of years and everybody has to upgrade. And that sucks!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Placements? Salaries? Beat this!

If you thought B-schools were the only ones involved in the not-so-gentlemanly tussle about the erstwhile private affair called salaries, there is a news-clip in Hindu about 75 students of Anna University getting salaries worth Rs. 12 lacs per annum.
This year 75 students of Anna University have secured jobs with a salary of Rs.1 lakh a month, and this is the highest number of candidates in any of the educational institutions in the country to get such an impressive pay packet.

He said for the next year, the companies had spelt out their requirement of 500 candidates in the Rs.1 lakh salary category and many thousands in the Rs 50,000 bracket.
This is not so surprising since I myself heard from my juniors about students of my alma mater (Govt. College of Technology) being recruited for Rs. 50,000 to 60,000 per month by Yahoo!

There’s more. There is also a mention in the same article about a guy getting $28,000 dollars per month. Ignore the part about the work being in Nigeria, and you have an annual salary of $336,000, whereas the highest salary of IIM Bangalore grad was $193,000.
One candidate from a private engineering college at Coimbatore had got an US $ 28,000 a month offer (amounting to Rs 1.75 crore a year) from a Nigerian company.
This is really hot news. Someone please call the media! Time for an interesting debate if the student is really worth it.

By the way, S. Karthick brings into perspective an interesting post (Deflating placements) as to how the IIMB grad was originally offered a salary in pounds which was converted in dollar terms for convenience sake.

Update: My friend who graduated from Anna University tells me that the student from Coimbatore got a salary of US$28000 per year and not per month as reported in the article.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Indian kids on the march?

I happened to come across an interesting incident.

In a kind of an offbeat tale, a 10 year school kid from India has wrote to the authors of the chart-topping and best-selling Freakonomics book correcting their - what he calls - mistake. (via DesiPundit) Here’s the letter.

Hello. I am Rohan Patel, I am 10 years old. Your book was amazing! I loved it, but I found one mistake in it. In the chapter “What Makes A Perfect Parent?” it says that changing schools does not have an impact on the child. This is untrue, as i moved from Canada to India.

In India the school system is much harder, when I came here I was way behind. I am emailing my friends and they are behind me, what they learn is very different from what I learn. So changing schools makes a huge impact on the child, I myself am an example of this.

What followed was an interesting debate (here, for one) if Indian school system is really superior to the one in Canada. Before we high-five all over, Yazadjal comes up with a possible explanation.

I found Freakonomics certainly interesting, but the stories about racism, school issues between white and black were Greek to me since I had no base about the whole thing. I guess it relates well to the US audience.

The boy sure isn’t a “normal” 10 year old Indian kid. I wish I knew how to write that well, e-mail and read books like Freakonomics when I was 10. A lot of questions would be answered if we know where the kid studied in Canada and where he's studying in India. I have a feeling he's probably undergoing a CBSE/ICSE course in one of the metros or cosmos.

But whatever it is, I think this is something for all Indians to smile over.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Eve-teasing at the doorsteps

An interesting initiative happened in the blog-o-sphere when I was busy packing my stuff back at the institute. A movement called ‘Blank Noise Project’ had started, the sole point of which was to condemn eve-teasing. By the time I found it out – which was like a week back – the movement has spread its wings, and about 200 people have contributed to the project.

I never really thought about eve-teasing until one day when my mother narrated her own experiences of being a judge/mediator in eve-teasing related cases in her company. On the equal rights argument, she also keeps telling me often how bad it is to be at the top management as a woman – the glass ceiling, in HR terminology. Those were poignant moments that set me thinking.

Coming to the topic, since I was late and didn’t have any topic ready at hand I couldn’t add my contribution. But I got the chance two days back when I visited my alma mater – Government College of Technology – for I was told there was an inter-college cultural program in progress.

It was about 6 pm when I reached the auditorium inside my college. The building was built decades ago, which naturally meant that it was ill-equipped to hold an audience of a thousand people. As I was nearing, I could feel the all-too-familiar scene inside - more than a thousand people squeezing hard into every inch of space, lit by a feeble light, reeling under sweltering heat, lacking flow of natural air, with the occasional streaks of lights a la the types in discotheques. The audi was packed as I expected, and that meant I had to be a part of the standing crowd in the last rows.

Although I had been a part of both the organizing teams and the audience on different occasions, I had never been a part of the crowd in the fag back-end. But I knew what was in store – an unruly crowd, who would wait with bated breath for a moment of silence to do the nastiest thing possible. I had to stay there for lack of a choice.

The ‘noise’ pattern was clear. There would typically be a gang of guys and everyone would wait for one moment of silence – between song/dance/skit sequences, and would all burst out in unison giving as much noise or abuses as possible. What wasn’t surprising was the way they didn’t allow any incompetent performer (in their opinion) to continue beyond a point, whether it was a skit or a song or a dance number. They listened to the first few lines and then they pounced right after. I thought it wasn’t abnormal given a huge crowd.

What followed later was surprising. The treatment for guys was consistent - they waited till a point and made a cry if they felt the performance was below par. But when it came to performances by girls, it was different - while the gang was absolutely silent in case of dance performances, they didn’t even allow songs to start. One girl gave up after half trying half a song since what she was singing was hopelessly lost in the commotion from the back. I thought it was rather cheap – watching a girl dance is ok, but listening to a girl sing isn’t? Although I’ve seen such instances in intra-college events before, I used to think they were more of personal issues than anything else. But this time around, the participants turned out to be from other institutes.

Now, what I really wonder is if anything could ever be changed. Will starting projects such as Blank Noise stop such guys from doing it? I guess women would be bold to come out, but will the problem stop at its root? I personally don’t see anyway of changing the guys in my own narration. As far as I know, the more you say it’s wrong, the more they would pursue it for want of kicks or to prove a point. So, is there a way to change at all?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What’s missing in B-school rankings?

Note: This is specifically for the people who Google and land up in my blog searching for ranking of B-schools, Indian and otherwise.

On the advice of some of my friends, I’m not planning to put up a ranking list for Indian B-schools since I think it’s going to be controversial no matter what I come up with. But this post is my attempt to give an idea of how prospective students have to evaluate schools – at least for the ones with the luxury of multiple calls.

The rankings put forward by the different magazines are pure crap, which is widely acknowledged. They definitely do not give a true picture – because they can’t, and more so for the reasons mentioned below.

What has been a primary sore point in all the existing rankings is that there is no mention about the future potential of the institutes – the rankings tend to be a snapshot of only the past and current status of the institutes. What is missing is a ‘future potential’ element that takes care of how the institutes would fare in the future – when the students pass out of the institute and beyond, which matter more for the students in the long run. Although predicting the future seems tough, some insight can definitely be gained by looking at the growth trends of the institutes in the recent past.

The second parameter that is missing is the ‘brand value’ of the institutes. While a lot of students and alumni debate about what one learns in an institute, nobody ever complains about the importance of brand name. As one of my professors put it, IIM education has become more of a ‘necessary evil’ for a corporate life than anything else. Brand value doesn’t come just out of one year of great placements or because of a great infrastructure.

In other words, the B-school rankings, in my opinion, should behave like the stock market. Stocks of companies are valued not just for the current performance but the growth potential of the companies in the future and the glamour coefficient. I would ideally love to see parameters of weight-age say 10% to 20% out of the total to be dedicated each to the future potential and brand value. This would also undercut the excessive swaying of rankings.

To give an example, a lot of people opined a couple of years back that the only way for schools such as the new IIMs to go was up. Although the theory was rebuked by many, it has been proved true, since these schools that didn’t have facilities such as foreign exchange programs or foreign placements or PHD programs have started all these in a matter of two years. Similar stuff goes into schools such as SPJAIN that have showed that they mean business when they went to Dubai, compared to numerous other schools that have been stagnant for a long time –decades, in some cases. These are just examples that I know of. My tip to prospective students would be to do a lot of research and speak to many alumni to get different sides of the stories and to take all these parameters into consideration before coming to a conclusion.

Search tags: “B-school ranking”

It's a small world

I was asking one of my expert friends if this is a right time to invest in stocks - with the Sensex setting records everyday and all, and he gave me an interesting answer. Well, that's summed up in a cartoon that I saw in Gapingvoid. The cartoon in the website was to originally explain a marketing concept - on how one can survive in a competitive market with a not so unique product, but it equally applies to investing as well. :)

It's a small world after all.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Phenomenon de Papillon

A funny thing happened today at the old book store that I visited in Coimbatore. I have this habit of routinely peeking into these stores and the pavement book vendors once in a while to get an idea of the ‘hot books’ of the season. Today was once such day when I made the visit.

As I was browsing through books, two girls came, browsed for sometime, and then asked for the book ‘Papillon’. Papillon was a marvel of a story that I read some 4 years back, courtesy my roommate. People who had read this book would definitely remember what a story it is, but the name could be a dampener to people who have no idea it. The girls, I suppose, fell in the latter category. I initially had a feeling that they were convinced about the book since they were bargaining quite loud – which made other customers like me notice – about the price. But I finally realized they had no idea about the book. While they were harping on Rs. 50 for a used piece, the shopkeeper came down to as low as Rs. 60 from his starting price of Rs. 90. What was disappointing about the whole episode was that the deal fell through due to that gap – of a measly Rs. 10, and the girls settled for some other crappy Sheldon novel for Rs. 75!

The whole thing was funny due to several reasons:
  • The book is a marvel. According to me, it’s one of those books that really deserve the ‘must read’ tag and it must be high up there in all ratings and reviews. Rs. 60 for such a book is peanuts. I used to think so high of the story that I felt it is a shame for it to be left behind for a measly Rs. 10. But then, I guess life is funny. Clearly a phenomenon of asymmetric information – as per economics.
  • Those two didn’t have any idea about the book, but being a third person who knew something, I couldn’t pitch in either.
  • Thanks to those girls, the book was now Rs. 60, and I suddenly realized the opportunity to own the book. I was glad to pick it up, knowing too well that there is no way in Godforsaken hell that I could’ve brought down the price to this level.

As soon as I reached home, my father had a smile on his face on seeing the book in my hand. As I figured later, he, along with others in his generation, had read the whole story, episode after episode, in a weekly Tamil magazine called ‘Kumudham’ some decades back. Couldn’t help but think of those two who missed it for Rs. 10.

If you haven’t read this novel: run for it. It’s a true story that would make us realize how valuable our lives are. As mentioned in the cover of the book, it’s truly the greatest story of adventure and escape ever written.

Oh, and by the way, Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, Richard Branson’s autobiography and Lance Armstrong’s biography were the hot ones in the shelf. Any reviews about the latter two?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Job profiles, not salaries, are the in-thing

It was a Godforsaken two o’clock in the night when I put on the TV (for lack of a better thing to do), and was totally surprised to see the debate about IIMs and the students and the salaries they get and whether ‘they are worth their weight in gold’. The debate reeked of simplicity from the word go. Every discussion was finally brought onto one topic – ‘salary’. To put it in perspective, the show was bordering on being a joke. I guess media says what it wants.

It's all about profiles, honey

While it is true that salary is something in the mind of everyone who gets into an IIM and eventually passes out, I’ve personally seen these two years that the foremost thing for a LOT of students is to get the ‘job profile’ they want. This is not to say there aren’t people who look only at salaries. There were indeed a few who applied to jobs ranging from FMCG to B2B IT marketing to IT consultancy to selling Agriculture products in Africa to Equity research to Retail banking. In short, to jobs that seemed to pay the highest salaries. But these were few and far and almost always were the laughing stock in the campus. The majority almost always looked at the ‘job profile’. For example, some of my friends left jobs that paid about 2 lacs more for other jobs that catered to their specific interests like, say, FMCG marketing of IT consultancy.

The ‘other’ jobs

For any B-school graduate, there are jobs in Marketing, Finance, IT, Media, ITES, Operations and HR domains. And those 1+ lac dollar salaries are offered only to students who get into investment banking, which is a subset of the finance domain. Why doesn’t the media mention anything about salaries in other domains – marketing, IT etc? And how on earth could the ranking of B-schools be measured on things such as one high salary offered to one student? I was almost thunderstruck when there was a slide on highest salaries year after year and the conclusion was that IIMB has overtaken IIMA in 2006 as the best management school in India.

The other extremely surprising thing about the hype was that there was absolutely no mention about anything other than foreign placements. In reality, what is true is that even in B-schools like IIMs A, B and C, only around 25% of the students get these international offers, and only a subset of them get into these highest-paid investment banking roles. In other words, there is a lot more in placements – which I believe is but a small part of the IIM-package – than those investment banking jobs. It would be a disaster to give a wrong impression to public about what these schools really stand for.


I really didn’t see the point behind brain drain and the whole debate about why IIT and IIM students have to stick themselves to India. I don’t think patriotism depends on where ones studies. I find all my batch mates as patriotic as every other Indian. Nothing more, nothing less. And honestly, I don’t think India would be half as much popular as the destination for talent pool as it is now without talented people going abroad.

As a little respite, the only good thing about the whole show was the emphasis on students who left campus offers to venture into entrepreneurship. Hope that coverage continues though… it could turn out to be a fillip to students who are pondering about starting something on their own.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

IIM Indore placements 2006

Finally, I've reached home. And the IIM Indore placement report 2006 has arrived. I’ve copy pasted the excerpts in here, but the original report (containing a lot more information) can be found by following the link above.

The number of offers boomed to 295 with an average of 5.5 offers per company. The average CTC salary offered was Rs.8.50 lakhs with a high of a Rs.32 lakh international salary.

Significant was the offer made by Macquarie Bank to one of the participants. Named as the Best Investment Bank for the year 2005, by Australian Banking and Finance Magazine and CFO Magazine and also voted as the Best Equity House 2005 by Asiamoney, Macquarie bank chose IIM-Indore as its first IIM campus for recruitment from India.

The media bandwagon was lead by Astro Malaysia, which recruited 5 participants, who would be working on key areas like Joint Ventures, Strategic Alliances and Mergers & Acquistions. That was not all; the icing on the cake came in the form of Irevna. The 4 offers on hand included postings in their London and New York offices. This reiterates the confidence of business houses that view IIM-Indore as an institute strong in diverse fields offering a holistic learning experience.

The overall average CTC increased from 8.16 lakhs per annum in 2005 to 8.50 lakhs per annum this year. The average salary offered for lateral candidates also saw a 10% increase from last year to 9.0 lakhs per annum. The average accepted domestic CTC was Rs.8.20 lakhs per annum.

The highest domestic salary offered was 12.5 lakhs per annum, while the highest international salary was equivalent to 32 lakhs per annum.

The meteoric rise in the number of offers, which closed at 295, was testimonial to the growing stature of the institute and the brand equity that it commands in the business world. This was a rise of 50% from previous year’s tally of 202 offers. The number of offers per participant rose from 1.8 to 2.61, an increase of 45%.

Banking & Finance
A big boost to the placement process was the presence of the international bank – Macquarie, IIM-Indore being the first campus visited by them, offering a challenging profile as Property Analyst. Astro Malaysia offered an international posting in their Strategy division in the area of Mergers & Acquisition and New Business Development. Industry bigwigs such as Deutsche Bank, Citibank, Standard Chartered, ICICI Bank, UTI Bank and SBI cemented their relationships with IIM-Indore by offering roles in Risk Management, Treasury and Transaction banking. There was a strong representation from Financial Services as well with Amex, ICICI Prudential offering challenging roles in the ever-dynamic sector.

Marketing & Media
The numbers speak for themselves - 82 offers, average salary of 8.4 lakhs per annum, 12 companies – HLL, ITC, Marico, PepsiCo, Asian Paints, Dupont, Cadburys, J&J to name a few. Media companies like NDTV, SET, Red FM shot straight up in the company rankings on campus.

Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG), IBM, Atos Origin, CapGemini and Bristlecone consulting offered key roles to the participants across diverse domains – IT, Operations and Finance.

With the IT Sector witnessing exponential growth, industry leaders CTS, DELL, IBM, Infosys, Wipro, TCS, HCL and HP led the recruiters with the highest number of offers per company figure of 6.2.

Equity Research & Investment Banking
Indore played host for the first time to Irevna and Morgan Stanley, who along with the regulars JP Morgan, Citibank, Kotak and SBI Capital Markets offered a total of 26 offers, with an average salary of 9.1 lakhs per annum.

General Management & HR
Singapore based OLAM International offered two positions in operations and general management, which boasted of the highest international salary offered on campus. Companies like Reliance and HCL found participants with acute acumen for personnel management and offered HR profiles for them - though these profiles were not on offer initially.

For exact information on the variety of companies that visited the campus, follow the link. But here are some of my personal experiences:

  • India is on a roll. IT companies weren’t the only ones to offer 10+ jobs. Some of the finance and other companies joined the fray too. When there are about 50+ companies for a batch consisting of 113 people, 10+ offers per company is massive.
  • I personally believe that the number of offers per candidate figure quoted by B-schools means nothing. There are a lot more companies willing to give offers to good candidates. The only limitation is the realization that one can work only at a single place. Theoretically, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of IIMs say one of these days that the number of offers per student is 10, coz it’s entirely possible. It’s really no big deal.
  • The real icing on the cake this year for us was the presence of media companies like NDTV, Astro and SET – not to name some that didn’t have students left. These companies offered much more diversity to the placements.
  • Very unlike last year, there was hardly anyone interested in BPOs. KPOs were a different story though. I still don’t know the answer for the wavering interest levels.
  • For the record, I’m still not clear on the formula that some companies use to calculate CTC. I doubt if there is a single expert in this field.
Catch ya soon!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Last day in the campus

And that means it's the last post from the campus. Can't really believe it's all over so fast. I was told by many that the academic learning from an IIM is the best part, but I now believe that the whole experience is what we take home. Academics is but a small part. But all that later... during my vacation.

This is a part of the last mail I sent to my batch.
I guess the magnitude of leaving this wonder of a place will hit hard when I wake up 3 days from now to hear no music or hostel-ruffles. Or when I wake up someday a year later to see only deadlines and targets to meet. Or when I'm forced to follow a clockwork sleep-and-wake-up routine. Or when there aren't any late night maggi or gun-fires or movies to look forward to. For now though, I'm kind of glad it hasn't really set in, coz I know its going to be painful.
Couldn't really think of anything more. Just hope to continue blogging.