Thursday, December 29, 2005

What a bad exam at a B-school does to your desktop

Disclaimer: This is not a long post.

Reason: I had two exams today, both of which can be (not surprisingly) summed up in one word...DISASTER !!

This is how the scenario changed in a matter of 24 hours...



Monday, December 26, 2005

I've been thinking...

“Of late, I’ve been thinking…”, I begin.

“Good habit there, boy”, you might add, even before I finish.

“No, No.”, I reply. “Not that sort of thing. Unlike what people usually think about me, I do exercise my mental faculties once in a while. It is just that I’ve had some free time to think for myself. And I’ve been ruminating over things.”

A deep “Hmmm” escapes you and you begin wondering what sort of a fellow would use the word ‘ruminate’ over ‘think’ in this world of SMS language.

“I’ve observed that ever since I’ve joined this b-school, I haven’t been doing that which I liked doing best..enjoying myself. Reading Jeeves (by PGW), reading business magazines on a regular basis and keeping a track of international sporting events. In short, I’ve not been doing things that I enjoyed doing the most. Hence, I’ve decided to begin with these things again once my end-term exams get over on the 30th of December.”

“You’ve got your New Resolutions in place already?” you ask with an upturned eyebrow.

“Umm…well, not exactly New Year Resolutions, just planning to do stuff that I’ve wanted to do for a long time."


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

And the winner is...

A collective sharp intake of breath by the audience... roll of drums...."Marketing".

Applause, applause. No, not because I chose Marketing, but because I was finally able to make up my mind. I must admit, however, that I was able to take this decision due to the help of a senior who came up with a very simple formula. He mailed me the complete MBA syllabus for the second year. The document listed all the elective courses that one can take under the different heads of Marketing, Finance, IT, HR, Operations etc.

His advice? "Simply tick all the subjects that interest you; if most of them are under Marketing then Marketing is what you're doing your major specialisation in, the one with the next highest number of ticked courses is your area of minor specialisation."

I downloaded the file and a twenty minute study led me to the conclusion that I must take Marketing and Finance as my major and minor specialisation next year. Hmm. Not very different from what I'd planned when I entered this B-school.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The rise of the Libran

Gosh! Am I confused!! It is said that one of the greatest weaknesses of a Libran is that he cannot make his mind up very easily when confronted with two or more options. In my case this ranges from the simple ("Should I have tea or coffee?"; "Should I travel by a bus or a taxi?") to the very complex ("Should I date the hot blonde or the sweet babe next door?").

Ok ok, I haven't been as lucky to have the latter debate with myself, but I take it for granted that you've understood the general dilemma that I face at times.

Well, here is one decision that will influence my career.

Should I opt for Marketing or Finance as a major specialisation?

Well, I have a good 3-4 months before I enter my second year, but the decision must be taken now since I must accordingly choose the company for summer placements. I have had numerous lengthy discussions with myself and my peers (I'm just returning from a hour long meeting with a senior regarding this very subject). Most tell me that I should opt for Marketing, because that is what suits my personality. And I must admit that I really like Marketing, but I haven't been particularly excited with what I've seen of Marketing thus far in my MBA course.

Now for Finance. Numbers hasn't been a strong point for me since school. All my mathematical competence seemed to vanish once I entered college. I can bet with my eyes closed that this was just due to neglect of studies, and given due dedication, I can easily do well in this too.

Plus, the Financial Management (FM) class today on market securities and portfolio management REALLY REALLY excited me (when I repeat 'really', and that too in caps, please understand that I, a guy who usually falls asleep in an FM class, was not only wide awake in a securities & exchange class but was also predicting correctly what the prof. was about to say next!!).

Another little thing which is tickling my funnybone is the fact that I just so wanna get into McKinsey, the consultancy major. The problem: McKinsey hasn't come on campus...ever. Although it is expected to come next year, the only major consultancy firm that is expected is Ernst & Young. Plus, consultancy firms usually prefer people with Finance majors.

*Sigh* Am I anywhere closer?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Sound of Music

There is something intriguing about the love for movies that exists in each MBA student's heart. Hitherto the student may not have been a great fan of movies at all. But give him the incredible weapon named the intranet, and lo and behold! you have the great Indian movie fan. And mind you, this love for the movies can be seen even in the most unlikeliest of circumstances.

Whether you have a mid/end term examination the next day or project assignments in 5 different subjects, the way to unwind is to watch a movie rather than going off to sleep, which in any case is in short supply. Beats me how people do it. Because I take the easiest way out, I watch movies AND sleep like a log. :D

Anyway, a friend forwarded "The Sound of Music" to me today. I realised I had 3 huge assignment submissions tomorrow. So, I proceeded that with which was simplest for me: I saw the movie AND went of to sleep promptly. I must confess that this was one of the most peaceful sleep that I've had in a long long time.

The reason is very simple: "Sound of Music" is home. The last time I saw Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp family on screen was when I was barely 12 or 13 years old. I still recall asking my Mom for explanations about some scenes and my Mom trying to simplify the setting of the film. My mother, who has done her schooling from a simple Gujarati medium school, finds the film extremely enchanting, and till date regards the movie as one of her all time favorites. "Sound of Music" is one of the few Hollywood films she really likes and remembers.

"Sound Of Music" to me is like a beautiful dream gone by, a dream I call the "Innocence of Childhood". For any middle-class Indian children of my generation, Hollywood movies were a strict no-no. Reason? They symbolised all that was bad with the outside world, namely, sex, skin-show, violence, men who smoked cigarettes and drank "wine" (at that age, all alcohol could be categorised as "wine". *Sigh* If my parents were to find out today what I know about alcohol , they would be in for a major shock). This used to continue till the day Dad would decide to get a video cassette of movies like "The Sound of Music" or "The Guns of Navarone" from the local video library. Mom would prepare 'bhajias', a staple snack for the entire family and we would all settle down to watch the movie. And if by the end of the movie, I wasn't already asleep, Dad would take me down to the 'paanwaala' either for a drink of Maaza (remember? These were the days when Coca-Cola had still not re-entered India and the mango drink Maaza was still everybody's favorite) or an ice cream.

I do not remember exactly what dreams I had while I slept today, but I'm pretty sure it had something do with home, something to do with Mom lovingly brushing her fingers through my hair and something to do with the flat that we shifted out of almost a decade back; because the old flat is where I saw everything through the eyes of a child.

Hmm..Perhaps I'm getting too nostalgic. But then, what the heck? I enjoyed the movie and I've slept peacefully for a good 6 hours. Plus, it is almost 1 in the morning and I must prepare a Financial Management report, study a Goal Programming case, prepare an Operations Management case and do the pre-reading for the 3 classes that I have tomorrow. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, what with the Innocence of Childhood shining brightly.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Confluence 2005 and "Ambani vs. Ambani"

Well, Confluence 2005 at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) was awesome. I missed out on some of the speakers that I really wanted to hear, like Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Chairman, Indian Planning Commission) and Mr. Mukesh Ambani (Managing Director, Reliance Industries Ltd.). However, the high points for me were the speeches of Mr. Arun Shourie (former Disinvestment Minister) and Mr. Vijay Mallya (CEO, United Breweries).

The speech by Mr. Mallya was particularly interesting. There are plenty of reasons for this. First, he is one of the most exciting entrpreneurs India has seen. Second, he is known as the Richard Branson of India for his high-flying lifestyle. Third, not only is he originally from Calcutta (like me) but also did his schooling in my alma-mater, La Martiniere for Boys. He spoke about the challenges he has faced during his career, and about the number of times people told him that he was done for. On a number of occassions he was told that he'd hammered the final nail in his own coffin, but every time, he proved his detractors wrong. One key learning from the speech was that we should not expect a father-like figure or a 'guru' to come and teach us the tricks of the trade in today's world. "The buck stops with you" was his mantra. You must take decisions on your own in the world of business, try everything to make it succeed, and if it doesn't, learn from your mistakes and move on. Food for thought for the entrepreneur which is rising within me.

"Storms in the Sea Wind: Ambani vs. Ambani" is the name of the book that I have just finished reading. It is authored by Alam Srinivas, the business editor of the Outlook magazine, an extremely popular magazine here in India. In it, the author describes the battle-scene that was fought behind the media curtain in the most powerful business house in the country, that of the Ambanis. "Sea Wind" is the name of the building that the Ambanis occupy in Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country. The Ambanis control Reliance Industries Ltd., India's biggest privately owned company. Of course, the founder of RIL is Shri Dhirubhai Ambani, of whom I am an ardent fan (see my previous post "Am I a maverick or plain silly?"). Love him or hate him, he is responsible for building India's biggest business house, from scratch , under three decades.

The book discusses the fight for the control of Reliance by Mukesh and Anil, the two sons of Dhirubhai. The book is interesting as it not only provides a look at how the war was fought in front of media-persons but also in the boardrooms. The book also highlights how most family-owned business globally break-down during the second or the third generation. The house of Tatas in India is the only example one can see where they've managed to keep the house intact, and yet a huge power in the business community.