Thursday, June 29, 2006

Apni Strategic Paathshala

To 'mini' and 'basanti': You asked me what I was writing, and here it is. I'd considered whether I should put it up on my blog or not, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been true to myself

There is a famous question that I had read somewhere. Have you ever seen dogs run after speeding cars? Well, the question is this: 'In case the dog manages to catch up with the car, what the hell would it do?'

The question should not elicit a mere laugh as response. The answer has deeper implications. For example, it is often said that is easier for a country's opposition party to sit back and criticize the policies of the ruling party rather than actually take reins of the country.

Similar allegations are made at students when they question, argue or shout and complain about the methodology of lectures. "So, you think are an authority on the subject, do you?" and "You think you can do a better job?" are some of the questions that one is faced with.

With all due respect (where none is due), yours truly is certainly not a canine who relishes chasing speeding cars. I believe in strength, similar to that of a lion. If a lion isn't bothered about a car in the forest, it wouldn't care two hoots about a car that passed within 10 yards of itself. But if the occupants of the car happen to annoy the lion, you can be rest assured your car will be smashed off the dirt track.

To the questions that have been put forth...No, dear sir, I am not a pundit on any subject, but then, neither are you. Absolutely NOBODY can be a pundit when one speaks about lectures on business (which yours truly has the pleasure of attending). And to the other question of whether I can do better, of course I can. Here's what I would do rather than conduct a strategic management class where the first 20 minutes of the class are reserved for a detailed 'academic' presentation (done by 2 students) and the rest of the class is a monologue by the professor. During this, the poor student who has paid for the lecture either SMSes his friend who is sitting at the other end of the lecture hall, or day-dreams about his/her boyfriend/girlfriend, or even worse, sleeps.

Of course, there will be that one mad student who will write about how he proposes to conduct a strategic management class and plans to put it up on his blog.

Well, here's the plan...

1. Bring in photocopies of any case study relevant to strategic management. Preferably, the case should be Indian, and (for Heaven's sake) RECENT. Who is interested in the problems faced by a company 3 decades back? There is absolutely NO relevance of such cases in today's dynamic and liberalized Indian economy.

2. Give the students 10 minutes to read the case. (Better than giving it to the students beforehand; in any case, the case is either read during the class or hurriedly opened 15 minutes before the lecture)

3. Form a random group of students, ask them to do a role play (CEO, Board of Directors, etc.) and form policies. Time limit: 30 minutes.

4. List down what was discussed. Ask the other students to comment/contribute/debate these issues. Let it go on for another half an hour. Get the maximum feedback from as many students as possible. [Philosophy: Students know a lot by themselves; the responsibility lies with the faculty to get the best out of them.]

5. Speak for the last 15 minutes. All the 'bhashan' about theory should be limited to this section only. Make the students realise that though things in the corporate world appear fragmented and is more touch-and-go, underlying it is a strong presence of theory.


Another idea would be to allocate role-play earlier, for example, student A as Lakshmi Mittal, student B as Aditya Mittal, and student C as Joseph Kinsch. Now, let them come to the class prepared with the case. That will ensure that they don't talk nonsense in the name of Strategy. Let them hammer out the details and the different viewpoints of the Mittal-Arcelor deal. That is current news, dude, not about some fish that died in 1979.

(I'm not an arrogant git and would obviously welcome any comments, feedback or improvements upon the method suggested. Again, there are many competent professors of strategy out there, and I would be more than happy to know how strategy management classes are conducted by them. The most favorite option would obviously be to forget about the whole deal and move on without commenting. You're welcome to do that too. No sweat.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I've just returned from an interesting one hour long discussion with Anil Sir, our librarian. As the co-ordinator of the Book Club of the Institute, it has been an added advantage for me to get sound bites from a heavy set man who has wonderful ideas about books and academics. Truly, talks with him are extremely thought provoking. Often it happens that I enter his cabin thinking that I'll have a short conversation with him, but somehow we always end up discussing academics, student life, entrepreneurship and business philosophies, and obviously, these discussions go on for much longer than a short 15 minute chat.

And as we chatted today, I made a short reference to two interesting excerpts from speeches that I'd attended. Interestingly, I had also blogged about the first lecture.

This was a speech by Mr. Sam Pitroda. During his speech, he mentioned an extremely interesting anecdote. It so happened that he was invited to represent India at some European conference where various countries were brainstorming how to develop a 'Silicon Valley' for Europe. After a few speakers had spoken, it was Mr. Pitroda's turn. He walked up to the podium and said "In my humble opinion, I do not think that there is any possibility of a Silicon Valley here". The stunned audience asked him for a reason. To their further surprise, Sam Pitroda said that the reason was right in front of their eyes. He asked the people to take a look around them and observe the people who were attending the conference. "Each one of them," he told us, "was wearing a similar shirt, had short-cropped hair, wore either a black or blue suit, neat trousers and shining black leather shoes. Where's the innovation? Where's the differentiator? Who's going to break the mould? If only there were someone who had a pony-tail, had worn a simple t-shirt, ragged worn-out jeans and sneakers, it would have been heart-warming for we would have known 'Here is the man who isn't afraid of thinking out of the box, someone who's not afraid of being the exception'."

The other excerpt is more recent, and, I dare say, more interesting. During our regional SIFE presentation, one of the judges was an Australian. He comes to the mike and in his typical Australian accent, starts off by saying..."This is the first time I'm here and it has been a wonderful experience looking at all the talent that the students have brought to the field of social work....(Pause)....I hope you guys have been able to understand what I'm saying...(looks around at the audience with a smile)...Yeah!! I know...I'm Australian...we speak funny, but we play good cricket!!"

Snubbed, but enjoying the pride of the avid Australian cricket fan, the audience burst out into applause. :)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Balle balle

Well, it is 4 in the morning, and I have a lecture tomorrow at 11. And going by the number of hours that I can now manage to sleep, I'd better hit the bed soon. But again, even though I wanted to just drop dead, I couldn't resist the urge to post about a victory.

Hey, do you remember when I wrote about the SIFE competition being one of the things I was worried about? Well, that took place on 17th and 18th of June, i.e. over the last weekend. The competition took place in Mumbai.

Well, the first day was a regional round, where 4 teams were to be chosen from 17. And guess what?? Our NIRMA SIFE team was adjudged the regional winners!! Yahoo!!

Not only did this mean we'd done one better than our senior batch (they'd been runners-up at the regional level the previous year), but also that we'd be participating the next day in the National Finals.

Saturday night was when our 5 member team really put in a lot of effort. We were awake till 5 in the morning, aware of the fact that we had to leave the hotel at 8. However, we were just so excited that we kept on going over the PowerPoint presentation over and over again, making changes here and there, discussing possible questions and also the financials of the business plan that we'd thought up for the sustainability of an effort to help a co-operative movement of the farmers of Gujarat.

The finals was a keenly fought competition at The Hyatt. It was a day long affair, and featured the best in the business. The 12 member group of judges were CEOs, HR heads and CFOs representing Syntel, Reliance (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group), HSBC, HDFC, Monsanto, Diageo and others. Our team definitely felt the jitters as well as the excitement of competing at the national level.

And it paid off...

(from left: Sonal Singh, Mithun Shah, Kushan Jasani [standing in the background], me, Ketul Sir [our faculty guide], Jyotika Agarwal and Sneha Goenka)

We were adjudged the National Runners-up. And boy, was it a great feeling!!

Talk about starting the academic year with a bang.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I want to fly

‘Ma, can I fly?’

‘Not yet, dear. You are too young to fly. Wait for a few days more.’

‘But Ma, why am I still so young?’

‘Well, your wings still aren’t developed enough…they do not have the strength to keep you in air for long. Besides, what do you want to fly so soon for?’

‘You didn’t answer my question,’ observed the baby bird. ‘Dad flies. I’ve seen him flying ever since I’ve opened my little eyes. He makes it look so easy. You both make it look so easy. Please, can I have a try?’

‘Not yet, o young one. Don’t be so impatient.’

‘But Ma, I want to…’

‘You are yet unaware of the dangers of flight, son. The world isn’t as safe as it seems to you. The nest in which you’ve grown up is but a safe haven for you to grow up in. It is in no way comparable to the world outside. What’s more, you can’t fly yet’

‘And who says I can’t fly?’

Mother bird let out a pearl of laughter.

‘How impatient you are…just like your father. Look, here he comes.’

‘What is it? You seem to be amused.’

Baby bird began even before his Ma could speak.

‘I want to fly and Ma says no. Everybody says no. They say it is not right, that I must practice and fly with everyone.’

‘And you don’t feel that is correct, do you?’

‘NO! How will I ever know whether I know how to fly or not if you do not even let me try?’

‘But you have been practicing, haven’t you?’

‘Yes, but that too under tutelage. Listen, dear father, I know I haven’t mastered the skills yet. I know you are worried about me…perhaps even more than Ma is…yet you remain quiet and thoughtful. You know I always wanted to be like you. Why not let me go?’

The wise old bird smiled.

‘You are growing up quickly, my son. You have the courage, not only to fly out into the world, but also to fly in the face of what others call ‘conventional wisdom’. I’m glad for you. You are indeed a special child. Not only have you survived a difficult childhood, but you seem to have been chosen for a great future.’

‘But how can you say that? The others call my remarks and pranks as foolish and childish. What makes you certain it isn’t so?’

‘Who, in this petty life, hasn’t been criticized or ridiculed? The difference lies in their response. I chose a certain path. And you seem to be prepared to choose a path which only you can see. Remember, do not do what others think right for you to do; they aren’t the ones who live out the consequences. Do what seems correct to you. By no means do I suggest that you don’t take a word from the wise, but your life’s decisions are but your own. It is you who will regret or congratulate yourself later.’

‘And what of those who call me foolish?’

The old bird smiled yet again.

‘Only time and destiny shall answer whether you were foolish or courageous.’

‘Now really!!’ interjected Mama bird, ‘You don’t mean to say you’re giving him the permission to fly?’

‘No, I am not. All I’m telling him is to follow his heart…showing him a path not explored by many. Whether he walks down the oft trodden path or the more adventurous (and hence, more dangerous) one, is entirely his decision.’

‘You’re right, father. My heart tells me there is yet some time left…but my hour shall certainly come…’


The days flew by.

And then, one day, the baby bird, now a beautiful adult with brilliant long feathers, flew out into the open. The bird flew into troublesome winds at first, but soon it seemed to have mastered the challenges. And even as the rest of the flock flew together and doubted the young bird’s decision to fly in a hitherto unknown direction, the young bird knew that he had achieved something the others could only dream of…he had gone out and made a piece of the sky his own.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I'm just like any other human being. Writing my blog, publishing it on the net and seeing people appreciate it feels great. In fact, there could be nothing more wonderful than logging onto the Net and finding comments on your post. And, sometimes like a greedy gut, I call up or message friends to tell them about a new post, so that they may immediately tell me whether they like it or not. (I've even asked a friend to read an entire post while I waited on an STD call to gauge whether she liked my latest effort.)
The last time when I called up a friend and screamed 'New post', she immediately logged onto my blog, and her first reaction at 'The Movie Freak' was...."Hey bhagwaan, itna lamba post....lagta hai Sayesha ki aadat lag gayi tujhe bhi.' He he he he.. :D
Anyway, this ain't some post about how I've yet again changed my desktop wallpaper, which till the time dad was here a few days ago, was adorned with either Shiv ji or with JRD (yes, that how big a fan I am of that guy). Nor is this a record about the books/movies/songs that I've read/seen/heard in the last few days/hours/minutes. [For the record, however, this cyber cafe, notorious for playing songs by screaming pink-haired guys, is playing 'Nahin saamne' from Taal. God bless the guy who's keeping a tab on the music player.]
This is a post about returning to Nirma Institute of Management. This is a post to tell the world how happy I am to return home, in a sense. Over the past year, Ahmedabad has become like a second home. And I'm absolutely looking forward to meeting pals like Basanti, Sam, Shubbu, Tusshi, Mini, Chamku and Kota. Without them, the management classes would've meant death by boredom, and weekends would've turned into quiet days which had forgotten the meaning of laughter, smiles, tensions and worries.
Love you guys, and looking forward to another rocking year at Nirma. Cheerio.
And to all those who have patiently borne reading my blog all this while, you sure can look forward to more posts once I return to my 24x7 internet-connection wala room at the boys hostel. And yes, tussi bhi mere great friend ho. Kasam se. :)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The movie freak

Only a few hours separate me from wishing a soft 'Goodbye' to the CNBC TV18 offices here in Lower Parel, Mumbai. The summer project is almost over, the field work is done, only the tabulation of data and the final project report now remain to be prepared.
My regional boss seems to be glad to get rid of a vegetarian, non-smoking - non-drinking summer trainee like me who quietly sipped his Coke, while the other colleagues greedily eyed their pitchers of beer when the boss gave a treat at a pub. "What a waste!!", the guys would say at the office canteen when my onion uttapam would arrive, while they ravenously polished off their butter chicken. "Actually," my boss remarked, "you would've done much better had you had your summer training at Varanasi instead of Mumbai. Much better for a guy like you." "But why Varanasi? I hear Hardwar is equally pleasant at this time of the year," I retorted.
(But of course, I must hasten to add that my boss is really a nice sorta fellow. Well, you see, I'm yet to receive my stipend for the last two months, so...)
So, I just sit back and type away to glory after having accompanied another colleague for a smoke to the smoking area behind the canteen. While he puffed away on his Gold Flake, I sipped my coffee while shyly stealing glances at the beautiful girls in their colorful tees and jeans who'd taken a breather from their work to recount to their friends how they'd been "Like sooooo drunk at xxx's party" (the triple 'x' was unintentional, and therefore, doesn't beg any untoward attention).
Back in the office area, I sit back on the chair which I've maroed from the neighbouring cubicle (Really!! When will these large companies be able to make an inventory of the no. of people in their offices and get the adequate no. of chairs?) and think back on the last 2 months at Mumbai.
Let not the reader of this post be under the impression that I while away time day-dreaming and introspecting in a professional capacity; it is just that I wait for my boss to make a reappearance, the gentleman having left for some field work where duty calls.
Hence, while I have the opportunity to bore the reader to death, let me gladly grab this opportunity with both hands and proceed to recount some of the wonderful movies that I have seen during my stay.
Well, what shall I say....I AM A MOVIE FREAK !!
And the summer internship was a great time to catch up on movies. DVD wallahs at the Andheri station have made a killing, and I find myself the proud owner of movies ranging from Lethal Weapon to Pakeezah.
A few weeks ago, I'd intended to write about the time I saw "Madhumati". Those of you who just went "Whaaaa??" really need to educate yourself about the time Dilip Kumar ruled the roost in the Hindi film industry. And like I found out, the most haunting tunes that you might have often unknowingly hummed yourself happen to be from that movie. Remember "Aaja re pardesi" by Lata Mangeshkar; or "Suhana safar aur yeh mausam haseen" by Mukesh, for that matter? Yes sir. Madhumati is the movie where you'll find these gems embedded. There are a number of other tunes too, but you must watch the movie to enjoy 'em.
Then of course, I watched the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts romantic comedy, "Notting Hill". I absolutely love this movie, in spite of all the "masculine" adrenaline-pumping movies that I continue to enjoy at the same time. I went the complete movie-buff way and made myself some Act II popcorn at home while watching the movie for the umpteenth time, and once again found myself appreciating the beauty of Julia Roberts (Mini, like many others before her, has recommended that I finally watch "Pretty Woman"). And if you haven't seen "Notting Hill" till now, go watch it...if only to hear the beauty of the simple lines "I'm also just a girl...standing in front of a boy...asking him to love me". Songs like "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone" and "You say it best, when you say nothing at all" make it all the more worthwhile watching the movie (don't miss out on how the entire song "Ain't no sunshine..." seems to be a single shot and how well a passage of 10-12 months is shown in a matter of a few seconds).
And finally, the BIG DADDY of films is here. "The Godfather" is a movie which has captured my imagination ever since I read the book by Mario Puzo. The book is absolutely fabulous, and those of you who would've read it would know about the brilliant character portrayal of Don Corleone. The dark, brooding intensity of the film can captivate any silent observer and transport him/her into the world of the Corleone family. And also, there is the haunting background music which refuses to be shut out of my mind. Even as I tried to, someone's mobile phone in the office rang, and guess what?? The ring tone was the same signature Godfather tune. And that is what led me to write this post. Go, for heaven's sake, and watch the Godfather trilogy. Even if you didn't know that it was Sofia Coppola (the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola) who played Michael Corleone's daughter in Godfather Part III, you must make it a point to watch ALL three parts, for it is an education in film-watching.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Where am I?

Uneasy is what I am. REAL uneasy.
Well, my senses are confused. I'm listening to a fun song that reminds me of her ('Ek nazar mein bhi pyar hota hai', it is from the movie...err...can't remember the name, that John Abraham-Nana Patekar movie. Seriously, I've lost all hope, so completely not in touch with Bollywood.) By the time I finished trying to remember the name of the movie and typing the above, there's already another song which is playing... 'Teri Deewani' by Kailash Kher. Again, this makes me feel homesick all the more...'she' had dedicated this song to me, not too long ago.
All right, so why exactly are my senses confused?
Well, I've spent the whole day sleeping. And the reason why I've been away from blog world is also related.
An Uncle had a mild heart attack a week ago, after which he was shifted to the Lilavati Hospital. Though his condition improved considerably, the doctors realised that 3 of his arteries were blocked and that a bypass surgery was necessary. Dad flew in from Calcutta on Sunday night and yesterday we spent the entire day at the hospital. Only at around 8:30 in the evening we got to know that the operation went off successfully.
But, the day wasn't over yet. Earlier in the day, I got a call from a batchmate from Nirma. Another friend from Nirma had been hospitalised and someone needed to spend the night at the hospital. I volunteered after asking Dad, and he said 'Cool'. Seems like I have the Lord's blessings around me...the night went off peacefully (although it was a most uncomfortable chair that I slept in), and the friend was to be discharged from hospital today. Moreover, Baby Aish is doing fine. :D
Ok, that is the part which comes under the 'Great News' title.
Now for the more worrying part of my life, which I would've done better by not unloading here, but what the heck...
(To those who aren't used to my ways, I ALWAYS like to make a list of my troubles/worries. At times, they just allow me to realise that I do not have as many problems I'd originally thought I have. Also, they're helpful in strategising what I should do in order to get over these problems.)
1. Work
Ok, work has piled on. There's quite a lot of office work that needs to be completed before I leave Mumbai. Also, the project report needs to be prepared to give to the bosses and powers-that-be at CNBC. Obviously, the report should not let anyone know about the serious stupidity-bouts that I suffer from. And THAT is a mammoth task in itself.
There is this competition for which I got selected from my institute. I need to co-ordinate with 4 other batchmates for this contest, and they are currently at Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Bangalore. And there's tonnes of work to be done, since this is an international competition, and in case we crack the all-India finals, we'll be headed to Paris.
3. Some problem which I can do nothing about but just mentally prepare myself. Hence, I won't write about it. Way too personal, folks.
I do hope I get cracking about my problems soon.