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Friday, June 30, 2006

LATEST STORIES

I realize that I have slightly moved away from the ISB life since the last few mails. So let me reserve this post to provide an idea how things are shaping up in ISB. The best thing is that we are done with the mid term examinations. This is implicative of the fact that, it is changeover time for the professors too. Professor Raju is back again for “Marketing Decision Making”. His lectures are as brilliant and insightful as ever. “Competitive Strategy” introduced us to another Professor who is also set to leave a mark in our minds. This is Professor Akbar Zaheer….I wonder if anyone can forget that lecture he delivered on Mergers and Acquisitions based on the Cisco case. Professor Ravi and Professor Milind who are assigned “Global Economics” and “Decision Models and Optimization” are quite impressive too.

Coming back to the professional clubs, I must say that these clubs are pretty active now. As for me, I find myself in the core group of EMO group (Energy, Manufacturing and Operations Club). That demands lot of hard work and enthusiasm, especially when these clubs are very much responsible for placement related activities as well as hosting guest lectures. I am just a silent spectator in the Consulting club and Real estate club.

Another thing of importance is the formation of the admissions task force for the class of 2008. Seems just like yesterday…when we were busy with the apping process. But now it is time for the class of 2008 to apply. Those of you speculating to apply to ISB for the class of 2008, should visit http://isb.edu/pgp/visit/admissions_important_schedule.asp to gather further information on the deadlines and align your schedules accordingly.

Now that studies, clubs and admissions are done with, let me inform about a mega event…the “Editors’ Round Table” that is scheduled tomorrow afternoon. Further details are available on this link http://www.isb.edu/RoundTable2006/.

Football fever is running high amongst the ISBians now, especially when mid terms are just concluded and the Germany-Argentina thriller is in progress. Let me find out how the situation is now.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

THE 1ST CORNER OF "TRUTH"

Prof. Krishna Kumar, in his adieu mail reminded us of a quote attributed to Confucius:
Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner,and it is for you to find the other three.”
One day before the mid terms, I am in a frame of mind where I find it difficult to manage the 1st corner of the "truth", in our case "Global Economics". I was under the impression that Global Economics was relatively easy, until I tried to think deeply into the graphs and curves that describe the nature of macroeconomics.
Jargons are confusing too. For every real X, there exists a nominal X. And to add to the conceptual depth, there will be complicated relationship linking the two. X has a very wide range and can be used to assume seemingly simply stuff like "interest rate" (mind you, seemingly is a very powerful word) to perceptibly complicated jargons like "capital rental rate". Another word which economists have always loved and liked to play with is "marginal". Phrases like "Marginal Product of Capital" and "Marginal Product of Labor" have proved to be very powerful in explaining various global concepts related to capital and labor.
Certain concepts like "Convergence Effect in the Solow Framework", Cobb-Douglas Production function, Ricardian Model of Trade" have made economics look like more of Mathematics to me.
But one thing, that is so striking about Economics is the depth of the topic and its power to explain every minute phenomenon that is visible in global environment.
Really interesting subject..... I am sure my search for the other "three corners" will continue even after I leave ISB.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

THE BIGGEST DISADVANTAGE OF A ONE YEAR MBA

KPMG big bosses, the famous Mumbai Dabbawalas, the marketing chief of Yashraj films....were amongst the dignitaries who visited ISB this weekend to share their experience with the ISB students. Sometimes there are clashes in the schedules of these seminars/talks and one can attend only one at a time. And the concept of trade-off again rules.
Here is the biggest disadvantage of one year MBA. There is so much to do and time is such a rare commodity. You want to do everything and finally land up doing only a selected few....

Saturday, June 24, 2006

WORLDS NOBLEST GIFT

Deep into the night, when the silence speaks, I feel so happy……One of the rare days when I decided to give a few moments of my life for someone else….whom I don’t know….who don’t know me.....Yet I feel so happy.
Attached below is the letter which the “Net impact club” of ISB sent, thanking to all the blood donors. But, I feel I should thank them for the kind of efforts they gather to convert such efforts into success.

“Today you were a child’s angel…
Today you saved someone’s life…
Today a stranger said a silent prayer for you…
Today you were a role model for someone...
Today you have touched a heart…
Today you have healed a soul…
Today you have changed a life…!!

We have 175 cases of selfless contribution…
We have 175 reasons to thank you...
We have 175 reasons to celebrate the gift of giving.... "

Thursday, June 22, 2006

THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNIVERSE

Sometimes it is a good idea to revisit some of those things which once inspired you and helped you to take decisions in life. This is something which I did today… in spite of scores of pages of pre-read. But, I know that it is worth taking a visit to those poetic lines of Paulo Coelho in “The Alchemist”.
Here is a list of my favorite collection from “The Alchemist”.

(1) "Everyone has his or her own way of learning things. His way isn’t the same as mine, nor mine as his. But we are both in search of our destinies, and I respect him for that".
(2) "The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present , you can improve upon it. And if improve on the present, what comes better will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity".
(3) "Camels are traitorous; they walk thousands of miles and never seem to tire. Then suddenly, they kneel and die. But horses tire bit by bit. You always know how much you can ask of them, and when it is that they are about to die".
(4) "You must understand that love never keeps a man away from pursuing his destiny. If he abandons that pursuit, its because it wasn’t true love….the love that speaks the Language of the world".
(5) "One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving".
(6) "The wise men understood that this natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of his wisdom. That’s what I mean by action".
(7) "Tell your heart that fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity".
(8) "Every search begins with the beginners luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested".
(9) "When you possess great treasures within you and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed".
(10) "Your eyes shows the strength of your soul".
(11) "No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesnot know it".
(12) "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it".
(13) "Learn to recognize omens, and follow them".

Sunday, June 18, 2006

SMOOTH CRUISING - A DISTANT DREAM!!!!!

Today, I want to sit down for a while and try to forget that I am running this long marathon with 420 smart people. I need to look back for a while to realize what kind of week was that- the first week of Term-2.
I had promised myself that just before sleeping every night, I should devote myself fifteen good minutes to type down my thoughts for imaginations. But the very definition of “night” is distorted. Definitely morning 5 a.m. cannot be classified under the definition of night.
But every dark cloud has a silver lining” (Now, I am an optimist…. So don’t come back saying to me that “this is this silver lining that kills”.
The “Commanding Height” series (forms a part of the Global Economics) was screened a couple of days back and I wanted so much to write about it. I wanted to write about how John Maynard Keynes decided to walk with time and win all the laurels during his era. I also wanted to talk about how Friedrich von Hayek who was just lucky to live long enough to witness the effectiveness of his theories, which were not given due respect when they were written. But, this thing called “MARKSTRAT” won’t allow me to write about these legends in this post.
I also wanted to talk about Margaret Thatcher and all the “Thatcherism” that is associated with the latest British revival. The more I read about Thatcher, the more I feel that characters of the likes of Dagny Taggarts do not exist only in the complicated world of Ayn Rand. But again I cannot sit down at the moment and write down lines from the inspirational speeches of Margaret at this critical moment of my ISB life. But I do promise to come back with both these topics in my subsequent posts.
Have to log back to Term-2 schedule now….Sometimes I do really wonder the real intention of making life so complicated when it was cruising along so smoothly. But next moment, I feel that if we don’t face rough waves, we cannot appreciate the pleasure of sailing in calm seas. That’s the consolation at the moment with long and complicated assignments lined up for the rest of the day and also the night.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

FORMAL INTRODUCTION TO TERM-2

What I mentioned in my last post was a "low-pixel" (let me coin this word for the purpose of this post) snapshot of the real picture of Term-2. Let me post a clearer image of what subjects are supposed to be covered in Term-2.

1) Competitive Strategy: Strategy is a mix of all the management principles applied at one go. Competitive strategy is most likely targeted to introduce the basics of strategy.Course content includes a huge collection of case studies, strategical methodologies and selected chapters from various journals and books. Prof. Gurneeta Vasudeva will be associated with 1st half of the term.

2) Decision Models and optimisation: This course includes a whole lot of mathematical concepts to solve management problems. Linear programming, statistics, network flow, transportational problems, decision analysis, price financial options trade offs under uncertainty are amongst the numerous technical terms that I find in the course content. Prof. Sandeep Juneja has already completed two out of the five classes of his quota.

3) Marketing Decision Making: The Markstrat game form the heart of this course. Case studies and plenty of theoretical concepts are lined up apart from the high-profile "Markstrat". Prof Pradeep Bharadwaj is midway through the Markstrat manual already!

4) Global Economics: This course should help us a great deal in appreciating all those interesting things happening in global business and how important a role macro-economics plays in the global arena. Prof. Krishna Kumar has been doing an amazing job in helping us develop that "initial liking" for the subject.

I will write more about these courses as the term progresses with all its ruthlessness.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TERM-2 PREVAILS

Markstrat, Decision Modeling, Crystal Ball, Optimization, Simulation, Competitive strategy, Macro-economics….these are the catch words of term-2. Term-2 looks extremely number-oriented where we have to get to know stuff through software and simulations.
Professors are interesting but we do miss the likes of Bob, Mark and Rakesh. TAs have a great role to play this term in helping us learn all these simulation games and software usage. The number and frequency of assignments is not likely to spare the weekdays, forget the weekends. If the ISB schedule is taken as reference, then I can safely move on to say that life was like a long holiday before I joined ISB.
Well…. Term-2…Lectures of the last two days have made sure that you are all set to rule our lives….with unchallenged supremacy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

TERM-1 REFLECTIONS - CONCLUSION

Term-2 is all set to rule our lives. So let me bring an end to the "term-1 reflection" series with this post. What I feel after the class lectures is that all the topics (Statistics, Economics, Marketing and Accounting) are closely related. Without going through the complexities of technicality, let me provide the layman’s description of how all these topics are related. For instance, let’s say a great visionary comes up with an idea of creating a new company. Various stages define the process from the inception of the idea to a profit making entity. Things are much more complex than what I decide to type down, nevertheless, just to give a very minute picture of the real life story…
1) According to me, the inception stage is the most critical one. Starting from complex regression analysis of dependence of market success on the affecting factors, to the segmentation of market which helps decide whom to target, this stage demands great business acumen. Starting from issuance of bonds to creation of infrastructures, this period is closely attached with numerous economic costs, sunk costs and fixed costs, without appreciable profit. Numerous accounts maintaining the details of assets, shareholder’s equity and liabilities are also to be maintained.

2) Now suppose, the entrant enters into the market where market players already exist (this is normally the reality), then the situation turns out to be really interesting. This very topic is one of the most interesting aspects of economics and marketing.

3) Now let’s assume that the entrant is successful in entering the market and capturing a market share. Situation turns out to be no simpler and the entrant now has to worry about how to position its product, how to price the product, how to make the product reach the customers, how to get customer feedback and all this from a profit making viewpoint. The whole concept of channel management comes into picture. Now that the entrant has now successfully entered the market, it also has to guard itself against the competition. Books have been written on this and as I move ahead in my MBA curriculum I get to learn more of this.

4) Debts, shares, debentures, revenues, turnover….. a lexicon of such terms can never be ignored in a functioning entity. Accountants are always ready to maintain and manipulate the history of the minutest transactions that occur during the course of business.

5) Once all the above stuff is taken care of, the entity now plans to be more competitive and strives to be the market leader. It tries to develop better products, spend more on advertising, and get better accountants who can get the best out of the balance sheets and net income statements. Quality gets a premium with limits set on the quality of the goods produced. And all this has to be done with relatively lower variable cost. The company (let the word "company" define the entity now) now has to benchmark itself successfully against the competitors to maintain its lead.

6) The company has also to deal with shareholders. If it makes profits, people decide to buy the shares of the company. Suddenly the “alpha” and “beta” comes into picture which helps us to predict how the market affects the stocks of the company…. and how the market fluctuation is likely to affect the company.

This cycle defines the competitive business environment with each player trying to outdo each other. The real game is too complex and I feel intuition and experience has got a great role to play in deciding how to play the game. It will take years to learn the rules of the game and I aspire to be good player of this complicated game, which is commonly known as “business”.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

TERM-1 REFLECTIONS - SEC F

With the increasing student strength in ISB, the number of sections is also on a rise. Section F is one of the new sections that came into effect this year to accommodate the increasing number of students. No less versatile than any other sections, Section F is marked by all sorts of interesting in-section activities. Professionally, it is as diversified as the ISB student body, if not more. In one row in the lecture theatre, you can trace CAs, a Major from the Indian army, a doctor from the Indian Navy, IT project managers and leaders, a merchant navy officer, a real estate entrepreneur, marketers from diversified sectors like media and PSUs, a master chef from India’s top hotel management institute, economists, mathematics graduates, non IT engineers…… and not to forget the naval architect. Quite a diversified group…I must say.
One thing that differentiates section F from other section is the immeasurable level of enthusiasm and individualistic traits that each individual is blessed with. For instance, there is one gentleman named SK, whose high frequency and super fast speed of delivering CPs can even baffle the native professors of the Whartons and Kelloggs. Then you can find SY, who often comes with highly indigenous solutions to the class assignments with an irresistible desire to prove his point to the whole class. In one of the marketing assignments, when the whole section was inclined towards one methodology, there was SY on the other end of the roundtable, trying hard to convince the professor the effectiveness of his methodology….I must agree that he succeeded to some extent. AK, another gentleman, normally prefers to maintain his silence before he decides to break the rythm of the class to ask the "deepest" questions of the terms. Last time, he asked a question was in the stats class, and a professor of the stature of Prof. Waterman decided to stop for a while to say "wow, this is one of the deepest questions that have ever been asked to me".
There is my very own F-6 core study group member, H, whose passion for diamonds is remarkably evident and perceptible in her CPs. Then there are some people who have successfully developed the postures that can help them to take those intermittent classroom naps until they are cold called by the professor. The best posture which I have noted so far is that of AA. With her elbow on the desk, she has developed a fool proof method of covering her specs with her thumb and first finger, such that her thumb, 1st finger and her face profile form a kind of a right angled triangle, which makes it almost impossible to figure out the status of her eyes. In contrast, there is PT, who believes in complete freedom of an individual in a democracy and doesn’t mind taking a comfortable nap with his head on the desk behind him (only exception being Prof. Raju’s class). But one thing, I find surprising about PT, is the way, he bounces back with his questions to the professor. May be, his posture in the class is just his method of concentrating, that helps him keeping in pace with the lectures Occassionally, we have seen SY taking a nap with his head on the shoulder of the TA (Teaching Assistant), who sits beside him.
NG, the operation guy from one of the Indian public sector undertakings always brings fresh dimensions to the class discussions from his real life experience. It is really interesting to hear from him, how the management principles of the “public” sector undertaking are exactly opposite to what we learn in the class (i.e. the real principles of successful management which the private sector has successfully employed.).
Well… the list is never ending….let me stop here… will be back soon to post the last post of the “TERM-1 REFLECTION” series.

Friday, June 09, 2006

TERM-1 REFLECTIONS - F6 REVISITED

From R to L: H, V, myself, A, K, S. No attire can match the charm of Indian traditional dresses. Sec. F is not only genious, but also indigenous. This snap takes back to the colorful day when all the section students decided to be perfectly Indian. The experience of this day, is undoubtedly one of the most memorable in ISB so far.







From R to L : K, A, H, V, S, myself. This snap brings back memories of the "formal photo session" that was taken during the tenure of Term-1. Just to give a professional approach to this post let me briefly introduce these professionals. K, V and S are linked with IT, while A with oil rigs. H worked for television channels. While K carries more than 7 years of professional experience, others in the group carry around 4 years each.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

TERM-1 REFLECTIONS - QUADMATES

CA by profession..a singer by passion....NA, the seniormost member of the quad is also the highest GMAT scorer in the quad. NA is traditionally a Guju and worked in both family leather industry and American Express before he joined ISB. His passion for singing is only matched by his hunger for grades. If anyone from the quad holds a chance to come somewhere close to the deans list, then this has to be NA.


NM...One more CA...again from Delhi. This person is a kid at heart and we just cannot help our laughter when he comes to NA and asks him...."hey...me too plan to learn how to smoke a cigarette". Often you can find him busy with the phone or a mobile for hours together...for obvious reasons. Often dunked in the pool, due to his arbit CPs in the class....and he loves it. NM worked for KPMG before he joined ISB.


SC...This cool dude from Mumbai is the youngest of the quad. With an undergraduate degree in management, he worked for PWC before he got affected by the MBA bug. Widely popular amongst the fairer sex in ISB, SC has mastered this precious art of balancing time and prioritization of activities.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

TERM-1 REFLECTIONS - INTRODUCTION

Now that Term-1 has ended, let me fix the agenda for the next few posts. I will add to the earlier introductions of some people, with whom I am closely related in ISB….to begin with I will start from my quadmates, followed by my study group and my section.
The more the time we spent with a person, the better we know that person. I never believe in the theory that one introduction is good enough to know a person well enough. “Introduction” is a complicated word and should be taken with sufficient caution. The first introduction (i.e. the first time you meet a person) might not give the best description of the individual. It is a just formal beginning and let me have the liberty to define this introduction as “Level-1” introduction. The second level of introduction gradually evolves as you spend more time with the person when the fa├žade of “formality” gradually evaporates to bring the real self of the person. This, I will define as the “informal” introduction or “Level-2” introduction. This introduction at times can be surprisingly different from the Level-1 formal introduction. The third and the final level of introduction, according to me is how the individual describes himself in the time of crisis. Both the earlier varieties of introduction fade away tamely before the power of Level-3 introduction. But often we don’t get the chance to be introduced to an individual to this level. My level of introduction of the people in the above mentioned context is limited to earlier levels (level-1 and level-2) of introduction.

I also feel it is a good idea to write about some of my academic “take-aways” from Term-1 in a layman’s language i.e. the basic theme of the courses which were taught to us. I will try not to bring in any serious technicality and restrict myself to certain day-to-day examples.

Feeling terribly sleepy now….Eyes do need a break....Average sleeping hours/24 hrs last week has not been more than 4 hrs with very thin standard errors…. Will be back soon.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

GOOD-BYE TERM-1

Dear “Term one”,

One and a half month ago, I was introduced to you by numerous people around as the toughest of all the terms, not because of the rigor content, but because of the “transition effect” that people face. I am not in a position to judge the validity of the statement as I am yet to face any other term.
Well, tough it was ….but life is much more than the last week night outs. You introduced me to things and concepts, which I will appreciate throughout my life. You introduced me to people, who are so close to me now. You made me enjoy certain subjects which I used to hate so much. You made me realize the value of all those moments which were strictly my own. You helped me take further decisions in aligning my career aspirations.

Now, it is time to say you good-bye. And I do feel great satisfaction in doing that. After all, I am 12.5% MBA (under the assumption that I clear the exams), and you are responsible for that. No exams…no assignments…no surprise quizzes. Life will be a real treat for the next few days. No wonder, it is party time in ISB. The number of parties scheduled will compensate the drought that ruled the last couple of weeks. After all, we need to recharge ourselves to face Term 2.

Thanks Term1…. For all the great memories you have given me…..You will always be missed.

Cheers

Monday, June 05, 2006

THE NIGHT BEFORE END TERM

Just a few hours left for the end terms..... and what I am doing? Perhaps not the best time blog....But definitely it is not a good idea not to mention this moment. The night before the first end terms cannot be missed.
Just a couple of days.... thats the time frame I had to study for the end terms. The long list of assignments were submitted by Friday night, and Saturday and Sunday were completely devoted to the end term preparation.
It is past midnight and I still I feel it is early in the evening. Thats the biggest change ISB life has brought in my life. Since the last two days, I had no option but to study.....and study in a manner which I had never done before. Never before did I study till 3 am in the morning. Yet not confident enough to face the exams. Nor can I continue to study in the present frame of mind.
The books and notes are already packed and it is time to listen to some great music.....to watch the cricket match......to write blogs....to drop a couple of mails.... and finally get to bed....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

PRICING

How to fix price to a commodity? This question exposed its most complicated form as we are busy solving one of the economics assignments.
The very mechanism of this concept is based on not more than a few straightforward concepts of supply and demand. But once all these simple concepts combine together they form a very complex picture of this subject which we call “Pricing”.
How does an entrant into the market make his pricing decisions in the presence of an incumbent….how does this incumbent reacts to the strategies of the entrant… Will the incumbent decide to join hands with the entrant or will this process turn into a bitter price war…If this turns into a price war, then who is the likely winner and why…..How long is the winner likely to sustain his presence….Is there any referee to monitor this game of “price war”…..and numerous other questions immediately enters into play when the topic of pricing is under discussion.
Interestingly, pricing is not under the independent domain of any single MBA topic. It holds as much importance to economists as it holds to marketing managers. And that is what we are doing now…learning the concept of “pricing” in the context of economics and again learning this concept in the context of marketing….. But this doesnot make life easier.