Test Testy

Friday, June 29, 2007

A 6 month old thought, refreshed by Commanding Heights

About 6 months back, just before I got admission into ISB, as a sociology student, I had a thought, which is a question and I sought some ideas. Though no one responded to that then from the yahoo group where this is posted, I did get some response from Prof. Krishna Kumar and from the Commanding Heights video. Please go through the original post and respond to me, if you have time, by mail (kiran.aalla@gmail.com)

Background: Many of the erstwhile developing countries like India and China are experiencing fantastic growth rates from last four years at least. As cited in the Bestseller "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman, the new off shoring and outsourcing developments are giving great opportunity to countries like India and China with huge Man Power though in two different areas such as IT Services and
Manufacturing respectively.

While this growth has definitely raised the per capita income of the citizens it is also increasing the widening gap between the incomes of haves and havenots. According to official numbers about 30% of the population live on less than $2 per(Rs. 100/-) day, while many of the IT folks around make atleast double than that per hour in the median range. Government and other agencies such as Nasscoma and CII are playing a great facilitator role by luring Corporates by making everything easy for them through steps like single window clearance, providing land at low prices, and many other such steps.

While there is so much Media focus that is being given to such initiatives, not much attention is being given to the Poor and even the lower Middle class. Unionisation and organized labor are slowly becoming impasse. In the growing industries Managers are taking extra care to ensure that there is no possibility of unionisation and
sometimes even courts and governments are giving pro-corporate feelers and discouraging any organized effort for the low wage workers.

Suddenly the whole scenario appears to be moving into a situation totally against the poor and lower middle class. Their incomes are stagnated, there is no protection for their jobs, a lot of demand is placed on their productivity, there is no one on their side to fight for (even the left are becoming extremely silent except in places
where they are not in/sharing power)

But why should we think about this?

One of the effects due to the above kind of developments is that the unorganized sector is viewing the IT tag with a tinge of jealousy and trying to charge premium sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly without the knowledge of the payer. I remember once an Auto guy refused to give me a ride as he wants to have only white skin guys.

Racial discrimination in India?? Another thing you would agree is that almost all the Auto guys either charge more on meter additionally or the meter itself is tampered with. Even the old loyal and part-of-the-family house maid is vanishing. Instead a demanding short tempered maid is increasingly becoming part of daily Management challenges.

Don't you agree with me that increasingly society is becoming imbalanced leading to frustrations, which may ultimately lead to a dangerous scenario leading to increased violence and robbery.

In this kind of scenario, if you are a consultant to the government and to the society overall, what steps would you recommend, what kind of balancing forces can be created, how to see that the balancing forces do not become the opposing forces?

Do respond with whatever occurs to you.

Looking forward for your thoughts.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

If you are always winning, check what's going on

The title of this post is counter-intuitive. Normally you are supposed to do review when you are not doing well.

But from what I have seen and observed I feel that it is more important to do regular review when you are doing well. The assumptions that you tend to form can be so misleading that you don't realize what is sustainable and what is not, whether it is comparative advantage or competitive advantage

In general without an in-depth analysis it is quite common to see that the success is attributed to factors that appear obvious. But what appears so obvious may not be totally true. In the last two sessions of CSTR we have discussed the case of Apple and the Wine growers of France. One point that I had observed is that the incumbents lost out for the same reason that they thought is invincible. Apple thought that no one else can innovate better than them and Wine growers felt nowhere else you can grow wine grapes. But both were wrong and the rules changed quickly. But both of them had something else that they didn't capitalize properly as they didn't even identify them as important.

Apple didn't realize that requirements of customer change quickly. What they did very successfully, design computers keeping customer in mind, they forgot in the middle and lost out to those who did that adaptation. Similarly French wine growers couldn't leverage neither their skills nor the brand advantage.

Similarly even in personal life it is important for us to realize what factors contribute to our success and keep a track of of the changing conditions. What gives you an edge today may become your baggage tomorrow. Be watchful.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Comparative Advantage: Career and Life Planning

One of the concepts that influenced my thinking to a great extent and helped me shape my career has been the "Three Circles or the Hedgehog concept" that I came across in the book - "Good to Great", by Jim Collins.

After going through the session on international trade and understanding the concept of comparative advantage, I have realized how close both the concepts are. The gist find out what all you can do, find out what you can do better than other things and focus on that.

Though there are slight differences, the key point is to that one should take time out regularly to identify what is that he/she is better at and see how it is valuable to the society in economic sense. This kind of exercise brings in focus and satisfaction. Many times during my 12+ year career I used to feel shaky because I was not sure whether I was good enough only to realize later that I was among the top few. As I used to realize that very late, I couldn't capitalize on my strengths. Once I started thinking in this direction I quickly realized what I can do better and capitalized on that aspect quickly. This is one aspect that helped me to realize the results personally.

On a broader front, I would like to think that all of us are same in certain things but are different in certain few. While keeping in mind the universality keep identifying what's different about you. That understanding alone can take you to places.

Once again, do you know What's your comparative advantage?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Meeting with the Dean

Today a bunch of us from Sec E met up with the Dean Mr. Rammohan Rao. This is a new initiative by Dean's office based on the inputs from Co 07. We had interaction on various topics for about an hour.

Topics included - How to reduce the focus from Placements to learning, How to utilize time at ISB, challenges in attracting resident faculty, plans of ISB (including the plan to increase intake from 09-10 academic year) and so on.

This is something that would be a surprise for those outside ISB. Most of the people whom I have met are not so concerned about the placements. They are confident about their prospects not because of last year's placements but because they believe in their capability. This set of people argue against highlighting and focusing too much on Placements.

Another aspect that creates a lot of peer pressure is the Grades. I have done well in all the four courses but now decided to follow a non-disclosure of grades policy. According to this I will not ask anyone his/her grade and will not reveal my grade. As I had proved myself for myself in Term and got a good understanding about my capability, I would like to focus more on learning from now on.

Midterms are coming again and it's time for us to start our Sr. Citizens study group activities.

Another initiative I have taken is to form a a HR focus group. Though I have not yet made up my mind about what is my exact career plan, I would like to keep HR as a focus area as I can leverage my past experience very well. Though I am pretty open to exciting opportunities, I have decided to take some time out after mid-term to identify the broad areas I may be interested in.

Though I have written some of the post-titles I am unable to spend that amount of time to come up with a good reading. But I haven't given up yet, I shall try to spend sometime during the next weekend.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Questions, Questions, Questions

I have been seeker. Seeker of solutions, seeker of answers.

One of the greatest seekers I know is Siddartha. Sometime back I was wondering how Siddartha got transformed into Gautama Buddha. I came up with a thought that kind of gave me a direction.

Siddartha had lots of questions related to human life and society. As the questions became more and more pressing he decided to seek answers for them. He went and sat under the Bodhi tree and focused on the questions. He got some answers but they didn't satisfy all the aspects so he continued further. He stopped only when all the dimensions were addressed satisfactorily and those answers became the principles of Buddhism.

Now, whatever I wrote above is according to my logic. From the above observation, I feel that we have all the answers for the questions we face within us. We have to focus on them enough and ask the right questions to get the right answers.

Finally questioning is the only way to discover yourself and the world around you. Questioning is useful in personal life, professional life and spiritual life.

Best of luck, keep questioning

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It's worth it

Today I felt that the amount of effort and money that I have put in to come to ISB has paid off. In our Global Economics Class we watched the Commanding Heights, a PBS production and the subsequent discussion with Prof. Krishna Kumar made me feel that my journey to ISB was worth it.

The web of questions in my mind cleared off instantly. I think I am more inspired than when I came to ISB in pursuing my dream.

Make a Difference in helping others lead a life of Significance, that's what I would like to do.

Material things never motivated me but I didn't find anything else that is more structured and channelised than business and thereby material things. For the first time I found the link between material and non-material goals.

Some very interesting upcoming posts are:

1. Comparative advantage: Using Macroeconomics to Individual life and career orientation. Discover What else could you be doing.

2. Kingfisher times.

3. Highly visible losers, invisible gainers.

4. Difference between being just intelligent and quick and smart an mature.

5. Is being judgemental wrong?

It's time for me to catch up some simulation. Bye for now

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Some answers

Today's Global Economics session was really wonderful. I have found Prof. Krishna Kumar amazing, the way he explained Solow's steady state was so simple and clear. Apart from that at the end of the session when I asked him about a question that has been hanging in my mind from sometime, his response exactly addressed the aspects I am concerned about.

The question is: If all the companies want to grow faster than ever every quarter and every year, where will it stop. Wouldn't this mad race lead to rapid depletion of natural resources and ever increasing competitiveness.

Prof gave an excellent view. Though it was not exactly an answer it still provided me a base to think and build upon. What he said is that the race of growth is based on improvement in technological productivity and therefore can theoretically last forever, however the concern of natural resources depletion is indeed a concern. However nature and market have been quite adaptive and found solutions to many seemingly deadlock situations and also that when everyone is rich, energy and efforts would be directed towards improvement of ecology, usage of renewable energy sources and other related areas.

Term 2 as expected has been quite hectic and a great learning experience overall and is the primary reason for the reduced number of posts on this blog.

Other interesting events that are happening currently are the Professional and Social Club elections. Apart from that our weekly balanced activity regime is going successfully. I managed to play Tennis twice and Badminton once. It's time for me to take leave and enter the Markstrat world or some other simulation.

Lastly, something about admissions. One of the ISB 09 admission aspirant who has been in touch with me from sometime expressed certain concerns about extra curricula rs and social service. I am reproducing the same below for the benefit of all the aspirants:

Also, I have noticed something which is kinda disturbing me...I been to certain forums and am part of certain groups where people discuss all about the admission package. One of em is your extracurricular activities.

The thing which seems incorrect, to me is that people trying to get some kind of certificate from any social organisation which proves that so-n-so individual has been doing so-n-so charity work for so-n-so time.

When asked people gave justification which cannot be reproduced...I am in a fix now! what about some souls whose only social work was their family responsibility??

My Response
I had nothing in the extra curriculars. If you have not been able to do anything in your acads or primary career then you must have been doing something else (not whiling away time). You must have been pursuing some hobby, developed expertise in a different area or contributed to something specific. The idea is to see how do you use your time and how focused are you. That's it. Best of luck

Thursday, June 14, 2007

3I model - Some interesting things happening around

Though I had immersed completely into the wold of MBA, I have realized the importance being connected with the Business World. After all that's where I am going to land up a year from now.

Sometime back (about 2 years) I have tried to summarize what could be the differentiators among individuals in the Business world, those who are working either for others' business or are doing their own business. After lot of filtering I came up with the 3I model. The three I's are:

1. Innovation
2. Initiation
3. Implementation

I had observed that most people are strong in one or two areas and therefore after a certain growth get stuck in the cycle. They someone else to help them complete the jobs they have started, or they need someone else to give ideas or someone to bring the ideas onto ground zero. But those who can do all the three things are the most successful ones, this is applicable for both individuals and organizations.

Among the three the most interesting one is the innovation part. A new idea is like a new flower that blossoms. It is beautiful and receives lot of attention but whether it would achieve its objective depends on many factors. Everyday individuals and companies come up with lots of ideas and only few of them are identified as winners and are initiated upon. Some of them become successful and most of them don't.

Some of the Web2.0 kind of innovations that I have come across in recent times are:

1.Jeff Bezos's new plan: Amazon's new direction: Point, click, make a product to sell to the world
2. Quick Start FedEx Kinko’sSM Print Online with Adobe®

I hope to track these two innovations and see how successful they would be.

Note: Ideas expressed above are completely mine. All the brand names belong to the respective corporations. I have come up with the model of 3I as a way to express my ideas and I request anyone who may want to use this model to quote this blog as the source. I would also appreciate any feedback how well this model explains the successful differentiation that individuals and corporations are able to do in their respective space. I would be very interested to know if there are any good examples for this model.

Life under normal curve

Before coming to ISB I always wondered what is the difference between the ordinary colleges and the premier B-schools. I tried to justify by considering aspects like Infrastructure, courses taught, Alumni network, Professors and few other aspects. But after about 2 months I have realized what's the key differentiator.

And it is "The Competitiveness." Once you realize this you will lead life only under the normal curve, not a normal life. Every aspect you are challenged and there is struggle to move to the right side of the curve not to the right side of life. Sometimes moving to the right doesn't necessarily mean right side.

Finally it started raining in Hyderabad but I really didn't enjoy the first as I had been doing every year. Every year I used to wait for monsoon so that the heat goes down and the water woes come down and I used to watch news specifically note the levels in the reservoirs. This year I didn't have time for anything of that sort. But I'm looking forward to the small pond at ISB getting filled up.

But academic pressure has taken over everything else for now. On one side we have all the professional club elections going on and on the other hand Term 2 is moving ahead at a brisk pace. The weekend has just begun for our section but so the pressure to finish the assignments.

I have started liking life below normal curve and it appears to be best simulation for me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Term 2 begins

I was just reading the post by Chandan on the collaborative blog. Though I too got affected the term 1 results, I recovered pretty fast. To be honest I am not a grades person, rather I would like to focus on learning. If I get average marks, it is an indication for me that I need to do more catching up, that's all.

But the reason I couldn't post anything is that the Term 2 is more complex and interesting. The profs for MKDM and GLEC are very very good. In fact I am feeling intellectual stimulation. I am happy that I studied sociology. My thoughts about the interconnection of all the different parts of life, education and wisdom are proving to be in the right track. All the four courses that we did in Term 1 are required for each of the courses in term 2. Each subject utilizes the research in the other one. It is wonderful to be able to see the linkages.

I met an intern from J&J, Philippines. She was mentioning that there are many opportunities at J&J in HR. I'm keen in going to a different country and experience the similarities and differences first hand. I did work with people from different nationalities but it would be more interesting to work in different cultural settings. While I was doing my search for the ideal B-school, I got quite interested in Philippines as a place to work. I also realized that there are many consulting companies in Manila but not in India. They just have their back office operations in India. That way I think Philippines is a better place to work.

We are going to use simulation as a learning methodology this term. I was always interested in using simulation as a methodology in Corporate Training but have realized that the investment required may be huge. But considering that the life cycle of such a product will be long enough with very little competition it may be worth building. I'm sure some company is currently working in that direction.

I have instituted a daily regime in order to achieve all my goals while at ISB. I played tennis yesterday and I was able to hold the racket and could actually hit the ball. Who said you can't learn by watching TV? I am expecting this Term to be more hectic and therefore there may less number of posts. But I will try my best to keep posting

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Team that I worked with at Bakelite Hylam

Today I met the team that I worked with at Bakelite Hylam 5 years ago. They are still lively. There are many success stories among them. When I joined this team as a Supervisor I was 19 years old and the average age of this team was around 35 - 40. They treated me as a kid, sometimes as an interruption but later on as a enthusiastic guy trying to do some new things. I got to see so many changes happening at Bakelite Hylam and I really enjoyed my tenure there. That was where I had got an excellent opportunity to develop myself. I played so many roles and I got an excellent organization-wide exposure. I worked in a variety of teams consisting on internal employees and external consultants. I experienced and supported implementation of BPR, EMS (a mini ERP), VRS, office tools, production costing, purchase, Performance Management System redesign and so on. I must thank Ramakrishna Pavuluri for inviting me to this.

Names that I remember are Narayana, KV Rao, Subash, ??, Satyam, Venkataiah, Manoj, Benez Rodrigues, Sadanandam, Ramakrishna Pavuluri, Sekhar, and Suresh.Below to the right are Mr. Yadagiri and Wilson

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Sec E for you

On the last day of Term 1, when we reached AC8LT for FADM we found that our display cards were missing. We searched everywhere and found them nowhere. I realized quickly that friends from the other section played the mischief. I quickly looked around and found that the seating arrangement display would be nice souvenir to keep and picked it up from the notice board (that was the last day it was needed). I don't know if the photos printed resemble the actual people in anyway but that's the only thing that I have in which everyone from Sec E is there without being hidden by others.

Look at all the innocent faces:

But alas, the whole thing is in Black and White making it further difficult.

Changing gears

Yesterday evening I took some time out to review how things are going and see if somethings need change. After the review I have decided to change gears and shift my narrow focus. Though learning is my primary focus I have decided to widen it and also include non-study related activities.

This may affect the kinds of topics that I might dwell in these blog posts. I spoke to my last boss and the first thing he mentioned was that he remembered me as he was attending a seminar on HR Strategy. This indicates that more often I discussed with him about HR strategy than anything else. I have more or or less chosen to take the Strategy and Leadership elective.

Another interest of mine has been on the interaction between sociology, economics and business. I would like to highlight the developments that are linked to these areas and keep commenting on them.

One of the reasons that strongly pushed me into writing this blog is ISB admissions and incidentally now I am a part of the admissions task force. I would get to see the applications this year and looking forward to that. I have more or less detailed all the points related to admissions in my earlier posts. If you are looking for any related information search for posts on ISB admission cycle.

Finally I would continue to update about the student life at ISB and keep posting the pictures, you can look forward to them.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A lazy day

After about 54 days we had a very lazy day. We had our LDP today and this is one program that is less intensive on the mind. In all the other courses we have to do so much of catching up that we don't have anytime for anything. But we had lots of time today, both in the class and during the breaks.

I also happened to realize that one of my section mate who was formerly with Mckinsey had attended an Executive Development Program and I was a part of the team that did a half day team building program two years ago. Nitin and I were there and Prof. Ramnarayan had just joined ISB then. I spoke to my classmate and reminded her about the program. She was pleasantly surprised to learn about that and mentioned that they really enjoyed that part of the program. She even has a video of that program and promised to share that with me.

Monsoon seems to have arrived in Hyderabad. Weather suddenly turned colder and it has been drizzling throughout the day, on and off. I hope that the monsoon stays and sets in fully. I would have been a lot more happier with this rain if I was not at ISB. At ISB I'm not even felt how was the summer this year. All I remember is that I never slept on the same day, I always slept tomorrow, that is I never slept before 12 midnight.

There is almost complete silence as most of the people left for their native places. I am planning to venture out tomorrow into the wild behind SV1 hoping to sight few wild animals.

The Term 2 is lurking around the corner and all the subjects seem to be more analytically oriented and therefore definitely stretch all the non-engineers here. We are now 12.5% MBA and are looking forward for the remaining part. I am sure that the next batch would-bes might have already started gearing up for the admission process.

Dr. Sudanshu Bankata, one of the senior citizens study group member has coined an interesting one liner, which goes as: At ISB if someone appears innocent either he/she is a liar or an outlier. Statistics is getting ingrained into our daily life very fast.

Some Management fundae that I came up with before coming to the B-School

My journey in the Corporate world started exactly 13 years ago. I started my career as a Jr. Sales officer despite having studied Electrical Engineering Diploma. THe reason was I needed to get started, immediately after finishing my course.

My first job lasted for 6 months and then I joined Bakelite Hylam in Jan 1994. I had seen a whole cycle of events at Bakelite Hylam. It was a 50 year old company and employed more than 2000 people. It provided me a rich ground to experiment and develop my thinking. The first Management Funda I learnt there was about Productivity and self-led teams. I could get a sense of what might have happened from the time of Industrial revolution till 1994, the changes industrial labor scenario went through and what factors might have to led to the situation existent then.

Next thing I observed was the unhappiness people had. My colleagues - Supervisors were very unhappy. They were sandwitched between the order giving Management and the unionised labor. I too went through many personnel problems. I survived the slowdown thing that is worse than a strike. But the key point I realized was that despite being unhappy the educated supervisors were not ready to move out or change the situation. The proactiveness was missing. Sometime during that time I created a oneliner for my ownself and later shared with many others. It goes like this - If you are unhappy with what you have, either you are in the wrong place or you are not doing the right things, check which one is going wrong and change it immediately". That approach helped me to grow even in the most difficult phase of that organization. Fianlly that place offered me no challenge and I moved on.

The next thing I realized was about the language. I realized that speaking the business language that is in terms of money - Rs. and paise, made lot of sense to people who run the business. I used this strategy and avoided many unnecessary hassles. I worked for exactly 8 hrs everyday but was present whenever I was needed and thus helped my boss to develop trust in me. He was sure that if was present he can be assured that things will be in control. I worked for 7 years at Bakelite and I enjoyed every bit of it. I got an excellent exposure to the cost side of the business.

I had seen the scarcity part of ecoomy and I have experienced the abundance part of it in the last 5 years. I never realized that the questions that occured to me ocured to many others and some great people tried to answer them and did answer them to a great accuracy. With every course the answers are getting unfolded and suddenly sometimes I get that sudden thrill of getting the answer or even knowing that there were others who had similar questions.

I managed to do well in Term 1 and I hope to do so in the next 7 terms. It's not a question of making it to the top but it is just a question of learning, seeking answers for the questions life posed to me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cheat Sheet Economics

Having been in corporate training for more than 4 years, one major concern I always had was the effort put in by the participants. To make any learning effort successful, commitment and focus from the learner are very important but unfortunately those are the two commonly missing things. After coming to ISB I have realized few things and I think if properly adapted to corporate scenario can increase the ROI on Training immensely.

First self selection: All those who finally got in applied for the program. As it is self-chosen option the commitment levels are pretty high and people stretch much more than they would have done in their jobs.

Second, clear end benefit: Each of the students clearly know that by the end of the program they would get benefited. This belief gets reinforced every year.

Third, rigour and discipline: The rigor is so high that it needs discipline from the wildest of the people. The rigor and discipline is such a force that can bring in a dramatic change with ease.

Term end exams are good example of the rigor that we face. I have taken so many exams till now but the exams at ISB are totally different. For the stats exam we are allowed to carry a cheat but Prof. Richard Waterman, fro, Wharton, set a condition that the cheat sheet should be handwritten only. The process of preparing the cheat sheet has definitely benefit ted me. I think I managed to get all the summary of the 6 sessions into a A4 size sheet and while doing that more or less got my concepts right. Below are the cheat sheets that I have prepared.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Statistics and Philosophy

Term 1 exams are briniging out the hidden talents of people. My studygroup mate, Suhail Abrol, has come up with a nice one liner:

"In God We Trust, and then there is Normal Curve" (C).

That's statistics and philosophy for you, around the exams time though.

(C) Donot reproduce the above statement in writing, printing, or any other electronic form without a written permission from the author.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Desperate measures

Whole of ISB appears to have gone into a hibernation. No parties, and no loud music. People are seriously trying to do something before Monday strikes. Before we even realized that we have spent 50 days at ISB, Term 1 came to an end and we are standing in front of a battle called Term 1 end exams. Anand Narasimhan was the one who counted the days, I am ubanle to make out the difference between today and tomorrow.

Only way people are entertaining themselves is through spamming. Talent is coming out from unexpected quarters. There were songs, videos and even ISB special comics that are floating around. Makkadman seems to be the friendly neighborhood in ISB.

While Engineers and CA's are enjoying the advantages, Doctors are really slogging. Look at Dr. Kirti, he is trying to grasp everything by doing multi-threading (doesn't it sound familiar)while Ratnakar Gore is trying to piggyback.

The senior citizen's study group has upped the effort dramatically. We will have to wait and see what the ROI would be.