Test Testy

Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's all about Art

Today we had an Arts club event that had Kalpana Lajmi, Soni Razdaan and Julius Macwan. Kalpana Lajmi gave a brief chronological description on how Hindi movie business evolved since 1896.

After that the artist-in-residence at ISB, Mr. Julius Macwan presented his latest creation. Take a look at the pic below:

Some of the titles suggested by the audience included Death of MBA and Crucifixion of Freedom by business.
BTW the lady in the picture is my own section-mate. Overall the event was stimulating and interesting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Women's rights

Yesterday's session on Population policy was a great eye opener for me and many others. I used to blame democracy and weak leadership whenever I felt that things were not happening in the way they ought to happen. Recently, in an earlier session, similar argument was made by a section mate, a former IAS officer and at that point I fully agreed with him.

But then the point that women have to right to make a choice about pregnancy, abortion and contraception made me take a step back and think. Till that point I was thinking that the couple should take a combined decision and that both have an equal say but when the argument raised the point of who is going to get affected the most I couldn't say the couple will get equally affected by the decision.

At that point I could relate Stephen R Covey's point about choice. He says that the key difference between human being and any other species is the ability to make choice. Though the context in which he raises that point is different, I could relate it to the issue of rights. The current argument is that any form of coercion is denying the right of making choice and the only thing that you can do is to educate people.

This means that all the arguments of powerful leader making the difference so weak and stale. The collective wisdom of all the members in the society is far more important and all the leader should do is educate and control externalities that harm others.

Another classmate of mine raised the point that creating awareness on key areas is far more important than elementary education. I tend to agree with her considering the reach electronic media today has and the educational power it has. Imagine TV soaps bringing out awareness about the different rights and how they are violated in different situations and how a person can protect his rights. I believe it would be powerful and will have a greater impact within a very short time.

I believe that it is in the benefit of man to respect and protect women's rights

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Between Application and Interview

This post is for those who have submitted their applications in R1 and waiting for the interview call.

One of the common challenges is about the time, date and location. Though one indicates a certain location as preferred, it is possible that the candidate may have to go somewhere on an official visit and therefore we may not be available on the date that adcom schedules the interview. The question is how flexible is ISB adcom?

As far as I had seen last year and after my interaction with them, I think they are very flexible for reasonable and genuine reasons. The key objective of an interview is to meet the person and verify if he/she is the same compared to the impression that the application gave and to evaluate what more does the person bring to the table apart from the standard set of things. Therefore it is more in the interest of the candidate to make oneself available at a location that he/she is comfortable and give it a best shot. But if it is not possible, feel free to call/write and request for a change.

Second challenge I faced is the stress due to uncertainty. I know that I had a good chance but you never know. A lot depends on the pool of applications and everything gets relative. My only suggestion is, believe in yourself. If you have made all the effort in writing GMAT, essays and getting recommendations, I'm sure you are serious about it and that you have put in enough effort and if you have given your best shot in preparing your application, there is nothing more you can do but wait. Just keep tracking what is happening and where are the interviews happening. The isb-pgp yahoo group is a very good resource and I used to spend at least an hour reading the messages everyday. Urge all the candidates who got shortlists to post their interview experience, it kind of gives you some feel.

Another thing that you can do to reduce your stress is - read books. Read books that are not related to your work, read on topics that you like, read fiction, read current affairs and read blogs.

Last thing that you can do to reduce stress is to create a support group. Last year we have created a Hyderabad applicants yahoo group and started meeting around this time. We used to discuss our profiles, our aspirations and even did a essay review after the applications are submitted. As a group we asked questions based on the application and essays and more than anything else had lot of fun. It is very important to have fun as you will have to learn taking rejection and failure in life and this would help you once you are in ISB as there are more chances that you will not be faring as well as you would want yourself to.

Finally the last challenge is focusing on work. When such life changing event is going to happen in life it is very difficult to focus on routine work. But keep in mind that your current job is very important and that your commitment must first be to your current engagements. Try and work a little more hard, train others who are around, network with HR and Fin guys (it would help in all situations). You can even think about what changes would you do if you join back the company in a senior role.

What I did last year was to start this blog. I started posting all my thoughts and helped me to release stress and channelize the energy. But don't explode on to everyone around as it may damage your post-ISB admission scenario.

I didn't get specifically in to the area of interview preparation as it will vary from person to person and I am sure that most of you must have already gone through many interviews earlier. If you feel that my view would be useful, drop a comment.

Good luck to everyone - Buenos dias

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Government, Society and Business

This post is specifically to record what I used to feel before undertaking this course and how I feel now after I have gone through this course (course mentioned in the subject).

At the beginning periods of my career whenever I tried to evaluate behavior of mine and others in specific situations and always drew to the conclusion that rules, legal and societal, influenced the way people behave. After spending few years in the manufacturing firm and having gone through mutiple business cycles I modified my inference that incentives are what that matter. But after coming to ISB and when I look at things in retrospective I realized that apart from rules and incentives, private valuation and utility also matter and that there is a strong interaction between all the four aspects.

People who can influence these aspects rather than getting influenced are the ones who drive change and the ones who create opportunities and turn situations favorable. This is a very interesting realization for me because I can to certain extent now explain the "luck factor."

Also as I started working in 1994, I happened to see the drastic changes that the industry and job market went through.

Let me focus on the job market. When I started the struggle was to get a good job and then to hang on there and if necessary make one or two hops in entire career span. There were very few who changed industry verticals and even fewer who made functional role changes. Coming to the current situation,getting the first job is difficult even today. If you are fortunate enough you get placed directly in campus, otherwise you have to go through a lot of struggle to get the first break. But the similarity in situation changes immediately after that. The moment you get a good break the search for another job intensifies. This is partly fuelled by booming opportunities, to certain extent by organizational practices and to a great deal by the confusion in the candidate.

I forgot about another striking similarity and that is the dearth of good candidates. As I was part of HR department, I could closely see that even today there is a shortage of good talent and then there is a lot competition to hire the best talent. May be this is one factor that drove up the pay packages for campus offers. Organizations have a big challenge to choose between fresh talent and experienced hires. Both these pools create different set of challenges and HR departments are struggling to take a call. While you can hire a decent candidate from the open market who might be desparately seeking a job and is better prepared to do whatever the job demands, the challenge is that you have to sift through a great amount of applications. On the other hand you can easily hire a bunch of young telented guys directly from the campus but the chances of them joining you and later sticking with you is a big challenge. But most of the companies that I had an opportunity to observe, both as an insider and an outsider, follow the market trend and are in a mad rush to hire. There is increasing demand from the business and HR has to deliver. No one has time to measure which method is effective and which one is not. Everyone is trying to follow the best practices of the market and only few know what the real best practices are.

Coming back to the course, I feel that this is a very important course and is exposing everyone to the real issues that mankind is facing as a race. There inter and intra species related issues and it is very important to understand them and then to see how one can influence them in a positive way. I was very happy to hear from Prof. Shiva Kumar that experts whould interact with the political leaders and influence them to take right kind of decisions. Prof. Shiva Kumar is a Member of India's National Advisory Council and it is great to hear from him about how things are shaping up.

Finally, it's time for me to get back to Term 4 and start working on the take home exam and the MGTO assignment. For now it's Adios.

Kuch Kariye, Kuch Kariye

Finally India did it. They beaten the champions to enter the Finals of the Twenty-Twenty world cup. Does this victory has anything to do with Chak De? Though it may not have had any direct bearing on the cricket team, the team did exactly what the Coach Shahrukh tells the hockey team. This cricket team started exactly with one goal - Win the world cup. It had all the politics and problems that the hockey team in the movie had. One senior player unhappy that he is not made the captain, the captain unsure how and what he can demand from the team, youngsters who don't care anything about this but just want to go there and prove themselves and finally the blue billion, which relentlessly hopes to see their Men in Blue to make it happen. Only missing character is the Hero/Coach. May be RaviShastri played the Devil's Advocate by saying that Aussies are the favorites and Dhoni with his team decided to prove him wrong. Whatever was happening in the minds of these players, it produced a fantastic display of sporting talent.

The Indian players celebrate after completing a 15-run win, Australia v India, 2nd semi-final, ICC World Twenty20, Durban, September 22, 2007 © AFP

Dhoni definitely displayed excellent leadership qualities of handling the team. He gave the last over to Sanjay Sharma and I think he made a great decision. The new player responded to the challenge by holding his nerve. And I think Dhoni managed the politically charged Indian camp very well.

While this series was going on we were going through some very related topics in MGTO. We were discussing the four frame leadership model and we got to see many of the dimensions in action.

Prof. Anand Narasimhan is really good. He makes the class so interesting and his comments are the best. He is very well-read and has the ability to link things so well. He is witty, uses humor and doesn't take any BS CP. In one of my earlier posts I wrote about Networking and the last session was on Networking. He got across the message that Networking is important and how it makes a difference when one is in Leadership position. I observed that people don't put effort into Networking because either they are lazy, or they fear about other's perceptions or lastly not skilled enough.

Finally as a cricket fan, I have completely forgotten about the Legends and I think all the other fans too didn't miss then much. It's time for them to retire and help the younger team to take over. As shown in the new Airtel Google search commercial, it is time for the heroes to retire and for kids to take over.

Have loads to catch up but I am looking forward for tomorrow evening when India meets Pakistan in the Finals. See you in the next post

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mr. Chandrababu Naidu on ISB Campus

I met Mr.Naidu once again but this time on-campus. He was here at ISB for a Book Launch.

There was a decent turn out for the event and I think Naidu's instrumental role in establishing ISB at Hyderabad was the reason behind the pull. Naidu talked about inclusive growth apart from everything else. Inclusive growth seems to be topic of the year and I hope that the increased attention from all parts of the society, government and business would aid in realizing that goal. It is in the interest of all these parties to see that there is inclusive growth. I would like to examine how I contribute from my side to this goal.

The MGTO second part is being taught by Prof. Anand Narasimhan. He has done his MBA from XLRI and is totally different from Prof. Louis Martin, the professor who taught the first part. While Prof. Martin skimmed through the topics and never went in to the depths. But Prof. Anand Narasimhan started off in a totally different way and he never tried to hide his reactions though expressed in a humorous and subtle way.

Last saturday we had Mckinsey and Company's preplacement presentation. I think that they wanted to occupy the students mind before the international recruiters catch the fancy of the students.

Our ELP is making progress and interestingly this year for whatever reasons there have been a lot of interesting ELP offerings. At the end there were no takers from some projects, a nice problem to have. Seems like the efforts of Mr. Sarma are paying off.

Coming to Indian cricket, it appears that even the 20-20 format, new format and even the young blood doesn't seem to help. It is absolutely clear that India Cricket Club is unable to manage cricketing talent pool. It is unable to throw away non-performers and is in-capable to separate itself from politics, corruption and divided interests. It would be interesting to see how would a seasoned HR practitioner would handle this kind of situation.

It's time to say good bye for now. Hasta la vista.

Friday, September 14, 2007

PAC Model and Corporate Governance

While we were going through the Corp Fin course, we were taught that diversification activities by big companies need not be in the interest of shareholders and instead may be the result of the top management's fancy and that the market recognizes this aspect quickly and share prices of the companies announcing takeovers or mergers go down.

Today in the GSBC class, the topic was Corporate Governance. Once of the issues raised by the Prof. Mudit Kapoor was about Corporate Social Responsibility. His point was that as a company your core competece is to conduct a certain kind of business and not induging in charity with shareholders money. If you want to take up somekind of CSR initiative you must get the consent from the shareholders.

By raising this topic, he definitely had hit lots of us pretty hard on our heads. People came up all sorts of arguments why the CEO should be free to take up CSR initiatives. All the students who raised concerns were relating themselves as the Managers who might have to go to the shareholders for every decision.

Argument from the Prof was simple and clear, all he was saying was, any free cash flow geenrated by the company belongs to the shareholders, either you reinvest in right kinds of projects if available or distribute the money to shareholders. It is upto the shareholders to do any charity if they want to. As a CEO if you want to do some society building, do it with your personal wealth.

At this point I started relating this whole thing to the PAC model. TThe professor was saying that the Shareholders are adults and as a Manager you have to treat them as adults. It is their money and let them take a call. But almost everyone in the class was unable to digest that. Everyone started acting like a parent and wants to treat them as children. Their argument was - Shareholders don't know anything, as a manager we would do correct things, if we have to go back to the shareholders for every small thing how can we run the company.

This thought process clearly indicates the Parent, Adult and Child states in the realtionship of a Firm, the Manager or the CEO and the Shareholders. As mature people we must act like adults but more often than not we tend to either act as a Parent or as a child and all this happens at such a sub-conscious level that we don't even recognize this.

One important thing that we need to learn before we get started in our careers once again is to learn how to act as Adults and when to switch to a Parent/Chuld mode occassionally. This I think would be the biggest challenge for most of us.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's happening to Hyderabad

Disasters, mostly man made appears to have clouded Hyderabad since the last few months. I have been living in Hyderabad since 1983, more than 24 years but I have never seen such incidents happening in such a short interval.

Many people comment that these kind of incidents are very rare in TDP regime and more common during congress regime. Most people seem to agree on this part but I don't have any statistics to conduct a t-test and see if this claim is statistically significant or not. On the other hand congress man claim that these things are not related to the regime and no one could have avoided them. Is this claim true? This claim definitely appears not to be true. What happened yesterday could have been easily avoided.

I had worked in a manufacturing form that used lot of flammable raw material. I have even done some work for a gas bottling plant too. At both these places safety is given highest proiority and despite that accidents do happen but the human casualty part is very very low. I had seen few accidents and in all these incidents human casualties are zero when sufficient awareness and supervision was employed to ensure safety was done. But in cases where safety practices were namesake and were done just for compliance there definitely were casualties. This clearly indicates a linkage between the attitude and results.

One thing is very clear, congress party and slack come together. Even during the last regime of congress there were so many unwanted incidents.

Another aspect that needs examination is the unpreparedness of the administrative machinery to address such incidents and their inability to handle media properly. Throughout the night news channels were claiming that there were more than 20 dead but after removing all the collapsed parts it was realized that there were only two who died. Media feeds on sensalisation and tries to push news in a way that allows them to gain maximum mileage. Almost all the channels now claim that they are fighting against corruption and keep uncovering incidents. On one hand this appears to be something good for people but on the other hand there is no attempt from media to do any root cause analysis. Why should they do it? They have no incentive to do that.

It is important that media be held responsible for their less responsible broadcasts and be fined for spreading rumors. There was another incident of firing yesterday. This happened at the residence of a congress leader's son. The person who got shot died at Apollo. Media for the want of sensation interview the deceased spoused and tried to put words in her mouth and then after that started repeatedly broadcasting the exact sentence that they would have wanted her to say.

It is important that media acts responsibly and play a neutral party and shouldn't take sides. In fact the politician is the PCC chief but still media shouldn't try to combine two uncorrelated events and blame one source for it. Any father in that situation would try to defend his son at the first instance and then later as a matured guy would state that law should take its own course. When we watch a movie, we would be more than ready to support a hero who murders the villain and expect that he gets released quickly so that he can get married to the heroine and when the villain is caught we almost always want him to be hanged. But in life one never knows who is the hero and who is the villain and sometimes a onetime hero would turn into a current villain. Move is only for two/three hours but life is forever.

Let me conclude this post by saying that one of the most important steps government must take is regulating who can be appointed as a reporter. Looks or voice should not be the deciding criteria but more important factors like maturity, sensibility, thorough knowledge about the domain and even law should be considered. Some kind of neutral certification is necessary if media has to be managed without clipping their wings or restricting their freedom of expression.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Latest Pics of Sec E

Hi People,

I have uploaded all the pics that I clicked on 5th Sept at
Sec E pictures

Flood of events @ ISB

Though we are only a week into Term 4, the placement fever is slowly catching up. September also appears to be the month of action. Everything seems to be happening in Spetember - ELP meetings, conferences, workshops, some international pre-placement talks, admission guidance requests, resume workshops, Independent studies, B-school competitions and what not.

At ISB the work intensity also goes northward. They prepare you for all this right from the preterms. By now most of the students have figured out if they are a grades person or an extra-curricular person. There are few who already have the requisite spikes and don't bother others.

It is very easy to deal with the grades guy. They approach you either when marks are uploaded on blackborad or when grades are uploaded on atrium. Otherwise they are busy in doing CP or assignments or reading books.

The more difficult to deal with crowd is the extra-curricular type. These guys have so many ideas and have so much of energy except that they have given up on grades. These are the ones who regularly keep saying that grades don't matter. They pursue a wide variety of activities and keep sending you calendar invites.

One thing I can definitely say is that at ISB you will get much more than what you pay for every second you spend here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Term 4 begins

Finally Term 4 begins. For the first time we have a subject on OB and most of the Engineers feel it is faff and keep displaying their disinterest quite openly. Some of them don't realize the importance of this particular area in Business.

But according to me, this is one of the most important subjects. As we move more and more towards a service economy, managing Human Resources becomes more and more important and a good understanding of OB becomes more and more critical for a good manager.

We have another very complex course - Government, Society and Business, which is a combination of Micro and Macro Economics.

ELP, which appeared to be no-so-attractive at the beginning, has caught the fancy of many students and there is sudden spurt of mails seeking team members.

People have started winning B-school competitions. From the mails that I could locate, ISB teams have won the following competitions:

1. IMI HR and Fin paper presentation,
2. XIMB's Ashwamedh paper presentation
3. SPJMR's case analysis

There are multiple teams planning to participate in the Innovation Challenge. I'm sure we will see many more such winning teams from ISB.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Why did I meet Mr. Naidu?

Mr. Chandrababu Naidu has lot of firsts to his credit. He was the first Chief Minister who tried to run government and bureaucrats with a business like focus. He was the first to hire strategic consultants to advise him. He was the first to adopt IT in a big way, not only providing land to IT companies but expanding IT based services in the government domain.

In the last three years, though the congress government was busy in figuring out which of their promises have to be fulfilled and which ones to be sidelined, development continued to happen as lot of things that were in pipeline during Naidu's term started producing results. This is not to takeaway anything from the current CM. In fact he should greatly appreciated for putting away his anti-IT stand that he displayed during the first few months.

Coming to the actual subject of this post, my objective in meeting Mr. Naidu is multifold.

First, it is due to his efforts that I'm at a place like ISB. Otherwise I would have not been able to think of anything like this. I wanted to tell him that what he did made a difference to lots of people and may be by doing that motivate him to do more.

Second, I have always wanted to do something that would benefit everyone around. There is nothing unique about this as I believe that everyone who is doing well and is happy would like to do that. But many times I wondered what is that I could do at this minute and this led me to the thought of meeting Mr. Naidu. I thought my circle of influence is small, I can influence only those who know me or those whom I know and the impact of this certainly small. But a person like Mr. Naidu can impact society in a big big way. So I thought if I can plant a seed in his mind, may be if it can impact such person, even in a very very minute way, it can produce big big results. By doing such thing I thought I can benefit many more like me. I know for sure that Mr. Naidu knows about all this but I thought I will do my part. You never know what a small event can trigger.

Lastly, till now I have been immersed in the business world and never thought about other aspects of life. But after I met Mr. Parakala Prabhar, a Phd in Economics from LSB, at Sierra, when he gave a talk to Sierra Leaders, I realized that there are many more dimensions that I have not been exposed. The first three terms have definitely affected my thought process and I said if I believe in something I must do it.

There was no specific personal agenda or anything related to ISB, though I urged Mr. Naidu to visit ISB and interact with the student body.

Finally I would like to highlight that if intentions are good, once will get support from different source and things would fall into place automatically. There seems to be an order to all the random events, after all.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Some funda

I have come across Jim Collins - Good to Great way back in 2003. Since then I had been looking for indicators to identify great organizations.

As a training consultant I had an excellent opportunity to visit more than 100 diverse organizations located in different cities of India. During this time I compared and contrasted different companies and tried to see if there are significant differences.

One clear cut differentiator was - people. At great companies, people were sincere, committed, confident and had a sense of urgency. But there is definitely a causal ambiguity. Did people with above characteristics make the firm great or the firm made the people confident. I tried to relate it to my own experience.

I realized that there were times when I behaved like an average demotivated employee and times when I was radiating confidence and could make significant contributions. When I look back I realized that it was the firm that existed before I entered made an impact on me and my behavior after I joined the firm impacted others.

There are always bright people and then there are always difficult times. Bright people who are not interested in the big picture get quickly demotivated if things are not happening for them. But then 1 in 1000 there would be bright visionary and he is the one who can trigger a reversal in the atmosphere.

I have just finished reading a Mckinsey article titled - The link between profits and organizational performance, and the article also highlights simlar findings. One clear reinforcement this article helped make is that, the firm is a bigger stakeholder and needs to take proactive action.

But in reality I have observed that Managers including HR Managers expect that the employee should take initiative and try to make a contribution. I always argued that the organization should make a stronger effort and should have clear processes to get an employee in to a high performance mode.

I truly believe that every Manager should take responsibility not only to recruit good people but also to see that they move into the high performance mode quickly

Paintings by Poorvee

Some nice work by Poorvee: