Test Testy

Friday, November 30, 2007

Innovation Challenge Day 2

Term 6 has taken the most of the last week and finally I could sit down to write about the day 2.

The official program ended at about 5:00PM but by that time we have realized that we needed to lot more on our presentation for Day 2. We went back to the room and decided to quickly assemble back by 5:30. This time I took the lead and the team felt that I can present it better as I sounded more convincing. I agreed to it with a certain level of hesitation in my mind.

I know that there are lot of people around, who are brilliant but lack confidence at the right moment. I was exactly in that state at that moment. I have been interacting with many foreigners in my career but somehow I was never sure how an Indian would be perceived by them. But then my passion took over and my day one experience encouraged me a lot. After all they were all people like me sitting there and trying to make sense out of what the speaker was saying. Suddenly my fear about my language, accent and Indianness were gone. I was ready for the presentation. We worked till 8:00pm and went for the official dinner. We returned back quickly and continued working on the presentation. If there was anything that we were happy about, it was our commitment. In life, you succeed and fail but what makes an experience invaluable is the kind of effort that you put in. Even when you are successful, if you haven't given your best, I doubt if anyone would be fully happy. May be you would celebrate from outside but you would enjoy it fully from inside. But when you give your best, when you know that you are fully exhausted and that you have been stretched beyond your previous best, that's when I think one would get that satisfaction, that happiness, equivalent to conquering the summit. I felt the same when we finished our presentation

Day 2 started exactly in the reverse of day 1. The team that presented last on day 1 went first on day 2. And we got our chance as the penultimate team. We missed the presentation of IIM-Indore as we were pulled into a photoshoot. By 4:30 we dragged our luggage into the Siena and started back to the airport. We were really on the top of the world as we felt that our presentation was the best on Day 2. I think al our team members contributed a lot including Ankush who had to drop out due to some special reasons.

Our flight was at 10:10PM and the results were to be out by 9:30pm. One of our team member and two from the other team were there at Darden and were to start the next day. At 9:50 the other team guys managed to reach their team members and we heard that ISB came second. Initially we thought that our team made it but then realized quickly that it was not our team but the other team that made it to the second. For few minutes we were in kind of a shock and only a little later we could congratulate the other team. The disappointment was huge but for the first time in my life I could take a failure and not react wildly to it. Somehow the experience and the personal learning was so strong that I couldn't react negatively. This was the true emotion at that point. I slept off well that night and the next I continuously watched 4 movies to get back to normalcy. On one side there was a great disappointment but on the other side I was happy that I gave my best and didn't want to bother justifying the failure. There could be hundred and one reasons - it doesn't matter. In fact I was shocked to see that Rashid Ahmed's team didn't make it to the top three and the other team from Kenan Flagler made it to the top. That team was led by a guy who participated last year too when that team stood second. May be he understood the formula better than anyone else. Nevertheless, Co 08 made history - for all the future batches the bar has been raised. All the previous achievements were shadowed and the Innova team from ISB made it to the top three.

We did some quick shopping in the US on our way from Charlottesville to Dulles and then at the duty free mall at Doha.

We landed at Hyderabad on 19th morning and thus ended my trip to the Darden. Coincidentally, when I was doing my PGDITM, I participated in a competition and traveled outside Andhra Pradesh (can you believe it) for the first time. For the regional round I went to Coimbatore and later I traveled to Delhi for the finals. In my next job I was continuously traveling all around India. This time at ISB, I got an opportunity to go out of India and I am looking forward to a job that will allow me to travel around the world and interact with people from different nationalities.

Some pics that I wanted to share:

"Team Innova presenting their winning Idea"

"That's me at the Darden Library"

That's Anand, me and Rao

Is winning everything, I don't know. If we had made it to the top three, may be I would've been boasting about all the things that we did and how it contributed to our success but now I can only talk about the experience that I allowed myself to go through. Let me keep going, there is little time and lot more to catch up. BTW it is ILS at ISB tomorrow and I would be sitting through the summit for the full day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Innovation Challenge Finals - continued

We got seated in the conference hall. It resembled the lecture theaters at ISB but slightly bigger, even bigger than the max lt. The program was initiated by Mr. Philip Sommer, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs, Darden School of Business.

After this there was a brief presentation on OPEN. To decide which team will go first, chits with the names of the teams were kept in a Santa cap and judges were asked to pull out one. The first opportunity went to one of the teams from University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler). They made a good start but I felt that the team that went first has some disadvantage, everyone including the judges were warming up but Kami and Nicole made a very good start. We were the fourth team to present, just before lunch. Rao did the presentation and he did a great job. We felt that we did a good job, our idea was the best among the presentations made till then.

The best presentation on Day 1 was done by University of California at Berkeley (Haas) team. Rashid Ahmed and Alexandra Levich did the presentation and they did an awesome job. Rashid was particularly impressive and he handled the questions really well. I thought that they were the best that day. LBS team did a innovative presentation though their idea was not that impressive. The team from University of Denver consisted of all experienced people and they too did a very good presentation. I met Rachel Kuhn from Kenan Flagler and learnt that she is going to be at ISB on exchange in Jan. She is already placed with Bain and Company and she exudes lot of confidence and is already looking like a consultant. The other team from ISB presented a totally different idea.

At the end of the day, we felt that we were in the top three but only the judges knew who was meeting their criteria. More about the day 2 and what actually happened in the next post

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Innovation Challenge Finals Experience

Having finished two exams, I am taking time to write this detailed post about my experience at Darden.

The whole thing started on 25th October when we got a mail from Innovation Challenge event manager.

I had a class at 8:00 am and I woke up at 7:30 and found this mail that arrived about 10 min back. The mail said that our team has been selected for the finals and that we have to confirm our participation within 24 hrs. For the next one hour or so, I didn't believe in it fully and went to the class. I checked with others who participated in the competition to verify if they have got a similar mail. Initially I was under the impression that it was some kind of spam but the mail id appeared authentic. By the time the class got over, all our team members checked their mails and they started sending congratulatory mails and it was time for me t believe that it was true. One of the reasons it took me so much time is that this was the only competition I took part till then.

Our team captain, Jaspreet, proceeded with sending the confirmation mail. Initially there were rumors that four teams made it to the finals but by evening it became clear that only two teams made it to the final.

The next 12 days or so we were stuck in the administrative problems including that of getting visa to US. Our tickets were booked only one week in advance. We did loose lot of time juggling between subjects, admin follow and we could take only a little time to work on the final problems.

Two of my team members were also in study group for two different subjects. All the study group members supported me a lot and for the first time my involvement was very less in the assignments for one subject. That team had two young bright ladies and the other guys didn't bother me much. For the first time I did some free-riding. I really thank that study group for all the help and support.

Finally after we decided how we are going to deal with the exams and the classes and then got started working on the problem. We have spent about 50 - 60 hrs in the week before we flew. Our flight was on 15th morning at 5:00am and we working till 11:00pm on 14th night. One of our team member dropped out as he wanted to attend an interview and I am sure that affected us a bit.

We landed at Dulles at about 7pm and by the time we came out it was 8:30pm. We booked a Siena from Avis and Rao drew the car and I played the navigator holding the map. Everything was well organized. We booked the car online and we were given a booking number and as soon as we came out we found that there are shuttles to the rental car office. We took a bus and we realized that one of our team member, Nandu, was missing. Me and Jassi started looking and found him on the other side.

By the time we reached Darden Exec residence, it was 11:00 pm. We met Anil Rathi right at the entrance and he helped us with our luggage. He is a very nice guy. We reached our rooms and wow what a nice room it was. Outside the temperature was aroung 5 or 6 deg C and inside it was warm and nice. Each of us were given a separate room and we got connected to the Lan immediately without any hassle. That was indeed amazing. I have added the video below - don't pay too much attention to my commentary though.

The session was to start at 9:00 am and we planned to get up by 5:00am and do a practice round. We met up in the group room and worked till 7:30am and by 8:15am we reached Abbott hall for breakfast. After breakfast we reached room no:50 and that's where the competition was being held.

I will take a break now and will continue in the next post.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Achieving goals @ ISB

I started my journey at ISB with four goals:
1. Loose weight
2. Be in the top certain percentile in terms of academics
3. Get some international exposure and lastly
4. Get placed in one of the firms that I shortlisted

I think I have achieved three of the above. One of them is static, so I can strike it off, one of them needs to be sustained for another 4 months or so, another one is a continuous effort and the last one again is a milestone and I will have to wait for another 3 months to come face to face with the situation.

It has been a great ride till now with its own highs and lows. I met lot of new people, some became friends while some drifted away from me and there are still some strangers. But last one week changed my perspectives a bit and I think it is time for me to revisit my long-terms goals. I have been postponing this for quite some time and I think this is a good time to do that.

Two exams await to take me on tomorrow, so goodbye for tonight. I'll be back with a detailed post about the Innovation Challenge experience.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Amazing experience

Today is the second and last day of the Innovation Challenge being held at Darden School of Management, University of Virginia. Only one word can capture the whole experience - Amazing.

I am writing this post so that the result doesn't have any impact on my thought process. The experience is excellent and it helped me to bust many personal opinions and assumptions. Lots of learning and I personally see this experience as career transforming event. It's not just the final even but the whole process - Team dynamics, brainstorming, validation, research, building up the idea and communicating the same, understanding different concerns / viewpoints of the people involved - Event Manager, Sponsors, Judges, Host and Participants. Some aspects that bought in the differences include culture, background, experience, past education, self-employed or working for a firm, placement status - final year already placed with a big firm or just started and in term 1 and so on.

For the first time I am seeing an event that is win-win for every one
involved. Anil Rathi, Idea Crossing, great job dude, it's a great niche you have thought about.

It is time for lunch, more details later

Monday, November 12, 2007

The most difficult thing to do

I have just changed the template. I myself got bored of the look.

Coming to the point, while there are many qualities, characteristics, capabilities or competences, whatever you want to call them, that are necessary for success, I tried to reason what is the most difficult one and the most value adding one. This is no relative grading, rather if I have to pick one, I would pick this one and that is the ability to "focus."

Like a stream that is born somewhere in a mountain, we start with lot of fresh energy and enthusiasm. By virtue of location, surroundings and other incidental factors, we gain momentum, character etc early in life. But after a certain point you hit the ground - reality. From this point you face so many challenges, changing times, situations that you can influence and situations that influence you and so on. While "you" matter, the focus in you and your ability to sustain it through changing times and situations determine whether you achieve you goal en route your life path.

At the each, every river goes and merges into the ocean similar to how every human being goes and merges into the world through death but the path, the route that you take and what you do en-route is what that matters. And to make a difference , to listen to inner call, to do things that normal economics cannot explain, you need focus.

So much potential gets wasted and ends up like dry sand beds of misery and justification. It becomes so difficult to listen to your own self because there are so many paths calling you into theirs. One ends up in getting distracted into all these and finally is left high and dry. Once this happens the dead life begins - life without flow, life without mazaa, life without exhilaration, life waiting for time to finish, sand to flow from top chamber to the bottom and then to go through the final experience - real death. May be the real death is more exciting than the dead life, I don't know.

I am surprised to see how many times I used the word death in this post and I would like to assert that it is not my fear for death but my love for life that made me write this post.

Let me end by saying to all my friends - preserve and protect not your fears but your dreams, your focus, your purpose and your connection with your inner voice and live life fully

Friday, November 9, 2007


Hope is one of the most important things in life.

If there is any emotion that is as powerful as life, that is hope

There is no death for hope, no one can kill it permanently

One can try to suppress it but it will find ways to express itself

Hope is a great equaliser. It doesn't different anyone.

Young - old, man-woman, adult-kid, rich-poor, smart-fool, dumb-dumber,

everyone has hope

It is there in every situation

somewhere deep in the heart

Wishing for the best

wishing good for everyone around

Keep hoping, never lose hope, even if it is unrealistic, hope keeps you alive.

Finally, let Diwali light up your hopes.

Wish you all a Very Happy Deepavali.

Tamasoma Jyotigamaya

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Random thoughts

In the last 6 months we have done more than 100 cases, most of them published by Harvard or written by the teachning Professor (Prof. Ziv Katalan, Prof. Rama Velamuri and Prof. Charles Dhanraj).

While case method is an excellent method, it does bring in certain issues to the class. The case writer and teacher knows the solution and the students generally don't. Also as the case cannot be too long, certain information is omitted and this brings in a lot of information asymmetry.

A good way of facilitation is to allow the students to bring out the different ways of thinking and then critically evaluate them. The evaluation criteria can either be based on different academic theories or on findings from empirical studies. But if the evaluation is done based on hindsight, keeping in mind the result of the action taken then the whole process will go into a biased mode. While the case writer is free to have his admiration of the actual events that happened after the case situation, that shouldn't bias the learning dimension.

We have seen in the past and we will witness in the future, the gap between what we know and what we don't. Anyone who is a mere spectator can never accurately guess what's going to happen. If they can guess he would be the next Warren Buffet. But alas, we have only a handful of people on the whole earth who can predict the future based on their assessment of present situation.

Many times we get to see that same decision taken in similar situation can lead to completely different outcomes. Sometimes it is external environment that aids or works against and sometimes it is the way the execution is carried out and the people involved would turn the way things happen.

While trying to learn from cases, it is important to explore both sides and make an estimated guess about what would happen if a different course of action is taken. It would then be useful to evaluate the decision that was taken, the outcome and the factors that led to the outcome. Here the outcome is not important but the factors are more important. As an individual we have control only on certain factors and our ability to judge the situation and then manage the controllable factors is what that matters.

People who are in positions that have a very large circle of influence have to be very careful about their choices. Owing to their larger circle of influence they loose the freedom to have opinions and express them openly to a certain extent. This is applicable to teachers, political leaders, officers, movie directors, writers etc.

Lastly I am wondering if it is OK to compare the situations in the political and social context with financial markets and whether media (particularly news channels) can create a perfect market kind of situation, where information is known to everyone and even if not one can gain insights just by watching others, to the political and social scenario. I was watching the coverage of auto strike in India and the comments made by the auto drivers and the concerned minister and was wondering how this would impact the public opinion and thereby their reaction?