Test Testy

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ISB ranked 15th by FT

ISB has proved that it is no one-day wonder by climbing up in the latest FT rankings to 15th position from last year's 20th. Check out FT Rankings 2009.

I'm sure all the ISBians are greatly elated. While none of the ranking mechanisms can fully capture the picture completely, it can act as a proxy. This would surely attract more number of international students adding to the diversity at ISB.

India surely needs more schools such as ISB considering the Human Resources and the demographic dividend that we boast of. We seem to be moving in two extremes - on one side we have countless number of colleges that offer MBA's or the equivalent there are only few colleges that produce MBA's who count. Either the existing colleges tighten the belt and start treating MBA as a course not similar to MCA or some other course or let new colleges that understand the essence of MBA be set up.

The over focus we have on the result that too the short-term puts too much stress on the system. Even though ISB or the other top colleges give no assurance of placements, I can safely claim that more than 80-90% of applicants believe that admission to ISB means a salary 20% more than the average (interesting statistic, isn't it).

We need more and more entrepreneurs and I hope the system becomes a facilitator rather than being the enormous hindrance, which is what it is now. To get into a job, you need no license but to get into a business, you need 101 clearances and to acquire them you have to graft the officials. Lots of energy gets drowned in overcoming the system. It is further more funny to see the politicians claiming the achievements of private sector as their despite the fact that the private sector not only has to earn and ROE but also to pay for the grafts.

This time placements at ISB would be a different game compared to last year and I hope that the challenging times would bring out some bright entrepreneurial diamonds. Good luck Co 09

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Random Musings

Last week was fully occupied by Satyam scam, most of the time being spent in jumping to extreme conclusions - one that says Raju confessed the truth and that Satyam is in trouble and the other being that he used the confession letter to start another scam and that money has been siphoned to Maytas/property buying, so Satyam may recover.

I have quite a few close friends (apart from ISBians) who are with Satyam and Maytas. Incidentally both the sectors these firms operate in have been hit hard by recession already and this scam comes another major blow.

Only reason that I could come up with for Raju's action is that as one climbs the ladder of success, he starts attracting too many close people around, who may not be connected to the reasons of your success and in the noise of their advise, rationale is lost and results in this kind of disaster.

I have traveled to Lonavala near Mumbai on an official trip. The most horrible thing is the Mumbai traffic. During this trip I managed to finish Arvind Adiga's "The White Tiger," and it's effect on me is this - it amplified my hatred towards the luxury car owners of Delhi (though Honda City, which is used in the book, is not a luxury car).

Traffic in Delhi is always a Prisoner's Dilemma situation. Everyone wants to go ahead but knows that following rules in a normal situation is the best behavior but then in Delhi no day is a normal day, so breaking the traffic rules is the only way to reach your destination. Always stay in the wrong lane, better in the middle of two lanes so that you can turn to the one that is moving fast. Every time I enter a traffic signal situation, almost invariable the car from the left cuts me and zooms ahead.

Every other car driver (or owner) thinks that his car is a Ferrari and every other car has to give way.

The other book I'm reading a little slowly is the Biography of Warren Buffet, written by Alice Schroeder. The author reiterates time and again that Warren Buffet has made much higher returns than the market while taking less risk. I have read little about Buffet earlier and I am relatively new to the Market, but from what I read, I felt that Mr. Buffet was taking unsystematic risk in a systematic way, there could've been a gain or loss. This must be the way to beat the market - take unsystematic risk in a systematic way and insure yourself.

Delhi's winter has been horrible and I am sure that the summer would be too. I am planning to visit Old Delhi and take long walks as I used to do in Hyderabad before the weather becomes really hot. Would appreciate any guidance.

That's all for now. See you again shortly

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Working as an Employee - Risks and Rewards

My father was an entrepreneur and this always made me believe that entrepreneurship would be my way too. However by the time I finished my diploma engineering, I had no option but to take up a job, may be I could've still tried to start something but then entrepreneurship was not my priority, there were many other important things for me in life. So instead I took up a job.

One of the biggest problems in a jobs is that one is controlled by another human being. However intelligent or smart a boss is, unless he behaves as a human being instead of the artificially created "boss" character, it is difficult to work under one. Fortunately I ended up with some very good human beings as bosses, except the second one who was too caught up with being a boss.

The risk reward equation for me so far as an employee goes like this - you give your best, you may (70 - 90% of the time) get the best, you be mediocre and you'll get the average (90 - 100% of the time), you do mistakes and errors, intentional or unintentional and you'll get fired (0 - 20% of the time) but then when a bolt strikes in some form you can get fired (0 - 100% of the time) and when you want something to happen,it rarely happens( happens only 0-10% of the time). So you've to be patient enough to make things happen and persistent enough with your effort to reap the reward but you can surely laze around and stay far from the firing line in a job.

But the biggest risk of factors that you have no control over affecting your fate is the biggest risk. You feel I've given my best but why has this happened and sometimes I am ready to give my best but then would it be enough.

I joined Bakelite in a very interesting way. After losing my first job, I was desperately trying to get a full-time job and doing everything that I could think of. But then, back in 1994, there were few job advertisements forget about job-sites to post your resume. On one such day, I received a letter forwarded from my village that was sent by Bakelite, Nacharam unit asking me to attend an interview in week. I never knew Bakelite has some openings nor I sent my resume to them, later I learnt that Bakelite guys have picked up addresses of the top to students from our college and sent us interview letters. After two rounds of interviews I managed to get that job.

I finished 14 months of the 24 months training period, during which time my immediate boss and his manager were both impressed with my performance. Around this time there was a change in the management and there was a directive reduce costs. The HR manager also had a target, he could do nothing with the unionized staff so he decided to transfer or throw out the trainees and newly joined supervisors. And this news leaked out to us. For the first I experience the risk associated with a job and how one's life is in control of someone else. I was very frustrated, I questioned the HR manager - why he couldn't foresee this and why did he recruit us.

You trust someone in good faith and if he happens to be not in control of events but his actions/inactions affect your future; this is what is happening at Satyam with all the employees, I feel.

One thing I learned from the Bakelite episode was that there is always a risk of loosing your job due to a reason that you have no clue or control about. And due to this you may end up in a very bad position even if for a short while. Even though the probability of such thing happening is close to zero (not zero actually), as one wouldn't like to go through the distress situation and wants to keep that probability to zero (not close to but actually and firmly to zero), everyone who is taking up an employment must be prepared to face this risk.

Some risk mitigation measures would be actively pruning your Resume, having savings worth 6 months expenses all the time and actively maintaining relationships.

As human beings, the worst thing to happen for us is to live in uncertainty. We would like to know what is happening, if not about the next 100 years, atleast about the next 100 days.

"This too shall surely pass," however I wish that every Satyamite (not just employees) is favorably blessed by the God.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Management and Handling Ambiguity

Before I joined ISB, I received feedback from my Manager (s) that I need to improve my ability to handle ambiguity. They even said that as you go up there will be more and more ambiguity and that one has to learn to handle it.

I could understand that ambiguity increases as you go up, I never really understood how they were handling ambiguity and how their actions were improving the situation. Everytime a unexplainable decision was taken, they blamed "Management."

It is very interesting to note that this is the same thing I observed even in the old economy firm that I first worked with. Everything was blamed on the elusive and invisible "Management." At that point I was in the junior cadre and thought that the senior managers formed the Management and used to get little surprised when the senior managers themselves blamed "Management." But then when I saw the CXO level also blame the "Management" I couldn't stop myself from wondering where/who the hell is this "Management." But Mr. Ramalinga Raju of Satyam, by taking complete blame on himself has kind of answered my question that the "Management" lies at the top and now where else.

How foolish does he expect the shareholders by stating that he and he alone was responsible for all the non-sense. He may have given the okay for all the decisions but then every other top manager must have known what was happening and had all the opportunities to raise alarm. To this a classmate of mine said that who knows if someone has raised an alarm and he was stopped. But then raising alarm is to get attention and unless you get enough attention and thereby some action, you shouldn't stop.

May be this is a reflection of our behavior. As someone said, we are ready to fire anything as long as it is over someone else's shoulder; we will never take responsibility and I think this explains why the "Management" Devil never dies - it doesn't matter if it is old economy or new economy. We have so much pressure to comply with the boss that we are afraid to talk against the decisions that may harm the company forget about taking decisions.

In my view handling ambiguity is not sitting there and waiting for ambiguity to get cleared; instead everyone in the management has to work to reduce ambiguity at each level and give decisive direction to lower levels. I had seen that very few managers actually accept ambiguity and talk about it lest try to reduce it. In fact their behavior adds to the ambiguity.

What I would like to say is that every employee at every level is part of Management and that they have take responsibility to the possible level and reduce ambiguity in company's business and take decisive action towards performing company's business. This is what would benefit all the stakeholders not the shareholders who just give the money. Only then can we expect to rise against the tide not just along with it.

It is a day of great importance to India and to all the so-called Corporate Managers and Leaders. When I read Mr. Raju's letter, it appeared to me like a suicide note acquitting everyone else from any responsibility.

I must share this small discussion I had with my colleague who is active in the stock market the day-before-yesterday about Satyam. He was saying that since the company had cash, he would buy the stock if it falls to Rs.100/- as at that price it would be lucrative for other companies to takeover; my comment was that one cannot be sure how the money would be used and that may be the reason no one is yet making a serious effort to takeover and now that whole cash has vanished in to the past. We can only wait and watch what happens to MAYTAS (reverse of SATYAM)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Very Happy New Year

I always wondered why do we celebrate a New Year. Strongest association I have with a new year is that I would keep wrongly writing the year part of the date for sometime. Apart from this the zillion number of times I would repeat wish you happy new year. It feels nice that we have some reason to gift a wish and smile to each other as we tend to make good mornings formal and serious very quickly even at any place. In the bigger scheme of things I don't know how a year matters but as human beings we tend to make any kind of measure seriously and a year seems to be an important one.

Last year at ISB, I wasn't very happy with my performance, despite my diversity, dean's list, success in the most-participated-at-ISB-competition, I wasn't shortlisted by any of the consulting companies but then I have learnt my lesson in life that your plan and God's plan need not be the same and if your plan fails, God's plan will prevail - nice and easy way to excuse oneself of any sort of failure. After all human beings are supposed to be thinkers to make sense (awkward phrase).

2009 promises to be a year of different kind. Mankind screwed itself in a big way and created a catastrophe of a different kind. Will the collective intelligence succeed in coming up a with a text book solution and be able to implement it as meticulously; would be noble-prize or other-great-prize winning intellectuals be able to predict how the future would like; would be growth again or will it be sustainability or will it be the Green agenda. Lots of questions but no answers, in fact I don't think even the most powerful man can predict what route humanity is going to take in 2009.

We can take respite in one thing atleast. 2009 cannot be as bad as we are expecting it to be. Take my own case, my firm has been awarded the first ever license to build and operate a transmission line on the first day of the year and the project is going to take off even while three other project bids are under process. For me it's going to be year completely different from 2008. 2008 despite bringing me the most success in terms of money and fame has been a disappointing one from learning perspective but 2009 is already promising.

My reading has picked up and I'm reading a wide variety of books. I am reading Snowball, Stories by Sudha Murthy, some nice Telugu literature, apart from all the random readings. I have just started Snowball and I don't know why but I see lots of similarities between this book and Godfather (by Mario Puzo). Let's see how I would feel as I move further.

2009 is a year of challenge - it's going to test each and everyone of us on how we are going to take it up and handle it. Just keep the phrase "This too shall pass" in mind if you ever get bogged down