A minute for your feedback please

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ensuring India's demographic dividend-Shantanu Prakash(PGP 88)[Educomp] at IIM-A

Like his alma mater(IIM-A), Shantanu Prakash's company Educomp is unique in India. From pre school to degree college, off line or online, Educomp covers end-end education segment. So when Shantanu agreed to give a 1 hr talk to students on 'Entrepreneurship', there were many takers among the student fraternity. His gentle and relaxed style of speaking won over several hearts(contents of course won over the minds!)

Among the salient points of his talk were the following
  • He praised the traditional middle class values of 'integrity, thrift, hardwork and willingness to dream' as his core values but said that we Indians often underused this ability to dream
  • Compared to when he started out as an entrepreneur(early liberalization), he said that there was never a better time or place to be an entrepreneur. India is the cynosure of attention globally. 
  • Even in his college days, he was an entrepreneur organizing rock shows and earning a decent amount which he then blew up in the stock market!! That partly influenced his decision to join IIM-A(else he may have built a financial services giant)
  • When asked about global differences, he said that 'helping kids learn better' philosophy can be adapted globally
  • Giving the analogy of how transplants do not work as expected, he felt that home grown business models would help solve the education issue. Indians understand their fellow citizen's needs better, also some things are unique to India/China(family saving for education for instance)
  • He explained away the high margins of the business as 'marginal cost of content once created' is zero-or maybe some translation costs. 
  • When asked how to decide between multiple appealing areas for entrepreneurship, he gave the analytical view first(pain area, potential, unique way to service it) but quickly added that whatever excited/resonated with you should be chosen. He likened it to relationships..you date many but marry only one person at the end
  • Analyzing the multimedia rich world of today, he said that teachers can no longer 'chalk and talk; or be 'sage on the stage'. Instead, they must use technology to engage their students
  • He mentioned Educomp's inorganic growth strategy as providing capital and a platform to existing small businesses whose owners are passionate and focused.
  • As an indication how objective evolve, he said that now his focus is something bigger for the nation because 'quarterly results take care of themselves'
  • When asked how to imagine so much, he said that once you take that first step, the resources, exposure and people around you, open up your mind to even more possibilities
  • He said that instead of decrying the lack of skilled, talented teachers, we should focus on retraining them and providing them technology to perform better. 
  • Emphasizing the value of reputation/credibility, he said that the first few customers repose faith in YOU and not in the product. There comes the importance of branding, track record, CV etc
  • What really impressed me was the courage and power of his vision..and more importantly the ability to translate that into concrete actions.

Friday, January 14, 2011

'Sam Uncle' at IIMA

Yesterday, Sam Pitroda visited IIM-A to deliver an address on "Nation Building in the 21st Century and Indian Challenges". Like any other initiative of his, the talk was interesting and well thought out. Starting from the origins of nations(in tribes), he discussed the evolution of national building and said that in the present age when goods & services move freely, are borders/passports relevant to keep people out? He discussed Japan & EU which were suffering from economic issues and hoped that India could take its place in the sun soon. He prefers 'Collaboration over Command and control'. He does not see technology as the 'silver bullet' to address India's problems but wants it to be accompanied by 'domain experts' of which India has a chronic shortage(maybe as good engineers either do MS abroad or MBA in India-but I'm digressing). He hoped to spark off a discussion/debate here so that the fruits could be seen over time.

What was more amazing was the Q&A session after his talk. While I have seen blatant abuse of this system elsewhere, today's session was the last straw and I simply had to post the type of Q&A that happens when such sessions are opened to the public(I am NOT elitist but I've not noticed such things in IIM-A only events)
  • The attention seeker:-This person spends a disproportionate time on his own introduction/self edification, pushes his own views and asks a 'sitter' question at the end.  For example, the self professed head of a management college was guilty of this during Sam Pitroda's talk.
  • The lobbyist:-This type of person(no reference meant to Radia&Co) asks on issues tangential to the talk and wants to push his interest. 
  • The crank:-We had a scientist who had developed a machine to 'generate energy out of gravity'. When gently reminded that this talk was not the right forum to air the issue, he walked out with his wife
  • The idealist:-This person expects the speaker to be omnipotent and have solutions for all the national issues. It is better to remind such people, "Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for your country".
 Those of you wondering why 'Sam Uncle'.well..that's what he was addressed by a student during a Q&A!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

IIM-A finally recognizes stream disparity in their shortlisting criteria.

Today is the day of heartbreak and joy-when the CAT scores are out. When I checked IIM-A's shortlisting criteria for 2011-13 batch, I first thought it was the same one as 2009-11(where they had given a percentage for 10/12/Graduation without considering streams). For example, getting 90%+ in Commerce is difficult(even more so in Arts) in Std 12/Graduation but that fact was not given weightage.

I had blogged before on the bias towards engineers. But this year onwards,. there is very little excuse for that. But in this year's shortlisting, the section percentiles have been lowered to 94(overall 99). Also, 75%+ is the pinnacle for Commerce marks but 95% for Engineering marks. The scheme seems designed in the word of one of my batchmates, "to bring in more diversity(via non engineering/work exp people)". Lets hope it works.

Update: Some of my batch mates feel that the criteria rewards mugging. But looking at the points structure, anyone with decent acads in 10/12/Grad would make it. They have only replaced those who slacked off in graduation with those who have workexp/master degrees.