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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Entreprenuerial mindset-the new buzzword in preplacement talks

At the outset, let me clarify that this is based on a limited sample of the pre-placement talks attended by me during the final placement season at IIM Ahmedabad. These talks share much in common-a nice graphic/whiteboard based PPT, videos, interactive Q&A and free food etc. But what I've noticed recently across sectors(consulting, general management and even finance) is that firms want to have their cake and eat it too-'entrepreneurial mindset'-wherein employees unleash their creative energies within the organizational framework and create wealth.  Indeed, companies pitch this 'intrapreneurship' as a positive, claiming that with their vast resources(cash, infrastructure, relationships, reach etc), they can make the employee's business idea come true. This trend is not new to the USA where companies actively seek out those with entrepreneurial mindsets. Infact, Jamie Dimon(Bank of America CEO) said in his FY10 letter to shareholders(Pg 23) said these golden words which sums up the importance of intraprenuership.
Big business needs entrepreneurs, too
the popular perception is that entrepreneurs – those who believe in free enterprise – exist only in small companies and that entrepreneurs in small companies should be free to pursue happiness or monetary gain as appropriate. Free enterprise, entrepreneurship and the pursuit of happiness also exist in most large enterprises. And you, our shareholders, should insist on it. without the capacity to innovate, respond to new and rapidly changing markets, and anticipate enormous challenges, large companies would cease to exist. the people who achieve these objectives want to be compensated fairly, just as they would be if they had built a successful start-up 

This is a very interesting shift from the earlier apprehension that entrepreneurial minded employees would soon leave the organization to start their own thing. But like how Infosys had incubated/funded Onmobile, perhaps organizations could also start that  practice of investing in their spinoffs, to realize wealth and more business later. Another reason for the tolerance could be that for Indian firms growing at CAGRs of 20%-40%(or more) in new business segments, they need people like that to drive the growth-people fine with working in unstructured environments, and who can do some 'jugaad' to get across the inevitable obstacles in the way of achieving that growth.

Even more staid organizations like consulting, stress that  that everyone's thinking is valued(naturally!-why else would you pay that person big bucks to join you!), and that they are ever open to new ideas/innovative ways of working.

But that begs the question-why come to business schools if you want entrepreneurs instead of managers? To be a successful intraprenuer, I strongly believe that you should be a good manager adept at navigating the organization dynamics. And MBAs are a good fit for that. Hence this approach by companies. Anyways, if this trend continues, clubs and activities aimed at fostering entrepreneurship among students(Entre Club, business plan competitions etc) will really do well.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why some IIM programs seem like reverse mergers-people getting in without the same scrutiny

GS Elevator Gossip
1: But she went to a good school. 2: She transferred in. That’s like a reverse merger; you get on the exchange but w/o the same scrutiny.
What inspired this title is the above tweet from the GSElevator tweeter account(it is very politically incorrect and offensive at times, but a lot of it rings true). I'd blogged earlier on the different programs offered here(http://iimaexperiences.blogspot.com/2011/12/so-who-qualify-as-iim-ahmedabad-alumni.html) but had not gone into the details of the same. Now, IIM Ahmedabad(and most other IIMs for that matter) is associated with its flagship program-the 2yr full time PGP program. Hence, students from other programs such as PGPx/PGP(Agri Business Management) etc may feel at times that they are getting a raw deal in perception. While the PGPx program having executives of 10yrs average experience is not comparable with the PGP program(indeed it has better FT rankings for its category than the 2yr program!), the PGP-ABM program at times is perceived as a reverse merger stock of students who have got in in the 'easier route', which does show up in the relative placement figures. The reasons for that, and my opinions are below
  1. Significantly lower CAT cutoofs:-One can argue that the CAT %ile does not matter, but as an admission benchmark(however flawed that maybe), the ABM students have a lower percentile cutoff of the order of 4-5%Ile. Hence, even though the CAT%ile is usually NOT mentioned on the CV, recruiters may perceive a quality difference vs PGP students. Many students do score above the certain minimum cutoff in order of 97%ile+, but the perception is framed by cutoffs..
  2. Common first year program:-All first year students-PGP/ABM/FPM share the same curriculum, and are often in same section. They are  source of much needed diversity in academic backgrounds, mostly comprising non-engineers. That does benefit class participation.
  3. But little overlap in 2nd year:-There is little overlap in the second year though, with each program having its own Acads Secretary and course selection. To be fair, the 2nd year IS usually more chilled out than first year, so academically I doubt there is any effect on quality of students due to this. While PGP students can take only upto 3 ABM courses in the 2nd year, the converse is not true where ABM students can theoretically take even 80%-90% of their courses from those offered to PGP students. It is a different thing that certain 'coveted' courses are not opened to ABM students due to the Professor's discretion. But even though this flexibility exists, very few people I know have exercised it. 
  4. Median/Mean/Max pay packages much lower:- The audited placement reports on the IIM-A website say it all. Despite spending 2yrs within the same walls, this happens. And companies which come for both PGP and ABM students(very few but there) offer lesser pay packages to the ABM students(and different roles for no demonstrable rationale).
Having interacted with PGP-ABM students during my first year(indeed we shared the same classrooms/courses for the first year), I would rate them equally competent on average. If there are 'misfits' who would not have got into IIMA but for the ABM program, the same is true for some students of the PGP program as well(not sure whether they got via reservations or not!). So the difference in quality is more perceived than real. In fact, the 4 member IIMA team which won the national level M&M War Room contest(strategy event for conglomerate), had 3 ABM students. In other colleges(like IIM Lucknow), the ABM program students can sit for the same placement process like the PGP students, thus the difference is not much. But again, for colleges like MDI-HR program and XLRI-HR program(where there is a different flagship program too), the placement process is different and lower for these specialized programs.

However, I would call this process outcome  TINA(There is no alternative factor).If the placements for PGP and ABM students are not differentiated, then the ABM program will be an arbitrage source for students who could not enter IIMA PGP program via the normal route. And scrapping the ABM program would not really be in anyone's interests. So like democracy, this is a bad alternative, except for all the remaining alternatives!While some roles like trading commodities in investment banks, working in PE roles in that space etc could be viewed as relevant for the program, the institute sees the purpose of the ABM program as creating managers for agribusiness, not such other roles however relevant they may be. Overall, given that they pay the same fees as the PGP students, it is a pity about the lower returns/cost ratio. If students had entered the program thinking that the career prospects would be same as that for PGP, then they can certainly be forgiven for feeling deceived. But then, caveot emptor applies in education more than vendor emptor viz the students should have done their due diligence on the program and its profile. If recruiters perceive the program like how investors now perceive Chinese ADRs on NYSE(reverse merger ones) of having less rigour etc, that is an issue which will take years to solve, and need an open debate/review.

Credits:-For views on this topic, I thank students from the ABM program(who prefer to stay unnamed), for sparing their time and perspectives on the issue

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ideas are cheap, its the small picture(execution) that mattters

Operations, Cost cutting/rationalization and management accounting are not the most romantic of subjects. Very few case competitions around then, low key buzz and few students interested in that as a career path in IIM-A/B/C. That is why though we go through the motions of learning those subjects in MBA, few really appreciate their importance or seriously consider it as a career path. The reasons for this are ultimately recruiter driven, and are the lack of awareness
  1. For every high spending foreign bank, there is only one HDFC which dares to trim costs to the bone and operate with discipline(more recently ICICI 4Cs strategy has Cost as a vital part) 
  2. For every Kingfisher/Jet, there is only one Indigo which manages to operate profitably and slash costs at the right places w/o affecting safety
In pre recession times, it is the marketing jargon that gets the headlines/management span, but at the whiff of trouble, jargon shifts to cost jaws, headcount rationalization etc. Be it SKS,Kingfisher Airlines, ICICI or others, all have realized the importance of unromantic cost cuts, and focusing on the minor details. Large picture strategic thinking only takes you so far.

During a business plan competition which my team won, a key feedback from the judges was that we won because of how we addressed the ground level issues and key operational areas. While this is not relevant in all situations obviously, it does highlight the way VCs think(2 were VCs/PEs), and reflects the way smart money thinks. So in the midst of those hi-fi MBA case studies, don't ever forget the 'trivial' execution details about organization structure, budget, costs etc. Despite the seductive appeal of strategy, the best strategy poorly executed will not achieve its results.

Getting the best out of your MBA peer study group

One thing about an MBA is that while it is quite individualistic in most aspects(one competes fiercely during academics, placements, scholarships etc), the concept of a study group forces you to develop a working relationship with atleast 5 members a year(more if the composition changes for different subjects/terms as it happens for the second year). One should carefully note that the 'study group' is neither a system(where people are interrelated , working towards a common goal) nor a team(with defined roles and hierarchy). A group does transform into a team over time with the informal group processes setting up norms, Dos and Don'ts and implicit power structure. While free riders are not directly penalized(everyone gets the same grade), some professors ask the team members to rate each other's contribution to group activity, and this rating carries some weight on the coursework. And where the groups are reformed periodically OR voluntarily formed for subjects later, then it no longer stays a single shot single period game(in game theory jargon) but translates into a multi period multi shot game. But this assumes people are rationale. If someone has joined Bschool only for self maximization/chilling out, then that sense of responsibility towards group work does erode. I've lost times of the occasions where my group(or even others) experienced issues with this. 

As a dear friend half jokingly mentioned on his Facebook status, "I love free riders because they sharpen my skills'. But remember, this comes at a cost to you-whether you realize it or not. So be wary of bailing out the other group members always. Some things I and others found useful are
  1. Coopt whom you know/someone vouched for-track records is a good indicator of the tendency to free ride in the future!
  2. Smaller group size-for evident reasons, smaller groups easier to manage
  3. Split task into modules, allot to each person/sub group-that ensures accountability
  4. Meet atleast once-it is then easier to coordinate online/over phone
  5. Keep same group across subjects/events if possible-that makes an equitable division more probably if you play multiple shot games with the same team rather than single shot games, and also allows for unexpected adjustments later! Also, one learns more about the group with later stages, and can accordingly predict better about task times.
  6. Have a coordinator-implicit or explicit-while most groups tend to form one, not having that is a recipe for disaster. so someone HAS to take the initiative, atleast for each task and the buck must stop there, else recipe for disaster.
  7. Informal meetings to celebrate good grades/meetings over coffee etc all help build the required rapport, needed when you need to appeal to a member to sacrifice his night's sleep to help finish the group task(for example). 
the above kind of illustrate the issues with managing peers. 

How MBA has changed my way of thinking

After 19 months at IIMA(ok 17 months excluding the summer internship!), there have been a few changes in the way I think-though some close friends may deny that. From the 100% number crunching perspective, I have atleast learnt to recognize the 'softer' non quantifiable perspective as well. To give some specific examples:
  1. Finesse or the MBA version of jugaad/creativity-call it what you may-has been the punchline of most cases around. Rarely would you find that the best analytical solution wins the way. Rather, it is the most creative/realistic solution that carries the day
  2. Humane approach especially while dealing with labour/workers, is another aspect. One should not abuse one's dominance to strike unfair deals, which can come back to haunt you
  3. People/Plants/Relationships are not just cells on a spreadsheet, but are to be considered as important entities to be dealt with with respect.  
  4. Respect for other functions:-Coming from Finance perspective,  I thought others were lesser mortals. But I realized that other functions are even more technically complex, and that we realize the importance of most things only after something goes wrong!
  5. Networking:-I belonged to the school that 'Some work others network'. But network is inevitable and very important art in its own right. Like politics, we all are involved whether we are aware of it or not, so we might as well become competent in it. 
  6. the power of teams:-As venture capitalists repeatedly say, they back teams and not just the business plan! Winners of competitions would endorse this thing wholeheartedly, as well performing teams complement the skills of their members and ensure synergy. 
  7. Respect for BS/'globe':-The art of talking/writing pure nonsense/small talk is a fine art, and very important to lubricate the wheels of commerce. As I often state, the person who calls a spade a spade is only meant to use one! 
 A surprising thing above is that most of this is the softer 'people side'. Maybe our HR/OB profs were right when they claimed their courses to be the most useful!

The triple returns magic of biomass power and other l

Ms Mahua Acharya(just Google her for details) heads the strategy division of a clean energy consulting firm. While giving a guest lecture for the students of the elective Carbon Finance in Sep-11, she recounted some interesting experiences and points, which I thought was worth sharing. The advantage of industry professionals like her, is that they bring a much required practical perspective, which was evident in her talk about the economics of biomass plants.
  • Investors routinely demand 20%+ IRRs and hence it is difficult to attract investments in even conventional power without subsidies and incentives. However, biomass is an exception.
  • Biomass revenue streams:-It can get an assured feed in tariff, revenue from selling slurry to fertilizer plants and also CER credits. Of course, it also has an option between higher feed in traiff and CER credits, but most companies opt for the latter
  • Design in the benefits: She noted that most companies are now seeking expert advice at the design stage itself to maximize their benefits
  • True strategy is about building entry barriers for others. The example of biomass plants in  Bihar where they got contiguous licenses for ensuring raw material supply, was given. That barrier was needed, and they created other barriers like using hard to use rice husk fuel and areas where others would fear to step in(setting up in Bihar unlike Gujarat). That all worked in their favour.
  • Ideal projects solve a pressing problem profitably. Using chicken shit(sorry..poultry litter) to  generate power is on in Haryana, with the same triple benefit. That solves pressing environmental issues of smells and land pollution, which makes farmers happy, and they should rationally be willing to supply it for free or even pay tipping fee! Still, to ensure their cooperation,farmers supplying litter get a share of the profits above threshold limit. 
Very interesting points, and if/when I consider investing in physical assets, this is certainly an option!

Why student associations selections/competition rankings methology need to be opaque

Days after the final selection process of a IIMA 'elite' club was done, I noticed emails from unsuccessful applicants asking for the evaluation criteria and/or their performance during the process. My first impulse was to reply with a frank response, but then deeper reflection and some discussion with other club members led me to the conclusion that 'Silence was golden' in this case.

Supreme Court judges have famously said that 'sunlight is the best disinfectant', or that transparency is the best way to ensure a clean and healthy system. Well, that is fine but only till a point. For some 'club goods' like higher education, club memberships,  etc, the demand will invariably outstrip any possible supply by far. And rather than judge the intrinsic value of the good/their own suitability for it, applicants follow herd mentality and apply en-masse for that. Now, the best the selecting person(s) can do is to widely list their expectations from candidates, activities etc. But to enumerate their desired profile down to the finest detail like marking scheme, candidate performance etc, is going too far. Once someone releases information publicly, that can be ground for challenge under some law. Allocation decisions necessarily are arbitrary, and involve some degree of discretion/judgement/public policy. Disclosing the basis of that would lead to delaying tactics(filing PILs), gaming the system(Kota like coaching hubs) etc. And disclosing applicant results may lead to bitterness against the evaluators, which is much more impactful in a student body selection where the evaluators are likely to be one's own seniors.

And the same is true for competitions. Releasing the detailed methodology AND the final scores sheet, would takeaway the discretion from the organizers/judges to tweak the ranking approach in the last minute. Also, disgruntled elements could point at selective components to buttress their case for better rankings, and point fingers at organizers. So for the above reasons, this post title seems justified, in larger good.

How puffery beats out understated hardwork in club selections

In many Bschools, now is the time of the year where the various student bodies on campus are reformed as the leadership transitions to the junior match. That reminds me of the time when we ourselves invited applications from the incoming juniors. Depending on the college, club and student profile, some bodies were swamped with so many applications, that they do not get time to interview everybody. Imagine a 10member club, getting 150 applications. Even allowing 10min/interview, one would need 25hrs to finish the process. IF you divide the club into 5 2member teams, then they could finish the whole process in 6hrs(5hrs+1hr  break). But then, no one has the patience/time for so many interviews/interactions-atleast not for the same role. And then the issue starts.

Imagine that you are a pressed for time, cynical club member, who needs to review applications and then give a take on it. If you have to review applications to gauge the sincerity of the candidate, you would ideally read through it fully. But otherwise, you may just look at the length of the application(especially those with long answers) and prioritize for interviewing those who have given the longest answers! And even otherwise, those who are modest may not give full details of their achievements, and their new seniors would not typically know them well enough to link that details. While those with a penchant for exaggeration, could write relatively minor points and make a better impression.

While the IIM Ahmedabad placement process puts a stop to this by insisting on a simple ONE page CV, only a few clubs impose word limits etc on the answer. So till everyone shifts to a standard length limit, the above situation is bound to happen. Thankfully, the problem I described is unlikely to happen when a newly elected club president selects his peers for the club, but it would affect the incoming junior batch selection, which eventually decides the club transition in a large way. So this issue does matter.

The complexity premium_the paradox of Consulting v/s Academicia

ERP, BPR, SCM..the list of acronyms coined by consulting firms is ever increasing. And one can tell a consulting presenting by the sheer number of slides and the variety of graphics, frameworks and general complexity. In essence, brevity is not rewarded. But in academicia, the case is opposite. While papers tend to be verbose, they are compulsorily prefixed by executive summaries/abstracts as well as keywords, which forces the authors to get to the point and use English which mere mortals can understand, atleast for those areas. But I've lost count of the consulting frameworks/terms which can be summarized without loss of understanding, in just a sentence.

Why is this so? I guess it boils down to incentives, like anything else. To justify their fees, consultants cannot make the end solution look too easy-especially strategy consulting! But academics present research to their peer audience, who are seasoned veterans of BS without much patience for reading through trash. So the main incentives vary. And though consulting reports DO have an executive summary, the same is not true of presentations in all cases, and in any case, the underlying reports themselves are verbose and complex.

But why to mention it in this blog? At top management schools like IIM Ahmedabad, students are trained to be concise and brief(except in some Organizational Behavioural courses but I leave that for another day!). And then suddenly, they encounter this strange animal 'Consulting' where brevity is appreciated for outlining concepts/slide planning BUT not while making the final slides/reports-in which it seems consultants compete for who can make the most outlandish acronyms/frameworks/theories.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why are MBA grads seen as arrogant?

MBA is often caricatured as management by analysis/spreadsheets etc, and those without MBAs are often quick to label newly minted MBAs as arrogant ivory tower residents, who expect things to be done by the book. While the two years of solving business school cases would have taught MBAs about incomplete information/complexity etc, the extra curricular activities would have shown value of organizational dynamics, interpersonal relations etc. So what would make others perceive MBAs as arrogant? That is a question which has often puzzled me. From my interactions with alumni, those with work experience and others, the points I would think of are below
  1. Expecting best practices:-MBAs are trained to look for the best way possible, and not the most practical way. Hence when they see old(but tried and tested) practices on the field, the initial tendency would be to critique those fuddy duddies, who naturally resent the new person critiquing without showing proof of concept/pilot of his new idea
  2. Overconfidence:-Getting high grades in classroom/being best at case solving does not speak anything about ability to execute. But people who forget that aspect, are soon brought down to earth when their textbook solution fails at getting win-win, from people who resent it. 
  3. Too much respect for paper qualifications:-On an average, the MBA with a graduation degree, would be more qualified(and from better known colleges) than the persons he interacts with. Hence, the feeling of superiority may remain till he realizes that the high school pass grizzled sales veteran knows more than what Kotler textbook would ever teach! 
I guess these are the 3 main things. Would welcome comments for any others! 

Kiran Sethi's talk during Ideafest at IIM Ahmedabad

Kiran Sethi may be better known as Geet Sethi's better half, but she is a renowned educationist in her own right, who also has given a TED talk on  the subject of making children believe that they can make a difference. She has leveraged her degree in design from NID(Ahmedabad)-India's premier design school-to design a school and curriculum that makes a difference. I attended the talk expecting that something new would be there, and I was not disappointed. Below are some key takeaways from the talk.
  1. She walks the talk:-A 6yr old student of her(the daughter of an IIM faculty member) was also attending the talk. So Kiran spoke to her for quite some time, and then gave her the bouquet as well as her momento to play with, which touched me-that level of sensitivity for the kid's likes. 
  2. The power of observation:-Its human patterns that create a problem but we never pause to observe them . So we solve the wrong problems and wonder why change never happens. Riverside is like the lab school, where the teachers see the practice after learning the theory
  3. The Power of sharing:-She deplored the practice of top educational institutions not sharing their best practices(that is how knowledge is created and shared), and intends to put her own learnings on open source platforms for sharing
  4. How NID helped her:-NID helped convince her that even her opinion mattered, and she also learnt that a story needed to be TOLD rather than SOLD. 
  5. Do Good and do well:-This is her mantra for the school, and the focus of her curriculum. She aims at teaching empathy/excellence/engagement beyond the typical maths/science/literature. 
  6. Bringing change:- We are quick to change our minds but when we persist with an idea long enough, then change happens
  7. The power of student creativity-business plan for icecream:-A team of students built an entire marketing plan including pricing/promotion for a Christmas launch of an icrecream in Dec11 at Ahmedabad, which was a hit. The press release here details it(http://www.schoolriverside.com/sidenode.aspx?&sidenode=13) but what is impressive is the fact that even bschool students would have been proud of this product launch! 
  8. Scaling up:-She claims that this not only works in small schools(teacher/student ratio of 7) but also bigger schools of even 50:1 ratios and all. The rationale is that best practices can be replicated. But given the dismal Indian education scene, I'm a bit sceptical on that. 
  9. Education focus:-She noticed a shift in dialogue/debate shifting from ensuring access to schools; to quality; and then to retention(will they stay in school for 15yrs). Also, going by the trend of top/key jobs, if we continue focusing content rather than skills, then are we preparing children for jobs that don’t exist? Education should teach how to navigate life AND how to shape it, and influence it.
  10. Diversity of models:- She acknowledges that India needs multiple diverse models ASAP, not only that of Riverside. 
  11. Teachers:-She feels that teachers should also spend professional development time. Of course, IMO, that would take away the cushy perception of teaching, so that meets with resistance. Still, that is important as an idea since every other profession has it, so why not teaching

Anand Lunia's talk during Ideafest held at IIM Ahmedabad

Mr Anand Lunia, a seed fund MD gave a talk during the Ideafest at IIM Ahmedabad. It was highly interactive with a high level of audience participation. Some points I gleaned from the talk were
1.     His own entrepreneurial experience:- He had the computer based education quite early in India, but faced issues and later sold out in 2005 to  Sequia Capital. But after that, computer Based Education(CBE) really exploded and Educomp benefited despite having entered the market later. From that, he learnt the lesson of hanging in till the time comes.
2.      About skin in the game:-If you need VC money to start, you’ll mostly not get it. They want to see your commitment first, be it by using your own seed capital or quitting your job etc
3.      The Redbus story:-Most of us must have heard of Redbus or even booked bus tickers through it. As an initial investor in that, Anand recounted an interesting story about how the initial idea of the promoter was to help bus operators manage inventory through software, but then a TIE(The Indus Entrepreneurs) Bangalore chapter member advised them to chuck that idea and directly retail tickets via a  website. Convinced by that idea, Anand’s fund invested Rs 2.5crore initially to help get the site started, but it got off slowly, selling just 100 tickets/day for first year, before reaching its present scale of around 10,000 tickets/day today. The founder’s biggest USP is how he built and maintained relations with his vendors-the bus operators who had to look beyond travel agent(fixed quota etc). For that, he wore lungi(dressed like them), attended their functions, helped them out with ideas etc and won their trust, thereby he cracked the tough nut operators. All this is not  fancy stuff and happens at back end,  but such doers are exactly the kind of entrepreneur they want to back. And as the business model is so robust, very little marketing spend needed, just some search engine spend to attract customers to the site. To their credit, Redbus has resisted the temptation to extend beyond to hotels/pop corn until they meet their full coverage of buses, given that there is so much more to be done. Anand praises the promoter’s focus/tenacity/filter out outside noise and take his own decision.
4.      Carwale:- As an investor at that site also, Anand gave their example that the entrepreneurs even had to enroll in English speaking classes and all, but that did not deter them from starting a good site.
5.      Bschool degree as entry barrier: Speaking from personal experience, he compared the MBA degree to golden handcuffs, as one not only abandons a well paying job post graduation, but also experience the effect of seeing your peers race past in short term. Hence, his opinion was that the best thing to sell a company and then chill out in bschool for 2yrs till you decide what to do next.
6.       Selling your business idea:-Commenting on the information overload faced by a VC, he said that cold calls/direct meetings/referrals much more useful. He even said that for feedback, force your way into someone’s room for frank feedback-else it will be boilerplate .
7.      About assembling the startup team:-Very few people would want to quit jobs in established companies and blot their CVs by joining a startups. To get such people with the required passion is even more difficult. Hence, the CEO is usually all the positions whom he can’t hire, which makes it even more importance to be an allrounder, or to assemble a good team before-hand.
8.      About how MBA helped in entrepreneurship and VC:- In his first startup, he feels it actually hurt on balance because the rational thinking made him go against his eventually right hut feel. But then, he could assemble 16 people from IIML in 3mths post funding(most of whom stuck on later), so that may relationship matters. He felt that in MBA, we hardly pay attention to the basic courses like HR, accounting, law, costing, MIS etc, but that comes back to bite you when you learn something by trial and error, and then realize that you learnt it in Bschool years ago! However, those professions need gut feel and MBA is the opposite.
9.      Some General tips for Entrepreneurs:-
                           i.          After getting money, there gets an implicit pressure to produce numbers fast. Entrepreneur should be able to resist that, and be disciplined about launch etc.
                          ii.          Instead of worrying about initial valuation of first venture(which is a black box anyway), build chemistry/relationships with the decision makers, and seek funds from those whom you trust.
                         iii.          First mover advantage cannot be taken for granted. For example, carwale was the 2nd player, when the initial portal had raised 10x money of carwale’s funding, and yet flopped.

College festivals/competitions-win/win for all parties involved

Till I was involved in the organizing of a national level financial competition open to select Bschools, I used to wonder what is it in for anyone to organize events? I was taking the rather naive view of people not apparently getting anything out of taking part in it, sponsoring it or organizing it. But after my own experience, and after watching other events at close range, I have got some insights about what each participant gets from everyone.
  1. Sponsors(private sector) see their sponsorship as campus relations and building the brand as attractive career destination. Hence, pitching to them demands hard nosed ROI.
  2. Sponsors(public sector) see this more as CSR than an activity demanding marketing ROI. Hence, they are a bit more easier to convince.
  3. Organizers:-These are typically student run clubs, which want to hold these events to get CV points, and build their club prominence. 
  4. Participants:-Besides getting prize money, participation certificates etc, the participants get to usually travel to a new campus(expense partly paid), gauge their competition of other bschools and network with others. 
  5. Judges:-These may be faculty, industry experts or businessmen. Especially for business plan contests, VCs may consent to judge those of premier bschools, so that they can get new ideas. Corporates may agree so that they can gauge the relative quality of Bschools from their teams.
Hence, the next time you are organizing an event, don't be despondent. The business case looks harder than what it is. Having a good brand like IIM-A helps for all the above, but otherwise also doable.

Jagdeep Chhokar's views on Indian governance and political parties

 Prof Jagdeep made some interesting points during his 1hr talk at IIM-A during the Ideafest here, organized by two student clubs Entre and Public Policy. He made some good points, which I reproduce below to the best of my ability.

  • Government size debate is really a misnomer, we should be concerned whether it governs appropriately, not about its size only. 
  • Where does the democracy begin and where it ends? High command…political parties are the pillars..should they not be democratic themselves in internal functioning=>choosing candidates at party member level should be done instead of at high command level
  •   Political parties are like corporate-single objective functions(profits aka winning seats). PSR and CSR..whatever it takes to win elections=>why is funding high? 
  •  MM Singh has lied only once-declaring himself as Guwhati resident for RS elections
  •  If you don’t care don’t crib
  •  If you don’t vote, don’t think you are not participating in the electrical process..especially in South India where ballots stuffed between 3pm-4pm. At best, you can say you participate unconsciously  not that you don’t participate.
  •  Fundamental duties are never pointed towards(not even right to vote)-time to make voting a fundamental duty in my opinion. 
  • When asked about critical mass, he said that if no one heeds your call, you walk alone…his view on need for critical mass! 
  •  Success has many fathers-so doing something breeds legitimacy
  •  Ideas come but if you sit and wait for the big idea, it may not..hence do what you can in your individual capacity
  •  What does it mean to be an active, informed and contributing citizen? Civics education is to be realigned from school
·       At the end of the talk, he said that politics is too important a business to be left to experts..the same is true for war as well(too important to be left to generals). That lesson is important for us.