Monday, December 24, 2007

Strange Feelings

Feeling Suffocated
I part away the curtains...

Feeling restless
I neatly arrange everything on table

Feeling at loss
I take a sip of water

Feeling wayward
I take out the planner again..

Feeling short of time
I try to skip... only to return..

Feeling Nostalgic
I remember the same times in 'those' 4 years

Feeling angry
I dump everything..knowing I will come back.

P.S: Why does it always happen that when you HAVE to do something, you enjoy doing something else..

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Post Office :(

It was a visit to a post office after I-don’t-know how many years and the first one to a Mumbai one – Vile Parle (W) to be specific. And now I realize it that it was actually a visit to any government office after a very long time. A visit to such government touch points really strengthens your view that capitalism/privatization is the key for development. It’s a faint memory when I used to buy stamps and inlands to write letters. From the past many years it has been the private courier services. So when my father asked me to send a 1 page document by normal post only (rather than using the ‘costly’ courier), I decided to try the post office once again. Reached the Post office whose building was in a pathetic condition (evident from the pic above). I asked for stamps from the counter which had “Stamps/Envelopes” written in front of it and was asked to go to another one. There was no one here, so I waited patiently for few minutes. After it was evident that a customer was not even being looked at by the employees, I asked a person standing there to give me the stamps. He again said that a lady was on her way. Again a few minutes wait. And Again I went to that person and requested him that it will take him a minute to give a 5 rupee stamp to me. Rather than giving, he went about calling the lady, asking where she was. I again went back to the counter. Our dude came back and started chit chatting with another lady there. 2 more people joined in. But still no sign of the ‘stamp-lady’. That was it for me. I went back and again asked, first politely and then a bit harshly that if he would give the stamps. “Wo uska kaam hai. Wo degi aa ke. Aap ruko” (its her job. She will give it. Just wait) , he said.

It was time and he duly received some niceties from me. He replied, “Isme main kya kar sakta hun” (What can I do in this?).

Guess instead if asking me, it would have been better had he asked the question to himself.

It is a gargantuan effort to restructure or reform such government bodies. The government has, infact tried to bring the private players down in recent past. Because they themselves know that bringing postal services to the higher level is simply not possible.

P.S: Sorry to my blogger friends for not visiting their blogs recently. Things will relax after 17th..

Monday, December 03, 2007


The buzz had begun a month earlier. A team involving people from all functions – Finance, Marketing, HR, Operations had to be formed for a 3 stage Inter B school event. We called ourselves NMIMS Bulls. The Bulls were Ankit, Abhishek (Finance),Rahul a.k.a Raka ( Operations), Sreejith (HR) and me (Marketing). The first stage online quiz narrowed the teams to 20. There were IIMs and ISBs to intimidate us in the 2nd round Case Study competition. But the Bull was on a run and it came surging to the final round confidently beating the competition and being among the top 5 teams . Then came the real thing which made all the previous stages look minuscule.

It was a Business Simulation game which was to last 12 Straight hours. They say that it is the learning you should focus, not the result. And it was indeed a tremendous learning experience. There was plenty of material to be read and understood before the game started. So a lot of time was spent on the analysis of the information. And before we launched into the 12 hour marathon, we had a rough plan ready. The basic aim was to build a manufacturing company (with 3 million dollars given to us) and run it for 4 years with various constraints like Market demand, other teams’ strategies, attrition in the company etc.

Our strategy focused on being aggressive. We started with 2 plants, demand being not there in the market. The process started with us giving our strategy like number of plants to be constructed, salesmen to be hired etc for the first year in numbers to the administrator. The admin fed it in the simulator and gave us data like Balance Sheets, Profit Loss Statement, Cash Flows, Sales, Industry reports, future trends, views of industry people on the trends in the industry, R&D developments, attrition of Salesmen etc etc..

Within 15 minutes, we had to analyze those reports, plan for the next quarter and fill out the details like Selling Price, R&D expenditures, Expenditure on Sales Promotion, Salesmen hiring, No. of units to produce etc. This was then given to the admin who fed it again and gave us the same reports for the next quarters. The situation and company performance changed on basis of market conditions and other teams' strategies. The same process moved on for 16 quarters. The start was not well for us in terms of numbers. Due to the huge capacity we had built there were loads of inventories we accumulated each quarter. The second year went on with profits in the red for us. We were producing more than we could sell. Considering the aggressive strategy, we hired the max salesmen and at one point our cost on salesmen Salaries were eating into the profits like hell (32%). Our debt was at all time high and the bank was charging a hefty interest every quarter. But we persisted. Then came the lucky break for us. In the third year, due to the high R&D expenditure, we got a breakthrough in technology which made our product more salable for next 2 -3 quarters. But the problem was that it was a recession period in the economy and demand was quite low. But again our planning for future helped us. There came a huge export order and we were easily able to bid for it at relatively lower price (all teams had to bid for the order). That helped us see the profits in the positive for the first time in 3 years !!!! (They again went in red the next quarter is a different matter ;))

But we had recovered quite a bit by now. At least we were making good sales. At one point after 13 quarters we were quite confident that we were well ahead of others. The future plan for the last 3 quarters was well in place. The Market demand was at all time high. We had increased the price by around $1500 and were still selling. We had sufficient inventory and from the market reports we were buying we were sure that others were not producing even close to us. Victory was in sight. But then came the shocker. Along came an import order, where teams could buy products. We lost the bid. So now there was a good chance that all teams had plenty of finished goods. The market was good. So the line of reasoning suggested that prices would go high. We rubbed salt to the wound with this strategy. By quoting an exorbitant Selling Price, we could sell merely 36 units as against market average of around 250 – 300. The inventory had risen to 500 (huge number) and with 2 quarters left, we were almost in a soup. Suddenly we were thankful that we didn’t get the import bid because that would have added more finished goods. There was a light at the end of tunnel when a team approached us with offer to buy units (trading between teams had been going on in the past too). We sold most of the unsold items of previous quarter to this team who went by the forecast of huge surge in demand for next 2 quarters and bought the goods from us. The next problem for us was the huge production we were having in our factories. They had to be sold in the next 2 quarters. So we pulled back and lowered the price. The Sales team or “Pathe” as we jokingly called them were in place (we had not let the sales force decrease for all 4 years).

With these details we filled out the final data for the final 2 quarters (they had to be together this time) and waited. Waited to see if the light we had seen was the end if tunnel or the oncoming train. It was like the last ball if a thriller. We could be out or hit a six – anything could happen on that last ball. The problem was we didn’t know about what the other team(s) had scored. We waited for results for a long half hour. The results for last 2 quarters were being printed. It was a time when we discussed aimlessly. What does the expression of the admin is telling. That strategy was wrong. That was right. Was it really right? Fruitless discussions but discussions nonetheless. Nerves were on an all time high. Then the quarterly results were given. The first page opened was the Profit-Loss statement. It was positive – 17 lakhs profit. Then we saw inventory – zero. Bank debt – zero. Things were looking good. But we still didn’t know we had won or some other team had!!

The admin (who also designed the game) again made us wait for some 15 minutes and then gave his analysis. Under each analysis heading, Team 1 was coming on top. Team 1 did best in this and Team 1 in that. The strategy if Team 1 was best in this aspect and in that aspect. And we sat there holding the arm of the chair, the chair hurting under our forces. Then at the end of 12 long hours, we had 5 ROI’s (return on Investment) on the projector screen (along with results of 2 other separate modules – more about that later).

Team 1 had a big ROI of 179. The admin announced, “Team 3 were playing very well but they lost at one place in the middle due to XYZ reasons. Team 2 came close but for them it was more of a fluke than a real strategy(they had ROI of 139). But the team which had long term vision and strategy and blah blah blah in place was Team 1 and they are clear winners.”

All hell broke loose for Team 1 as they cheered, celebrated, shouted.

Team 1 was NMIMS Bulls.

Our Team had won the coveted Parakram with a prize money of cool Rs 50,000.