Monday, December 29, 2008

SACH is IN



So there is new toned milk in town – Sach. Sach is the new private label brand from the stable of Future Group of Big Bazaar fame. It will have many other things like Apparel, cooking oil, toiletries etc under the same brand name. I didn’t know anything about Sach when I entered Big Bazaar today and was attracted towards it by Sachin’s association. The price was Rs 42- a good Rs 10 higher than the standard Amul Toned Milk. Though today Sach was available for Rs 33 – a special Food Bazaar Offer. Testing the waters, I thought. A consistent toned milk drinker for the past 4 years and like a true early adopter I bought one pack.
Some thoughts about it.
1. Packaging: The brown Colored pack stands out – amidst the general Blue and white of the other brands. But for me a brown color doesn’t give a direct association with Milk . A blue or white is easily recognizable.

2. Price sensitivity: It is priced at RS 42 – at a premium to the normal available milk. Will the consumer be ready to pay this premium just for the Brand Name. Hard to say. I will not – ya despite Sachin being there all over the packaging.

3. Health Benefits: Ok. I can for once think of buying it if it gives me added health benefits – may be a competitor to the Amul Gold or the double toned milk. But just compare a standard Amul toned and Sach toned milk.



So what do you infer from the table above. Common perception says that Amul is far better in terms of nutritional value at much lesser the price.
Further problems for Sach occur due to the fact that it seems they are trying to play primarily on the health aspect - they have their nutrient values boldly pasted on the front of their packet (Amul has it in miniature font on a side).
Their primary motive is to position the brand as ‘Healthy’ – not only milk but everything associated with the Sach Brand (Source). So maybe they will succeed in this effort by offering health benefits upfront – but just a casual look under the hood reveals a starkly different picture.

4. Availablilty: Sach will be available only at Big Bazaars as of now. Now I don’t have any statistics on the percentage of milk being bought from modern trade channels but just observation of going to a big bazaar for the past 2 years tell me – very few!
Mostly prefer to buy it from the mom and pop stores. Why? The perception of being fresh. Though you can keep a tetra pack for 2 months without opening but the general tendency is to buy small quantities at regular intervals. Now keeping this in mind, can Sach compete with the highly efficient and well set distribution network of Amul? May be in their own stores but what about outside.


5. Brand Association of Amul with dairy products is very strong and that is some more challenge for Sach to break the mould and get into consumers mind and then the refrigerator. Amul may have become a generic brand and Sach may be attempting to break the clutter – but very difficult.
As of me, I am not buying it if it is priced more than Rs 33 and not available at the shop next door.

Bailouts...

“Bailout” is the hottest word around the globe today. Governments around the world are following what Keynes, one of the founders of Macroeconomics, preached after the Great Depression of 1929 – trying to increase consumption. 2 primary things are being done.

1. They are pumping in tax payer’s money into saving large organizations from crashing down, eventually saving lots of jobs and preventing unemployment which will further lead to decrease in demand of different commodities in the market. And which will further lead to closing down of more industries, more job losses and so on. The basic aim of this step is to keep the demand of different products high in the market. That is, people should not get a reason of not consuming. For this, there can also be tax rates increase because the government wants more money to bail these companies out.

2. Reducing Interest rates artificially so it is easier for:
a. Industries to borrow money. Presently, as people are buying less, industries are getting lesser cash inflow. Due to this it is tough for them to carry on their operations and produce and sell their products.
b. People have less incentive to save and they consume more, hence keeping the demand high
So the basic mantra is to increase consumption. But ironically, the basic reason for the current crises was the same – tendency to consume was much higher than tendency to save.
So the solution is the problem itself.
Now what will happen when interest rates are reduced artificially and tax rates are increased.

As is evident from the figure, it will lead to further failure in the long term.

What does the Austrian school of thought, people like F.A Hayek say. According to them, the government should losen its control at junctures like these. Rather than tax increases, tax cuts would benefit in the longer run. Tax cuts would mean more money in the hands of people. Now with same level of consumption, people can save more. More savings will result in interest rates coming down naturally.( Banks have more money to lend when savings are more. Hence lowering the interest rates). Hence it will be a natural reduction in the rates unlike the artificial one at present. The government has to become efficient and come in cost cutting mode to reduce the fiscal deficit it will incur due to lower taxes.

Kaushik Das explains this in detail here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chaos!!

27 November. 9.00AM
Mumbai from the windows of my house seems normal. But the irony is that I am afraid to get out and experience that normality. But again, it only seems normal. 9 AM is certainly different on a usual day. Hoards of people rushing to catch trains, to open their shops, to get to their schools and colleges. But today, there is hesitancy- a caution in the step of the few who have come out, wondering if they should carry on or not.

It was 10.20 last night when Amrut called from Bangalore. "There is some shooting happening in your city dude", he said. "Where is it?" I asked him as I walked leisurely on the streets of Vile Parle. When I heard 'CST', I smiled and told him that was way far off from my place and told him not to worry. A few minutes later, as we group of friends sat chatting, we heard a loud explosion. "May be it is a bomb blast. The CST terrorists have reached Vile Parle," we joked. And then laughed out when someone suggested that it must be a cracker in the marriage hall in the neighborhood. But then something caught our attention. Flats in Mumbai are so close by that you can even see the emotions of people clearly. As we saw the shocked faces of some people watching TV in a flat, something odd struck. We decided to come back home and it was shock and awe that met us as we switched on our TVs.

It was indeed a bomb blast which we had heard and it was pretty close. Sirens could be heard rushing towards the site. Slowly, all the GTalk taglines changed and the words 'Mumbai' , 'Attack', 'Terror', 'Sad' became dominant. There were phone calls and inquiries, more among the local friends, many of whom live in the area and cross the blast site quite often. The news pouring in changed from bad to worse. From firing at station to firing on the streets (shown Live on TV), hostages being taken at more than 2 places, top cops of Mumbai getting killed and finally the beautiful Taj Mahal hotel engulfed in flames of terrorism.

It is not the chaos outside, but the chaos inside the mind that is much more dangerous about this incident. Wondering why people are getting killed on streets, why we can't get out of our homes without a certain apprehension or even why we double locked our door last night. Seems preposterous right? Some flat, on the top floor, in a corner of a building at the corner of a road worrying about some terrorists entering their flat at night.

Well that is the chaos!!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

IIM Indore, Bulls and the Dream



It was potentially the last Bulls assignment of the year – a B Plan Competition at the prestigious Iris @ IIM Indore. An IIM competition meant a kind of a dream and ending things on a high. As we came to know later, the plan was selected out of 104 B plans across India after a tough filtering process. The start itself was unforgettable – an overnight train journey with only 2 confirmed seats for four of us. After so many AC class journeys, we were ill prepared for a sleeper class journey and the chilling environs kept us awake the whole night.
It was a beautiful IIM Campus that greeted us in the morning. Perched on top of a hill with its curving roads and a magnificent view, in a way it signified what IIMs are known for: a tad above the rest!
We had 3 days and a case was given which had to be analyzed and presented next day. The discussion which followed on the case was one of the high points of the trip. A kind of a small research was conducted by asking friends Amit, Amrut, Anu about their views. Others also brought in ideas. All the ideas were collated and then started the debate among 4 of us – a high voltage, heated, sparks flying, countering each other’s points with venom. The important thing was the understanding that these are attacks not on the person, but his ideas. Ground was conceded and then attacked again. Tempers finally stopped flying around at 4 AM and the plan was finalized. The passionate presentation went well. We broke the clutter with our 3 slide, zero word presentation. It was marked by last minute improvisations and a true team work. The judges seemed pretty impressed and we felt confident. The result was to come late.
A great evening followed at Indore city with 2 of Ankit’s friends from Indore joining us and giving valuable insights – of the ground reality – away from the rosy picture that MBA paints around us. Meanwhile, we were informed that we did not win the case study competition. Slight disappointment but was covered up by knowing that it was a job well done nonetheless – an internal satisfaction overcoming the external disappointment.
It was the final one the next day - The 1.25 lakh prize money and a ticket to Seattle for the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition. Great amount of hard work was put in the morning to spruce up the presentation and include the points told by the mentor, which had been assigned to our team. 5 teams, 5 closed door presentations. After 4 hours the results were announced and it was not us.
I don’t remember many occasions where Bulls have not won a prize after being in the finals of a competition. We were not the winners here, but didn’t feel so. It was the feeling of a winner. Soon it was time to catch the bus back.. time to hit the road – one which we had not ridden on before.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chaubees (24) Ghante!!

One should keep on trying new things…. One thing that I had not done was to go 24 hours without sleeping even for few minutes.. Last month while on a trekking trip I had gone 22 hours out of home. But again, that was a long travel and was dotted by a couple of half hour naps on the bus.
So today it was a new record of sorts. It was a long day which started at 7.00 .. Had 2 exams today in quick succession. And not some ordinary ones. Usually we have exams of 2 hours each. Today the 1st one was of 4 hours and the second lasted 2.5 hours.. Special consideration given due to them being case based exams. The energy sapping 6.5 hours of writing was not the perfect ending I was looking to end the exams – but due to the mental and physical exhaustion, it was satisfying to know that they are over!!!!
It followed a ‘bakar’ session at prithivi theater café over bread pakodas and cutting chai.. We happened to see Shashi Kapoor there, who had come for the Rajat Kapoor Play – Hamlet. My friends found it disturbing to see him so old and vulnerable. It was actually unbelievable to see him that way with the image of “bhai.. tum sign karte ho ki nahi” and “mere pass maa hai” still so fresh in mind.
Raka, Deepak, Sanchit and me then moved to the beautiful roof top @ Deepak and Sanchit’s place where the bakar session went a long way into the night with a lovely weather and excellent breeze to give us company. The session broke off at 3.30 AM with the awesome weather finally giving in to the rains.. I have a train to catch at 8, so there was no point sleeping after coming back at 4.00. It was realized that packing was still to take place so the activity was undertaken on priority followed by completing a project report, due for submission.
It is a bit odd to realize that you need to brush your teeth and take bath when you don’t actually get up after a night’s sleep. Now, as I rush in to take a shower, it is 23 hours since I got up and with the time to leave for station just half hour away, I am positive I would achieve my record of 24 hours – may be more!! I guess the train is the place which will now act as a lullaby…
It’s Time to carry on as I hear the birds chirping and a new day setting in!!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Addicted


In shackles!!

I knew this problem was prevalent. But today I got a chance to see how widespread it is with me being a part of it. The addiction is the internet.
We, a group of 10 started a journey for Bangalore last night from Mumbai. The last moments before leaving the campus were on the net. A 24 hour train journey followed. Thanks to the ubiquitous mobile towers, we were well connected on the mobile. Some technological constraints like battery running out did exist but that can be largely blamed on to the Indian railways – for not providing charging facilities.
But 1 thing that was missing was the access to the internet. Though technology has advanced to provide us the facility but we, generally used to the constancy of Wifi in our college and home are not adapted to the data cards as of now. It was around 11.30 PM when we reached our hotel after a long tiring journey. The news of internet being freely available in the hotel was a news that brought life to all the dead tired faces and in no time each one of us are in their respective rooms on their Gtalks. Freshening up, tea/coffee/dinner – all can wait. The priority is getting plugged to the world – to return to the matrix.
Strange – our lives have become - the same lives which we lived without even mobile phones till a few years ago. With what I experienced today, it feels that the physical existence is starting losing its significance. Its feels almost the same sitting at my table in Mumbai or some hotel here in Bangalore. Wonder where we are headed. For now it is just a sense of addiction with some long term implications.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peace

The morning hustle..the early bustle.
By the second...the time gets dearer
Between that..you find a moment
When you just smile at the mirror
That moment you want to freeze
That is what you call peace..

Through the evening rush.. clammers the local
The nudges..the pushes.environs getting more vocal..
Amongst the buildings running by...
An awesome view of purple and orange painting the sky
that moment of the uncomfortable ease..
That is what you call peace...

A maddening rush..trying to beat time..
No path to set foot on..concern for others comes a dime
Walking without a care in world... setting your own pace..
You are clear amongst the blur..refusing to join the race
That moment when time seems to cease..
That is what you call peace..

Thursday, August 14, 2008

'Gold'en India???

This was going in my mind since Abhinav Bindra won the Gold for India. Bharat actually wrote exactly what I had in mind. Just adding on to him..
It is a major major feat that the young lad has achieved.. The headline in China Daily read “One day in the life of 1.1 Billion people”. No doubt The G-Talk statuses were changed.. you tube videos were shared.. news clipping links were mailed across.
There was some difference of opinions among my roomies here. Some, including me, felt there was that hint of sarcasm especially when the article said, “The ace shooter became the first Indian - from 1.1 billion people - to win an individual gold at the Olympics”. The others felt it was a matter of pride for Indians. The arguments in a ‘MBA Household’ are bound to happen. But the important thing is to sit back and think if we should be really proud of India or Indians? What contribution did India or being an Indian really had in this feat? Infrastructure? Financial motivation? Physiological support? Incentive to play for the nation?
Considering it from the player’s perspective. Do they really feel like they are fighting it out for the nation? Do they have that strong feeling of patriotism? Doesn’t seem like this being the case when you see the face of Indian Tennis – Sania Mirza walking in a bloody tracking suit in one of the grandest event of the world!! OK. It’s alright being non-patriotic; it’s alright playing for your self – for the sake of a medal. But still doesn’t one connect to the country when you see the national flag up there. Such a faux pas is a sin, especially when you have done so many ads and TV/public appearances.
Strange the ways are, we have a habit of showering every praise, penny and (railway) pass at the winners! I guess the people responsible need to learn some lessons in finance where we have a concept called Investment. Like many times in stock market, it’s the sentiments that rule here. Once a stock becomes popular, it’s the sentiments that take its price to unrealistic levels. Not surprisingly, the same stock soon crashes because it was never valued correctly. A smart person always does his valuations properly when he invests – hence the need for good investments.

All said and done, I sincerely (but pessimistically) hope that Bindra’s Gold winning shot was the one that Sports in India need it in their arm and the kids who are on a gun buying spree in Punjab for the past couple of days don’t regret their decision few years down the line.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Waterfall Rappelling

It was one of the ‘To-Do Things’ in life. And after a day of ups and downs I was finally able to do it. The ‘thing’ is rappelling and it happened in a wonderfully awesome way – not like the ordinary rappelling which you do down a dry hill. This was off a cliff with water from an angry waterfall gushing on your side. Opening eyes was difficult and you couldn’t hear a thing.
Things actually started a lot earlier – at 4.15 AM when the alarm went off. The start of a incredible day was hard to believe too – well.. I took a bath in cold water at 4.30 AM when it was pouring heavily outside!! Anyways, we (4 guys) were at Dadar station by 5.30. And it was truly a surprise to witness a huge rush at 5.30 on a Sunday in the middle of the heavy downpour there. The train journey carried on to Kalwa (near Thane) where other groups joined in and we packed off in a bus to Kasara. Into the wilderness, we reached a small village (again like Malshej Ghat experience, there was no electricity in the village – this, for a place just 3 hours way from Mumbai). Thankfully there was a school (the only pakka building in the area). The rain was on its onslaught – for the whole day. And in a few minutes it was forgotten that something like rain did exist.
After the round of introductions and some photo sessions, we were taken down the 120 feet hill where the professionals were to give a demo of how to rappel down the rock. It was an unforgettable scene when we reached the bottom.



There it was - our huge waterfall, in full force, aided by the incessant rain. In fact, more than the rain, it was the water from the fall hitting us that was a problem. It was tough to open eyes and we had to talk in sign language. Things started to get bad here. Due to the heavy rain, the flow had increased and even the professionals were finding it tough to rappel down and cross the stream in front of the fall to reach the good end of the hill where they could climb back. The water flow was tremendously strong. Anyways, discussion took place. The event was almost called off. All had lunch. And then a final decision was to be taken. After some more discussion, it was decided to have some volunteers go in first and share their experiences with other, based on which they could decide, if they wished to risk their lives. Precautions were in place for the climb down but the problem was crossing the fast flowing stream in front of the fall and there were plenty of rocks there where you could bang your head. Another problem was the rope which was tied to cross the stream was a very strong and sharp one which could cut in your throat if not careful. Anyways, I obviously volunteered along with 5 others. 3 people, with prior experience went down initially. The rain had stopped for a while and the flow was lesser now but the rock was slippery as hell – the algae, not helping the cause. Tejinder went in next. He was the first first-timer (non experienced in rappelling). And unluckily he lost his balance and slipped while doing down. He hit the rock and got hurt. So had to be pulled back up. I was padded up to go in next. And it was an out of world experience for the next 10 minutes. Fully focused on keeping my legs straight and yet fully aware of the awesome beauty of the waterfall by my side, I made my way down. Next part was actually the tougher one - Crossing the stream. 2 times I got flown away by the pressure of stream – my legs moving downstream with the flow and my hands (and mind) holding on to the rope. Though there was a carabiner holding me to the rope but the fear of letting your hands go in a high-pressure situation is something which you don’t want to experience. So after a heady experience, it was some hard work keeping your feet on the ground. Within minutes which were like hours, I was on the other end, exhausted. A long climb up the hill from there and back to bus – it was time to change to something dry after 7 hours of being soaked.

Strange that it is .. we get sleepy in a 2 hour class even after a full night rest.. But the excursion for 22 straight hours was not tiring at the end of the day(except for a cramp here and there ;))




The only sad part was not much of photography could be done as the camera had to kept in due to the rain..


Irony amongst the greenery

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It feels good to be busy.. Sometimes :)

Life has been pretty busy recently. College actually brings a lot of activity along with it. And these activities are not monotonous like a job. In the past one month since the college started it has been a mixture of academics, some serious extracurriculars, some masti – basically a good masala mix. The sufferer in the process I guess has been this blog and lack of creative juices flowing inside the head – lack of time you see!
Well, where to start with.. The Game I guess.. It was one of the biggest and most complex simulation games played. With 250 decisions every round, 4 rounds and over 2 months long, it was indeed tough. But the prize money was huge – 8 lakh rupees (12000 euros to be precise) which divided by 5 Bulls (of NMIMS Bulls fame) came to around 1.5 lakh per bull. The Bull Run carried on fine till the semi finals. In the semis too, we were the 1st 60% of the time. The shocker came in the 4th year of semis (the simulation involved running a company for certain number of years in each round). We were pushed to 4th position. The next day was a marathon, ending at 3.30 AM after some 20 hours of serious business. It was a rare sight at college at that hour. The campus which is buzzing with at least a thousand people had only 5 zombies at that time. But all that effort was put to dust when the results came. We were 3rd and could not advance to the finals!!
Coming to some masti aspect of the past month, it was time to be on the better side of the interview table. Being a core member of the alumni cell of the college, one of the fun jobs includes recruiting first yearites for the cell. And what better way to recruit than interviews. 40 interviews in 2 days was stressing but lots of fun. It started with going easy on the newbies – just like what u would like an interview to be to getting a bit nasty (just like a interviewer wud like it to be) later. I hope the juniors are not vying for my (or my other collegues’) blood when we meet them tomorrow.
As far as academics go, there has been only 1 subject for the college and it is called SFM or Strategic Financial Management. Our new dean, an eminent prof from IIM Ahmedabad is teaching it on the exact lines of Harvard Business School (even the cases are same- acc. to him). It demands a lot from the usually ‘chill’ crowd of NM but is insightful – even for people like me who don’t have finance as their specialization. The cases are 30 pages long and reading material double the size. Needless to say, the whole college seems to be studying SFM these days.
SFM or no SFM, masti remains an integral part. It was a trip to Malshej ghats and Shivneri fort (where Shivaji was born) this weekend. The place is unbelievable, especially if you are coming from Mumbai. Awesome roads, greenery everywhere - the whole setting seems you are in some Switzerland or something. Cloud kissing hills, cool weather, country side setting and a history to round things off. It was seriously one of the most scenic places I have visited.
Back to Mumbai, it was a proud moment for NMIMS when C.K Prahalad, the #1 Management thinker in the world addressed us giving his vision of India in 2022.
Accompanied with this High was the Low of the sad tradition of NM – Parampara. Despite efforts taken to not repeat what happened last year, the boundaries were broken, insults were the order of the day and mockery prevailed. Show offs from second year were there in numbers – trying to hog limelight through idiotic behavior. The rumor of Dean finally interfering in the matter and taking a strict note of it is heartening to hear. As the saying goes, “Laaton ke bhoot, baton se nahi maante”

Update: Just heard the news that the tradition of Parampara has finally been laid to rest by some quick action by the Dean.. Things have started changing in NM!!


Just 50 km from Mumbai



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Role Reversal

Many times in life, we have stopped on the railway crossing – the “Fatak” closed as everybody waits for the train to pass. It was fun during the early days of life - Getting out of the car, guessing from which side the train would come and then watching in awe as the huge engine whistled past while you try to count the number of bogies in the train.
The same process turned into a nightmare on growing up when there was a shift of responsibility to maneuver the car through the scrambled rush that happens after the ‘fatak’ opens up. It didn’t matter where the train was coming from or how many bogies were there. As the train passed, all the focus turned to the smallest of spaces where the car could be pushed in so that you are the first ones to turn out victorious on the other side.
Mumbai gave an entirely new experience. For the first time yesterday, I saw trains stopped and wait for the traffic to go by at a ‘fatak’. It was fun actually – the 5th floor view giving a holistic picture of the entire scene. The roads leading to the fatak on both East and West side were chock-a-bloc with cars, buses and trucks waiting for the fatak to open up. The efficient Local Train service were plying nonstop – not allowing the fataks to open up. After around 15 – 20 minutes the traffic was all over the fatak gates like water just waiting to rush out of a dam whose wall has cracked. Finally the fatak opened and it was a mad, desperate, impatient rush of vehicles that poured all over the rail tracks.


The Dam breaks - Temporarily


The poor traffic sense of Mumbaikers ensured that a bottleneck was formed and there was traffic jam with cars stranded right in the middle of the railway tracks. As the officials rushed to clear the scene, 2 south going locals and a long distance train could be seen waiting some 200 meters away at Ville Parle Station. There were 2 more suburbs bound trains waiting on the other side. It took 10- 15 long minutes for the rush to clear. Somehow the railway people had managed to reinforce the cracks on the dam again. But it provided a fun view of trains waiting for the cars at a fatak!!


A driver's nightmare



Back on Track

Saturday, May 24, 2008

To Prove a Point

A quite often repeated statement is “Whenever Sachin hits a century, India loses”. It is frustrating to hear about the person with maximum centuries in the whole wide world, who has won numerous matches for India. But still as they say in share market – it’s all about sentiments. Some stupid media wala must have said somewhere on his Breaking News. And the trend caught on. As He lets his batting do the talking, let’s have the stats do the talking here.

The details have been taken from this database at cricinfo.
Focus here is only on the fact on how many times India wins/loses if Sachin makes a century. And bit of insights on why we lost those matches.

From records, we can see that out of 42 ODI centuries that Sachin has till date, only 11 times has India lost a match. 11 out of 42. That means approx 74% times India wins. Almost 7.5 out of 10 times India wins when Sachin hits a century. A probability of 0.74 which common sense says is quite High!!
Let’s have a look at the matches which India lost when Sachin made a century.

1. ODI match 2414, 14 Sep 2006 (vs WI)- WI won by D/L when they were given a target of mere 113 in 20 overs after india made 309!!!
2. Match 2324, 6 Feb 2006 (vs Pak): India made 328. Again poor performance by bowlers. Pak won by D/L. Can’t really blame Sachin. Can we??
3. Match 2238, 12 Apr 2005 (vs Pak) – India made 315.. Pak won on the last ball. Again how on earth can you blame a batsman for half the runs in a 300 plus total. To add to it, Sachin took a wicket and had 3rd best average among 7 bowlers used.
4. Match 2114, 16 Mar 2004(vs Pak) : Chasing a massive 330 to win. Sachin made 141. Rest of the team made 139. Next highest after 141 were extras – 37. He simply ran out of partners as India were all out for 317.
5. Match 1752, 5 Oct 2001 (vs SA): Again India batted 1st and made 280. Bowlers responsibility more than the batsman.
6. Match 1658, 8 Dec 2000 (vs Zim): Again with Sachin’s knock, India made283. Bowlers let down yet again as Zimbabwe won by 1 wicket and 1 ball to spare.
7. Match 1060, 20 Oct 2000(vs SL): Comprehensively beaten by SL. India made 224, Sachin again making 50% of the runs.
8. Match 1325, 22 Apr 1998(vs Aussies): Everyone remembers this match!! That awesome match in Sharjah. Sachin given out of a No Ball. Mr Duckworth and Mr. Lewis coming in again. Aussies made 284 in 50 overs and India were asked to make 276 in 46. Sachin playing out of his skin. Even after aussies had won the match, it felt like India had!! And everyone also knows what happened in the next match. Anyways, if you want you can blame Sachin here. 3 overs remained when he got out and the rest of the team made.. guess what ?? just 8 runs in those 3 overs.
9. Match 1106, 28 Aug 1996(vs SL): Comprehensively beaten, again by Sri Lanka. A big Century by Jayasuriya. A small point to be noted: only 1 Sri Lankan wicket fell. Guess who took it!!
10. Match 1091, 5 Apr 1996 (vs Pak): A disappointing 1st innings total again. Don’t know if only Sachin can be blamed here – 50% runs being scored by him.
11. Match 1070, 2 Mar 1996 (vs SL): Sri Lanka again. Decent total in 271. A massive 137 by the master blaster.

Cricket is a team game. Whenever India loses, it is everyone’s responsibility including Sachin. And when it wins, it is everyone’s victory. That is my view but for all others who believe India will lose whenever Sachin hits a century, I really hope this settles it for once and all!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

What does MBA teach us?

Management or MBA to be specific has become a buzzword lately. With inflated salaries and a lot of hoopla (IIM’s placement getting to the front page), it often makes people wonder, what is that these guys learn that makes them get so much attention. Well, I haven’t seen what the scenario is in the hundreds and thousands of B schools around India, but can comment on the experience I had over the past 1 year. So here we go in no particular order.

Working under intense deadlines: Consider the scenario. - 2 days for trimester end exams to begin and people are running around from morning till evening. For what? To find one of the basic necessities of humans – the ‘Makaan’ of the famous trio of Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. The college doesn’t provide residential facilities as it trusts the managerial skills of its students who will find a home to live in – in one of the prime locations of Mumbai at affordable prices. Mind you there are plenty of other constraints put up by the ‘invisible hand’ of the market. Just a small example – the landlords of the area don’t really prefer students of some particular religion. Mind you, no deadline can get more realistic and pressurizing when you know that you don’t have a roof on your head after you get over with exams.

Improvement in Patience levels: people today are joining yoga classes; going to baba’s to learn to be patient. But learning to be patient comes as an integral part of the whole college experience for us. The teacher is the Internet speed. When it takes an eternity to open a google search page and you know you have to do it because of that project submission next day, it really improves your self control. Sometimes our young managers try a detour through the computer center where around 20 – 30 high class computers are kept for students to help transcend horizons. I once had a look at the super computer’s specs. The RAM was 128 MB – certainly beyond any logical horizons.

Boss is always right: A famous saying and a rule to follow if you want to grow in your job. However absurd the boss’ decision or reasoning is, you need to follow that – at times against all your natural logic. Well, our college obviously wants us to succeed. We are groomed to do this. Plenty of rules which many times go beyond your abilities of understanding. But still you have to follow them. Just a small example which many times you notice at the entrance itself – you are allowed to enter through 1 gate but are not allowed to exit through that – and mind you it’s not a small Jallianwala bagh kinda gate.

Dealing with Customers: ‘Customer is the king’ – goes a popular saying, especially in the marketing circle. It is fine to read it and appreciate it. But to understand it deeply, you need to practically feel it. Now how does the college help? By showing it to you, how the customer feels when he is NOT treated properly. Now, you may not be a customer literally but it is something similar when you go to a library. And there, quite often you feel what a customer can feel when someone loses customer focus in his activities.

Taking on Responsibilities: Another important aspect of a corporate life. You will be asked to lead teams, launch brands, handle mergers and acquisitions etc etc. So you need to be responsible enough. How is it achieved without students knowing that they are learning something? Again consider a situation. The internet in your hostel is not working (of course we students don’t know it’s part of a training module called “working in constraints”) and you go for the person concerned to get it rectified. Complaint noted but nothing is done. After 2 - 3 complaints too, nothing is done. Finally we are forced to take the responsibility and handle it ourselves. In fact many times we are asked to do it, forcing us to think if it was really our responsibility in the first place.

These are only a handful of learning which I could derive out of the first year experience. I guess there would be many more to come. My friends reading this are most invited to share their learning apart from the above

Sunday, May 04, 2008

IPL: Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts on the current craze – which aimed and to an extent beat the saas-bahu stranglehold.

Royal Challengers
That name, of course comes from the popular liquor from the owner - UB stable. But consider the name – Challengers. The name itself suggests that they will be always be only challenging others – winning is.. well.. tough… Best luck for the future challenges to Rahul - One of the greatest batsmen India has ever produced. It’s a pity to see him struggling with his “test team” in 20-20..

Chennai Super Kings
Dons the colors of Australia – and not surprisingly is performing like Australia (though they are on the verge of their 1st defeat as I pen these words). I read somewhere that yellow – the shining bright color of Sun, is a color of the king who rules everyone. I won’t be surprised if the Chennai Super Kings turn out to be the Kings of IPL too.

Delhi Daredevils
Along with brightness, comes the darkness too. There is a constant struggle between both of them to win. Darkness – represented by the Devils of Delhi (the color of the dress is black too). This is the other strong contender in IPL.

Rajasthan Royals
Before IPL began, the Royalty seemed as it didn’t have teeth (read good players). But the royal people, especially in Rajasthan have the history of being warriors. And so it turned out for this team as well. One of the best performing teams having the potential to reach the semi finals.

Kings XI Punjab

If we have the royal families of Rajasthan, we have the Kings of Punjab too. Lion hearted – they definitely are. Seen them working at close quarters (watching a match from just above their pavilion), I can say that they give their fullest – see Brett lee. But again, I am not very sure of the captaincy of the Yuvraj Singh. On the field, I found Jayawardhane (Sri Lankan Captain) more active in getting the angles right, making sure field placement is right when there are left and right hand batsman on the crease etc. May be our wannabe captain is on his learning curve.

Mumbai Indians
The team which has my Favorite player as the captain – who unfortunately has not played a single game. Well, till now I am defending lack of performance by Mumbai among my friends circle with just 1 excuse – No Sachin. This is about to change with a tough tough match against Delhi on Sunday where Sachin makes his IPL debut. I really hopes he has all the answers to all questions which the Mumbai Indians have not been able to answer. It is the Guru vs Shishya (sehwag) on Sunday.

Kolkata Knight Riders
They are the mavericks. It comes out in many ways - their brand ambassador/owner, the colors of their dress – I really like the Golden Pads. Another unthinkable – having Saurav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting in 1 team – 2 people who have been one of the best captains of their sides and both of whom love to be at the helm of proceedings.

Deccan Chargers
One of the strongest team on paper – Gibbs, Afridi, Gilchrist – arguably the World’s 3 top dangerous hitters. But their charges have not been very effective. Again, hard not to notice the dull colored dresses – may be taking the vibrancy of some of the classy players. Ya, it is a very earthy color but who needs to be on earth in T20. We want high flying sixes sir.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Branding...


It was a class project that was different. It was fun doing it and at the same time brain draining too. Well, it is generally fun but it becomes brain draining when you have deadlines hanging on the head.
It was a long week and I think, it was good that this branding presentation was slated last. It provided a befitting end to the series of presentations. Coming to the project, the whole class was given some brands which had failed or were not doing well in the market. Each team had to rebrand these products and make them sellable. Products were like Sweekar, Sunfeast Pasta, Hamam, Indian Express, HMT etc. Ours was a ‘hatke’ one - Indian Airlines. It started with deciding on the Repositioning (Positioning is the image of your product that the consumer has in mind), deciding on the target markets, defining the brand identity. Next came the print ads, TV ads, Radio ads, designing new logo, new taglines, new packaging, new events, and sponsorship proposals. People were living their products and involved like real Brand Managers. For an exercise such as these, you need ideas. And ideas can come anytime, anywhere. They came while reading, attending lecture, on the shit pot. Everywhere. There were inputs and suggestions from friends and families. New Brand Ambassadors emerged. Amitabh Bachchans,SRKs and Sachin Tendulkars gave way to the guys and gals from class with that ‘boy/girl-next-door’ image. Even real life mothers came on reel. Finally, everything merged into an afternoon where each group put up its stall and displayed the hard work they had put in. It was a mix of this diligence and creativity with lots of fun thrown in that was on display. People coming to your stalls, admiring your work. You going to others and feeling in awe of their work. No matter how much we cribbed about it (we do it all the time.. nahi?) but the whole experience was simply exhilarating.

Any one at Indian (formerly Indian Airlines) listening ?? Guys, we have rebranded you.. you can leave a comment if you want to hire us :-)

A quotable quote on the exercise from our Marketing Stud Rohit Hegde..He says, 'unbelievable times i tell ye..of toil, of hilarious times,of snapping at each other, of irritation, of bruised egos and massaging egos....and finally the sweet taste of success...now thats wot i call "teamwork"! '

Friday, March 07, 2008

Surviving Armageddon

There were 2 competitions and the Bulls were in a fix where to go. It was decided to split into 2 and it was Raka and me who booked the tickets to Chennai. A new dimension was added to the definition of 11th hour for me. Ayan also decided to join us – the decision taken at 6.30 PM for a journey which had to start at 8.30 PM. It was a fun filled journey thereafter. Chennai greeted us with wide roads, language problem, lovely LIBA campus and some strict rules. The next 2 days were more hectic than any at NM. The days passed in participating in some challenging, mind and body draining events while nights were reserved for making strategies and preparing for presentations. There were no breakfasts or lunches – direct heavy dinners for 2 days. I had a chance to become a commodity broker, bid in the auctions like they do in movies [that was quite fascinating], spoofing advertisements, drawing using colors after I don’t know how many years… Armageddon was the toughest event. When I had read about it, I was like ‘what the hell!!’
4 rounds – all eliminating and involving good creativity. We cleared the 1st round – an ad spoof. 2nd round experience was deadly. They show u 3 ads [no Indian ad] while simultaneously asking absurd questions demanding detail answers. Then after the ads they quiz you on the ads like what was the name of the person, how many trucks were there, what was the color of the dress etc etc.. While I was being badly grilled here, Ayan had to argue both in favor and against a topic in another room. After clearing this too, it was time to handle the colors- making an ad campaign poster for a beer company with global warming in perspective – the whole process spanning just an hour where we barely managed to complete the drawing.


The school memories of C grades in drawing came rushing while doing this piece of art!!

The result was announced late night and there were some anxious hours that passed between the event and the confirmation of selection for the final round!!
The presentation on a B Plan was prepared for,through the night and the results were not a surprise but great elation – We were the winners. 2 days of grueling hard work had paid off! And a belief was strengthened – Think that you will win and you will win!
The return train journey was equally exciting. Dadar station came at 4.00 AM – while everyone was in their lovely dreams. Suddenly it was realized and within seconds everyone with their stuff was on the platform, heading towards home and then college where some more excitement in forms of 2 tests awaited us !!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Tryst with Entrepreneurship

It was literally a Big event - more than 50 teams across the country displaying their entrepreneurial skills in a Business Plan competition. Yes, The NMIMS Bulls were there too. There was a ultra-strong Financial Planning (courtesy the CFO - Ankit), a wide and ‘real’ information of the operating costs prevalent in the market by the COO (Rahul), a decent marketing plan (CMO – me!!) and constant motivational doses and guides by our CEO and HR head..(Sreejith). The prize was Big – cash prize and a chance to be funded by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) to actually start the business.
The first stage was cleared and top 16 teams were invited to present their B Plan at SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. Of course, we were there otherwise I wouldn’t have been writing this piece. Our CEO presented the plan in front of Financiers from Dena Bank, Member of NIF and Faculty of SP Jain.
And not surprisingly we were there on the podium. We stood second and our team was selected for incubation of the project. Though incubating the project is complex and requires much more effort from our side..Hope we live up to it..
Indian Express covered the event - http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Five-innovations-to-be-incubated-at-SPJIMR/273581/


Ankit, Me, Rahul and Sreejith

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Matrix...

As I sit in the tube with wings, a plug is inserted into the back of my head. The process of leaving the real world has started. When the door opens after 2 hours, I am in the Matrix. Here, everything has been programmed to have fun. In our coded language we call it “The Gaahsss”


Time flies. Everything’s a blur with thousands of moments sticking in between as snapshots on the memory. An old familiar sight of Rompy coming out of bathroom in a towel…Then a totally unfamiliar sight of his transformation into a bridegroom …… a Sehra around him.. …climbing on the ‘Ghodi’.....ribbon cutting…. Acting in time to prevent hiding of shoes by the bride side….The ferraasss…

These snapshots also includes many firsts. First time getting really involved with a marriage ceremony. First time dancing in front of a horse….. a “milni” with bride’s brother (that is an honor)…. being privy to a bridegroom’s mind….

For 3 consecutive days, time to return back home is 3 AM, 4 AM, 6 AM – an indicative of The Gaah.. Throw in the Dilli… err... Chandigarh ki Sardi, A Big Black SUV, old friends and there are 3 AM high speed excursions, 4 AM gupp shupp in 5 star hotel’s round-the-clock eateries or simply browsing the city roads.

Programs are not without flaws. The Matrix has a bug too.. The program called Sun has been inconsistent. ‘The creator’ fixes the bug for a day and it’s time to sit in the sunshine under a quilt, with novel in one hand and hot coffee in other. Bhupendra is singing “jaadon ki narm dhoop aur.. aaangan mein let kar……….dil dhooondta hai fer vohi fursat ke raat din”

Now It’s time to unplug – to come to the real world.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Interviewed..

Had the opportunity of being interviewed by www.ixigo.com for their blog http://blog.ixigo.com/

It was quite opposite to a previous interview experience I had. This time it was oral, short (and sweet!!) and more about the travel portal...

More on it here: http://blog.ixigo.com/2008/02/sidharth-is-our-ixigoer-of-week.html#links

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Mahabaleshwar Trip...

In the geography lessons in our ‘bachpan’ we learnt that the central India was a plateau. In exams it was generally followed by a definition of plateau. Till this weekend, it was only a picture of plateau that I had in mind. Some 15 years later, on the trip to Mahabaleshwar, I saw it for real!
A Text Book definition of a Plateau on display


The place was magnificent. Hills plus water form a deadly combo and it was on display in plenty. The rivers originated and meandered at a leisure pace through the flattened hills, providing abundant photo ops.


The Meandering River from top


The view reversed. In the middle of the river


Another highlight of the place was Strawberry. There were numerous farms growing the red fruit. There were different utilizations – in jams, ice creams etc. But the favorite was strawberry cream. It is tough to resist despite being relatively high priced. Needless to say, we had more than one.


Strawberry Fields

Along with geography we also had history lessons. A visit to Pratapgarh fort highlighted the violent, brave and strategic history of the place. Guess modern architectures have plenty to learn from the old forts of India. Also, MBA’s can learn a lot of strategy from the history. I wonder how the meetings took place at those times. I am sure concepts of Team work at those times would have good theories which could be used in the modern era.



1 thing that I sorely missed was Para gliding. It was first on my To-Do List on the visit. But unfortunately we went during off season and the para gliding was off. So have to wait for it.!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Struggle.....


....to Survive



....to Rise




...to Fight and..



....Find a Way.



Sources:
1. A Hut in the middle of the Jungle - Mumbai
2. Sunrise - Shimla.
3. Struggle between Darkness and Light - Mysore
4. A path to Nowhere - Somewhere in Karnataka

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Below the surface!!

It was the University day in our college today. Having to come to college for a half day seminar on “India’s Tryst with Urbanization” in the middle of our Trimester examinations had left most of us irate. But what we got was worth the time. The last speaker on the forum was Dr. Jairaj Phatak - Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai. It was a rare opportunity when we got to listen to the Government Perspective of things. He spoke extensively on the problems and some facts, which are perceived wrongly by the common public but which are much deeper than what looks on the surface and are in fact good for public. We should have made extensive notes on his speech but alas, by not taking the seminar seriously, we were carrying iPods, books, Newspapers to pass time. Some of the things which made impact and I can remember are as follows:

1. The topic was on the financial powers of the Municipal Corporation and if techniques like Public bonds (Ahmedabad Corporation is using this technique) can be used to gather more money to be used for city development. Dr. Phatak remarked that Mumbai MC was a quite rich and had surplus equivalent to a year’s budget. But the problem was that we are a democracy and though he can sanction crores of rupees but he has to consult with the advisory bodies consisting of MLA’s, MP’s etc. And it is there that the problem lies. But in a sense that is good too. It is the 2 sides of the democracy. On one hand it binds your hands and on the other hand, if such checks were not there it would lead to autocracy and free will of some people.

2. An interesting incident he told was where he prevented constructing individual rooms in a Government Hospital. Normally it would look ridiculous that the development of a hospital is being stopped and Government/MC is not acting for the benefit of ‘common man’. But there was a reason. Had the big dormitories (which house 6 – 8 patient beds in a room) been converted into rooms, it would have led to richer people to get admitted in the hospital. Consider this. Would you, a well to do person, prefer going to a private hospital or get admitted in a hospital where you are lying in alongside 6 others who may be a rickshaw puller or a laborer. Of course, we would want a better hospital. Had the dormitories been converted into rooms, people like us wouldn’t have minded going to the ‘cheaper’ Govt Hospitals, which again would have led to people with rooms getting preference of the doctors, nurses (we pay more.. we should get better service!!). Result: neglecting some unfortunate ones who also demand attention.

3. Another fascinating reason was behind the queues we see at the Ration Shops for rice, wheat, kerosene etc. It is actually designed such that there SHOULD be queues at such a place. It is a way of providing subsidies to only those who need it. Say, the subsidy provided on rice is Rs 20. And due to the queue it takes around 1 hour to get the rice at a ration shop. Now only that person will go there whose value of that 1 hour is less than Rs 20. If I can utilize my 1 hour doing something which will earn me more than Rs 20 (this is a hypothetical number) in that hour, ideally I do not need that benefit. If this doesn’t happen then there can be a case where a daily wage earner after saving Rs 200 for the whole month goes to the ration shop to get subsidized rice and finds that all of it has gone. Taken away by people who actually don’t need it. Hence, the Queues !!!

There were many other issues, cases he touched upon like Pavement dwellers, cross subsidies and lots and lots of figures and facts. The vastness of the knowledge and ability to link seemingly different things were displayed by Dr. Phatak with panache. Though MBA may have left the charm of IAS far behind, but I guess IAS officers are far much knowledgeable, well read and effective than many of the Business Managers. I was impressed. And so were my batch mates which was evident from the applause which continued for quite some time after his presentation.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!!

It’s that time of the year again – when you look back at the past 365 days and wonder how quickly or how slowly they have passed. Most of the times in the past, I have felt that the year has passed very quickly. It was like yesterday when I did this in January or that in March. But not this time. 2007 was a long year and it was one hell of a roller coaster ride. As it was difficult to recall all that happened in the year, I had to consult my previous blogs to remind me. But that was also not possible. Cuckoo, sometime in 2007 had gone a week without the internet and I had wondered how!! But it has been the same case with me. There has been virtually no connection with the outside world for the past few days. In fact I don’t know when I will be publishing this. The need was also not felt during these days as I was busy doing something I had not done during the whole trimester – Studying!

When you read subjects like Macroeconomics – the nitty gritty of inflations, interest rates, tax cuts, GDP and all, you feel that it should have been studied at ease during the sem, not hurriedly when exams are on head. But nevertheless, I am not regretting. I had certain plans for this trimester (of course studies were not a part) and I was able to follow the plans. Coming back to the bigger picture called the year 2007; I have to rely on my memory as the reference blogs are not available. The year had started out near a fireplace in Shimla. Upswings had started with a good CAT result – but it was not that good. Some other calls and February passed in preparation of GD’s, PI’s and trips to Mumbai, Pune, Delhi. March came with a successful conversion of a call at NM. It was also a time of coming together of some old school friends. With it started an attempt to make a short movie (which ultimately didn’t materialize) and rekindling of the college days or I should say Cricket days. The crash of India early out of the WC didn’t hamper our spirits to play. India, though redeemed themselves later in the year with a T20 world cup win. The fun, meanwhile continued in April which was marked by an important event of me giving my official resignation at Infosys. It was also start of Shaadi time. April end saw Rompy getting engaged and May saw Thakur tying the knot. End of year, also saw the all important occasion of Punnu and Neetu becoming soul mates. The marriage season continues in 2008 with Rompy getting out in February'08.

June started a different life altogether – life at Mumbai, life at a Management Institute. Well, to be frank, the college has not given the same feeling that my graduation college, PEC gave. That feeling of closeness and fondness which I have for PEC is not prevalent for NMIMS till now. The reason for that, I guess is a lack of proper campus. If you don’t feel like staying in the college after classes get over, that bond with the college is not possible. Anyways the life @MBA has been hectic and quite enjoyable mainly due to the people around. I had only 1 friend when I came to Mumbai and it has grown mani-manifold to an uncountable number. In addition, there is the roller coaster ride called student life. The fun filled excursions and parties to the scary time of Job hunting. From winning competitions to exam time rigor. From sleeping in class to sleepless nights. It’s been fun.

2003 was one of the most important year of life – it was when I got my 1st job. 5 years later comes a more important year and I hope when I write a similar piece next time, it will be a ‘employed’ me who will be writing it. So here’s one to a 9% growth, Sunsex > 25K and no recession (in US), Sachin in his usual form and India winning atleast 1 Test down under in 2008!! :-)

Happy New Year!!