Monday, October 09, 2006

The Strategy Poem

Sixty students from IIMA went to learn strategy,
To think, to plan, to run companies big and small,
All geared up with the seriousness of the clergy,
To hear pearls of wisdom to keep them in thrall.

First came China Netcom with its backbone,
Followed by Peter Drucker’s magnum opus,
But some found it to be as dry as a stone,
And ten students left without creating a fuss.

Up next were the strategic inflexion points,
Testing the patience of even the most severe,
Thinking on those lines gave people pain in the joints,
And ten more left the subject they once held dear.

Amul proved to be a really slippery slope,
For some the last straw was a disastrous quiz,
More students lost their last vestiges of hope,
And ten more left without causing a fizz.

Barings gave an insight to management principles,
Leading to philosophical discussions aplenty,
But like perfect Nick Leeson’s disciples,
Ten more students left leaving the class rather empty.

Mobil B fueled the passion to continue in the rest,
Determined to achieve what now seemed impossible,
But the balanced scorecard defeated even the best,
And ten more left without even a quibble.

Infosys proved to be the end of it all,
The twin peak model leaving everyone in fright,
With nothing left behind to break the fall,
The last ten left like thieves in the night.

And so it eventually came to be,
The tale of the intrepid sixty students,
Who came to learn strategy,
But left with one question – What exactly is strategy?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Suburban Battle

Dawn breaks, and with it the sun’s ray
awakening the sleeping face of the hunter.
Stealthily he goes on his individual way,
To bring back food to satisfy hunger
He reaches the starting point of the battle,
Awaiting the presence of the prey,
Aware that others will try to steal his mantle
He forces his mind not to go astray.
Slowly the monster draws to a slow halt,
Drawing a pack of men to hold onto it,
A few let go and fall hard on the asphalt,
But the monster shows no mercy and carries the rest with it.
The hunter realizes this is no mean ambler,
But one that is intent on making a killing,
He holds on tight to avoid the slaughter,
And falls onto the path slowly dying.
Sweat dripping from every pore,
He glances around to seek some respite.
But all he gets are glares that are sore,
Which he quells with all his might.
Unable to carve his niche on the beast,
He closes his eyes and utters a prayer in silence,
That he remain in life and limb at least.
And prepares for the inevitable violence.
Eventually the animal comes to shuddering stop,
Releasing all with an unmatched irritation,
The hunter thanks the skies looking at the sky on top,
And walks out of Churchgate station.

Of T-Shirts and Guys

I was having an interesting conversation with a friend of mine a few days ago. She couldn’t understand why girls would wear T-shirts with something provocative across the front. According to her, that only drew more attention towards them and their ‘trappings’. She also went on about guys who were equally useless and took every effort to ‘read’ what was on the T-shirts. ‘Why can’t you guys keep your eyes off!!!’ was her grouse. But hey, if something is there to be read it must be read. I mean, how would it be if we guys started roaming around with stuff written on our pant zippers!!! Will anyone not read that???!!!

But to be fair, we guys are less discerning than girls. For desperate, single (or not) guys, any girl that comes within 25 meters has to be looked at, an essential appreciation of beauty. And we don’t really need anything to be written on the front of T-shirts, we will end up looking anyways. (At this vital juncture, let me just clarify my stance. I’m not for leching etc, which is pretty sick actually, especially considering the fact that I write this when I’m interning in Bombay where leching and eve-teasing is a real scourge. The discerning reader – of which there aren’t many; readers, that it – would have realized by now that I’m writing this whilst in office which means that I’m totally jobless.) Girls on the other hand, will not look at every guy in the vicinity. For instance, my friend needs a guy to be close to John Abraham in looks and build to merit a second look. And she dismissively waves away my claim that I’m much better than any John Abraham. (You have a better chance of being the King of Spain, using my line on me thus completing the vicious circle.) But guys (sigh), guys!!! We take a more informed decision. We take a look, evaluate, take a second look, and confirm our first opinion, then we recheck. We do this until we have reached a final decision from which there is no looking back. And only then we are comfortable to move on. It’s a way of life. Another friend of mine puts it as simple ‘Nayan Sukh Prapti’. And these are not the words of some desperate single guy, he happily hooked (hooked for life, methinks).

Which brings me to another part of the puzzle. Almost all guys admit to ‘bird-watching’, (of course, taking into consideration the sexual orientation) as the term is colloquially called. So how is it that none of them claim this publicly??? Am I the only idiot who does so??? I’m probably pretty much blowing away my chances of having another girlfriend with this post, but the probability of any girl reading my blog is remote, so I’ll take my chances. But to get back to the core, burning issue (By the way, has anyone wondered why the core is always burning. I mean, scientists always claim that the core of the earth is comprised of molten lava, but one has seen it, have they!!!) Why do guys have a problem admitting to the involuntary wanderings of their eyes??? Is it to appear holier than thou in front of their nearest and dearest (or hopeful nearest and dearest)? Or is it that they are truly unaware of the extent of their wandering ways? I don’t have an answer.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why is a frownie called a smiley!!!

Well, firstly, I don’t even know the spelling of a frownie. It probably spelt as a ‘frownie’ or ‘frowny’ or anything else, I really don’t know. The Microsoft spell-check isn’t of much help (as usual) and I’m too lazy to check it online. It’s probably not even a word for all I know, just something I’m using to call the ‘:(’ image used extensively on all the damn messengers. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure that ‘smiley’ is a word in the English language but as the new lexicon of English i.e. the Microsoft spell-check doesn’t object, what the hell!!!

Ok, let’s return to the core burning issue. Firstly, smileys are probably a name given to a generic set of characters used to depict various human emotions. Emoticons, I believe is the actual name given to it. But the very usage of these emoticons is pretty interesting. I sometimes get the feeling that the human race is going backwards in speech. E-mail got rid of the necessity of long letters, messengers reduced the e-mails, and now emoticons reduced the typing required on the messenger. I mean, this is a fairly routine messenger chat:
A: Hi.
B: Hi, how r u
A: Doing good.
B: :)

Now a chap like me at the receiving end of this emoticon is really at a loss on what to reply. Is that emoticon supposed to make me feel happy that the other person is happy that I’m fine or am I supposed to ask the other person how he/she is doing and carry on the conversation from there or am I supposed to give an emoticon back in reply??? I really don’t know. The more flippant reader will say what the hell, what difference does it really make as to how I continue the conversation but if you really introspect, really deep, dark, sinister thoughts start to creep in. Instant Messengers (IM’s) offered by companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, Google etc have become all pervading. I for one cannot think of a simpler way of keeping in touch with people I have come across over the years. So much so that I feel totally disconnected with the world if I’m away from my laptop for a few days (ah, those were the days when I could write a letter and forget about that person for a few months). Now, I’m supposed to reply instantaneously and may the devil help my soul if I don’t. I’ll be flooded with sarcastic messages telling me that I’m getting too busy for my own good and other such nonsense-like stuff. And if I look carefully, my language is changing slowly but surely due to the IM’s. Where earlier I used to dig deep into my lexicon to avoid repeating words in a letter I now merely use commonly accepted short forms and acronyms like nobody’s business (The last sentence was also a disclaimer for the possibly poor English in this article.:)). Stuff like ‘c ya l8r’, ‘brb’ etc abound my messages to say nothing of the zillion of emoticons like :), :(, :D and many others of whose existence I’m not even aware. It’s almost an entirely new language out there.

I don’t know who created emoticons and who was responsible for their widespread usage but whoever they are and wherever they may be, I’m sure they would be looking at the internet community with joy for that is how widespread emoticons have become. And even when some poor bloke types in a frownie (:(), a small smile would be escaping from their lips. That’s probably why a frownie is called a smiley.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Money, Money, Money.

That is the end motive of any action nowadays. What is the payoff that I will get!!! What’s in it for me!!! Every decision we take, the college we go to, the company we join, at times even the person we marry, is taken with the moolah returns in mind. Any other factor takes a back seat, be it ethics, work-life balance, job satisfaction or anything else. And people actually yearn for this.

To explain (or rather, to crib) in detail, lets take the example of IIMA (as usual, my frustrations with this place pours out). All jobs are evaluated solely on the basis of how much salary is paid. As a result, the most sought after jobs are in i-bank jobs. Does anyone know what sort of work it entails??? Of course not. That’s absolutely irrelevant. From a certain perspective, it makes sense, I guess. After all, all jobs are fairly nonsensical, so might as well make some money while at it. But is that the right way forward for us and for the corporate world? Because one can see a drastic fall in the standards of ethics in the corporate world. The not too distant cases of Enron and Worldcom serve as a perfect example. A greedy company, filled with self serving people and a greedy culture cannot last. An organization has to have ethics as one of its pillars. So why do companies and individuals have such a myopic view of things. Or is it that they have a different set of ethics than what I have. “Thou shalt not be caught” – that’s a probable guideline that they follow. Enron and Worldcom were caught, you see. In fact, one almost gets the feeling that everybody knows that everyone else is a crook; what is objectionable is to be told that someone is a crook.

It all ends up in a vicious cycle. To make profits, you have to cut corners. To cover up these corners, you further reduce your standards of ethics, further increase profits by even more unethical standards (this time its more because your competitors have realized something is afoot) and so it goes on. And nothing can be done to break out of this cycle. Goodbye ethics.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Caste System

No, it’s not about the much abused Indian caste system. This is about the unspoken about yet the most obvious differentiation in WIMWI. At the top are the IIT students and the Chartered Accountants. Close on their heels are the Economics and commerce students (all non engineering students). Third are the students of the 2nd rung engineering institutes such as BITS, REC etc. At the lowest end of the value chain are the ordinary engineering students (such as me) who are basically the scum of the earth (or at least in WIMWI).

Although this caste system is fairly apparent in the networking that goes around here, the entire impact hits you during the summer placement season. The process goes like this. All PGP 1 students apply to the companies that come down for summer placement. These companies then shortlist a few students based on their resume. Since all resumes are in the same format, the only criterion for shortlist is to scan for the academic record. And all the i-banks, the top consult companies just zone into the college name. IIT’, SRCC, Stephen’s etc are an automatic entry. For the rest, it’s a free lottery with a lucky few getting short listed, with the rest left high and dry. It really doesn’t matter how good you are or if you have relevant work experience or if you are doing well in WIMWI. If you’re from a lower college you will just not get anywhere. Sure Day 1 companies and all is fine, but why on earth should this differentiation be there in the first place!!! I mean, I personally know of a few students who are doing fabulously well here in IIMA but due to a disadvantaged background, have not got short listed by any i-banks till date. Is it really fair??? Not really, but when is this world ever fair!!! Not that I’m saying that the IITians are not good, they are, they really are, but should that be the only criterion??? And I really don't want to start on the gender biases the i-banks and other of the so called 'top companies'.

To make things worse, not too many people have a sense of ethics. To give an example, a particular company required all the applicants to appear for an online analytical test. It wasn’t monitored, but any one with a sense of right and wrong would not have resorted to dishonest means. In all my naivety, I thought that people would not resort to unfair means. After giving my test, I just chanced to roam around a couple of dorms and surprise surprise!!! What do I see??? Four people in one room giving the test meant for one person. Then they went to the second person’s room and so on. Whooppee do!!!! Anything else left to disillusion me??? Please bring it on now. Might as well get totally dispirited at once rather that have it in short bursts. Ok, I’m too depressed to continue writing further. This place is a total waste.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What a B-school is incapable of teaching

In a nutshell, it is humanity. A B-school, such as the one I’m currently attending, pretty much goes out of the way to ensure that students do not exhibit this quality. Right from the word go, it is ingrained in the students that it is not only important how well you perform, but how well you perform in comparison to others; a relative grading scheme (RG in local parley), so to speak. If this is not a sure shot recipe for non-cooperation, hostility, selfishness and mistrust, then nothing is. I mean, if everyone is out to ensure that I score lesser than them, how on earth am I supposed to trust them??? From what I’ve experienced in the last few months, no-one really shares complete information; everyone always wants to keep a few aces up their sleeve solely for personal benefit. Of course, if everyone has aces up their sleeves, then no-one has any real competitive advantage, only a competitive disadvantage in that the learning is drastically reduced; but try explaining that to the characters here.

One of the important traits of a good manager is that he/she coaxes the best out of even the worst employee. But the system that trains the managers of tomorrow systematically removes any possibility of this. The emphasis here on grades is so huge that anyone that scores low is considered to be worse than dirt. Quotes like the following are common – “He’s an amazing chap, gets a CGPA of 3+ all the time.” Come on, I’m going to be evaluated as a person solely on the grade I get!!! But then, on second thought, why should I care about my evaluation by people who use grades as benchmarks. But on third thoughts, these are my peers now and may continue to be once I resume working so I do need to consider it. However, on fourth thoughts, …. Oh, forget it, pretty useless line of thought its turning out to be.

I seriously wonder how many students in this institute will help another student without expecting anything in return. How many would really stop in the rat race to pick up a comrade who’s fallen down. How many would actually view others as complete people rather than mere mugging machines. Not many, I fear, not many.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

End Term frustration

O Section B, Section B,
wherefore art we in WIMWI,
shall we deny its grades, refuse its mugging,
and sleep the sleep of humans,
to be called muggus no more.
Tis but the grade that is my enemy,
I want to be myself and not a WIMWIian
What's WIMWI, it is not life nor death,
nor any magic wand. O be some other Bschool,
Whats in a B school, for a B school by any other name,
will give us a salary just as large,
And yet we would, retain our sanity,
our pride, our dignity, to be called normal once again.