Monday, December 7, 2009

The Gullible common Man!

Of late I have begun appreciating what my 9th standard history teacher once said in class; “Democracy was our only choice. We chose democracy because it was the least flawed system….” I did not understand and I did not ask for clarification. However, for some reason, such a mundane issue like the choice of the political system at independence lingered on in my mind. I could not understand how democracy was flawed. So what was that “…..of the people, by the people, for the people…..” all about? What more than the common man controlling the destiny of the nation could be better? I was sure there was something amiss.

Over the past couple of decades, I started seeing (but not realizing) events and incidents that underline how flawed a system democracy is. It almost sounds like some crazy conspiracy theorist spewing anti establishment rant when I cite the helplessness of the common man in democracy and how that helplessness is engineered by the establishment.

What control does the average Indian citizen have? As control is a function of information, what information does an average Indian have? How many of us know how much about the most burning issues facing our nation today? Let us do a quick audit…..

·         What is the Maoist problem? Who are these people? What do they want? Why are they feeling alienated?

·         What is all this hullaballoo over some Liberhan Commission report? What happened in Ayodhya? Who did it?

·         What happened in New Delhi, then Punjab, Godhra, then Gujarat, Kandhamal, Mumbai, Coimbatore?

·         What is the Telengana?

·         What is the 123 agreement and what is our stand on it? Did you see what happened in Parliament?

·         What is our policy on Iran, Palestine, China, Pakistan…..?

 

The list can go on…… We are guided by history that has been decided by people. What we believe is history is nothing more than the most accepted version of the actual events. In many cases, accepted history has nothing in common with what happened. The establishment creates history, then uses media to whip up a frenzy when it seems appropriate. And it is funny to see even the supposedly educated people fall victims to such campaigns.

Consider the three links:

 A Discussion on Chinese Incursions on a travel forum

An Article Rgarding the 71 War

An Article regarding the Ayodhya Issue

The first is a well meaning discussion on a travel forum and the other two are articles on the website of The Dawn. Look at how people are reacting to “news” of Chinese incursions. Read the articles and ask yourself if you knew that about the 1971 war or what the article about Ayodhya talks of?

Then is it surprising that few are able to take an entire nation to ride and that too with such ease and so often?

Now look at the following recent events:

1.       We voted against Iran on the nuclear issue.

2.       We gave a “figure” for emission cuts.

3.       We made the right noises about Pakistan post 26/11.

4.       We made the right noises on China, Palestine and Israel.

5.       Canada jumped on to the great Indian nuclear bandwagon, France already has and Russia is about to.

6.       ULFA leadership suddenly drops in our lap.

7.       Suddenly FBI is closer to solving the 26/11 riddle than we ever were.

8.       Pakistan charges seven on the eve of 26/11 anniversary. All of a sudden!

9.       India asks for greater role in Afghanistan and USA grants it!

10.   Why not consider, USA signing the 123 agreement with a nation which has not signed the CTBT or even the NPT?

 

Again the list can go on…….. I know I may be seeing ghosts here but if you connect the dots, you see India making gradual changes in state policy and get "rewarded" in the process. I know, I know..... I know it sounds too much but consider it!

So much is happening without us ever coming to know or we ever bothering to know. All this lack of information coupled with sponsored dis-information and mis-information makes the common man the most useless variable in the equation of governance.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lens for EOS 500D

Based on an extensive and protracted research, I purchased Canon EOS 500D a couple of months ago. Now the quest has shifted to which lens solution will best suit my needs.

There are hundreds of web pages dedicated to the subject and some are incredibly detailed explanations and in some cases opinions and judgment of very experienced pros!

I found the following sites useful:

http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/

http://www.canonlensreview.com/

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/

http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/overview

http://www.dpreview.com/

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/canon_lenses.shtml

http://www.cameralabs.com

After all my research laced with my subjective judgment, I have decided that:

1.      Lens will be considered important investments and compromise lens will not be purchased.

2.      Will analyse my photography to identify the lens solution that best suits my style.

Considering lens as investment is important as DSLR Lens are not exactly cheap products and more than that I learnt that more than the camera, it is the lens that determines the quality of an image. Of course the creativity and the “eye” of the photographer is always a determining factor but as far as equipment is concerned, the lens will make or break quality.

An analysis of hundreds of pics clicked over the past decade with point and shoot cameras revealed that, I like taking the following kinds of pictures:

1.      Landscapes. 90% of all photos clicked by me have been and probably will remain landscapes.

2.      Portraits. I am expecting my portrait work to increase as after buying the 500D, portrait work has been on the increase. It may also be because after buying the 500D, I have not been able to afford a trip anywhere!!

3.      Some Macro. I guess the moment one lays hands on a DSLR, you suddenly feel the irresistible urge to close in on flowers and insects!!

 

So based on the above analysis, I decided I would need the following:

1.      A good general purpose walk around lens that would remain on the 500D till a specialized need arises.

2.      A good prime for Portraits.

3.      A wide angle

4.      A telephoto

5.      A macro

 

Now this solution did not factor in the budget. So for people like me who are perpetually cash starved the following two and three lens solutions can work too.

1.      AN ECONOMY CLASS TWO LENS SOLUTION: A general walk around with some wide angle and mow end telephoto capabilities, like the  Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS or EF-S 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 IS and a probably the most value for money lens on the market the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II.

2.      AN ECONOMY CLASS THREE LENS SOLUTION: A good walk around like the EF-S 17-85 f/4-5.6 USM IS with a EF 50mm f/1.8 for macro work and the EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM for the telephoto work.

 

If you do not want to mess around with lens changes and would prefer a single lens solution, my recommendations would be:

1.      Economy Class Single Lens Solution: Go for the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. Avoid the temptation of going in for longer zoom ranges like the 18-200. My research indicates that longer zoom ranges coupled with economy produces rather unacceptable aberrations and issues. Moreover, the non L class build with such long ranges will start giving problems after some wear and tear takes place. Moreover the 17-85 is optically superior to the 18-200.

2.      Best Single Lens Solution: For Canon, unquestionably the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM. The lens is considered to be the most widely used always stay on lens by professionals.

 

MY DREAM LENS SOLUTION

As mentioned earlier, I had decided that all things considered, I will need a five lens solution and the following are my choices.

1.   EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM



This would be the all purpose, stay on lens that would remain on my camera.


2.   Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM

 

For all telephoto and maybe some portrait work.


3.   Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro Lens

 

For all the insects, flowers and any other macro work, I may fancy!


4.   Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM


This lens has been called by many as the best lens for portrait work by Canon!


5.   Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

 

Even though not an L category lens, it is still supposed to be great for landscapes. I am assuming that most of landscape needs will be taken care of by the 24-70 but just in case I need a really wide perspective, this will come in handy.

 

 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ethics and Marketing

A question in the Ethics and CSR exam today asked for your views on ethics in marketing mix. Many of you did appear to be fairly comfortable with the subject and the questions. There are however some issues you guys need to consider.

 

1.       Ethics and “law” are two different things altogether. You don’t necessarily need to be unlawful to be unethical.

2.       As managers, when discussing ethics, you should take a long term view and ask yourself if the trade practice under consideration will in anyway damage the social and cultural fabric of the land?

3.       A case in point is the “fairness cream” ads. Though within legal limits, do you think they may be in anyway sowing seeds of un healthy self image in adolescents who may not be “fair”?? Now imagine so many product categories promise to make you “slimmer”, “taller”, “teach you English” and what not!! All on the hidden message that if you are not a tall, fair good looking person fluent in English you may be lesser than others!!! Think about it…

4.       Consider this; The way media is building up the 26/11 anniversary, has that event not become a “product”. On 26th all channels will vie for TRPs and most people will end up watching the “most interesting” presentation of the issue which invariably will be the most extreme. So do you think such marketing of negative event anniversaries promote extreme views in the society? Another case for marketing ethics debate!!!

5.       Our ever popular “saas bahu serials” have been held responsible for degrading family values. Would you agree?

6.       The pricing and the matching positioning of gadgets and lifestyle products are promoting deviant adolescent behaviour. Remember how bad it felt when we could not buy that iPhone?? Do you think some young guys and girls may have indulged in negative behaviour to acquire it, like stealing maybe??? Even otherwise, don’t you think that the admiration and the strong feeling just below your sternum (do you know what is the sternum) which you get when you see a class mate use an iPhone is itself an example of how pricing and positioning makes you graduate products from being desires to needs???

 

These are just few points for your consideration. Do discuss them in your class.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What is your aim in life?

Is it necessary to have an aim in life? Can we not, as colleague of mine says, “just live”? Are we not supposed to be doing something, heading somewhere?

Do I have an aim in life? Let us see…..

I knew since I was a child that I will become an army officer!! When we shifted out of our house in PAU where I had spent all my life, I came across scribbled drawings on the loo wall…… Drawings of PAU campus and markings where gun positions would be in case of a war!! During my school days, My notebooks would be full of imaginary attacks and defenses!! I knew of the words like “attrition” and “maneuver” long before I knew the table of 12!!

But SSB rejected me.

And I also always knew that if do not become a general, I would be a teacher…… And as fate would have it, I am one now!

My decision to B.Sc Agriculture was with an aim to pursue higher studies in environment studies but ended up doing an MBA instead. Why?? No apparent reason….. Probably got influenced by the glitz and glam of the material world! Probably my decision pursue natural sciences was not strong enough!

My parents wanted me to be a doctor….. and an IAS officer…… and rich! They gave me all I would ever need to be that. My Dad used to avail personal loans to but us books worth thousands! He would make us interact with some of the greatest minds, visit historical places, watch great programs on TV.

They did all they could.

I never became a “good student”. I was at best a mediocre student even though I was very good at sciences and social sciences. In the end, neither did I become a doctor nor an IAS officer and the way things are, I will die poor!

In fact all my parents’ effort to make us read and meet great people almost made a socialist out of me and even my decision to become a teacher was influenced rather heavily by it.

But despite all what has happened, I remained happy! My life till now and to a great extent even now has been one roller coaster ride of emotions and experiences.

All that ever mattered to us was friends, fun, games, trips, debates, quizzes, photography, romance, more friends and even more fun!

But then during all this, I still manage to ask myself this question; “What is your aim in life?”

As of today, my aim in life is:

To utilise my assets on platforms of higher education to make drive positive change in the society."

I know it sounds grandiose, but I feel that it can be done and being a teacher gives me a great opportunity to do it. That does not mean that I am forsaking the material world!!! I still enjoy the finer things in life and do fel good if i acquire one, like the Canon EOS500D, I bought recently. I however am clear that whatever I will earn shoud be as a consequence of achieving excellence in my professiona and and that I should and will be always defined by my aim in life rather than some brand or a car or a bank balance or a great house. 

I however am not sure I am on the right path. I feel that even though I am what I wanted to be, a teacher and I am already on a platform of higher education, I still am not doing enough of what I feel would be of any significance to any body.

I guess I need to reevaluate my strategic position, weigh my strategic options and erase the gaps in strategy implementation.

If after a decade of doing MBA, I am still thinking on these lines, as students, don’t you guys think that you guys should be doing the same??? Imagine the time you would have to achieve if you were to know what it is that you really want! I assure you, “package”, “position”, “designations” etc. etc. sound great but all these usually turn out to be worth less unless you were clear about your deepest self.

I would suggest, take some time and try to introspect, talk to yourself, find out who you really are and what you really want before you take the plunge.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Personal Request to My Students

I had joined a popular “prepare for MBA” kind of site some time ago as I too was a CAT aspirant (once!) for the fellow program. Recently I came across a thread discussing IBS and the rather distasteful issues that we all had to face recently. I know that by  writing this I am treading extremely dangerous ground but as a faculty I feel it is my duty to address the issue.

At the very outset let me make this very clear to you that this legal tangle affects me too. I however am not open to getting into an “I am more the victim than thou” kind of match with anyone. I would also like to inform my students that I have been characterised as a born cynic, an anti establishment rebel, a socialist idealist by friends, family and colleagues. It is almost impossible for me to choose the establishment over the masses, the proletariat over the bourgeoisie! So you should know, I will not endorse IBS only because I am an employee.

I will not about the legalities or the committees or the PILs. I will talk of what is dear to me and what I know that “I know”

Academics at IBS

This is the third college, I am working in and I have had very deep associations with many others. I have had an insider’s detailed eyeball account of what happens at the very best. Despite what has transpired recently and is still on the boil, I assure you that you are studying at what is arguably the best platform for management studies in Chandigarh. As of now, I challenge anyone to show me a college that boasts of the kind of faculty you guys have north of New Delhi.

The kind of emphasis you have on application based education which even the most cynical of you will agree is very important is something which I have not seen in any of the other “AICTE Approved” and “we are ranked 20” kind of institutions. I know the inside out of most of these places and I wish I could share the realities of the systems, the faculty and the teaching these places have. Let us put it this way, I am fairly confident that most faculty in most of these colleges would fail if they were to attempt the question paper for marketing research you guys got for your exam. Right now, my dear students, I am a part of a team which I am proud of. I assure you, this is the best faculty you could hope for, the syllabus is relevant and updated, the systems are powerful and believe me, you guys are doing great.

Placements

What is wrong with them? What we managed this time was in the face of tremendous odds and despite that the figures we have churned out are amazing! I will not get into numbers here as they are irrelevant. Then why are so many seniors cribbing, you may ask? Well, that is because, it sometimes is in the nature of a man to keep cribbing! The placement department can do only as much as to bring in the companies! Did they not do that?? They did. Were they less than what you expected? Yes, they were les than even what we expected but I am sure most of you well informed young men and women know what happened to the globe last year!! I have seen the placement department running to convince students to sit for the PPT at least! And then they have the chutzpah to blame it all on the college!!

Despite all that most of your seniors got good jobs. Yes there were many who could not get placed and that will be the case in your class too! If any of you think that you will get placed if you do not make efforts to make yourself "acceptable to the industry”, get ready for a rude awakening. Then you too will appear in online forums spewing venom for your alma mater!

Leave Everything

Yes leave everything. Let us go back to the very basics. IBS is not a building, the classrooms, placement records, projectors. . . . . . IBS is the people who work in it and the people who come to study there. If someone tells me IBS is no good, I am being told that I am no good. When we talk negative we create an atmosphere of mistrust, doubt, uncertainty and anxiety.

Then I wonder; who are these people who are condemning the college? By the tone of their voices and the arguments they make, they sound as if they would have been at home in some IIM but were forced to join IBS! Then they ignore that the same classrooms churned out success stories where they penned their tragedies! And you can always spot them easily as they have the loudest voices and know most about all things under the sun!! It is not only you, any human being would be very easily affected in such an atmosphere. You came here to get good education. Begin that journey by trying to be good human beings with a positive attitude. Stop listening to and stop spreading negativity.

In The End

Stop cooking conspiracy theories and try to behave like a future manager. If you are not one, try to pretend. Will that change the AICTE / UGC tangle?? No. Not at all, but it will definitely help you feel better about yourself. You see the key is to be passionate at what you do. If you do your MBA passionately enough, the industry will care two hoots for your status with regulators. They need well rounded individuals, not empty headed, scared, confidence less so called MBAs from so called AICTE approved institutions. Don’t feel bad about you institution. IBS is one of the best I have seen. And I have seen the following too:

  • Colleges where most of the data given to magazines for rankings and to AICTE as “Intellectual Capital” is pure fiction.
  • Colleges where, there is faculty who were students in the previous semester!
  • Colleges without net connections, leave alone on line databases!
  • Colleges where AICTE rules are broken daily but AICTE still approves them!!
  • Colleges where books for the library are purchased by weight when libraries auction outdated and useless books and in bulk not from booksellers but from back alleys near Jama Masjid!!
  • Colleges which claim 100% placements on paper but even the 10% they could pace are getting a salary in the range of Rs. 8 – 15 thousand!!
  • Colleges where semiliterate old time business men run “educational kiryana” stores where they sell AICTE approved MBA degrees. They charge hefty premiums for management quota seats and even offer discounts for bulk purchases!!
  • Colleges where accountant of the college is asked to teach finance!!
  • Colleges where the attendance is all fictitious and in reality never goes beyond 10%!!
  • Colleges where the senior most faculty joined the college as a typist and once used to aspire to be a meter reader with PSEB!!
  • Colleges where people do PhD in a subject, write a book on it without ever studying that or working in that field!! And believe it or not that book is one of the reference books in one of the IIMs!!
  • Colleges where the children of the owner, as students  get to be wished to by the faculty, appear for exams sitting in their father’s office with all reference books and even faculty to help and then get away with it!!

These are all AICTE approved colleges! Now tell me, is IBS not heads and shoulders above such institutions?

 

IBS will be as good as you and I will make it. Let us make it Big!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Minute

The clock struck 11.59 and the party at le Meridene New Delhi went wild. The countdown began as a chorus, 59, 58, 57, 56……. The high and mighty was celebrating New Year’s Eve 1998. Everyone was on a high! High on spirits, high on success, high on page three glitterati glittering more tonight than ever.

It hurt. Shivering hard and rubbing against the tarmac hurt his ankles. Cold steel of the icy winter of Delhi cut through his tattered blanket through his shirt penetrating the pages of the Hindu and Economic Times he had stuffed in his shirt. The cold steel. Suddenly, the skies opened, pulled apart by a glow so warm that he had to smile! “Thank god! Now I can sleep” he said to himself. Maybe it was the winter or maybe the fumes from the vehicles but he had been feeling sick for the past few days now. So sick that he had not been able to collect enough from the bin to eat. “The bin!” he reflected, it was a lucky stroke that he chanced upon the bin. “I hope it remains a secret”, he thought. He did not want the other roadside urchins to know that even a big name like Le Meridiene in the middle of Lutyon’s delhi was flouting all the rules and dumping leftovers in the trash bin. You see, they were not supposed to that, they were supposed to dispose the leftovers as biological waste in a prescribed manner and carry to a large dump just on the outskirts of Delhi. But they bent the rules often! And thank God they did that!

Food. He suddenly remembered how his parents would leave them every morning and return late at night with food. Food. He remembered how it feel when he ate for the first and last time in a day at night. Food. “And food made you feel warm…… or is that just my imagination….” Food…… Filling and war, just like his mother’s hug! That brought a smile to his face, the thought of food and his mother seemed to increase the warmth and the glow! “What is the winter weakening already?” The pain had also disappeared. He was not shivering anymore. The warmth. So comfortable, so enveloping. The warmth, like the embrace of a beloved he never had. Her warm breath tingling his senses, her fragrance lilting, sensuous, so full of life.

Who was she, he had never seen her on this intersection before. Strange! She was actually smiling! And that too at him! Maybe she is one of the guests at the big party inside, maybe she decided to step out to experience the chill. But still, strange! Her touch was so warm, she smelt so good, fresh like the blossoms they threw away every evening after a VIP left. She was smiling, beckoning him! Was he dreaming? He had not even used the roadside paint remover fix others used. Then she held his hand and draped herself around his frail frame. In an instant his entire life flashed in front of his eyes. Such pleasure, such joy, such contentment. Who was this woman he wondered one last time before falling asleep in her warm embrace. Who was she?

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, WELCOME 1999!

The next day, MC Delhi added another unclaimed body to the endless list already had.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Teacher Can Inspire


 Before reading further, please visit the link!

http://www.ndtv.com/news/offbeat/kalams_driver_now_a_lecturer.php

The postmodern career landscape and the intentions of academic entrepreneurs has probably created enough doubts regarding the statement. More than anything the doubts are whether we should even bother about such seemingly grandiose statements when you have “real” issues in life to bother about.

It is not about a driver getting a PhD and becoming a lecturer that is important. Being able to do this or constantly trying to something like this, is, in my humble opinion a moral responsibility of anyone earning her meal as a “teacher”.

I am sure most of the “realists” and “mature” teachers might consider this an idealistic rant and I take it as a compliment! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How do you decide upon a research topic for your summer training?

Summer Training & Research

The answer would really depend on few of the following considerations:

·         Is it a summer training “program”, summer training “project” or simply. . . . . “Summer Training”? If it is a program then there will be components other than the one project you may be allotted by your organization and it depends on the current research orientation of your B school weather a research project will be a component or not. Some B schools have a focus on research either as a matter of policy or by default as they may have a concentration of research oriented faculty.

If it is a summer training project, the project may be a research based, task based or a hybrid. It is a popular misconception that projects awarded by the industry are usually task based and the ones decided by the faculty are research based. While the latter may hold some merit but it has been observed that even the industry does allocate extensive research projects too.

If you are unlucky enough to be a student at one of those “me too business schools” which seem to be mushrooming all over the place, then you may end up as “free labour for the local businesses” in the name of summer training. In this case no one will really bother about what you may learn, the focus will be on how much volume you and the other “trainees” drive in the 6-8 weeks time.

 

Social research tools can be used to generate results that are actually “actionable’ by the industry and allows the student to bridge the gap between “theory” she has studied (hopefully!!) in the sterile environs of the class and its manifestation on the ground in the industry.

 

If You are Supposed to Then How Do You Decide on a Research Project?

 

The Idea!

So doing a research project as a part of your summer training is compulsory!! And the faculty in charge has asked to decide upon few “Topics” or “Titles”. How do we proceed????

Assuming that you are actually doing your training, you will have to ask yourself the following questions:

1.    Is there something the company is trying to do but don’t have too much of an idea of it?

2.    Is there any problem cropping up regularly?

3.    Are the customers of this product seeking something else?

4.    Are the customers satisfied with the services provided by this company?

5.    What are the competitors of this company doing?

6.    Do they need any information about anything in the market?

7.    Can I see the marketing HR or Finanace I have studied in action?

This list can go on and on. . . . . . but I am sure by now you will have an idea of what kind of questions I am trying to tell you to ask yourself. . . . . .

 

In my language, as a summer trainee at an organization, you should map the value chain and look for managerial issues that might need resolution or can de with more clarification. As a student you should be able to see concepts that were till today merely part of the syllabus come alive in front of you. The moment you are able to visualize the whole “process”, ideas for research will start popping up in your head!

 

But is it Feasible?

I use the following criteria as a very rough tool to asses the feasibility of the research idea.

1.    How much time do we have? Can this project be done in time?

2.    How much and what kind of data will we need? Will we be able to get the data easily and in time?

3.    What kind of technical know how is needed to pull this off? Does the students and the faculty concerned have such knowledge or not?

 

It is quite simple: “Don’t Bite off More than You Can Chew”. Studying “strategy” may not be feasible for a very simple reason that the information needed will need access to the top management of organizations who unfortunately are very busy people and we may not be able to meet them. It is difficult to study the “effect or impact of advertisements” as students and faculty may not have exposure to tools needed to measure impact of an ad! A longitudinal study can be done on any subject but not within the 6-8 week limit imposed on summer trainings!

 

OK It’s Feasible! Now how do you Make a “Title” out of it?

Right! Now you have an idea and it can be done in time! Great! The first step in writing a title would be to remember that it should be focused enough to clearly spell out what is the study about and at the same time it should be as short and crisp as possible. . . . . . . . . I know, I know, you already know that. My approach is to write a title to the best of my efforts and then rewrite it again and again till I have hit upon one which “seems perfect”. For example:

I am really curious about why many of my students opted for an MBA. . . . . . . . Then naturally I am curious how they decided where to their MBA from. . . . . . .  Now, if I were to make a research title out of this curiosity, My first step would be:

1.    Look for studies on the same or related topics. I would suggest use of Google Scholar for the purpose.

Once I have studied a few articles from magazines, sites and journals, I will have an idea as to what kind of titles to they have and what are the various issues studied. . . . . My next step would be:

2.    Talk to a couple of students and have a talk with them as to how they decided on an MBA and the college. This can be called a very rough “pilot study”

Now I will have a great deal of idea as to the issues involved, the research that has been done on the subject and the way students seem to decide in India.

 

Now you write the title:

·         A study of why students do MBA and how they choose the college to do it from.

OK. . . . . . something seems off, doesn’t it???? Let’s write it down once again, but this time we will try to add more technical terms and less “layman” language!!

·         A Study of Consumer Decision Making While Selecting MBA and the School to do it from.

Oooohh!! Too heavy but the end is still “layman” and for some reason it is not clicking. Calling the student a consumer does not seem like a very good idea and decision making is too broad and vague a variable to be studied . . . . . . lets try once again!

·         The Choice of MBA and the School to do it From: A study of student decision making.

You know hat, the problem seems to be that we are trying to “study’ too many variables in one go. What if we study only “How students decide upon a college” after they have already chosen MBA.

·         School Choice Behaviour of Prospective MBA Students: A Study of Factors Considered and the Moderating Influences.

Wow!! I think this is it!! We have our title!! The title very clearly indicates that the research is about how prospective students decide upon where they do their MBA from, the factors they considered and the factors that “moderate” the end decision of the student!!

 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why Did The Fiscal Deficit Rise?

A scan of reactions to the budget on the net reveals a picture of what can be best described as a “cautiously optimistic yet defensive” budget. With the global markets experiencing such turmoil, maybe the  Finance minister would have been forced to defend his turf first and ensure that we maintain a GDP growth rate of at least 7% and inch closer to the targeted 9%. The increased government spending and increased stress due to sops like loan waivers the fiscal deficit figure has inflated to 6.8%.

There are enough articles on the net that would tell you that this figure of 6.8% is probably the highest in the world and is almost dangerous and we will cut ratings etc.

Then one might question that why did the government need to increase spending and how is government spending related to GDP and GDP growth rate?

A very brief session with the Boss yesterday gave me an idea that as I was unclear so might many of you be. So here is the explanation.

 

GDP can be explained in the following three ways. All three essentially amount to the same meaning in the end!!

1.       GDP is equal to the total expenditures for all final goods and services produced within the country in a stipulated period of time, usually one calendar or financial year.

2.       GDP is equal to the sum of the value added at every stage of production by all the industries within a country, plus taxes less subsidies on products, in a year.

3.       GDP is equal to the sum of the income generated by production in the country in the period—that is, compensation of employees, taxes on production and imports less subsidies, and gross operating surplus (or profits).

If you consider any of the three or all of them, you will appreciate the GDP figure for a country would indicate the economic health and vibrancy of the economy of that country. That would also mean that the GDP growth rate is an equally wonderful indicator of a countries “progress” on the economy front. The GDP growth rate would thus indicate the rate at which “wealth generation” is increasing in a country.

Let us consider the formula for GDP

GDP = C + I + G + (X – M)

Where                    C = Consumption (that would indirectly mean demand, will it not?)

                                I = Gross investment

                                G = Government spending

                                X = Exports

                                M = Imports

In this equation it is amply clear that the variables I, G, X and M are dependent on the overall demand in the market. In an increasingly free economy and in a world where economies are interlinked, depression of demand in one part of the world will definitely lead to a slowdown elsewhere. Have we not seen this happen recently?

So in the equation the only variable we can control is “G” or government spending. As the GDP growth rate of India is decreasing on account of the global meltdown, your government was left with no choice but to increase the “G” hoping that the GDP growth rate fall would be slowed, then arrested and ultimately return to a growth scenario.

But increased “G” means increased fiscal deficit as revenue are not increasing proportionally. So we can conclude that even though the jump from a figure of less than 3% to a figure of 6.8% is worrisome but was inevitable as the government has to spend more to weather the current storm.

 

Food for Thought: In case you get time, do visit the following link and you will see that we are 17th on a list of GDP growth rate of countries. Leave China, look at the other 15 with GDP growth rate better than India and try to find why countries like them have a GDP growth rate even up to 15% where we are struggling to meet 7%!! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How I Used to Prepare for GDs

A million years ago when I was where you guys are, I too was faced with the challenge of preparing myself for GDs and interviews. Getting “placed” through the campus placement was doubly important due to the prestige attached to being “campus placed” and an absolute dearth of opportunities available in the market at that time. Imagine only five companies visited us for recruitment the year we passed out.

Preparing for GDs

As GDs demanded an insight into most current social and business issues, my habit of reading newspapers and magazines regularly helped a lot. Many of my friends and classmates tell me that I used to find GDs simple to crack due to my ability to speak (By the way, I have won the largest number of individual awards in debate in the history of my university J Boasting!!! Heh! Heh! Heh!!). I however have another opinion. Many of my classmates were great speakers even if they were not debaters. I attribute my success at GDs (and believe me, I used to succeed) to “having a lot to speak on any subject” and my “ability to listen” (I consider listening an ability).

So my suggestion to you guys would be to make a list of the important international, national, regional and business issues and read up on them. Make it a point to maintain a small file on “issues’ for quick reference before a GD or Interview.

My Biggest Make

Somewhere someone had planted a stupid idea in our head that a GD is supposed be a fish market and whoever can yell and rant for longer will be selected. Believe me, if you think so too, you could not be more wrong. A GD is a group discussion, not a group argument!! In my very brief corporate experience, I have had the opportunity to attend a fair number of meetings at all levels and believe me; it is always very civilized and decent. Quite removed from what we used to think is an ideal GD.

If the GD happens to be a case, it will demand you having a firm grasp on fundamentals in your subjects as well. I will not write about that as I feel that if you are appearing for a placement process, you will be nearing completion of MBA and you will have your fundas clear. If not, then believe me, you will not survive out there even if you do get selected anywhere by mistake.

My Advice

Read, Read, Read and then Read more. ET, Financial Express, Mint, Businessworld, Business India, Visit the the site for “The Economist”, the site for “McKinsey Quarterly”, Frontline, India Today, HBR, if you aim big!!

 

In my next piece I will share my story on mow we handled interviews. Till then, READ.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sensex, Rains and a Little Boy

The Sensex has begun showing signs of recovery but a news item warns of a relapse due to “weakening of the monsoon”. A discussion in one of the sections revealed a fairly decent insight into how the summer monsoon affects both the farming community as well as the business community in India. Yet few issues needing further clarification did rise.

 

Q1. Is the Agriculture Sector Still That Important?

The question was based on the fact that the last time a failed monsoon brought the economy to its knees was in the early 50s. At that time the contribution of agriculture to the GDP was about 60% which fell to 30% in mid 90s and is hovering around the 20% mark. Yet the success of agriculture in India remains important as 70% of the population is still directly and indirectly dependent on it.

Consider this; In 2002 the rains failed and the agricultural output fell by around 8% and the GDP growth rate dropped from 5.8% to 4%. It is very simple; failed rains = failed crops = lower than expected income for 70% population = reduction in disposable income and therefore reduction in demand for almost all kinds of products and services. Of course some products are hit more than the others. For example, two wheelers and to an extent the four wheeler market will be hit hard.

It is only common sense that if demand drops at the grassroots level, the domino effect will cause slowdown across the board.

 

Q2. But How Does Rain or a Lack of it Affect the Sensex?

The previous answer would have made it amply clear that how monsoons behave has a definite effect on the demand patterns in India. It is only a fair assumption that a lower demand all over the country would eventually lead to an overall economic slowdown and since the sensex is barometer of the national economic activity it should reflect the downturn.

More than anything, the market is predominantly “sentiment” based. An overall slowdown means an overall slump in sentiment and this slump will be reflected on the bourses. So less rain = less demand = lower performance = lower expectations from the market = overall slowdown.

Remember the indices are bound to react to announcements especially the quarterly figures. So consider what can be the effect on few companies whose stocks are a part of the sensex:

·         ACC: lower rain, failed crops, lesser income, and postponement of new projects there fore a dip in demand for cement. Similarly Reliance Infra, TATA Steel, Larsen & Toubro, Jaiprakash Associates and Hindalco will be negatively affected.

·         TATA Motors: Similar to the ACC example, lesser disposable income means lesser demand for the consumer products like Indica and Indigo. Lowered economic activity and tighter purses mean lesser demand for commercial vehicles too. Similarly Mahindra and Mahindra and Maruti Udyog Ltd will be affected negatively.

 

In these two cases we have covered about one third of the sensex. So is it not obvious that if the majority of the companies in the sensex experience a downfall, the sensex may go down?

 

Q3. Ok Agriculture is Important. But Why are Rains Still Important?

Israel has been able to grow fruits in the Negev desert and farmers in India still depend on rains for watering their fields. Welcome to the concept of “Rainfed Agriculture”.

Lets go back in history. At the time of independence, the newly formed government was faced with running a country where a very large part of the humanity lived on the edge of sustainability. It was only natural that the government was concerned about what we might call growth at the grassroots level. One of the ways in which this growth was driven was through massive public investments in irrigation, agricultural research and extension, rural infrastructure, farm credit and rural development programs.

And even though we have miles to go, we have transformed from the “food insecurity” of the 60s to surpluses of today.

It is however very important to understand that almost all of the growth, research and development in agriculture has been in “irrigated agriculture”. Irrigated agriculture is agriculture carried out using man made irrigation facilities like canals and tube wells whereas rainfed agriculture depends solely on the seasonal rain for irrigation needs.

According to government statistics, rainfed agriculture accounts for about two-thirds of total cropped area nearly half of the total value of agricultural output. Nearly half of all food grains are grown under rainfed conditions, and hundreds of millions of poor rural people depend on rainfed agriculture as the primary source of their livelihoods.

Again it is a simple deduction that if 2/3rd of the agriculture sector in India millions of the rural folk depends on timely well distributed rains during monsoon, any abnormality or weakening of the monsoon will adversely impact the whole nation.

 

Q4. Ok. So Rains are Important, But is it Only the Amount of rain that Matters?

No. Amount of rain is one of the variables, the other critical variable is the distribution of rainfall.  In simple words it is not only how much it rains that matters, even when and for how long matters. For example let us say that the normal rainfall for the month of July for a particular place is 200 mm. If it rains on and off but the final figure indicates only 100 mm in July, it is obviously a problem. But in another situation, let us say there is very heavy rainfall and 200 mm comes down in just a couple of days, it actually means that even though the monthly targets have been met, it is still a problem. Ideally 200 mm rain in July at this place should be well distributed throughout July.

It is also important to point out that abnormal monsoon can be because of deficient as well as excessive rainfall. Even more rain than normal can cause problems. In countries like India and our south Asian neighbors, the primary crop during the monsoon season is Paddy (Rice and Paddy are different, find out how..) which needs a lot of standing water at all times. So excessive rainfall does not have that detrimental an effect, especially if the excessive rains were not accompanied by strong winds (winds can damage crop by logging).

 

Q5. They Say That the Monsoons are Failing This Year Because of the El Nino Affect. What is it?

El Nino stands for “The Little Boy” in Spanish. El Nino is what we call a weather phenomenon. Technically, it is called ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation). It is a very complicated cycle of temperature changes in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America that causes changes in the normal weather patterns. Warm ocean currents heat up the ocean and all sorts of changes to the wind patterns take place. Places that normally remain dry, gets plenty of rain like Peru and places where it is supposed to rain may see a reduction as is the case in India.  

Oh!! By the way there is another weather phenomenon which causes the exact opposite to what El Nino does. It is called “La Nina” or the little girl in Spanish!!

 

So we can see that the performance of the indices and monsoons are inextricably linked. But does it mean that every time El Nino strikes, we will have a drought and the sensex will crash? No!!! Weather systems and phenomenon like the El Nino are very unpredictable and so is their impact on India. But general indications are that El Nino means less rain and it is already happening is it not?

As far as the sensex goes, the logical link between El Nino and the sensex is undeniable but so many other forces are at play this year that the sensex is probably more unpredictable than the weather!!