For dummies: trusted-client vs. server-authoritative network model

The title of this post is overly complicated but I promise you the content of the presentation is beautifully easy to understand (drop a comment if it isn’t).

Glenn Fiedler wrote an insightful post on the cheats and player-exploitable glitches in the Ubisoft video-game “Tom Clancy’s The Division”.

He says that it seems the game uses a trusted client networking model versus the more secure server-authoritative network model. After reading his post, it took me a few minutes to sit and think about what he wrote, to actually understand what he meant.

I’m not a noob to gaming… created DFBHD maps in 2004 and have tinkered quite a bit with the map-making for Counter-Strike 1.6

So I decided to go ahead and explain these two concepts in what I hope is an easier way for the average gamer to understand. If the Google Presentation fails to load here’s the direct link.

You don’t need od6 when working with Google Sheets JSON

When figuring out how to extract Google Sheets data as JSON, the top result on Google explains that you can access the JSON like this:

In this URL od6 represents the first sheet in the book/spreadsheet. Someone said that other sheets are represented by od8, od10 and so on, but that didn’t work with me. So dug around the comments on different posts and here’s the answer: simply use numbers instead of od6.

So the URL for your first sheet becomes:

and the second sheet will be:

And so on.

What you can learn about Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning from a Pizza

Pizza segmented so that each piece got a large glob of cheese.

Many students in b-school find it very difficult to clearly understand the concepts of segmentation, targeting and positioning. Segmentation is easy, most grasp it immediately. After all, segmentation is simply slotting things together based on certain shared characteristics. Take for example.

It’s users can be divided into two primary segments:

  1. those who are seeking a place to stay,
  2. those who have a place they want to rent out.

So that’s segmentation for you; simple to understand and visualize. What trips most people though, is targeting and positioning. I don’t know why exactly, but it does. Therefore, dear reader, this is my attempt to explain the entire STP concept using a pizza. Mind you, it isn’t a robust analogy and will fall apart with the slightest of prodding, but it’s good for a primer.


Assuming the pizza is your customer base you segment it into 4 equal pieces, or 8 equal pieces, or 6 equal pieces. However, you could also segment it in such a way that each piece received the different collections of cheese.

Pizza segmented so that each piece got a large glob of cheese.

Just like pizza, customers are segmented in many ways which are specific to businesses and industries.


After you’ve got your segments neatly cut up, you decide which piece to eat first. It could be the one with all the olives, or maybe you’re scared that’ll trigger your allergic reaction so you pick the piece with all the meat. This is  targeting. In the real world, it’s about choosing which customer segment you want to serve first. Larger organizations can afford to target multiple segments at the same time but startups are usually best off targeting one segment.

I’m going to eat (target) this segment.

Choosing which segment to target first is itself a decision that requires a lot of homework. Startups seeking funding are usually asked about the “market size and potential”. This essentially translates to

Number of customers for your solution * Amount they’re willing to spend on your solution

Market size and potential are one way to choose your target market. Some other reasons are found here.


Positioning is how you (or your business) is going to come across to the customer segment. So in our analogy if the pizza slice is the customer segment you have chosen to eat (targeted), then positioning is how you eat it.

You could be the person who eats it with a fork, so your customer base thinks of you as well-mannered and cultured. You could be the guy who eats it using his fingers, with a beer in the other hand, so your customer segment thinks of you as casual and chill. Essentially, based on your communication (in any form), you come across as something/someone to the customer, and that my dear reader, is called positioning.

Classic positioning ads by Apple in their “Mac vs. PC” series. The Mac’s on the right.

This post was in the works for a long long time, but I only completed it after reading my friend Jayant Rana’s post “Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning in the Real World“.

Your comments, as always, are solicited.

How to mindfuck your website visitors

Bait the visitor

Just came across this and it pissed me off so bad I had to make a quick image out of this. If any of you are baiting and switching your visitors, please stop doing it because it’s one massive mindfuck.

Was reading an article on when something interesting caught my eye.

Bait the visitor by showing them something interesting

When I clicked through to the Most Popular hoping to read about the billionaire dude/family that owns Red Bull, it simply wasn’t there. Massive mindfuck resulted in this quick post.

And then don’t show them what they came for.

While a Bait and Switch might work in real-life retail, it doesn’t in the online world. In the former, when a customer walks in to the store expecting a certain discount or offer, he’s comes after making an investment of time and effort to get dressed, get into the car, seek out your store, finding a spot in congested parking lots and finally, walk in. This investment is a deterrent that makes him stay and buy something else.

Online, there’s no effort. In fact, when you try to pull crap like that, there’s an incentive for people to vent; some in the comments, some through posts like this and some by inciting Anonymous to DDOS the crap out of your servers.

Reservations in Higher Education – Why I think they’re required

Reservation in Higher Education

We hear a lot of passionate debate against reservations based on caste in higher education in India. However, there must be some logic to reservations except vote-bank politics. Here is my attempt at listing a few of those reasons, and why I believe such reservations are necessary in our country.

Why reservations based on caste, and not other forms of affirmative action, especially, reservations based on economic status?

Simply because implementing and maintaining any other forms of affirmative action are way too expensive and would require too many formalities, paperwork, administration, etc, something that is impossible given India’s size and population. And these other forms of affirmative action come with their own intrinsic drawbacks. So in the present case, reservations based on caste are the most effective, cost-efficient form of affirmative action available to India.

As for reservations based on economic status, there are many problems here, a few of which are:

  1. To implement a successful reservation policy based on economic status, the government will have to come up with that very important annual or monthly income (lets call it point x), which would demarcate the economically backward and the economically well off. If point x is too high, it would include way too many people, and those at the bottom will lose out. If point x is too low, a lot many people will be left out and this also can lead to widespread resentment. Also, many of the downtrodden are daily wage earners. Which means they have no regular annual, monthly or even weekly income .So deciding upon point x itself is a difficult task which requires considerable beforehand study.
  2. Now lets suppose that point x has been agreed upon. The number of people who will hide their incomes to get their earnings down to point x, would reduce to nothing the governments efforts at curbing non payment of income tax.
  3. Another issue that arises out of this particular situation is that not many of the down trodden will be able to complete the formalities and acquire the documents to prove their disadvantaged economic status. Very few in India’s vast hinterlands have the know-how to complete complex government forms, specially those relating to incomes and expenditure. Such a predicament would be an open invitation to touts and other unscrupulous elements, opening avenues for them to swoop in and take money from already poor families, just to make sure they qualify as economically backward.
  4. Studies have shown that slightly increased monetary resources do not guarantee the stop of discriminatory behaviour against a backward caste individual. This is especially true for scheduled castes. The maladies affecting our society have their roots in hundreds of years of constant discrimination and denial of resources, and these cannot be tackled so easily. So in this case also, the Government of India (GoI) will have to decide that income after which discrimination stops.

The fallacies of ‘Reservations undermine Merit’.

Most opponents of the reservations policy believe that it cuts down merit and propagates mediocrity, as it passes over those who have scored higher in an examination, for the reserved category who have scored lower. The problem here is that the anti-reservationists mistakenly equate the number of marks scored, to the level of merit.

Simply put, the examination system prevalent in our country in no way measures merit. It is only a screening tool which is used since it would be impossible to administer any other form of screening given the size of the students applying. And because of that it is endorsed by the society and the government as being legitimate. It is also well known that entrance tests do not test intelligence or ability in the subject, but only an aptitude for a certain type of questions.

  1. In a pool of applicants, the number of meritorious can never be pre-determined or pre-decided. But in all institutions today, that is exactly what is happening. For instance say the IITs have 14000 seats. Which means, according to the IITs, there are only 14000 students meritorious enough to occupy these seats, from the almost 3 lakh who apply for the JEE. Most educators, professors, etc. agree that the top 20,000 to 30,000 will have the know-how to suitably understand and apply what is taught in the IITs, but they can’t make it, sometimes purely due to luck.
  2. Common sense dictates that drawing upon a wider social base increases the diversity and the quality of institutions of higher studies. Having students from a small section of society results in a “frogs in a pond” situation. Recognizing this fact, the worlds best universities like Cambridge, Oxford and Stanford strive to introduce as much diversity as possible on their campuses by actively encouraging foreign students.

Mark Galanter, in his book “Competing Equalities: Law and Backward Classes in India” spoke of three kinds of resources to produce results in competitive exams:

  1. economic resources (for prior education, training, materials, freedom from work, etc)
  2. social and cultural resources (network of contacts, confidence, guidance and advice, information, etc)
  3. inbuilt ability and hardwork

When anti-reservationists say that merit alone should be the criteria for admission to institutions of higher education, they mean that economic and cultural resources are not important, but it is differences in ability that has resulted in Hindu Upper Caste students dominating the higher education campuses of our country. The biggest counter to this argument is that these same upper caste students decide to enroll for ‘coaching’, instead relying solely on their ‘merit’, ability and hardwork to get through the examination.

In relation to the above paragraph, I’d like to present a situation that misses most of us, in spite of being right in our face. The student groups of the IITs and IIMs of our country show a strong regional bias towards urban areas with lots of “coaching institutes.” This fact is also evident from the ads that the coaching institutes place in the papers trumpeting the number of their ‘successes.’ The coaching institutes try to provide the first two resources required to enter these institutions viz. economic and social:

a) Economic – By providing study materials, coaching and training. Also, many IIT-JEE training institutes have tie ups with nearby schools, by which the students can enroll with the school but are not required to attend classes, as the school knows that these students are bound to do well in the +2 exams. This takes care of the ‘freedom from work’ point.

b) Social – If one goes through the coaching institute ads appearing on national dailies, it will be apparent  that even the faculty with their MSc and BTech. degrees from IITs and other top engineering colleges are being used as an advertising tool. Why? Because through their degrees and qualifications, the institute is promising the social resources viz. the instructor’s network of contacts, guidance, experience, advice and information.

Now, to acquire this kind of help and guidance, one requires money. Money that the majority of the backward class don’t have.

So, the situation in brief is, to get into an institution I need 3 very important resources (lets call them a, b and c). This institution is funded to a large extent by the tax payer, which includes the backward castes.  Two of these three resources (a and b) have nothing to do with ‘merit’ or ability. I take care of resource c myself, and I go out and buy resources a and b. The government recognizes that the backward castes have been discriminated against for a long period of time, and consequently are not in a position to buy or acquire resources a and b. To counter this, it provides the backward castes with positive discriminatory action.

That is when I rail against these government measures, calling them unfair and saying that the only resource needed to gain admission is resource c (hardwork and ability). By this I imply that the backward castes could not secure admission because they do not possess resource c, en masse, and it is the Hindu UC, a mere 35% (approximate) of the population, who possess this ability and ‘merit’.

As is clear from the above paragraphs, the argument, ‘reservations undermine merit’, has no factual standing at all.

The ‘Creamy Layer’ Issue

The Creamy Layer don’t deserve any form of affirmative action whatsoever. Everyone knows that they have benefitted enough from the reservations policy, and through their continued presence, are now usurping much needed seats/resources, which were originally earmarked for the really backward sections of their own castes.

Here I shall try to explain the reason behind the GoI’s continued decision to include the creamy layer in the reservations policy. Like I had written in one of the earlier points, it has been found that social discrimination does not stop against a backward caste individual even when he/she acquires wealth and resources. That’s why it is difficult for the GoI to come up with a rigid framework or set of rules which identifies when a backward caste person belongs to the creamy layer of that caste.

This problem in urban areas is not so great. Social discrimination here is not so rampant, in fact, its very subdued. Consequently, its very easy to identify a ‘creamy layer’ person. But in the rural areas of India, the situation is not so simple. Discrimination is still rampant, with the latest example being a lower caste mother and daughter who were paraded naked, raped and then murdered in cold blood, by an upper caste mob. Reports said that this was because of a land dispute.

For the GoI, not including the creamy layer can turn out to be a very dangerous issue itself, and including them is seen as the easy way out by any political party in power.

Reservations and politics

Any party which successfully promotes the reservations policy as its own, will score a virtual home run in terms of vote counts. And no opposition will let that happen. Take the current situation for example. The BJP doesn’t openly and vociferously oppose Arjun Singh’s and the Congress’s moves. But, it is a well known fact that protests such as the AIIMS protest need an influential managing force or power organising it. A power that can guarantee these protesting students their safety from the police and other law enforcement authorities, in spite of the disruptions that they were causing.

In the same manner, the last BJP government, through Murli Manohar Joshi, wanted to introduce more seats in the IIMs. Though this step should have been taken for all institutes of higher education, targeting the IIMs focused media attention on it. Even though the Congress and other parties never openly opposed the move, yet the amount of coverage, protests, etc. could not have been random, unrelated happenings.

The use of the reservation policy by the politicians, has unfortunately, made it stink in the eyes of the urban middle class, just as anything that is associated with politicians. So much so, that reservations are just seen as a vote gathering stunt, all at the cost of the general category.

(I had written this long ago in June 2008 at my old blog. Reposting because I think it’s still relevant.)

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Two Minute Guide to an Awesome Professional & Personal Life


So here it is, the 2 minute guide to having an awesome professional and personal life. Simple stuff that I’ve come across on various blogs and websites. Almost all of it is research backed but I don’t remember the references. Will link to them as and when.

1) Professional – You know what’s the primary difference between an average professional and an exceptional one? Well, it ain’t the usual suspects of intelligence, IQ, EQ or networking skills. It is “taking initiatives that are aligned to organizational goals”. That right there is the one most important factor that distinguishes great performers from mediocre ones.

2) Marriage – Researchers don’t know what’s the best form of marriage (monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, etc) but what they do know is that the most stable, happy marriages are based on two correlated things: trust and honesty.

3) Happiness – Remember this and strive towards recreating this situation as many times as possible: happiness is being with people you love and who love you in return.

4) Love – Is basically your willingness to sacrifice stuff for someone else. Eg. sacrificing your time for that person, money, certain goals of yours and in extreme cases, even your life. The more two people are willing to sacrifice for each other (and know it), the happier and stronger they’ll feel when together.

5) Objects vs Experiences – Don’t buy consumer goods for the object itself, but buy stuff for the experiences they provide. To explain, don’t buy a tv because it’s an awesome tv with super blasting-surround-whirl-around sound, buy it because it’ll provide you moments with your friends/partner/kids/parents that you’ll later remember and cherish.

6) Being good at a certain task or activity – The key to being good at anything is practice. As much as you can. In fact, there’s already an accepted number of hours you need to practice something to become a world class expert, and that’s 10,000 hours.

The Trap of “Something for Everyone”

Safest Minimum

About a fortnight ago, around 14 of us went to a bar for drinks and dinner. Most were about to leave Kolkata in a day or two and this was one of those “we might never meet again” things.

At the end of the table where I was seated, the other constituents of the party were as below

And this is what happened: the three vegetarians started to decide what to eat. They went at it for a full 15 minutes while the rest of us waited for their group discussion to get over. Finally, they settled on “Mix-Veg and Dal Fry with Roti”. It was only then that the waiter, who was hovering on the sidelines, took the order and consequently, we had to wait about 21 minutes before we got our first round of drinks. The delay was a buzzkill but fine, there were lessons rife in this situation.

What I realized was that in an attempt to take into account the tastes of various different customers, they finally settled on something that had small bits of everything but didn’t fully target anyone (Mix Veg) and since they were trying to keep everyone’s tastes in mind, they did not decide on different stuff that was enjoyed individually, but had stepped down to something that was acceptable to all. It wasn’t about catering to preferences, but simply, meeting requirements.

Taking this to a business situation, it is of utmost importance to understand your target market segments completely and create products that cater to their specific tastes and usage. Sometimes it can be overdone, but I’d still err on the side of over-tailoring instead of over-generalizing.

When it comes to startups, many try to make products that are awesomely complete, which is where they make their first mistake. The better thing to do in most cases is to make a minimum viable product and then keep a short feedback loop with customers, which should guide further product development. What I am suggesting is the release-early-release-often model, for which a huge case already exists. Here’s a good post in support of the same.

Realpolitik: Don’t ever be a Puppet

medical check up

Political Puppet: A politician or other political figure who is controlled by another (sometimes illegitimate or secret) person or party.

In my 25 years on our beautiful planet, whenever I have witnessed elections & politics in educational institutions, I’ve seen puppets come up. Interestingly, I’ve usually seen their downfall too.

Everything said and done, don’t ever be a puppet. It is one situation where you are almost certain to lose respect and credibility with no way of extricating yourself unscathed. Some of the reasons are:

  • In the minds of your peers and the voters, there will forever be doubt that you’re pushing someone else’s agenda and not taking decisions in the best interests of those you lead. Therefore, they stop trusting you.
  • There’s the thought in everyone’s mind that you’re not the best person for the job. If you had been, you should have won fair and square. This means your abilities are suspect before you’ve even started.
  • The group that has put you up will want its pound-of-flesh. Which means you’re actually constrained in how you work.
  • In a democratic setup, if there was a way to put you up, there almost certainly is a way to bring you down. The people who put you up will always use this as a way to control you.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. Yours will just be reason for people to remind you of how you got there.
  • And if you ever screw up royally, you’re alone. The peers will almost certainly fuck you, but most importantly, the person(s) who put you up will discard you like a used piece of toilet paper. Best of luck when that happens.

All in all, don’t ever be one. Rise on capabilities and not political maneuvering.

Strategies for hitting on women a la BCG Matrix

I recently caught a good friend of mine sneaking in to the hostel at 3 AM in the morning. For the purposes of this post, let’s call him Aberle and only because it is a cool Austrian name. He was appropriately buzzed and was looking to tell someone the story of the night gone by. Being the good mate, I eagerly lent him both ears.

Aberle had been invited out to “dinner and drinks” by a lady friend of his. They hit the usual Park Street spots like Olypub & Someplace Else for alcohol, had enough to “make us sway but not fall”, forgot all about dinner and then headed in the direction of Tantra with the intention of “having some fun”. Before going on further, I am obligated to clarify that their’s is a completely platonic relationship, therefore, kindly wipe that smirk off your face.

So we have a dude and his female friend entering a dance club together, each looking to find someone of the opposite sex to hookup with for the night. Aberle goes first, while the girl takes up position as wingman.

  1. Aberle spots hot 33+ lady standing with two firang friends. Aberle fancies himself a firang babe for the night.
  2. Wingman lady friend understands Aberle’s isharas and saunters over to the multinational trio, asks for a smoke and then indulges in small talk.
  3. Wingman friend is back and reports that lady is hot and her firang pals are bored with the men of Calcutta.
  4. Aberle puts on his appropriately sexy cute-boy smile, puffs up his chest and makes his move. Ten minutes down the line, the firang babes are still bored with the men of Calcutta and Aberle in his drunken stupor figures he probably still has a chance with the 33+ hot lady.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Aberle is tasked with attracting the immediate attention of a lady who’s clearly very experienced when it comes to handling males who’re on an alcohol trip.

He steps closer to her; she leans in with an ear, half hoping today’s youth have come up with some interesting pick up lines. And that’s when he says…

“You’re beautiful.”

Yup, of all the strategic options and all the tactical executions in the world, our man Aberle decides to play the “Classic” card with the corny execution.

But please, hear it in her own words:

“That’s really sweet, thank you. I’ve been through your age & phase long ago, and am not really looking for anything right now.”

This is when I fell off the bed laughing and Aberle got a little pissed off. After about five minutes, when our centres-of-gravity were back in the correct places, we sat and made a 2×2 matrix of the entire situation (yeah, we’re MBA candidates, remember? The world is a 2×2 matrix for us.) 

This is what we came up with

If this works for you, kindly leave a comment :)

If it doesn’t work for you, you might as well vent, so kindly leave a comment :)

Why our first startup failed

startup fail

Our first venture was a completely new experience for me. The three other founders had a fair bit of experience in setting up and running a business (13 years, 6 years and 3 years, in descending order) while I was the only fresher around. I guess my childish enthusiasm and general naiveté led them to christen me “Sid the Kid” but thankfully, they were nice enough to stop calling me that after some time.

The business model

The best engineering colleges are the ones with the best placements (stands true for MBA colleges too). Lots of times, a college is initially able to attract a recruiter (Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL, Accenture, IBM, etc) but since the students don’t perform in the recruitment process, the company might not take as many people as it was ready to.

That’s where we came in. Our Placement Development Programme (PDP) would integrate in the colleges’ curriculum and faculty members would go to different colleges to deliver the session. The programme consisted of Aptitude (Mathematics and Logical Reasoning), language (English) and soft skills training (group discussion and personal interview). So, if we were working with ABCXYZ Institute of Technology, their class timetable had 2 slots (usually 4 hours) in the week where our company name was written and during that time, a faculty member would come and deliver the session.

The beauty of this model was that none of the faculty members were our full-time employees, they were consultants who went and delivered as and when required. Therefore, we really didn’t need a big office (in fact, it was a one room setup in one of the partner’s office) and most of our work was done through mobile phones and laptops.

The numbers matched up pretty well too. One faculty member on average was paid Rs. 500 per hour. For a 50 hour course, our charges would be about Rs. 2000 per student. If we worked with one large engineering college, they’d have 180 students sitting for placements from three branches of B.E. So revenues would be 180 x 2000 = 360000 minus 50 x 500 x 3 = 75000 (faculty fees) and let’s assume Rs. 75000 as cost of providing transport through taxi for some faculty members and other miscellaneous expenses, we’re left with 360000 – 150000 = Rs. 210000.

As you’ll realize, that’s not a bad amount for basically sending faculty members to colleges. And if you were to think scalability, two faculty members (English & Aptitude) taking a 2 hour session each per day in the same college (total 4 hours) can cover 5 colleges in one week. Even then, they’re working only 2 hours a day each. If they were to go to one of the areas where colleges are clustered in Jaipur (eg. Sitapura or Kukas) and give 3 sessions each, they could cover 3 colleges per day making it a total of 15 colleges per week. Let’s suppose this continues for 12 weeks so after 3 months, our company nets a cool 210000 x 15 = Rs. 31,50,000. Now consider that there isn’t a lack of teachers in Jaipur since it is one of India’s larger educational centres. In the end, you have enough number of teachers to be sent to enough number of colleges and quite a bit of money to be made.

Fair enough, so what went wrong?

Two things:

  1. We were lazy and did not move our butts as much as we should have
  2. We didn’t understand the colleges’ incentives until it was too late – The engineering colleges don’t really care that their students should be smart enough to handle the companies’ recruitment processes. They just care that they get placed. Anywhere, anyhow. Therefore, a college focuses primarily on the number of companies coming to campus and not preparation of the students. So more often than not, the concerned Training & Placement Officer (TPO) said to us “If you’re doing training for placements, why don’t you just go ahead and get these students placed”. They were ok with getting them placed anywhere in any kind of company as long as they were “placed from college”. That is really shady business to get in to.
  3. We got distracted – You get a bunch of smart people together under one roof and go out to the market looking for work, you’ll realize there’s no dearth of it. In such a situation, navigating the trade-off about how quickly can it be done, how easily can it be done, how much does it pay and do I want to continue doing this forever?, is crucial. We sucked at that. We worked with these guys (they just got arrested) developing a marketing management course for them and got one very crucial bit of learning out of the entire project: don’t ever work with MLM companies. However, in spite of the awesome life learning and all that cute bit, we had burnt up the meager amount of startup capital we had while executing their project and basically received fuckall for it.

Therefore, to sum up: Not working hard enough, not understanding your customer, losing focus and consequently running out of cash. As you’ll realize, dear reader, these 4 are deal-breakers big enough to kill any business organisation.

Case Study of Change Management and Online Magazines

Continued from my last post, probably the most difficult thing to do is bringing in “change”. In my experience, this is so usually because of the following reasons

  • The person(s) trying to bring in the change did not completely understand the incentives that drove the activity/function as it was being done.
  • The “soft” issues: wherein the concerned people get attached to the status quo and change being brought from outside seems to them an affront to their authority.
  • New ideas take time and effort to implement. The first roadblock or small failure is usually trotted out as the reason why the “new way” cannot work, discouraging even the few who might have believed that it was the right thing to do.

As always, I’ll use some live examples here. The general culture in Indian MBA colleges today is to publish magazines; magazines on Finance, Marketing, Trade or whatever other specialization. Why are magazines published?

  1. They’re supposed to show the students’ expertise in a particular domain.
  2. Being an indicator of the quality of students, they’re supposed to help in building the brand of the institution.
  3. And finally, they’re supposed to help spread knowledge.

Currently, the model being followed in most places is thus

  • The Magazine Edit Board decides on a theme for the month.
  • The Ed. Board puts out a “Call for Articles” through various fora like Dare2compete, Facebook, email newsletter and on an internal message board. A small prize in the form of cash/gifts might be offered for the best/all articles.
  • Entries are received from the MBA ecosystem and while the rest edit, one member of the team (the designated “designer”) starts either crafting a whole new Corel Draw/Adobe InDesign file or tries to force-fit the articles in to an already existing template. This edit+design job goes through multiple revisions.
  • After finalizing, PDF is generated and then this is distributed through as many channels as possible; Facebook, Twitter, own website, emails to alumni and the student bodies of other colleges, Slideshare, etc.
  • In certain cases, actual paper copies might be printed.

In terms of time taken, a monthly magazine can be divided in to something like this: 15 days to get articles, 10 days to edit and design and about one or two nights when the magazine is “marketed”, or tried to spread as far and wide as possible. That means the mag comes out a couple of days before end-of-month.

What about the numbers?

No idea. There was no way of knowing how many people read the magazine, because there is no way of actually knowing how many people downloaded the PDF from their inbox and then went on to open it. After opening, again no way of knowing which articles were of most interest to the readers.

So we started putting all our magazines (PDFs) on a website ( and tracked downloads + views through Google Analytics.

What are the incentives for the volunteers in the Magazine Edit Board?

The biggest incentive is a “CV point” and then there are the additional benefits of knowledge, social standing (within the college) and contacts one might acquire while following up with an industry person for an interview or an article.

What was the change suggested?

Take magazines online to a format on the lines of http://www.cbsnews.com, etc.


The reasons were various

  1. Submissions can be put up as and when they arrive after only the editing process (grammatical, factual & anti-plagiarism check). Since a CMS (WordPress) handles the design part, there is no need for extensive time spent on force-fitting or creating a new template.
  2. The author’s are attributed by linking to their FB and LinkedIn profiles. Since authors are likely to share it on their FB, LinkedIn and Twitter, it was anticipated that there would be more sharing of the content/website.
  3. All references are linked in, meaning readers can go off exploring related tangents.
  4. A discussion can ensue on each post, meaning readers engage with other readers and the author using the website’s comments section as the platform.
  5. Major tracking and analytics.

Was the proposed change accepted? No.

For the simple reason that it would not remain a “magazine”. And that was the overriding thought process that powered the team: they were the Editorial Board of a Magazine and not an online blog. They wanted to see a magazine being printed, they wanted the “Editor’s Note” in every issue, they wanted their little blurbs on the inside-of-cover page and they wanted the 3 column layout on real paper.

What I learnt and how would I handle the situation now?

In this case, I’ll try and avoid conflict. Instead of fighting and forcing stuff down people’s throats, I’d rather create a new, two-person team that takes the edited article and simple puts it online on the website. This team also does as much of social media marketing as possible.

Vice Presidential Experiences

Thanks to classmates who voted for me in the IMF (Student Body of IIFT) Elections, I’ve had the excellent opportunity of having been the Vice President for the year 2011-12. After my two startups, this counts as my most valuable learning experience so far. A few of them are

  1. Leave the ego at the door – Air in your head is the surest way of losing any respect your colleagues had for you.
  2. Peer Management – All the work I did was in peer teams; with the IMF, the club coordinators and other classmates. As such, I might have had the authority to order people around, but not the right. The best way to get work done was to help kickstart the task and then leave it on the concerned person, while being a worker yourself. This brings me to the next point,
  3. Leaders versus Followers – I equate followers to workers. All B-school promotional material (and even soft skills workshops, self help books, etc) talk about making a leader out of you. I say, become a good worker first, then think of becoming a leader. The reason is simple, the best workers get the best leadership opportunities. This is because leaders are supposed to “get stuff done” and those who get stuff done when not in leadership positions are automatically ahead of the pack when the time to choose comes.
  4. Interpersonal Relationships & Emotional Intelligence – The Indian MBA education system is basically Entrance Exam -> Group Discussion -> Personal Interview -> Selection -> Summer Internship -> Final Placement. IQ gets one through the Entrance Exam and then kind of stops there. After that, it’s all about hardwork and great EI. EI is also massively important for a VP, because in my experience, 75% of the VP job is getting together people of different interests and motivations and making sure they work well together.

    Screwed up EI has its own consequences. As an example, I’ll tell you about a person we refer to as “Obama” (nothing to do with the real Barack Obama, mind you). Obama loved taking the Personality Development Sessions (PDPs; initial 3 weeks of sessions taken by seniors for the newly joined junior batch). Obama usually came up in front of the 2011-13 batch to dole out advice & reprimand anyone/everyone. Although a lot of what Obama said was probably true, he was unfortunately, quite abrasive. I remember the first session he took; pointing out a mistake, any mistake, in every junior batch member who came up in front to introduce himself to the class. This superior-to-thou attitude plus fuckall behaviour went on for so long, the junior batch specifically requested the IMF to remove Obama from all proceedings in the second week, or else they’d boycott the PDPs.

  5. Team Meetings & Reviews – Many of my classmates have more than 2 years of work experience and a quick dipstick poll had them had them say this about Reviews: useless if not short and sweet. As the VP, I feel this was one of my shortcomings. I didn’t hold Review Meetings frequently enough. Though it isn’t an excuse, but Student Body work isn’t always quantifiable. In fact, it most usually consists of following up with people, taking care of paperwork and running around after admin, profs or even students. That makes Review Meetings fairly difficult, as the slackers simply get by on “Ya dude, I’m following up with her but she’s out of town until Monday.” NB – The internet has a lot of interesting stuff on Meetings; see link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4 and link 5.
  6. Loads and loads more, but I want to keep that for another post. Also a ploy to hopefully keep you hooked. 

The Best of MBA Gyaan (Part 1)

MBA Gyaan

  1. The best learning happens when people smarter & better informed than yourself challenge and rip apart your presentations. The downside to this; even the idiots think they should chip in with their DCP-esque questions, leaving you mindfucked for the rest of the day. At least in marketing, most of your peers don’t have the intellectual capacity or understanding to challenge much of what you say. [Example: in an Advertising and Promotion Management (APM) class exercise, one bunch of idiots came up and loudly proclaimed that a Talwalker like gym opened in a posh area faces its primary competition from local Rs. 300-a-month gyms. After being shredded to pieces by all and sundry, they go on to question each and every other group’s ppt, asking all their questions on basic STP assumptions.]
  2. Then comes case-study competitions floated by different companies/colleges. Fruitful ones to go to are those which have good judges (the best are from the big brands or the consulting firms). Usually the case studies are problems currently being faced by a business unit of the company. The judges expect a solid, coherent & logical story that goes about answering the questions.
  3. Last comes classes. Most are stuff you could do in two days with the right powerpoint presentations, but once in a while you come across a professor who actually challenges you and forces you to think. Never miss this person’s class.

Why I don’t pay attention in Economics class

(If you’ve already read this, see “Part 2: How I answer my Economics paper”)

Here at IIFT, “Economics” appears in every trimester (in some form or the other), as part of our core course and I’m given to understand a similar situation exists in almost every B-school in India. Obviously, it is a very important subject, something that needs to be well understood by a candidate aspiring to become a Master of Business Administration.

Fair enough. I sat ramrod straight in the first few classes and burdened the professor with the full weight of my unwavering attention. When the assumptions were laid out, I started thinking: “OK, so how often do all those assumptions ever hold true, together at the same place at the same time?”

Then came the beautifully constructed mathematical derivations, followed by the graphs and their constituent lines and curves. Still, the question remained: “Fine, but when is this actually going to be useful in the real world?”

The classes went on, but somehow I never really understood how managers used more than the basics of economics to take decisions in their organisations. Most of the basics seem like simple horse sense to me anyway. So I did some research on the Internet and found out about the part that was simply never mentioned in class; most of the theories being taught had a large group of researchers/academicians/economists who supported it, and another group that looked at it in a completely different way. Soon enough, the only question left was “Why am I being taught this subject?”

That question has not gone till today. Unfortunately, I still see all our Economics classes as an absolute waste of time; time that could be spent doing something more useful. After the first trimester, I developed my own formula for the eco subjects, and I trot it out quite proudly here:

The interesting thing is, a few of my classmates quite vehemently defend economics and its place in our course curriculum. They argue that eco is the underlying basis for all business transactions and therefore quite rightly the king of all post-graduate business studies. I obviously don’t agree. In fact, I vehemently disagree.

I think consumer behaviour should be the king of post-graduate business studies. Understanding consumer behaviour to me is the ability to understand what the person in front wants. That’s it. I’m almost certain that this would apply in all kinds of industries, segments, markets, businesses, whatever.

Now, dear reader, kindly move on to the second post in this series: “Part 2: How I answer my Economics paper”. I promise it’ll be worth a few chuckles.