Why every MBA wants to be in “Strategy”


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s an interesting phenomenon across Indian b-schools: everyone wants to be doing some kind of “strategy”. You ask a fresh-as-fuck 22 year old engineering grad what his latest live project is, he’ll say “brand strategy”. Or ask the 27 year old with 4 years experience in Infosys/HCL/Accenture/Wipro/Cognizant/you-get-my-gist, and he’ll say “IT Strategy”. This thought process manifests itself in the inter-college competitions that students organize. See http://www.dare2compete.com/events/search-result/0/0/0/0/12/strategy for all the fun strategy events.

Here’s a fun look at why this happens.

What MBAs mean when they say strategy

“Lots of armchair gyaan and suggestions, but not one muscle movement worth of execution.”

Let me clarify. The MBA course is filled with “real life” case studies. Most are from the Harvard Business Review, but a few are culled from other sources too. These case studies can almost always be broken out like this

  • Business problem
  • Data (usually incomplete)
  • Few generalized directions that the business can take
  • A bunch of MBAs eager to provide their suggestions

In this situation, almost no one knows what the right approach or answer is, so the MBA (or the professor) will take out his most celebrated tool; the case framework. This he will use to analyze the problem from all angles that the framework affords and will finally come up with what he deems to be the solution. Similar mental gymnastics will then be performed by the other MBAs and the professor, followed by a discussion of what the organization did in real life and why it worked/did not work for them.

However, no one ever talks of the execution part of it. Everyone’s busy imagining themselves as the CMO or CEO, yet no one ever tries to think of it from the perspective of the other 20 years of their careers when all they’ll be is Chief of Jackshit.

Why does this happen?

Because to be able to execute better, you need to have some sort of previous experience in that field. In India however, most people don’t join an MBA program because they want to further their career in their field of specialization, no sir, they do it to switch tracks. Why do they want to switch tracks? Because most often their pre-MBA tracks are

  • Engineering (B. Tech, B.E. followed by some IT company)
  • B. Com. followed by CA preparations and a job in some bank or financial institution as an Analyst
  • Fresher, no work experience

Yet, these often trudged pre-MBA tracks are hardly the ones that most people want to stick to. They’re simply those that were available and paid what then seemed like good money. So since you have no previous knowledge in that field, you obviously can’t talk jackshit about execution. However, anyone can talk about “strategy”. It’s so easy because not even the prof can question you (after all, he himself doesn’t know the answer) and there are a hundred ways any strategic decision can pan out, and yours just might be the correct one.

Glorification by Management Consulting

“Strategy” is also coveted because it is what Management Consulting claims to do. And I’m sure you know how well those companies pay.

In fact, I think one of the reasons why Management Consulting is such a hot career path is because you get to meet such important people and influence such important decisions without any actual “get-stuff-done” involved.

Glorification by b-schools

“Strategy” beautifully ties in with the vision sold by b-schools to students and the inflated expectation and sense of entitlement that the students consequently carry with them. B-schools will never say that in most cases, post MBA you’ll have to slog it out for at least two decades. That just isn’t as exciting as convincing young people that they’re going to become “leaders” the day they step out. And as you all know, leaders don’t get stuff done. They just provide overriding strategic direction and play golf. Just for shits and giggles, checkout IIM Shillong’s golf cup website.

Due to all these reasons, I think the word “strategy” has been put up on some kind of false pedestal. More so since it covers up for a lot of bullshit.

A real life example

Back in first year of MBA, I got selected by one of the companies who were offering a live project on campus. The project outline was

Prepare an entry strategy for XYZ consultants to enter – South
Africa and Kenya. This should include:

  • Local Economy, currency, laws, regulations, etc
  • Target Customers (including geographical spread and key decision maker)
  • Possible Indian Firms
  • Possible MNCs
  • Possible Local Firms with owners having Indian roots
  • Others
  • Target areas in HR Consulting (non-recruitment)
  • Current consulting eco-system
  • Locally based HR Consulting firms
  • MNC firms
  • Indian HR Consulting firms who are doing business there
  • Strategy details
  • What to do in the time period – including how to visits, which companies to approach

· First 3 months

· First 6 months

· First 1 year

· First 1-2 year

Business projections

Dos and Don’ts

Possible local partners


Time fame – 3-4 weeks.

I hope you notice the “entry strategy” right in the beginning. In terms of ego and bragging rights, such a project is pure gold. After all, I got to write “Market Entry Strategy” in my resume. Back then, I remember thinking that just this project would qualify me to get through the CV screening of any consulting firm which came to hire on campus.

But before I get too carried away, let me point out the bullshit to you.

  1. Local economy – the company would hardly be bothered by local economy. They’re a smallish firm that could easily outmaneuver anything happening at the level of the “economy”.
  2. Currency – They’d only be interested in exchange rate and what is the best way to bring cash back to India.
  3. Regulations – It would be silly for an organization to ask MBA students to find out what the laws and regulations for their business in South Africa are. This would be the job of a law firm that specialized and had a lot of experience in this kind of thing.
  4. Key decision makers – No way someone doing secondary research could find out the dynamics of an organization and who it’s key decision makers are. For this, best person would be an experienced Sales professional who understand B2B buying and goes and meets the various stakeholders within that organization.
  5. And so much more that I’ll stop.

Basically, I could go on with pointing out why this is essentially a BS project outline. Oh, and we didn’t submit any of this shit to the company. Our first week, we delivered a “Macroscopic Analysis of South Africa”, all of 5.5 pages long. The contact person reached out to us with what he really wanted: what kind of soft skills training happens in SA, who are the major players and what kind of training programs do they provide? And the fun part is, we didn’t deliver that either, because there is no way you can find out all of this without being in the market yourself.

Eventually, he asked us to find the cost of flying out to SA, camping over there for a few days and moving around trying to setup talks with a few people. If you can’t imagine how that works, it basically means googling “India to South Africa airfare” and surfing all the travel sites for average hotel and taxi rates.

That, my dear reader, along with some hashed up data and analysis pulled from various “Doing business in South Africa” reports was the market entry strategy project that we did.

So what can you do?

If you’re a recruiter

Be very wary of anything “strategy”. Look for simple indicators of employability instead of being swayed by high impact terms that are essentially fluff. Also, realize that persons best suited to understanding things from a strategic perspective are those who have been there and done that. If an ex-Infosys person talks at length on “Brand Strategy”, drill her on the basics of branding. Fundamentals are solidly in place? Good to go. Trips up? Provide her the swift kick she should have gotten much earlier.

If you’re an MBA grad

Stop bullshitting. Get something more substantial on your CV. Seek out projects where you actually get your hands dirty. Stop thinking of ground work as dirty work. Start your career by peeling potatoes.

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 Airbnb.com 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.

Why Flipkart rejected me after the Job Interview


A few months ago, I interviewed with Flipkart for a job. They threw me out after the second (and final) round of interviews.

I was really hoping to get through, and to shore up my candidature I decided to create a show-and-tell before the d-day. It was some work/project and even a small little speech that I had done/gave-earlier which clearly (or so I thought) demonstrated that I neatly fit in with the skill-set required and their culture.

A day before that, I ran my “show-and-tell” through with a friend, who said “Dude, my dad has interviewed thousands of candidates for the Indian Armed Forces and he once told me: more than trying to sell yourself, just answer the interviewer’s questions well and you’ll get through”.

I ignored his advice and went in with guns blazing. Asked the interviewer if I could show him the stuff as soon as I stepped in to the room. He agreed and patiently listened to me go on and on for about 5 minutes. Then he asked a few questions and finally went through my CV.

I was through to the second round. Emboldened, I decide on an encore. Again, went in firing from the hips and again, the person on the other side of the table listened patiently. He asked a lot of questions, which I thought I answered well. I stepped out happy and expecting a job offer.

That’s where the cute bit ends. They rejected me and I received feedback that “he seemed to be desperate”.

After the initial bouts of depression, I had my usual tonic of a drunken night out and lots of blabbering to uninterested friends.

When my head cleared, I thought about it. For your benefit dear reader (and as a reminder to future ‘me’), here’s what I think I did wrong:

I was trying to make a sale and not really answering the questions the interviewer had in their minds. 

Now I’m sure you’ll realize that this approach could have worked in some other situation, however, at the end of the day the interviewer was looking for a solution to a problem he had. His organization requires a role filled and he was tasked with finding the right person. Questions about the same are swirling in his mind when I walk in and start making a sales pitch that nowhere addressed the issues he was facing.

Edit on 11th April, 2012: After seeing the comments on http://therodinhoods.com/profiles/blogs/why-flipkart-rejected-me-after-the-job-interview, have decided to explain exactly what happened.

The profile on offer was Business Development. That is legacy designation (because initially, all Flipkart work meant Biz Dev) for Category Managers of various categories  like Books, Computers, Cameras, Gaming, etc. I went in with my laptop and started off by showing the following

  1. Web designing & coding – showed him a hand coded & designed (Notepad + Corel Draw mostly) functioning website I’d made for our startup with non-Flash Javascript animation
  2. Sales – explained how we raised angel funding for our second startup and the role I played
  3. UI Design – showed some of the design work I’d done for website, college mags and events
  4. Culture: Customer Focus/Obsession (Flipkart is crazy about this, and I agree with them) – a blog post written long ago where I exhort that Understanding Consumer Behaviour should be the most important of MBA teachings
  5. Culture: Teamwork – showed a video recording of a speech I gave after our team won a college sports tourney. In the recording, I repeatedly talk about teamwork and how as a cohesive unit we beat much stronger teams who fell in disarray.

Then I gave him three business ideas that Flipkart might be able to implement. This was because I still believe that one is supposed to provide value; be it to the customer, the employer or whoever is paying you cash. I thought I’d display that I came prepared with three things that might work.

  1. Idea One: Using FK’s customer service division to take feedback from customers by outbound calling. Suppose Nokia launches a new phone (let’s call it E100) and it knows that E100 sales on FK are considerable, so Nokia pays Flipkart to have its Customer Service Execs call people who’ve bought an E100 from FK after a month or so and take feedback. In it’s essence, it’s market research after a product is out in the market
  2. Idea Two: Self publishing of books by authors. See details on this Techcrunch article by James Altucher –  http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/28/why-every-entrepreneur-should-self-publish-a-book/
  3. Idea Three: Ok, I forgot this one.

What did the interviewer say after all this?

Ok fine Siddharth, now let’s talk about e-commerce in India.

That right there was when I realized I had answered none of the questions in his mind. And this was reinforced when after discussing e-commerce in-depth, he switched to “supply chain”.

You see, dear reader, he didn’t give a damn about me knowing web dev, ui design or any of the other yada yada I was telling him about. He has far better people already handling those jobs. He wanted someone who understood online sales, e-commerce and “supply chain”, the primary differentiator through which Flipkart provides its customers the service that has made it famous.

Once again, we drill down to the basics here: Two ears and one mouth. I should have listened first and then spoken :-)

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 :)

How do you react to brands?

(Image courtesy The Brads, one of my favourite webcomics)

Have you ever felt like this after talking to a marketing professional, or after reading a report about the research done on brands, ads and social media campaigns?

Well, it happens to me all the time. Specially when someone comes up and says stuff like “urban, educated and socially connected consumers between 25 to 35 think we’re a very mature and trused brand”. This regular occurrence in MBA marketing classes, where there are lengthy presentations that discuss the clever ambush marketing tactics as executed by HUL against P&G or by Kingfisher against Jet, with GoAir jumping in on the fuckfest. These guys are the exact counterparts of the economists who love their graphs and mathematical equations for theories that have little proven use in the real world.

What’s the problem here? Just that ambush marketing isn’t about the consumer; it’s about tactical one-upmanship between marketers. How does the ad effect your target group, those who actually fly with your airline or buy your shampoo? Did anyone ask them what they thought or how it made them change their minds? In the end, these clever tricks end up in Internet meme dumps like ROFLIndia where people say “lolzzzz!! awesomest ad ever….kingfisher is still too expensive”.

A good laugh over the bullshit we peddle

Want to have a good laugh and at the same time, spend a few seconds of your life ruminating over the bullshit that we as a society are given to peddle?

Well then, check out the following two links

The first one is simply a marketing gimmick helping IIMC stay in the news. Anecdotal evidence suggests a sum total of zero students will actually give a rat’s ass about this pledge a few seconds after dutifully mouthing it. By the way, in this case, “anecdotal evidence” is the MBA jargon for the sniggers I saw when I asked four friends at IIMC about this pledge. Between TOI and me, I’d choose my small sample size and “almost-a-logical-fallacy” argument over the awesome journalism being splattered about by the fine folks at aforementioned newspaper.

The rat’s ass, as will be given by the kids at IIMC to their pledge of honesty.

Let’s look at the second link now, shall we? If ASSOCHAM seriously believes that 83% of MBAs prefer job profile over a hefty package, then the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India needs to have a hard look at its understanding of the “talent-in-pipeline” that shall be taking our country to greater capitalistic heights in the coming future.

Anyway, I’ve decided to be altruistic today and give away some deep insights for free. So here it is, the insider’s guide to what an Indian MBA actually wants

  1. Money – is important. The majority of us have worked pretty hard to crack those entrance procedures and after having beaten 45000+ other aspirants, taking up hefty loans to pay 11 lakh+ fees, meeting the stringent requirements of your organisation and then shifting to cities where the cost-of-living is quite simply, exorbitant, yes, we do expect remuneration.
  2. Make a bigger impact, faster – No one gets in to a top b-school in India without having some ambition in life. That’s why Group/General Management Profiles (GMPs) with relatively lesser pay are still super hot. We’re raring to go out there and get stuff done. Setup a framework for the same in your organisation and we’ll follow you like the rats did the Pied Piper.
  3. Opportunities to fail and learn – It’s the learning bit that totally snags us. The more varied, the better.

Oh, and if you want an example of people who got it right, go through this link about TAS.

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 (www.mbadox.com) 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.comhttp://www.smashingmagazine.com/http://www.businessinsider.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.

How I answer my Economics paper

If you haven’t read “Part 1: Why I don’t pay attention in Economics class” please do so. This post makes more sense after going through Part 1.

This is a question I got for a recent end-trimester Economics paper:

The expected answer to 2(a) should have contained some of the following:

Solow Growth Model

Solow Growth model

Solow Growth Model

and this

My answer to 2(a):

“Since the Solow Growth Model came about as a post hoc analysis of a developed country’s economy and history, it quite obviously pertains to the reality in developed countries, more specifically, the USA.”

Answer 2(b) was also expected to be filled with mathematical derivations and graphs. Me? Nopes, I just don’t roll that way. I write out a basic two sentence summation and the assumptions of the Harris Todaro Model and then add the following line:

“How often do the underlying assumptions of this model hold true at the same place at the same time is, well, an interesting question to be asked.”

Edit: Just couldn’t help but put in the following. Taken from http://www.nd.edu/~jstiver/jokes.htm

  • A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, “Lets smash the can open with a rock.” The chemist says, “Let’s build a fire and heat the can first.” The economist says, “Lets assume that we have a can-opener…”
  • One night a policeman saw a macroeconomist looking for something buy a light pole. He asked him if had lost something there. The economist said, “I lost my keys over in the alley.” The policeman asked him why he was looking by the light pole. The economist responded, “it’s a lot easier to look over here.”
  • An economist is someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about – but makes you feel it’s your fault.

I enjoy negotiations!


Taken from http://williamjcole.com/2011/03/negotiating-part-2/

We’ve had some really interesting negotiation exercises in class lately and I really enjoy these sessions. Here’s a bit of what I learnt.

  1. Make the other party talk – This seems to be the golden rule to getting oneself a fair deal in a negotiation. Make the other party talk as much as they can. Specially if they are a group. Very rarely do groups agree completely or have the same viewpoint or even have decided as to who the mouthpiece is going to be. Such situations are ripe for the harvesting of fissures and weaknesses. This automatically means a lot of open ended questions and consequent listening.
  2. Don’t ever give something away for free – If you’re conceding, ensure that you receive a commensurate deal in return. If that deal is diluted, block it immediately.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously – As that means you’re ready to walk away from the table with only a deadlock. If the other party knows that you’re ready to get up and simply leave without any sort of agreement, your bargaining power has gone up substantially.
  4. Never want anything too bad – Again to do with bargaining power. If you want something desperately, don’t let it show.
  5. Just around the corner – Go with the mindset of Dr. Jekyll, but ensure Mr. Hyde is just around the corner.
  6. Forget defense – The best defense is attack. If attacked, forget all about the cute defensive maneuvers. Go for the jugular. If you miss, quickly set about finding another one.
  7. Be ready to give – The best negotiations are where both parties feel they’ve got enough, though not all. If faced with someone actually cooperative and thinking for the greater good, give them support.
  8. Have a Stop-Loss slightly above your position – This ensures that the least you’ll get to is still profit.

Please feel free to agree or disagree as vehemently as you like in the comments below. I understand I’m too gung-ho about the entire aggression thing, but I feel it works.

What gets me angry.

Angry Man

We had a class yesterday. This course is taken by a guest faculty. He has years and years of experience. He’s boring and feels quite redundant because most of what he says is just a verbal representation of his powerpoint and notes.

Yesterday, he got the dirty vibe form our class and asked “Why are you here?”

About 4 or 5 replied in unision “ATTENDANCE”. Yup, we have compulsory attendance rules.

That really ticked him off and he spent the next 30 minutes asking whoever said it to stand up. No one did. Not one fucking asshole did.

Then he promised no negative repercussions. Again, none of them got up.

He raved and he ranted, but then promised extra marks in internal evaluation. Again, none of them got up.

And that gets me mad. A bunch of spineless guys who will easily shoot their mouths off when protected by the anonymity of a crowd. As soon as they’re asked to stand up, take responsibility for their words and make some fucking meaningful contribution, their tails go between their legs and make for a sight a shite lot worse than cowardly dogs.

Unfortunately, I’ve come across people like this all my life, knowing that there are yet more to come. No balls, cynical, unwilling to do stand up and be counted but the first to talk shit.

My only hope is, when vested with the responsibility to do so, I am capable enough of recognizing and weeding them out.