Monday, August 04, 2008

The Road Ahead.....

An article that I wrote for Reflections, the batch magazine........
DoMS Day-Out was coming to an end! As the prizes were being awarded, I got a sudden sense & feel, my days in DoMS are numbered…The thought just rushed to my mind. I could feel it.

“The DoMS chapter of my life is almost over and it has been a fabulous 2 your tour of the long itinerary of life….Since all of us are in the twilight of our DoMS days, I was thinking of what was so different & special about DoMS that most of us, if not all, are going to remember. Is it just the lectures that we got from the profs that’s going to make us competent managers? Is it the placements and the fat pay packets that are going to differentiate us from the rest of the lot? Or was it just a 2 year holidaying in a wild life Sanctuary with Homo Sapiens as the dominant fauna and monkeys/deer playing the supporting role?”

DoMS is still a very young B-School in India and has miles to go before achieving that “Premier” B-School tag and as the management lessons teach, we as stakeholders still have a major role to play. We cant still boast of having an illustrious alumni base, cant still say that DoMS has a great research output that the haloed institutes like Harvard/Stanford/INSEAD in the West have. But as Prof. LSG says, “We are moving in the right direction to achieve that excellence in a quiet way.” We have the CRs and GSs of the world, who keep churning the numbers and running the algorithms that can baffle the best brains, we still have the researchers who can produce the best theses in the world, we still have the alumni who have performed admirably in a short corporate career.

I attended the DoMS interview process for the new batch in Mumbai recently and it was a great experience in terms of knowing how DoMS is perceived by the new aspirants. I had a chance to interact with some of the candidates and was pleased to know that our interview process was one of the best in terms of coordination amongst the many Indian B-Schools. I also talked to some of my friends from other B-Schools in Bombay and was quite pleased to know that we actually have strong fundamentals in terms of faculty, infrastructure etc.

Eventually this brings me back to the same question – the differentiating aspect of DoMS? My answer to that question is plain & simple – it’s the sense of belongingness. It’s the feeling that our achievements in life have to be in proportion to the stature that our alma mater possesses. As one of our seniors said when we entered this institute, the expectation from us will be quite high when we enter the corporate landscape. And the better you fulfill those expectations, the higher is your contribution to DoMS-IIT Madras.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"Good to Great" To "Built to Last"

“Good is the enemy of great”, is what the first line of the book states. The book analyses 15 “Good to great companies” which had phenomenal results, some due to shrewd strategies, some due to innovative products and some due to changing consumer needs. There is another set of 15 companies called “comparison companies” which are compared with the “good to great companies” on several parameters.

The beauty lies in the way the author compares the two sets of companies based on different parameters like the average tenure of CEO, the number of mergers and acquisitions done by the company, the kind of industries they were in and the growth rate offered by the industry. Most of the readers might try to search for a common thread between those 15 companies to know what led to the greatness of those firms. But instead of following that route, I feel what Jim Collins have tried to convey is, there are different routes to achieve greatness and a company need not imitate other firms in pursuit of greatness.

The core ideology of the book lies in the flywheel concept illustrated below. The key points that the author discusses are: -
- Level 5 leadership
- First Who Then What
- Confront the brutal facts
- Hedgehog concept
- Culture of discipline
- Technology accelerates

The classic example of Level 5 leadership is of the legendary CEO of Gillette, Colman Mocklar who formulated great strategies for the company and saved it from the corporate raiders like Revlon. The takeover bid initiated by Ronald Perelman, CEO of Revlon itself can become a classic case study for the MBA coursework.

The author also places great emphasis on the right people employed by the company at the right position during the critical juncture of the company’s evolution. He reiterates

the point that it’s not just the people but the right people who make the critical difference to the company.

The evolution of the company happens sequentially as shown in the figure above but the quantum leap for the company comes only after the basics are in place. The analogy of Winston Churchill setting up the statistical department for the British Government during the Second World War fits beautifully for the firms as well. These analogies used by the author makes the concepts self-explanatory.

The most important concept that deserves special mention is the “Hedgehog Concept”. The hedgehog is a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo which can take any of the two shapes and always manages to beat the fox by taking one of the forms. The hedgehog concept emphasizes the important concept and ignores the mundane ones. Freud and the unconscious, Darwin and natural selection, Marx and class struggle, Einstein and relativity, Adam Smith and division of labor are all hedgehogs.

Transition from good to great requires a clear and deep understanding of the three intersecting circles translated into a simple, crystalline concept (the hedgehog concept). The figure below illustrates the three circles of the hedgehog concept.

The book “Good to Great” was published after “Built to Last”, but when you complete reading both the books, you realize that “Built to Last” actually fits to become a sequel of “Good to Great”. Built to last, talks about how companies achieve iconic status after achieving the greatness. There are several examples of those iconic companies (3M, Walt Disney, HP, Sony etc) without which it is difficult to imagine specially an American society. They have altered the way people live, think and feel. How many companies can claim that one out of every 8 American employees have worked in that company? How many companies can assert that they have brought happiness to the lives of maximum number of people in the world? How many companies can master the concept “Small is beautiful”?

And that’s exactly what comprise the spirit of the iconic corporations of all times. They moved beyond the sole motive of profit and altered the lives across generations.

To understand these changes and impact, try reading both the books. Definitely “MUST MUST READ” for all lovers of business……….!!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"Mayanagari" Mumbai

I still remember the curiosity I had before embarking the flight to Mumbai for my Summer Internship. After the 3 other metros that I have lived in for small time periods, this was the only metro left to be conquered or rather explored. I had a pretty decent plan in terms of the places I would visit inside the city and the fun I wanted to have here. Ironically, the “maya” also deserted me in this famous Mayanagari by way of meagre stipend. A lot of people whether they had visited the city or not talked a lot about it……But the only different thing, forget about the value judgement right now, was that everyone seemed to be in a hurry here.

Now let me compare it with the city of Bangalore and Chennai where I have lived the better part of my life…When it comes to cleanliness, it is horrible…..I don’t think there is any comparison between Mumbai and Chennai –Bangalore. Traffic is messy…..Thanks to the ‘local’ that people don’t even care about the road transport else the city would have got clogged to death. But it is said that people make places…. So lets see how it fares on that count….People here feel that speaking is sheer waste of energy….The first day when we visited our company we asked so many guys about the direction….and the common response was the finger they showed for the direction……good thing was they showed the direction with the right finger.

Few good memories that I have of this city are of the “Posh” areas where only 0.0000001% of Indian population can afford to live (areas like Colaba, Nariman etc…). I wish I had a room in Hotel Hilton facing Queen’s necklace…Lovely…Few things that I really loved were the Gateway of India, the ferry ride in the Arabian Sea, some naval installations, The Taj Hotel, BSE, Churchgate Station and the surrounding areas. Some of that appreciation was because of the fact that I had read a lot about JRD and the Tatas and I was able to see some of the masterpieces that they had built… I was able to see the history that the Tatas had created…

Apart from that tiny area of richness, the rest of the city is comparable to the shanty towns or tier-2 cities of India. More than anything else I found it to be a city of paradoxes; one where you can find the super-riches of the country in Nariman Point or Bandra-kurla and at the same time Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi not more than 2-3 kms. away; the glamour world of bollywood and the middle-class suburbs of Bombay; the multicultural and multi religious society of Bombay and one of the most hard-line Hindutva party, Shiv Sena. All in the same place.

I don’t think any of us can make a sweeping conclusion about the city per se. It has been home to great minds of the countries, great business tycoons, great cricket players, great institutions. But as a middle class person I think I would prefer cities like Pune, Bangalore, Chennai than Bombay.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A MOMENT OF PRIDE………..!!!!!!

Just happened to chat with an employee of IMaCS (ICRA Management & Consulting Services) during the “HAPPY HOURS”, an euphemism for the jobless moments in the company. He was an alumnus of SJMSOM, IIT-Bombay (joined IMaCS the same day I did for my Internship) and just started discussing about trivial matters of IITs, their system, vision and the teaching methodologies. Since I am currently put in IIT-Bombay the discussion started with the conveyance we take to reach office and the internal transportation of IIT-B.

Since he was the class representative of his batch and few other committees, he was pouring in new insights into how things happen at IIT-B in general and SJMSOM in particular. The first issue on the discussion was the “TUM TUM”, the electric bus equivalent of IIT-M used for internal transportation. It’s a pain commuting in the morning from IIT-B since we don’t get any mode of conveyance and have to either rely on some noble gentleman/woman offering us a lift or walk till the main gate where we can get an auto. And he was recalling how the Gen Sec contestants last year were promising about getting 3 additional TUM TUM and has overlooked the fact that the existing TUM TUMs are non-functional, forget about getting the new ones.

Then discussed about various other topics like overall Infrastructure, department labs, faculty, the interaction between the Management department & the Institute and so on and so forth….. Incidentally he is releasing a book on his experiences in IIT-B (sort of memoir+narrative+his stances on certain issues) very soon (he said about 200 pages). He had also coordinated with our DoMS, IIT-M faculty team for the interviews of prospective candidates this year and the previous year. He also happened to interact with our professors about DoMS and was very happy to know when the professors told him the long-term vision for DoMS and where they want to see our DoMS.

The discussion then shifted to the subsequent decrease in the number of faculty members at SJMSOM to the current strength of 12, the appointment of CSE dept prof as their HOD who never taught a subject to management students and the lack of faculty for important subject like SCM and the support of their profs in key issues. In this entire discussion I was comparing DoMS and narrating our system, our labs, our profs and the effort that the DoMSians and the prof together put in making things better ranging from getting big names for placement (United Airlines, Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs)…or forming clubs, forum, websites, blogs, making Samnavay better, ensuring DoMS get proper media coverage etc etc……

This discussion made me think, how long can an institution rest on its legacy? There surely needs to be a concerted effort from all the stakeholders, the faculty, the students, the management to evolve better system and practices. Its always more important to have a bigger slope than a bigger intercept to ensure good future. All the activities that happen in DoMS gave me a lot of comfort that we are not just ensuring that the feasible conditions for an MBA program exist but somehow we are continuously pushing that feasibility to optimality. Still we have miles to go and promises to keep….but that discussion was surely a moment of pride………!!!!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The altruist administrator

You always do not need the same kind of person to inspire you. Isn’t it? Different types of people can inspire or leave an imprint in your minds at different stages of your life. It can be a writer, an activist, a teacher, an administrator etc. We had a session today under the aegis of MIST (Management Insight to social transformation), a DoMS initiative, by Mr. Gagandeep Singh Bedi who was a collector of Cuddalore district during the Tsunami. Not an inspirational personality if you go by what he spoke as other greats can do but if you carefully observe what he did and how he did during those horrific Tsunami days, you will realize, it requires a great soul to achieve that.

You take an area and there was something to learn from him whether it be people management, material management or funds management. As Robin Sharma says – “Every person you meet in your life has a story to tell and a lesson to teach”. Few fantastic lessons for the jargon infested MBAs like me and others are….1.Always have a dynamic or an open mind while handling any kind of situation 2. There can be better solutions suggested by people whom you think aren’t capable of. 3. People will always be willing to help you, no matter how much politicized or unsupporting the culture is.

There was one striking learning from his Tsunami experience. The way in which he went ahead deciding on the type of temporary settlements to be built for the affected by keeping all the stakeholders into the decision making process was noteworthy. The diligence with which the feedbacks from the residents were taken to improve their living conditions shows how people-centric he was in his entire functioning. This reminds me of a famous Ogilvy quote – “The customer isn’t stupid. She is your wife”.

Amidst this entire effort of Mr. Bedi in rehabilitating the affected, the immediate measures, the interim measures and the long term measures he took, there was a certain element of simplicity in thoughts that was conveyed. We as MBAs or engineers are always taught or brought up to think in the most sophisticated manner. I think to some extent our educational system also has a role to play here. Simplicity is often, rather most of the times not given adequate importance. By looking at the approach of Bedi, I feel its time, we not just change our approach but dwell over whatever Da Vinci said long time back – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Blogger's Park

Some days back we had an interesting debate on “morality”, amongst the classmates when one of our esteemed Profs warned of canceling all the classes for our batch if the strength continues to remain at such abysmally low levels. I am not trying to analyze the same discussion again but after that discussion got over, Sath bhai, our dear placement coordinator started a discussion in his blog for the so called debating enthusiasts. Only then I realized that once upon a time I used to have my own space in the web and I had abandoned it for a long long time.

Blogging, as some bloggers point out provides a platform for anyone and everyone to yell out their anger, sadness, euphoria, opinions and what not….And yes, as the society is increasingly becoming individualistic it has its own significance…Whether it’s a software engineer overloaded by work in the weekdays, a person who thinks he can make a difference by voicing out his opinions or a frustrated soul who feels blog is his only last resort…..all have some emotional needs which get satisfied by this lovely innovation.

There are many finer aspects of this culture or so to say a movement…It provides an individual a space to experiment with what he/she always passionately wanted to do but landed up wrongly somewhere else….Why do u see so many blogs solely for movie reviews, book reviews, photography, issues like poverty, globalization etc etc….??? I feel it just gives one a satisfaction that he is somewhere near to that dream destination. For some moments it gives us a feeling that there is some place where our inner voice or talent will be heard….That is one thing that makes the bloggers believe in dreams and fantasies. It fits perfectly into the unconventional domain of the Homo sapiens.

Being in IIT and closely interacting with the students of the so called elite institutes (including IIMs), I feel this blogging virus is going to rapidly replicate itself. These are the institutes where I feel are a lot of souls who have landed not by their own interest but because of the push and pull of the system or society (lets call it destiny). Someone might have wanted to become a dancer or an artist or a singer or even a journalist but couldn’t…..And being a tech-savvy individual there can’t be any better place to pour out ideas, feelings than the blog.

And yes, finally even I have managed to do that after a long lull….At this time probably I should have studied marketing/Legal aspects of business for the exam day after tomorrow or at best could have slept. But who cares…??? Let my web space rock……….!!!!

Monday, October 03, 2005

The "Ice Breaker"

Date: 27th September.
Occasion: 131st ITMC (Infosys Toastmaster’s Club) Meet.
Venue: Infosys E&R Building, Audi 2.

It really gives me great pride and pleasure to make a special mention about this particular meet of ITMC. Pride because I was adjudged the “Best Prepared Speaker” and “Best Table Topic Speaker” and it’s rare to achieve the “golden double” and pleasure because after a long hiatus I had discovered the orator within me. It was my first project “Ice Breaker”, as they call it in the toastmaster’s language and I was quite satisfied as well as thrilled with the way I spoke in front of 40-50 people. Table topic session is an impromptu speaking session where 7-8 table topics are spoken out in front of the audience and the interested junta can come to the lectern to speak voluntarily. The table topic session for me was-“Sometimes even the left is right and right is left”.

After a long wait of 11 years I had participated in any of the speaking events. The first time I had done was in Class 8th, when a debate written by one of my school teacher was given to me and I memorized the entire stuff and spoke. But toastmaster’s events provide you a platform not only to improve your speaking skills but also the writing skills. I received a fair bit of appreciation for the script that I had written. And here the credit goes to Google for its portal which helped me in identifying the writer within me. Here is the entire “Ice Breaker” speech that I delivered on the 131st ITMC meet.

Project 1: Ice Breaker

When I Asked God for Strength
He Gave Me Difficult Situations to Face
When I Asked God for Brain & Brawn
He Gave Me Puzzles in Life to Solve
When I Asked God for Happiness
He Showed Me Some Unhappy People
When I Asked God for Wealth
He Showed Me How to Work Hard
When I Asked God for Favors
He Showed Me Opportunities to Work Hard
When I Asked God for Peace
He Showed Me How to Help Others
God Gave Me Nothing I Wanted
He Gave Me Everything I Needed

Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow toastmasters and guests
A very good evening to one and all……………
Life: Family

I am Rajeev from TNSD IBU………….

Born in the heritage city of Calcutta, brought up in a small town in the foothills of Himalayas in Nepal, did my high schooling in the oasis called Pilani , completed my engineering in MSRIT, Bangalore, underwent the Infosys training in Bangalore, initially posted in Chennai and now back to Bangalore, my own Bangalore.

Since I had the privilege to stay and know about so many places, learn about the people, culture I call myself a global citizen. I spent my childhood in a place called Ilam which is a border district in Nepal, about 3 hours from Darjeeling, a popular tourist place in Nepal with humongous tea gardens. If I continue to tell about that lovely place and the beauty of Himalayas, probably the entire session will go off in that. As has been rightly said in the Puranas-" In a hundred ages of the gods, I could not tell thee of the glories of the Himalayas".... The Himalayas are spectacle of awesome dimensions... ranges upon ranges, tiers of rocks, sharp sky piercing peaks and canyons, deep beyond measure....... I was quite fortunate to have spent time in such a place.

I underwent my primary schooling in Nepal up to class 7.Our class was smallest in terms of strength in the entire school, just 13-14 students, even the best B-schools in the world would be envious of the faculty to student ratio. I was always in the good books of the teachers during my entire schooling. And as is the custom in almost all schools in India and Nepal, if you are a good student your ambition has to be to become either an engineer or a doctor. All my family members, friends and relatives wanted me to become a doctor. I myself wanted to become a doctor and serve everyone who had expectations from me which was ultimately not going to be. Ironically I am here in Infosys as a software Engineer.

I appeared for few medical entrance exams after class 12th but couldn’t clear. This was probably the severe blow of failure that I had in my life. Since I didn’t want to waste a year for entrance exam preparation and reappear, I planned to do engineering and joined MSRIT in Bangalore.

When I Asked God to make me a doctor
He made me an engineer

I joined MSRIT in December 16, 2000 two months after the session had started. Attended the classes and completed all my lab assignments on a war footing. I expected a lot out of my college life and again I feel God gave me what I needed and not what I wanted. I couldn’t quite study with the same flair that I used to do in school. That made me just an above average student in college and not among the toppers which I was used to in school. Participation in co-curricular activities became dead as a dodo.

The only improvement that was visible to me was in terms of talking to girls. Since I was from a boy’s school I was really nervous talking to girls in the first semester. The very mention of interacting with girls used to send shivers down my spine. But things improved as I moved to higher semesters, slowly and steadily the nervousness disappeared. Learnt a lot about the party culture of Bangalore from the localites, also learnt about the Toastmaster’s in engineering from one of my friend who was a Toastmaster and a very accomplished speaker in college.

By the end of 3rd year, there was a little seriousness about placements and career and stuffs like that which were completely alien till now. One fine day Infosys came to our college for placements and I was selected along with 76 other college mates.

Hobbies + Role Model
Whatever I have achieved and whichever position I am in today is because of the foresight and the vision of one man, my dad. Being a modest and a humble shopkeeper he had the vision beyond the hilltops and the Himalayas of Nepal. He is instrumental in shaping up my personality in a big way, be it the guidance that he gave me during my primary schooling or developing hobbies in me. Hobbies have always been a part and parcel of my life since childhood. It ranges from Philately to numismatics to singing, writing blogs and being a part of toastmaster’s movement.

Apart from the Hobbies, I also have a small mission in my life that transcends beyond the confines of an Infosys Campus. I want to give back to society what society has given to me. At certain point of my life I want to open an NGO which would help people reeling under poverty get out of it which I feel is the greatest evil for the mankind. I want to build an NGO which is as big as an RSS but without any political affiliations. It motto just be just nation building. Hopefully in this Endeavour I can say

When I Asked God for accomplishing my mission
He Gave Me Favorable Situations to complete it