Thursday, November 25, 2004
It is strange but true. People seldom try to put themselves in other shoes and get the other perspective before thinking and talking about something. Vikhyat was speaking of the fun and spirit of the game day before yesterday when he was not a part of either the people getting the points, nor of the people losing them. Today at Antakshari, when his team was liable to lose because of the small issue that should have been neglected from the fun point of view, he came up shouting and was even talking about being given a second chance if the results were to be too close...talk of different languages being spoken in different situations.
Anyway, Konnect was not at all satisfying today. With only 15 odd teams turning up, it does take your enthu down...what with all the time that we spend publicising, organising these events and then finally seeing only 50 people turning up out of a total of 250. C hostel did not come at all, not even with a token participation...ah well...
There was another minor skirmish apart from the one that I was mentioning about in the initial few lines of the post. Vishak was the time keeper and all of a sudden, he vanished into thin air (he had an urgent call and could not inform anyone before going). This resulted in the team from F (the first team) getting a little extra time and finally, when it was Team G's (Mayank, Prashanat, etc) turn and I refused them the same despite the circumstances being similar, things got a little heated up again.
In another instance, Prashant jumped the gun and before my accepting or rejecting the answer, started talking about his own version of the answer, forcing me to cancel the question from being passed on to the next teams for bonus points. By the way, this was what angered Vikhyat and made him lose sight of the bigger picture of having fun :-)
Jokes apart, I am really wondering about what else I should do to get a better response from people. I know that ITC is coming up and so are the end term submissions for seniors and cases aplenty for us juniors, but all the same, I don't think that two hours are all that scarce. We plan to have Dumb C finals and Pictionary prelims on Monday...let's see who all turn up.
I shall be leaving for Bangalore tomorrow night and from there to Hyderabad to participate in the debate at ISB. I am still feeling guilty about leaving so many classes and especially the student presentation due in Prof Saji Gopinath's class...but then I have to take the call... can not really expect to have the cake and eat it too.
Posted at 12:49 am by Nitai
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
So many things have been happening that I have completely lost track of my priorities. Somehow I feel that I am fast going on the track that I was on during my college days. With so many inter institute festivals coming up and myself trying to participate in as many of them as possible, things on the academic front have taken a backseat. With Dr. Chowdhury's Class Participation marks being based strictly on attendance, I am likely to miss out on quite a lot on the grades front. I am not even reading up anything on Fin and Ops either. With the term end coming closer, the load is only going to increase and if I carry on like this, it is certainly going to be a tough, tough time for me. In fact, even the supposedly comfortable subjects like Org Theory and Macro have started changing their faces, what with all the presentations, assignments, and projects lined up. BTW, the presentations in OB were good fun, with some nice stories in the mockingly smiling JC style as well as some draggingly non-stop folded handed montone from Pavithra, in addition to many others.
In the midst of all this guilt that I have been heaping over myself, I have also become a party to the team that has gone ahead with this initiative called Konnect. Last night witnessed the first of the events at Konnect and as Sandipan said later, I got an idea of what to expect in future. A decent gathering of about 60-odd people did make sure that Konnect has a decent chance to be sustainable in future but all the same, the kind of format that we have thought of for Konnect, actually (and even expectedly) resulted in a minor skirmish.
It all happened when Mustu and Ramesh's team at dumb charades depicted the figure of the alphabet A while trying to guess "A Suitable Boy". As I had already mentioned at the beginning of the event, any codes for alphabets were not allowed. When I tried to disqualify the team from this round, Hostel D residents, with Sandipan and Vinay shouting the most :-), started creating a ruckus. Things were going fine and I was trying to explain my logic on top of allegations that similar behavior had been excused earlier in the event. I was trying to tell them that earlier, I did not see it myself but now that I had seen it happening, I could not swallow the same. I thought that this would sink in but it was then that some more people got in the act and with Rohit, Sandipan, and Ravi (Konnect's bouncer???) going in for the pushing matches, the situation went from bad to worse.
Vikhyat says that I was wrong in finally ruling to disqualify the D Hostel team because after all, it was all meant for fun and the this was the bigger picture. Rules were minor issues that could be modified in view of the bigger picture. Though I did not tell this to him last night when I just heard him out and was rather weary of people not understanding the idea behind it, I do think otherwise. As far as my understanding goes, when we (Vikhyat included) thought of Konnect as an idea, the big picture was not just fun, but establishing a tradition of fun. I know that it sounds like a lot of crap and heavy stuff but it remains a fact that you can not really expect people to take something seriously if that some thing has no structure. This was also why I did not want too much flexibility in the events that we were organizing...why I did not want the event to be declared without making sure of the prizes, venue, clashes with other events...why I did not want to send a mail retracting the team size from 3 to 2...
Whatever happened, it actually resulted in something good for Konnect beacuse this is what we were looking for...a feeling of belonging for your own hostel and a sense of rivalry with others (the tone of the rivalry could have been kept down a bit ideally but then again, chalta hai).
Amongst other things, after the not-so-successful stint at BT Acumen in Bangalore, I am all set to go for the debate at ISB, for which we already have the topic and the information that there are about 20 odd teams registered and more expected. Gaurav is a good speaker and I just hope that I can do enough to match up to him and give the IIMK team some character (and not take away from it :-))
The campus seems to be full of ITC Business Plan banners and despite what Gagan says about it all being a compromise to reach a position where we don't have to compromise, I am still sceptical as to whether we are heading for a habit of compromising. At times, such a strategy, instead of adding to your image, actually erodes whatever there is of it, but then again, as Abhijit says, this thing might as well be happening in IIMA, for all I know. Whatever be the case, here's wishing all the teams who have qualified for the contest the very best of luck...Kolkata shall be ours.
Posted at 01:19 pm by Nitai
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Of parties, emotions, and Konnect
The party last night was one of the best that I have attended for a long long time. This does not reflect on the parties earlier but more on my mood last night which was, in one word, good. It was as if all was right with the world and everything was in its place. At the same time, it doesn't take away from the hard work that Reuben and Rahul did to make the party a success. Though their idea of introducing games in the party did not really take off as it should have, the party was fun.
The effect of the party was diminished to an extent by people not turning up, especially those who have not been placed so far. In my own humble and personal opinion, if the reason for not turning up was only that the party was being thrown by people who have been placed and as such, was disrespectful and perhaps even mocking towards those who have not been placed yet, then I must say that a wrong trend is being established here. Going by this logic, who do you think will be a part of your celebrations whenever you plan to have it?
Last night's party had all the usual ingredients, the booze for boozers, the snacks for snackers, the dance and music for dancers...but more than that, the part of observing people take their skins off was the most interesting. That is what people tend to do under the effect of spirits, take their skins off and show their real self by actions and words...and that is what happened last night, too...Abhinav, Rajat, Vikhyat to a small extent, Sumit, Deepak and so many more...
On different lines, Aditya raised a very pertinent question this evening as we were getting ready to go for an outing to Kadavu Resorts for dinner (by the way, the ambience is good at Kadavu but the food, not all that great). He said that a person (I have a fairly good idea of who the person is, though Aditya refused to even give me any hints as to his identity), while discussing my blog with him, was wondering why I keep writing my emotions in public.
Telling a story, relating the happenings, cracking a joke through a publicly read blog are all fine but why do I, knowing fully well that my blog is being read by a lot of people, tear open my wounds and emotions that should normally be kept to oneself? On second thoughts, Aditya said that even he wondered the same at times about my blog.
I know that it is difficult to make any one understand because even I am not very clear about why I write what I write....but I will try, not because I need to explain my actions to anyone, but because there are moments of self doubt where even I am unclear as to why I make such a public show of washing my dirty linen.
It is like this...whenever I feel the pinch of something, I want to get it out of my system but not totally so. I want to talk about it to someone and take the load off myself. Since I am generally not able to get too comfortable about talking to people about my problems, I generally write them down on my blog and with others reading it, it feels as if I have washed my hands off the suffocating feelings. The blog also helps me keep track of my feelings and emotions in such situations and as such, record my life as it happens, thus ensuring that if, after ten years in my life, I take a look at my blog archives, they will tell me exactly what I need to feel blessed about and what I need to be careful against.
I know that it may sound like a lot of bullshit to many but then again, it is my blog and it is my reasoning and that somehow ends the entire discussion, doesn't it? :-)
Another thing that has been happening recently is Konnect. It is an intiative that some of us here at IIMK have planned. With big goals of setting a tradition, Konnect is all about connecting people in teams and fostering the hostel, batch, and institute identity amongst the junta. A series of cultural events have been planned, and the winning hostel might actually get a good deal as a prize (if our negotiations for the sponsorships pay, that is). The logo and the ads for Konnect have come out really well (and might even land me up in some trouble if I am not careful enough with dropping names). The teaser campaign that we ran for Konnect, though not garnering enough mail spam, did raise a few eyebrows and more than a few questions.
Since today's call for volunteers, there have been four of them already and hoping that others will join in, I believe that there is indeed going to be born, a new tradition at IIMK.
BTW, as Vikhyat says, the logo of Konnect is actually Tee Shirt Material :-))
Posted at 11:41 pm by Nitai
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Payment for a lost punchline
I was going to Bangalore after about five months and though this was, by no means, the longest that I had been away from the place, I was excited to be finally able to go there from Calicut. In fact, before I had joined IIMK, I had promised my Infy gang that I will keep coming to Bangalore every now and then (what with the place being only 6-7 hours away).
This particular journey to Bangalore, however, was for a specific purpose. A hastily organized and sparsely participated debate on Friday saw me being selected to represent the institute in the two upcoming debates, one at ISB on the 27th of this month and the other in Bangalore on the 19th, that is yesterday. So it was that I, Deepak (as members of the debate team), Sanjeev, and Gaurav (as the quiz team) stood in front of the college gate waiting for the Kallada Travels bus to Bangalore. With an immensely uncomfortable journey under our belts, we reached Bangalore early in the morning, all ready to take on the world. While the other three went on to Gaurav's house (he belongs to Bangalore), I decided to give a visit to Sushant. Richa was also there and was busy filling up the recommendation guidelines for her PL. She has taken GMAT and scored an amazing 740. On top of that, she doesn't want to go abroad and is applying, for the time being, to ISB (which I believe, will lap her up).
Chatting with them, I lost track of time and by the time I was ready and could get an auto, it was already quite late. I reached the venue in Kormangala at about 10 minutes past the scheduled time and was surprised to see no one there, apart from our team and another from the neighboring Christ College Institute of Management. Soon, we came to know that the eliminations were to be held at IIMB campus and they had already kicked off the process there. We managed to hitchhike on the bikes of the Christ College people and somehow reach the new venue in time for the eliminations. Eliminations were a cake walk, I thought. The topic of the debate said, "Opportunity is more on building Indian Brands than building Brand India". Each team was supposed to speak two minutes for the motion (one speaker) and two minutes against it (second speaker). I decided to go against, and after a spirited show by Deepak, managed to give some decent finishing touches to be able to qualify into the final eight from a group of 42 teams.
The quarterfinals had an interesting format and of course, a different venue. The two IIMs in the south zone were (probably intentionally) kept in two different quarter finals and the topic for the first quarters (which saw some lop-sided competition with IIMB and Christ College simply stealing the show) was "Indian Advertising: Imitation or Innovation?". Some bad performance by the other two teams and some decent going by IIMB and Christ College saw them through to the semis. The next quarters, in which we figured, had the topic "Celebrity Endorsements: Does it pay?". An interesting topic with a lot of arguments and counter-arguments, it made the debate lively. Deepak from IIMK opened the debate by setting the context of the discussion, defining what a brand stands for and how it can come to gain from celebrity endorsements, giving the examples of Amitabh Bachchan and Cadbury's and above all, quoting some fake figures from some fake reports, too :-).
The opposition speaker from ICFAI, Hyderabad who opened against Deepak went on to question the match between Amitabh and Cadbury and also talked about the cost factor of involving celebrities in the ad campaigns (played right into our hands as we were prepared for these questions and had anticipated them with precision). My turn was next and I believe that I made a good start (in an unusual way, with the Rapunzael poem). I went on to mention my points about how cost factor can be neutralised if the advertising strategy is chosen correctly and the celebrity endorsements are used during growth phase of the product life cycle. What I did not do was reply to the Amitabh-Cadbury link and finish my speech with the punchline that related my start, body and conclusion (completely forgot both of them).
I had started with saying something that went like, "Rapunzael Rapunzael, let your golden hair down, says the prince. Rapunzael lets her hair down and the prince climbs up the tower and the two lovers meet. Love, anybody? Ladies and Gentlemen, Love is when Romeo meets Juliet, Love is when Laila meets Majnu and not when a rose is shown brushing against a sunflower for minutes on end without any purpose."
I went on to mention how celebrities give a physical form with which the customers can associate the brand, gave the example of Preity Zinta and Pentafresh, and more importantly, talked about the necessary marketing startegy decisions that need to be right for celebrity endorsements to work. The punchline that I forgot and that I wanted to end with went somewhat like this: "A Veer Pratap Singh and a Zaara Hyatt Khan will in deed have the desired effects, provided that they are backed with the typical Yash Chopra style."
So far, so good...but that is when the lightning struck. One of the judges stood up and said that he wanted to bring the discussion into perspective and asked the teams to discuss more about how exactly does the celebrity endorsement pay or not pay. Completely unfair to our team where both of us had spoken, this came as a jolt. BIM Trichy, the second team for the motion, however, got it as a Godsend and capitalized fully on it by starting their argument with the tangibles and intangibles that companies can obtain from the celebrity endorsement ploy. The moment they said this, the judges were seen nodding their heads as if those guys had struck a goldmine all on their own.
The opposition teams, the ICFAIs from Chennai and Hyderabad were both pathetic but as luck would have it, both the pathetic teams were in the opposition. As we came to know later, the policy was not to choose the best two teams from each quarter final for the semis but to choose one Government (that is, team for the motion) and one Opposition (that is, team against the motion) from each quarter final. We had already lost to our partner team in the Government on account of the judge intervention and though we did try to salvage the situation somewhat in the Q&A round, it was too little too late.
The semis were interesting with IIMB, ICFAI Chennai favoring the motion, "M-commerce: Myth or Reality?" and BIM Trichy, Christ College against the motion. More interesting than the opening arguments, the Q&A session saw some tempers flaying and some good use of rhetoric by both Christ College and IIMB. The other two teams were completely outclassed as these two teams (luckily, one in the Government and another in the Opposition) went about murdering each other. The IIMK contingent asked a few questions, too and in my opinion, Gaurav and Deepak could have done better than losing thier tempers. I completely agree to their point that the IIMB guys were acting too smart and that Gaurav was specially irritated because we were made to wait for the quiz prelims results since the morning...but then again, it came across as if IIMK were sore losers. Whatever be the case, as Amitabh said in Sholay, "Partner, ab bol hi diya hai to dekh lenge", and so it was that even I was poised to ask a question of my own but luckily for IIMB, time for Q&A ran out before I could put my own poser to their arguments.
The day ended rather dramatically for us with Gaurav making his displeasure known to one of the ladies in the organising committee. Though she did finally relent and told us that we were through to the quarters of the quiz, Gaurav wanted more (perhaps an apology?). Sanjeev made the peace and that was when we finally left. I stepped out at the Forum, did some window shopping, got me some posters that I wanted to have in my room for long, and then finally went to Richa's house. Having asked Deepak to book tickets for the 9:30 bus, we were waiting for Sushant to come and take us out for a good dinner. It was not to be, however, as Deepak told me, just in the nick of time, that we had got tickets only for the 8:30 bus.
It was all a blur there onwards as Richa literally dragged me along till I reached the bus stop with about ten minutes to spare. Sushant came to the place directly from his office. Thinking back, I felt lucky to have such friends who, if they wanted, could have left me on my own and said their good-byes but who, in reality, made sure that I made it to my bus and escorted me all the way as if I was a kid and would not be able to make it on my own. Thanks guys for all this and much more.
Posted at 07:43 am by Nitai
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
IIMK is on an upswing and it is not just because my blog says so. IIM Kozhikode, the fifth-to-be-set-up amongst the Indian Institutes of Management (or the IIMs, as they are popularly known) has had a brief but eventful history. About to complete a decade of operations, the institute is all poised to take over and reach up to the best in the business. However, it will be pointless to say that there have already been events that prove the forward march of this institute beyond doubt. In fact, seen from the realistic angle, there are miles to go before the institute can even count itself amongst the top few in this country.
But then again, the signals are all there. One strong signal was last night's talk by Dr. PJ Nayak, the CMD of UTI Bank. The kind of professional display and the quality of interaction that the students of the institute put up during this talk would have impressed even the most hardcore of cynics. The talk on Banking on Clutter: Marketing, Segementation, and Risk Mitigation was not really hard core fin. However, the sheer brilliance of Dr. Nayak's elocution combined with a receptive audience made the talk really interesting. The faculty's presence in the talk was another encouragement that, according to me, actually made the students participate more than they normally do.
In fact, for the past few seminars and talks that I have been witnessing on campus, there has not been much of quality participation from the audience (except probably for a part of the IT Seminar, due to widespread familiarity with the topic). This time, things were different partly on account of the short, simple, and yet meaningful nature of the talk by Dr. Nayak and partly due to his delivery which was, as I have already mentioned, impressive.
Dr. Nayak talked about how one of the oldest institutions that have survived in the market is commercial bank and how despite being written off by many as being liable to disintegrate into the asset side and the liability side, these banks have carved out a niche for themselves while at the same time, not letting go of the bundled service that they provide to their customers.
However, this ability of banks to survive, Dr. Nayak said, is not sufficient if they have to actually grow and flourish. Modern banks have to take care of customer relationships by moving towards more intimate relationships with their customers. At the same time, they have to look at another scale of completeness of service and make sure that they provide as comprehensive a package to their customers as possible and all this at reasonable costs.
As he pointed out and as came out in the questions later, this leads to a paradox. Banks try to provide comprehensive facilities like ATMs, internet banking, etc by which they remove the low value tasks from the branches but at the same time by doing so, they have fewer chances of talking to their customers face to face and establish a relationship with them to either up-sell or cross-sell products and services. To counter this, banks can go for mailing communication supported by data mining techniques to ensure that things continue to go on smoothly on both relationship and completeness scales.
An ethical question on such techniques, however, was well received by Dr. Nayak as he said that there has to be a balance and self-restraint that banks have to adopt because if not, it will result in prohibitive legislations in the long run. Personally, I believe that before tapping the small market that it already has, the banking sector should look at expanding the customer base which they do not seem to be busy doing. Calling up a person who has three credit cards with three different banks (which is what the data mining software is likely to recommend) and trying to convince him/her to change to/add on a new card is useless. Creating awareness about Indian banking and its modern face amongst those who are not current customers of the sector at all, is a more prudent strategy and in the long run, a more paying one.
That was what I thought about the topic. However, there were quite a few quesions to Dr. Nayak from the students about things different from the topic (varying from asking for his comments on as brow-raising topics as HSBC's interest in UTI Bank to as eye-raising as role of GFIs in the Indian scenario). I must say that this batch seems to be more of the Fin-Mark kind than any other. I am eagerly awaiting the Finance and Marketing Seminars and can just imagine all the action that is going to come.
Posted at 06:13 pm by Nitai