Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – revelry at Clarke Quay

Most of our batch mates said Singapore was different. We all were scattered in our groups, and it’s difficult to do anything (read booze) in the sanctity of our rooms. But the answer to each of these concerns was quickly found and accepted by us – Clarke Quay (CQ).

We had landed in Singapore and almost a month had passed, and today was a Saturday. The day when our weekly special to Clarke Quay (CQ) would start around 9 30, 10 in the evening and more than half of the batch would be found there!! Yes, we religiously followed the routine.

CQ was the place to be. With its riverside open areas, a bridge where people would sit on the parapet top and booze and smoke, enjoy till the last drop and then head towards many of the discos and pubs located there. There was no restriction, as we would carry our own stuff and sit back and enjoy. For most of us, it was real fun, as it would give a chance to get together at a place where there was no one to put a check on us and we could easily let our hair down, go with the flow of our booze and enjoy in the real sense of the word. The mood there was at best summed up by the famous Dev Anand song “main fikra ko dhooyein mein udata chala gaya…”

CQ housed many famous and “mast” discs and pubs – Attica, Zirca, Rupee Room and many more. And how can we forget China One, as it was our refuge, on most of the occasions, for it didn’t charge any entry fee, while the rest would. We would head to China One, and dance to the tunes of the DJ there. Some lovely dance numbers, and if we are lucky, we might get a chance to dance to a Punjabi or a Bollywood number there. If some of us were lucky some day, they could get English or an American partner to dance too!! So wasn’t Singapore or for that matter CQ different?? :)

After boozing, smoking and dancing the whole night at CQ, we would head home at around 4-5 in the morning or at times, even late!! The revelry at CQ was the time to remember!! Such are the charms of CQ that most of us still yearn to relive those days!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

From the steel city – The first taste of notorious ragging

The second day, we quickly got the admission formalities done and got ourselves a room allotted in the hostel. As we got our hostel formalities done, it was already the lunch time and we could see our batch mates all looking down and wearing formal attire with a tie. We could feel the fear around!!

One of the seniors, who took us to our hostel attendant to get a room for us, took us towards some fellow guys from UP, who had already joined a few days back. The senior started “See, here are your new brothers…they are in room 4 and 5…meet them and give them all the ragging fundae…we will come in the evening to check…” (Ragging Funda # 1: Always call all your fellow batch mates from your state as your brothers & Funda #2: old ones would pass on the ragging fundae to he newer ones, as and when they come). All of them, looked at “3rd button” (Funda # 3: to look at the third button of your shirt while taking to a senior) and as they were about to speak, took permission to speak (Funda # 4) and he started,
First year batch mate (FYBM) – Sir, May I have the Golden opportunity to talk…
2nd year senior (SYS) – No
FYBM – Sir, may I have the diamond opportunity to talk…
SYS – No
FYBM – Sir, may I have the platinum opportunity to talk…
SYS – No
FYBM – Sir, may I have the lifetime opportunity to talk…
SYS – No
Oh man, this continued at least 2-3 times till he obliged and by that time we had gotten scared of what was happening. At one hand, I felt disgust at the thought that even I would have to do all this nonsense from now on, but at the other hand, we laughed at ourselves and our batch mates. But man, our seniors did it, we did it and as did our juniors!!

After all the formalities in the hostel, I was allotted room # 4, on the ground floor and even mathura and buddha were allotted the same room. But my seniors, requested the attendant to allocate some other room, may be some room in the back gallery, but he said no, saying, there were none available there. Then, the seniors told us to take care in these rooms as these rooms are prone to senior wrath due to being near the front gallery and being at the ground floor. We got even more scared!!

We had slept by now – our very first day in the hostel and in the middle of our sleep came some sound as if somebody is banging our door. Having gathered our courage, we quickly understood that it was some senior banging windows for us to open, but since we didn’t respond (this was against the ragging funde though!!), he gleefully did it against room 5 and after a few minutes the noise vanished, we thought that even room 5 folks didn’t respond to this and the seniors had gone away and smilingly dozed off.

Suddenly, after 5-10 minutes, we could hear someone banging against our door, with gathered courage, we tried to get up and the voice said “Open the door…I am Maneesh…” and we opened the door…knowing that we were some what safe!! Then he continued…come quickly…seniors have come and they are calling all UP guys…and mathura said “they have to come only in the middle of the night and *beep*, *beep*, *beep*” and we quickly got into our formal attire, wore the tie and the third button mark and ran towards room # 10, where the seniors were waiting for us!! And one of us uttered “Imagine…the goat is itself going towards the butcher!!” :)

Reaching room 10, we were called towards the window, one by one, and were asked to introduce ourselves. My chance came…and I started “Sir, May I have the golden opportunity to say my name…and he replied…Yes…(ah!! Lucky me, hit it in a single opportunity!!). My name is Uphar Gandhi from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh (There is nothing called as UP, always give full name of the state, ragging funda # 5). The senior said “okay…then what to do…” Hearing this…I felt like…what what to do…nothing…go off to sleep and let us sleep too!! But before, I could utter anything…the other senior asked me to come closer to him (and I knew, what was it, as I had already seen the scene many times, by the time my chance had come) and after I came closer…I couldn’t hear anything for a few moments as something has hit me hard…and again. Then the seniors said “okay now go away”…as if they had just called me to slap us!!

I swear, that was the only part of ragging that none of us liked ever, but on a different note, I believe that had it not been the fright of slaps (the number of slaps was called your “score” and whenever a senior would ask you your slap, your answer has to be “zero”, funda # 6 & 7), we would never have taken it seriously and would have missed the real fun of ragging!! I am very proud and happy to admit that by the time I was ragging free, my score was 32 and this ragging only made me friends with the huge NIT group that we have now!! We shared all our agony, pain, ecstasy and happiness during those times, still share them today and would do so in future!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From the steel city – as I entered the gates of NIT Rourkela

Having secured a position in one of the top engineering institutes in the country, I was feeling happy and proud to be amongst the few who are able to get there. However, who knew what awaited us, in the quaint and little steel city of Eastern India – Rourkela.

Having already met Nishant (keli:)) and Anand (Dwivedi) during my counselling at Lucknow, I knew a few people before I reached Rourkela. On board the famed Kalinga Utkala Express on September 28, 2001, I and my dad headed towards our destination. At Jhansi, we suddenly hear some noise in the nearby seat. As the chat became clearer and loud, we came to know that these 2 people were headed to Rourkela too. And we knew that the father is accompanying his son to NIT Rourkela as my dad was and we started off. After exchanging those usual pleasantries, we shared our identities and I came to know that I have a new friend Abhishek Sharma (Mathura) from Mathura joining me and a lot others at NIT Rourkela. Mathura, as he affectionately came to be known in the college, seemed a docile and a shy guy and I guess, his initial reading of me would be the same, though, I was not that shy, as he seemed :)

Well, we reached Rourkela in the evening and were quickly taken to a nearby hotel by an auto rickshaw guy. I still remember, the whole night, I couldn't sleep properly as the thoughts of stepping into a whole new world ran in my mind. After getting up the next morning, we hired an auto rickshaw to reach the college. We had just reached the gates of the administration office, and a few senior students welcomed us there, checking whether we were from UP or not? As we said, we were, they readily greeted us and our fathers and told us that as the college was closed today, we could be admitted only tomorrow and hence we should go towards the hostel, where all the arrangements for our stay were made!! We were quite surprised at the hospitality and the warmth shown by the seniors and promptly agreed to go along them, little knowing the fact that we were headed into a soup!!

We reached the Hall 3 (the hostel for second year boys) and were taken to room no 32 where another 6-7 second year seniors were waiting for us with a few first year students like us. Quickly we introduced ourselves and then again they made us and our parents very comfortable and requested them to excuse us as they would take us around and show the campus. And we knew we were heading towards something. The only pleasing factor was that we were 5 of us together and beamed in that fact!!

The second year seniors didn’t spare minutes to give us the fundas of college. The so called “ragging ke funde”!! Did I love it? I must admit, at first thought, they sounded too harsh and strict, but believe me, to our astonishment, anyone who had gone through all that, had loved it always and cherished those days the whole of his life!!

We were then as a tradition, taken to the hostel of the final year students. That, I must say was a jolly good time, even though, some of the acts were really funny and embarrassing. Those were the acts, which we still laugh at, when we sit together. How can one forget the way Mathura picked up the pen, Sandeep (Aala boy) talked and I, Amit Verma (Verma) and Rohit (buddha) were asked certain embarrassing but yet funny questions. I swear, each one of us still remember them!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tests need mavericks and their charisma

With the widespread demand and supply of T20 and ODI games in cricket, Tests face the fear of getting defunct, if not by the day, but definitely by the years. And IPL, Champions League and the barrage of media and financial coverage offered by the business houses and the associate name and fame hasn't helped the cause either!!

The increasing affinity of the audiences, business houses and sponsors towards the fast paced T20 format of the game has even led to ICC toying with the idea of 3 – 4 day Tests instead of a regular 5 day affair!! But I think, to stall the dwindling spectator interest and in fact to increase it to make it more interesting (if I am allowed to call so) and result oriented, an effort is required from both the administrators (to bring in changes like the UDRS) and the players (to show an intent to take games towards eventual results). In this regard, I would like to quote the Australians, who over the years, have fought hard and always looked for results, to the effect that they even look to declare their innings midway of the 3rd session of the 4th day of a test to affect a result!! An approach like this is what will make Tests more interesting, and not something where teams would bat through to safety and then call the opposition in again. Cricketing reforms like the UDRS is again very good, because it brings in technology to improve the quality of games and eventual results.

I think, ICC can even limit the amount of money a player can make from sponsorships and other games outside the ambit of International Cricketing calendar. I know, this type of regulation would ignite worldwide criticism especially from players and from the boards too, because that would restrict the money they can make outside of cricket. Even regulating the laying of pitches at the Test centers in all the Test playing nations shouldn't be tough either, considering the limited number of tests played across the world in a year. I strongly believe maintaining a consistent approach across for the pitches should encourage results, more often. Similarly, more such changes and reforms could inspire the spectators and bring more interest to Tests.

Apart from this, I believe that there are players like Virender Sehwag have the potential to attract new genre of spectator interest in the Tests. He has played some true blinders over the past few years and already 2 such innings in the just concluded Test series between India and Sri Lanka. He has been called a maverick, entertainer, destroyer, but they still fail to capture his true essence. He has affected the results more often than none, and who would not, having a strike rate of more than 80 in Tests when compared to the best in the business having anywhere between 50-60. He sets the game for his team and leaves and onus on the rest to take it to completion. And in most of the matches, where he has fired on all cylinders, which he usually does, India has won the match!!

All in all, I believe, instead of playing only a few number of tests or decreasing their duration by a day or two, ICC should think of bringing in cricketing reforms to add more zing and make tests more result oriented. Tests are not only the test of your cricketing skills, but also your mental and endurance skills. Believe me, encouraging results or at least a fight by initiating some thoughtfully crafted changes should do the job!! Till then, we should hail players like Virender Sehwag and Steve Waugh who have made results possible by their entertaining and forward looking tricks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Corporate Valuation led to negative EV!!

After having successfully completed the Dubai marathon of Gimba…our folks quite eagerly, like the curiosity of a 10 year old reached Singapore. Quickly, we got through the immigration at the airport and out we were, to have a first look at one of the Asian Tiger economies!! Sitting in the college van to reach the hostel, we all gazed through the windows to leaning towers all around the city state and its gleaming highways network. One thing that struck to everyone who came to Singapore for the time, including me, was the greenery around (I am talking about the green trees and gardens all around the city)!! Some of us were so enamoured at the greenery that they even declared that post MBA, we would look to work in Singapore only!! No one knew what was in stored for us in 2009.

Upon reaching the hostel, we quickly got our respective rooms and then moved in to relax a little as our dry eyes needed some rest after a round of ornithology (bird watching) in the greens!!;) Having rested for a few hours, we all got together to head towards the most famous Indian location. They say, all the Indians, even before coming to Singapore, know about this place, its location and how to reach it from different parts of the city!! The same thing happened to us, our very own globetrotters took us to Mustafa Center and Little India  Few hours well spent in the midst of the “desi” Singaporeans, we rushed to the hostel, as we had to get ready for the next day, as the classes start!!

The next day, we quite eagerly reached the classrooms, expecting something great to happen – we were starting one of the most interesting subjects in Finance – Corporate Valuation. And as luck would have it, it did become one of the most interesting subjects ever!! The professor was always ready to teach in his own inimitable manner, always ready to self praise himself at the drop of the hat!! It grew to a level that students started to have quarrels with him and one incident take an ugly turn that the professor got it right on his face and he eventually gotten so angry that he left the class in between the lecture!! OMG, the whole class is stunned!! Complete silence!!

Quickly, some students went to the batch co-ordinator to discuss the issue and let the college authorities know of what was going on in the class and how the student felt of him. Though this did go in our favour, in the sense, that no disciplinary action was taken against any one of us!! The professor came back to the class, the next day, teaching us more disinterestedly and yet again giving us that gyaan about “I can earn millions, if I get into a job with an investment house…” Oh man, cut the crap!! And get over this!! The subject got over, we shouted a lot with the college authorities to help us with this subject and assign a new teacher so that the subject can be covered again!! Nothing ever happened, though we had some “refresher” sessions on the topic!! But, in the whole game, we lost ground in the most important and interesting subjects in finance!! Some of us, lost so much, that we shouted “after learning Corp Val from him, for every company I value, EV comes negative!! (courtesy all the wrongs things and ways thought to us ;))

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Need Web hosting? Don’t think again…just read this…

Planning to host a website for your company or for your self? Confused, must be!! Well, in this world of hosting jargons and hosting companies with each having series of plans on offer, any geek would be!! Let me make it easy for you to decide the way you should go about eventually selecting a hosting plan that suits your needs both technically and financially!!

First of all, one should know what is what they want to host and what is the target audience of their website? If we are able to answer these 2 simple questions, we should know that we have made a good start!! Yes, answering the second one can be a little tough, what in their era of web, anyone can access the website, so I am silly in even thinking of this question? Actually not, because knowing the target audience and hence the location of the audience would help us evaluate the benefits that accrue from hosting our website from vendors from different locations. Lets say, we are a small enterprise in India and most of our customers are located in India and hence our website will have maximum hits from India.

Then comes the technical aspects of the game, like the hosting space, bandwidth, IO performance, processing speed and support for different web technologies. Actually all these parameters will eventually determine the performance of the website. So, once we know the expected usage of the website, then we can know what technical requirements are needed. Generally, all the web hosts will stand equal on most of these, as they offer different plans at different rates, having all necessary combinations that run in the market!! So, the prerogative is on the client to know what he wants for himself and what he wants to pay for them!!

Generally, in India, most of the hosting is done from web hosts from the US or Europe. Or from a big few in India. For companies with maximum hits locally from India, hosting from the US or Europe doesn’t make sense because of two important reasons, viz; very high latency up to 300ms or more and exorbitant prices. Add to this trans-Atlantic cable cuts which have become so popular off late!

So what about the Indian biggies? I think, they are good, but only if you are yourself a biggie with time and resources to spare dealing with their long sales cycle, waiting in queues for critical support and what not!! But, if you are a small company or a company which values time and other relevant resources (which, I think every organization should, because every penny saved is penny earned!! And this adds to your bottom line), one should make a judicious choice of its web host.

Choosing a web host should be given its due importance and time. Effort should be spent in doing some kind of market research and competitor analysis in terms of what is being offered vis-à-vis what is being charged!!

In my opinion, having a generous dataflow limits, excellent network performance, generous bandwidth (which can be increased as one goes), large disk space, low to minimum redundancy and quality of storage disk space (like RAID) and other factors like ready availability of RAM processes, guaranteed CPU share and overall complete independence to deal with our hosting space is very-very important. And if one can get a host which provides low latency to the tune of say 100ms or less then one can think of opting for him. Offcourse, price should be a major criterion eventually.

But do you think, in India, there would be web hosts, who would provide any such hosting facility at cheap prices say USD 50 / month? I think, it is possible in India, with the hardware prices coming down drastically over the last few years. For example, have a look at this company and try and compare their prices with anything else available in India– I think they should overall score high!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – Dubai sojourn ends

IIP had ended well and we all quickly rushed to the hostel, but only before our very own photo session in the college. And there we went…we 5…rushing towards all the nooks and corner of the college to get a pose clicked – a remembrance forever!!

And we reached the hostel, braving the Dubai heat and sun – as our enjoyment knew no boundaries!! After our lunch, very quickly, we decided to venture out n go visit places that we were still left. So the list started ;) and we decided to head to the Ibn Battuta Mall. As we spent some time in the mall, we couldn’t spare thoughts and words to cherish and enjoy the exotic architecture of the building. With lovely courts and pavilions designed on the backdrop of a country like the India arena all decked up with India murals, Indian style of architecture and the great India elephant. And similarly the Chinese court all decked up with Red and Dragons and depicted the true Chinese colours.

After having spent some memorable moments there and having clicked some marvellous photographs, we decided to go to the ever famous Jumeirah beach. We spent some good time there and again clicked some nice photographs, this time some smart photography along with the nearside Burj-al-Arab hotel building. As we had heard and read a lot about Palm Jumeirah and the Atlantis Hotel, we thought of going there and requested our Taxi driver to take us there. Oh man, what an excellent chap he was and too good a deal we got, he had agreed to take us around to Jumeirah Beah, Atlantis n Dubai Marina, wait for us at each of these locations and finally drop us off to the hostel – all for 100 AED!!

As we reached Atlantis – we were enamoured and floored by the magnanimous architecture of the building and the whole concept of Palm Jumeirah!! With the reclaimed land and buildings with such a magnificent architecture, surrounded by water all around, it was a feeling beyond explanation!! As we got down at the entrance, we saw Rolls Royce Phantom right up there, and this summed up the lavish and brilliant evening ahead!!

Slowly with much confidence we entered the hotel premises (this was needed as we all were without the 200 AED entry ticket!!:)) and went about going through the whole compound with such an élan that even the engineers of building would have blinked  The posh surroundings and our confident gait made it simpler for us but this was to end for us as right at the other end of the hotel, a waiter requested us for our pass or room keys which obviously we didn’t have. He, upon realizing that both us and him were sailing in troubled waters, he requested us to go out through the other back door!! And out we came and laughed at all this incident till we reached our cab and asked him to take us out and to Dubai Marina. Wow what an evening so far!!

At Dubai Marina, we spent some time clicking photographs at the back drop of those luxurious yachts and those tall sky scrapers. After half an hour there, we realised that we might have ventured into some private zones and hence finally decided to call it a day and headed towards the hostel.

An evening well spent and well remembered after those 3 haggled and troublesome days when most of us started and completed our projects!!

Hold on, Dubai didn’t end like this!! More was to come on the last evening, after we had reached the airport!! With the 11:30 PM flight to Delhi for almost 40 of us, we could see a fleet of cabs waiting for us downstairs. We reached the airport on time and eventually all of us checked in. Then we all spread out to enjoy the last moments in Dubai – in our own different ways. Some shopping, some eating n some like me just window shopping  After having shown our passports almost 2-3 times by now and right there at the final call, suddenly came the news that one of our friends has lost his passport!! Oh God, its time to board and this poor guy has lost the passport!! What to do?? No clue!! Everyone checked their pockets, even their hand baggage, just to console ourselves, even though we knew that it was not with us!! Oh man, how will he travel!! Nothing working out!! Some people even cried (at least people said that standing along them, I don’t know, I didn’t notice, as I was far away), but to no avail!! The flight got delayed as even the flight staff was engrossed in the search operations!! After almost an hour of search operations and multitudes of search teams in operation, the guy finally found his passport and that too at one of those many frisking and document checking counters at the Dubai airport. I must say this incident will remain with him for sure and many of us for other reasons for the whole of our lives!!

Wait – it was still not goodbye to the land of Arabs as we entered the plane!! Having settled down quickly and some of us and others in the flight having used some superfluous words for the delay, we tried to enjoy our standing (that we were a group of 40 together, hence none dare to say anything to us :)) and gave a call as a tribute to someone (chachi, as they call that someone!! :)) and we took off finally from Dubai!!
Those days from Dubai will remain with us forever!! Who and how can we forget the first day in Dubai and the way it transcended till the final take off!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – IIP final

We were into our last term exams in Dubai and there comes an e-mail saying that we have to give 3 presentations on our IIP. First to the Dean, Dr Sethi (who you must be familiar with by nowJ), Second to a Panel of Professors and an external judge and the Third one to the whole batch. OMG!! Just 3 days to go before we actually play the game in front of 3 eclectic varieties of audiences.

I say, 3 eclectic varieties, because there is a deep thought gone into understanding their behaviour J On one hand, we have the Dean who loves to say a lot many things, but listens only things that sound familiar to him – Research, market research, primary research, SPSS and the likes. Then we have the panel of professors and an external judge who may or may not listen to the topic being discussed depending on their own tastes and flavours. They may ask questions like why are you wearing this particular shirt with this blazer, it doesn’t suit well or may be you spoke well and we liked the way your hands were moving while you presented J It just puts you off when after a heavy technical subject and talk for which you spent sleepless nights you get to hear such comments, instead of worthwhile questions. At the end of it, you feel bad that you spent so many hours preparing for these comments. The third variety is our very own class of folks who are not interested in any presentation or talk that goes on stage. Just the idea of a presentation in the leadership hall gives you a yawn and you tend to get sleepy half way. This motley crowd actually is never interested in any such presentation; more so if it is being given by someone amongst us as we have already had enough of each other in the class and hostel J

Nevertheless, we had to present and there was no running away from this. And somehow, we all knew in our IIP group that we will have to give a presentation to our mentor in Bank of Baroda, so it makes 4 in all for us. By the exams got over, we were ecstatic that we wanted to forget the pains of preparing 4 different presentations but somehow they always came back haunting us, especially after the traumatic semi final we had a few days back and as a result of it, we were asked to do a lot many new things which we had never heard of and never knew of. However, bad it may sound, we knew that we will have to implement at least some parts of the new ideas, if we were to sail through.

3 days break and we planned to do a lot of work then and prepare the presentation. Believe me, it was an ordeal collecting all the 5 of us together at the same time in a single room. Even if we somehow manage to do so, we would never discuss the project, because there were lot many hot things to discuss J Never mind, we knew that we had to finalise on a lot many things and do a lot of work. We divided our work and everyone decided that it will be sent to me for compilation. I and Monty decided to do the presentation as well.

2 days into the work and we hear someone say – “yaar Sharad confidence nahin aa raha hai”…n listening this most of us, especially Sharad got pissed off and there started a small duel with each one of contributing their mite to it. Ranny and Raghu also shouted and Sharad was all ready with Monty to give him the requisite confidence. We were wondering, its just 1 day to go before the mega finale and here we are without confidence on what we have done. There was complete raucous and then I ensued by saying…what the f*** is this and this endangered the whole matter all the more. However, after some nasty discussions and heated arguments, we all sat down knowing well that we all together have to fight it out and emerge winners. And finally we decided something that really brought back some confidence at least into Monty. We finalised to do some of the work that was suggested by Prof Chakraborty on Dr Sethi’s recommendations. And all of us took a sigh of relief as we all had agreed to everything by now and there was no shouting anymore J

I guess this small fight was necessary for the eventual success of the project and our team because this brought us closer to each other and started accepting and believing in each other. Those arguments and those heated discussions brought out a fact that we should do what was asked from us and that saved our lives, at the end of the day.

Presentation was ready and we had decided who would start and knew well what each one of us had to say and present. The next day, we heard that the presentations were going behind schedule and we can take time to reach college. As usual, our very own Brad Pitts, Raghu and Ranny were late and reached the college after the rest of us. Luckily for us, our turn hadn’t come by then and we could still take some time to recollect everything.

Slowly but surely, the presentations before us got over and our time to get honoured came. We entered the room and Dr Sethi was eagerly waiting for us. As we got the setup ready, Ranny was ready to shoot. I was at the computer running the slideshow while the rest of us presented and Ranny actually shot – said “Good afternoon Sethi saab” and we all wondered what was that, did we hear what he actually said. And true to Ranny’s ways he started of in his inimitable style. I still remember those words from him – “Just to give you an idea of the Credit Derivatives Market, the size of the US economy is USD 13 trillion and the credit derivatives running on just AIG are USD 67 trillion”. And we heard all that marketing gyaan from him and we were all smiling from inside J And we all presented, with me closing the presentation by giving him a SWOT analysis of CLNs (just to make sure, it looks like a market research project, you remember)

We ended our presentation and we knew that now the Lion would roar. And roared he, with a smile. He asked us whether we think that this project would have taken us 4 months or not to complete. As we said Yes and complimented it with a comment - Offcourse it took us more than 4 months for the project as we had to analyse a lot of things, alphas, betas, gammas and LEMMAS. Oh man!! What is "lemma" now?? Everyone of us wondered. But as they say...once said is said...nothing can be done then J And he started off with another salvo, what all did we do, where did we got it analysed and then where did you get those contacts that you had shown in the presentation and then he said how did we contact them? As if all this was not enough and he asked us to tell him how our mid term review went and what did he ask us to do. As we told him about what happened then, he asked us whether we implemented what was suggested. We readily said Yes, as we actually did implement all that. He rounded off by saying what our mentor thinks of the project and if he is happy with it. As we returned the honours with the affirmative, he asked us if we were the same group with whom he had a small tussle during the mid term review. Again we said Yes, though this time we were reluctant, but we had to say that. There was no running away from this.

Then he paused for a second or two and our heart pumped heavily, as he hadn’t declared the result as yet. We had already started moving out of the room and we looked back at him in anticipation of some good news, and he asked…what did you think, I am not going to pass your project? You have done a reasonable job and I am satisfied with it. Oh what a moment was that!! We couldn’t believe what our ears heard and tried to see each other to make sure that we heard the same thing and it made sense to us J By now we were out of the room and our happiness knew no boundaries.

Everyone was so overjoyed that I must tell you the real expression on the face of each one of us. We came out and Ranny jumped in the air as if he had won the Olympic Gold Medal for High Jump. Sharad and I were so happy and launched ourselves towards Ranny as we had just won the battle of waterloo. Raghu was so ecstatic and hugged us as we had solved a big puzzle. And our very own Monty cried as if he were a small girl and he had some pent up emotions for so many months and his confidence returned only after we had heard that we had won the battle inside that room. Overall we all hugged each other and had one of more joyous moments of our lives in Dubai. OMG!! What a victory for our group and what a moment! Those moments are etched in our hearts like a mark of stone.

Do you know what actually rounded off this whole eventful IIP Final for us? No its not those emotional and feelings of satisfaction. No, not the feeling of work well done and well appreciated, but a phone call that came after we had all presented and came out winning. Yes, a phone call! That call was from a business contact, whom we had tried to contact for an outside review of our project. This was something that was a necessity to get an individual and independent evaluation of the project and get his insightful views. Though, I spoke to him at length about the whole idea and noted down his views, however, we laughed and smiled a lot as we had never laughed and we would remember this day ever!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – Match: IIP semi final & Umpire: Dr. Sethi

We left our last IIP discussion on a serious note and am sure…most of us would have felt something or the other on the strings that were touched there. On a different note, let me bring to you what happened on course our IIP.

You must remember that in IIP, we were a group of 5 – Monty, Raghu, Ranny, Sharad and me. The kinda of folks we were and the experience we had in dealing with Finance in its hard core existence, anyone would know what could be the status of the project by each passing day. However, we still managed quite a lot by our standards and that kept our mentor at the bank quite happy and satisfied J

One fine day, came news that kind of took ground off our feet. The then Dean, Dr. Sethi was to take a mid term review of our projects and would comment accordingly J OMG!! This news was something that would have shaken other groups alike; however, we were all the more confused what to show him. Not because we hadn’t done our stuff, but because of the fact that our project and the modus operandi followed was anything but to his liking. Though we always knew his obsession with Market Research, Cold calling and Primary Research, but our project had anything but this. Now you know what gave us those goose bumps J

Knowing well what was awaiting us in board room in Dubai, we decided on a few mantras to be followed in front of the Dean (Yes, some mantras were required, considering the kind of terror was established by now). Some highlights were:

- Speak clearly in front of him

- Tell him clearly what was entailed of us in the project

- Not to cross anyone while he is speaking

- Try and convince him that what were doing is what the bank has asked us to do and this is known to the college faculty (actually that was the truth J)

Armed with these self designed sutras, we entered the board room and what awaited us, became a part of the SPJCM folklore. Dr. Sethi welcomed us to the room and quickly asked us to introduce ourselves and then move on to tell him the details of the project – the organization, the project scope, what we were to do and what we had done so far. Somewhere in our hearts we were overwhelmed by Dr Sethi’s well known and acclaimed obsessions and knew that those will be talked about sooner than later. And there came the first salvo - where is market research and primary research? He was to ask this question and pat came, by now very famous dialogue of GMBA – “In the world of finance…”

For sometime, somehow, he listened patiently to us and then started off by saying something that threatened us a lot – Why do you have to sell this project to me…don’t do that…and finally he ended up by asking us do you really think this project should take the time it has taken and you have spent so far. That was the most dreaded of them all, as the spectre of redoing the whole stuff loomed large in front of us.

But somehow, “in the world of finance…” worked wonders for us and he readily accepted our claims to IIP greatness and our claims of “world of finance”. He suggested we send our project details and workings to Prof. Arindam and Prof. Chakraborty (which we actually did) and signed off.

Woaaah!! We never knew how we could sail through the tide called Dr. Sethi that day, when we could see that tidal fury for us. At one moment it looked he will ask us to redo the whole project and come back again with some primary research, even though it never fitted the topic and the work that we were doing. But I guess, it was our faith in ourselves, our capabilities and belief in each other that helped us lot in finally delivering what we wanted to and made him believe in the utility of such non-primary research, non-cold calling projects and that students can learn a lot even without these in the projects.

What a day that was!! 3 cheers for the team!!

Hip Hip Hurray!!

Hip Hip Hurray!!

Hip Hip Hurray!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Began with a bang…hold on…ended in a whine…

Last week saw country’s private airlines dropping a bombshell – demanding a bailout package, failing which they would ground all their flights and start a strike from August 18. However, within 48 hours of this hoax call (I prefer to call this call for strike “hoax”J), the terror had already fizzled and the domestic flyers of the country were happy. This ultimately turned out to be a big PR blunder for these airlines and the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) which called the strike.

Such was the nightmarish feeling of such a call for strike, that the common man in the country felt betrayed. Imagine what could have happened to the already booked tickets on these airlines and how would they travel, once these flights are grounded. To worsen it, they wouldn’t have got train tickets (only “tatkal” was the option) and all their schedules would have gone for a toss.

However, I still believe that some of the demands of these private airlines were legitimate. Like the predatory taxation on aviation fuel, high airport costs and other charges. Even then, I think, these airlines were better off calling for an industry wide dialogue (which they eventually have agreed to) with the Government and come to a common understanding and belief on the issues that matter.

I don’t even agree on the National airlines getting the so called bailout packages. These packages are the tax payer’s money, which no one should spend on about sick organizations. These are companies standing on people’s money – taken, but does that justify using more people money to bring them out of the rut? I think the biggest problem with these airlines is the old time management and policies oiled in the pre-independence era. The processes that these companies follow are based on the now defunct management thoughts and operations. In my view nothing plagues more than the bureaucracy and their old age policy and processes. And any financial package can not make them realise these pitfalls. They would again fall into the ditch that they see themselves in now. They require restructuring at every step – from management to policies to processes to operations. Bringing on board experienced professionals from around the world, who have run airlines profitably for years, could be an ideal start. I guess, the Government in planning to do so is the step in the right direction. But still the bailout package can be a failure in the long run.

This financial package should only be used to bring some sanity in the processes, operations and policies. This money should be consumed to bring in international consultants to utilize their experience and knowledge to help these airlines in the long run. They need a complete overhaul in every aspect of the game. The money should be used to call experienced professionals on the management and delivery teams.

Now let’s understand what actually made this strike call a big failure and one of the biggest marketing blooper by the fledgling private airlines industry in the country. The biggest reason was the firm ground on which the Government stood against the militant call by these private airlines. The Government was very clear and articulate in its stand, with the aviation minister disapproving of their decision to suspend flight operations, saying anything causing inconvenience to passengers was ‘not acceptable’.

Second reason was the lack of preparation by the industry body, FIA. The body unilaterally called for the strike with the threat to call off all operations. All this was done without having a consensus among the members – this was evident by the way first Indigo Airlines and then Spicejet announced they were not a member of this strike and they would continue their operations as usual. The FIA didn’t even have a Plan B, a fall back option in case their first plan failed. With no public support in their favour, these private airlines eventually had to come back on track. They realised that their plan had backfired badly and now they just had to try and salvage some lost pride. This they tried by saying that they did not want to threaten the Government and the public but just wanted to apprise them of the problems faced by them.

As said before, some of the demands set out by the federation were not illegal at all, however, the way it went about looking for answers for their problems, botched up for them. I fully agree that taxes on ATF and other charges are really discriminatory and raise the operational costs of the airlines.

The seemingly lack of agreement and consensus in the airline federation was another cause of failure. The smarter, smaller and leaner (SSL J) airlines seem to be doing a much better job than their big brothers. They are able to manage well and run with high load factors. Their costs are less and revenues are higher, hence their balance sheets and PL statements look better. Due to this, Indigo and Spicejet opted out of the strike even before it actually became a strike and Jet and Kingfisher belligerently called for it. This widened the dichotomy and led to the eventual calling off of the strike.

Even the experts from the industry called such tactics a big “no no”. Capt. Gopinath (of Air Deccan fame) said these airlines are themselves to be blamed for the mess they are in today. They haven’t aggressively marketed and pitched to get more flyers on board. This business in a country like ours will look bad unless we get those 98% of travellers who still prefer travelling via train or road on to flights. These airlines haven’t done anything to attract them to fly. They have to cut costs, overheads like freebies to manage operations cost effectively. Unless they do so, they will continue to see no light at the end of the tunnel. He went on to the level of calling this strike a ‘gimmick’.

I would say, managing the costs and trying to bring in more revenues would help these airlines. They have to be innovative and see how best the other airlines in the world have managed in these turbulent times.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Demystifiying Latency in Web Page Request

Since the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web (www) in the last century, till today there have been trillions and trillions of Internet page requests made across the world. However, webmasters feel all the more curious to know how actually a webpage request is being served on their user's computer and to use that understanding to try to speed it up.

Data on the Internet is packaged and transported across in small data packets. The regular or irregular flow of these data packets affect the user's Internet experience. Whenever, one sees a continuous flow of data on his screen, this in turn means that the data packets are moving across smoothly and in a timely fashion. However, if the same data packets move across with large and visible delays, that means that the user's experience is degraded and he may feel frustrated at the poor network connection and speed.
In this article, I seek to demystify all such beliefs and bring parity to our understanding of webpage request. I shall make an attempt creating a better understanding of latency effects of network and low bandwidth on a webpage request.
Lets first develop an understanding of some of the networking concepts to build our follow up understanding of the webpage request and latency. With the advent of networking, it was thought that millions and millions of users would be connected through a common network, hence the idea of TCP / IP model.
The key features of the TCP/IP model is encapsualtion, which is the concept of collecting the data and covering it with a common container for transmission. The common container is called the “IP Datagram”, also known as “IP Packet” or just the “Packet”. This IP Packet is a simple thing, with a header which contains the information used for routing the the packet to the destination and followed by data which is any information sent across.
Lets now concentrate all our energies on understanding another important concept in networking, the OSI model. It was created to lay out the process of turning the application data into something that can be transported through the Internet. The upper layers of the OSI model describe as to what happens within the applications running on the computer. These include the human-machine interface, conversion of the high level language into machine language, encryption, authentication and permissions. The lower layers are the ones where to and from applications are turned into data to move across the network. This is where data encapsulation occurs and the IP Datagram or “packet” is built.
The transport of data across the network is a 3 step process:
1. Data from the source is passed through the TCP/IP stack and wrapped into IP Datagrams, commonly known as “Packets”. These packets are then transmitted by the source computer in the network
2. Packets are passed along the network until they reach the destination computer
3. Packets are received by the destination computer and are passed through the stack
According to Wikipedia, Latency is the time delay between the moment something is initiated, and the moment one of its effects begins or becomes detectable. The most common understanding of Latency is it takes time for web pages to load and for emails to reach the destination inbox. Though, this is a form of latency, however, lets take down latency as the time delay imparted by each element involved in the transmission of data. Lets develop our understanding of what causes latency. The are many logical and physical elements involved in networking.
Application Latency
The need to read and write to disk causes some time delays. The processor could be very strong and highly rated, however, it still has limitations to as to what it can read and write in stipulated time. It takes a finite amount of time to manufacture data and present it. There are a lot of hardware limitations as well, such as the amount of memory which affects application performance.
Serialization Latency
The encapsulation of data (as discussed above) is called serialization and takes a finite amount of time. It is calculated as follows: Serialization Delay = Packet Size in bits / Transmission Rate in bits per second Serialization can lead to significant delays and latency on link that operate on low transmission rates.
Routing & Switching Latency
A network request causes data to flow from point A to point B. This would be simple, if the network was just 2 computers, however, this is not to be. In networks like the Internet, data and hence the packets are transmitted from source to destination through a series of routers and switches connected through circuits, which are hardware devices needed for transmission through the network.
These hardware machines have to manage the Internet traffic causing delays caused by the routing and switching process. This refers to the amount of processing time for a router or switch to receive a packet, process it and transmit it.
These days, with the advancements in the computer hardware technology, these delays have reduced to only a few nanoseconds. High performance routers and switches each usually add upto 200µs of latency to the link.
Queuing Latency
Queuing latency refers to the amount of time a packet spends sitting in a queue waiting for transmission due to over utilization of the link. Though over-utilization of high speed Internet backbone is very rare, but it can be easily seen on lower speed networks. Congestion can cause these delays to become infinite since packets may be dropped when router becomes full. Routers use various queueing management algorights to ensure latency is minimized. The most commonly used WRED algorithms bound queueing latency at 20 ms.
Propagation Latency
Propagation latency is the delay caused by the transmission medium. The amount of slowing down is known as the Velocity Factor (VF). Typically, there are 3 medium of transmission of data across the networks, copper cables having a VF in the range of 40% - 80% of the speed of light, fibre-optic cables leading to a VF of around 70% of the speed of light and the electro-magnetic radio waves having the least possible VF. This delay happens even without considering the amount of data being transferred, the transmission rate, the protocol being used or the link problems.
Transmission Rate and Bandwidth Latency
Transmission Rate is the term used to define the number of bits that can be extracted from the medium. It is commonly measured in the terms of number of bits per second. The maximum transmission rate defines the fundamental limitation of the transmission medium. Generally, Copper links have a maximum transmission rate of 10, 100 or 1000 Mbps. For Fibre-optic links, transmission rates vary from around 50 Mbps to 10 Gbps.
Wireless LANs and satellite links use a modem to convert the bits into a modulated wave and then on transmission convert them back into bits using the demodulator. The limiting factor in these type of links is the limited bandwidth available to these signals. The amount of radio spectrum occupied by any given signal is called its bandwidth. Since radio spectrum is a limited resource, the occupied radio bandwidth is an important limiting factor in wireless and satellite links.
Protocol Latency
Lets now take a look at the network data exchanges. Connectionless data exchange is the one where data is pushed through with any consideration. Here the packet traverses the Internet to search for its destination, however, if something happens to it midway, nothing can be done. This is usually used for streaming music, videos, VOIP. The protocol used is User Datagram Protocol (UDP). It doesn't have any overhead or connection management. There is no retransmission of data as well.
On the other hand are the connection based data exchanges. They rely on the establishment of the connection which manages every packet that is transmitted. The transport protocol used is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). It provides for the error free delivery of packets and hence the data. TCP connections have 3 phases:
1. Establish the connection
2. Send the data
3. Close the connection
All this adds to the time being taken while the data is transmitted and hence the delay and Latency.
This puts the webpage request on the table and opens it thread bare to clear the air on what goes behind each of our clicks while we are on the Internet connected to the millions or billions of users and trillions of data. We make an understanding of the time delays or Latency and now agree that it is imperative and necessary.
1. What is network latency? and Why does it matter? -
2. Satellite Internet Access -

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – My first tryst with Finance

Continuing with my tales from SPJCM, now I write something that only a few people know. I bring to you my very first tryst with “Finance” – a term that bewildered me till very recently. Though I would admit that Finance was not my first choice, but I landed up doing it and eventually did better than I could have ever imagined. Thanks to a few folks and the faculty at SPJCM, I was able sail through the vast and deep ocean with perennial high tides called Finance J

After the initial honeymoon period in Dubai, classes started with subjects like Quantitative Techniques (QT), Financial Accounting (FA) and Organizational Behaviour (OB). A few days into these subjects, I knew QT, I would be able to take care of, with my mathematics and engineering background and OB was like only “Gyaan”, which I guess, has always been easy to me – though I could never cross the ever famous laxman rekha of 5 marks out of 10 in the OB quizzes!! It was only FA that I was very new to, something that I never knew and never heard of. However, the ease and professionalism with which our adorable professor Dr. D V Ramana introduced us to the concepts and gradually built them – all in a span of 2 weeks was noteworthy. I always see him with high esteem as he taught we engineers, accounts, and made us do our assignments and projects individually with a lot of ease.

Sooner or later came a subject called Financial Mathematics (FM). Until the professor came for the first class, I thought it had to do something with mathematics, which I liked and should be able to sail through. And came the first class and then the second one and all my perceptions changed about the subject. As the professor started teaching topics like derivatives and options and terms like put, call, long short resonating the surroundings, I started feeling the pain. I didn’t know why things were not going into my head as I wondered what was wrong – me, my approach or the subject or even the professor.

Past a few more lectures and with terms like real neutral valuations, bonds, arbitrage, futures made we wonder whether I made the right choice of studying Finance and I could feel the anxiety of riding in deep waters of the Atlantic. With each passing day as I was writing the online quizzes and getting scores of 3 / 4 / 5, while my other friends got 9 / 10 or at times 8, I was crest fallen as I thought I could never do good in finance and may be what I was doing earlier to joining MBA program was better. Many thoughts roamed my mind - probably, I would have been better off travelling to UK / Germany for my previous company and enjoy the fun.

One fine day, after one such quiz and pathetic score once again, I was like totally out of sorts. I was dull and was retrospecting that Sharad came to me – knowing well what was wrong. He spent some time with me and a few others who were struggling alike and tried to teach us from the very basics of the subject. I should accept that made life a little easier for me and for the first time in the past 10-12 days I thought that I was getting it. Thanks to Sharad and the other guys with me that I could start the subject afresh and scored cent percent marks in the final online quiz. Bravo!!

Those 2 weeks of pain, struggle from with in and with the external environment and a lot of discussion with friends I could finally get the real taste of MBA and could make myself stronger for the tougher times ahead. Only then I could realise that I can understand finance and do it well. And look what best for me, I got best marks in many of the core finance subjects later on, scored high in my IIP and got the best grades in my dissertation (which was pure finance). All thanks to those 2 weeks!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The biggest Indian brand of the year…

In the year 2007, when the BCCI announced the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL) – a premium T20 tournament, everyone thought that it was just out of competition from ICL (remember the T20 step brother from Zee Networks / Essel Group stable). Everyone took the announcement of IPL as a reply to the ICL and nothing else. But who knew that 2 years into the tournament it would become the 6th biggest brand in sports ever. None believed and I believe, not even the BCCI or its office bearers and our very own Mr. Lalit Modi, Commissioner, IPL knew that it would attract moolah the way it actually did and would become a benchmark for others to follow.

The best thing that IPL really has done apart from taking India to the world, which I think is not a big task because there are so many of us already doing that job for our country. The silver lining lied in the opportunities that a tournament of this nature brought to the local Indian cricket talent who could never climb the ladder to reach the destination called Indian National Cricket Team. Till IPL 1 in 2008, did anyone know Yusuf Pathan, except for that he is the elder brother of Irfan Pathan who himself was living in oblivion after successful 2 years with the National team. But now everyone is enthused by his pyrotechnics on the field and even the opposition knows that he can smother any attack out of the ground on his day. Even the news of he getting marriage proposals from across the country made into newspapers and news channels. Didn’t the board and the selection committee unearth talents like Ravindra Jadeja who is gradually becoming a regular with the National team? Or didn’t IPL give a fitting opportunity to people like Irfan Pathan whom people of the nation were fast forgetting, alike the national selectors? IPL gave us other stars like Manpreet Gony, Swapnil Asnodkar, Kamran Khan, to name a few. In my view this is the biggest gain for these small town players who could have otherwise struggled to fulfil their dreams. Isn’t it helping the board in preparing the bench for the future? Another positive out of IPL was the experience of locking horns and sharing dressing rooms with greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and playing in a competition of this magnitude. The feeling and gains from playing alongside world class players from every cricket playing nation could be enormous and would have taken the local Indian talent to a new height in the sport they love so passionately. There were other gains as well like the money they would get from the contracts with their franchise and the advertisement money that would be splurged on the players and the name and fame that these players make out of it. But I think they were all secondary or I will call them allied – as this comes along with a tournament of such stature.

A lot has been said about the success of IPL or so to say the marketing success of the IPL. No wonder some great minds have worked behind the scenes and on scenes too to make it a $2bn brand. People applaud the BCCI and hail its man behind the concept – Mr. Lalit Modi was creating a global brand out of the most famous pastime of a crazy nation. I guess that’s what he played his bets on and came out trumps.

Conceptualising and making it happen on the grand scale with which the IPL is happening for the past years would have taken its toll on everyone involved. The idea took almost a year to materialise and what magnificent way it flowered. The concept of private franchise and club like atmosphere was well taken from European football, but believing in it and believing it is possible in cricket too was the start of it. Then building it brick by brick and creating a huge edifice which is being values so high in just 2 years from start is no mean achievement.

The financial clout of the BCCI is notoriously famous in cricketing circles that must have given them a heads on in this assignment. But they had to make it happen the way it finally did. They sold the concept pretty well. Actually, the saleability of cricket in our country where we can see empty streets and shops closed for cricket matches is commonly known and hence the idea was easy doing with in the corporate circle for the organisers. They easily knew that they would eventually make money, if not for 1-2 years in the start but after that it should be easy going. Most of the franchises involved were big businessmen (with lots of business interest that cut across various functions and sectors with a lot of gestation periods) with deep pockets.

The $1bn television deal and the player auctions has generated a level of hype and razzmatazz never seen before in the world of cricket. For the companies and business houses bidding for teams and getting hold of prime players under its fold, it meant better brand image for their company. With India becoming World T20 champions, the game started generating a lot of eyeballs and it could eventually become a show of strength for these corporate houses, just like what happens in English soccer and American basketball. It made business sense for these conglomerates as well, when the teams can be bought and sold for profit if they perform well. Comment by India Cements vice-chairman and MD, Mr. N Srinivasan, summarises the game here – IPL will help us build brand image at no cost.

The rising popularity of T20 format of the game and the ever crazy cricket fan in the country had made IPL what it is today. If we look at the reach delivered by the league, we are made to believe that this is not the future of the game, it is the present. Whether or not it is recognised by the ICC is irrelevant to the audiences, who are attracted to watch the best of the world at one forum. It is big-ticket cricket. The brand positioning of the game with the common man is it is “Fast and Quick Entertainment”. I believe that is what is making it sell like hot cake.

IPL expanded the marketing budgets of companies, instead of creating a flight of funds. According to estimates, the league has added almost Rs. 300 crores to the total advertising pie. The rates for ad slots have also risen stupendously. The presenting sponsor fetched more than 25 crores to Sony (TV rights holder for IPL). At the start, it was only Rs 2.5-3 lakh for a 10 second spot. But all this changed while the event became a huge success and started garnering major TRP and ratings.

The continuing list of sponsors for the event, sponsors for the venues, merchandise, and online media has made everyone go tizzy. The list of sponsors for the individual teams doesn’t end too, from Reebok to Nokia to Tag Heur to Master Cards of this world; everyone is making a beeline for their share of the pie.

Undoubtedly, IPL, the microcosm of cricket – 8 teams, 20 overs and 3 hours a match, over 1 billion people watching and we have a $2bn brand. Who would have thought that? The best part of IPL is nobody wins or looses. Everybody just makes money. Isn't it what we Indians like the most about it. If it is the National team which looses a tournament, hearts will be broken and we would starting shouting and cribbing. Not the case with the IPL. There is no emotional attachment so far, yet there is a lot of interest. Best of all – it is a money spinner. RBI might be well placed to order a new war chest to accumulate the foreign reserves IPL is ringing in J

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tales from SPJCM – Mystery called IIP

Within a few days into MBA at SPJCM, while we were all still in our honeymoon phase in Dubai (if I am allowed to call it so ;)), probably the biggest bomb of MBA was dropped on our heads – in the form IIP. The so called IIP – Industry Interaction Project, a brainchild of SPJCM to replace the concept of very famous summer internships at other MBA schools was a mystery till then. The lid was let open as we got aware of the various facets of the project and how and what we are to do for it.

The concept looked simple on papers but was really tough when faced in the real world of business. We were to form teams of 4-6 people and do a project for an organisation. The project will be decided and led by the organisation by allocating a project mentor. The college was to approve of the project topic and we can take help from any college faculty whenever we wanted. As the teams were to be decided and formed by ourselves, it led to a lot of anxiety yet again. We had not been in the college for long and hence forming a team without knowing people around you was a difficult task and in a way we all were playing a gamble. Everyone knew the criticality of this project for our grades (with 3 credits attached to it) and for an impression that we could leave on our future recruiters and possible pre placements. Each one of us had our task cut out, searching for a suitable team with whom one could gel and perform well. With a lot of anxiety as had been the case thus far in SPJCM, we all started our discussions to form a team.

I would be lying if I say that I was not anxious to find and form a good project team and start applying for the projects already coming by now. But I always knew that I and Raghavendra aka Raghu were to be in the same team (we knew each other for the past 8 years now and knew how each of us worked). And Raghu told me that he was with me in whatever team I made. One fine day, while discussing this with Biswajeet aka Monty, he told me that he wanted to make a team with me and Sharad was with him as well. I shared this with Raghu and he said he was fine with it. So, here was our team of 4 – ready for the kill J The next day, Sharad told me that we are only 4 of us and Ranny also wanted to be a part of our team and share and enjoy the fun. So here is a team of 5 – The Finzards (the name coined by Monty for us). Each one of us was different than the other –

Biswajeet – The Tension Man – Who would always be there to do everything but would not do anything :P

Raghavendra – The Late Lateef – Who would always be ready to do everything on time but would always be late for everything ;)

Ranny – The Free Wheeler – Who would never come to discuss anything, nor do anything – quite simple :P

Sharad – The Load Taker – Who would try and do everything and allow for others to enjoy, but would not allow so on the day when we were to meet our mentor ;)

Uphar – The Meeting Arranger – Who would and take pains in arranging for our team meetings where no one would come except myself :P

No wonder everyone wondered how we could manage excellent response from our mentors and college alike. I guess, this versatility in the team allowed for a lot of fun (who can forget those trips to Karachi Darbar and walking miles to get to the bus stand in the dusty lanes of Dubai). The fact we could gel easily with each other and were at ease and each one wanted to learn from others made life easier for us. This camaraderie we share to this day.

We started our IIP voyage with Microsoft and Reliance Capital calling for CVs of students applying for their projects. For us the voyage continued till July 7 (during our first term exams) when finally we landed on the shores of our very own Bank of Baroda. Till that time, everyone had gotten worried whether they will get an IIP or not and what in this world will happen to the grades and the grand dreams that we all had as there were so many teams but no projects coming. Even the college was not sure how many more would get the project with an organisation. By now even we had gotten anxious and worried too on not getting an IIP, so getting one with BOB and that too with their Investment Banking division came as a whiff of cool air in the dry and warm weather of Dubai.

The news of we getting an IIP that too in the IB arm of BoB came as a surprise to many as it surprised us as well. We never expected to get it, nor did anyone else that too surpassing other better equipped and eligible teams (I would say so because other teams had CAs, bankers and IB experience holders in their teams). We were a team of raw blood – no one had previous banking or financial institution experience, leave alone IB experience. But as they say, no one knows what impresses the recruiter – I guess this same adage worked for us as we impressed the BoB team. None of us had any finance experience and believe me this scared us at times as well. But we had the passion and the ability to learn finance and make it good in the field, so we were eager and excited, adding up to mixed feelings within us.

I believe a lot many of us struggled to get an IIP – in fact most of us met the same fate, not due to the inexperience of the candidates, but I believe due to the concept of IIP not getting popular with the corporate community. The projects were never sold and made to do so in the right spirit of the concept. They were made to be just like market research projects, where students had to make certain cold calls, do some primary research, use SPSS to do analytical calculations and create charts and graphs and complete the project. In my belief, the IIP is the best way the college can sell the quality of students (for which it takes a lot of pain). It should popularise it by adopting a simple strategy: allow the companies to fulfil their requirements with these projects by giving them a free hand in selecting the right and suitable approach for the project, where each party (student, college and the company) is a beneficiary. I think, the teams can take a lateral view of the project from the college faculty and adopt the right approach after consultations with them. But overall design and charter should be decided by the organisations selecting student teams for these projects. In the end, these organisations should benefit out of these projects and should be ready for such projects each year. This is a simple strategy which could make IIP more popular and add some points against the name of the college in the industry-college interaction list of the recruiters.

I remember the way one of the organisations treated one of our teams by saying this project is just a formality for them, they had already done this project with a professional consultant, and it is just to maintain business relations with the college that they had to give this project to us. They even went to the level of saying that they were in no ways getting benefited by this project. Just imagine the state of the students when they hear this from their mentor(s). Will they be able to do justice to the project and to themselves? Are they not forced to just complete the project to fulfil academic requirements only? Are they gaining something out of such an exercise? My answer to all these questions and many such other questions is “NO”.

We as responsible alumni have to discuss this issue thread bare and openly. We should contribute to this in whatever manner possible and generate discussion. This will not only strengthen our alma mater but prove to be good advice for future students. Start contributing to this!!