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!!

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