Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Reservations against Reservations

Today's headlines would have perhaps made many a students accross the country both nervous and full of despair. The reservations in premier Institutes, like central govt offices, is prposed to be increased to 49% from the current 22%! What do you say to a Nation's government that is set on killing one of its most established brands, only to be able to get some populist votes in future elections. For what other logic can lie behind such a discussion in the parliament?
How does giving almost 50% reservation to a section which does not even comprise the same proprtion of society help the cause of a country? In stead of taking progressive steps and aboloshing the current reservation system, whose ineffectiveness in fighting casteism and ill-effects in breeding inefficiencies is obvious to everyone, why is this country trying to retrograde and make the whole nation and its opportunities reserved? Its only recently since the youth of the country has started taking pride in belonging to this nation and the dream of a shining India has begun to take shape. And the premier institutes have been at the helm of this turning tide. Its alumunus has persistently fought to make an Indian niche in the western business world that had been oblivious to our nation's potential for long. and now when we have begun to see the fruits of these efforts, with one stroke the government wants to erode the recognition that has been bestowed upon us.
And who are these people who fight for the reservation? Is it their way of saying that they don't see any possibility of the youth from backward classes ever measuring up to the unreserved classes. Isn't that a discrimination of the highest order, sealing the alienation of the resevred classes with a stone determination? Will the youth ever be amenable to a person who has unrightfully taken away his opportunities without working for them without deserving them?
And which government will have the potential to take off these reservations once they are enforced and commit political suicide? All the educated and uneducated MPs, please reflect on the atrocity that you are considering. The objectives of any such decisions should be for the benefit of the country, not just short term gains to a much smaller section.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Private Equity as the Growth driver for Tomorrow...

Frankly, about three months ago, I had neither heard of the hoopla surrounding Private equity and nor could care less about it. To me, it was another of those jargon terms used by so many of my classmates and the rest of the business world for denoting some sort of investment. However, as is wont for any MBA student, you couldn't stay out of the loop of such buzz words, especially when placements were around the corner and everyone was arming themselves with dollops of gyaan on the business world.
So I started reading about it and was immdiately hooked on to the idea. I had always been interested in Consulting before I joined B schools, as I genuinely believed in the idea of helping businesses do better by monitoring, comparing, strategizing, analysing and optimizing. Even though these terms sound very bookish, I do think that they hold true potential in helping businesses, especially the small ones, evolve. Yet my Consulting summer was a disappointment. I realized that the consultant would always remain distant from his client's problems, and often, the task was limited to preparing a report full of details and jargons where the core of the issue was likely to get lost. That was not what I had in mind. And that was the main reason why I was not even considering Consulting as a career option during the placements.
On the other hand, Private Equity sounded so much like what I had in mind. To genuinely handhold the businesses as they tried to set a domain and grow in it. And whats more, with your money at stake, the issue of distancing also would be resolved. While the consultant has no responsibility or liability of the results of his recommendation, the PE analyst would stand to directly gain or lose from it and hence wouldn't just be more involved, but will also be taken more seriously by the employees. Also, the combnation of money and advice is what India's new entrepreneurs need to get going. Like all Indians, despite all the kickbacks we throw at it, I want to see India being reckoned as a Corporate Force and it is not just the MNCs coming from abroad that can help us achieve that. We need to complement foreign presence with that of our own.
Thats why perhaps, I digress from the philosophy of ChrysCapital's Ashish Dhawan, who has u-turned Indian PE into the concept of PIPE's (Private Investment in Public Enterprises). Don't the publicly listed enterprises already have sufficient funds at their disposal? Their information is publicly available and can be assessed by the investor at large or by the funding houses. They do not need assessment at the private level for raising capital, which small and new companies do. Smart private placing should identify opportunities that others cannot and target those seeds which have the potential to develop into new sprawling businesses rather than simply add a wing to the existing ones.
Of course, it is a matter of opinion, and PE firms are in business of making money. With the dot com losses, there are still many whose risk appetites do not allow them to undertake new/small ventures. And yet risk-taking is what Indians need most, what with our extremely conservative aptitudes towards uncertainty.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Perils of Media and the Placement Boom


This is rather crazy. Everyone I have met since I have come home has been asking me about my salary. And once I tell them the figure, I can almost see their minds brooding over how much I fare against those dollar figures floating around the whole space, in each living room, on each morning paper, on every news channel. Its like media's field day - the celebration of the "mega" salaries that the MBA grads are getting. Its not just the humiliation of being compared to a number that bugs me about this hype, it is also a violation of my private space, my private life. My package is something very personal to me and I don't like to discuss it with someone, except perhaps a set of my friends who have gone through a similiar decision making process of weighing profiles, opportunities and packages and know what its all about. And I don't want the probings and advices about which sector I should have gone to, or in which country I should have hunted for my job. I think, even without talking to me personally, media is at a certain level invading my privacy and encouraging this invasion into the lives of so many of us graduates.
And its not just about the packages. Some people figure its their duty to educate us about the huge career opportunities that we are missing out upon. And they take pride in telling us that someone left the same job with a same package, because it was not good enough for them. Sure. I didn't even considering applying for jobs that I didn't think were good enough rather than have the pleaure and pride of leaving them after bagging them. I have made my career choices based on what I want to do, where I want to go and how I want to shape up my own life. and I perfectly know that there are people who will choose a different path. What I don't understand is why anyone else's choices should make me liable to explain my own!
I think the short-term perspectives of so many of my interrogators (and assumed well wishers) has led to this situation. They see this job as a destination, but for the graduating students, it is only part of the journey. At the end of the day, what they do will make a difference and not merely where they go. And irrespective of how much they bag now, they will still have to chalk out a career path and not be lost in that numeric figure. Its only for each individual to decide where to draw the line between the figure and what they want to do and be.

Whiling away time and Friends

I am finally at home - managed to escape the perils of hell successfully and got back here with a degree. Now it feels heaven to live with absolute lack of purpose and while away dollops of time day after day. The only issue that overshadows the bliss is that my joining is too early. Of course I want to start working, but I was really looking forward to a travel break and visit at least sikkim and Ladhak. However, as it turns out, I am going to neither of the two, but in stead planning a Kerala trip clubbed with a 4-day cruise to Lakshadweep. Can't wait to get on the road...
Last few days have been good especially because of reunion with my friends. Rathi turned up from US and it was so comforting to find her the same old self. she hasn't changed even a bit. Spent a lot of time with her and Sheenu in the past 4 days. Even after having a great term at L, I would say there is no comparison to meeting old friends and spending time catching up and gossiping about the remotest acquaintance.
Also had a Consult reunion today, over good coffee and bad food. It was a good outing though, even so I wouldn't recommend the joint.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Convocation

It is finally convo day - the day I had been waiting for since I arrived. I always thought that the place was suffocating and I wanted to get out of here as soon as possible. Over the past few weeks this feeling has been pretty dim. I wont go as far as to say that I have started liking this place, but its not bad. Especially there have been some great times with friends that I owe to this place. But I guess I will stay away from the nostalgic feeling, especially with the bit of alcohol thats still left in my blood and is making me tipsy. Cant believe that I have to face Tuhina's mom like this - I am meeting her for the first time and I dont want her carrying bad impressions of me. And am I glad that my parents are not coming here - they would have immediately pounced upon the tipsiness. Everyone's parents is here - I am feeling slightly weird that mine arent. But I would have felt worse if they had come. Somehow the life I lead in the campus is so different and abstract that I dont want to involve them into this. Its a sort of different life - slightly tangential from a normal life - what with weird waking hours and night-snacking and crazy doses of movies etc - none of this I do at home.

Anyways, I guess I will start dressing up now - it is getting late for convo.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Living on the Ganges


With a lot of time to kill while we waited for the convocation which has been conviniently scheduled for this Saturday, most of our batch took a short trip in the past 5 days. For our small group - the destination was the white waters of the Ganges. With my love for water, I am surprised I haven't been on a rafting trip before. I think the experience was worth the wait. It was one of my prettiest vacations in a long time.
We started the trip with Rajaji National park and it actually might be a misnomer to call it that - it is just a beautiful piece of forest with a meandering stream of the river crisscrossing through its lands. We hardly sighted any animals except for deers on our open Safari ride through the forest. The weather made the trip not only pleasant but very pretty, and the comfortable huts on the bank of a canal made the stay worthwhile.
After a day's halt, we hit the final destination - Rishikesh. We were totally full of plans (and very exceited) about our adventure break - rafting, paragliding, rappling etc etc. It was a bit of a let-down when we realized that except rafting none of it was happening in this season. So even though we were planning to push the rafting to the next day, we embarked on it immediately. And was it fun! We started from a point called Shivpuri (which means 17 km of rafting), and immediately started hitting the good rapids. Though I must say, I never expected rafting to be work. I mean no one told me that we would have to row the entire stretch ourselves, and that too in gushing water!
Nevertheless, even the rowing bit was good. In the first strong rapid (Roller Coaster), one man in front of me fell down into the roaring water. If there was a frission of fear I felt during the whole trip, it was in that moment. I don't really trust my swimming skills or more importantly (in this case) my navigation skills in such turbulent waters.
The Golf course rapid following the Roller Coaster was even better - it was almost certain that the boat was going to capsize (its not really unexpected during rafting btw). One thing I have to say - the rapids have been really innovatively named - The Wall, Return to Sender, Golf Course, Three Blind Mice...
We also jumped a couple of times into the water - which was freezing cold. It is fun trying to swim in ice-cold water with life jackets on :) But I have never felt the peace that I feel lying flat on the water, gazing at the sky, for all sounds drown into the soft splashes of the water, and all you see is naked nature. And for a moment, life does come to a gratifying halt.
Anyways, after having so much fun, another rafting expedition was compulsary. Even with arms broken with rowing, we were all enthu to go again. So after spending a quiet day walking through Rishikesh (which is not fun untill you hit the German bakery and have delicious food), we went for another round - this time clubbing it with camping which was supposed to be the icing of the cake.
And this was undoubtedly the best icing on cake that I have ever hit on. The sand beach along ganges was awesome! It was a huge stretch of white sand, surrounded by mountains and water and no one but the eight of us and a couple of camp staff. It was almost as if peace was being handed over to us on a platter after two years of madness in a cagey and loud B-school life. We had the most wonderful time by the camp fire, stuffed with really delicious dinner served in the camp. It was almost a full moon night and the camp was lit by nothing more than the moon and a couple of lanterns.
In the morning, we played beach volley, lied down on the beach and read books. It has been the most idyllic vacation I have dreamt of and lived.
The camping was followed by rafting, and this was one of the best stretch of rafting in terms of scenic beauty. It had begun to rain and the clouds were trying to wrap the surrounding hills and make them invisible. For most part, it almost looked like we were in the waters of Emyn Muil of LOTR and would soon see the twin towers!
The rain of course soaked us to the hilt and we couldnt stop shivering for a moment through the whole of the waterpath. But even through the clacking teeth I could but repeat - It is simply awesome. Hope I can return to the soothing sounds of the river as often as I want...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Placements..


Its the day next to the one when placements ended. It was a jubiliant moment for the batch. To complete placements in three slots is an achievment, and perhaps unprecendented here at L. Everyone is relieved and happy. Yet overall the placements left a slightly bitter taste in some mouths. There are many Finance enthusiasts who believe that the process is slightly skewed in the favor of those who can 'globe' endlessly, and therefore puts them at a disadvantage. It is perhaps especially true in our campuses, where GDs and personal HR interviews remain a very prominent mode of selection. Of course the fact remains that hard core finance companies do not even come to the campus except for some who come with minimal packages and little less established brand names. (at least in the global arena).
Sometimes I believe the whole HR systems are designed around promoting very vocal people, even if it is for roles like equity research and/or fund management. May be HRs should be banned from conducting the process and be responsible only for supporting the same (which surprisingly was what happened at IIT). You would like to believe that systems should get more involved and complicated for Management schools, but companies happily let their HR personnels conduct some meaningless useless interviews since they do not understand the business models/functional requirements too well.
And GDs. One would like to beleive that the useful(less)ness of GDs should be apparent to all and sundry except for companies where the role specifically involves aggression. Because in my limited exposures at GDs in this place has only established one fact for me (without Type I or Type II errors), that people who hog the most airtime end up being the ones who get to the interview rounds.
Anyways, I guess perfect processes can never be designed. All we ask is for the placement personnels to be more selective in choosing processes for the roles they are hiring for. And ofcourse it is helpful if they are honest and straightforward.