Sunday, October 23, 2016

#18 A B-schooler’s obsession with STRATEGY!

So what sort of work do you want to do?” I asked her.

Umm.. Well, I haven’t figured it out very clearly yet – but you know, something that is strategic” she replied.

That’s when a million thoughts came rushing to me – of a joke how MBAs wonder during their farewell how they still haven’t figured out the answer of the much dreaded “WHY MBA?”. Of how almost everybody has the same cliché answer for “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. Of how most of us are clueless about those “short term” & “long term” goals! Yet, as MBAs we script those perfectly mundane answers for these perfectly routine questions.

I haven’t been working for the longest time – but I observed that in most companies – across all departments – there are roles people consider as “strategic”. Those coveted roles which are supposed to magically propel you up the ladder of success. It’s like that throne which will empower you to suddenly become “a force to reckon with” from going unnoticed for several years.

Image result for chess

But a closer look at this somehow unveiled something else. What is strategy after all? A quick google search throws up a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”.

Now is it that difficult for any of us to set a target & make a plan to reach it? Isn’t that how we go about our daily life without actively realizing we’re following a strategy here? The same holds for work. A senior manager once told me – “It is the person that creates value in a role. If roles were strategic by themselves – then why would human talent be so valuable”.

Of course there is always a chance that some roles could involve greater complexity than others. However at the end of the day – it would depend on one’s desire to work hard to set something right. And to do so – he would need a strategy – a gameplan! Even in a system that might seem to be flawlessly perfect – there’s always scope for improvement. It just needs that “strategic” eye to find it & execute it. 

Haven’t we all experienced teachers who’ve made some of the seemingly most boring subjects super fun with their brilliant style of teaching? Don’t all of us get amazed at the difference in service of a politician who just sits in the powerful chair & one who comes full of energy with a vision to transform the country? What differentiates the outcomes in these professions from one person to another – its their personal strategy & style!

The feeling of lack of “strategic” aspects to one’s role is the biggest cause for dissatisfaction amongst most of the MBAs. And it’s the easiest way to complain. What is tough is to go out there & have a hard look at what’s happening & find things worth fixing which aren’t obvious at the cursory glance.

Its upto you to choose – whether you want to chase the idea of “strategy” or start makings yours for your task at hand!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#17 Organisation Behaviour & Human Resources

Lessons I learnt!

Here is a pictorial depiction of the lessons I learnt in our OB & HR class! Learning the conventional theories in an unconventional way!

 "United we Stand, Divided we Fall" - This lesson that we all learn in our childhood goes a long way in being useful in our practical lives. Complex looking problems become easier through cooperation and collaboration!

When put under pressure and strict deadlines, even the smartest of us can falter! In times like these, patience is the best virtue. Pause, take a deep breath, think clearly and start afresh.

Have Unrealistic Goals and then go chase them! Difficult goals make the challenge interesting; motivating and inspiring you to go and give it your best!

Share the burden; share the work. Put the team ahead of your selfish interests. Success comes to those, who work smartly for it!

A good manager motivates you;
A leader inspires you!

Monday, August 11, 2014


MAHA Mandi - A day on the streets, a day of experiences!

On the noon of 9th August 2014, 700 students set out on the streets of Mumbai to test their marketing skills. MAHAMANDI, the annual marketing extravaganza of NITIE was here with its tenth edition.

With bags full of inventory, they set out to explore customers, and recognize their own negotiation abilities. I too set out with my group of 6 people. We went from Andheri to Hill Road to Bandstand to Linking road. From noon to late evening, we sold products worth Rs 4850/-

My experience was full of surprises, smiles, disappointments and learning lessons. To know more, read on.

Customers come in all shapes and sizes. And also in all personalities. Here are the unique few I met:

1.       The ANGEL  Customer

We got off the auto at Hill Road and started looking around for potential customers. We spotted a lady in her late 50s. She must have grandkids- we thought.  We approached her and she listened to us patiently. She refused very politely saying she didn’t know any little kids to whom she could really gift the toys. With a smile, we thanked her and went about our business.

Fifteen minutes later, we saw the lady walking frantically towards us along with a young girl. “I was searching for you!” she exclaimed. She answered my puzzled look by telling us that the young lady with her was her daughter who worked with a shelter for orphans. Anu, her daughter , she said was interested in buying our products. We delightfully showed and explained about our products to Anu and she bought two of them from us – the Number balance and Rangometry.

We thanked the older lady profusely was her noble gesture. This was one Angel customer- for she came looking for us

2.       The YOUNGEST Customer

We approached them at Hill Road- a father son duo having a nice evening stroll. We explained the products to the father. He pointed at the Number Balance in my hand and asked his son, “Amar do you like this?” The child nodded his head indicating a vehement no. “OMG”! I exclaimed. What if the kid doesn't like any of these things?

We showed him the jodo blocks the next. He instantly smiled and said “yes dada”. Those magical words and his genuine smile lit up our faces with joy. Here we had managed to sell our product to the consumer and not just the customer.

3.       The “Har cheez ka bahaana” Customer

This was a group of customers we cornered at Bandra. They had just stepped out of Starbucks and looked like the social cause kind. We went ahead and made our sales pitch. They listened intently and showed a lot of interest. Asked a lot of questions. Our hopes were raised. We thought we hit the jackpot here!

And then came the pin that burst our bubble. They said we have no kids. We said gift it to your niece/nephews/neighbour’s kids.. They said we live in a bachelor’s colony. We suggested they gift it to a homeless child and make his day. They responded saying we are associated with Akaansha (NGO) anyways. We responded saying this is not just donation of money but you get a useful educational toy in lieu of that. They said we are out of cash. Can you swipe the card?

At this juncture we realised they were making futile reasons to turn us away politely. Taking our cue, we thanked them and left from there with a valuable lesson on the multitude of excuses we can offer!

4.       The “Curious” Customer

We had almost close dour deal with James. A curious onlooker stood there listening to us with rapt attention. Once we finished, eh enquired about what we were doing. I explained everything to him very patiently. Then I asked him if he would be interested in buying any of the products. He said he was just curios what we were upto and decided to enquire. He said he cannot afford to spare money for this cause but was glad to get the information.

He said it was a good cause we were working for and we should keep it up.

5.       The “almost Goan” Customer

This couple was special for me coz they had their ancestral roots in my native place- Goa! Aah! the pleasure of meeting someone from back home.

Karen Nazareth and her husband immediately agreed to buy the Jodo blocks from us. They said such causes were close to their heart and they were happy to be associated with it in every way possible. They were too delighted to know I was from Goa. I also offered to host them the next time they came down. It was a memorable conversation and the smiles say it all!

My take away from the Mandi experience:

Before Mandi, I never realised how tough it would be to actually go out on the street and make a single sale. After Mandi, I have immense respect for all the hawkers who do this job day in and day out making it look so effortless.

Before Mandi, I never thought I’d be able to approach strangers on the streets of an unknown city and sell products to them. But post Mandi, I know it is an art that can be mastered with practice.

Before Mandi, I was always very courteous and polite in my behaviour towards salesmen. However after Mandi, I will ensure that I am extremely careful and conscious to treat everyone who makes a living with courtesy and respect. No job in this world is easy. Our smile and patience can make a big difference to someone’s day.

On a lighter note, I did not know the various excuses I could make for not buying someone’s products. Now thanks to Mandi, I have learnt a lot of innovative ways of turning down a sales pitch! :p :D

My two cents of advice:

To the organising team:

  •        Give receipts with NITIE logo, “Mandi” printed on the same to issue to customers. Also a stamp/seal will help authenticate the receipt. The college name and logo will also help spread a word about college to the masses and be an indirect means of publicity for us.

  •    Come up with new products every year if possible. A lot of customers said they already had bought similar articles during previous years

To the Future Salespersons:

  • Wear a smile. Nothing works its magic like a cheerful face. When you look happy doing what you are doing, People are attracted to you automatically.

  • Be honest please. I know a lot of people charged extra money to recover their auto and other overheads. Please do not cheat with charity. Go ahead and be generous and selfless on one day. You can make a difference.

  • Carry a few essentials like pen, writing pad, change to avoid inconvenience to the customer and embarrassment to yourself. A few paper/polythene bags can also help hand the inventory over to the customer in a more convenient way.

  • Do your homework about the products you are selling and the cause you are representing. Not knowing the Full form of CRY foundation reflects poorly on you. Similarly providing misleading information about the utility of a product will hamper customer satisfaction.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#15 The (Un)Conventional Learning!!

As I geared up to join BSchool, my mind had vivid impressions of what BSchool life would be like! During interviews I responded to "Why MBA?" with answers such as learning through case studies, group discussions, guest lectures, et al. I had my imagination and impressions of what BSchool classes would be like.. all serious blokes throwing up industry jargon that might be greek to novice souls like mine.

However our Organisational behaviour & Human Resource (OBHR) class turned this impression around! Our Professor "Mandi" as he is fondly called after his pet project introduced us to the practical and innovative way of learning. We haven't had a single class where he hasn't demonstrated very crucial concepts through simple yet amazingly innovative practical ideas. 

May it be tower building to understand co-operation between people, or the three monks video to understand team work, the magic cube to understand how squares and cubes were derived to designing posters to understand what can catch the eye!

One of the best aspects of the unconventional learning in class is that it doesn't feel like a burden to learn these concepts! Meaningful lessons and highly researched theories come across to as obvious through the observation and games. This helps us drill the concepts in our heads the first time itself and the hands on experience ensures that we understand their application in the real world scenario.

I feel extremely fortunate that I can get this level of learning at one of the premier BSchools in India- in my Bschool, National Institute of Industrial Engineering ( NITIE ). Will post details of what and how I learn it soon in successive posts! 

Next time, let's unearth a slogan implicit with mandi "Socho Seekho Becho"!


Friday, July 11, 2014

#14 What Inspires me!

 What inspires me!

“..And put Thou to sleep” I said as I completed reading out the poetry to them. These were class fifth kids of a municipality school. Should I really bother to explain Shakespeare to them? Even though it seemed like a passable idea, I decided to go for it. “Do you want to know what the word thou means and listen to a story about a man named Shakespeare?” I asked. “Yes didi, please tell us” they responded in a cheerful chorus; always the enthusiastic lot that they were.

This incident is one among the many experiences that I had while teaching at a local municipality school in Pune. I taught English and Maths to students on Saturday as a part of my volunteering through the company’s CSR program. What started out as a passion to try and make a difference to the society went on to become my favourite activity of Saturday.

The students came from very humble backgrounds. Their parents mostly did menial jobs in the neighbourhood. They were illiterate, yet they understood the importance of education and ensured that their children received it. The school was in a dilapidated state. The classrooms were dark and moist. Some classrooms had no benches to sit on. Water logging happened during the monsoons and the mid day meal that arrived every afternoon was tasteless. Yet, every single day, the classrooms brightened up with the bright smiling faces of children who happily squatted on the floor with their pencil box and notebook open in front of them. They scribbled numbers and alphabets by straining their eyes in the dark and dutifully said a thank you prayer before their mid day meals. These were underprivileged children who could not afford any fancy luxuries. Yet they did not complain. They came to school every day and learnt whatever they could. They were humble and generous with the limited means that they had.

Being with them allowed me to connect to life’s harsh reality; where problems were genuine and circumstances were difficult. Their indomitable spirit refused to accept any sympathetic responses from me. All I felt for them was utter awe and a sense of pride. Seeing them so cheerful everyday inspired me to be thankful for life’s little joys. Seeing them play barefoot taught me to be grateful for all the blessings I enjoyed. Watching them struggle and emerge triumphant against circumstances inspired me to keep giving my best. Their wholehearted generosity with birthday chocolates allowed me to experience the joy of giving! Their kindness inspired me to become more compassionate.

In the few months that I spent with these little angels, I was inspired to be more thankful; to appreciate what I have without being blinded by greed. It inspired me to be a good human being first, to do good when and while I could. I never told them how much they inspired me to be a better person, but the memories and lessons will remain etched in my heart forever.

Inspiration indeed comes from quarters you least expect it to!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The victim who wasn't

Amidst all the hullabaloo that has surrounded the Tejpal scandal, there is a victim not so obvious. Oblivious to all those who are discussing the controversy, there is a State, and a segment of its residents who have lost out on one of the premier thought provoking fests that was easily accessible to them. The loss of an idea extravaganza that many looked forward to every November.

What has happened is definitely saddening and calls for deserving punishment. This incident has become a perfect example of how one man’s uncontrollable lust has jeopardized the present and future of many associated with him directly or indirectly. A young journalist has been caught in a scandalous storm at the beginning of her career. An extremely capable Journalist and anchor has lost her credibility built over years. A magazine has lost its talented pool of people. A family has earned a bad name. And a state has lost one of its premier fests. A lot of Goans in particular have lost the chance to be able to annually witness a weekend full of ideas, issues and matter worth THINKING about!

The first edition of THINKfest allowed free walk-in entry to everyone. As a student back then, my friends and I attended the event out of curiosity. Being able to listen in person to an impressive line-up of speakers- personalities who were the glitterati of their respective fields felt like the golden opportunity. And true to its promise, the event was an extremely enriching, informative eye-opener. From the real life encounters of Naxal victims to courageous women leading revolutionary initiatives in Afghanistan; from debating about corruption issues to understanding the India Inc’s problems with Government policies- all this from the horse’s mouth. These were real people discussing real issues in extremely well moderated sessions that were an intellectual treat!

Goan locals, especially the youth were the major beneficiaries of this festival. With just one edition, a lot of people got hooked on to the fest; eagerly looking forward to the festival every year. Even the modest registration charges of Rs.1000 imposed this year did not deter the enthusiasm and spirit of the patrons who attended the festival in large numbers, even altering plans so as to be present in Goa during the Nov 8 to 10th weekend.

Common man would easily identify Goa with just fun festivals like Carnival ,the  International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and SUNBURN(the EDM Meccah). And then associate with it all the drugs, booze and babes. The partial Russian invasion of Goa’s tourist populated northern coastline is no secret. The recent Nigerian row also invited a lot of flak to the State’s image. All these negative issues have been highlighted and hyped and thus come to one’s mind easily. And it is extremely difficult to break this mold. However THINKfest was a good chance and a platform to do that.

THINKfest generated the positive image for Goa, albeit to a small extent, that was a refreshing change from its stereotyped Sun, Sea & Sand image. The GOA that has been portrayed through films has mostly been a misnomer.  If anything, the notion that people carry about Goa and its people is misleading. And as a local, it hurts. Countless futile attempts are constantly made by the youth to send across the correct image- however the required scale and magnitude demands a herculean effort that had not been possible so far. Prior to THINKfest Goa has been hosting the annual DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas, which is fairly popular and a quality event. However the sheer magnitude at which THINKfest was organized helped the message reach an International audience. Alas! The fest is now just a matter of the past.

Well I hope the courageous journalist gets justice. And I sincerely hope the careers of all professionals associated with Tehelka do not suffer long term damage. I hope this incident will instill enough fear in the minds of men in authority and prove as a deterrent for their evil animal instincts. I hope people taking moral high ground truly understand, appreciate and imbibe the meaning of “Practice before you Preach”. As for me and other enthusiasts of THINKfest, I hope a similar festival comes up, I hope there is something new that will captivate our minds for a few days in a year!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Well, this is actually an article I wrote for my college Magazine.. Its just about what I learnt through the four years of my engineering :)

What I learnt in GEC

I still remember the day in applied chemistry class when we were all staring out of the window looking at the BE’s posing for their photoshoot. Our ma’am said to us, “Don’t worry. Four years will fly just like that & you will be standing there instead”. And true to that, the four years that I spent in GEC just zoomed past me. The journey has been one heck of a roller coaster! I grew up tremendously in these four years! When I joined GEC, it was the first time, I was separated from my group of close friends I’d been with throughout school. I was on my own, it was time to make new friends and get out of the comfort zone. There was no group of protective friends anymore! It was all about the decisions I make for myself. And I made them, loads of them actually. Some I regret, some I am proud of, some changed things drastically, but in the end, it all beautifully worked out. A glance behind and I learnt ..
·         Remember that you are in GEC to become an engineer. Fix your goals for engineering first ( min % each sem, final goal of higher studies or job & requirements for the same) and work sincerely towards these. Otherwise you will surely repent at the end of four years.

·         Prioritize everything at hand. Otherwise you’ll always be left discontent and complaining for lack of time.

·         And yeah, most importantly, know that engineering is a four year degree course. SO remember that you have four years to complete it. Don’t extend your stay unless and otherwise necessary. It will have repercussions later.

·         Respect your teachers. You owe it to them.

·         Smile and talk nicely to everybody. Nobody will mind it. You’d be surprised how warmly everybody responds to it.

·         Treat everyone with respect. Everybody is playing their small role around you to keep the balance going!

·         I have to admit, I have never been a good judge of people. I have almost always blindly trusted people to be nice going by their face value. And painfully did I realise that there are always certainly two faces. And honestly, it’s a sad truth but, THAT is the smarter way of leading life.

·         I realised that being frank and direct makes you sound rude and arrogant. Human beings are automatically attracted to the people who say sweeter things than the ones who say more real painful things. So if you can’t handle the backlash from people, avoid criticising them.

·         Most of the times, it’s best to keep your opinion about people to yourself. You never know which one backfires and comes to haunt you when! So Speak less, listen more and you will be a happier person.

·         Be nice to everybody. Irrespective of how they are. It will hurt your conscience if you hurt someone knowingly. However if you do good, it will just make you feel nice about yourself and boost your self confidence! And trust me, someday, people will open up to your niceness.

·         Do not always give into everybody’s demands. Just because you are nice and honest, it doesn’t mean people have a right to exploit you. Learn to  say NO when your heart and brain are both opposing something.

·         It’s always lonely at the top. Your peers are also your competitors so it is but natural for them to get envious to see you grow your way to the top. Loads of people may seem to hate you for reasons even they can’t list out. Live with it!

·         Do not seek power, recognition and respect without being worthy of it. Do what you love, love what you do, and others will automatically love the way you work! Always lead by example!

·         While working in a team, understand the people you are working with well. If you want to lead, you need to know whom you are trying to lead. Try to understand what each of them wants, mix and match it with your final goal and assign work accordingly.

·         You can’t completely please everybody, but you don’t have to completely displease somebody either. Learn to work a way around things and people. It will take you far.

·         If you are travelling along the GEC slope in a vehicle and have empty space, ALWAYS give LIFT to people stranded at either ends. This is your moral duty!!!!

·         Admit your mistake when it is. And ask for forgiveness. It doesn’t make you a small person. It just makes you mature and teaches you what’s wrong and what shouldn’t be repeated.

·         Be observant. Learn from other people’s mistakes because trust me, there really is not enough time to commit them all yourself and then take your lesson from them.

·         It is often the small things that matter. People remember the small gestures of love and the small mistakes that you do. So pay attention to the details.

·         College will offer you various opportunities to showcase your numerous talents. Grab them with both hands and make most of it!

·         Final year project is your one shot chance at doing something creative and applying your engineering mind to it. So work on it from the start. Do not treat it like a formality to be completed for grades sake. The amount of knowledge you will gain through this, not just about engineering but team work too, is an addition to your life’s meaningful lessons.
As for me, our final year project was quite lucrative too ;)

·         A friend once told me “It’s important to earn people, money will always come in some way”. I know it’s more comforting to cry in a BMW than cry on the streets. But in both cases, it’s most comforting to cry on somebody’s shoulder! J

·         Do something more than just studying the academics during your four years. Leave a mark behind, preferably a good one J

·         Do not pick up silly fights on social networking sites publicly. Remember most people are just enjoying the mud slinging at the cost of your dignity.

·         Remember that nobody can put you down unless you permit them to do so. Learn to differentiate between people whose opinions matter to you and whose don’t. And please, use your better sense of judgement for this. Otherwise it’ll just be one blind man guiding another.

·         Take part in TECHFESTS, and in the technical competitions I mean. It is here that you will realise that a lot of your textbook knowledge is practically applicable and you will enjoy learning! Besides, it generates a lot of moolaah that you can use for your own stuff.

·         Stay back sometimes beyond 5pm. Enjoy the beautiful, serene GEC campus. Go to the boundaries of the campus and explore them. On that note, take part in atleast one treasure hunt around the campus! It is awesome fun and you will realise how well you know GEC.

·         Eat at Umesh, Raj, canteen, Backzhop – it builds your immunity and is light on the pocket!

·         Go to inter collegiate cultural fests atleast once. Sing aloud the GEC slogan atleast once! It’s the kind of fun you can have only during college.

·         Attend TANDAV, Dandiya night, Dahi Handi, Ganesh Visarjan, Holi in college. This will add beautiful colourful memories to your Engico diary.

·         Help your classmates and friends in all way you can. During internals and vivas included. Share your notes, assignments and tips. Knowledge definitely increases by sharing.

·         Talk to your seniors, you’ll get to learn a lot from them. Talk to your juniors, share what you learnt with them, guide them.

·         Stay in the GEC hostels atleast for a day. You have to experience hostel life atleast once!

·         And lastly, balance out your life. Do not do any one thing in excess. Plan your activities, divide your time and try to maintain that equilibrium!

·         Good Luck! Make every moment in GEC count! Starting from NOW!