Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yamini: The night that shone bright

Come 25th January each year and IIMB becomes the host to Indian Classical music afficados of Bangalore. The dusk-to-dawn music festival Yamini hosted five stalwarts this year - Bharatanatyam by Padma Bhushan Smt Alarmel Valli, Hindustani vocal by Dr. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Carnatic vocal by Padma Bhushan Vidwan TN. Sheshagopalan, Carnatic flute by Vidwan Shashank Subramanyam and Hindustani violin by Vidwan Kala Ramnath.

The beautiful landscape, the cool night and the mesmerizing music sent the whole crowd into a trans like state. Some swinging their heads in rhythm. Some eyes-closed, looking up the night sky. If the blissful music soothes one and all, the event itself is provides a rare opportunity for us students to meet our respected professors and their families in a relaxed setting.

So another year's wait begins for the next Yamini. And lest I forget, wishing all my countrymen a happy 64th year of our proud Indian Republic.. and who knows, maybe a five-thousandth year of our civilization and culture :-)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Second Hand Learning

Sitting in a PGSEM classroom can be quite an experience sometimes, purely for its awe-inducing value among other things. There is no doubt about the fact that our professors are extremely accomplished individuals who have a wealth of knowledge to share. But sometimes you realize it is not just their knowledge but also that of the world’s foremost authorities on certain subjects that is being passed on to you in class. And that fleeting moment of inspiration (before intimidation follows) is priceless.

For instance, yesterday we discovered that one of our professors has studied under Narendra Karmarkar at the TIFR. Last quarter, we were taught by a professor who has studied under Nouriel Roubini. And it is good to know that we are getting to hear the ideas of these stalwarts somewhere through our professors. While that has the danger of mental tunnelling occurring due to the influences/hand-me-down ideas, it is important to note that it is probably better than not getting to hear these ideas at all. This second hand learning from international authorities has been quite a fascinating aspect of the course, whenever it has presented itself.

A few weeks ago, the Internet was abuzz with reports of the advent of Facebook reducing the degrees of separation in the world from 6 to 4.74. In our case, we are one degree of separation away from some of the best brains in the world and that is a good spurt of motivation any day!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Eventful days ahead in IIMB!!

Its raining events in IIM Bangalore!!!

Whether you are a contemporary music buff, classical music cognoscenti or business enthusiast, you have something awaiting you in the coming days @ IIM Bangalore.

Yamini 2012

January 25-26

Strategy to usher in the next phase of growth in IT Industry

January 27, 2012
Register @

Unmaad 2012

January 27-29, 2012

Cloud4U - Industry Trends in Cloud Computing

February 4, 2012

Register @

Monday, January 09, 2012


Having heard of the TED talk series for a while now, I was totally excited when I got to know that IIMB was having a micro version of its own - the TEDxIIMB event. It was the first time it was being conducted, and is expected to be an annual event. It was scheduled for a Wednesday, so there was a little discomfort with having to take a half-day off from work, and it didn't help that my fellow smarties (the others in the PGSEM programme) gave a lazy look out of the corner of their eyes when I asked who'd be coming along. The reason? "It's a TEDx event man, it'll be on the internet anyway... we can watch it for free! That too, in office!". But for some reason, maybe to partake of a historic moment, I just had to go. And so I did, though I thought the price was exorbitant even AFTER getting the customary IIMB discount. Now, before I come off as this really miserly chap, I better get to the actual topic.

As always happen, the event that's supposed to start at 2, promptly began around 2:15. That's remarkably early, when you consider IST. The underlying theme was supposed to be "Unconventional Paradigms". So the speakers were chosen aptly, representing a set of people who do.. things.. differently. Some of the speakers seemed to understand what they were supposed to do and came through with a message that made me think. Some of the others had so much to say, they forgot that they weren't the only speakers in the session. Being alloted 15 minutes and taking 45 minutes can *REALLY* test the patience of someone. Even if what you've done is remarkable, I believe that in a talk the audience is important, what you have to say... not as much. You have to get through to them, get them to absorb what you have to say. A couple of the guys came about saying "I did this, I did that" and that leads to a tune-out. Having said all that, tt wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to be! We had a few guys talking to us about how they chose to live life differently, and there were some really cool takeaways there.

First off, we had Raghuram (of MTV Roadies fame), who spoke to us about why he thought Roadies succeeded when many other reality shows fail here. His main funda was that during the making of the show, its important to build something you like rather than what you THINK the audience likes. Giving examples of how other people thought that a good reality show requires khadoos judges, and lots of swearwords and tantrums, he tried to explain how Roadies was NOT about that and how it just came to be that... like an unintended consequence. Treating it as a design constraint for any reality show doesn't really make sense. Chilled out speaker, but not really the best start to a TEDx if you ask me.

Next we had Anil Kakodkar, who spoke of how unconventional sources of energy were far more likely to save us in the long run rather than today's methods and sources. Really cool, really technical, where he spoke of Thorium and solar as sources of energy, but man, this was so serious! I heard a couple of guys doze off around me and snore a bit before they caught themselves! (Or was it me?)

We then had Brigadier Dilawar Singh who was trying an unconventional strategy when it came to combating terrorism. He actually went out of his way to engage with the local populace in some of the most unstable locations and conflict zones! It was fascinating to see the passion of the man who so strongly believed that peace and buy-in can be achieved with the local populace if you're just willing to open up to them and let them open up to you. Yes, he went on for much longer than he was supposed to, and it was undoubtedly an awesome tale, but mannn... after a while you start yawning. The guy next to me kept giving me the 'disgusting!' look, and hit me in the ribs everytime I yawned. Other than grimacing at the jabs, there wasn't much else I could do! Luckily it all stopped when I caught him yawning and gave him a pointed stare after which I was left alone.

The last talk in the first session was by Vivek Prabhakar of fame. This was an amazing end to the first session! In his own light-hearted and humor filled way (not to mention Apple-enabled beautiful presentations), he explained how he and his wife got together to start a business and how it wasn't all fun and games. He went on to explain how they came up with their fridge-magnets merchandise, their different takes on Indian mythological charecters and the creative ways in which they got out of sticky situations. At the end of the day, however, he says there's nothing he would otherwise do. It's always awesome to hear the stories of entrepreneurs, tends to motivate you quite a bit...

The midday session had talks by Ram Prasad (Final Mile Consulting), Amitabh Kant (Incredible India, Kerala - Campaign Architect) and Kiran Bedi (Really? You need an intro?). They had their fair share of stories to tell, and I'd have described them if it wasn't for the fact that you can actually see the videos. I personally thought Kiran Bedi was trying to really push the Lokpal bill across by making people answer some apparently rhetorical questions. Yes, I get how passionate people can be, and even though I felt a little forced by her presentation, I think I'd rather read the Lokpal bill again. I'd urge you to do the same... I wouldn't want her primary concern to remain that way for long. In her own words, she mentions, "Very few of you have given the bill a look through. We need you to do that, this is our last chance of getting through, of getting the way of the people, don't neglect it." At the very least, reading that bill is definitely on top of my list.

The third session had Pankaj Advani and Khurshid Batliwala open the session, one after the other. Pankaj's story was of a normal guy who made it all the way to the top, and his reflections on what it took to get him there. Khurshid, in a very SriSriRavishankar-ish look explained how he made his way from the IIT Delhi to getting into the Art Of Living. Both the speakers had a good share of humour in their talk, and really gelled with the audience. Prof. Trilochan Sastry who came up next, didn't spend much time actually talking about the ADR (which is what the schedule said he'd talk about), but in his own way he took the audience through an insightful talk on the importance of happiness and contentment in one's life.

To close for the day, we had Vipul Goyal, another IIT Delhi guy who's become a comedian. Was a nice wrap-up for the day, making jabs at everyday life and getting us to think a little. All in all, it's a nice beginning to what looks to become an annual event. Each of the speakers had something unconventional in them, or their means of dealing. Looks like I'd be buying a ticket for next year's event anyway! :)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Entrepreneurs Boot-camp: 4Startups Series

NSRCEL of IIMB organized a one day Boot-camp for all those interested in Entrepreneurship on 8th January in the campus Auditorium. The workshop was conducted by Ms. Saras Saraswathy - Professor in Darden School of Business and one of the most famous scholars in the area of new venture research . For those students of PGSEM who have read her thesis on Effectuation, to hear Prof Saraswathy in person and know more about her research was truly a fascinating experience.

The whole boot-camp was organized into four broad sessions. The first session started with Prof Saraswathy introducing the participants to the idea of Effectuation in such an interactive manner that the whole audience was in raptures for her skill in witty facilitation. The second session was an interview of Mr R. Sundarrajan, entrepreneur and CEO of Just-Books. Post lunch was a panel discussion on VC funding chaired by Mr. Rahul Chowdhri of Helion Venuture Partners. The final session was for Q&A and synthesis. The audience registered themselves into various groups - Greenhorns (still thinking of ideas), Red & Orange badges (those with ideas and thinking of starting off), Lavender (those who have made the great leap). This division was a great idea.. simply because many people were seen all through the day identifying those with differing colors and walking up to them to talking to them.. networking made easy.

'Do the doable' is one of the fundamentals of Effectuation. And this new theory challenges the idea of 'Causation' to spell-out the makings of a successful entrepreneurial venture. The theory tries to explain the 'Entrepreneurial Mindset' by 4 simple principles -

·       Bird in Hand Principle – Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: who you are, what you know, and who you know.
·         Affordable Loss Principle – Set affordable loss Evaluate opportunities based on whether the downside is acceptable, rather than on the attractiveness of the predicted upside.
·         Lemonade Principle – Leverage contingencies Embrace surprises that arise from uncertain situations, remaining flexible rather than tethered to existing goals.
·         Crazy-Quilt Principle – Form partnerships with people and organizations willing to make a real commitment to jointly creating the future—product, firm, market—with you. Don’t worry so much about competitive analyses and strategic planning.

The story of Just-Books is a classic example of how the theory of Effectuation plays out in reality. Mr. Sundarrajan had never heard of the theory till date, but acknowledged at one point in the interview that how incredible it was that his venture so closely tracked the principles of Effectuation! And what an incredible story Just-Books itself is in the humble works of its founder. For those of us who have heard our professors talk about ideas like 'ready-fire-aim' or 'thought-action-together' it felt like the ideas had jumped out of book and onto the stage!

Professor Saraswathy has herself been an entrepreneur of five ventures. She expertly drew parallels between the story of Just-Books with those like Kirloskar, Starbucks and Sears. Those in the audience pitched forth their own ventures in areas as diverse as catering, garment design and ERP software and tried to imbibe where they stood on the ladder and what the theories could say on what lay ahead.

The VC panel discussion threw light on insightful things like - go for VC funding as late as possible, go for VC funding only when the 2nd VC interested in your venture calls you, different categories of VC, typical funding percentages, E-commerce VC, pro's and con's of being on the VC radar, importance of a well rounded team backing your venture, what the VC typically look in the entrepreneur and so on..

To me, however, the comment that took the cake was this observation by a VIP - in America, if you hold a seminar on Entrepreneurship these days, the biggest point of discussion is law/lawyers. While in India, the debate hinges around funding. And its easier getting progressively easier in our world to overcome financial bottlenecks than legal issues everywhere and anywhere!


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