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Archive for February, 2006

I am in love…

27 February 2006 5 comments

…with a cute village called Mhow. The first time I went to it was some time in July last year. That was a discovery trip when we ended up going all the way to Choral Dam. I liked the quaint look of the place. The cantonment is an awesome sight during the monsoons with the greens of nature mixing well with the military greens. We saw a few villas of the military majors on the way. We had patties (puffs in Thoothukudi) at MonaLisa foods in the City Center(Mhow’s). The second time we were supposed to go to Patal Pani, but we ended up going to Badwah on the Omkareshwar route through Mhow. That time, it was the town market and the cows on the Badwah road which were fascinating. It was quite similar to some of our native villages where my amma and appa had grown up.

We went through Mhow for most of our trips, the Patal Pani one when we ate at the Bakery near the Indore checkpost, the Sheetala Mata one when some of us took photos with a tank and the Maheshwar trip. Every time I passed through the town, I felt a strange sense of liking. The old world look and the small town feeling probably made me nostalgic. Once again, we were on a hunt for nonveggie snacks. We explored the place and ended up eating some oddly named chicken item which I hope not to eat again. Our next stop was a veggie joint (Baba…) where we had samosas and sabudhana kichdi. We winded up with sweets at a Lal shop on the parallel road to the Main Road. Both were decent eateries with space to seat ourselves. This was in the second term.

In my first visit to Mhow this term, we discovered Kerala restaurant (now fondly called the Mallu mess) just opposite the football ground and had a feast. We started coming regularly here because the sambhar and dosas were so similar to the ones we make at home, the fish fry was tasty and the prices were out of the world. Of course you get tasty Kerala parottas. I haven’t got the chance to eat my dear Appams yet. We always wash our stomachs with thick natural fruit juices at the shop next to Dreamland theatre. The anar, orange and chikku juices remind me of the delightful juices we had in Bangalore.

There is the Mall road and there is the Main road in Mhow. The shopping delight is the Main Road. There are shops selling military greens, hotels advertising South Indian food and branded shops. I always get a card just before Valentine’s Day. There was a huge crowd that thronged the Main Road and its parallel roads so much so that there was almost no space to move. Later we found that these people were celebrating a Muslim festival. There are a few lovely card shops on the Main Road in Mhow, stocking an adequate number of Archies, Hallmarks and ITC ones. I picked one as my friend browsed through the bookstore opposite. I went and joined his search. That is my first book store in Indore. I pointed to him an essay collection of Arundhati Roy which he promptly purchased. I was pleasantly surprised to find Indian prints of Ayn Rand, “The World is Flat” and many other popular books at a steal.

Not to forget, there is a Lotus restaurant in the basement of Mhow Coffee House just after the Dreamland theatre where you can eat dosas as they have a South Indian cook. Its owner asked me if I am from Kottayam and told me that Mhow has plenty of Mallus. Meanwhile one of our friends found the Agrawal’s bakery on the Main Road which has tasty muffins and Swiss rolls, though a tad expensive at Rs.30. We have also had food under the moon in the Colonel’s Dhaba just after Mhow, which is an open air restaurant. There is this Cantonment Garden which looks so pleasant a park and I shall enjoy the cool Malwa breeze there some time soon.

I have met a few fellow Tamilians at the Kerala hotel. Some guys work for Eicher and some are in the truck industry. Every time I tell them I am from Thoothukudi and I am a student, they find it strange how a Thoothukkudi guy can have anything to do with studying this far. What will they do if I tell them quite a few of my friends are all there in the Americas? The only problem I have is the lack of an ICICI ATM. The other day, I had to repair a friend’s specs. The screws had gone loose and the optical shop lady repaired it at no cost. I could not believe my ears when she did not want any money for the minor repair. You do get some things free in life…

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Categories: Indore getaway, Travel

A fortune book

24 February 2006 Leave a comment

Before I realised that it has been a week since this page has been updated, I have been reading a book that has changed thought processes and opened up opportunities for business. It is aptly titled “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP)”. Before I started reading it, I thought it would be another of those best-selling books, interesting only to a select few. How wrong I was.

I had just read Abdul Kalam’s India 2020, a book with a vision of India being a developed country by 2020 and implementation tips for India in strategic and essential industries. Dr. Kalam is a passionate advocate of technology and outlines a roadmap for India in agriculture, agro-based businesses, chemicals, manufacturing, IT and strategic industries to be self-sufficient by 2020. For any one interested in sustainable development and fiercely patriotic, it is a must-read. The book ends with an action plan on how every individual and organisation could contribute to this vision.

This should have prepared me for the interesting insights the BOP book gives. Most of us would have heard rave reviews of the book (praise from Bill Gates and Madeleine Albright, among others). It is not one of those great books I would have missed to read, thanks to our library. The book’s premises fit in just over 100 pages and the rest of the 400page long book is filled with cases of success stories from India (as expected of a Coimbatore guy) and Latin America.

The first chapter is about the power of dominant logic or established beliefs in any entity. It provides figures to illustrate the market at the BOP and the need to change your mindset if you want to be successful there. Prahlad says that the companies need to create abilities to consume (provide credit through savings and the 3 As – affordability say sachets, access and availability). The second chapter talks about the need to innovate in goods and services and explains 12 principles of innovation like a focus on price performance, process innovation (think Aravind Eye hospital), education of customers (think ITC e-choupal), …

The third chapter says how the BOP could be a global opportunity in four different ways. First there would be local growth opportunities in big countries like India or China. Second, innovations in one market could be adopted to other emerging economies. Third, such solutions could also be used in developed markets, cutting down costs and benefitting the consumers. Four, challenges in management and innovation provide unique lessons that contribute to the growth of all the participants.

The fourth chapter talks about a market-oriented ecosystem, where MNCs, NGOs, governments and consumers form a network of relationships and engage in win-win partnerships. In the next chapter I discover Hernando de Soto (a Peruvian economist) and his Mystery of Capital. I strongly suggest that you read the previous link, where he tells us how capitalism has failed in developing/emerging economies mainly because of the phenomenon of trapped assets or the lack of property rights – that promote the formation of capital – which is a given in developed nations.

The fifth chapter talks about Transaction Governance Capacity (TGC), which means open, clear, honest and trustworthy transactions. The case of eSeva, an AP government initiative and the Centre for Good Governance, another AP government initiative, is discussed in this chapter. The last chapter talks about how sustainable development transforms the society. Women are seen as critical for development. HLL’s Project Shakti is a fine example. I have not read the book in its entirety. The cases are pending. I have read one Brazilian retailer’s (Casas Bahia) story, a Mexican cement (Cemex) tale and HLL’s Annapurana salt story. There is a mention of Tuticorin in the last story as a salt town in India. That should be reason enough for me to whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who cares for developmental initiatives to reach all sections of the society, with reasonable profits as is expected for a business.

Bonus: Liberty is an important pursuit for a happy man and here is its philosophy. When you are at the site, you could also download a primer to economics called “The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible.”

Categories: Books, Society

Why Indians love to eat out…

17 February 2006 7 comments

Here’s my take on why I think we guys love spending our money at hotels, restaurants, fresh juice shops, fast food joints and the like.

  1. Split personality effect: KFC estimates about 30 to 40% of Indians are vegetarians. There are a lot of Brahmins and other folks who won’t or can’t have meat inside their homes. In short, they are herbis inside and carnis outside. To satisify their desires and their buds, all they got is the eateries.
  2. GDP effect: Indians, led by the great Amartya Sen, are very good at developmental economics. They are fully aware that if my Amma cooks and I eat at home, there is no addition to the GDP for her culinary skills (which I bet are out of the world, like any son) whereas when I eat outside I contribute to the GDP. The multiplier effect of each son, who thinks likewise, contributes about half the revenues of all these institutions.
  3. Migratory effect: Rising urbanisation and better opportunities for speaking/typing more leads to increasing power in the purses of this generation Indians and a higher floating population. A judicious mix of these two factors results in the eating out phenomenon.
  4. Relativity effect: All of us know Einstein’s famous theory about the time difference when you sit next to an intoxicating girl and when you put your hand into a fire if you were a kid that never grew up. We would rather spend our precious time in watching a match or the never-ending serial than cooking. In fact, the cooking is okay but the thought of having to wash the utensils puts us off.
  5. Google effect: Every self-respecting netizen is aware of Google’s mission – to organise all the world’s info and make it accessible and useful. That makes it easy for me to find restaurants across the globe and for the chefs to find exotic recipes. The poorman’s pizza in Italy gets a new life as a premium snack everywhere else. I have had the stylishly named granita in another name and at a much cheaper price back home.
Categories: Creative, Food, Society

Eat well or sleep well

14 February 2006 7 comments

“You can either sleep well or eat well.” Thus goes a popular saying in Wall Street, our textbook says. If you are wondering what this refers to, it is the classic risk-return tradeoff, a key concept of corporate finance. For any one who has done any kind of investment, this truism stands out the first time you talk about an asset-allocation plan.

My sleep gets troubled not only when I eat more but also when I eat less. But if I want more returns, I have to take more risks. This seems to be a simple enough motto – “No pain, no gain”. There is a twisted way of saying this – You win some, you lose some.” Whenever I hear saying you have to give up something to get something, I tell myself it sounds so hollow. If I have to sacrifice every time to achieve, am I indeed achieving it? One of our batchmates has a status message, “If I have to work hard to reach a goal, it means that I don’t deserve it.”

My expectations have been low. I am content to pluck the grapes hanging low even if they are sour. My efforts have been just enough and I have been trying to factor out risk as much as possible. Risk avoidance and a fear of uncertainty weighs prime to me. Keeping all these in mind, how can I eat and sleep well simultaneously? All the experts believe it cannot be done in the real world for a considerable period.

Categories: Me

The joys of campus life

10 February 2006 3 comments

This is my first fully residential course. Before you question me about the Guindy days, that was partly residential for me, but there were a lot of dayscholars who had enjoyable trips in their 47As and 5Bs. Our campus is about 20km away from the Indore railway station and away from the city for most senses. It feels like the townships of big companies, especially the SPIC township in Thoothukudi, which was an ideal place for me when I was small. Here is why I love this campus life so much.

  1. The classrooms are about 5min away from our hostels. Just a couple of years back, I had to travel 10km to my place of work. Also I get plenty of time to really plan things out.
  2. A campus means almost zero pollution. I don’t have to face the buses and the lorries. One year later, I will have to worry about all this 🙂
  3. We are always connected. 24hr access in our hostel rooms seemed to be a distant dreams in Guindy and here we are abusing them properly. I can surf incessantly.
  4. The mess is less than a minute from my room and it is also open for about 20 hrs in the day. But mess food becomes a mess because it is a routine.
  5. Inside your room, you are fully in control of yourself. I decide HOW I waste my time!
  6. All the chores, say washing, sweeping, ironing, … are outsourced and I only have to study supposedly.
  7. I get to play the game I have always wanted to play.
  8. When you get everything inside, you really don’t have to go out. But every good man is expected to go out and earn his living. So am I!
  9. The campus mood is always festive, full of pranks, parties and legpulling. I will treasure this light feeling any time.

No wonder, after a stint at work, it most certainly is good to learn fulltime.

Categories: Bschool

Likeable talks

7 February 2006 5 comments

Our school has the best of both worlds. Being a quasi-government institution, it gets high priority for governmental functions. Being a bschool ensures that industry also regards it highly. We have had some immensely interesting talks from the policy makers of the nation and the influential businessmen apart from the academicians.

Of all the talks, I liked the one by Dr. Rakesh Mohan, the RBI Deputy Governor. Economics is such a delightful subject and he is an exponent. His sense of humour is remarkable. He talked about how reforms have affected industry in India. His arguments were clever and his topic was a good romp through the last 15 years in Indian economy.

Walter Mead told us about the US foreign policy over the years. I liked the speech because of its historical associations. He handled quite a few tricky questions too. US foreign policy is one of the most tough subjects to talk about especially in a patriotic audience.

Very recently, we had the Governor of Mizoram (himself an IIMC alumnus of the first batch) exhort on the virtues of entrepreneurship. He was fiercely patriotic and critical of the American dream. One of the major reasons for many people to take an MBA is to learn the skills that could be used to start and run a business. The risk propensity of individuals is built over the years and education by disseminating information can at best reduce the risks. I am sure my risk propensity is pretty low and I would need a big mindset change to even think of venturing on my own, leave alone the thousand non-starter reasons I would receive from people around me.

All this aside, I came upon this powerful article by Paul Graham on loving work. Here’s an excerpt, ” Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it’s rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you’ll be more likely to arrive at it. If you know you can love work, you’re in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you’re practically there.” Well, I don’t love the work I do so far!

Categories: Bschool

Term 2 Grades

5 February 2006 7 comments

Putting my marks here pleases me.

Course Credits My Grade Points My Grade
Operations Management – 1 4 3.3500 B
Macroeconomics 4 3.1385 B
Finance – 1 4 2.5000 C
Marketing – 1 4    
Quantitative Techniques – 2 4 3.1760 B
Managerial Accounting Control – 2 4 3.2330 B
Managerial Written Communication – 2 2 2.8300 B
Management Information Systems 4    
Total 30 (22) (3.0568) B

Grades for two of the subjects are pending, but I can reasonably hope that I can pull past the magic 3. Wish me folks. I worked well in the first term (grades here) and I relaxed in the second term. My grades have turned out to be ironically similar.

Categories: Bschool, Me