Thursday, September 25, 2008

Notes from the B-School Factory...

The recent Outlook Magazine - which carries the survey of India's Best B-Schools - has two very refreshing and insightful articles.


1. The Matchstick Managers

    It came as a much-needed shock to the system. Two months ago, IIT Madras director M.S. Ananth raised an issue that everyone in the academic fraternity agrees with, but no one quite wants to speak about openly. Questioning the relevance of the IIT entrance examination, he said the present system fails to attract the best talent, those with raw intelligence. This, he stressed, was because a large number of students took the help of coaching institutes to crack the exams and did not possess the genuine skills required for the IITs.

    While Ananth’s observation was based on the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for the IITs, it applies equally to the Combined Admission Test (CAT) and other tests conducted for entry into India’s premier management institutes.... For instance, there are the Xavier Admissions Test (XAT)—which has 43 affiliate B-schools, the Management Aptitude Test (MAT) as well as a slew of state entrance tests for various management institutions. Most of these use similar methods to test candidates....

    ...What then are the complaints against the current system of testing? For one, there is a clear feeling that it lacks in testing social values, considered important today. Says management guru Mrityunjaya B. Athreya, "The B-schools have gone too far towards the objective-type examinations and there is a general decline in language and communications skills. These are important for management. There is also not enough stress on the general skills and knowledge required in this kind of work." He goes on to add that while business is gradually stepping up its exposure to corporate social responsibility (CSR), that spirit is not visible in management entrance examinations. "It is not enough to produce technicians and engineers. We need holistic people," says Athreya."... [Read on...]
2. Aloof From the Light
    "...It was a surprising, and telling, exclusion from the list of compulsory courses at IIM-A. From this year, ‘Indian Social and Political Environment’ is no longer an option for first-year MBA students at the country’s leading B-school. The course, which has been around for many years, encouraged MBA students to learn something beyond boardroom skills by allowing them to regularly interact with disadvantaged sections of society and visit sites of development projects, among other things. This year’s batch at IIM-A will no longer have that privilege... There were some who felt this could be just another example of how alienated business schools are from the country’s social realities. And how, with a single-minded focus on training executives to be in sync with the corporate mantra of maximising growth and profits, B-school graduates are becoming immune to larger social responsibilities.

    ....Managing land acquisitions and the environment, for example, are seen by most students as more annoyance and expense than responsibility. That’s a pity, because businesses have to willy-nilly deal with such issues that have widespread social ramifications. Looking at the intense opposition from local stakeholders to the numerous SEZs being planned, or the environmental opposition to large projects, one would have thought B-schools would sensitise future managers to these prickly matters.

    ..."Most students who come to business schools do so with a one-point goal of getting a good salary. They seem to be increasingly less informed about the problems our country faces and less concerned about the larger humane role that businesses can play," adds Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, professor at IIM Calcutta’s Centre for Development and Environmental Policy. "It seems educational institutions are creating intellectual marginals at the core of our metropolises," he observes.

    The B-schools, unfortunately, couldn’t care less. Most MBA graduates are lapped up with high salary packages by firms hungry for fresh talent. In that sense, there’s no market-driven push to incorporate courses of greater social relevance. And this perpetuates business that is isolated from the rest of society".... [Read on...]

Friday, September 19, 2008

So what happened to "Capitalism", "Free" Market economy, etc..

The "Market" is supposed to "correct" itself - so we have been told... And a good government is one which governs/intervenes the least in the "free" market dynamics!

But then, last week - actually last few months - at least one government, which has championed/ branded/ enforced the cause of the "free" market, has been interfering with the "free market" - actually bailing out companies (Countrywide Financial, Bear Sterns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, etc. - many more to come)...

Here are some reflections/links - sent by some friends - on this changing paradigm...

  • Masters of The Universe Humbled

    "Not surprisingly, the atmosphere at this year's World Economic Forum was grim. Those who think that globalization, technology and the market economy will solve the world's problems seemed subdued.

    Most chastened of all were the bankers. Against the backdrop of the U.S. subprime crisis, the disasters at many financial institutions and the weakening of the stock market, these "masters of the universe" seemed less omniscient than they did a short while ago. And central bankers, too, were in the Davos doghouse this year.

    Anyone who goes to international conferences is used to hearing Americans lecture everyone else about transparency. There was still some of that at Davos. I heard the usual suspects – including a former treasury secretary who had been particularly vociferous in such admonishments during the East Asia crisis – bang on about the need for transparency at sovereign wealth funds (though not at American or European hedge funds).

    But this time, developing countries could not resist commenting on the hypocrisy of it all.
    " ...Read on

  • Private Enterprise Worship Exposed

    "The high priests of capitalism are in sackcloth and ashes, their belief in markets shattered, their catechism of risk-taking renounced. From Wall Street to Detroit, once-devout believers in unfettered private enterprise are running from their religion. Now that their greed has brought the economy to the brink of depression, they want government help.

    What happened to those masters of the universe? What happened to their handmaidens, the Republican politicians who denounced government regulation and read from the holy scriptures as recorded by Ayn Rand?

    When ordinary Americans began to lose their homes several months ago, conservatives were quick to denounce them for being too stupid to understand a simple mortgage or too undisciplined to know how to live within their means. The right-wing talking heads had a field day denouncing plumbers and painters, teachers and personal trainers threatened with foreclosure: They’re idiots! They’re losers! They’re suckers!

    Well, it now seems there were quite a few idiots among the brokers and bankers who bundled loans in complicated investment vehicles they didn’t fully understand. They actually believed they could vastly increase the financial rewards they received while virtually eliminating the risk of losses. That’s the very definition of “sucker.”
    "...Read on

  • Banking on Neo-Confucian Capitalism

    "It's university graduation season again and invariably, many graduates I encounter want to become investment bankers.

    In less than a year, financial stocks have plummeted by over 70 per cent in value. Millions of Americans and Britons have lost their homes. Countless millions more around the world have seen their net wealth drop precipitously, possibly never to recover within their working lives. Who to blame?

    Investment bankers, of course, who devised all those sub-prime mortgages and other cute "products" with long, exotic names.

    As someone noted, never in history have so many people lost so much money due to the actions of so few.

    Why then would young graduates want to be investment bankers? Well, to begin with, because investment bankers reward themselves pretty well, regardless of how others are doing. Bonuses paid in London's financial district totalled f6 billion 6815.7 billion) this year, though the total losses of financial services companies were 10 times greater.

    And in case you think that pay should correlate with performance, don't be naive. Last year, the CEO of a large private equity fund walked away with a US8350 million (SS499 million) bonus, though his just-listed company's share price had tanked by 37 per cent.

    Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently noted that the Wall Street financial system "paid bankers to gamble. When things turned out well, they walked away with huge bonuses. When things go badly, as now, they do not share in the losses. Even if they lose their jobs, they walk away with huge sums".

    To be fair to the maligned financial engineers, others also got rich during the good years. In 1994, the average American CEO was paid about 90 times more than the average blue-collar worker. Today, it is 180 times.

    But it is still mainly bankers who buy the thousand-dollar wines and Bentley convertibles. In America's Fortune 1,000 industrial companies, CEOs make around two to five times more than their immediate subordinates. In Wall Street, the top dog earns around 20 to 40 times more than his immediate subordinates.

    It's not surprising then that income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high. The share of the national wealth owned by the top 1 per cent of Americans has more than doubled – from 20 per cent in 1976 to more than 50 per cent today. Through changes to the tax system, an American private equity partner can today pay less taxes than the cleaning lady in his office, according to economist Paul Krugrnan.

    How did all this happen with no one complaining?
    " ...Read on

  • Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Make a Difference.. Bihar "Floods" - an appeal

    It is still called a "flood" - which it is not!

    It is a river - Kosi- which has changed its course by almost 30-degrees, inundating a huge chunk of land with water...

    This may also be one of the largest mass-migration and rehabilitation challenge in the history of Independent India - we still do not know the numbers... 1 million... 3 millions... Who knows?!

    Words/number/language, however, are linear; they do not convey the multi-dimensional reality and often fail to evoke the typically natural human empathic response... And therefore, these pictures to make this appeal:


    ...maybe our/your chance to get out of The Logic of Inaction...and support those who are doing something to tackle the situation...
    ... And so:

  • 1. How you can help
  • 2. Who you can contact

    1. How You Can Help
    Material support:
  • Dry ration - Rice, Chiwra, Biscuits, Packed Eatables
  • Medicines,
  • candles & matchbox,
  • torch & batteries,
  • utensils,
  • tarpaulin & thick polythese
  • feeding bottles,
  • buckets,
  • ropes,
  • bedsheets,
  • all kind of usable clothing & footwear.

    Logistical support:
  • Transport support to reach the material to effected areas
  • Space for collection centers
  • Facilities for local pickups,
  • Transportation of material from different cities to GOONJ processing centers in Delhi, Chennai & Mumbai

    Volunteer support:
    Please contact the organisations mentioned below.

    Financial support:
    See below.

    Who You Can Contact/Help

    I know about these two, and can vouch for them:

    1. Goonj
    Donations in India- Please send cash/cheque/draft in the name of GOONJ and send it to

    J-93, Sarita Vihar,
    New Delhi- 76
    (Kindly send your full name & address with the contribution for receipt/accounting purpose.
    (All donations to GOONJ in India are tax exempted u/s 80 G of IT act.)

    Overseas donation can be sent through Cheque (in the name of GOONJ with your full particulars)
    or by wire transfer with an information on


    Rotate it (valid only for overseas donations) through
  • Wacovia Bank,
    New York
    swift code- 2000193008933,
    GOONJ, A/C No- 2591101004644

  • Bank- Canara Bank,
    H block,
    market Sarita Vihar,
    New Delhi- 76
    Swift Code- CNRBINBBDFS

  • Contact- GOONJ
    H.O Delhi-J-93,
    Sarita Vihar, New Delhi- 76
    Tel.- 011-26972351,
    E-mail- goonjinfo[at], anshugoonj24[at]

  • GOONJ Mumbai- Mr. Rohit Singh
    Tel.- 9322381600,

  • GOONJ Chennai- Ms. Padma
    Tel.- 9842665320,

    2. AID India & Pratham

  • Funds:
    Donate online @:

    or you can send a check payable to AID INDIA (mention Bihar Flood Relief) to:

    Post Box No: 4903, Gopalapuram, Chennai - 600086, India.
    Phone: +91-44-42106493 / 28350403

    For more information please contact: or

    Prabha: +91-98403-51132 (prabha.balaraman[at]
    Gomathi: +91-94453-91090 (gomathiaid[at]

  • Friday, September 05, 2008

    ...thanks to my teachers

    Today is the "Teacher's Day... and an occasion to remember and thank those who continue to teach me...

    Sometime back, somewhere else, I had written about On Being a Teacher...
    ...which were essentialy my musings on the dilemma about what "teaching/learning" is all about (still trying to figure that out!)

    A few days later, an old student sent an invite on Orkut:
    "...have attended some of ur utterly confusing n thot provokin lect."

    Curious about what this meant, I wrote back:
    "How can something be simultaneously utterly confusing and thought-provoking?"

    ...and got the response:
    "there were times... when we were faced with ideas/beliefs completely opposite to what we had carried all along... so confusing because we kinda never expected that the opposite side ever existed or was appreciated.... Thought provoking because then later we end up appreciating (or at least start looking at the logic) for all sides of the argument."

    That made sense to me - and I learned something about teaching/learning from her mail...

    Today, among the many heart-warming mails/messages which one gets on the Teacher's Day, one which captured this teching/learning matrix, had this quote about learning/teaching in these verses from Rainer Maria Rilke:

    Live the questions now
    Perhaps you will then, gradually,
    Without noticing it,
    Live along some distant day
    Into the answer.

    Like him, I also "gradually, without noticing it, live... into the answer" through these myriad messages and interactions.

    So this post is just to say thanks to my many teachers - many of who sat through my classes...