Hosting a renowned millennial leader: Mr. Akshay Kothari of LinkedIn

Today was an exciting day in the journey of  PGPX 12th batch at IIM Ahmedabad. We were going to host Mr. Akshay Kothari of LinkedIn India towards the later half of the day. He was extremely kind to accept our invitation and find time during his personal visit to Ahmedabad.

The session started with a discussion about his startup Pulse, a personalized news application which is now a part of LinkedIn. Akshay took us through his journey at Stanford and how implementing the ‘design thinking’ helped him and his partner come up with this excellent idea of personalized news application. Just to mention, this is the same application which was mentioned by none other than Mr. Steve Jobs during one of the launch events.

Akshay came across as a simple person with a lot of powerful ideas about making the social impact to Indian demography by bringing equal opportunities to length and breadth of the country through various initiatives LinkedIn is taking. He put forward excellent ideas about his plan to make LinkedIn reach across the diverse working population of India, be it the white-collared workforce struggling to cope with automation, or blue-collared workforce waiting to claim their fame because of lack of networking opportunities.

During the Q&A, the participants asked a lot of thought-provoking questions related to LinkedIn’s plans about optimizing the level of connection to bring out the strength of the connection, supporting start-up ecosystem, and taking the benefits to the colleges in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

It was an excellent opportunity for the PGPX batch to build on their existing plans of making a social impact through their work post-MBA and even embark on their entrepreneurial journey sooner than later.

Thank you, Mr. Akshay Kothari for a wonderful evening! Wish you a happy, healthy and a truly rewarding life!!

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A visit to KFC: Is Social unrest just a tool or a phenomenon to worry about?

We live in an era in which connectivity is the cheapest commodity given the exponential rise of connected devices and communication technology. We have been hearing various influential people talking about the possibility of a social unrest in India if proper welfare schemes are not implemented. This gives rise to the several forms of taxation as a measure to generate money to fund social welfare schemes.

It was one such day my MBA journey which was just after finishing a test and before a nearly killing schedule. But, as they say, more the pain, higher the immunity you develop with time and start balancing things in a better manner. It is important to take time out from the tiring and repetitive schedule to refresh yourself. And, given the person I am, I like to visit places on a relatively quiet day to really cherish the moments and surroundings.

For years, we have been learning about the delicate social fabric of our nation and the kind of balance required to arrest possible breakout of social unrest. There are various taxation, lists of NGOs, government departments created to facilitate this objective of keeping the restful society.

But how successful have these measures been?

We at PGPX-12 are fortunate to have a right oriented economics professor who brings invaluable experience and deep insights. With the vast quality of experience he has, his examples are very thought to provoke and inculcate inquisitiveness in every individual. Over a couple of lectures, he has proved how various government interventions in marketplace result in the reduction of society welfare, and how the government creates contradictory departments. On one side, you have a department to create a monopoly for social welfare, and on the other side, there is an anti-competition commission.

A visit to KFC, Ahmedabad One Mall.

My maiden visit to KFC store in Ahmedabad One was quite a bit of a data point to understand what true social welfare is and how simple steps can really translate into the overall upliftment of society. As we entered and reached the counter, we started asking questions and preparing delicacies to order. The person at counter hinted that he is deaf. There was no sense of sympathy as the person was as good as any other person in discharging his duties. It did not stop there, as we roamed around the store, we saw that this store is predominantly run by deaf persons and how well! Amazing! This is was a good training and opportunity can do to any strata in society.

During my conversation with my friend, he told me about a dark restaurant in Bangalore where there is full darkness. A person holds your hand, takes you to the table and assists you through entire dining experience. Once you are finished and coming out, you get to know that person helping you was blind. The restaurant is Dialogue in the Dark.

When I turn to the other side of the story and start imagining the special homes created for specially abled people, the picture is not very vibrant and promising.

One of world’s largest organization, Government of India.

The question I was left wondering was, Why cannot the GoI (one of the world’s largest organization) create such opportunities for all sections of societies and make them part of inclusive development instead of getting worried about possible social unrest and remain in an inaction mode? What stops it from taking bold steps which empower people and provide development opportunities instead of just handholding through social measures.

Did we as a nation achieve our goal for social upliftment that was set for 2017,
Or There was (and is) no Goal?

We certainly cannot do away with welfare schemes abruptly, but it is worth asking ourselves, is there a measurable Goal to achieve social upliftment and whether a vision is laid down to reach there with timelines?

Leave you with this question for thoughts!
Good Morning, Sunday!!

 

Management: Arts or Humanities or Scientific Reasoning

The first week at IIM Ahmedabad campus as PGPX student stimulates various thoughts in mind of participants. The journey has just begun and there are constant warnings about how difficult it is going to get over next couple of months before the principle of equilibrium sets in. And the famous quote from GameOfThrones,’Winter is coming’, appear very much the buzzword for the participants of one of the most academically stimulating, and technically comprehensive MBA program in the competitive MBA world across the globe.

While going through various initial sessions, I was wondering how true the fact that Management is built on the premises of humanities, art or science. In today’s world, where the human race has evolved. Nowadays, the thought of getting latest mobile brings more smile on the faces of the younger generation than that of getting a new bicycle. The feeling of being recognized technically advance may be more content among higher age managers than being called more humane, sensitive and holistic. The idea of running a competitive team is more rewarding than the thought of building a long lasting, robust and sustainable team.

Wonder, in this environment, how much of Management has remained art and humanities, and what part of it has been converted to science & mathematics driven reasoning.

Organization Behaviour: No ‘one size fits all’ approach to deal with humans, a challenge to keep the a relevant humanities facet of Management

The various courses such as organization behavior have retained the flavor of being more closer to humanities and arts. The academic material still talks about dealing with people, their perceptions, biases in day-to-day interactions and designing a communication model around the ‘complex’ human race. A lot of this subject is open to interpretation, situation dependent and subjective.

Designing Operations: Sustainable time tested methods, or short term high performin ways. A mathematical approach as ever.

Then, there are quite a number of other courses which like to talk about the past to design the future in a better and predictable manner. One such area is about designing operations to serve the demand of an organization. One may wonder whether it is possible to design an operation that is long lasting in today’s environment in which companies face uncertain future and may not really require a sustainable model. Rather, a short term competition beating operation module may draw more traction with such organizations. In fact, the related area of operations research has undergone major transformations and is not more pen-paper analysis. There are complex computer models, excel base analysis that has taken over the traditional methods of pen-paper calculations for effectiveness and sustainability analysis etc.

Marketing the product: Still an art flavour than the science or mathematics.

Moving on, there are various opportunities in the marketing landscape. Even in this area, the traditional wisdom may tend to defy the conventions. Who could have imagined that roping in a leading celebrity in movies could have backfired entire marketing campaign of a company? The information accessibility, connected generations through twitter/facebook has made it possible to blow a minor glitch out of proportion and bring down the entire marketing strategies for a company. The not-so-late fiasco of Snapdeal marketing based on leading Bollywood actor is an example of the kind of challenges companies face. Another change is the marketing is seen by toothpaste making companies that adopted hard lines against desi ways of cleaning teeth until the early 2000s. They are forced to bring out herbal products, an approach that seems inconsistent with their past strategy. This is one area which appears to have retained the art flavor over scientific evaluations and requires coming up with more appealing approach than just the scientifically correct ways. The best thing I heard about Marketing was, nobody is a genius in marketing, and nobody is dumb here! We all lie in the middle of normal distributions hovering around mean+/-1StandardDeviation :-).

Come what may, the journey has just begun and here we stand solid as the rock! There will be many sleepless nights, winds challenging self-belief, screams of helplessness. However,  mettle will prevail ultimately!!

Day One of Largest Ever Batch: PGPXcellent

The long wait ended and the day arrived when largest ever batch gathers in the holy place for management graduates, IIM Ahmedabad.

‘We are IIMA and we will show you why we are what we are’ is the theme for this brilliant place.

The registration day involved some formalities and mixed bag of surprises. Who could have imagined an induction booklet had enough ‘masala’ (ammunition) to eat next 2-3 nights even before course commences officially. But that is how it is in Ahmedabad. Within few hours groups were formed and people were put to task. The journey begins even before officially inaugurating the program. Isn’t that what we are here for, go through the rigour and test the mettle that might have rusted over last many years in corporate jobs.

The Inauguration Day

Coming from corporate jobs, we all can understand how difficult job it is to be director of India’s leading management institute. But if anyone thought the director of India’s top mangement institute would be a serious looking, over-academic, or boring person, here was Prof Ashish Nanda. With his disarming smile, childlike enthusiasm, and witty one-liners, he won the heart of all those present without having a single dull moment over the introductory session. This person is amazing and does lot let any sign of stress come on his face. The jokes keep flowing without any compromise of the seriousness and information flooded decorum of the session. An exemplary display of top leaders communication skills were at display and all those present basked in the warmth of his presence.

Not just head, the team is no less

There were other key members for the program present on the dais. And it was for everyone to witness the smooth and organised flow of the ideas, information and conversation. I could witness why IIMA has invincibility tag associated with its alumni. Excellent display of balanced speeches filled with moments of sheer brilliance. The faculty introduction kept running through the entire day.

The rulebook

The first formal interaction with profession begins with golden rooms for classroom. The class starts on time, but not necessarily end on time which cuts down the interval time between two classes to 3 mins (from original 20 mins.) What, no its not a typo! Not cut down by 3 mins, but cut down to 3 mins.

Eventually the first class: Behaviour

In a room filled with close to 9 years of corporate experience people, the professor asked a basic question, who are you? And from then on explained wonderful insights on personalities, self evaluations etc.

Remember I told, Its is IIM Ahmedabad, we do things differently!!

Don’t ever forget this golden principle. We were looking at the clock as it struck 17:30 (good 20 minutes beyond the scheduled end). Now Professor comes up with a smile, welcome to IIMA. You guys need to take up an assignment and need to be finished by 19:00 and presented as a team in front of an audience of good 150+ people. Something seems strange, till few days ago I used to call the shots and tell me team what to finish by when. I can swear never ever in my life I expected a deliverable in 45 minutes :-|.

The satisfying part was, we had an exciting night, saw how much creativity exists within out batch and celebrated the diversity in true sense. More than anything else, it braught the groups closer.

It is 21:00 and the group work begins after a really good welcome dinner by institute.

All this on day 1.

Welcome to IIMA!! Many more sleepless nights await!!