Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Montreal Memories - Team IIMB @ JMSB

Circa 2005: Starting June 05 we had to tell ourselves that travel is a strict no-no; be it local over weekends or international for client visits. We had started pursuing our non-residential postgraduate program (PGSEM) at IIM, Bangalore with weekend classes.

Circa 2006: January 1, 2006 four of us get to land our feet in three continents; Asia (Bangalore), Europe (Frankfurt) and North America (Montreal). Courtesy PGSEM.

Somewhere in September 05 students at IIMB received an invitation for participation in the international case competition from John-Molson School of Business (JMSB), Concordia University, Montreal. It was their 25th anniversary. In order that a team could represent IIMB, a case analysis was supposed to be carried out and teams would compete against each other locally. Bijesh, Monish, Nelson, Vignesh and myself (Arvind) thought it was definitely worth a try. Owing to personal constraints, Nelson opted out and the remaining four of us formed a team. And we are forever happy to say that our team got selected to represent IIMB. The sojourn for upholding the brand called IIMB in Montreal had begun.

The competition also required that a coach accompany us. Being first timers at this competition, which has a history of a quarter of a century, we were not very certain about the rules and regulations. So a coach who could interface the whole team was imperative. We approached Professor Abhoy, who willingly agreed to accompany us. Given the fact the all of us are working professionals and weekends inevitably are reserved for classes, it was hard for us to put in more than 3-4 hours a week towards the preparation. We borrowed cases from Prof. Abhoy and most of the Sundays were spent at Bijesh or Vignesh’s place, for bare minimum preparations. Our feedback sessions with Prof. Abhoy helped us work on our analysis and presentation areas. Days rolled by quickly and our departure to Canada was fast approaching.

Prof. Abhoy had a tight travel schedule in December. A string of holidays in the last week of the month proved to be a dampener for VISA processing. Owing to some unavoidable circumstances, our prof’s VISA got unduly delayed and unfortunately he could not accompany us. Prior to the day of departure, he wished us all well and the four of us left Bangalore on January 1st, 2006 and reached Montreal the same day via Frankfurt.

Day I (Jan 1,06)
Our arrival was two days prior to the actual start of the competition. After a whopping 20 hours on flight, we had the first glance of snow and the feel of impending cold at Montreal. Huddling up at our youth hostels, we did little but sleeping. A short walk in the evening snow was enough to push us back to rest.

Day II (Jan 2,06)
The venue of the competition was Hilton, situated at downtown Montreal. The scheduled program for the day was the coaches briefing and we could garner some details about the competition, albeit not fully. Then came the windfall. Vignesh, on our transit via Frankfurt to Montreal was seated next to Dr.Klaus, the coach from University of Paderborn. Dr.Klaus has been coaching teams from Paderborn for more than 10 years. He had a good chat with him and during the course of discussion; he was told that our coach could not accompany us. Incidentally, Univ. of Paderborn, had an assistant coach, Sebastian, who himself was a participant last year. During the meeting, he volunteered to steer the ship for us; a bond we will cherish forever.

With no official events in the daytime, we decided to stroll around Montreal. The chilly winds with temperature hovering around –10 C, it was polar climate for Bangaloreans. But the spirit to explore the city drove us to quite a few places. We visited the Concordia and McGill university campuses, flashing the cameras as much as possible. The evening marked the opening ceremony of the competition at the Museum of Montreal. Draws were announced which placed the 36 competing teams in six divisions. We were in the second division, alongside of the host team, JMSB and four others.

Day III (Jan 3,06)
The schedule for the cases was quite hectic. Two cases per day, five in total at the divisional level with one for semis. Finals were on Saturday, the 7th Jan.

A brief on the competition – Each team plays against the other five at the divisional level. Toppers of the division move to semis; and the next three toppers, irrespective of division, also make it to the semis. Semis will be for three groups; and winner from each group competes for the coveted trophy in the finals. Each case analysis is for three hours (barring the one short case, which is for one hour). Each team of four team members sans the coach, works in a room, without any external interactions and within the three hours comes up with a solution to the problem posed in the case and prepares acetates for the presentation. Right after the analysis and preparation phase, the presentation follows for 25 minutes and 15 minutes of Q&A. The competing teams as a whole are rated on a scale of 11 i.e. 11 points are split across two competing teams. A 7-4, 8-3 or higher score splits indicate that the team having better score has won convincingly. An additional 30 points is awarded to the winning team. A 6-5 is a close call and hence the winning team gets 20 points and the losing team gets 10.

Our first opponent was the host team. We were a little apprehensive but our coach, Sebastian instilled lot of confidence and we went ahead with our case analysis. It was a company called Ryovac and the case about their acquisition spree and accelerated growth. We presented the case and the results were due after we finished the second case for the day. The second was based on CRL, a specialized poultry egg producer aspiring to acquire a Mexican poultry farm. Two cases a day was good enough to drain us out completely and favorable results alone could lift us up. Sebastian acceded that the first was a little tough call for the judges while we were better in the second. The results were up by the evening and we were pleasantly surprised to have 8-3 and 7-4 victories respectively. It was party time.

That evening we had a choice of attending a dinner or whiling time at a local laser game parlor. We decided on the latter. It was fun to shoot at each other in the dark maze with laser guns. We retired to bed thinking about the next two cases.

Day IV (Jan 4,06)
This was the day of the live case and the short case. Cirque-de-Soleil, a circus company was selected for the live case. The Corporate VP had a presentation following which we had a analysis and presentation. The second case was a short case on ExonMobil. One hour of number crunching is what we did in that. At the end of the day, we had the results for the morning case and we had a 7-4 victory. So far, so good. That night, we joined our extended team of Paderborn and team from Tennessee for dinner and it was gala event.

Day V (Jan 5,06)
We woke to a small shock when we knew that our last victory was a close 6-5. In fact, it had another consequence. It would potentially hamper our chances of winning the divisions’ topper award. The other teams with a four case victory were ahead in total points tally. Sebastian again urged that we should just try our best and leave the tallying to the organizers. The last case was that of Wal-Mart in China; an interesting case to end the divisional round.

A luncheon banquet was arranged prior to the semis. All the teams were on the tip of their toes to know if they had made to the next crucial round. As we love to have, our team had a victory of 8-3 in the last case. A pleasant surprise was that ours was the only team with an all-five-case victory and we topped the divisional rounds. We were just two steps away from what we presumed would be the most defining moments of our lives.

Semis were in groups of three and the case was NYK, a shipping and a terminal operator company planning to acquire another terminal operator. After our presentation, we also witnessed the other two groups from our group and we knew instantly, it was a close call. The results were due at the theme party that night.

The theme party began at 8-00 in the night and we got to see people in varied outfits. Just before the partying began, the results were to be announced. We had lost out to another team from our group and it was rather a not-so-cheerful end of our outing. But it did keep up with the statistics of this competition – no divisional topper has ever been able to win the trophy. We partied hard with all our new friends from different countries and retired to our rooms very late. There was nothing officially waiting anymore for us.

Day VI (Jan 6,06)
While we failed to reach the finals, we surely made lot of friends, not just from other countries but lot of Indians residing in Canada as well. Some Indian students at JMSB were volunteers to this event and three of them got very close to all of us. Deepesh, Phalguni and Amudhu were volunteers at the event and they invited us over lunch on Friday. Deepesh had prepared wonderful Pav-Bhaji and we savored thoroughly. They surely made our life easy by serving us spicy Indian stuff. We roamed around Montreal again, for some shopping.

Evening was the official presentation ceremony. The winner was John Molson B-School, but all of us there had loads to carry back; those wonderful moments that would go along with us for years to come. For us, we had the divisional toppers award and a pleasant surprise in the form of the team-spirit award that we shared with Tennessee.

Day VII (Jan 7,06)
The last day in Montreal was quite short. We just had time to bid good-bye to all our friends and it was just another 20 hours that separated us from our routine life. We shared our flight till Frankfurt with our extended team from Paderborn and parted ways with pleasant memories.

Big thanks to our institute, for encouraging us to participate in this event, to our coaches both at home and abroad for their valuable guidance and the organizers of the event for their immaculate and meticulous planning and execution.

For those frozen moments:

For more on the competition

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Does Having A Harvard MBA Make Someone A Better Stock Picker?

On a lighter note, it seems MBA does not help at all, atleast in the finance field. See the following.

We're now two weeks into the TradingMarkets/Playboy 2006 Stock Picking Contest and 4 of the 10 Playboy models are beating 11,705 out of the 11,739 equity mutual fund managers in the United States. Yes, that's right, 4 of the Playboy models would be

5. Here's how they would rank if the Playboy models were included in the Morningstar list:

Christine Smith +10.05% 13th out of 11,739 managers Courtney Culkin +9.87% 14th out of 11,739 managers Deanna Brooks +9.54% 18th out of 11,739 managers Amy McCarthy +8.78% 34th out of 11,739 managers

See the link for the full post.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Forbes article on part-time MBA programs

Forbes had an article last year (Sep 2005) on the growing popularity of part-time MBA programs in the US because they allow people to keep earning while they study, thus keeping them out of huge debts that they incur with full time programs (link to article).

The article applies more truly to the US than India because first, average salaries for full-time MBA graduates from the top institutes like the IIMs have been increasing at a healthy pace over the years, and second, the demographics point to an increase in the number of people who will enter then 20-25 age group.

Here are some snippets from the article:
  • Sharad Sundaresan, a programmer for Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., entered the part-time program at the University of Chicago. For three years Sundaresan boarded an 11 p.m. flight out of Seattle on Friday and arrived in Chicago at 5 a.m. He hung out at the airport until the school's shuttle bus picked him up for a full day of classes and then went back to the airport on the shuttle and caught a 7 p.m. return flight to Seattle. Tuition was $75,000 and flights cost another $30,000. E-mail, instant messaging and conference calls allowed Sundaresan to work on group projects with classmates in four different cities. "No regrets," says Sundaresan. "It afforded me the chance to keep my job, and the quality of the education and the networking opportunities were the same as the full-time program." The reward for his degree: a management consultant job at McKinsey & Co. and no debt.
  • "... everyone is too busy to stop their careers and go through a concentrated two-year program.", says John Fernandes, president of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the M.B.A. accreditation group.
  • The average base salary for a graduate of a U.S. school was $75,000 last year, the same as in 2000, while tuition has jumped 8%annually during that time. And getting a job isn't as easy. In 2000 the top schools placed 90% of their students in jobs by graduation. Last year only 70% of students at these schools had jobs. Cox's Niemi thinks that banks are hiring more undergrads with business degrees because they are cheaper and come with less of a sense of entitlement.
  • Tuck's dean, Paul Danos, thinks that full-time is superior to part-time. "The total immersion experience students get in a full-time program allows them to create skills and get a depth of understanding that you can't get any other way," says Danos.

Thanks to Kautuk Khare (student of PGSEM 2005) for the mail about the article.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

John Molson MBA International Case Competition

Kudos to Arvind Sainath, Bijesh Vijayan, Monish and Vignesh Singanallur (PGSEM 2005) for this fantastic work!

25th Annual John Molson MBA International Case Competition

"What’s more, the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore won a $3,000 Pfizer prize for having the most points after the five round-robin cases. The Richard Outcault Team Spirit Prize was awarded to both the University of Tennessee and the Indian Institute of Management."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Grammar maketh the man

Not quite, but if one is serious about doing an MBA from an institute like the IIM I hope the level of written and spoken English is better than the example below...

I got this in my in inbox a few days back. Read and judge for yourself:

i got ur email id from PGSEM yahoo group,i think ur writing PGSEM this time. ur working in a partner company,so company will sponcer for u?

please give me the information,becoz to complete PGSEM fees will be 3.75 lacks.i want to know what is partner company means,how they help us to complete PGSEM.

Should have tried this in the finance and quant courses

Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on tests
Some of the faculty actually have a pretty evolved sense of humour. Who knows it may even have got me a better grade in some of the finance and quantitative courses...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Indispensable MBA Companion Site

This is a site titled as a "Web Economy Bullshit Generator" -

Try it out and you are likely to find it indispensable when you need to sound smart. Some phrases the generator spewed out:
  • architect granular e-services
  • transition back-end interfaces
  • recontextualize granular vortals
  • implement robust niches
  • monetize best-of-breed users
  • reintermediate web-enabled e-services
  • And many, many more....

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Google PC and Positioning and all that

News sites are starting to hot up with rumours that Google may launch a low cost PC as early as this week.

Mary Jo Foley's 'Microsoft Watch' column titles the story ' Microsoft's Worst Nightmare Poised to Debut?' and has this to say about the news:
Google is rumored to be planning to roll out some sort of Google PC on Friday. It's not clear what will power the low-cost machine, but it won't be Windows. We're betting the long-rumored Google OS and/or Gbrowser could be part of the package. Others have tried the low-cost approach to knock the Redmondians off their desktop-OS-monopoly pedestal, but no one's succeeded so far.

If true, this is going to be very interesting to watch it unfold. Look at it this way - there is a whole body of management research and literature that has been used to explain Microsoft's dominance and sustained stranglehold over the PC market. Theories as network effects, barriers to entry, complementarity of goods, dominant design, economic benefits of bundling, and more. What if Google does succeed? It may not, and chances are less than even that it will, but who knows? After all, who would have predicted that a relatively commoditized item like an MP3 player could drive a billion dollars of sales at Apple through the iPod?

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