Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is innovation becoming a spectator sport?

A few years ago, in the world of technology, innovation was what happened in small teams away from prying eyes.

No one was breathing down Larry's and Sergey's neck to invent Google.
There was no pressure on Mark Zuckerberg to invent Facebook.

But today the amount of curiosity that people have, about the next move these companies will execute makes one wonder whether innovation has become a spectator sport.

Currently, the war between Google and Facebook or the war between Nokia and Android is eagerly watched by millions of people. Analysts, users, other companies and the world at large wait with bated breath to see what technological and strategic moves these companies will make when there are billions of dollars at stake.

Innovation in the technology sphere is not restricted to the proverbial garage anymore.

It has become a spectator sport with fans taking sides just like any other sport.

In the larger context, innovation as a spectator sport is an inevitable milestone in human evolution.

Thousands of years ago, man watched other men fight against lions and
be devoured by them in the amphitheater. As our race evolved and we became more human(e), people watched men and women fight it out with each other in the tennis court and soccer stadium. As we live in the era where knowledge is becoming the most important skill, it is only fitting that men will watch the clash of the minds like it were an exciting sport. It is only fitting that they will take sides and cheer their favorite companies.

And I think it is little more than a coincidence that we are able to watch this sport without ever stepping into a amphitheater or a stadium.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Know Your Alumni Series: Musthafa PC

Musthafa PC
Designation: Co-founder of Best Foods (ID Special food products,
PGSEM Batch: 2004 - 2007
Total Years of Experience: 12 years in IT industry, 4 years of Entrepreneurship
Role Before Joining PGSEM: Program Manager at Intel
Role After Completing PGSEM: Entrepreneur
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.                        
I did my B.E. in Computer Science from NIT Calicut in 1995. During my IT career, I worked with Motorola India, Citibank Dubai, Intel India, Misys and Fair Isaac. After finishing my PGSEM, I quit my job at Fair Isaac to fully focus on my venture, Best Foods.
I come from an extremely poor family in Wayanad, Kerela. My father, being uneducated himself, was extremely committed toward ensuring that I get good education. I was lucky enough to get a chance to study. When I graduated, I was the only graduate of my village. Today, I am married with three lovely kids.
During my free time, I play cricket with my kids and watch TV. I don’t like reading books.
Q. Tell us something about your journey-How did it all begin?
I always had an entrepreneurial inclination. In my childhood, I used to sell sweets during my summer vacations. After finishing my engineering, I got busy with my job. During my marketing project under Late Prof Thiru, I gained some knowledge of the food processing industry. I then also realized that there was perhaps some business opportunity present in the ready-made batter business. In 2005, I started operation with a 50 sqft room and 2 small conventional grinders in partnership with my cousin brother. I entrusted the day to day operations to my cousin while I was working in IT field. We started doing test marketing to check if our idea really had potential.
Another, turning point came when I joined the VEIL (old name for the REIL course taken by Prof DVR) course. As a part of this course we were supposed to write a reflection paper. It was then I realized that even though as Project Manager, I was ensuring the execution of a project as per a plan, but surprisingly I did not have a plan for my life. I took the reflection paper very seriously and used this to get answers for two things, a) what was the purpose of my life? b) what was the plan for my life? This was the only paper where I scored the perfect 4.0 GPA and the reflection paper brought about a lot of clarity in my mind. At the end of 2007, I left the IT industry and immersed myself into my enterprise.
Q. Please describe the nature of your business?
        Best foods Enterprises manufactures and markets the ID Special food products. We started with making batter for Idli and Dosa. Now we make and market several other products like Kerala Parota, Wheat Parota, Achappam (Rose cookies), Pettiappam (diamond chips) and Aappam under the ID Special Brand name.
Q. Describe the evolution of your company?
During the test marketing days in 10 stores, we were able to sell about 2 – 2.5 Kgs of batter per day per store. This gave us the confidence that this business could be scaled up. Using 15 lakhs of my savings from my professional life, we setup a 700 – 800 sqft factory in Kagadaspura in 2006. We soon started selling 3000 kg of batter every day and we hit our production capacity.
We realized that it was time to expand further and with the help of Karnataka State Small Industries Development Corporation (KSSIDC), we setup a factory at Hoskote in 2008 end. This factory is about 8,000 sqft and it produces about 20,000 – 25,000 Kgs of batter every day. Today we have a turnover of about Rs 20 crores and have already got several offers from bigger players and venture capitalists which we have already declined. We also had a multi-crore buy-out offer from MTR which we have declined.
Q. How is your company structured today?
Our company employs about 250 people currently. Out of these about 99% is unskilled labour from remote villages of South India. Apart from manufacturing, the other major activity that we have is Sales and Distribution. Here again we hire from villages and train the people.
Q. Describe the company goals and mission.
We have set ourself a target of making Best Foods a Rs 300 crore enterprise in the next 5 years.
We have not set any formal mission defined for the company. However, I have seen a lot of poverty in my early days and believe that I was lucky enough to get some opportunities to reach where I am today. A number of youth from villages, though extremely bright, do not get an opportunity in their lives.
I am hence a firm believer of generating employment for the poor youth of villages. I believe, providing employment is much useful than helping someone by donations. I am happy to see the little contribution that I have been able to make in the lives of my workers. After two years of training and hard work, our Sales guys can give Business School students a run for their money. These guys who were perhaps earning Rs 3,000 per month are now able to make around Rs 35,000 per month. The transformation in their life styles gives me lot of satisfaction.
Q. What are your future growth plans?
        We have distribution tie ups with Nilgiris. Our major presence has been in Bangalore. Very recently, we have started distribution in Chennai, Mangalore, Dubai and Hyderabad. We plan to do the same at Mumbai and Pune through a distribution tie up with Nestle.
     Once, our sales reach a critical mass in these cities, we also have plans to set up factories in these cities.
        We are also helping some people who want to expand ID special or use our idea in setting up businesses at new places. In fact, I would be happy to help a fellow PGSEMer who wants to take this idea to different locations.
Q. In this highly competitive space requiring comparatively simple skill-set, what gives your company the edge to do well?
      I believe even though the opportunity for ready-made batter was there in Bangalore, there were no organized players. This was when we started operations and made a mark for ourselves. Now that we have established ourselves up to a certain extent, we are relatively less worried about new players entering the market. New entrants will bring in more customer awareness about availability of such products in the market which will help boost our sales.
We give utmost importance to quality and service. Our products are manufactured in a super hygienic environment. We do not add any preservatives/flavors so that homely taste is not compromised. Fresh products reach the stores early morning so that customers experience the convenience of a natural food. Customers have outsourced their daily hassles to us J.
Q. How did PGSEM help transform your career?
         Firstly, the reflection paper that I wrote helped me in deciding the purpose and project plan for my life.
      Secondly, before PGSEM I used to be more of a tactical guy. I believe PGSEM taught me to think more strategically keeping long term view in mind.
Q. What were the few challenges that you faced in your entrepreneurial career?
      My first challenge was that when I started, I had no clue about food processing industry. I had to spend a lot of effort learning things.
      The other major challenge was convincing my family to allow me to leave my high paying software job and take the plunge in business. In fact, I told all this to my father just about 1 year ago.
     Then there were some other challenges that several businesses face sometime. For example, our competitors tried to spread rumors that a rat was found in one of our products. There was also a case of product tampering by local competitors by purposefully inserting needles in the batter pouch.
Q. Whom do you consider as your Role Model and Why?
         This is a spiritual question and I would like to answer it spiritually. I am a religious person and I consider the Prophet Muhammed as my role model. I am a firm believer in His teachings and try to follow them in my business as well.
      We pay all our taxes and do not have debt in the business. In fact, once we turned down an annual order of Rs 50 lakh from a leading hotel chain because they wanted to use one of our products as a bar snack.
Q. What is your Mantra for work life balance?
     During my corporate life, I at least used to get Saturdays and Sundays with my family. However, now it has become difficult to spend even weekends with them. I try to spend at least 15 mins daily with my 3 kids. However, I don’t think I am able to maintain a proper work life balance and I am not sure if such a thing is even possible for a startup entrepreneur  J.
Q. How is your association with IIMB and PGSEM now?
      I am still a frequent visitor at IIMB. I teach as a guest faculty in the REIL (Reinventing through Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Leadership) course.
Q. Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
  • First of all you should do a thorough research to understand the potential market for the product.
  • If the product appears to have enough potential, see if there are gaps in the market. For example there may be a situation where there is demand but no proper supply in the market.
  • Look at the competition in the market. If there is a huge competition from organized players already in the market, it is extremely difficult for a start-up to establish itself. When we entered, there was hardly anyone in Bangalore market.
  • If possible, through your enterprise try to generate employment for unskilled labour from villages.
Q. Your message to students at IIMB-PGSEM today?
      During my IIMB days, several of my batch mates in PGSEM, used to crib about their IT careers. However, most of them did not have the guts to do anything about it and are still continuing with the same. I am sure many of the present PGSEMers would also be in a similar situation. Even though I was lucky enough to have a cousin to look after the test marketing of my business, it was difficult for me to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Hence my message to current PGSEMers is:-
        If you are passionate about something, go ahead and at least try it out for at least few months with the help of full-time well-wishers like your cousins. If things work out, switch off completely from your old work and focus into your passion. If you don’t try, you will only talk about it till your last breath but would never make it happen. All the best!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dear Reader, You Are Our Hero!

PGSEM blog was revived in April last year and we have completed 30,000 hits in the last 1 year 3 months. Readers - Alumni, students, PGSEM aspirants, MBA enthusiasts - continue to be our source of inspiration and make us strive to bring out information about our PGSEM life onto this public platform despite juggling work, studies and family.

Do continue to support us, leave us a message about our content or anything that you liked about our posts. Young blood gets infused every year and we will keep you posted about our journey year on year.

Dear reader, you are our hero.

Happy Reading!

Microeconomics, Strategic Management and the art of elevating students' intellect

Microeconomics is the study of "what is". Strategy is the study of "what should be". The meeting place between the two is in your minds.
        - One of our esteemed professors.

Time and again, our peers in the software industry ask us about PGSEM with an eye on job prospects after the course. Just a few hours ago, I replied to a yahoo group query on the oft repeated value question. Now that I am on the side that answers those questions, I thought it might be a good idea to write about my perspectives on what is actually the "value" of PGSEM.

The management education sector, in which placement figures routinely make headlines, compels people to think about placements as the only return on investment worth measuring. Maybe that is an acceptable measure for most institutes under the sun. But for IIMB, it is one of the many measures and depending on your career goals, it might not even be a very important one.

But irrespective of your career stage, goals and aspirations, a great course would elevate your thinking and change forever the way you perceive people, companies and the world at large. And for us PGSEMers, that invaluable act of elevation starts right from the admission stage and continues all the way to the last quarter due to the high standards set by the institute. Those standards are sustained by professors who amaze us everyday with their knowledge and perspectives. Those standards are strengthened by our classmates who bring a wealth of experience from many different functions in the software industry.

So, to capture what we feel:

Was it easy getting in? No.
Is the course tough? Hell yes!
Do we have placements? No.
Are we bothered about that? No.

Why not?

Because this is the best mind bending roller-coaster ride we have ever taken.
Because with each passing day (and each passing case!), the world is never the same in our eyes again.
Because this is where we learn from the best to constantly challenge ourselves and change the game.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pehel 2011 - A live account !!!

After weeks of deliberations the D-Day was finally here.

9th of July 2011 was the day when a new batch of PGSEM students were to organize their first ever event at the IIM Bangalore: PEHEL 2011.
Pehel literally means Initiative and aptly suits the fresher's event, organized by the freshers, for the seniors.

The planning for the event had started almost a month back, immediately after the orientation. Several committees were formed for performing specific tasks and were headed by a core committee who were in charge of the overall direction of the event. The design team consisting of Shalini and Vineeth came up with a creative logo for Pehel 2011. This became the logo for our t-shirts and the theme for the event.

The "Warli" design was contemporary yet very traditional and was readily acclaimed by everyone. It did not miss even the Director's eye and he too praised the batch for the efforts in coming up with such a nice design.
Everything was meticulously planned to the minutest level thanks to the efforts of the omnipresent Chandra. He had taken it onto him to deliver the best and pitched in wherever and whenever he was required, be it the distribution of the invitations to the interaction with the PGSEM office, the last minute plan for anchoring the show to playing the role of the great Gabbar, Chandra was everywhere, Chandra simply rocked!!!
So ... finally, clad in our brand new warli t-shirts and blue jeans (our dress code for the day), we were there to invite the world (read seniors!!!) to a new beginning by PGSEM 2011.

The event started with the "Hi-Tea", arranged behind the auditorium thanks to the PGSEM office. The guests started trickling in by 5 pm and started meeting each other over a cup of tea/coffee.
This part of any IIMB event is supposed to be used for the biggest takeaway of any MBA program - "Networking Time". After interacting with fellow batch-mates and seniors and their families, it was time for officially inaugurating PEHEL 2011. Then there were the last minute delays thanks to the Bangalore traffic. Our chief guests - Prof. Chandra (Director of IIM Bangalore) and Prof. Agrawal (Chairperson PGSEM, CSITM) were held up in traffic and the program was delayed by half an hour.
The seniors, batch-mates and their family members were already seated in the auditorium and it was time to engage them with some kind of entertainment till the official start of the event. The ever so talented Vikram Parthan came to our rescue. He kept the audience engaged with his "First real six-string". We all pitched in with the "Best day of our life"....
Once the chief guests were in the audi, the program started officially with the lighting of the lamp followed by an welcome speech by Prof. Chandra and then by Prof. Agrawal.
Both of them welcomed the audience and eulogized our efforts for coming up with the event in such a short span of time. Thanks to our seniors for showing us the way...
This was followed by the distribution of the "DML" (director's merit list) certificates to the top 10 students of the senior batch, the "Star of the Quarter" award and distribution of participation certificates for CSITM workshop.

After the certificate distribution the stage was all set for the cultural program to start. Anupama & Vikram played the host for the evening. Both Anu and Vikram did a splendid MCing job  while engaging the audience throughout the event. The show started with the Mad Mad Men from St. John's performing a mime for the audience. The Mad-Ads guys were amazing and they set the tone for the evening with a light comedy on a doctor's life starting from the entrance exams to getting admissions in the college, learning the tricks of the trade, their daily hostel life till the day of performing the critical surgery. The audience enjoyed their performance wholeheartedly and cheered them with loud claps and whistles.
The mime was followed by a kid's fashion show. The Shahrukhs & Kareenas of future walked the IIM-B auditorium turned ramp with the "Barbie Girl" playing in the background. It was a treat to see the little ones enjoying their night outs, and were aptly awarded with little chocolate boxes by the end of their performance.

Then it was time for the event of the evening that all of us were waiting for with bated breath - a skit organized in the last two days to the run up to the event, titled "MBA Karenge Hum", featuring the who's who of Bollywood who had come for an interview at IIM Bangalore for PGSEM. The skit featured Amir Khan, Shatrughan Sinha, Sunny paaji, Mithun da, Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Nana Patekar as interviewee and Gabbar with his ally Sambha taking the interview.
Kudos to everyone involved in the skit. It was just awesome, hilarious to the brim. Every single soul in the audi enjoyed the on-stage performance and cheered our Bollywood superstars.
Take a bow Anshum Arora for directing this. Without you, this would never have been possible.
Find a link to the video of the skit here :

After the madness that ran through the audi for half an hour of the skit it was time for some sanity to come back in the form of soulful music. Vikram, Varkey, Shalini and Anupama stole the show with their performances. Varkey's original struck a cord with the audience.
The group song - "Pal" by KK, was the perfect ending to the evening.
Hand-in-hand we lip synced "Hum rahen ya na rahen kal, kal yaad aayenge ye pal" ;-)
YES that was our "Pal", a "Pal" to remember for the rest of our lives ........

Shamik Bhattacharya
PGSEM 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pehel 2011 - The Experience

The PGSEM batch of 2011 had their 3-day Orientation way back in May 2011 – 3 days of fun. As it came to a close, we were all planning to squeeze in as much rest and fun in the next 3 weeks before the classes began as possible. But the parting note from our seniors changed all that. We were to organize Pehel 2011 in the first 3 weeks of classes starting and the 3 weeks of our free time could be utilized very well for planning the event. Of course.

Pehel is the first event that a new batch of PGSEM organizes in IIMB. It’s a fresher’s event with a difference – the freshers organize it for the seniors and not the other way round. The seniors certainly provide a lot of guidance to the greenhorns but the logistics are completely left to the new batch.  Starting from the fund raising to the execution. It is hands-on business education!

So we started with a flurry of mails in early June to try and get the details of the event in place, starting with how to raise funds, given that external funding isn’t allowed. And when the mails got too chaotic, we realized why organizations have a certain hierarchical and team structure in place. We got our own core committee in place to co-ordinate specific items of the event and streamline communication/logistics.

Taking a cue from our senior batch, we also decided to go the t-shirt route to raise capital for the event. After getting many quotes we finalized on Amit Sharma’s Go Untucked as our vendor, finding the cost versus quality comparison to be good in their case. Meanwhile a few students from the class were busy designing Pehel logos and we finally went with Shalini and Vineeth’s Warli design since it symbolized our roots to be Indian and yet our vision to be forward looking in the use of a traditional art form to design a modern logo. One item checked off the list.

Meetings at Café Terra meanwhile were becoming more focussed as we got down from a high level plan to chalking out minute details and assigning co-ordinator roles for each. Ideas were collected for the events that could be performed and talent scouted in the class. Sometime in the middle of all this, the classes began, putting an additional demand on our time that was already split between work and running around for Pehel. Panic set in as the mid-term dates were announced in the first class itself and we realized we had very little time for Pehel.

After confirming the director’s availability and making sure the Director’s Merit List for our senior batch was going to be out, we set 9th of July as the date for Pehel 2011. The concrete date added more of a boost to the flurry as we got busy checking off item after item from our list of Pehel to-do’s. Days went by in a daze as we ordered for our t-shirts, finalized the event list, racked our brains for a good children’s event, designed and ordered posters/invites, distributed invites to the professors on weekdays, got customized gifts for the guests of honour, figured out audience gifts, rushed for children’s gifts, had music jams on Saturday evenings in the classroom, planned a skit in the last 2 days before the event and practiced on campus till 10:30 in the night.  It was like a hurricane sweeping through our schedules and getting everything done.

The D-Day dawned and we distributed the t-shirts that had been ordered. We were almost giddy to wear what has almost become the 2011 batch identity now and conduct the event. Even as we finished the last bits of tech runs in the auditorium, parents and seniors started to pour in excitedly on the IIMB campus and the show was on. An impromptu musical performance thrown in for good measure and Pehel 2011 was a great success with the mad-ads performance by the Mad Med Men, a skit by the stars of our class, kids jumping around on stage to the tune of Barbie Girl (a fashion show of sorts I must say), some audience prizes and a nice closing note with the batch singing KK’s Pal after the musical performance. The dinner and high tea, sponsored by the PGSEM office were great support and I am certain everyone was floored by the beautiful MDC Dining Hall that hosted us all. 

As is the case with most such events, it was overwhelming only once it was over – the magnitude of what we had really put up on stage. It was a wonderful culmination of about a month’s worth of effort. Every minute of it looks well-spent in hindsight. And our MBA has officially begun.

Eximius 2011

Yet another edition of Eximus, the entrepreneurship summit from IIM Bangalore. Eximus 2011 will be held on August 13-14, 2011.

For more details, please visit


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