How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

Name:
Location: India

Friday, July 30, 2004

Mid-term exam schedule

         The schedule for the mid-term exams is out. August 9th - August 14th will be the exam week. 7 exams in 6 days.
         9th - Law
         10th - Quantitative Analysis
         11th - Org. Behaviour
         12th - Accounting
         13th - IT for Management
         14th - Economics, followed by Communications

       ITM and Comm. are 3-hour exams, since they are half-credit courses and so the mid-term is also the end-term for these subjects. For others, the exam will last 2 hours each. Let's see what's in store.

       We have an Org. Behaviour quiz in a few minutes from now. We also expect as many as 4 quizzes next week.

Rafi samvatsari

    Today is the great Mohammed Rafi's 24th death anniversary. My humble tribute to this great singer and human being.
    Download Rafi songs from http://www.indianscreen.com - particularly the 6 non-film ghazal-s and 1 non-film bhajan - 'paon padun tore shyam'.

Quizzes

       One of my major hobbies is quizzing. But that word has to be explained properly to people here, because of a complication - a class test is called a quiz here.
       We have had one quiz for every subject now, with two quizzes in QAM. I did well in the first QAM quiz, but committed an extremely silly mistake in the second one.
       Today we just had a quiz in IT for Management. This was a bit unusual in format because apart from a few true/false questions and one question on databases, it had a crossword of IT terminology to be filled up for 5 marks (in a 10-mark quiz). I didn't really have any problems and smashed the quiz.
       Tomorrow is the second Org. Behaviour quiz. And we expect 3 more quizzes in the next week, which is also the last week before mid-term exams begin.

The class as Parliament?

       In class, we applaud something good (a statement by a professor, a presentation, an announcement from the class representative) by thumping of desks. That naturally reminds one
of the Parliament and other legislative bodies where this is a common practice.
       But the comparison ends there. The class is too orderly to be compared to our unruly Parliament. People are not allowed to rush to the well of the class (the stage), everybody listens (or pretends to listen) to the 'speaker', questions are asked politely, Deve Gowda-style sleeping is not appreciated, walk-outs are impossible, late attendance is frowned upon, there is an attendance requirement for each session (80%), there are no Treasury and Opposition benches as there is only one party - that of the students, and of course, many others.
       Two other likenesses of the class to our Parliament is that the representation of women is less than 33% (although it is increasing year by year) :), and video recordings of the class occur occasionally.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Biodiversity

        The IIML campus is very green, perhaps too green. It is an 'ecologically rich' place. There are lots of different kinds of insects and other fauna here.
        Just as I was watching an inter-hostel football match under floodlights, and then talking on the cellphone, a kind of insect with a hard shell and pointed legs went into my T-shirt and came out with some difficulty. This happened four or five times in 15 minutes. Then on the way back to the hostel, I saw a big frog on the pathway. On my approaching, it took a really big jump to clear half the pathway and straight into the bushes on the side. Paraphrasing Neil Armstrong: 'that was a small step for a man, but a giant leap for a frog' :).
        Small black light-insects and moths can be seen in the morning in the bathroom and have to be cleared. Even in our class, a small frog has dropped twice from the A.C. vent, leading to some commotion.
        There also exist big wild lizards here, which people here call by the name 'vish-khopda', though I have not seen any so far. And then there are snakes. Again I have not come across them and they are probably not venomous (unlike in Surathkal where they could be deadly).
   

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Just a thought :)

      In certain Indian classical music concerts, vocalists do what is called a 'nom-tom aalaap'. Here in our first term, for the first three days of every week, we are doing a 'LAM-QAM aalaap' :))  (LAM = Legal Aspects in Management, QAM = Quantitative Analysis for Management)

Old songs

       The local people here do have a liking for old Hindi film songs. The owner of the Nescafe stall plays old music most of the time, and most are Rafi songs. One day I heard a peon in the academic block singing 'is rang badalti duniya men' (Rafi, 'Rajkumar') while doing his cleaning work. He actually sang the entire song with correct lyrics. It was good to overhear him.


Football match

      Yesterday there was a football match between the first year students (PGP1's) and the second year students (PGP2's). The football ground was slushy because of the rain, so the ball kept skidding around a lot and neither team had much control over the ball. Still, our team (first years) won 2-1 and there was much jubilation thereafter.  The second goal came in the dying minutes. It was an absolutely stunning free kick taken by one of our defenders from the halfway mark, curving straight into the opposite goal.

Maansuun

      The maansuun, or monsoon, seems to have reached here with some intention to stay. After yesterday's heavy downpour, it rained at almost exactly the same time today, albeit for a much shorter time. It's very humid and wet. The pathways in IIML are not very rain-friendly and water-logging is a problem. It cuts out some routes temporarily. Plus the stones used for paving are also slippery to my sandals, whose grip has been smoothened. So I have to walk slowly and carefully.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

IIML Foundation Day

   Today is IIML's 20th Foundation Day. We had a special programme on this consisting of the Director's address and address of a Chief Guest (who is an IIML professor) at 2 pm. However, many of us could not be there on time because as we were having lunch in the mess, a sudden and tremendous downpour started, which has stopped only 5 minutes ago. So I am back to the hostel. There is also some programme in the evening at the auditorium. I will probably attend it.

Monday, July 26, 2004

It's the law!

       The Legal Aspects in Management course throws up some amusing bits and pieces here and there = some typical definitions in legalese and some peculiar cases of the past.
        We have just completed studying the Indian Contract Act, 1872, and some of the cases cited to illustrate various points in this Act make me wonder what kinds of contracts and agreements people get into.
        I would like to cite one case here - that of Khwaja Muhammad v. Hussaini Begum (1910). K had reached an agreement with H's father to supply a fixed sum to H under a specific head in consideration for H's marriage to K's son. This head was called 'kharchi-e-paandaan' (betel box expense)! K established a trust for this purpose but did not pay H regularly after her marriage to K's son. Consequently, H sued for recovering arrears of Rs. 15,000 from K. K contended that the contract was between him and H's father. H was not a party to the contract and hence could not sue. The case went to the Privy Council in England and the Council decided that since a trust was set up with H being a beneficiary, H could indeed sue for recovering benefits in arrears. A most extraordinary case, or, in Sherlock Holmes' words, 'a most singular case'...
        The case was cited to note one of the exceptions to the general law that 'a stranger to a contract cannot sue for damages in case of breach of contract'.
    

Badminton

      I had a good game of badminton today with my hostel mates. It having rained, the atmosphere was extremely humid and the indoor badminton court was a 'pressure-cooker environment'. I was 100% wet with perspiration, and had to take a leisurely bath to feel somewhat fresh again.

An important presentation

      Our group completed a very important presentation in Communications class today. This was a 'country report' - you had to pick a country and speak about its history, politics, culture, economy etc., then pick two prominent companies from the country and speak about them, and finally, spell out what an Indian will have to take care about when transacting business with people of that country. The presentation carried 30% weightage in the entire course, and each group was allotted 25 minutes.

       We had picked Sweden and the two companies we selected were SKF (the bearings giant) and Volvo. Ours was the first such presentation in class, so we could make or break it for ourselves. And ultimately, after a lot of practice, it turned out near perfect today. The professor was very happy with it and our classmates were also all praise. My part came near the end when I had to talk about work culture in Swedish companies and some do's and don't's for an Indian wanting to transact business in Sweden. I myself was quite good, if I may say so, and put across the points well. Overall, our preparation came through well.

       The special point about this presentation was that it was video-recorded. And in the evening, the professor called our group and we watched the cassette and analysed each and every one's performance. I was a bit surprised with my recorded presentation, because it didn't look nearly as good as it had seemed on stage. Specifically, the following came out:
  1.  My voice seemed very monotonous on video, though it was loud and clear.
  2. I was not very fluent and had many intervals of 'er..' between sentences.
  3. My hand gestures were good, but they were restricted. My arms remained at my sides and only the part below the elbow was moving. I need to be more excited about presentations, rather than be matter-of-fact to overcome this.

      But still, we hope to get decent grades here because it was as if we had set a benchmark for the class to follow. The next presentation after us (on France) was overshadowed by ours, I feel, although it was good  by itself.      

Sleeping habits

      My sleeping habits have, of necessity, drastically changed after coming here. There's so much group as well as individual work packed into each day that it's easily 2 am before I go to sleep. The last week was particularly hectic, and this week seems almost equally so. So I get about 5 hours of sleep at night, which is a little less than I would have desired. But so far, I have always felt fresh in the morning and while attending classes. But after lunch, the effects of sleeping late are felt and I take a nap of half an hour in the afternoon. I don't like sleeping in the afternoon, but I don't have much choice.

Accounting just got interesting...

       In the first term, Management Accounting-I is the most terrifying subject to most of the people most of the time, since about 70% of every batch consists of people from non-commerce backgrounds. In fact, the contagion has spread to commerce students too, and it seems to be as tough for them as for us.
       But the subject is so fundamental that it can't but be interesting. We have so far covered the basic terminology of accounting, journalizing transactions, recording them in ledgers and various day books and preparation of trial balances. We have now come to Accounting Standard-9, which covers income measurement, or revenue recognition. For tomorrow's class, we have an excellent case study to read up - that of Microsoft's revenue recognition policies and the details of the investigation launched by the US Securities and Exchange Commission against it during the '90s. This should be very interesting.
 

Quantitative Analysis classes

       The Quantitative Analysis for Management classes are the most enjoyable and satisfying classes, mainly because of the way the professor teaches. By background, he is a chemical engineer and has done his M.S. and Ph.D. from the US. His complete grasp over the subject shows in the way he goes about his preparation. Although the engineers in the class have studied statistics, probability distributions, etc. earlier, our interest is sustained very well. The professor comes in at the exact time and leaves at the designated time, not a moment of delay or dragging of the class. The slides he has prepared for each class contain excellent animations to make most concepts very easy to grasp. He also makes these slides available through our internal Classroom Online (shortened to 'Claroline') site, so we can download them and go through them to revise the topic. In the 1 hour, he solves peoples' doubts and answers questions, and also solves problems on selected topics
        After the mid-term, hopefully we will have him for the Operations Research part of the course too.
        And also, he pronounces Tadatmya perfectly.

Friday, July 23, 2004

IIML's IT infrastructure

      IIML, like any other college, has various student clubs and committees. One of the most important is the Placement Committee (Placecom in short). I haven't myself applied for getting into this committee. But one of my classmates has, and after a round of interviews, he has been given a task to be completed in 2 weeks. The task is 'Improving the IT infrastructure of IIML'. Since he doesn't have a technical background (he worked for 3 years for the HR firm Hewitt Associates), he approached me to assist him. I readily agreed, and so we have just begun some preliminary spadework, along with two other batchmates.
      Over the last two days, we have:
  • Studied the network infrastructure of the whole campus. There is a chart showing this, very helpfully put up in the library
  • Talked to the Synapse team, which manages some of the software aspects, the IIML website, the intranet portals, etc. and collected inputs about what enhancements they wish to have
  • Collected some data about the patterns of usage of the network facilities - both the Internet and the Fast Ethernet LAN

      Over the next few days, we will have to think about:

  • Passing a questionnaire around to both first and second-years, to gauge the general views on what improvements they want
  • Interacting with some faculty members to find out if they can suggest something from their side so as to utilize the LAN for academic or useful purposes
  • Doing homework about the costs and installation times of wireless LAN in the academic block, increasing the external bandwidth from 2Mbps to 4Mbps, making optimum use of the Computer Centre, etc.

 

 

 

 

    

Breakfast woes

     We had idli - vada and sambhar for breakfast today, and they were quite badly made. Uncooked idli and sour-ish and thick sambhar. Vada-s were relatively okay.
     After residing in south India for 6 years, the experience in food has been diametrically opposite here. The typical north Indian fare like samosa-s, paratha-s, sweets is excellent here, but they should not attempt any south Indian dish.
  

Presentations galore, but where's the quality?

 
    We had a long day at classes today, lengthened by several presentations. In another IT class, we had as many as three presentations, with the first one taking 40 dragging minutes when the allotted time was 15 minutes.
    Then in the next Org. Behaviour class, we had two more presentations which were mostly empty on content. Throughout these 3 hours, I was thinking of things that were wrong with us when we present a topic, and I could think of the following:

1. Lack of involvement - "A good manager should be able to present well." - a truism widely accepted, but this also means that in management schools, presentations have become yet another chore, just like a written assignment, which has to be dealt with, rather than enjoyed. Lack of interest in most topics is clearly visible and if the presenter is disinterested, you can well imagine what the audience would be doing - yes, sleeping.

2. Lack of relevant preparation & poor content - We spend so much time coming together as a group and dividing tasks that we have little time left for preparing the actual content that would go into the presentation. So content suffers, we are left with lists of buzzwords and randomly placed images on every slide.

3. Superficial knowledge - To some extent, this is unavoidable since people from a non-engineering background cannot be expected to learn concepts in, say, networking and telecom, in a short span of time, and vice versa. Still, if one decides to speak on some aspect, one should ideally be very well prepared.

4. Poor slide design - In loading (downloaded) material onto slides, we frequently miss out on good slide design principles. This problem can be further broken down into:
         i. layout and colour problems - choosing backgrounds and font sizes and colours that are very difficult to make out.
        ii. cluttered slides - slides being used as memory aids, every little line is added to the slide. A good slide should have relatively little text on it, unless it is meant to be viewed and understood independently, like the slides used in a lecture by a professor.

5. No audience involvement - We have not yet learnt to gauge audience reaction from their faces or gestures, and hence we just do our own thing up there on the stage, without regard to whether the audience actually understands it, whether it is enjoying the topic or is getting bored to death. This is a fatal flaw, because the whole purpose of the presentation - conveying something about the topic to the audience - might be getting lost.

    So we have a long way to go. Of course we will each have several more attempts at presentations and hopefully, will learn from our own and others' mistakes.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Opening remarks

 
    I have been here at IIM Lucknow for 24 days now, but so much has happened in these few days that it feels like a long time. Life is eventful here, there's something to fret about daily, something to be excited about, something to look forward to, something to prepare for.

    Making good presentations is a skill you learn to continuously refine here. I made my first formal presentation to my class today (as part of a group). The course is 'Information Technology for Management' and our topic was 'Computer Hardware: CPU and Memory'. My part was to explain the working of the CPU as you would to a layman, since people from various different backgrounds make up the class. I had good slides and images (latter courtesy some excellent websites :) ) and the presentation was well-received. There were some good queries at the end and I was able to handle them very well. Overall, a positive experience.

    What's on the cards for tomorrow? A quiz in Organizational Behaviour (for which about a 100 pages have to be read), a written assignment to be submitted on behalf of my group for the same subject. Relatively little.