How's my Luck now?

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

Location: India

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Index - the marketing fair - II

Coming to this year's event. The amount of effort put in by everybody involved and the scale of the operation was huge. The Guru Nanak Jayanti holiday on Friday allowed the organizers (the Index Core committee) the necessary time to see things being put into place at the venue - the National College grounds near the K. D. Singh 'Babu' stadium in Hazratganj (just behind the venue was the Gomti - a dirty sight, unfortunately). The teams, which had been slogging to make the necessary props for their stalls, also went to the venue and set up their stalls. There was a formal dry run in the presence of a member of the faculty to measure the exact amount of time a person would spend in every stall.
The next day, the institute buses transported students directly to the venue. That brings me to my involvement in the event, which was only in the Informal events, along with Samrat, my quizzing partner. We had been asked to conduct two quizzes on the Informals stage - one in the style of 'Kaun Banega Crorepati', and another a school quiz for which school teams had been pre-selected through written prelims. So we also boarded the bus for the venue on Saturday.
The ground selected was pretty large. A makeshift mess had also been set up and truckloads of cooked food came directly from the institute mess through the two days. Last-minute delays led to the event starting a bit late. But once it was on, there was a steady stream of visitors, keeping most stalls busy.
Our first quiz slot for the day lapsed because of the delay, and so we had nothing to do almost till the evening. So, I assisted a 'Play the Brand' team of our friends, making people play the games, fill the questionnaires, and urging them to watch a demo of the product.
Finally, we could conduct one KBC-style multiple-choice quiz with some enthusiastic characters from the audience. We had a fairly good response here. We had tried to slip in quite a few questions on Lucknow, UP & Uttaranchal to keep it easy. People did want more rounds of the quiz, but there simply wasn't enough time. Immediately following was the school quiz, and it was here that we met with disappointment. In an earlier school quiz held at the campus, the children had been pretty good in cracking answers to some good questions. We had prepared our questions keeping in mind that performance. But it turned out that more than 80% of our questions went unanswered and had to go to the audience. On top of that, time restrictions were pressing and we ultimately had to cut out two rounds of the quiz completely. So, not a good experience here, really.
By this time, we were both tired shouting ourselves hoarse for two hours, and decided to leave. We both had a haircut in Hazratganj (long overdue in my case). I bought a pair of sandals, we had the customary chaat and came back to the institute.
The next day met with a much more encouraging response from the Lucknow public, but I hadn't gone to the venue, choosing instead to relax with a book in my room. For students interested in marketing, this was indeed a good learning experience. For those involved in the Index Operations team and Systems team (which looked after operational details and computer systems for registrations, etc., respectively) also, this was a long and tiring experience.

Index - the marketing fair - I

A big event on the annual calendar of the institute took place this weekend - Index, the marketing fair. Index stands for 'Information through Disguised Experimentation'. The event takes place in Lucknow city. The major aim of the event is to generate vital inputs on local customer behaviour, preferences and other market research for companies and brands which participate in the event.
Preparation for the event started about two months back, when the Index teams formed - each team consisting of 20 people, 10 each from the first and the second year. Companies which wished to participate in the programme gave out their briefs and the participating teams made proposals for games that people would play while unwittingly generating some data for the brand. Finally, one team with the best overall proposal for a particular brand was chosen and asked to carry out their ideas at the main event. We had about 10 or 11 such teams this year. Not all the people would be allowed to enter a particular stall for a brand. Only if he/she matched the particular customer profile that the brand wished to target would he/she be allowed entry and participation in the activities of the stall.
Besides this, the other main event organized this year, only for the first year students, was 'Play the Brand'. Once again, the aim of participating teams was to create engaging games and give out prizes while making people try out samples of a product, etc. The difference from the above-mentioned stalls was that these stalls were open to all people who came to Index. The aim was more of brand or new-product awareness rather than generating any long-term useful data.
Just to keep the crowd engrossed, there were also informal events taking place. Since entry to the main stalls was restricted and queues tended to form, some other form of amusement was necessary to keep people busy.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

European cultural night

Another event that the European exchange students organize and conduct here (refer an earlier post on the European dinner) is a European cultural night, wherein they are supposed to show off their talents, give us a glimpse of European culture, and in general, provide some entertainment. This year's programme happened yesterday at the auditorium ('Samanjasya') here.
I was there for only an hour because of pending work for today's classes. But it was a very enjoyable performance, and people have told me it got better after I left.
The compere had a very distinct French accent and it was not always easy to decipher what he was saying, but he was doing his job well. At one time, when the curtain fell off from its rod, he very coolly said, 'Don't panic, everything is under control' to good amusing effect. The evening started off with a group dance on a song from 'Dil Chahta Hai', and it was good to see the dancers trying to match up with the music, while the lyrics were obviously unfamiliar to them. Later, we had a song by two girls from Denmark, an acrobatic dance display and a fun quiz (with very light-hearted trivia about India and IIML). Interspersed among all these were a set of small movies they had made, called '10 Ideas about India'. 10 of the exchange students presented one humorous aspect of India and IIML each that they had experienced. At this point, I left the show. Overall, it was quite amusing and entertaining.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Fog sets in

For quite a few days now, it becomes very foggy at night and early in the morning on some days (while on others it remains very clear). But yesterday night, the fog set in really heavily and nothing was visible from the hostel terraces. The morning dawned with the fog intact and near-zero visibility. It was only by around 11-11.30am that it finally lifted totally. Once again, it has already started setting in now.

CAT scan

This year's CAT for entry into the IIMs and several other business schools took place yesterday. The number of people taking the test is increasing at breakneck pace. Compared to 1.27 lakh people who appeared for the CAT in 2003 (i.e. when I gave it), this year as many as 1.51 lakh people appeared for it. Even if you remove 50% of this number as people who haven't been serious in their preparation, the competition is huge.
The surprise factor in this year's CAT was the question-paper format. Instead of questions with uniform marks (of 1 mark each), this year the paper had 0.5 mark, 1 mark, as well as 2 mark questions. This would certainly make choice very difficult - being constrained for time as well.
The job of the CAT organizers at the IIMs is extremely difficult and thankless, especially after the events of 2003.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Two days in the city

Two of us had decided to treat our group of friends to a movie and dinner in the city, as celebration for our summer placements. The first day we went (the 18th), we couldn't get tickets for the film we wanted to watch - Yash Chopra's 'Veer-Zaara'. After a lot of roaming around, we just ended up eating first chaat-s, then dinner at the Aryans again, and then ice-cream (sponsored by one of our other friends who had his birthday that day). Feeling stuffed, we came right back to the institute.

The next day, the group felt compelled to go and watch the movie. So off we went again to the city and this time we went to a nearby cinema hall - 'Novelty' - in Aliganj. The hall was quite decent and we managed to get front-row balcony seats. Lots of families had come to watch the film. The film stars Shah Rukh Khan (as Sq. Ldr. Veer Pratap Singh), Preity Zinta (as Zaara Hayat Khan) and Rani Mukherjee (as advocate Samiya Siddiqui). Guest appearances are put in by Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini (as Veer's parents) and Manoj Bajpai (in an excellent cameo as Zaara's fiance). The tale has been lengthened a lot and ends happily. The acting performances were good and that held up attention in an otherwise too long film.
The film's USP for me was that it had unreleased tunes by Madan Mohan for the music. His son Sanjeev Kohli had overseen the music arrangement. However, the tunes had been so Jatin-Lalit-ised that no trace of Madan Mohan could ever be found in them. A couple of them were good tunes, well sung by Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam. But Lata Mangeshkar, who was the female voice for all the songs, shouldn't really have been given the assignment. Her voice now just sounds too screechy.

Summer placements

Immediately following Diwali, we had the first phase of our summer placement process, lasting a full 5 days. A lot of effort had gone into organizing the process and to ensure that it ran without any hitches on the actual placement days. And it did run like a well-oiled machine - there were hardly any significant problems from the organizers' side through the 5 days.
I should not reveal too many details of the process and the companies which visited, as the process is still going on for students who did not get placed in those 5 days. But it was an experience in itself - going every morning to see a sea of suits, people flitting about from one waiting room to another or to the makeshift mess, anxious students hopping from one group discussion to another and one interview to the next.
As for myself, I secured a summer placement at Cognizant Technology Solutions. I don't know where I will be placed, but it will most probably be Chennai - which means my summers will really be hot :). But then, I am looking forward to idli-s and dosa-s again.

Diwali celebration

Posting after a very long time. Windows has once again given me the slip and I am barely able to extract functionality out of the computer.
I will just briefly recapitulate the Diwali celebrations on campus. All the buildings on campus had been decorated with lights and it looked beautiful in the night. The evening began with a pooja in the Commercial Plaza and distribution of sweets. Then there was a goodly round of fireworks, the lighting of which was led by children of faculty here.
The Tansen team had organized a rangoli competition between hostel groups, and the response was quite good. Our hostels (3 & 4) made a rangoli depicting Ganesh. We also placed lamps all along the stairs and wrapped the railings in galgota flowers. Some more decorations later, we looked good. A small team of professors came visiting to the hostels. They were the judges of the competition and ultimately we came out second, behind hostels 5 & 6. The enthusiasm shown by students in making the rangoli-s was very good.
And then, of course, we had a good dinner with imrati and rabdi being the sweets. So, yet another festival was celebrated well here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

End of exams, Diwali, summer placements, etc.

The mid-term exams ended today. My performance was highly variable and overall, not satisfactory. One mistake in every paper has become a rule with me and I am finding it difficult to overcome that. Anyway I will have to wait for 5 weeks now to do better than this at the end-term exam.
The summer placement process starts day after tomorrow, so there is a lot of action on that front as well.
Tomorrow's Diwali. A holiday at last, although we have a pending assignment to submit. I have just come back from the city. Lucknow was all lit up today and the festival atmosphere was evident, with milling crowds everywhere. Many of us had clothing purchases to make for the summers. We had some good Lakhnavi mithaai also. Then we had dinner at a restaurant called Aryan behind the Vidhan Sabha, followed by an icecream and a paan. I am feeling sated right now :). All the buildings in the campus are also lit up. The cold here is also increasing, and I'm pretty sure that it is about two degrees colder in the campus than in the city.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Fluctuating fortunes

After two days and three good exams, today was another day for mistakes. The cost accounting paper today was quite straightforward, but I made big mistakes in two of the three questions, making my overall position in the subject precarious. Hoping for the best post-mid-term.
The exams end tomorrow with a Operations Mgmt. and Economics. Hopefully, I will be able to reverse today's performance.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Exam time again

The mid-term exams for the second term began yesterday. As I had noted in an earlier post, my preparation was not really up to the mark. This became starkly evident in the first paper (QAM) which I messed up very badly. It was the worst paper I have written so far and reflected on the fact that some of my concepts were still not clear.
That prompted me to make up, however, and today was a big day with two exams - Financial Mgmt. and Marketing - on which there was scope to make amends. And I did make amends. I am very happy with the way I could confidently write those two papers. I hope to continue this in the next four exams. Cost accounting, in particular, will be a challenge. There's no strategy other than to study for it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Heat in the time of winter

Our class is really feeling the heat of academics this term, as mid-term exams start on the 7th of this month. Most of us (myself included) have been doing remarkably badly on the class quizzes, which has done nothing to help our confidence. The two finance subjects - Cost Accounting and Financial Management - have us on the mat. The workload is also getting heavier and heavier with extra classes, quizzes, summers process, etc. eating away every bit of time.
In such a situation, with so little time left for the exams and summers, what strategy should be adopted? I personally think the current Australian cricket team's strategy of counter-attacking in defensive situations might work. I will thus be delving deep into the subjects and be on top of everything I study the first time. Let's see if I can operationalize this strategy. It should be an interesting two weeks ahead.