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The Fifth Space July 20, 2007

Posted by thinkerzden in Entrepreneurship, XLRI.

We had a guest lecture (was more of a story telling) in the Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship (ISE) session today. It was from two XLRI alumni of the 1990 batch – Ashraf Patel and Arjun. The wife and husband, along with 20 other associates run an NGO called Pravaah (more information here ) It was my first ever close interaction with actual Social Entrepreneurs. I had read in one of the course readings titled “Is a Social Entrepreneur a New Type of leader?” (Complete Article here ) that entrepreneurs of the social kind usually have a traumatic experience early on in the life, or as the article states – a deeply transformative experience. Now such phrases usually make me skeptical. It as always been like that for me, especially when one reads of high achievers. Almost all of my idols had to fight against many odds to become something in life – Zidane was the son of illegal immigrants, APJ Abdul Kalam’s father was a boat owner, Ambani had an abroad experience (and it was good for us that he chose not to stay back) and Ratan Tata was as rich as it gets (which in a way is a handicap). Probably this struggle is what really makes them idols. There are few, if any at all, to talk about as “middle class” idols. You can find many from the American context though, Jack Welch and Lee Iacocca are two names that come readily to mind. It is very rare that Indian middle class could come up with heroes who came up struggling and not out of pure talent (Hence I excluded Sachin and Anand). Though this migt seem a mere detail, it is sometimes disconcerting to see that someone with a comfortable childhood, great adolescence and reasonably ok early adulthood can do anything out of the ordinary at all. Of course I am just 23 and experiences can come at the snap of a finger. Not that I want particularly transforming ones 😀

As far as I remember, I had no particularly deeply transformative experience and only one traumatic one , which, coming to think about it was life changing in more ways than one. But I fail to see how it would lead me to be an entrepreneur. It is in this context, that the lecture by Ashraf and Arjun assumes significance. They were normal middle class people too, especially Arjun, and there was no need for them to expect their lives to be any different from any of the thousands of Indians who go to a B-School, get a plushy job and live “happily” ever after. But they decided to explore something called “The Fifth Space” … and hence the title of the post.

According to Arjun, we human beings live in a state of static equilibrium. Whenever we are pushed from a state of comfort, we tend to move back towards one of the FOUR states of comforts we have. These are referred to as the Four Spaces, the states in which a human being would prefer to be. They are – Home, Office/School, Sports/Entertainment & doing something we are good at. Now as long as we are in one of these states, we would not learn much, nor push ourselves to doing something new. Arjun advised us to seek a Fifth Space, something unknown, something where we do not know anything of our competency. This escape from the comfort zones is what begets great thoughts and from great actions.

It all seemed to make a lot of sense to me. Felt like why no one ever spoke like this before. I then recalled something that a professor told me on my farewell in undergrad. I did not particularly like that prof, so paid no heed then. He said, “All of you have wasted your undergraduation doing nothing. Don’t think that going abroad or to a B-School or a great job is something of an achievement, you would have gotten them anyway. But when you look back, you will find that very little value was added to your life. Ideally one should learn a musical instrument/singing, a new language, one new sport & pick one habit, during their days in undergrad. Life will never give you an opportunity to do those again. You could have become much more than what you eventually became” … was he speaking of the same thing ??


The Forum May 1, 2007

Posted by thinkerzden in Bangalore, The Summers, XLRI.

Finally managed to visit the Forum mall on Sunday. Should have done earlier after all the hype I was subject to. It is not very far from my place, about 4 odd kilometres, but given my standard laziness and lack of any sort of a company meant that I would have never gone had it not been for Harish. He was visiting with his brother in Koramangala, and was going back to Hyderabad at 8. Asked me whether we could meet at Forum. When Harish Rajagopalan asks, you first say Yes and don’t even think. He wanted to meet all PMIR 06 people who were in Bangalore. But the problem with short notice meetings is that it is usually inconvenient for most as prior appointments would have been made. Komal and Mansij could not come, Aarthi was untraceable, Dushu was offline and his fone was not reachable. Anupriya could not make it as she was unwell. Vathsa was playing tennis and would come around 5:30pm (the appointment was for 4). So it leaves only me and Harish in The Forum. Naturally as with all mall visits, there are quite a few ogle”able” girls. As my good friend Anirudh described “Bangalore Chicks rock”.

Now there is a distinct pattern to what two non-Bangaloreans talk about Bangalore when they meet. One can verify that it is nearly the same always – praise the awesome weather, praise the autorickshaws (dunno about the fleecing but at least they rarely ask above the meter), curse the traffic and curse the cost of living (if you are not from Delhi that is). If one is more colorful you would also praise the chicks (one of my female friends said it is demeaning and will start calling guys as cocks !!! No comments). Harish and I also went down the same path, except for the chick-praising. Of course being a Tam he had his own Kaveri disputes with Bangalore. We talk about our projects, others’ projects and general graxing about classmates.

The mall itself was awesome, one of the better ones I have seen (beaten only by Hyderabad Central and Garuda, Bangalore). The prices are exhorbitant though and it is only at such times that you praise the brands. The Landmark store is very good, but the quality of books available was pretty ordinary. Food was the biggest looter, American Corn (which is available for 20 in the IBM canteen) was 35. McDonald’s with its One Price was the saving grace. I had a McVeggie combo (the standard Coke + French fries) which definitely did not do any good to my weight reduction plans. One item everyone must try though is the iced tea. Vathsa introduced me to it and was more refreshing than any of the so-called refreshing cold drinks. Dunno how HLL managed to botch up Lipton Iced Tea. Wanted to watch a movie in PVR but the ticket was “peanuts” at 180 bucks. Probably it is not overpriced and it is my middle-class mentality, I cannot see myself spending 180 rupees for a movie. So that idea is dropped. Harish had to leave as it was already 6:30 and vathsa was going to a French play (!!!) at the Alliance Francaise.

I hang around the mall for about half an hour more and buy some gifts for the folks back home (waise I got my stipend yesterday :D) I also had my first encounter with rich shoplifters, there were two Gen-X/Y/Z type kids, about 20/21 years old. The guy had a pony tail and the girl hardly had anything on her. I remember them entering the mall as they drove in a red Skoda Octavia and it is hard to miss that car. A female security personnel was slapping the girl who was shouting “leave me bitch” and that only made the slaps louder. The guy was held by the collar. All in all they were being treated as criminals should be. I do expect shoplifting at malls, but why do rich kids do it ? Topic for some other time.

As I travel back in an auto towards IIM-B, I notice a huge board calling itself Christ College – my classmate Divya Gawri’s college, and it was about 300 m from Forum. Was thinking how Divya would have gone crazy in Jamshedpur where there is not even a single mall. Life gives us all experiences … ain’t it.

Managerial Learning – Schedule appointments in advance.

And so it begins … June 25, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in XLRI.

The preparatory program ended on Friday the 23rd. It was informative for the most part of it. The highlight for me though was the case study. Having done case studies as part of the SE course (my favorite core course at college) I had some idea of what should be done, only the background knowledge was missing in terms of Finance, Marketing etc which contrary to what I though cannot be covered up by common sense. Our team came the closest to the (so called) ideal solution. One needs to remember though that in case studies there are only plausible solutions and not ideal ones. A revelation was that how self motivated girls could be. Most of the times they were the ones leading the discussions. Coming from a system where mixed teams (of girls and boys) was an opportunity for some people to freeload, I felt like a freeloader here. I did put in my bit though. And the diversity of B-Schools also came out – the natural talent of fresh graduates, the statistical backing given by experienced industry hands and the fresh perspective of non-engineers. There were also people who were wizards at Powerpoint. One aspect was the deficiency in Finance and Accounts of almost all of us. We would be having a course soon though. Overall a nice experience and the learning that there is a lot lot more to look forward to.

And the registration followed by a briefing were yesterday. One aspect which I liked was the way faculty treats the students as adults … Of course we are adults but seldom treated so by educational institutions and the government. That does not mean there are no rules, we were given fairly thick rule books for the library, hostel and general student life. Fairly lenient instructions, and a different experience in that girls and boys are allowed into each other’s hostels. Of course only till 11 pm and beyond that some of the AC lecture halls would remain open during the night for discussions etc.

Of course the apprehensions are still there. Statements like , “You will be hit by the unexpected”, “You think you have done everything right and still get screwed” and the most deadly one for me, “Skip lunch for sleep, stay lean and fresh” put the fear of God into one’s mind. But the excitement is not to be missed. The adrenalin has got pumping and I am looking forward to my life as a B-School student which commences tomorrow. As all the profs say here May God bless you (me).

Week one @ XLRI Jamshedpur June 17, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in XLRI.

Well, not exactly a week, but it was four days. One enters a business school with all these pre-conceived notions that the time is spent mostly in comparing your imagination with the reality of it all. Also having studied at a pretty prestigious place for my undergrad, the comparisons with IIIT were of course inevitable. In spite of my belief that we have to move on in life, it is very difficult not to reminisce and think in terms like, “Ohh but in IIIT it was not like that”. It is only at such times that reality strikes and the lump revisits the throat.

So it happened that I was offered an admission to the PMIR programme of XLRI. This was confirmed in late March and the joy knew no bounds. I wanted to do an MBA (HR) and XLRI is considered the best place for the same in Asia. A few days here and some interaction with the faculty have indicated that it might not be empty rhetoric. Rest about acads a bit later in the post.

I left Hyderabad (more precisely Secunderabad) on the evening of 12th June by Falaknuma express to Kharagpur. Nothing significant there except that I travelled in second AC for the second time in my life. And it sucked big time for me. It was comfortable of course with no pesky vendors and peskier hijdas disturbing you, but the excitement of a train journey to a far away land is lost. Added to that the train was ahead of time. Orissa was visibly very backward but it is when you enter Bengal that you realize that it is really Shonar (golden) Bangla. The lush green fields remind one of the fields in West Godavari and (once upon a time)Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.Some credit to the commies there.Our train stopped on the legendary platform 3/4 of Kharagpur (longest in the world) at 6 pm. It had two trains and the one to Jamshedpur was on the same platform. We missed it though as my Dad was talking to someone on fone. But there was another train (Kharagpur and Jamshedpur are just two hours apart) called the Steel Express at 7:30 pm. It was the fastest train I ever travelled in. Something like a Shatabdi I guess. 9:30 pm Jamshedpur and the place was boiling like hell. Hyderabad is also hot but Jamshedpur is sultry and you never stop sweating.We had an AC guest house but it was of no avail and the Jharkhand mosquitoes had a field day.

Next morning it was XLRI. Everyone in the city (it would probably be one twentieth of Hyd) seem to know the place. Only problem being that there was no public transport and all we had were auto rickshaws who fleece passengers everywhere in India I guess. XLRI is situated in an area called Circuit House which is some sort of a Jubilee Hills for Jamshedpur. The town, though not mirror-clean, gives one the impression of being well-maintained. But the Circuit House area was much better than Jubilee Hills. Some interesting issues that struck me :

  • There are beautiful girls in India, Jamshedpur is filled with them
  • There is only one cinema hall, and people seem to be fine with it. “Koi cinema nahi dekhthey bhayya” was the reaction of an auto driver.
  • SBI officers also work, at least here they worked like dogs to pass our loans. I got mine in half hour. Three days of running around in Hyd could not get it done
  • The city is extremely healthy. Everybody seems to be playing some sport or the other. I am planning to take up volleyball. Good for me though.

I took my hostel room. It was on a twin sharing basis. The hostel’s name is a serious sounding – The Father Enright Men’s Residence. An interesting difference from Old Boys Hostel where one had to explain to visitors that the Old was for the hostel and not the Boys.My roomie is a pretty nice chap from Bombay. His name though is Avik. No further comments on the issue 🙂 Yash of my batch is also here and we spent a whole dinner commenting (to ourselves) on the girls. I think he would be writing it better in his blog.

The girls are really really good looking. And dispelling totally the myth that beauty and brains do not go together. Just as we’ve come from the best engg colleges, they have come from the best humanities colleges and it is a nice mix of students. My section (of strength 65) has 36 girls. Only 15 of us are freshers though, and the workex guys are heavy spenders. Hafta take care there.

After four years of bad food at IIIT mess, XL’s comes as a welcome relief. Though the number of items is less, the food is very tasty and nutritious.A bit costly at 1800 a month but given unlimited food and snacks in the evening, I guess it is a good deal. The milk is much better than that of Hyderabad, though one week without an Avakaya worth its name and no Sambar/Rasam is a bit tough. Of course it is early days for the mess guy here, so we have to see how he would turn out in the long run. We have a canteen where you get the veg puff kind of food and there is this tea shop called Daddu’s where the tea is bad but the samosas and jalebis at 2.50 each are divine.

The library is a giant sized one. With books from the 40s too. Reminded me of the library in OU. A reasonably good replacement for the one at IIIT. As with IIIT, no one visits here anytime, but unlike in IIIT the AC is not switched off. I’ve already lost myself in the books twice and had to be called out. So another bond in the making.

The academics have not really started in full swing yet. We have something called a preparatory program which is like introducing the students to what they would be learning in the next coupla years at XLRI. The inaugural session was addressed by the Director and the Dean, much the same as all inaugural sessions. One thing that I could recall is a quote by the dean, “XL life is like a Bombay Railway station. If you stand in the right direction it is very hard to not get pushed into the train … If you try to mess with the system, it is very hard not to mess up your lives”. The people here a very strict regarding certain aspects … I’ve noticed only a few in these days – No drinking in the campus, no entering the libary in shorts, no entering the labs in shorts, no sleeping in the lectures and no late arrivals. Guess I have no problem with any of them so not really affected. Even if I had, I am not about to take a risk. The lectures are precise and to the point … so no need of even trying to sleep. We were also shown a pretty inspirational movie about the Tatas. The maths lectures were very straightforward and I was asked to come to the board in one of them, but the Case study lectures and the Industrial Relations ones call in for some effort. Communication is another subject and we were shown The Bean series in the class. I am a huge fan of the Bean and never realized that a show like that could also teach us something.

Today we went on a know your city assignment, the results have to be submitted on Tuesday. There is not much to know though … only two significant markets – Bistupur (some sort of an Abids) and Sakchi (which is a very good low cost market). I’ve shopped at both the places and prices are reasonably lower than Hyderabad. And my cousin stays at a residential area called Kadma, where all the engineers at Tata Steel stay … a very clean residential colony.

All in all it has been a fairly good start here for me. The city is small but I guess it is a welcome relief from the gigantism of Hyderabad. Anyway after the course we are likely to end up in some big city, so I plan to make the best out of my stay here. I wanted to give a farewell post for my life at IIIT but somehow could not bring myself to write it. I’d be writing one post a week from now, and I plan to reduce the references to Hyderabad to a minimum. I guess that is the best way to enjoy a place in itself.

A New Life and a New Blog May 21, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in Uncategorized.
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Restarting my journey on the blog world. A new beginning through wordpress. Blogger was great. I have no complaints for the lack of Categories or otherwise. During my time at Blogger (which coincided with my time at IIIT) I never found that one post could be read separately from another and in an entirely different category. Compartmentalization was neither a need nor desirable. There is a binding thread between how I feel regarding my performance at interviews and something seemingly unrelated as Love Marriages. The thread of my thought and personality. However, I like things to be organized and hence am moving into the catogorized world or wordpress quite analogous to my movement from a chaotic undergrad to a “specialized” MBA. Guess the journey would be eventful (as I believe all journeys are).

The Game must go on May 18, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in IIIT.
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Yesterday my status message was 1/5. Lots of people were asking what it meant. I gave them the explanation…that five signatures were needed for me to leave IIIT and the first of them is done. So in a way the countdown officially starts (this is for P, who asked me why I was still in IIIT in spite of having an orkut status at adieu IIIT :). Though the excitement of a bright future lies ahead (especially one that I have chosen of my own volition), a lump has already started forming in my throat. I am an excitable person, but not really emotional. Even in matters cryworthy, I usually pass it off through some stupid sense of humour. The worst case being when a cousin of mine was married off and there is this event called Appaginthalu (bidaayi is the Hindi word I guess). All the relatives were blaring away and telling the guy’s family that the girl was a sundar susheel kanya and I pass a sidey comment that the guy was a much more susheel guy and ideally his mother must be crying. Man didn’t I get a pounding.

The first signature was from the Sports Com. I’ve been away from sports since my standard 10. For reasons obvious … i was basically fitness free. A morning jog cannot get you into the school or college cricket team, and skill is developed over time. Of course I had my own share of gully cricket matches and 15 minutes fames on the cricket pitches and football grounds. Sports and IIIT would always remind me of the intense cricket matches especially in the first year with legends like Surya and Joon (of my batch), the needle rivalry between our cricket team and that of our seniors, our basky team and that of our super seniors, and the brilliant carrom matches played by the members of my house. The most funniest memory of course was when a second (or even third) string ug2k2 team (of which I was a part, and I hit a boundary) beat the first team of MSIT in the summer of 2004. They really did not know what hit them.

The biggest gain from IIIT Sports has been the excellent gym and the steady supply of TT bats. TT was one game I could pick up thanx to a whole set of people from Sayan and Akshay (who taught me this wonderful game), to rama, tejo, aravind and kranthi (fellow newbies and practice partners). I plan to continue to learn the game as we have a national level player in XLRI.

The Sports people also taught me something more. Given the right faculty backing, even at a chronically lazy place like IIIT the right things can be done. Today many people in the city know that we have a decent volleyball and football teams and a colorful basky team. A large part of the credit should go to Dr Pradeep. And of course to the many Sports Committee members over the years. It is really unfortunate that the Cultural scene could not be similarly made exciting. It is however glad to see the summer classes and other efforts being made to improve the situation.

I do hope one day we have enough infrastructure in place that the various IIIT teams would be a force to reckon with. I promise to cheer them on, if they happen to play in whichever city I might live in. Till then keep up the sporting spirit. As with life … the game must go on.

IIIT protests ?? May 14, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in IIIT.

Right from childhood I’ve had this compulsive disorder of going to the extremes in any argument. That is, I either need to win it or lose it – I should convince or be convinced. This urge has probably led me to many a times lose sight of the fact that life is led in shades of grey. The stark truth is that there are no “pure” heroes or villians. One of the “take homes” from IIIT has been the ordering of this disorder. I no longer need to win/lose an argument. Either with parents or with friends or anyone else. Unfortunately this has led to many people (especially those who know me before coming to IIIT) branding me as defensive but that is ok. What people think of you is an impression, what you think of yourself is character. And I want to lead my life based on character and not on impressions.

Two factors have been primarily respoonsible for this change. First is my friendship with Pranav. Of course that fact that he never ends arguments quickly is a key reason, but his immense efforts are to look at an issue from many different angles(sometimes too many), but when Pranav takes up a job, you could trust him to do it well because of this factor. The second reason is a book. A formalization of what Pranav does. It was among the earliest books that I read in IIIT. The “Six Thinking Hats” by Bono is a classic. A must read for everyone.

Now the title of this post has pretty little to do with the above rambling. I was chatting with Pranav yesterday night when I notice two mails in my inbox – from Sumeet Gupta and a reply to that by Leela Kiran. Sumeet was seeking public support for a protest against reservations. I am a person who usually deletes mails after reading the subject. I did read those mails. One reason is that they were the first voices to be raised in this issue and another was that when a ug2k3 student talks something about general IIIT life you tend to listen, giving deference to the idea that the speaker who speaks least is listened to the most. Of course to give him his due Sumeet has been one of the few (shall we say fingers of one hand) ug2k3 students who actively participated in IIIT public life. Pranav was asking my opinion on whether the students should protest or not.

Now when does a person protest. When something affects him/her personally. Reservation is one such issue. It will be affecting us profoundly. So whether on supports it or opposes it, one must definitely have an opinion on it. But IIITians protesting for an issue is something which firstly provokes laughter and then a general inddiference. A set of students who could not even get a proper mess in place and those who cannot even protest to make the very food that they eat better (those who had problems that is) cannot protest against anything. General shouting on the mess table is all that we could do.

I had read this about the IITs somewhere,

One of the best thing about IIT is the exceptional people you meet there. They haven’t all climbed Everest, or made lakhs in the stocks, or attempted some other Olympian feat – and even if they have, they don’t seem to have the mountainous egos that come along with such people. Rather, they are intelligent and confident, capable and modest. Each and every one of them has some spark…some dash of brilliance within them.

The few IIIT alumni are also much similar.If you read the blogs or talk to people like Satya,Thyagarajan, Vasanth, Rajat and Vipul you will find them supremely confident and achievers in their own right. They are also modest and there is very little of ego on show (even if they possess it).

But which breeds of students do we belong to. I find that we are becoming into a very colourful set which knows that they can do it, who can do it…and still who don’t do it…because for some reason we don’t find it worth it. As if waiting for some destined moment to show our class. Our biggest strength and weakness is that we are fired only by disaster. We have this confidence in ourselves and a feeling of security that we can work the best when we are on the far end of the ‘panic’ spectrum. We seem to have our own lazy, sleepy way of achieving feats.

I always hated those who despised the system by staying outside. So I will not turn into one of those. But each of use has to ask ourselves whether in this effort to look “cool” are we not massively underachieving ? There is this refrain which goes
around especially in Telugu movies that everyone is good at something or the other. The main puspose of a University education is to provide us with the understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. But at the end of four years I still find people who are uncertain about their future (I mean what they want to do, not Vision 2020s) and low on confidence, a doubt arises. Did IIIT fail or did we fail ? Any answers.

PS:Do protest against the reservations issue if you are really convinced that it would be affecting us in the future if not immediately. The early indications that ug2k3 may lead this activity is one of joy for many of us who felt that they usually underachieve. I congratulate Sumeet on that. All help is offered.

A link April 13, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in IIIT.
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I’d never give links to commercial articles from my blog. But this one somehow made sense to me. Especially because I saw a majority of my acquaintances (a person’s self can also be called his acquaintance) lacking in one or more of these qualities. And a point to be noted is that I do not subscribe to the politically correct parts of the article.

To be Read.

NP-Hard … or is it NP-Complete March 27, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in IIIT.

All of us have our own fears. Some fear the dark, some fear cats, some fear failure, some others fear dogs (especially pet dogs :). But the biggest fear one comes across usually in the final year of graduation is the fear of interviews. Perfectly sane young men and women start looking like zombies when an interview approaches. In my own batch I have seen technically and even otherwise strong people develop cold feet in front of the interviewer. Why someone else ? I fancy myself to keep my cool under pressure and there is only some anxiety and no tension. My cold feet situations are many but I somehow managed to wriggle out (as this post says) or give up (my Infosys SETlabs interview). The TCS interview was good as I knew what to expect and was prepared for the unexpected. But the real test of character and preparedness were the two B-School interviews I had to attend.

First one was IIFT:

First there was an essay. We had to write about “Is cricket on the decline in India especially in the context of alternate sport ?” in 20 mins. Essay writing, according to me is a simple activity when a time-limit is given, as you know you can write only this much. So 5 mins of jotting down all the points that come to my mind. And 15 mins of filling up the given sheet with strict instructions to myself of not including any point that I had not jotted down unless it is amazingly good. I was the first guy in my panel to finish off the essay.

Then we had a Group Discussion (GD), “Should there be dress code in schools, colleges and universities ?” As an unambigous supporter of individual freedom,my perspective on the issue was clear. Dress code in schools- yes, to create a sense of identity and unity. Dress code in colleges, universities – strictly no, their purpose is to create a sense of individual self-worth and not some arbitrary identities. As far as vulgarity is concerned, society/peer pressure will take care of it. The points are not exhaustive. GDs are more about finding a voice in the group rather than some points or things like that, because unless earth-shattering, everyone would have thought of the point you wanted to make. I had my moment when I got a chance to moderate the GD and I gave it a different direction than where it was heading. GDs also have a fair amount of luck involved as you need to have a strong voice, and a decent neighbour apart from knowing something about the topic. That is the problem one acquaintance P faced. She had good points to make, but her neighbour was a real pain.


I was the 9th on the list of 12 people in my group. Enter room, three members (A,B,C), good morning, asked to sit. Give file.they say not interested in the file. interview starts:

C)So Ravi Shankar huh! Do you know of any other prominent Ravi Shankars ?
RS) There is the sitar player. then there is a politician from Bihar called Ravi Shankar Prasad. I can recall only two.

C)WHAT !!! only two. Think man.No one in South India.
RS)Oh yeah ! Sorry Sir. There is the spiritual guru.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living fame.

C)Did you hear of Ravi Shastri the cricketer? His middle name was also Shankar.
RS)I did not know that, Sir.

B)And did you hear of an IIFT professor called Ravi Shankar ?
RS)I just saw the name in the list of the faculty.But do not remember his profile
(I found out after checking the brochure later that C is Dr. Ravi Shanker, one of the best professors of IIFT)

A)So given these five prominent people, Who is closest to your role model ?
RS)It would be something between the politician and professor. Some kind of a thought leader, who apart from thinking the right stuff, is able to make people understand it well and enthuse them.

B)So what made you choose MBA and IIFT ?
(This is the standard answer, everyone would have prepared something. I only added that my cousin was an IIFT alumni and she suggested to me that it was a good program suited to my interests – the biggest of which is discussing and debating on issues
of Globalization which was the best non-technical course I did at college. They asked me something about my cousin)

C)What is this Muskaan ?
RS)It is an initiative to bring underprevileged children into the school system.Dr.Prosenjit Gupta – a professor at IIIT is one of the founders of the initiative(Muskaan is not yet an NGO). Today we have about 40 girls and boys from the various batches in IIIT volunteering for the cause.

B)So what do you teach there ?
RS)In my last session I taught some Telugu alphabets and the spellings of some basic English words like Bus,Auto, Truck etc.
(nowadays I mostly teach math in Muskaan, My telugu stops with alphabets and basic words, there are much better people for English)

A)How much time does a 6 year old take to learn the alphabet ?
RS)With constant practice, I believe … 6 hours would be enough. But they learn Telugu quickly as it is their mother tongue and there is no gap between the teacher and the taught, English is a bit tougher.

B)Why were you all shouting ? When I came to quiten you people I saw you standing. Were you giving a speech or something ?
(The group became close over the period of the GD and tea. As people were coming out, the questions and answers were being discussed and considerable noise was being made, it was coincidental that I happened to stand)
RS)We became a close knit group.So as soon as someone came out, they gave out the questions and we were deliberating the right answers, probably a bit too loudly 🙂

C)(smiles) We’ve had lot of people from IIIT over the last two days (Feb 6th and 7th were the interview dates). So many of you are interested in an MBA ?
RS)The best thing about IIIT is that it provides the freedom for an individual to do what he/she likes. We are a minor part of the group interested in Management.There are technically brilliant people going to places like M$ and also a fair number of research oriented people interested in higher education abroad or at the college itself.

B)So this minor group of management people have no interest in academics ? I remember all of your CGPAs are less and yours is the lowest at 6.7. You seem to have neglected your studies.
RS)Sir, There are two ways of looking at the academics at IIIT.First is doing good projects which as you can see in my CV I have done. the second is studying hard for exams. I studied hard for the subjects I liked and not so hard for the others. And
IIIT being a highly competitive place a majority of my classmates are very smart and definitely more hard working than me. I think that is a complement to them rather than a castigation of me.

A)How have the others done their interviews ?
RS) They are all confident of their performance sir. They prepared well and I think they must have done well too.

B)One of your classmates missed the interview yesterday. One mr Rishabh. What happened ?
RS)Sir, it was really unfortunate. He had some issues and could not come. With our fest finishing late night on the 5th we were all asleep. So we could not ascertain whether he went to the interview or not.

A)So what does Miss P think of her performance ? (P went in before me)
RS) She usually does such things very well sir. She had a decent GD and her interviews are also usually good. She was confident of her performance.

C)Ok Mr. Ravi Shankar. Thank you for your time. You may leave.
RS)Thank You sir.

The Second interview was for XLRI

IIFT was at Hyderabad. My hometown, effectively janmabhoomi, till now karmabhoomi etc etc. XLRI was in Chennai. A city I somehow love. This would be my second visit after the IIT counseling. Though I was not offered any seat during that time, interaction with fellow students and IIT profs changed my perspective towards life. All this is of course unrelated here. My dad accompanied me to Chennai for two reasons – he knows the city well, he knows me inside-out and upside-down and is the only other person who can control my sometimes over-exuberant nature (my mom is the first).The interview was at Loyola College (of Prema Desam fame :). It looked much like HCU. I instantly felt at home.

For XLRI I carried out a thorough research. Special thanks here is due to Sreekanth Reddy (Samba) of ug2 for giving me the contact of his sister and her Hyderabad based friend (both of whom are XLRI alumni and I applied for the same program that they graduated from). I understood that there might be a stress interview, there is usually a psychologist in the panel, a focus on ethics in the interview and that XLRI takes people for potential rather than past record.A probable plus. But the point is that I had a low percentile (92.85), so I must have been in the latter half of the qualifiers. There was an essay at the exam stage itself. Though I botched up the exam, the essay was well written (according to me).No GD for XLRI.

Reached Chennai on the same day morning. It was a train filled with VISA aspirants and I was thought to be one more. I did nothing to dispel the notion and enjoyed the conversation while offering ‘tips’ to those people.

I was given a slot at 4:20 pm on the 7th of March. The atmosphere was very stiff with tense applicants some of whom were jet-setting the length and breadth of the nation for various interviews. All my fellow aspirants were people with considerable work experience. The eldest guy was someone who worked for Coca-Cola for 6 years and resigned in protest of their policies.You could set your time at 1620 when they called me in. There were three members (P,Q,R) very smiling and cordial. An air of relaxation was palpable. I was totally relaxed. It was less tense than a IIIT FYP viva. The panel specifically asked for my file and a copy of the CV (which they retained).

R) So Mr. Ravi Shankar Bulusu.Tell us something about yourself.
(This is another standard question. Everyone has a tape-recorded answer. They expect a bit about your family but not heavy details like your relation in marriage alliance to the 25th king of the 5th Chalukya dynasty. It is mostly about your experiences and your ideas about your future)

Q)So you are a computer scientist ?
RS)Yes, Sir.

Q)Did you like the subject ?
RS)Yes, sir. Some parts of it were interesting, other parts were… well (smile)

Q)Which were the quantitative subjects you did at college ?
RS)Engineering Maths, Discrete Maths, Algorithms & Data Compression.
(I did not know what quantitative subjects were, so I gave the names of those subjects which had something to do with math. I remembered some concepts of the Maths courses and DC, and a fair amount (or so I thought) of Algorithms.)

Q)Didn’t you do something like Graph Theory or Computational Geometry ?
RS)There was Graph Theory in Discrete Maths. I did not do CG.

Q)So can you tell me what is meant by complexity of an algorithm.
(Answered, gave big O small o notations, generally explained complexity, Q was satisfied)

Q)Do you know what are NP-Hard and NP-Complete ?
(Answered again, but Q asked me whether I was sure. I hesitated and finally I told them the other way round. It was really stupid of me to not figure it out)

Q)Then give me the Traveling Salesman problem and analyze it from the NP perspective.
RS)Sir, I am sorry I do not remember the statement.
(Point is my NP concept went for a toss and I did not want to go into further soup)

Q)Then what do you remember of your undergraduate subjects.
RS)For the past year I have been working in Software Engineering. I am confident in that subject.

Q)Then I will not ask you anything from that (smiles).

Q)What is the usual profile of the IIIT students ?
RS) About 50% go for higher education … like in my batch about 25 are proceeding for an MS/PhD abroad.About 10 are doing their MSBR in the college itself, and about 15 go for an MBA.The rest of the 50% have fairly good jobs.

Q)So you did not go for a job ?
RS)Yes Sir, I did. I have an offer from TCS.

Q)Then why don’t u work for some time and then come back for an MBA.You must have seen the profile of students outside.
RS)Sir, I believe that B-Schools like XLRI while admitting students look for their receptivity towards an MBA education. Working is one way to gain that receptivity but I don’t think it is the only way. I have worked on various projects at college whose
deadlines were as strict as any industry projects.Only thing is,I worked on those projects for myself and not for money. Also I’ve been a Pupils leader at School and a member of the IIIT Student Parliament. I’ve done considerable amount of management.
Though I don’t claim that it is exceptional, I think it is good enough to consider a management career.

Q) (Sarcastic smile) Though you seem to have thought over this a lot, I am not entirely convinced. Anyway …

Q)Which of the companies on campus had good HR policies and which had not very good policies ?
(I did answer the question in the interview, but would like to keep it confidential here. I have no bias against any company.)

R)So Ravi, you seem to be a fan of APJ Abdul Kalam. What was your study all about ?
(I stuck my photo with APJ on the front page of the file and also included an abstract of a study on him and his importance to the nation during my first year as part of the English course, I answered everything about the study, extolling APJ all
the way)

Q)Since you did so much study, give me one reason why Kalam is unfit to be the President of India
(Now this was not expected)
RS)Well… Sir… I never thought on those lines, but I think he is politically extremely naive, this we can see from the way he handled the Bihar issue for which the Supreme COurt pulled up the Governor. But then had he been politically more aware, he probably would not have become the President. Ethics and politics do not go together a lot in our country.

P)(Speaking for the first time) Ravi, Are you given assignments at IIIT?
RS)Yes sir. A lot of them.

P)So did you ever copy an assignment ?
RS)I regret to say this sir, but many times. In recent times however I stopped copying.
(Though people might laugh, this is the truth. I have stopped copying assignments in the final year)

P)Why did you stop copying ?
RS)I realised that it was hurting my self-esteem and personal growth. I believe a healthy self-esteem is necessary for a healthy individual.

P)Do you know about the NHAI?
RS)It is the National Highways Authority of India.An autonomous body constituted under the Ministry of Surface Transport to oversee the construction of National Highways.

P)Why do you think I am asking you this ?
(By this time I had figured out that he was the psychologist/ethics guy)
RS)You are probably refering to the Satyendranath Dubey case where he was killed by the land mafia in Bihar.

P)So what do you know about the case.
RS)Satyendranath Dubey was an IITian who chose to join the NHAI as a civil engineer.He pointed out some discrepencies in the tendering process in a confidential letter to the PMO. Unfortunately the letter got leaked and he got killed.

P)Don’t you think Satyendranath was foolish.
RS)No sir. He was perfectly fine. Such risk is part of his job and he had the worst of the risk.

P)But charity begins at home,So don’t you think he should have saved himself first.
RS)I cannot agree with you sir. Where would all of us be if our Army people think of saving themselves first. Be it Satyendranath or Shanmughan (an IIM Lucknow guy killed under similar circumstances) every job has some ethics and they followed those ethics.

P)So are ethics and morals the same.
RS)Ethics pertain to the job/activity.Morals are personal.

P)SO what is the relationship between them.
RS)Corruption occurs when there is a mismatch between the ethics and the morals.What Hitler did was probably moral but not ethical.

P)So what would you have done in the same situation
RS)Dying is a very scary idea.But Integrity and honesty do occupy a very high position in my value system. So I would have acted with integrity.

P,Q,R)Thank You very much. It was nice talking to you.
RS)Thank You sirs.

The interview was for a total of 25 minutes.


The readers may draw them as they want.I will not bias them.I have an admission offer from IIFT and am waitlisted at 8 for the PMIR program of XLRI. My tryst with B-School interviews hopefully comes to an end.

PS:This post started off on the lines of giving some interview tips. However I have a principle of not giving unsolicited advice/suggestions. And the post started sounding like a homily, so I changed it. I hope I do not sound boastful, but I usually do my interviews decently. That is the result of a considerable amount of research I put in for the job/activity/seat concerned. I mean the point is clear, when you have only a minimum of the qualifications required for the job/activity it is things like a proper research and knowledge that would save your ass. In case anyone likes to have some tips I’d have no problems to pass on the fruits of my hours of net-searching and book-reading. Only personally though 🙂

SE7EN March 16, 2006

Posted by thinkerzden in IIIT.

Q:What is your CGPA ?
Q:You have good percentages in school. Why 64 % now ?
Q:Well you seem to have neglected your studies. You are just 6.7/10.

With my good friend Gautam Kumar making our batch CGPAs public, I guess my life has turned some sort of a semi-circle.It is one thing to tell people that you have a bad GPA and its completely another for them to see that you are in the bottom half of the bottom half of the class. And people’s perception does change when they know that you are a guy with bad grades.

The above three questions were asked at various times during my stay in IIIT. The first was by our dean Dr.Govindarajulu. He asks everyone the question.With his awesome memory he still recalls my GPA.Being the good man that he is he also used to ask whether I am working towards improving it or not. He stopped asking a year ago, when in one of my uncharacteristic bad moods and one of his characteristic tirades, I told him that I do not consider GPA to be a true measure of what sort of a Human Being I am (what nonsense from my side !!! the dean never talked about good or bad Human Beings).

In my first semester I got 7.2 and believe me I had not read even a single page of any subject. I disliked DLD.Already knew the Math being taught, already knew the ES being taught.I loved Physics but IIIT killed that love for reasons beyond the scope of this post.The only subjects to be studied were programming and ITWS. I absolutely loved the math aspect of programming but negelected the actual practice part with the result getting a really bad grade. ITWS was the best. More than teaching it was about exploring. Loved it, decent grade.

Well things actually don’t work so smoothly in life. As per the karma theory bad breeds bad. My bad bred bad in the next sem itself, I had a grand SGPA of 4.9. Till date I have not been able to figure out the reasons for the same. A detailed study reveals only one fact – total, complete, holistic screw up.The CGPA became 6.02.AP govt stops the Pratibha award if the GPA goes below 6. God is great and I am saved.

It has been a constant struggle since then. The mind divided into two say Atma Ram(AR) and ParamAtma Ram(PR). AR telling me to study and PR telling me
that there are bigger things in life. As has been the case for a major part of my life… PR usually had resounding victories.

PR thankfully left me with about an year ago. Placements were looming large and the Placement committee decided that they will use only the GPAs upto 6th sem, I fought my battles but Priyanshu and Co were adamant. That left me with only three or four companies to appear for. I decided that it will be ARs all the way in the interview panels – asking me why I did not study etc etc. We can’t do anything about that now. So I struggled like hell. Salvaging even bits of projects. Projecting them on the CV, pulling out the books, burning midnight oil and daylight sun. Had I done even one tenth of this struggle before … well 🙂 By the time placements began with the exception of Operating Systems I knew enough about things in my CV and Grade Sheets that I would have gotten a GPA of 9 had exams been held now. Of course most people would have.

In this context was the second question. By the TCS interviewer. PR came to my rescue when I showed my extra-curricular achievements. They were convinced and with good reason. At least in the extra-curricular aspects there was no cramming, no last minute novel reading or soft skill sessions. They came naturally and I said so. Of course I knew Software Engineering very well and said that I can take on any comers in that field but that is not boasting , if we do not know even one subject that can save our lives. I guess we should seek a well with water and jump in it.

I sat (or was allowed to sit because of my GPA) in only one other company. The interviewers and me were at total cross purposes. They were experts in a field which I was just entering. I did not know that Software Architecture needed a lot and lot of compilers, the fact is it does not, they asked me only because they wanted to stress me out. One of the two guys (even sadistic interviewers hunt in pairs) asked me to draw a parse table of a multi-filed programme. I was clueless and said the same to them. I told them that I was not the proper guy for the job and came off. A nightmare but a lesson nevertheless. btw if someone know the answer to the question please tell me.

The third question was asked in a B-School interview. These interviewers are better placed. They understand that the students who seek B-Schools are usually the ones who have some extra-curricular activities and may possess bad grades. No Generalization though. I showed my extra-curriculars as a reason. Of course I am not so bad as to not give the credit where it needs to be given (or the Devil its due … as you may). I said that IIIT is a very competitive place and my classmates are extremely brilliant people. They worked much harder than me and that is the reason for my bad grades. The profs from IIFT surely saw some sense in the answer.

Fear of a bad GPA did haunt me for a long time of one and a half year. Then I let the fear go below the carpet, it never disappeared though.In hindsight I feel,
fear is good. I’m not advocating people to be guilty all thet time. But a small flavour of fear in your inner conscience would go a long way in structuring your IIITian life, for this is considered by many as a spring board to launch one’s career.

Now what does the title of the post mean in the context. When I joined IIIT my mom said two things – don’t become a smoker and don’t become a drunkard, my dad too said two things – don’t take drugs and never fail. I said only one thing – I can’t promise for the rest of them but I will never fail and get at least 70%. Now that translates into a 7 CGPA. It is strange for AR to make such a comeback when PR is the need of the hour. But today I am paranoid about my grades, I need to get an SGPA of 9 in the final semester to get a se7en. At this juncture with a good B-School admission (IIFT took me in) and a job to boot (TCS liked my SE and PR did the rest) it might not really matter. No one needs it or wants it.

But strangely I seem to want it. I think a bottom line can be drawn here. CGPA matters. You need enormous amounts of other efforts in case you do not have a good GPA. Probably Vishwas Rao is the only guy in the batch who has a job in tremendous disproportion to his GPA. He had an awesome interview and a good internship too.I do not know about the luck part of his achievement and I will not take any credit away by calling it luck.In recent times I’ve also realized that CGPA is one of the criteria for associating with people. Wierd but true.

Of course how you get your GPA also matters.One should be able to vouch for every point in that Grade Point Average as his own. I have poor grades true, but i’ve never sought the “guidance” and “suggestion” of tutors. This fact is true for the majority of the junta, but those who sought the easy way out will find the going tough some time or the other. A bad GPA is much better than an undeserving one. And a good GPA, as they say in Math, is only a necessary condition not a sufficient one.

PS: Gautam Kumar, if you are reading this will you add the “Going for MBA” statement to the publicised GPA sheet. Will probably save my face in front of some important people 😀