Horizons 2016: House of Orators with Ms. Deepa Thomas

Deepa M Thomas is a corporate communications professional with 19 years of expertise over external & employee communications. She is leading the communications mandate for Mahindra Group Companies – Mahindra Holidays, Mahindra LifeSpaces & Mahindra Partners.

Media Cell had the opportunity to interact with her while she was on campus for IIC’s flagship event Horizons 2016. Below are excerpts from the interview:

1. With a wide exposure in established conglomerates like Mahindra to relatively new e-commerce companies like eBay, skin clinics like Kaya, channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, what are the major differences that you have noticed across industries when it comes to corporate communication?

Multinationals around the world have this very strong belief in communication, because it’s a proven science. Companies like Kaya and Marico did not have any established communication function before I joined. So there was a lot of work that we had to do to evangelize the role of communication and the benefits that it could bring. Whereas in eBay, let’s say when a communication person is employed for the first time there already was a belief around the world that it made sense. So it was much easier to get a buy in from the leadership that communication would play a major strategic role and we should invest in it.

Ms. Deepa Thomas during her talk at Horizons 2016

Ms. Deepa Thomas during her talk at Horizons 2016

2. Your specialties are as varied as Consumer PR to Pop Culture to ecommerce. How do you keep yourself updated about the latest development in all of these interest areas?

I network with my peers in various forums, I read newsletters and news articles, and I am currently jury for 30 under 30 for PRmoment. So what happens is that when you do all these, you see some of the best practices and some of the good work that is happening and you can keep yourself as informed as you can. I don’t think you can keep yourself informed about everything, since one is only human and you cannot spend your entire time gathering information but the more informed you are and the more thoughtfully you are able to process that information, you can perhaps connect it to what you are doing and bring the best practices to your work or you can share your best practices with somebody else.

3. Since CSR is also one of your interest areas, so what’s your take on companies having mandatory CSR activity, do you think it rightly addresses the issue like it is supposed to?

I think this comes down to company’s philosophies: do they see that they must serve the community that they work in, or do they see that they want to make a better impact. If the company sees that than the CSR funds whether mandated by the government or not will be invested in the right way. But there might be some companies who will perhaps not see value in it, therefore they will perhaps do it in lip service, or put money behind established non- profits and not help grass root efforts. So I think the best fit is when the company has identified a few causes like education, environment, old age that they want to stand by, find the connection with the company and locate CSR programs which are long term and make impact but also involve employees, do not just have a separate CSR department run it quietly. See how you can engage employees as mentors, volunteers, awareness creators, and social media advocates. Then they can make reports and pay it back to the community and the various stakeholders associated. That’s when CSR becomes very holistic and the community sees the real impact and the company enhances its goodwill.

But then the benefit received by the mandate is that a lot many companies are having to put their funds for good. So it’s an opportunity for non-profits to find their partners and if companies are not doing the thinking then they need to present themselves in the right way to company and help that company make an impact for a cause.

Ms. Deepa Thomas being interviewed by Media Cell

Ms. Deepa Thomas being interviewed by Media Cell

4. What is your take on women in management when it comes to issues like work life balance, maternity leaves, power politics and improper working conditions for women?

Men and women are both equally good leaders and they bring different facades and perspectives and I think diverse organizations, in terms of gender, age, race, sexual orientation etc. benefit primarily for these. Today our target audience and consumers are very diverse, so whether we can actually reflect the diversity in our board room or our leadership team, becomes a major question.
About maternity leaves, I think the increase of the leave from three months to six months is a welcome move allowing the new mother to return to the workforce once she is fully ready and has been able to develop a right infrastructure to look after her baby. However, the lady should integrate herself as quickly as possible to her company (depending on her and her baby’s health condition) or at least keep herself informed even during the leave so that she is not out of the knowledge loop. Even if she can’t work she should find ways to communicate with her organization using HR functions (who are also taking appropriate measures so that these ladies can make a seamless comeback and add value to the company soon).
Work life balance comes down to settling with the fact that women in society tend to be the caregivers, therefore younger people, senior citizens, sick relatives all need to be attended by the women employee. Today, however there are options that women can explore to set up a good infrastructure at home, but there may be times when they have to work out of home and companies need to be flexible out of it. At the same time, the onus comes down on the ladies, or for any employee for that matter (in a gender neutral company) to show their commitment and delivery and prove that their work is not getting impacted. To manage visibility related issues that might turn up (out of sight, out of mind), the employees need to be connected by emails, phone calls or at times when physical presence is required one needs to prove that he/she is just a phone call away. This will validate the value of that particular employee in his/her organization.

5. All of us here aspire to be leading managers someday, any suggestion that you have for doing well in the corporate life, since we have many preconceived ideas about surviving the corporate rat race.

You need to have passion, integrity, persistence, collaborative attitude to survive the corporate life which according to me is a jungle gym and not a ladder. You also need to find a supportive group of people, the supportive board (comprising of family, friends, significant partner etc.), with whom you can share your moments of frustration and success. And over a period you will have enough people like this who’s make the organization a comfortable workplace for you. A part of how the corporate life is, depends on the company’s performance. If it is going through bankruptcy then the employees will definitely have a tough time because the company itself is in a position where its existence itself is questionable. From the employees’ angle, there can be three groups: one, the energy drainers who choose to play power politics, second, who choose to just do their work without getting their hands dirty and third, the ones who bring positive energy in their workplace. Irrespective of which group you choose to belong, you need to have passions and interests outside of work, along with a support structure comprising of a close group of people and these will help you vent your corporate anxieties and frustrations and de-stress. If you can align yourself and your work with the company’s goals, work will be less stressful. Plus an amount of equanimity and composure will definitely help make life comfortable. Don’t let noise affect you, choose what really matters and prioritize accordingly.

In a conversation with Ms. Deepa Thomas.

In a conversation with Ms. Deepa Thomas.

Interviewed By: Noel Roychoudhury

Picture Credits: Ravi Mohan Bhola

Echoes 2016: Campus Princess with Koyal Rana

Echoes 2016: Campus Princess with Koyal Rana

Interview with Koyal Rana

Q- How has your stay been in IIM K so far?

It’s been great. It’s a beautiful campus all surrounded by hills n greenery. I haven’t got the chance yet  to look around but I do have plans to go for a round.

In conversation with Ms. Koyal Rana

In conversation with Ms. Koyal Rana

Q-You won the Miss India crown in 2014, henceforth how was the year 2014 for you?

It felt really great winning the crown as it really was a dream come true! Since then journey has been great. I was in 3rd year so after winning the pageant I just had one months to prepare for my exams. Afterwards I had some sponsor commitments and some appearances to make. It was quiet a fun journey and yes I also had prepare for miss world. So all of these kept me occupied.

Q- Tell us something about your experience with the most beautiful miss world ever Aishwarya Rai?

It was great meeting her, she has been the idol for so many girls and even now girls idolize her. She really is a very nice person.

Q-It has been long time since India has won the miss world crown. In your opinion where should we improvise so that the next crown is ours?

Any girl who represents her country gives her best. She has endless nights preparing for it. In a lot of competitions which were held there I did quite well in all of them and was ranked 1. You can’t really say what exactly is needed cause is if you see every year the winner is very different from the previous year. It depends a lot on the judges and on what they are looking for.

Q-You have been involved with several NGOs like Moksha foundation? How is that coming along?

I have worked with several NGOs like Pratham, Aarohan, Help Age India, UNDP etc. For Moksha we have reached our 2nd phase. We have also started sanitation for women wherein we are trying to provide sanitary pads to women at a very low price. We are students and there are other things also to take care of expanding is bit difficult.

Q-You are always smiling in all of your pics even during the photoshoot here, how difficult/ easy it is to be like that.

I would say I am just a happy person! Smile does make you look pretty!

Femina Miss India 2014 Koyal Rana

Femina Miss India 2014 Koyal Rana

Q- In most of the Indian families even now girls are not allowed to participate in beauty competitions. What message would you like to give to those families?

Even my family was not very supportive initially. When they agreed they convinced our relatives. So yes this still is a problem, but to start with miss world has taken off the bikini round. I have been trying my best throughout the year to convince the parents that it’s not just what you think it is. A girl gets so many opportunities, it gives her confidence, enhances her personality. With time it’s changing and I am sure it would reach greater heights and anybody interested would be allowed to participate.

Q-Any message to students of IIM K especially to girls to encourage them to come forward and participate in beauty pageants.

Well, I would say that it’s just a contest not the end. Treat it as women empowerment. Just go out there participate win not win come back and continue being a manager or an engineer. I want to be an entrepreneur and I am working towards it. Just be confident!

Ms. Koyal Rana with Media Cell members Ravi, Himalay and Shakti

Ms. Koyal Rana with Media Cell members Ravi, Himalay and Shakti

Interviewed by: Shakti Shivam and Himalay Reddy

Pictures: Ravi Mohan Bhola

 

 

 

 

Echoes 2016: A Musical Date with Nikhil D’ Souza

Interview with Nikhil D’ Souza

Q. If not a singer, what would you have been?

A. Difficult question, I tried many different things. I was a geologist, but I wouldn’t be doing it. I would rather work on my cooking skills and be a chef. A secured job is not my thing. It’s kind of being part of a system that’s very predictable, for me I just always want to break out of that. For me the kind of mental flow of this world is not about restricting yourself to a certain time frame of the day to be busy. It’s about expressing yourself more and more every day.

Q. Since you spoke about expressing yourself, so why do you restrict yourself to alternative rock and electric guitar pop, and not try other genres like Arijit Singh, Vishal Dadlani, Amit Trivedi etc?

A. I just do what I like doing and thankfully it has paid off so far.

Q. So can we expect anything like that from you maybe ten years later?
A. Yeah, maybe. I might be a different person then. I mean if I look back ten years back, I was a completely different person, I was a lot shyer, I wouldn’t be sitting here and give an interview. What I mean is, asking yourself the question where will I be five years from now I think is not always the right thing to do, because in doing so you kind of put a restriction on yourself saying that this is what I am going to be. And in doing so if you don’t get there, there’s a lot of disappointment that comes along. You should just be open to things that happen to you.

DSC_0863

Q. Okay, so do you mean to say that we should not have expectations?
A. No, I should say that you should really work hard. A lot of people look at a rock star on stage and say I want to be that. So they look up to the final result and say that’s what I want. But they don’t see the (twenty) years of playing guitar and all the hard work. The people who get to that point are the ones who love the process. You look at a guy with a gym body and think I want to be that, but do you love the pain that comes with it? That guy does.

 

Q. How hard is it to write a song? As we know you are putting in a lot of efforts for song writing, and a singer related to self-written songs, how difficult is it being for you to do that?
A. On some days it is as easy as breathing and on some days it is really difficult, it is like you just can’t write a word. There are so many song writers who reach a writing block, they just reach the block and can’t write anything more. I face a lot of days like that too. But I find that when I go to America and I have someone I write with over there, we just click really well, there’s a real chemistry when we write and we come up with better songs every time we do that.

 

Q. What led you to take up a career in music?
A. There was no particular inspiration along the way. It’s just that it was the only thing that made sense after trying a whole bunch of things. You know, like you keep coming back to something, and sometimes you need someone to point that out to you. I remember while I was going ahead in the oil field industry, a good friend of mine took me aside and told me that maybe you should just do what you want to do.

DSC_0864

Q. What would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10?
A. 13, maybe!

 

Q. What is that one thing that separates you from the others?
A. The ability to really feel, the lyric

 

Q. How would you place yourself around singers like Arijit Singh, K mohan, Paapon, Amit Trivedi ?
A. I feel I am not as technically sound as most of them, they are definitely very well trained singers, but I have my moments too when I can sing a song better than some of them on some lines.

 

Q. Name some of your favourite female singers.
A. Some of my favourite female singers have been Neeti Mohan, Shilpa Rao. Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan are of course flawless. For me the ones I can really listen to, I think Shilpa Rao is someone who stands out.

 

Q. How have you liked our campus so far?
A. Oh it’s amazing! It looks like a resort and it’s a pleasant surprise to go to a room somewhere in this campus and it’s like a five star room.

 

Q. You liked the crowd?
A. Oh yeah! You saw what happened out there, it’s beautiful. It’s a good thing that it started off with everyone sitting down and then it was a different thing after what, half a song!

DSC_0847

Q. Any message for all those people out there?
A. Enjoy this campus, enjoy your life here because it’s beautiful, it’s like being in Hogwarts or something. It’s a beautiful place to be in and these are great memories that you will treasure for the rest of your life. And the friends that you have here now are going to be there for the rest of your lives. Make great memories, that’s all I am going to say!
Interviewed by: Noel Roychoudhury

 

 

67th Republic Day Celebrations – IIM Kozhikode

Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode celebrated India’s 67th Republic Day with solemnity and fervour on the 26th January, 2016. On the auspicious occasion, the institute’s faculty, staff and students gathered to honour and commemorate the day the Constitution of India came into force.

Salute the contribution of the forefathers.

Salute the contribution of the forefathers.

Festivities began with the hoisting of the National Flag by Dr. R Radhakrishna Pillai, Dean Administration, followed by the National Anthem. The Dean addressed the gathering, reminding them about the contribution of our forefathers in instituting the largest democracy in the world.

National Flag hoisting by Dr. R Radhakrishna Pillai, Dean Administration

National Flag hoisting by Dr. R Radhakrishna Pillai, Dean Administration

Prof. Rameshan, Faculty, Strategic Management also delivered a brief talk on the occasion. In his address to the gathering, he motivated each individual present and reminded them of their duties as a citizen of the country. Summarizing his speech with Mother Teresa’s quote “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone”, he urged everyone to do their bit and join the nation in her fight against the evils of corruption, casteism and nepotism. Talking of leading by example, the institute felicitated staff members Mr. Suresh and Mr. Manikundan for displaying promptness and foresight in saving a life.

Keep thy Flag flying !

Keep thy Flag flying !

Following speeches by K R Vignesh and Bhasker Pratap Lahiri, members of the Student Council Representatives, and performance of patriotic songs by the students, Prof. Rameshan talked about the observance of ‘Swacch Bharat Week’ during 26-31 January as the institute’s bit towards the ‘Swacch Bharat Mission’.

Aye mere vatan ke logon, zara aankh me bhar lo paani !

Aye mere vatan ke logon, zara aankh me bhar lo paani !

The event came to a closure with over 230 students and faculty members taking the ‘Swacchata Pledge’, promising to make a conscious effort towards cleanliness and volunteering to devote time each week towards ensuring a Clean India.

 

Article written by: Vishaal Pathak

Picture courtesy : Himalay Reddy

Observance of Constitution Day : 26th November 2015

Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode observed 26th November 2015 as Constitution Day to commemorate adoption of the Indian Constitution by the Constituent Assembly on the 26th November 1949. On this occasion, faculty and students gathered together to spread the importance and awareness about the Constitution and its architect Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

Students engrossed in Constitution Quiz organized by EPS.

Students engrossed in Constitution Quiz organized by EPS.

The event began with a quiz themed on the Indian Constitution, which saw active participation from the student fraternity. This was followed by welcome address and introduction about the programme by Student Council Representative Sushrut Helwatkar. In the inaugural address, Prof. Sudershan Kuntluru, faculty from the Finance Department, spoke to the students about the importance and the salient features of the Constitution. Dr. Kuntluru also apprised the students about the impact that the Indian Constitution has on ease of business, freedom of trade and commerce, and the constitutional amendments related to taxation in the country.

Inaugural Address by Prof. Kuntluru

Inaugural Address by Prof. Kuntluru

Arunangshu Chattopadhya, a student from the 1st year PGP course, addressed the members present as a representative of the student community, and spoke about the several facets of the longest written Constitution in the world, with emphasis on Constitutional Amendments. As a token of appreciation and respect, the event also witnessed the students and faculty reading aloud the Preamble to the Constitution.

Students and Faculty reading aloud the Preamble to the Constitution

Students and Faculty reading aloud the Preamble to the Constitution

The event came to a closure with Dr. C. Raju, Faculty Operations Management, distributing prizes to the teams securing winning positions in the Constitution Quiz. On behalf of the students, the Student Council thanked the faculty Dr. Kuntluru, Dr. C. Raju, Mr. Cedric Thomas and Mr. John from the Administration Department, and Mr. Renjith, In-charge Student Affairs, for their presence on the occasion.

Dr. C. Raju distributing the prizes to the winning team.

Dr. C. Raju distributing the prizes to the winning team.

 

Article written by: Vishaal Pathak

Picture courtesy : Ravi Bhola

Backwaters 2015- Bigger and better than any of its predecessors!

Backwaters 15th October to 1st November, 2015. The student fraternity was eagerly awaiting the invocation of these three days of mind tingling business simulation events and opportunities to interact with powerful speakers in TEDex, and finally the night before, one couldn’t help but notice the buzz in the campus among students and teachers alike making last minute preparations for coordinating, participating or judging events. While there were a number of flagship events whose birds’ eye view is coming up, there were a number of impromptu fun events as well.
White Knight was an event in which business plans were invited from students across the country in three broad categories – social innovation, gen next technopreneur and products and services. Over a 37 day window, there were 305 registered participants from colleges across the country which finally came down to 6 finalist teams who came down to the IIMK campus to finally present their plans. The event was judged by industry experts from Nabard and Tie Kerala, on the basis of feasibility, profitability, scalability, and innovation and presentation prowess. The students came up with various pioneering ideas, a few of them being about making smart toys, innovative ways for market enhancement of cupcakes, devising complete lifestyle based food solutions for healthier lives and so on. The winners were awarded cash prize worth 50,000 rupees followed by prize money worth 25000 for the runners up. The event was well concluded by a hearty interactive session among the finalist teams and the judges.
tEDXFollowing vigorous social media promotions TEDx at Backwaters was a huge success among the student fraternity offering talks by eminent motivational speakers from varied paths of life. Alongside, videos were shown of performances by Preston Reed, Usman Riaz as well as of a talk of the noted TEDx speaker, Sugata Mitra. Talks were given by Prasant Nair, the district collector of Kozhikode, who is also involved with a social welfare activity named Compassionate Kozhikode. His speech hovered around the importance of compassion in the lives of the many polished professionals graduating from places like IIMs in contrast with the millions of underprivileged citizens. There was Malvika Iyer, who survived a bomb blast when she was 13 but had lost both her hands and had severely injured her legs. She braved all odds and emerged victorious to be symbol of courage and optimism in later years. A Global Shaper, she pressed upon the message that “bad attitude is the only disability in life”. Mr V S Sudhakar, cofounder of BigBasket, prior founder and CEO of Indiaplaza Pvt. Ltd. and a noted alumnus of IIM-A, who had started India’s first internet services company, Planetasia.com talked about the pros and cons of being in a startup with an insightful analogy with the performance of cricketer Keith Miller in the 1948 tour of Australia to England. He concluded his speech in a thoughtful note with an effing hint towards the depletion of water from the blue planet and said that “water is the next big thing”. With IIM K currently in the limelight across the country for creating graduates with an entrepreneurship oriented mindset, this talk was surely a great hit. The adventure sports junkie, Archana Sardana, India’s only woman Master Scuba Diver Trainer certified by PADI, USA, the country’s only woman BASE jumper, and also the first Indian to skydive with the Indian flag in the USA and to BASE jump the KL Tower, Malaysia spoke about her life and its motto to explore, dream and discover. With 335 skydives and 45 BASE jumps done, she shared interesting stories about her life including getting married to an army officer and spending 7 days of her honeymoon doing adventure sports.

TedX with all Guest speakersArunabh Das Sarma, current president of Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (Times group), owner of newspaper branches like Times of India and The Economic Times having had extensive experience of working in Coca Cola, GSK, Whirlpool as well as a startup discussed about navigating unchartered territories in every aspect and motivated students to go beyond mere commercial success and strive to make full use of one’s potential.

Students in an eventShiksha 2015 was held on all three days of Backwaters. On day 1 (30th October), workshop for school children were held. The program saw a total participation of 68 students from classes 8 to 10. Students from 31 schools all over Kerala participated in the event and the group was a truly diverse one. The event opened with a brief welcome given by the Shiksha team and the representatives from our sponsors: Health care Foundation. This was followed by a half-day session held by Mr. Unnikrishnan Balakrishnan a renowned motivational speaker and life style coach. He took the kids through various fun group activities and confidence building sessions which were well received and filled the children with positivity. Day 2 and day 3 was meant for undergraduate students from various specializations like engineering, commerce, arts etc. The prime motive behind the workshop was to give the undergrad students a look into the life at IIM. Many of the students were CAT aspirants who needed guidance and clarity on how to chase their dreams. The workshop for undergrads started with a full day session by Mr. Unnikrishnan Balakrishnan again. There were a variety of sessions such as discovering self, public speaking, working in diverse teams, self-confidence workshop etc. On day 3, the students interacted with faculty and research students from IIMK. The interactive sessions were followed by a 1 hour mock test held in association with Career Launcher. Experts from Career Launcher interacted with the students and gave them valuable tips on how to crack CAT. The top scorers in the test were felicitated. Shiksha is an integral part of Backwaters since the time of its inception. A program aimed at inclusivity of school and undergraduate students on Backwaters platform, Shiksha has grown to be an event with the maximum participation so much so that the number of seats had to be capped at 120.

avatar winnerAvatar-The Ultimate CEO Challenge, one of the six flagship events at Backwaters, annual management festival of IIMK saw participation from 22 different colleges across India with 38 applications. Participants were put through stressful conditions spanning across three days, in challenges encompassing all verticals of management including Marketing, Finance, Strategy, Operations, HR as well as on their creativity and general knowledge through storyboard making and a quiz. The event also included a venture capitalist pitch and a self-pitch to conclude with.

The event was planned keeping in mind that a CEO has to perform well in all spheres of management under stringent deadlines. The shortlisting criteria for applicants from outside IIMK was based on CV and a one minute video pitch explaining how they were suitable for the role of a CEO. The invited colleges were open to send in multiple entries and 7 participants were finally selected to represent their college.  For selecting IIMK representative we held Echelon 2.0, wherein we invited entries from PGP 18 and 19 and selected 6 students from each batch. Final selection was based on cumulative score of 3 rounds which included a Chairman GD, Case study and turncoat debate.

Model United Nations is a simulation of United Nations’ councils participants were supposed to be delegates representing countries, the delegates had to use United Nations rules including various motions and pleas and had to come up with a working paper which would be debated in different formats and would be voted by the delegates, the ultimate aim was to draft a resolution have a concrete debate, move amendments, additions and deletions, and ultimately vote on it. On getting 2/3rd majority the draft resolution would be adopted. Here it was United Nations Human Rights Council debating about Syrian refugee crisis, Syria moved a working paper on refugee welfare which was defeated after 2 versus 2 debate, Iraq moved a working paper on funding of refugees which was accepted, the final working paper moved by Syria after an extensive QnA session and multiple amendments failed to obtain the 2/3rd majority required as the house was split on his views. The delegate representing Syria and Germany were awarded best delegates for their performance.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change was aimed at coming up with a legally binding solution to climate change on the backdrop of Kyoto protocol and other conventions. A motion for discussion on innovative methods to cap emissions and related tax laws was initiated by South Korea. Developed countries like France and Denmark responded with the assurance that they would help in the implementation of innovative solutions across the developing nations. Delegates from India and UK spoke about allowing positive tax breaks to industries abiding the regulatory standards. Canadian delegate raised the use of innovative technologies in energy sector. This lead to a discussion on nuclear energy, energy generation through biological waste and waste management. Towards the end of the day, two working papers were presented on the use of alternative sources of energy and setting up new regulations governing carbon emissions.

Vir Das band -ALien CHutneyIf you think Backwaters was only about serious business simulations and academic pursuits, you can’t go more wrong! There were scintillating performances by the popular comedy rock band, Vir Das and the Alien Chutney who, with their funky jokes, witty and sometimes nuanced humor successfully kept the crowd ROFLing and LMAOing before, after and between their comedy rock numbers. Where the IIMK fraternity enjoyed their share of titillating humor on the first day by Vir Das, the final day saw the audience getting swayed to the incredibly popular number “Bhula do” composed of the well-known Indo-Pakistani Sufi pop rock band, Raeth! While the crowd went all gaga over the musical renditions of the final evening, it was an evening of fulfillment of dreams for the organizers of Backwaters, 2015, who have toiled heart and soul since weeks for making the event such a big success. For the final year students, especially, the evening ended on a note of melancholy as the silhouettes of the trusses of the Backwaters stage gradually got absorbed in the lights of the wee hours of yet another morning of wandering clouds in the IIM K campus.

Raeth Band performing

 

Article written by: Noel Roychowdhury

Food Festival 2015 – A Lip-Smacking Carnival

God’s own Kampus may have bid farewell to Backwaters, but does that put an end to the festivities? No sire, not in a campus that’s always abuzz with a festival! But summer placements are over, and a heavy dose of business ethics is giving the 19ers some food for thought. Talking of food, an academic year on Kampus would be incomplete without a festival dedicated entirely to the celebration of the majesty that is the Indian Cuisine. Thus came the Mess Committee with its flagship event ‘Food Fest’ – to offer Komrades some meaty respite.

Getting ready for the Food Fest !

Getting ready for the Food Fest !

When numbers and PPTs are someone’s bread and butter, will making bread and butter be their cup of tea? Budding managers put away their scientific calculators for a day and put on their chef hats to prove their culinary mettle. Keeping up with the tradition of this ‘healthy’ competition, the six sections of PGP 19 decided to wage a war, and armed with ladles and spatulas of various sizes, thronged the mess kitchens to prepare mouth-watering delicacies ranging from Kathi Rolls to Murgh Biryani to Gajar ka Halwa.

Can you smell what the flock is cooking ? :)

Can you smell what the flock is cooking ? 🙂

Gracing the occasion were Ms. Abida Rasheed – a name that has become synonymous with Moplah cuisine from the Malabar region in Kerala, and Professor Manish. Before the visitors, which included both students and faculty, could even barely get enough of the finger-licking dishes, the stalls were a sell-out and people were found yearning for more.

Performances at Food Fest

Performances at Food Fest

Garnishing the night were performances by the Kampus’ own performers in the amphitheatre. The visitors soon turned into audience, tapping their feet to Footvibes’ dances and humming along when Krescendo struck a musical chord. The night concluded with Section F and A emerging victorious.

F section being presented the winner's trophy by Ms. Abida Rasheed

F section being presented the winner’s trophy by Ms. Abida Rasheed

Appetizing food, heart-thumping dances and soul-stirring music – the night had everything served on the platter.

Article written by: Vishaal Pathak

Mr Saurabh Mukherjea, CEO, Institutional Equities, AMBIT Capital on ‘What you can learn from the ongoing fiasco in Global Financial Markets!’

 

imgresSaurabh Mukherjea is a Head of Equities at Ambit Capital. Saurabh leads the Institutional equities business at Ambit Capital as Head of Equities. The Media Cell of IIM Kozhikode conducted a short interview with him as he made a visit to the ‘K’ampus to address our students in the Vertical Summit- 2015 organized by The Industry Interaction Cell.

Here is a snippet of a brief conversation with Mr Saurabh:

With the global equity markets taking a hit due to the Chinese slowdown, what is your outlook on the current global macro-economic scenario?

The period after the collapse of Lehman, i.e., the period between 2008-14 has seen unprecedented pumping of liquidity in the Global financial market. In these 6 years, my reckoning is close to 5-6  trillion dollars have been warranted by the four big Central Banks in the west. Now if you flood so much of money in any market, be it commodity market, property market or stock market, in all probability it is likely to go up. Now, logically it follows, if the liquidity tide recedes, i.e., if this money stops getting printed, as The Fed stopped doing it last year by and large you will observe markets falling down. This is something that has been happening of late in the global financial market.

With a plethora of startups being valued to unprecedented scale, there are speculations that we are fast approaching a valuation bubble burst. What is your take on that?

We have already seen this happening in America in 2000 when the economy was triggered down by the dot com crisis. To much extent we are going to see a repeat of this. We have numerous tech startups, social media startups and so on, where most of them would die and only a few would survive. I am not quite sure whether the problem is their inflated valuation. The problem as I perceive lies in the business model itself. The central debate is whether these startups have a business model which will ever make money because it is eventually the returns for which investors are putting in their money. And as the sentiments go, most of the investors now have already become very selective about investing in these startups.

The Indian markets have seen a huge dip in the past couple of weeks, reacting to the stuttering Chinese economy, where do you see this ending?                                                                                         

The problem with Indian markets is our business model just like many e-commerce start-ups is not very strong currently. The reason for that is, first, our banks are not willing to lend more due to their NPA’s. Second, there has been overcapacity situation in multiple industries, like cement and cement products, trucks, auto etc.  These two factors viz. oversupply situation and banks unwilling to lend to corporations and small businesses have stifled our economy currently.

Is there any particular sector or industry which will emerge strongly out of this volatile market?

There is no sector I am particularly interested currently. One has to choose fundamentally strong stocks. Companies with strong operating cash flow, high return on assets, strong revenue growth unique marketing strategy and business model, etc. are the ones to look out for. There are companies which are leading their respective industries and doing considerably well along these parameters.

What was the secret formula for your “coffee can portfolio” which is popularly known for outperforming the index during the economic crises of 2008-09?

We used only two screening formula for selecting strong stocks. One, return on invested capital should be greater than 15% over 10 year period, which infact is the average cost of capital for most industries. Second, revenue growth should be greater than 10% over 10 year period. Coupled together, we arrived at bunch of dozen stocks for investing. I believe these two criteria are one of the most fundamental-testing factors for any company.

There is a lot of enthusiasm among the students to start investing in the stock markets. Is there any specific tip you have for all those who are new to investing?

Students right now should only be focussing on reading voraciously from various sources and create a deep understanding of the economy and world, the different industries and their fundamental drivers, cyclicality etc. Thanks to technology like Kindle and apps, we have access to a plethora of instant information. Apart from online content, students should read “Investing -The last liberal Art”, “ India – A million mutinies now”,  Warren Buffet’s biography, “Wall Street Meat” and “Once upon Wall Street”.  Along with these one can create a mock portfolio and run it over one year to learn the intricacies, before finally investing.

 

Interview conducted by Koustav  and Aditya, Media Cell, IIM Kozhikode

“Come out of your comfort zone and dare to explore”, says Mr. Amit Gupta, Head of Product Management, Idea Cellular

In a hearty conversation post his lecture, Amit mentioned about Idea’s strategy for 4G, how Idea’s motive behind IIN ad-campaigning was similar to Facebook’s latest Internet.org campaign and ends with asking all Komrades to go beyond what they think their limits are.

Considering that the promises made by 3G have not been fulfilled yet, what is Idea Cellular’s viewpoint regarding the additional offerings of 4G and when are they planning to launch 4G, if at all.

4G is a new technology and it will take some time for the ecosystem that can support 4G to evolve. Right now the penetration of 3G is 18% and it has been in operation for almost 3 to 4 years. 4G speeds are more than double of 3G speeds. In case of absence of need for such speeds, Airtel has created the need by Airtel by targeting its broadband customers. When we are talking of 4G, it is not only for one handset device. Every person is going to have 3-4 smart devices like handset, watch, tab, laptop and when you have more than one device then only you need more data speed because speed is getting shared among devices. Secondly we are almost able to satisfy all our needs of net usage with 3G, so currently 4G is not a big story, it should evolve as one in the next 3 to 4 years, although Idea Cellular is launching 4G in 10 circles by December, 2015.

What was the idea behind IIN and who were your target customers?
Idea caters to mass market; we do not distinguish between our premium and rural customers. Despite the negative and positive feedbacks that have been generated throughout the country regarding IIN, it has received immense publicity and the message we tried to convey via this campaign is to harness the power of internet and this can be done by anybody. For the common man our message is use internet and see what all you can achieve, and for the premium segment we are promoting the other connotations of Internet usage which are subtle in nature. So we are basically trying to promote the power of the Internet; our thought process was similar to that behind Facebook’s internet.org which is aimed to connect all the 7 bn people across the world.

Marketing in the telecom sector is different from that in the other sectors. What are the typical challenges that you face?
In FMCG suppose, once you sell your product your relationship with that customer is closed, but in telecom sector, the relationship with the customer begins with the sale of the SIM. Because, unless the customer is doing monthly recharges, or is using the SIM, I cannot account for any revenue in that account. And if the relationship ceases to exist, I cannot earn a single penny from the customer. So the primary challenge is to sustain this relationship that is the retention of the customers. MNP has given freedom to the customers, however it has not exactly come across as a challenge for us because it has helped us attract the maximum number of customers. The major reason of churn is mostly to lower end operators because of price war and to higher end operators because of network, and this is a very big challenge. Other difficulties include monetizing our assets, which in our case is a tower or site. Because we spend around 10 to 15 lakhs on a tower so it is critical for us to get ROI which again is dependent on the number of customers using that tower including their data usage. And, one of the major setbacks in this is our low data penetration. So improving the data penetration is another major challenge.

How has your career progressed so far?      

I am the youngest general manager in Idea Cellular, been the fastest growing person in the organization. Within 3 years of joining, I was made the business head for a product and I never had to look back post this. I could increase the revenue for this product from INR 5 to 50 crore for which I was given the Chairman Award by Mr. Birla himself. This was a major turning point in my career and I was given the responsibility of the postpaid business. Summing up all this, I can say that my career has been very rewarding so far and the three reasons which can be sighted for this are the opportunities I have got to prove myself, my bosses who were influential business leads in the organization and of hard work.

Any message for IIM K students?
Do not limit yourself, your mindset or your thought process, only then will you know how much there is to learn. In todays’ world where u have access to so much information do not stick to your comfort zone,  because you never know where you might excel. I have seen that in my own life, I used to be an introvert, a graduate from SRCC, I took up projects in Finance and never even wanted to end up in Idea. , thoroughly enjoying the work that I do and with the career that I have had so far. So try to get exposure to every field, keep in mind your long term goals, have a look at the industry and then decide where you want to start your career.

 

Interview conducted by Noel Roychoudhury, Media Cell, IIM Kozhikode

“Do not come to consulting unless you aspire to be a partner”- Mr. Ram Periyagaram (Consulting Partner, PwC)

 Over twenty four years in the consulting industry with a considerable experience in the US, Mr. Periyagaram, in an interview with the Media Cell, shared his opinions about a variety of topics ranging from the GST to the crash of the China market to big data and its applications in the current context. He also provided valuable insights about survival strategies in the consulting industry which lead us to the question of whether or not to go for consulting sector.

 

As we speak today with the crash of the China market, what is your take on the current and near term future of the global economy?
In the long term, India needs to be cautious while still being optimistic. However in the short term, I think there is enough economic stability to sustain. And this is necessarily attributed to our RBI governor who has been instrumental in preserving the fundamentals of finance, from the regression standpoint the economy of the banking sector, the currency regulation – everything is under strict supervision and we can be assured that we are in good hands. Having said that, the macroeconomic conditions are still a concern for us, questions persist on decision making, problem solving and how these would impact our country.

How much impact does global economies of Europe, US, China have on the consulting sector?


The consulting market for US, UK, Australia and all such developed countries grow at 3-5% a year and are well matured and advanced. Acceptability of consulting is better because consultants are viewed as a means of addressing business problems and helping in the derivation of business values as opposed to the Indian scenario which needs some catching up in this context.

In today’s competitive scenario, how significant is the role of ethics in an organization?

Ethics is a centerpiece in any organization. Without ethics you cannot build relationships, you cannot generate trust and you cannot create a brand value. Today PwC as a brand could come out of the Satyam scam because our fundamentals are very strong and a few tainted folks could not tarnish the time tested worth that PwC stands for. Other firms might have collapsed completely in such a situation.

What is your say about GST considering that PwC is working closely with the Central Govt. in this?
According to my speculation, GST might not be rolled out until next year. I think it will bring huge opportunities for supply chain management consulting as well as in the tax advisory services. For example suppose I have started my business in Kerala and later I extended it to Ahmedabad, and all this while I did not apply my mind prudently about what can be the best network for providing services to my clients in Pune and Nasik since I had factories set up in Ahmedabad and Kerala. How GST helps in this context is, it allows you to take a step back and analyze holistically as to how to take advantage of the tax structure, how to rationalize and optimize the network of logistics, so as to service goods effectively in a consolidated way, which thus opens up opportunities for consulting firms for implementing this change.

Consulting has been one of the most coveted jobs in b-schools as compared to marketing, finance or operations. What do u think can be a plausible reason for that?

There can be two reasons behind this – either the students know about it or they don’t know about it. As far as I have seen, nine out of ten people have no idea about consulting, it seems to them that this sector is different from the others and they dive for it. But when they come and join, they find it to be entirely different from what they had perceived. I feel, consulting is not for everyone and if one does not aspire to be a partner in a consulting firm, one shouldn’t get into consulting. The path to become a partner is difficult too, as it requires a certain amount of attitude, strength of character, discipline, passion and aggression and one should have ample clarity about one’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

So what all skillsets are required to sustain in the consulting domain?
A person needs to have an inherent knack for problem solving and this means coming up with not just one, but three to four solutions for each problem. The thought process for taking up problem solving should be fundamental and voluntary. Also articulating the problem statement and approach to the solution to the client in a way that suits the agenda of both the stakeholders is a major concern. My challenge is to ensure that my company gets the deal and not my competition, and the client’s concern is that he has to trust on my company’s ability and capability to provide an optimized solution to the business problem. So this extend I need to tell and sell my story.
So ideally having analytical skills, a problem solving mentality, clarity in communication and the ability to think on the fly are some of the key traits required to survive in the consulting domain.

If someone is averse to travelling and would rather prefer doing a desk job, then should he/she be recommended for consulting?
Not necessarily, but then reiterating on what I said earlier, success in consulting firms comes to those who can learn, adapt and progress with the traits I mentioned, including flexibility to travel and being open minded.

What are the characteristics that you look for in an individual while recruitment?

During recruitment, we look at the attitude and intent of the individual and the level of curiosity and aggression that is displayed by him/her. We try to find out whether he/she has been involved in solving problems, either in professional or personal life. Overall, we try to judge a person on the basis of the characteristics mentioned earlier to figure out whether he/she is suited for the organization.

Is there a predominance of big data based projects in the consulting sector?
Having gathered ample experience in data analytics, my take on big data is, it is a myth, it is a hype. People use the term ‘big data’ right, left and center, like a few years back, when people used to say “transformation” for everything they wanted to do. In India at least, any industry is trying to rechristen whatever they are doing to big data. The situation is something like this: you are in a room crowded with executives, the world is filled with a buzz about big data and none of them want to admit that they are not doing anything related to big data, whereas in reality they are actually doing something with data. Big data is a myth and a misnomer in the sense that, you don’t have real use cases in the industry. From whatever little I have understood about the theoretical aspect of big data, it is about the volume, the velocity, and the variety of data. But one needs to find a real business use case where all these can be optimized. Say for example, the telecom industry has large customer data and I want to analyze text messages. Now what is the benefit of analyzing this to the company? Does the company really want to invest in this project from the ROI point of view? Typically R&D is the only sector to address such cases but the depth and purpose of research remains unjustified if there are no industrial test cases available for application.

How can someone be equipped with the necessary skillsets required to be retained in the consulting sector?
My suggestion is to pick one or two good industry mentors for guiding you professionally. These will be the people who would back you and with whom you can be open and honest. Once or twice a year you can share insights about how your career is going and try to extract some feedback and suggestions for improvement. It will also add to your benefit if these leaders are well recognized in the industry. Nowadays most of the companies allocate buddies or mentors but according to me these mentors should preferably be someone from the industry, someone outside your organization.

How has your career progressed to have brought you at the helm of an internationally acclaimed firm like PwC?
My career has progressed by learning and adapting based on many failures that I have gone through. I was in the US for around ten years and while it offered me great perspective about the consulting world, on retrospect I feel that at that time, I was not prepared for it. I was unaware of what I was keen to do and I lacked the seriousness and maturity to assimilate the mantras of having a career in consulting. However, with time, I learnt by keeping myself updated and connecting with the real world.

What are the readings that you would suggest to an MBA student?
Consulting is a knowledge based industry, and you have to find for yourself the domain in which you have your passion and interest towards. For example, some people like manufacturing because they have family business, and they can understand and relate the various facets. Likewise, if you know what you are good at, if you align your thoughts towards a particular area of interest, delve deeper into it. Learn about the fundamentals of those domains so well and deep that you become a master. For example, if you are interested in banking, you have to know not just traditional banking systems, but about the current vital trends in banking like payments, credit cards, digitalization in banking etc. You need to be inquisitive and find out what are the use cases which are vital in the global as well as Indian markets and you need to study those use cases.

How do you think a professional degree in management helps in consulting?

See, there is no straight line route from where you start to where you want to end your career. Because, many external factors are involved in your career advancement. A management degree definitely enhances you with the skillset that might be required to be a good consultant. But along with that, you need to introspect, ideally after every three years, and evaluate where you are, whether you are good for the company, whether the company is good for you and based on that realign your career path and progress towards your objective.

Any message for IIM-K students.

When you are appearing for the recruitment process, do lot of due diligence, surprise them by showing that you know more about the company than what they say. Secondly, have this problem solving mindset and know how to present your story to the client. Today, my failure is when my daughter asks me what I do for my living, I am at a loss of words, if I tell her I solve business problems, she would not be able to relate to that. Likewise, develop the skill to articulate your thoughts with clarity and to present that in a way in which the audience is able to connect to it.

Interview conducted by Noel and Tushaar – Media Cell