Sunday, November 30, 2008


The brazen attack on Mumbai is just the latest in a string of attacks on India that are growing bolder by the day. The pictures of terrorists walking around the lobbies of Taj, Oberoi and the Trident, flashing a smile while unleashing carnage with their automatic rifles and grenades are etched in the minds of all of us, Indians. Mumbai has been a target of terrorists attacks in the past and it has always managed to bounce back in no time. The "Spirit of Mumbai" - getting on with life as if nothing happened - has been appreciated so much that it has become stuff of legends. Dare I say, we have always mistook the helplessness of Mumbaikars to be the "Spirit of Mumbai".

Some of the hostages speaking out on TV tell tales of the terrorists laughing while spraying bullets at the helpless hostages. This is beyond my comprehension. I can comprehend a person being angry about Kashmir or about India's proximity to the west but what can drive a person to grab an automatic rifle and shoot innocent civilians is something that I will never ever understand.

Although anything concrete is yet to emerge from the tough stance displayed by India, but it is a welcome development to see the response of the Government. The demand made to Pakistan to send the ISI chief to India showed their resolve. It is true that Pakistan is also a victim of terror but we should be able to separate the different forces at work. Pakistan's conflict is with the Al-Qaeda groups in its North West Frontier that wish to unleash terror in the interior. Pakistan is not concerned about the groups like Lashkar which are not out to create disturbance in Pakistan but are out to destroy India. Faces of terror like Dawood Ibrahim and the leader of Lashkar-e-Toiba roam freely in the heart of Pakistan, often under security cover provided by the Government.

There are a million things that the Government could do to prevent a repeat of an attack of this magnitude. The biggest failure was that of intelligence. It is impossible and unacceptable to believe that the police had no inkling of such an attack. Also, the coast guard is a joke and we cannot count on them to keep our coasts safe. At the same time, the fact that we had to fly in NSG from Delhi to flush out 10 terrorists in Mumbai is a scary reminder that our local law
enforcement is not in a position to deal with the new age threats.

In my opinion, the first course of action should be a cash reward and provision of a safe haven for anyone who gives information that leads to discovery of weapon staches and prevention of attacks. This I find is sorely lacking today. An attack of this magnitude takes involvement of tens if not hundreds of people and all we would need to foil this attack is for one of the members involved to be motivated by the cash reward. Also, we need an overhaul of the whole intelligence system which is clearly incapable of protecting us from the threat that we are faced with.

I have no doubts that India will recover from the attacks as it always has - mostly because there is no other choice. The overwhelming majority of Indians are sensible enough to understand the situation and not let the heightened communal forces tear them apart. From the news programs, it is clear that we are sick and tired of divisional politics and I hope this serves as a warning for idiots like Raj Thackerey and Narendra Modi who bank on creating divisions within us.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

ISB Admit

This post comes more than a week after I found out the great news - I have been admitted into the Indian School of Business - Class of 2010. ISB had promised that the results would be out "on or before Nov 20" and true to their word, the results were out around 9PM on the 20th.

ISB is the first and so far, the only Business school that I have applied to. My attitude post-interview could be best described as "nervously optimistic". I felt that I had a good diverse background and I knew that I had confidently addressed the biggest question marks during my interview. At the same time, knowing some of the details about the fantastic pool of applicants that ISB was choosing from, I could not be sure.

I got the admission letter by mail today and I have read it 3 times already. It is such a fantastic feeling ... I dont think I can put it in words. Now I cant wait for April 12th!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Interview - Indian School of Business

Sept 2008 - Applied to Indian School of Business ... an emerging business school based in Hyderabad.I was shortlisted for the interview which was set for Nov 8.

Panel: 2 alumni and 1 member from admissions

This is how the interview went:

  • Why do you want to do a MBA?

    I was quite clear about my reasons behind wanting to do a MBA. I had quite a varied work experience working in many different functions within my company. I had acquired many skills and I was looking to develop a holistic view of business. Also, I wanted to fill in the gaps in my skill set. I told them that I was at cross-roads in my career, either continue in my path taking strides and getting promoted every alternate year, or opt for a MBA and make a leap. I preferred the leap. The panel was satisfied with my response.

  • You just have 2.5 years of work experience, dont you think you will benefit from more before you do your MBA?

    I was anticipating this question and I was prepared with a response. I talked about my part time work experience from 12th grade onwards. I had continued to work my way through college and I developed fiscal responsibility, planning etc as a result of the limited income and huge expenses. I stressed on why I consider my work experience to be 5+ years and not just the 2-3 since college. In my opinion, this was the single biggest factor against my candidature and I was glad I could make my case in a convincing manner.

  • What is the ideal company that you would like to work for?

    McKinsey. I got smiles from the panel. I guess it is a common answer.

  • What about that company do you admire?

    I talked about the commitment that McKinsey has for adding maximum value to their customers. I read their reports on a frequent basis and they are always well researched and top notch in all ways. They share these with their clients. I was also impressed by the clientèle that they cater to. I named a few examples which scored me some points with the panel because I demonstrated some depth behind my response. I also told them that I had applied for a position with them last year and I had been rejected. I was in two minds whether I should share that last piece of information, but I took the rejection in my stride and I had no issues sharing it with the panel.

  • You have a better chance of getting into that company if you go for a US MBA. Why do you want to choose ISB?

    This was a tough one to answer. I am also considering US MBAs and I honestly had very little reason to choose ISB over a similar colleges elsewhere. It was the learning that I was after and not really the place. But, I did love working in India so far and I would love to continue here. ISB being the best in India was an easy choice.

  • I see on your application that you have a degree in economics, you must be following the financial crisis closely. In your opinion, what are the 3 biggest causes for the crisis that we see today?

    Ah. I was prepared for questions on the crisis but not directly for this. I asked for a second to gather my thoughts. I responded with failure in credit capability checks of mortgage applicants, failure of rating agencies in detecting the risk early and the Govt. letting Lehman fail. Not the best response, but will do. Obviously the panel was not looking for a Warren Buffet like response, just a response that shows I am in the know of the latest updates.

  • What is Capital Adequacy Ratio? Definition.

    I was not sure of the text book definition. I did not want to blabber on so I admitted the same to the panel. I ventured a guess that turned out to be quite close to the definition.

  • What is your take on Barack Obama?

    I was glad to hear Obama's name. I had followed the elections very closely and I was a proponent of Obama from day 1 of his campaign. I told the same to the panel. It is tough not to be impressed by the way he has overcome all the hurdles in his path (race, lack of pedigree, experience etc) with grace. His positive campaign was a welcome change and he did not stoop to negative campaigning even though his opponents were. I believe his message of change truly resonated with the american voters. Hillary was his toughest competitor and he had the presidency secured the minute he got the democratic nomination. He was successful in labeling McCain as Bush - Term 3 which secured his presidency.

  • If present day Obama had contested against George Bush in 2000, would he have won the vote?

    Good question. I asked the panel if they meant Obama of 2008 or 2000. They made it easy for me by saying 2008 - the current day Obama. Without much thought, I told the panel that I was sure Obama would have won the race. I remember the 2000 campaign and the race was extremely close between the two parties. It basically came down to who is more personable (Bush) and Florida (Bush). Obama is a lot more charming than Al Gore and also in 2008, Obama secured a sizeable majority in Florida - both factors that lead me to believe Obama would triumph. I was proud of this response.

  • How would Obama's campaign have fared in those circumstances?

    Obviously, the message of change would not resonate with the voters of 2000. The economy was great, no major wars, terrorism was yet to rear its ugly head and overall, things were awesome. Obama would have changed his campaign to reflect the times and would have to focus on continuing more of the Clinton policies and implement tighter fiscal responsibility. Satisfied with my response on this.

  • You have mentioned that you have a collection of quotes. What is your favorite?

    My mind went blank. I had mentioned sports, travel etc but they chose the quotes. I stumbled for a minute or two and told them something from "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance"- Areté implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life, and a consequent dislike of specialization. It implies a contempt for efficiency...or rather a much higher idea of efficiency, an efficiency which exists not in one department of life but in life itself.

  • Any quotes from Indian authors?

    Couldnt think of any at that moment. After the interview, I had 100s running through my head.

  • Any telugu quotes?

    Told the panel that I could not read/ write telugu. I regret that and I would like to fix that ASAP. Honestly, I need to work on this! Any willing teachers?

  • Do you have any questions for the panel?

    Asked them a couple. Somehow we ended up discussing about the new ISB campus in Mohali that will be operational in a couple of years.
Overall, I thought I interviewed quite well. I felt quite relaxed and I could confidently allay all of the questions that panel had on the "weaknesses" in my application. I got a lot of help the night before from my parents and that helped me a great deal. It was almost like my mom knew what exactly I was going to be asked. She predicted almost all of the big questions the night before.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he'd stuck it out.
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are -
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.

Advice from Ambani

If you have the belief to choose your road
If you have the courage to stay on it
If you have the conviction to surmount the rough stretches
If you will find the road begins to follow you

-- Dhirubai Ambani

Loss and Gain

When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,
Little room do I find for pride.

I am aware
How many days have been idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.

But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?
Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow