Sunday, February 24, 2008

The African Diaries - Prologue

I'm just back from East Africa after a 12 day trip which I managed to spend mostly in hotels and restaurants. I had intended to spend time in the bush but I couldn't find it. It might have been that the hostile natives were determined to keep its location a secret. Then again, The Rouge Bar in Kampala might not have been the right place to start looking. Either way, Africa kept that little secret with her. In its place, I made another discovery, no less momentous, that sequentially consuming 4 shots of a liqueur named Zappa will disconnect the motor nerves responsible for controlling one's legs. I realize I am speaking in riddles and that you, dear reader, are itching to clout me one on the cerebellum (but you don't know my address, ha ha ha) so without further ado, I shall pitch into my great epic.

Four score and seven years ago... oops, wrong speech .... a couple of weeks ago, some of us were having a working lunch and purely out of scientific motives, one of us ordered beer. My mates (I'll call them Tom and George) declared that Africa would be the next engine of growth for the world economy. One thing led to another and before I knew what was happening, I had signed up for a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia.

I had a personal problem. I had not cleared this with my immediate superior at home and I spent most of my time on the ride back thinking of plausible explanations. The I.S. (immediate superior) conceals, behind a petite appearance, a keen nose for funny business and is extremely un-Gandhian when I try to pull a fast one. So I decided to tell her the truth. "Sweetheart" I said "Africa is the engine for world growth". "You've been drinking beer", she diagnosed. "True, my angel" I replied, "but not germane to the issue"

She gave me the look and I suddenly found that truth had vanished from my lips. "Er, Tom and George have this really important assignment in Africa and are begging me to accompany them so that I may contribute my valuable insights."

You, dear reader, are a person of breeding and you do not want to know the contents of the speech that the I.S. delivered on this occasion. Suffice it to say that it lasted 15 minutes and melted a considerable amount of earwax. But the conclusion was "Do as you please" and I wasted no time in shinning up the attic for the old Samsonite.......

Friday, February 8, 2008

Frozen in Mumbai

I'm a great believer in intuition and personal insight. My intuition and personal insight is that the temperature in Mumbai is -27 degrees. I know, I know, the thermometer says 9.6 Celsius but I think it is a great imperialist plot to lull the Indian public into a false sense of security. Even as we speak, CIA agents are shooting large beams of infra red radiation to melt the snow. According to my neighbor Mr. Shah, the world is tilting rapidly and very soon, the north pole will be where Srinagar is now and Mumbai will have the climate of Oslo. Mr. Shah knows everything. He knows when the market will go up, when it will go down, how much money the Finance Minister is eating, who will be the next Miss Universe, how many feet the sea levels will rise when the ice caps melt, when this will happen, which buildings in Versova, Mumbai will be submerged, how much the Nano will actually cost when it is launched, the share holding pattern of the Reliance group. Everything, except the fact that Wendy, their Pomeranian, is making out with a brown mongrel on the street outside. I don't want to tell him that, he'll probably have a heart attack. I don't want him to go just now. He's going to tell me his theory of how Jesus Christ and Buddha are the same person. It is based on the fact that Mary Magdalene, Christ's disciple was a prostitute and Amrapali of Magadha, the Buddha's disciple, was a prostitute too, and that Magdalene means from Magadha and hence Christ and Buddha are the same person, which means that Christ was buried in Kashmir.

As you will doubtless agree, this winter has frozen some brains too.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Best B-School in the World

The other day there was this article in FT Business Standard about the 100 best B-schools in the world. Only one school from India made it to the list and that was The Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. To the great consternation of the IIMs A, B,C, L, K, and twenty one other alphabets, XLRI, FMS Delhi, SPJIMR and NSSFLMISMQG (Narendra Shenoy School For Losing Money in Stock Market Quickly and Gracefully - New school, but very good at what it specializes in).

Angry questions were asked about methodology, period of existence, how many of their graduates own Beemers, how many have shifted paradigms lately and so on. We thought we should shed some light on this fascinating and controversial topic, namely

What makes a B-school great?

To answer this question, we must ask another question. Why do people go to B-School? Any one? Yes you, who look like the before guy in a deo commercial, what do you think? To get a high paying job, did you say? Close, but no cigar, as Bill Clinton told the intern they had to hire after it was found that Lewinsky had stained her reputation. (Blot on her escutcheon, as one authority put it. But we digress.)

See people, the purpose behind going to a B-school is not to land a high paying job. It is to land a high paying job with no duties and responsibilities. Alas, there are not enough of these around, and the competition for them can be intense. One of the major factors that employers consider when making such preferments is which B-school you went to.

Now you might think that a job with no duties and no responsibilities would need no formal qualification but you would be making a mistake. Such a job carries the enormous challenge of having to look stressed out and busy while being blissfully unoccupied.

There are many techniques for doing this. One is meetings. A good B-school will teach you how to sleep without closing your eyes. Indeed, the best B-schools even teach their graduates how to sleep without pausing in speech.

All the while, you will be frowning intensely and saying things like "paradigm shift". Paradigms are things that are shifted when your company is going down the drain. No one knows how these things are shifted. Definitely not by hiring a moving firm. But you don't have to worry about these details. You just have to suggest that a few paradigms be shifted. Your Christmas Bonus is secured.

The other major criterion is how many of the B-school's alumni have landed such jobs. Cutting edge corporate theory is that a B-school alumnus will hire someone from his or her alma mater. No one knows why this is so. Speculation is that there is a deep-rooted primal fear in all MBAs that someday every one will know how ignorant they are. This is probably true. Though there are takers for the other theory namely that the average B-school grad does not have enough brain cells to remember TWO B-school names.

Anyway, the purpose behind this little lecture was just to orient your minds to this deep and fascinating field of research inasmuch as the relevant parameters of the global market economy and the sub-prime crisis do not impinge upon the five year moving average of the adjusted Dow Jones Index unless there are significant paradigm shifts in multilateral directions. Bullshit, did you say? We prefer to call it bovine digestive residue.