Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Sorry, we goofed up!"

Those may not be the exact words used but two reputed Indian bschools have now acknowledged errors in their admissions procedure and made amends.

The Symbiosis group received a good deal of flak for lack of transparency in its SNAP exam. Most students complained of 'less marks' than expected and wanted to see the answer key to understand where they went wrong.

I wrote to Symbiosis asking for their side of the story and was promised a reply by Jan 21. But none ever came.

Well the latest development is that Symbiosis has come out with scorecards again after revaluation. Says Ankit Doshi, "A lot of students are now getting marks that they actually deserved in the first place".

The result is that they will honour interveiw calls for students who have already been given calls. They will also send out calls to students who make the grade after the revaluation.

IMI Delhi is another institute which took heed of the hue and cry raised by the student community. This bschool had assigned a very low weightage to CAT score (only 40%) and given a lot of importance to class 10 and 12 marks without 'normalising' scores across various boards.

IMI has now changed its selection procedure and come out with a revised list.

Says Ankit, "Whether the new procedure is ideal or no i dont know. But one thing is for sure that they have a lot of courage!"

I wish IIM Ahmedabad would also address the issue of normalisation... Because admitting a mistake only raises the stature of any individual or institution!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Where are the jobs?

More than 6 million Chinese students left university last year and up to a quarter are still struggling to find work.

Another six million will graduate this year and they're going to find it even tougher. Economic conditions are to blame, of course, but there is a more fundamental issue.

"The number of graduates increased too quickly - by 2006 there were already five times more than in 1999. The labour market can't take that big an increase in such a short time," said Professor Yang Dongping of the Beijing Institute of Technology, the author of a report on graduate employment.

China's successfully expanded higher education in recent years. Too successfully perhaps, says BBC News.

About 6% of the workforce has been to university, far fewer than in many developed countries, but there are still not yet enough high-end jobs for graduates to do here.

Higher expectations are clashing with the deteriorating economic reality, says the Guardian. I think much the same is happening in India.

We currently have 1600 engineering colleges and 1200 odd bschools - all of which churn out graduates suffering from expectation mismatch. In the boom period, even the third rung colleges would manage to attract some employers.

But in the slowdown, the creme de la creme itself appears to be gasping for air. Top bschools are sending out placement brochures to tiny firms. Alums are bemused,"Kya haalat itni buri hai?". Anecdotal evidence would suggest so (although a complete picture will only emerge by the end of next month).

"XYZ cola major came to campus and offered 3 lakhs per annum," says an agitated final year student at one of India's best known bschools. He can't imagine expecting *such* a low offer. It's an insult.

But what is low, really? A microfinance position has become a serious option at a top bschool. The job content is good and a paypacket of Rs 10 lakhs looks generous to me. Magar students cannot help recalling that the average last year was Rs 14 lakhs p.a.

"We realise salaries will be lower this year but still, it's hard to accept...!"

And more so, because you've shelled out fees ranging from Rs 6-11 lakhs and will soon have EMIs hanging over your head.

Luckily, we have the 'social security' of living with parents :)

But seriously, I'd like to hear from any of you guys out there graduating this year, what the mood on campus is like. More than hard statistics I want anecdotes, incidents, what junta is talking about.

How you and your batchmates are dealing with the situation, what are your hopes and dreams for the near future.

You can add your comments below, or if you'd like to remain anonymous, mail me at rashmi_b at yahoo.com. The inputs you provide will be used by JAM magazine for an upcoming cover feature titled - you guessed it - 'Where are the jobs?'

Sorry, we're not sorry - II

This morning Indian Express has reported that one year after the MNS attacks on taxi drivers from outside Maharashtra, not a single chargesheet has been filed in any of the 84 cases registered.

That is because the state government has not given the sanction to go ahead and prosecute Thackeray despite repeated reminders from the police. And I quote:

A senior state government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unlikely Thackeray would ever be chargesheeted. Instead, the police might be asked to convert the cases into “A Summary”, he said, referring to a legal classification which means the case is true but undetected and ultimately closed.

Methinks the media needs to grill the Maharashtra CM and home secretary on TV about lapses like this, rather than providing the loony fringe a platform.

Sorry, we're not sorry!

Three very agitated women tried their best to get Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik to admit on CNN IBN's Face the Nation that he has no adhikaar to decide what is 'Indian culture'.

Sadly, they failed. They failed because you cannot use reason or logic with a man who wishes to give a memorandum to the Karnataka CM and police requesting them not to allow the celebration of 'Valenteens Day'.

"Agar.. agar.. agar police aapke memorandum par act nahin ki to aap kya karenge.." sputtered Sagarika Ghose, in shock and excitement.

Muthalik will 'request' shopkeepers not to sell cards as it leads their mas and behens astray.

"Aapko kaun adhikaar deta hai bhartiya sanskriti ke thekedaar banne ka", thundered the true-blue English news anchor, frantically trying to string together thoughts in Hindi.

Yes, talking of 'setting the agenda' at the very least he got CNN IBN to hold a half hour discussion with him in the rashtrabhasha!

The truth is yesterday Muthalik was a nobody. Today he got half an hour on prime time television to loftily declare that "hazaaron lakhon log hamara saath de rahe hain".

If I were a politician looking to make a 'national launch' I would run to the nearest pub, beat up a few women and send the tape to all news channels.

Then I would powder up and wait for my turn to beam to the camera and declare,"2008 mein Feb 14 ko Mumbai mein aath ladkiyon ke upar atyachar hua.. aur Dilli mein 17 ladkiyon par!"

Yes, there are voices which say 'fight back' but it is one thing to join a group on Facebook and another to actually fight back when a bunch of hooligans try to tear off your clothes.

Wish you all a happy Valenteens Day.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Finansial Atyachar

I twisted my ankle the other day and went to buy Relispray.

"How much," I asked.

"Rs 100", said the chemist.

My daughter butted in,"Is se chhota size nahin hai?"

The guy returned with a smaller version and we paid sixty bucks.
"See,"she beamed."We saved forty rupees."

Her logic was that I don't need twist my ankle everyday, so the smaller can should be fine.

The next day she stepped out of the bath and declared,"I used soap today and it is nice."

Not that I don't know the benefits of soap but over the last couple of years we've switched to shower gels. Bas yun hi. Now my nine year old declares that the good old sabun ki batti is cheaper - and lasts longer!

What surprised me was how sensitive she's become about the need to 'save money'. Almost like she is reacting to the current economic scenario.

Now technically Nivedita does not read business newspapers or track the stock market. Neither have I overtly communicated the idea to her. But something in the air is telling her.. times are tough.

Sadly, the folks at Wall Street who've created this giant, gaseous global MESS don't get it. That is clear from two recent pieces of news:

* Despite the current crisis, Wall Street paid itself bonuses worth $ 18.4 billion in 2008. Yahoo finance reports:

That pool is down 44% from the prior year but still represents the sixth-largest bonus haul on record, according to the NY State comptroller's office.

No wonder Obama went ballistic!

* Nero was playing his fiddle while Rome was burning. John Thain, CEO of Merrill Lynch was busy remodelling his office and deliberating on the colour of his $ 87,000 rug.

Thain was ousted last week by Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis after Merrill Lynch posted an 'unexpectedly' large loss in the fourth quarter. Well we certainly expect no less from these frou frou financial whizkids!

I am no expert on the current crisis at Wall Street but last week I happened to attend a talk by Prof Marti Subrahmanyam, Charles E. Merrill Professor of Finance and Economics in the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Of the many wise and wonderful insights he shared one comment stuck with me. The good professor remarked that in recent times financial instruments had become so complex that most of the people trading these products (such as CDOs) had no idea what they were buying and selling.

"They may as well have been trading onions or potatos," he stated.

I have taken the liberty of applying that analogy to the crisis as whole and this is how ridiculous it looks...

I am a trader in the Azadpur sabzi mandi. I deal in potatos but I don't really know what potatos look like. Neither do I know what they smell like or taste like.

But someone has told me these are potatos and I trust that guy. Actually even he does not know what potatos look like but someone told him these are good quality potatos...

And so it goes. What kills me is that these were supposedly the smartest people, the 'best talent money could buy'. The people who are trained in the whole art and science of harvesting money on the financial farms of Wall Street.

And none of them had a clue. What's more, they are now happy to hide behind a convenient scarecrow.

Daniel Gross of Newseek, reporting from Davos, has a telling piece on why the world's economic leaders blame the catastrophe on the system instead of themselves.

For centuries, historians have debated whether history is propelled by Great Men (and Women), human forces of nature who bend events and systems to their will, or by vast impersonal forces (communism, capitalism, globalization) that render even the most powerful of us a mere reed basket floating in a massive river.

There's no session on the subject at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But at least with regard to finance and business, the consensus seems to be clear: Success is the work of Great Men and Great Women, while failure can be pinned on the system.

People make mistakes, sure. But as Nicholas Taleb, author of 'The Black Swan' noted recently, we can't have a system where profits are privatised and losses socialised.

If the industry is to get a massive bailout they better learn to tell their onions from their potatos. And good potatos from bad ones.

And meanwhile, all ye farmers, tauba tera bonus, tauba teri car...
Methinks you deserve some finansial atyachaar!

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