Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crocodile Dandi

Violent attacks against Indian students in Australia have made headlines in India this week. It started with Times Now making the case of Shravan Kumar a prime time issue - not for a day, but over the entire week. Now, it's been taken up across the Indian media.

And many more such stories are tumbling out of the closet. Baljinder Singh was stabbed last week while Rajesh Kumar suffered 30 per cent burns after a petrol bomb was hurled at him - in his home - in Sydney.

Actually, back in March, the Economic Times had reported on this issue as follows:

The growing number of attacks on Indian students in Australia has become a big cause for concern at the Indian High Commission in Canberra. A senior diplomat at the High Commission told ET that in the last six months, there have been 500 cases of assault on Indian students, registered by the police authorities across Australia.

FIVE HUNDRED attacks and it did not make a ripple in India. And students too sat silent, I think because of two reasons:
a) Once you've invested in an education in Australia, you want to complete it - no matter what.
b) You know your own government will do nothing for you apart from lip service. So why make a fuss?

As a panelist observed on Times Now, "If a government does not care for the safety of its citizens abroad, why should the host nation?"

Well, in this case, because of economic interests. Indian students are cash cows for Australian universities- they've been heading Down Under in ever larger numbers over the last few years. Why?

Well, Australia is perceived as being cheaper than the US and friendlier than the UK. It's also relatively easy to get admission.

While Australia does attract some high achievers the general profile is the kid with average marks and above average bank balance. Business families, kids of corporate executives, well-to-do farmers. And the Oz-exodus is fuelled by a concerted marketing effort - in the media and at the grassroots level.

Canadian newspaper reports: Joyta Gupta, principal of K.R. Mangalam World School, a private school in central New Delhi says she and some of her teachers and students have been flown by the Australian government to cities such as Brisbane and Sydney to take part in seminars, a move Gupta said has made students more inclined to go to Australia to pursue diplomas and degrees.

One fourth of the graduates from the school go abroad to study every year.

Then there are students from smaller towns who would rather go phoren than settle for a B or C grade college in an metro town. And increasingly there are middle class Indians heading for foreign shores, with the help of loans.

Incidentally, hospitality, management and commerce courses are the most popular options.

So all in all, 95,000 Indians joined Australian universities in in 2008, making us the second largest foreign student group in the country after China. In fact, the education sector generated $15.5 billion in 2008 and has become Australia’s “third largest export industry” after coal and iron ore.

The Australian government was planning a $3.5-million campaign to attract more Indian students. But they'll need to use those funds more constructively now!

I have never been to Australia but the impression I have of the country is friendly and easy-going. No doubt there are anti-social elements in any and every society. And some who would be racist in their outlook.

But is the situaton getting aggravated by the current economic situation?

The report in ET noted: There are fears that such incidents of muggings, theft, racial abuse, car jackings and even murder are on the increase because of the economic meltdown and loss of jobs.

Last year Australia changed its visa rules, giving Indian students studying in Australia automatic eligibility to work part time during their courses. Earlier you had to seek permission to work as a student.

Some years ago it was next to impossible to stay on and work in Australia after completing your degree. Unless you had skills which were classified by the government as 'shortage' area. So MBAs and journalism graduates, for example, had to head straight back home.

But more recently I believe there is an option called the 'Skilled-Graduate (subclass 485) visa, valid for 18 months and carrying unrestricted work rights.
Foreign students who may not be eligible for permanent residency can apply for this visa and get some work experience.

I'm sure these graduates are willing to work harder and longer than locals - and maybe even at lower salaries. This could be a source of tension for locals in a dwindling job market.

So, what happens now? Will the flow of Indian students to Australia get affected?

I think it will, in the short term. 'Sentiment' thoda down ho jayega. And the attitude of the authorities - so far - has not been very convincing. Last month the Melbourne police asked young Indians to “moderate their social behavior,” by not making conspicuous displays of wealth, such as laptop computers (seriously - no jokes!)

The country which will benefit the most from all this is Singapore. Safety is assured in that country - and the economics of getting an education are similar to Australia. In fact many Australian universities have 'branches' in Singapore and "there is a view that Australian institutions should make more courses available in India, which students can attend at home".

Ahem. Firstly we need to pass a bill in Parliament to legally allow that to happen. And secondly, I think for many many students going abroad will still be the preferred option.

'Education' is not just about attending a college but the whole experience of a new culture and its people. Kids who have never picked up a glass of water in their own home learn to cook their own meals. My cousin who drove to college in his car went to America and happily worked at a gas station.

So - I am all for studying abroad - wherever. But safety and civility are things we can and must expect from the host country.

Let's hope the issue which has exploded in Australia is taken seriously and resolved quickly! And it is nipped in the bud... if simmering elsewhere.

Related articles: Student taxi drivers, visas and immigration

Friday, May 29, 2009

Engineering aspirants - call in with your queries

Engineering entrance is the subject of my show 'Stay Hungry' where I answer career queries on business news channel UTVi every Friday (that's this evening!)

If you're an engineering aspirant, Call UTVi on 022 40987300 and leave your name, number and question. We'll call you back! The show will be on this evening at 7 pm - live.

Joining me in the studio is Praveen Tyagi, founder and MD of IITians Pace Academy, and a graduate of IIT Delhi himself.

Apart from IIT - where seats have increased this year by 20% - there are numerous very fine institutes like BITs, NITs and also local and regional colleges of repute. And of course there are fundamental questions such as should you go for a branch of your choice or take a lesser branch in a well reputed college,

Slowdown or not, engineering remains a top choice for undergraduate education in India. A record number appeared for IIT JEE this year (384, 977 students!) which is a jump of 24% over the previous year.

Whether all these students really should be doing engineering is another question. One which I shall attempt to answer - on another show, another day!

And oh, if you can't get through to the Call UTVi number for any reason - just drop me a line with your contact details at rashmi_b at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Look back in hunger

There is a song in the 'Sound of Music' which goes like..."Somewhere in my youth, or childhood... I must have done something good!"

The lines popped into my head as I read the piece Saaz Aggarwal wrote in this week's Sunday Mid-day on my book 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish'. I was blown away to know that she remembers me from the days when I visited newspaper offices as a student, a freelance writer hungry for my next byline.

Reading that piece I felt like not just my book, but my life had been reviewed. It's like... things are meant to happen in a certain time and space sequence. Nothing is for nothing. Even if it makes no sense - even to you -at a particular point in time.

And as Malcolm Gladwell says in The Outliers, it truly is about putting in your 10,000 hours in a particular career - before you 'make it'.

Will elaborate more on that in a future blog post, but here's a scan of the review as it appeared (click to enlarge). For some reason I can't find it on the Midday website :(

Thank you, Saaz for understanding the spirit behind the book. For silently cheering me on, and writing it all so beautifully! This was a 'blast from the past' which truly made me day!

The best coaching class for CAT

If you'd enrolled for CAT coaching in 2008 or are taking classes right now, do spare a few minutes to fill out a small survey for JAM.

Results will be published - for the benefit of those who need to make a decision!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Career Question of the Week - II

Another Monday, another career dilemma I throw open to the readers. Here goes:

My name is AG and I am a Commerce Graduate (B.Com), from Bangalore University. I have been working for a medim-sized firm (Family Business) for the past 3 years now. After completing my under-graduation in 2004, I worked for the BPO division of Infosys for about 11 months but due to irregular and odd working hours as well as objection from the family, quit and of began assisting in the family business which is a dealership firm in electrical wires.

It is a partnership between my father and his older brother. For the past 3 years, although I have been a part of it, I have always wanted a professional (corporate) career, preferably in Finance or Financial Management.

As a result, I have been planning for a Masters programme overseas. I have researched extensively about Universities and programmes in Finance in the U.K. I have taken up the IELTS and have a 7.5 overall in it. Some Universities also require a GMAT score,especially the top ones but I do not have a score as of now.

Essentially, I want to acquire a Masters qualification and only then hit the job market because I know for a fact that with mere under-graduate degree, my chances of getting a respectable job with a decent starting salary are very slim.

Initially, I had also contemplated a 2 year MBA in India and was interested in the CAT as well. However, with the fierce competitive scene in India for MBA seats in the top B-Schools and a half-hearted interest, I did not consider it seriously. Moreover, the thought of international exposure and perspective and a one year programme in a reputed Univerity in the United Kingdom has from the very beginning appealed to me. Therefore, I had initiated my research a good while ago.

Presently, with the global economic slowdown and a recessionary job market (no or reduced fresh hiring/recruitment), it is being said that this is the best time to acquire an additional qualification and enhance skill-sets. I have a very profound dilemma in this regard and seek advice and guidance for a bright future.

My dilemma is whether:

I should go to the U.K for a one year Taught Masters programme in Finance or Financial Management, which is my domain of interest with the programme beginning in Sept/Oct 2009 (I have applied to a few Universities in the U.K, just a few days ago), complete the programme by Sept/Oct 2010 and after my dissertation, start looking for a job there (in the U.K) before deciding upon the next course of action, including, a possible return to India


Look for jobs right now and if I end up with a decent job in Finance, at an entry level, work for a few years, at least 3 if not more and then apply for an MBA at ISB, Hyderabad and a few of the One year MBA programmes in the U.K and Europe.

In both cases, there are several If's and But's and I am looking for advice and guidance so as to better plan for my future career. One thing is certain that I am not keen on continuing with my father's (family) business as there are quite a few family-related complications and hence I would like to start afresh.

A B.Com degree with very little B.P.O industry experience and a Post-graduate Certificate in Management Programme is what my current profile is. Kindly advice my plan of action from here on, considering that I am willing to invest money for my education (Post-graduate) and want to save time, rather than money.

Please advise!

I found this query interesting because the problem is multi-layered:
a) Banda wants to escape from his family business
b) He is very sure he wants to get into finance - despite the recent setbacks in that sector.

I sometimes wonder, when people say "I want to do finance", what does it really mean to them? Industry enter karne ke pehle aapne kya socha aur phir kya paaya... Do share for the benefit of aspirants!

And yeah, do let AG know what his chances of getting a job are - after investing in that 1 year UK degree.

IIT JEE - social cauldron bubbling over!

Gopi Sivakanth, who appeared for IIT JEE from the Madras zone, has achieved an All India Rank (AIR) of 3. Sivakanth happens to be an OBC but has cracked the general merit list.

Mukul Singh, AIR 220 in the common merit list and Kirtesh Meena, AIR 281 in the common merit list are the toppers of the SC and ST candidates, respectively.

Gopi's achievement is creditable but I wonder: Will he be considered part of general category or OBC? Obviously he does not need the 'relaxed entry' criteria! But, if he gets in through merit then it would mean one seat less - for non-OBCs.

Reading between the lines of the IIT JEE press note you'll see there is a 44% spike in the number of test takers who are OBCs (from 72,116 in 2008to 104045 in 2009). So from a political angle, reservation can be termed as a 'success'!

Some statistics of interest:

Selection ratio of general candidates: 2.98%
Out of 232331 candidates who appeared 6930 qualified

Selection ratio for OBCs: 1.85%
Out of 104045 OBC candidates who wrote JEE, 1930 qualified.

Selection ratio for SCs: 2.67%
Out of 36117 SC candidates 967 qualified

Selection ratio for STs: 1.66%
Out of 12484 ST candidates 208 qualified

Selection ratio of girls: 1.06%
Out of 98,028 girls who attempted JEE, 1048 qualified

That last statistic is quite depressing - both for educationists and all the boys who have made it to IIT!

P.S. There is a proposal to set up an 'all-girls IIT' in Amravati. No prizes for guessing who it will be named after...

Related reads:

An insightful article on the history and mystery behind IIT JEE

And on JAM:
Topper factory Bansal toppled from top slot this year

Friday, May 22, 2009

CAs & aspirants - call in with your queries!

Update: Tonight's show is cancelled because of the UPA swearing-in ceremony. But it will be on - next week. So do send in yr queries to me at rashmi_b at - do make sure to send yr contact no!

Chartered Accounting is the subject of my show 'Stay Hungry' where I answer career queries every Friday on business news channel UTVi.

If you're a CA or aspiring to be on, Call UTVi on 022 40987300 and leave your name, number and question. We'll call you back! The show will be on this evening at 7 pm - live.

Joining me in the studio is B C Jain, a chartered accountant and chairman of the Western India Regional Council of the ICAI.

Apart from CA, if you have questions on related careers like CS, ICWA, CPA or even CFA, feel free to call and clear up your doubts.

By the way, I just discovered a startling statistic - of every 1000 people who give the CA a shot, only 8 will eventually qualify. Of course pass percentages vary from year to year but you expect to ragdofy a fair bit, before you get there!

Monday, May 18, 2009

300 crorepatis in Parliament!

Amid all the celebrations about a younger Parliament, decisive victory and the stock market euphoria, here's something to pause and think about.

National Election Watch has sent out a press release with some stark statistics that speak for themselves. I am reproducing some of the highlights:

1. There are 150 newly elected MPs with criminal cases pending against them. Out of these, there are 73 MPs having serious charges against them.

2. As compared to 2004, the no of MPs with criminal records has gone up. There were 128 MPs with criminal cases in 2004 Lok Sabha out of which 55 had serious criminal records. There is an increase of about 17.2% in MPs with criminal records and 30.9% increase in the number of MPs with serious criminal records.

3. BJP has maximum MPs having criminal cases - 42 MPs have criminal cases against them, out of which 17 MPs have serious criminal cases against them. It has followed by Congress - 41 MPs with criminal cases out of which 12 MPs have serious charges against them.

4. Amongst the states, UP has maximum MPs with criminal cases (total of 31 out of which 22 have serious charges against them). Maharashtra is second with 23 MPs having criminal cases out of which 9 have serious cases against them.

5. There are 300 crorepati MPs in the new Lok Sabha. This is a huge increase from what the number was in 2004.

I wonder how may more crores they will add to their kitty by the time they have to declare their assets in 2014!

The work done by ADR (Association for Democratic Reforms) is phenomenal. It's the dogged determination of people like Prof Trilochan Sastry who jolted the system out of its slumber and made this possible.

The next step is to make candidates accountable for their (probably) ill-gotten gains. Let 's be generous and assume the assets declared thus far are self earned or accrued from 'gifts' and/or inheritance. But iske aagey, let them show how exactly they are amassing additional wealth!

This is an issue that should be followed up relentlessly, by the media. But sadly, I doubt it will!

Career Question of the Week

Many of you send me your career queries, and I respond to the best of my ability. But on many kinds of dilemmas there is no 'right answer'. The person asking the question is really looking for perspectives from people who've been there, done that.

And so, every Monday I will throw open one such question to the readers of this blog. Do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section - it will surely help many a confused soul make a more informed decision.

Software career: the way forward

I am having 4 years of experience working in a software MNC, had onsite oppurtunity, earning a decent salary and had good learning in initial years of working but now i have started realising that i am not moving anwhere, there is nothing much left to learn as part of product i work upon, my work more or less resembles with the fresher that join the organisation, or its about helping/ mentoring them, I will be gradually moving to project management but there also i dont see much learning , i hardly see my manager working they are just responsible for some project schedule maintainence , people management and so.

Most of the projects don't require much technical competence, they are mostly legacy products that continue to evolve by copying code from here/there , Job which most of the people do can be done by traning any plain graduate and that is why software companies had people from all sort of colleges doing the same type of work.

There is hardly any recognition of talent because in reality nobody needs it here . All you need is a good luck to be in right project that can fetch you a onsite for a year or two and promotions. I know i am sounding very frustrated but believe me this is the truth and story of various of my friends.

So as I have explained you my position/frustration and probably many of my other fellows, I want to understand what path we can take to revive our career, what options and stream exist which will probably suit us. Does it make sense to switch to other stream, I want to understand whether it will be worth doing and what risk exist if we opt for change in stream. Also i want to know colleges besides ISB in India that can suit us.

- A K

If you have a career question you can email me on rashmi_b at I will choose the question of the week based on the detail in which you explain your problem. And how relevant/ interesting I think it is to the readers of this blog.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Pappu paas ho gaya"

The election results 2009 fizzled out like a one-sided IPL match. By 11 am yesterday hysterical TV anchors and all the assembled experts had nothing to say, really.

And so the big story of this general election is the rise of Rahul Gandhi. For many years there have been doubts from many quarters about whether he 'has what it takes'. Well, it appears that he has changed many minds. Including mine (to some extent).

Yes, a while ago I had blogged about his doubtful academic background. My main issue was not his actual qualifications but the fact that he should earn the right to hold high office. That his surname alone should not see him through.

My exact words were:

"I do not believe that only highly educated individuals who pass examinations in flying colours have the right to hold public office. But, the issue is honesty and integrity as an individual.

If I were Rahul I would have come forward and said, "Look, I have never really been that keen on studies. What does one learn in a classroom anyways? I have had an education in what India really is - on the dusty streets of this country. I have what it takes!"

Now I do not really understand electoral politics but helping his party win 20 seats in UP on its own, against the very crude and divisive politics of the BSP and SP is an achievement . Whether it is class 10 equivalent or 'graduation' in terms of a political education, I can't say. But hey - Pappu paas ho gaya :)

A part of me still thinks it's unfair, even shameful, that a country of one billion people has to look up to a single family, when it comes to national leadership. But here's the reality: Politics is like Bollywood. If you are a star son, or daughter or wife you have an advantage.

In films that means you will get signed on by a big director.
In politics, you will get a ticket to stand for the Lok Sabha.

(Apart from Rahul Gandhi, in this very election we have several such examples - Akhilesh Yadav (son of Mulayam Singh Yadav), Supriya Sule (daughter of Sharad Pawar), Sanjeev Naik (son of Ganesh Naik) and of course Varun Gandhi, to name just a few).

The difference is that in films, your family background can propel you upto the big screen. But, when the curtain rises, the public decides your fate. No one can make you a star.

In politics, it's a little more complicated. It seems to me that you may be an inefficient or invisible turd but keep getting elected - until you really screw up(like a Jagdish Tytler/ Sajjan Kumar).

The analysts and experts say this is changing. That the 'shareholders' of Indian democracy want more accountability, more results, more kaam from their leaders.

They say, "Politicians will have to move their butts and deliver the goods, or suffer". Well, I certainly hope that is so! And in such an electoral atmosphere, I think there is a place for both 'insiders' and 'outsiders' to make a difference.

Remember For every Abhishek Bachchan, there is an Akshay Kumar.

For the great grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, the risen-through-the-ranks and now much admired Nitish Kumar.

Each must struggle and strive, to earn his spurs.
Acting maketh an actor, and action maketh a leader.

Awaiting more action from the man of the moment. Now that electoral politics is out of the way (for now).

Update: New Indian Express had raise some doubts about Rahul Gandhi's Cambridge degree in a report dated 7th April 2009.

Mine was one of the blogs which linked to the IE report, because I felt it was a subject in the public interest.

On April 28, 2009 Cambridge University issued a statement saying that Rahul's MPhil degree is indeed valid and was issued in 1994-95.

In the light of this, I have decided to withdraw my original blogpost on this subject. Why? Because I think the matter has been clarified and the points I raised are no longer relevant.

In a further development, the Congress party has sent a legal notice to The New Indian Express, which originally published the story. The Editor has clarified that the paper stands by its report.

It will be interesting to see which way this plays out and I am sure truth shall prevail. But as an individual I no longer care whether Rahul studied development economics or development studies in the past. What I care about is the development he and his party undertakes in the future.

On which I will be keeping a close watch!

One issue of interest to young people across India would be passage of the Foreign Universities Entrance and Operation Bill which was held up because of opposition from the Left. As well as old fogeys like Arjun Singh.

There will be some pain but this bill could do for education what entry of FIIs did to financial markets. Shake up things and help India achieve a quantum leap in quality of higher education!

Related earlier post: From Cambridge to Harvard - a Political Journey

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kumaon ki kahani

This was written while in Kumaon.. but I never got a strong enough signal on my Reliance modem to upload it. Which is just as well :)

This, is life

The air is fresh and crisp.
The view from the window, 'mountainy' and green.
A little blue bird was on my window sill this morning.

This is the life, you say to yourself. Udhar sheher mein, bheed bhaad mein, traffic jam aur tensions ke beech hum kar kya rahe hain??

This, is Binsar eco camp. A quaint little family run place where you feel right at home. There are just 11 rooms. A small kitchen which produces hot, home-style food. And one Mr Kesarchand Mehra who welcomes you, and shows you around with gusto.

"See.. this is rosemary. And this, smell it! What is it? Guess?"

It's the 'Odomos' plant. Rub it on your body and it will keep the moskies away. Not that you need to do that here - none spotted so far.

At lunch, we have 'bhaang ki chutney'. "Cannabis," explains Mehraji helpfully. Not to worry. Thodi si khaane se kuch hota nahin hai. We tried :)

A quick word on the 'eco' bit of eco camp. Apart from growing herbs and flowers there is nothing special being done here in the eco sense of the word. The cottages are brick and mortar, and there is generous use of wood. You have a modern bathroom, and intermittent electricity as well.

But Mr Mehra puts it this way,"Without economy, there is no ecology." Efforts like his bring in tourists and provide much needed employment for locals. Many of whom lost their source of livelihood when Binsar was declared a sanctuary, a protected forest area.

As far as 'eco' goes, Mehraji does have plans to introduce solar heaters and maybe even wind power. Meanwhile he's educating villagers on the benefits of growing organic vegetables - which is what you mostly get to eat when you stay here :)

The next morning we set off to explore the jungle in the vicinity. There is a 'viewpoint' from where Nandadevi and numerous other Himalayan peaks are visible on a clear day. Today, it's foggy. But still beautiful.

Brown and yellow pine leaves blanket the ground we walk on. We reach a cave. Porcupines live inside it but they're hiding deep inside. There are interesting birds flying around - we spot some Himalayan parakeets and a woodpecker.

We climb up to the Mata Anandmayee ashram. It is deserted right now, but there is a little room where a diya glows, next to her picture. You feel at peace there.

Later in the day we trek up to the Bimladevi temple. More for the trek, than the temple. It isn't a difficult climb but us city slickers ain't all that fit. We huff and puff much of the way.

My feet are hurting the rest of the day. But I have three and a half chapatis (with ghee) and feel rather satisfied :)

The plan was to just sack out here and 'do nothing'. But then we heard about this fundu place called 'Patal Bhuvaneshwar'. This is an ancient cave temple with natural rock formations which literally tell stories from Hindu mythology, and specifically from the Skand purana.

Now this was intriguing enough to make the 3 hr drive to the place. And I must say, it is amazing.

Majestic deodar trees keep the cave temple hidden to the eye - from a distance.

You walk down half a km and are greeted by a few straggly tourists and an ancient man who records your name and 'address'. No entry fee, he tells you to 'see' the place and then make a donation as well as pay the guide. "Jitni aapki icchha."

You enter the cave through an extremely narrow entrance, slipping and half-sliding 90metres down. The first formation you see is 'Sheshnag' and it really does look like the hood of a snake. An enthusiastic guide brings alive the various stories associated with each formation.

From Airavata (Indra's elephant) to the Pandavas playing dice with Parvati - there are some very interesting, amar kathas captured here.

And whether or not you are the religious sort, there is certainly something beyond coincidence and mere mortal imagination happening here. If you a believer, well, all the better. They say visiting this one cave is the equivalent of visiting all four 'dhams'.

You can read all about the various legends associated with each formation here and here

I found the formation which is said to be the river Ganga flowing from Shiva's locks to be the most fascinating.

Photography is not allowed inside the cave hence I am putting up this scan of one of the postcard size prints you can buy near the temple. Sadly it does no justice at all to the experience- you have to be there, feel it.

'Patrakaars' are allowed to take pictures and even shoot video, if they have prior permission from the relevant authority in Dehradun. I would love to go back one day and do that!

On the journey back, I thought India is incredible. There is always something new to discover. And there's more to this 5 day trip - but I'll save that for another day, another post.

Binsar Eco Camp - Dhaulchhina, Uttarakhand

Best way to reach: By overnight train from old Delhi to Kathgodam (you reach fresh @ 530 am). Then taxi it up to Binsar (3-3.5 hrs)

Other places to stay: In Binsar proper there is a Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam guesthouse and also a Club Mahindra property.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Internships @ JAM, and more

If you are BMM or BMS/ Arts/ Commerce/ Science/ Engineering student thinking of a career in the media, you might want to apply to work as an intern with JAM magazine.

You must have excellent English, be web savvy and open to do anything and everything in terms of reporting, writing, editing and uploading.

The internship is essentially for experience - you will get a recommendation letter if you successfully complete it. There is no stipend, only a small travel allowance.

The position is in Mumbai and duration minimum of 4 weeks. Drop me a line asap at rashmi_b at if interested!

The Stay Hungry show
Also, a small update on my new show on UTVi. In a happy turn of events it's now called the 'Stay Hungry' show and the first episode went off well... Although there is always scope to get better and better :)

I realise many of you are not near a TV at 7 pm, especially on a Friday; will try and put it up on Youtube. There is also a repeat telecast on Sat early morning ie 1230 am.

The subject for the 'Stay Hungry' show on this Friday (15th May) is the advertising industry. So if you have any queries on copywriting/ media planning/ client servicing / what have you, feel free to email me with your contact details. Again at rashmi_b at

The hills are alive!
Lastly, I have a lot to write about my recent trip to Kumaon. Yes, it was only five days but heavenly nevertheless. We live in such an amazing country, where there's always something more to discover.

Details in my next post!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Stay hungry, Stay foolish - the UPSC story !

Sanjay Aakhade, son of a porter in Nashik, has cracked the civil service examination. He secured a rank of 263.

TOI reports: Son of Dnyandeo, an unlettered porter, and Vimal, a beedi worker, growing up was about bringing home some money. He cleaned tables at hotels, worked at a medical store, distributed newspapers and manned an STD booth through his teens.

Although a topper in school, Sanjay dropped out and pursued a course at the Industrial Training Institute; getting a job was priority. He'd attend class from 10 am to 5 pm and work at the STD booth till midnight. "I was a voracious reader and would read whenever there weren't any customers. If I liked something, I would jot it down in a diary,'' recalls Sanjay.

This is what is so amazing. Despite a really hard life, Sanjay did not wallow in self pity and curse his fate. He found a way to learn and grow, within his limited resources. And not for any particular reason. But somewhere deep down I'm sure he knew this was the only way to escape from the prison of circumstance. And make something of himself.

See any 'success' story and you'll find this common trait! They stay hungry - no matter what.

Self-study was what the Marathi-educated Sanjay depended on as he learnt English through newspapers. His drive was recognised by a regular customer, Digambar Vaishyampai, a teacher who started bringing him books and encouraged him to return to studies. It was with his backing that Sanjay enrolled for the HSC exam and subsequently pursued his BA, ranking first in all exams, despite not being able to attend lectures. His family started backing him too. His mother says she can't even read the clock, but wanted her children "to make it big in life''.

A UPSC advertisement Sanjay chanced upon got him interested in the services. He trails off into another incident that further strengthened his resolve-a narration that brings back memories of Slumdog hero Jamaal being interrogated by policemen. "A college friend of mine once had trouble with a cop, who smashed the windshield of his autorickshaw. When I questioned the action, I was thrashed,'' says Sanjay, adding that he could perhaps join the IPS and reform the system.

But achieving his goal wasn't easy. He first gave the UPSC exams with history as his subject in 2006 and failed twice. Although from a minority community, Sanjay applied through the open category as he wanted to play fair. "People would tauntingly call me collector sahib and tell me how life would never change, but I believed otherwise,'' says Sanjay.

This is the 'stay foolish' bit. Never mind what the world says.. you have to believe in yourself.

He married his cousin last year and has a four-month-old son named Yash. His interview in Delhi was his first trip to the capital. "I gave my interview in English, as I didn't want to lose the essence of what I said during translation.'' Employed with an insurance company, he dutifully returned to the rut, praying all along for his results. When his phone rang on May 4, also his birthday, he knew good news was on the way. "My friends called to say I had cracked the exam.'' His newly rented flat buzzed with visitors on Thursday.

"Entering the services will not change our lives at home, but help me change the lives of many others like us.'' He says his background has helped him better understand what the government needs to do. "I will be handling child labour, for instance. I know what it is to be a child labourer."

I think this is certainly true. Sanjay's own experience would make him so much more sensitive to the plight of millions of Indians living on the edge of poverty. Devoid of hope, or opportunity.

Hearty congratulations and warm wishes to Sanjay. Keep the idealism, keep the faith!

Another heartwarming story is that of Maharashtra topper Aniket Mandavgane who secured an all India rank of 29 . The 22-year-old's father takes care of their ancestral temple at Varangaon in Jalgaon.

However Aniket was sent to live in Pune with his grandmother from the age of 5, and that's where but he completed his school and college education. He is a graduate of Sinhagad College of Engineering (2008 batch).

Interestingly, he began preparing while in third year of engineering itself and this was his first shot at the exam. That should certainly enthuse some of you out there to start preparing early if the UPSC is your dream!

Aniket plans to join the IFS.

Then there is 24-year-old Balaji Manjule from Jeor in Solapur, who cleared the exam on his third attempt.

TOI reports: Manjule, who has poor eyesight, studied under a kerosene oil lamp and lost his left eye as he had a cataract that was diagnosed late. "My village does not have electricity and I had no option but to study in such conditions,'' says the 57th ranker, who was asked in the interview if his eyesight would pose a problem at work.

He replied: "Having just one eye has never been a hindrance in achieving anything, not even a high score in the UPSC.''

A few months ago, this Wadar community (one of the most backward communities in the state) boy was also short-listed for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission exam and was offered a posting as a deputy CEO. Manjule's parents are daily wage workers who break stones for building roads. Their son wants to become an IAS officer and "progress of India's countryside'' is high on his agenda.

I think this is real progress. Here's to many more spirited young men and women taking India forward!

P.S. 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish' is an attitude which applies to all walks of life. And hence it will be the theme of the weekly show on careers I am hosting from this evening on UTVi.

Do tune in if you can - at 7 pm. Channel no 541 on Tata Sky.

Monday, May 04, 2009

'Careers with Rashmi' on UTVi

Starting 8th of May, I will be hosting a new weekly show on UTVi - 'Careers with Rashmi' - where I answer queries from viewers. Now this is really exciting - as well as a little scary. Because the show is 'live'!

As they say, fortune favours the prepared mind. So the show will not be based on completely random call-ins. There will some method to the madness :)

Since 'careers' is a very broad area, each week I will choose a theme for my show, It could be industry specific (say, the advertising industry) or an idea ('finding a job you love').

The theme for my first show is the 'software industry'. So any of you out there working in software, or considering a career in that area, please do write in to me with your questions! You'll then be asked to call in at a specific time. Or, I'll use your email query.

Aise kyoon? Well, I want questions that are interesting to people @ large. Which bring up issues that many of you might be facing. Also, we'll avoid having the same 2-3 questions repeated over and over again.

A few broad areas which I think are of wider interest:
* Software jobs vs Core jobs: which would you choose today, as an engineer graduating from college

* If I join software, should I go for a big company, a mid cap or even consider a start up?

* Programming vs testing vs product development

* Will the cap on H1 B affect my chances of going abroad?

* What is the growth path for a software engineer?

* If I want to start my own company, what kind of experience would be most relevant for me?

* What is the future of SAP? Is it worth shifting to today?

* What are the hot new areas/ programming languages I can get into today?

* And of course the old favourite: to do or not to do the MBA.

Well, that was just my two bits but I would love to hear from you. Do send in your queries to rashmi_b at And remember to mention your name and contact no as well.

And the rest of you, do tune in to my show on Friday, 8th of May @ 7 pm on UTVi (channel # 541 on Tata Sky). It is a big day for me, and I need your moral support :)

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