Monday, February 26, 2007

South zone engineering colleges

The JAM Engineering College Survey is seeking additional responses from the following colleges.

College Of Engineering, Kidangoor
Co-Operative Inst Of Tech
Govt. Engg College, Kozhikode
Govt. Engg College, Thiruvananthapuram
Govt. Engg College, Thrissur
Mount Zion College Of Engg
Sahrdaya College Of Engg & Tech
SCMS School Of Engg And Tech

Tamil Nadu
Amrita IOT&S, Coimbatore
ARJ COE&T, Tiruvarur
Bannari Amman IOT, Coimbatore
Dr. Mgr EC, Chennai
Institute Of R&TT, Erode
Karunya IOT, Coimbatore
Kongu EC, Erode
Kumaraguru COT, Coimbatore
Maharaja EC, Erode
Mookambigai COE, Tiruchirapalli
Panimalar EC, Kancheepuram
PSNA COE&T, Dindigul
Ranipettai EC, Vellore
RMK EC, Thiruvallur
S.A. EC, Chennai
Sathyabhama EC, Chennai
Sri Venkateswara college of Engineering, Sriperumbudur
SRM EC, Kancheepuram
St. Joseph's COE, Chennai
St. Peter's Engineering College, Chennai
Tagore EC, Kancheepuram
Valliammai EC, Kancheepuram
Velammal EC, Thiruvallur

If your college is in the above list, please fill in our survey here .

If your college is NOT on this list do not worry. It means we have enough responses from there. You could, of course, still go ahead and fill the survey - if you wish.
I will put up a South Zone - II for Andhra and Karnataka.

Lastly, we need someone from Kerala to do an overview of engineering colleges in the state. State write ups for Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and HP are also remaining. If you're interested in taking up any of them, get in touch with

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Don't kick 'the habit'

I quite liked watching Desperate Housewives. It was aired at 10 pm on Sundays when it was first aired. Now, it's back. But hey, the timings been changed to 9 am Sundays. And I don't fancy waking up that early on a holiday - for anyone or anything.

Could be just me. But the point is, I was a loyal viewer who had the time 10 pm Sunday imprinted in my head. Now you go and change it - pretty high chances you'll lose me. But channels do it all the time.

Last Sunday I saw a pretty gripping episode of 'Criminal Minds' which was 'to be continued'. But guess what, the show isn't even there in tonight's TV listings.

Then there was the 11 pm to 12 midnight slot on Star World which featured Seinfeld, followed by Friends. Both 'old is gold' kind of shows which put you in a happy frame of mind before you drop off to sleep. Well, now they've been shifted to the 12 midnight to 1 am slot. And guess how little I get to see of them!

TVwaalon, samjha karo. Habits take time to develop. And messing around with them is injurious to your TRPs.

All it's gonna do is drive people like me - hitherto lazy and somewhat technophobic -to download your shows from the internet and consume them minus the advertising revenues you feed on. Don't say you haven't been warned...!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Only Nike could do this

Just saw THE most amazing ad seen in a long time on Indian television. It's a minute long - maybe more - and doesn't mention or display the product at all. In fact, it's more a rivetting short film than an ad. Just that the Nike logo comes on in the last frame.

The film starts with a typical Indian scene in what could be any Indian city - chakka jam! One enterprising boy slithers on to the roof of a bus. Another gets on to an adjacent bus and ... they start playing cricket. The shot hits a hoarding and then a balcony. Another hero rescues the ball, jumps on to a truck and proceeds to display some speed bowling.

And well, a lot of other stuff happens. Little details which you'll catch when you repeat view. Which I'm sure will be again and again and again.

Yes, this is all part of Nike's Cricket World Cup push. The company recently became the official apparel sponsor for Team India. A five year contract for which the company paid BCCI Rs 196 crores. The company is targeting sales of $1 billion in India for the next five years - and for that it needs cricket in its arsenal.

Internationally, Nike is no 1. A dominance which led the no 2 and no 3 players to merge with Adidas buying out Reebok. In India, it's quite the opposite. Reebok commands a 40% market share, Adidas 20% and Nike 15%. That looks set to change with this new, aggressive 'India' strategy from Nike.

Nike launched 'cricket footwea'r last August - the Air Zoom Yorker for fast bowlers and the Air Zoom Opener for batsmen. It will also soon launch 'official cricket merchandise' in the form of team jerseys and T-shirts, backpacks and kit bags. Hope to see some interesting designs as the new team jersey claims to draw on Indian heritage and cricket culture.

"The colors of the graphics on the team jersey take inspiration from the tricolor of the Indian national flag and represent speed and motion. The lettering and the seam lines of the garment is inspired by Indian architecture and brings together Indian heritage with contemporary styling."

Um, anything would be better than what they wear currently.

Anyways, good luck to Nike. Thank God they're not treating India like an idiot Third World market. The 'Cricket Crazy' film cost a LOT of money and captures the spirit of the game in this country. It will capture hearts. Now if only Nike can figure out the right price points to sell its gorgeous merchandise - they may well capture the market as well.

P.S. Just found the video on Youtube - the film is actually two minutes long. It was posted 1 day ago by a user named 'mindshareblr' - Mindshare Bangalore? Please let us know who made this fantastic film - when, where and how!

Thursday, February 22, 2007 - a job site for students and freshers

JAM magazine has just launched A job site whose USP is opportunities for students and fresh graduates.

True, there are many job sites in the market - and they do a great job. But if you are a young person looking for a part-time/ freelance or summer job, these sites don't necessarily serve your needs.

Similarly, if you're an employer looking for this variety of bright young workers, you may not find them through traditional avenues. I get a lot of requests from friends and clients who need 'a smart kid for a project'. Or ' not an MBA, just a sharp fresh graduate.' And there are so many young people out there looking for such a break. So why not provide a platform where they can connect?

Well, over the years, we have been providing this platform - in the print medium.

Way back in 1995, JAM magazine pioneered the concept of 'Summer Internships'. This was much before working in summer was fashionable or considered desirable. The idea of summer internships was to tie up with 8-10 leading companies and place very bright and motivated young people there for a 1 or 2 month period.

Some of the companies which I offhand recall participating in JAM's summmer internship program include HLL, TV18,, Sony Music, Leo Burnett, Euro RSCG and Midday. I know of at least four young people for whom JAM's summer internship was a life-changing experience. A would-be engineer became a journalist. A hotel management student shifted to advertising!

Cut to 2007. We are providing the same platform, but on a much bigger scale. We will be using JAM's clout as a youth medium to attract students to jobs. And we hope to attract a wider variety and quality of jobs than is commonly available. Both the kind where one can earn some extra pocket money. And the kind which provide you valuable 'exposure and experience'.

From the many categories we've listed - and the kind of jobs the site has started attracting already, I think we're on the right track.

If you are a company or entrepreneur looking for young talent I invite you to try out Job postings are FREE till 1st April 2007.

We also look forward to your valuable user feedback. The site is a plain-vanilla format right now, more features and some content will be added on in some time.

Lastly, thanks to Gautam Ghosh, for being the first (even before me!) to write about Jobokplease. Like film stars cutting open the ribbon for a jewellery showroom, it's only appropriate that an HR specialist should be the first to review a job site!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Killing them softly...

Not with a song, but with an M & A. I'm talking brands, people. Those things which advertisers create with 'personalities'. The repositories of our 'love' and 'trust'. Now that the world and their uncle is on a buying spree, someone's gotta give. Some brands must say their goodbyes.

Now in products like steel and aluminium it probably doesn't matter. And at the corporate level you can always hyphenate it - Tata-Corus, Mittal-Arcelor. Sounds cool enough, in fact adds a little sheen - esp to the Mittal name.

But what about consumer brands? Hutch will soon be replaced by Vodafone, but really, telecom is one of the relatively easy categories. You're locked into a service by virtue of owning a number. When Orange became pink (Hutch), the transition was pretty seamless. The ubiquitous dog walked into an ad with the new candy coloured logo. Besides, you could bombard subscribers with your message via sms and use the monthly bills/ prepaid recharge card to communicate the story.

And oh, Vodafone's already killed the 'bought out brand' in 20 odd countries so by now they've probably got a 'how to manual'.

But what about other, less 'locked in' categories. What does the Acquirer company do with the acquired - competing - brand. The classic example is 'Thums Up' . After Coke bought out Ramesh Chauhan's cola brands - which had put up a spirited fight to Pepsi - the company struggled with the question. Ab kya?

Killing off 'Thums Up' was not an option. Because it was found that consumers would not necessarily, automatically, switch to Coke. So Thums Up lived on, like a neglected old family member. Its once iconic advertising (who can forget 'Taste the Thunder'!) a chapter in history.

The brand was reduced to the status of a 'tactical weapon' against Pepsi. And yet, the Grandaddy of India Cola refused to die. As recently as 2003 - 10 years AFTER Coke bought Thums Up - it was the leading cola brand in India with a market share of 23.7 % vs Pepsi's 21.6 %. As recently as 2005, Coke refused to share figures of its individual cola brands, merely stating that the Coca Cola company had a consolidated share of 60.9 %.

Makes you think hey, maybe Thums Up could have fought off these two firang brands. The fact however is that Ramesh Chauhan know his bottlers would start deserting him -so he had no choice but to sell out.

So what is the inexplicable magic of Thums Up - a brand that existed only for 16 years before its buyout? I don't know. Some kind of hangover effect? Maybe nostalgia for days past?? Of course, many simply like the stronger, fizzier taste. Which is what the advertising emphasises these days - the new 'macho' drink.

Actually, there could be a super campaign on the 'swadeshi' platform. But hey, that would be senseless. Since it is owned by the Coca Cola company...

And the point is?
That brands are entities with an irrational, emotional pull. Obviously, the best brands also offer quality products and services at prices that consumers endorse through purchase behaviour. But you never can say what will happen when you kill a trusted name - even if it's on the decline.

So there are hybrid models. Little known Chinese company Lenovo buys out IBM and kills of the acquired brand. But its notebooks retain the 'Thinkpad' tag reminding users of its IBM heritage.

Lastly, there's the 'attempted suicide' model, also known as 'repositioning and relaunch'. In this model, company apne haathon se brand ka gala ghot deti hai and hopes to see it swiftly and painlessly reborn in a new and cooler avatar. Sometimes it works - and sometimes it doesn't.

Like I recently saw an ad on TV for Dove soap which featured young women age 22 and 26. That is pretty weird because Dove has had a pretty consistent advertising campaign aimed at women in their 30s. Guess the brand believes the India 'youth' story and wants to catch 'em much before they get wrinkled.

Considering that the soap offers a tangible functional benefit ( 1/4th moisturising cream) it could work. However, women in their 20s may not actually need that extra cream - as you tend to have more oil in your skin at a younger age. And a lot of young women in the target segment use facewash these days.


Speaking of second life, there's the spectacular rebirth of AT & T. The brand was killed off after its buyout by rival Cingular a couple of years ago. Only to be revived and relaunched last month after another complex series of mergers and buyouts.

Which is wonderful news for advertising agencies, logo designers, TV networks and hoarding contractors. At least someone benefits from all the chaos. I mean think of the good people in the business of printing visiting cards...!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Part time/ distance MBA feedback

If you have attended a part time or distance MBA program anytime in the last 3 years, please get in touch. I'm looking for people who've done programs like:

- VSAT aided courses offered by institutes like IIM Kozhikode, IIM Calcutta, XLRI and IIFT.

- 3 year Executive MBAs like at IIM Indore, XIM B and XLRI which require periodic campus visits

- IIM Bangalore's 3-year PGP SEM

- Part time programs at Bajaj, SP Jain, MDI, IIFT etc

- Pure distance learning - Symbiosis, ICFAI etc

This is just an indicative - not an exhaustive list. What I mean is ANY program which falls outside the 2 year full time MBA or the 1 year full time MBA.

What I want to know from you is 3 things:
- Were you satisfied with your course?

- Did you see your career prospects improve after course completion? If so, do you directly attribute it to your MBA?

- Any regrets about not doing a full time MBA?

Current students could also write in with their feedback on points 1 and 3. I would be especially keen to hear from anyone enrolled in 'NIIT Imperia' - programs being conducted in conjunction with IIM A, C since this academic year.

Any views / opinions on the part time vs full time debate are also most welcome.

The reason I'm asking this is I get at least 1 email a day about the 'right' part time program. Mostly emanating from this article I wrote two years ago. I'm now working on an update.

Email with your name, course, feedback and contact nos. Thanks!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

TV: on the charas trail

Television is often faulted for being superficial and in-the-moment. But that may be changing.

A CNN-IBN 'Special Investigation' I happened to see last night is one great example of how television can tell you a story like no other medium. Iram Mirza followed the 'charas trail' in Himachal Pradesh. Or hash/ ganja/ marijuana/cannabis - whatever you prefer to call it.

Posing as an Australian tourist, she takes a trip into the Parvati valley, where over 3000 acres of land is under 'cultivation'. Where hundreds of locals sit all day rolling charas in a Rs 600 crore trade controlled by Israeli and Italian mafia.

A decent quality hidden camera captured a lot of interesting insights into the trade. I guess I found it all the more intriguing because I've been fascinated by this whole Israelis-in-India phenomenon for a while.

After sealing a deal to buy 40 kgs of charas for Rs 18 lakhs - and capturing it all on tape - Iram and team scooted off. Apparently pictures of her were then circulated around the valley to warn everyone about the 'journalist on the prowl'.

It will be some time before anyone 'Indian looking' is admitted into these psudo-spiritual drug communes. Which is probably just as well - for both the hippie crowd and the locals. Because as long as 'they' keep to themselves - as in Goa, where they populate distant beaches - the police and local officials will accept bribes and turn a blind eye to the activity.

Besides, both Himachal and Goa need these tourists.

In any case, cannabis is not cocaine - there are different points of view on its usage. While most countries still classify it as a drug, it's legal in Amsterdam. Which is where much of the stuff is headed.

Given that a gram of charas which costs Rs 25 to produce in Himachal sells for Rs 3000 in Holland, nothing is likely to change. A couple of fields will be burnt to show 'some action' has been taken while the acres and acres continue to flourish in the distant, upper reaches.

Still, it was a a fascinating peek into a hidden world. And I now know India is famous not just for its Darjeeling tea and basmati rice, but 'Malana cream'...

Here's looking to more stories - from all news channels - which go beyond the moment. Resources are hardly a problem for most of these publicly listed companies. It's about giving enough time - and a mandate - to your reporters.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Email of the week - IV

I'm sharing an email I received recently - not at Youthcurry, but as editor of JAM magazine.

The thing is, we get emails like this all day. They are of little or no interest to our magazine because we don't publish pages and pages of 'news' on Bolly/ telly stars.

Sadly, PR companies couldn't care about sending out info on a 'targetted basis'. They simply acquire a list of email ids and bombard you every day. I guess the strategy works because a fair bit of these 'press releases' get printed. Word for word.

This email is representative of the genre. Actually, it's an especially amusing sample. Reproduced AS RECEIVED.

Akshaye Khanna's Valentine Day !!

Akshaye is known to be an Introvert. When it comes to his personal spece. Even when there were speculations in the Media about him dating a rich socialite from New York, Akshaye neither denied nor confirmed it.

Though Akshaye will spend his Valentine Day shooting for Abbas- Mastan's 'RACE' in South Africa, sources close to him say that Akshaye will be spending a belated Valentine in Goa. When the socialite will be coming down from New York for a common friend's wedding.

When quizzed about Valentine Day, Akshaye just grins "Yeah I totally believe in the power of love.. Love is what makes the world go round isn't it?

Uh huh. Enlightening!

And then the same stars turn around and accuse the media of 'hounding' them.

On an unrelated note, here is an invite from 'Citizen watches':

Kareena Kapoor to exhibit Kareena Diamond and Fashion collection at Yamuna, Lower Lobby, J W Marriott on Friday, February 16th, 2007 at 2:45 pm over Hi Tea.

Say hi to Kareena and have tea also, eh?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another over-the-top blogging story

ET reports: "When Indians blog, they go the whole hog. Consider the 35% of India's overall population expressing themselves over weblogs. Or the fact that more women in India (51%) create and use blogs to give vent to their pent-up feelings."

Apparently we Indians blog 'the most' in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region - 5 times a week. "All this when 60% of India's bloggers are still labelled 'green' or nascent bloggers whose overall blogging experience is under a year."

These stats are courtesy mPulse, a survey conducted by Mindshare Insights Group in the Asia Pacific region among 1500 users in the 15-35 age group.

While I am happy that blogging is getting so much attention - and even being researched - many of the conclusions reached in this study just don't ring true. 35% of India's net user base is 10 MILLION people. Do we really have 10 million bloggers - or even 'readers' of blogs? I don't think so!

If we did, I could probably make a good living out of just writing a blog! Because Adsense earnings are directly proportional to the kind of traffic that comes into your site.

My estimate of number of blogs by Indians is 100,000-150,000. If you take 'readers' of blogs, you could take that up to half a million or so.

If one includes folks who land up at blogs because blogs show up quite strongly on google search, that number would go up substantially. But these are still, hardly folks who are 'expressing themselves through blogs'. Or even 'followers of blogs'. They're just tourists in the blogworld.

Perhaps I am being conservative, or ignorant. But even the organisers of the Indibloggies are saying there could be 3.5 million 'active bloggers' (they've quoted a Windows Livespace survey).

The same survey says 39% of internet users are 'aware' of blogs. (Which should be true, given the amount of media coverage blogs get!) Of course, awareness and usage are two different things altogether...

A couple of technical issues with the Mpulse survey:
- If the survey was conducted only among 15-35 age group that automatically excludes the 28% who fall outside that bracket.

So when we say 35% of India's OVERALL internet base is into blogs and blogging what we're actually saying is close to 50% of India's 15-35 year olds are bloggers. I don't believe that's true.

Maybe, in certain professions like media - or folks working in IT. Yes, in the JAM office practically everyone on the editorial has a blog/ has attempted to write one at some point. But the same does not hold true in marketing, or even in our web team.

The sample taken, I feel, may not have been representative of the general population. But more an 'early adopter' group.

- If 51% of women are using blogs to vent their 'pent up feelings'... where the hell are they? In the two years I have spent blogging I'd say men clearly outnumber women. Both among those who write blogs and those who comment on them.

And certainly not enough to merit a headline which goes 'Angry young women blogging it out."

Incidentally, the article carries a byline. I'm not sure why journalists must generally swallow survey results. Shouldn't they ocassionally play the skeptic?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Traffic Signal - 3.5 stars

I know, this film released 10 days ago but I want to write about it because I think it got more than one nasty review.

However, I think it is far better than a lot of trash churned out of Bollywood. Of course, it's not the kind of film you go to watch if you're in the mood for candyfloss. The Madhur Bhandarkar style of film-making is like the wada-pav on Mumbai's streets. It's gritty, it's real and can occassionally churn the stomach.

Admittedly, we're kind of used to his 'peep-into-my-world' formula. So the novelty angle has worn off. 'Chandni Bar' hit you straight in the gut. And 'Page 3' was a great follow up effort - at the opposite end of the social spectrum.

Corporate was a let down, to be honest. With Traffic Signal though, Madhur is back to what he does best. Weaving a tapestry of characters and situations from real life into an engaging feature-length film.

In a nutshell, this is the story of a motley bunch of people who make their living at your average Mumbai traffic signal. The beggars, hijras, gajra-sellers and the 'Midday le lo, Midday' urchins. Of course, it's all a 'business' at the end of the day. Every one doing dhandha at the signal pays hafta, which eventually reaches a 'bhai'.

Silsila (played by Kunal Khemu) is the cog in the wheel who collects the hafta from this particular signal. Yes, there isn't much of a 'story' except towards the end when there is a plot involving a flyover, builder-politician nexus and an engineer getting killed in the process.

But even as a collection of mini-vignettes the film retains your interest. There is little Chinnaswamy Vedgiri whose family has perished in the tsunami. He calls up the relief office week after week via STD to ask 'kuch pata chala kya?'. The answer is inevitably "no", but he just does not lose hope.

Another of the street kids invests his hard earned money in a fairness cream called 'Fair fast' which promised to make you 'gora' in 4 weeks. You know the disappointment in store and fully empathise when he hurls stones at a hoarding of the product towards the end of the film..

Then there's drug addict Dominic (Ranvir Shorey) who poses as a 'software engineer' who came to Bombay for a job but had his pocket picked. "This is very embarassing... but can you give me 50 rupees to go home?" he asks with such decency and genuineness that people can't help but falling for it.

Just like the little old lady in Colaba Causeway - a Parsi to boot - who begs in a similar fashion.

Kunal Khemu as 'Silsila' is outstanding. Neetu Chandra as his love interest is adequate. Sudhir Mishra (the director) is cast as a bhai and he certainly looks the part :) But everyone, from the paanwalla to the mausi with a minor part is excellent. The lack of star cast is wise, it would have completely ruined the film.

The ending is not a 'happy' one. But it's a little more hope-filled than some of his previous endings. And so is the overall tone of the film.

'Traffic Signal' basically brings out the idea that every human being is a thinking, feeling person. No matter how 'low' they may have fallen.

So Noorie (a prostitute played by Konkona Sen Sharma) may sell her body every night but having sex with a corpulent police inspector - on order, not out of choice - is an ordeal.

Dominic, the drug addict, has nothing to live for but he is secretly in love with Noorie. He may con people to support the habit but will insist on paying for the chai they share at the tea-stall.

And everyone, no matter how poor he may be today is dreaming of a bette future. So the guy who comes to marry Silsila's mooh-boli behen proudly declares,"Pehle mandir ke saamne sirf chappal dekhta tha. Ab bahut tarakki kar li hai... Haar-thaali bhi bechta hai".

As in all Madhur films, the little touches are the most memorable. Like the scene where a couple of politicians are haggling with an urchin over the price of the 'flags' commonly sold on Independence Day. A enunuch comes up and says, "Paise main deti hoon" and thrusts the flags into the netalog's hands.

It's quite powerful - the idea that the very people who pledge allegiance to the flag in the interest of 'desh seva' actually respect it the least.

Essentially, Madhur is a keen observer of human nature and human beings. And he must have a very able script and dialogue writer :) The film captures the many nuances of life on the street. Yes, it occassionally goes a bit overboard.

The bit about home loan agents from 'ICBI' bank harassing the bhai on his mobile phone is funny. As bhai remarks,"Police ke paas mera number nahin hai... in log ko kahan se mila?" But actually showing the guys being stripped and beaten up... did not work. It looked more like a personal agenda which Madhurji worked into the film.

Overall, I would recommend you see 'Traffic Signal'. And I for one am looking forward to Madhur's next film.

But first, I must make time for 'Black Friday'...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Calling students/ graduates from these colleges...

NIT - Jaipur
IIITM Gwalior

These are the colleges in JAM's Engineering Survey 'national list' for which we are still seeking responses. So if you are a recent graduate (post year 2000) or a current student of these colleges please circulate the JAM Survey link on your intranet/ egroup/ orkut community:

This will help us present an accurate picture of your college to the next generation of students.

EOA (End of Announcement)
TIA (Thanks in Advance)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rs 1.5 crores for this crap?

A website called has been running a contest called 'Great Indian Blogger Hunt'. The no 1 blog on this site will receive Rs 1.5 lakhs on February 15.

Well, Raj sent me a link to his blog pointing out that the leading blog was actually a 'junk blog'. It just has dozens of entries, some with a single word or just a random photo.

Someone at ibibo seems to have taken note and pulled out the junk blog... only to replace it with another junk blog. 'Jeetna meri zidd nahi, meri aadat hai' is the title and it features one-line posts. 6218 of them to be precise.

This - and other similar efforts on the leaderboard - are blogs in name alone. Ibibo believes that "You don't need to be a great writer, or journalist" to be a blogger. Fair enough. But exhorting folks to "write or show anything - absolutely anything!" is an incomplete instruction.

Given the monetary lure people are posting just about anything... or nothing of any value or interest. And several times over, in the hope of increasing their "ibQ" score. What good is that?

This brings me back to two of my favourite points:

- User-generated content rule # 1 is that quality attracts quality and crap attracts crap. Ibibo should have seeded the site with a few good quality blogs. Perhaps ghost written by themselves. That would have set a benchmark for others to follow.

- Money is important but not everything. You can't stimulate blogging by paying out huge sums to people who don't care about blogging in the first place.

Ibibo has grandly announced a payout of Rs 1.5 CRORES. Which VC was naive enough to fund this 'idea'? And now that it is obviously not working... will they keep their foolish promise?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Email of the week - III

Well, make that emails. The third edition of this new feature on my blog consists of folks who've written to me asking for help in publicising their ventures. So this is a 'spread the good word' edition.

Hi Rashmi,

I am regular reader of your blog though never put in any comments. I represent a theater group Based in Bangalore called Version One Dot Oh!, a theatre group from Bangalore in short VODO. Our group consists of young professionals and students from different backgrounds. You can check out our blog @ http:

So far we have done over 18 productions. We are traveling to Mumbai during the week of Feb 7-11 2007, performing two plays, "Shadows in the Dark" at the Mysore Association, Matunga and the other one "When the python's followed the Actor..." at Rang Sharada in Bandra.

Thanks in advance!!!


Vijay Kumar Yenne
Production Manager
Version One Dot Oh!, Bangalore

My comment: Sounds interesting. Maybe some of you would like to attend the shows. If you do, I'd love to have a review to publish in JAM!

Here are a couple of other requests:

I am the admin at fansite for Actor Siddharth of Rang De Basanti fame, we (a bunch of Engg. students) have started the site a few months back.

I would be pleased if you can link to the website somehow... thnks in advance


My comment: Didn't know Siddharth is an MBA from S P Jain. Hmmm!

Lastly, Rajat Samanta from Army Institute of Management, Kolkata wanted to let junta know about the 'Indian B school Blog Hunt' at their annual fest Inferno.

You can submit a new Blog or add comments to existing ones over here

Will I be so nice week after week? No guarantees. I felt these were interesting bits of info... but I don't promise to put up any and all emails so please don't flood me with 'link to my blog' requests!

Have a nice day. Or night. Or whatever, depending on timezone.

So this time's emails are boring, huh? Well, folks that's the way life is. Public service is boring. That's why there's so little space in the media for it :)

But hey, this does expose the hypocrisy out there. When I critiqued an email I was exhorted to 'be positive'... What about being positive about 'being positive'?

Lastly, the number of negative comments posted on this blog far far exceed the positive ones. Not that I take it personally. But it's time some of you apply the principles you claim to believe in, before throwing e-pebbles at others!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

AICTE: all bark, no bite?

TOI reports: 'AICTE warns b schools running from rented buildings'.

In fact, AICTE has threatened to 'close down' all b schools and engineering colleges which are functioning out of rented buildings or sheds if they do not shift to approved permanent sites with 'full facilities' by March 31 2007.

Which is less than 60 days away.

Wonderful, you might say. The question is, what are 'full facilities'? And is physical infrastructure the only indicator of institutional excellence??

Let me tackle the first question first. There was a time when one could pinpoint the necessary 'facilities' a good techincal institute must have. Chief among these would be a well equipped computer centre with a conducive student: PC ratio. And a well stocked library.

Additionally, engineering colleges need laboratories. B schools do not have any such requirement.

Cut to the present. A large number of b schools now ask students to purchase a laptop when joining the course and simply provide wifi access. Libraries still exist, but I see fewer and fewer students accessing them or using them even to study. 'Google research' appears to suffice for most projects.

Theoretically, a college could simply subscribe to online databases and ensure its students access to a wide enough knowledge base.

Bacha kya? College building. Sure, that's important. But does a fancy building necessarily equal to excellent college? Aisa zaroori nahin hai. Physical infrastructure is the easiest thing to put up for any Mr Moneybags who wishes to set up a college. Besides, in a couple of student intake cycles the money spent on land and construction would pretty much get recovered.

In any case many excellent institutes including the likes of IIM Lucknow and IIM Indore initially operated from cramped, rented premises. In time, they built full-fledged campuses.

Now we come to faculty. AICTE has certain norms regarding the number of faculty a bschool must have. And the kind of qualifications they must possess. Ah, you might nod. An institute with numerous PhDs on its rolls must be a good one. But this too is no longer necessarily true.

ISB and Great Lakes have shown that one can operate institutes of merit with visiting faculty of high calibre and little permanent teaching staff. Many other decent management institutes are also operating primarily on a 'visiting faculty' basis.

A fact that AICTE does not seem to take into account when it includes criteria such as 'Recruitment, Strategies for Attracting and Retention of Faculty Personnel for Excellence, Promotional Avenues, Career Ladder' etc in its list of deliverables for schools seeking accreditation.

Any attempt to shut down hole-in-the-wall institutes is no doubt laudable. Certain 'minimum' standards must be met for an establishment to be an accredited b school or tschool. But it is equally true that the world is changing and AICTE should take this into account. Instead of getting obsessive about built up area per student being '11.7 sq m'.

I think two separate bodies should be set up to deal with engineering and management education. Engineering colleges need more infrastructure - laboratories, for example. And a 'visiting faculty' model may not be as viable as it is for bschools. So two different sets of norms would work much better.

Secondly, instead of a flat accreditation, AICTE should grade institutes. And lastly, when they need to stop threatening to act and actually act against those institutes which completely flunk out.

Revoking accreditation for a single high profile institute like Amity Business School is fine. But there are hundreds of bschools in similar or far worse condition. If AICTE truly has the interest of students at heart, they too should face the music.

The final irony is that even after losing accreditation Amity Business School continues to function - and is in fact attracting more students, as well as offering more courses and more seats. While AICTE calls itself ‘a statutory body’ accreditation is hardly statutory. It is desirable, but optional.

And there are territorial tussles with deemed universities asserting they need not get AICTE approval in the first place.

In the end, the free market appears to be the only real ‘regulator’. Word of mouth is what makes or breaks the reputation of a bschool or tschool. Not the word of AICTE.

Case Study: Keeping brand value alive

TOI reports: The venerable UVCE – one of Bangalore’s oldest and most reputed colleges – currently has a teacher:student ratio of 1:800!

The lone faculty in the nearly 100-year-old institution is K R Venugopal, chairman, department of computer science and engineering, who sits in the college premises from 9 am to 9 pm!

For the record, as per the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) guidelines, the college with its present student strength should have minimum 50 teachers.

Things are unlikely to change as a recent Bangalore University advertisement for 30 posts — 20 fulltime faculty and 10 posts on an hourly basis has not received a single application. No wonder - full time faculty is being offered merely Rs 10,000 in a city where a fresh B Tech can easily get a job paying twice that per month.

Not only AICTE, but everyone related to education needs to start thinking… differently. If we are to meet the aspirations of the millions of young Indians dreaming of a management or engineering education.

JAM Survey Link propogation

If you're working in one of those companies which takes in hundreds of engineers from all over India, we'd be obliged if you could post a link to the JAM Engineering College Survey along with this small note on your intranet.

JAM Engineering College Survey
Rate your college, help students make the right choice. Results of this survey will be published in JAM magazine's Blackbook on Engineering College Admissions in April 2007

Please take permission from your HR dept, if necessary. Or give me the name and id of the relevant person and I shall do so.

Secondly, if you're a student at an MBA institute, please post the above link on your intranet. Coz that's another haven for engineers :)

The reason I'm asking is we have a lot of responses but, in some parts of the country and from some colleges, not enough. Aapki thodi si madad se yeh kami puri ho sakti hai. Dhanyavaad - in advance.

Drop me a line if you do post the link so we can thank you personally.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Gur bhi, gaon bhi

Is it just me, or is there something strange about Gurgaon? I've been to the satellite city half a dozen times but never quite warmed up to it.

Sure, there are lots of glass and steel headquarters there. Plenty of shopping malls and conveniently located cushy apartments next door. But sab kuch bahut artificial lagta hai.

On the one hand, you get the impression that this is 'not India'. There are no regular markets and bazaars. No aam junta ka congregation spot besides the malls and private housing complexes. No 'purane sheher ki galiyan' (well, all of the above may exist in some pocket - but hidden away).

Now take a closer look and you will see this is very much India. The haalat of the roads and kachra 50 metres away from the swanky malls... is as bad as Mumbai (and certainly far worse than Delhi next door!). Gurgaon roads have apparently improved some but power cuts are a regular phenomenon ("all malls run on generators", I'm told).

And there is absolutely no public transport. Mobility to Delhi and back will take a leap once the metro is extended upto Gurgaon. But as far as internal transportation is concerned you will still be dead without your own vehicle.

Because of which, despite fairly wide roads and generous parking, weekends and public holidays like 26th Jan (when I was there), result in absolute chaos. The world and its step uncle descends on the mall stretch to gorge, guzzle, gape at shops and watch movies.

Same as yuppie public everywhere, but here the lack of alternatives is more pronounced.

One of the amusing things I noticed on this visit was a 'Scottish high international school'. It's even built to (somewhat) resemble a Scottish building/ castle. And no, I don't think it has anything to do with the famous Bombay Scottish school which owes its name to the fact that it was set up some Scottish missionaries. Over a century ago.

Tata taking over Corus is great. But I wonder when there will be a Haryanvi high school in Scotland... which Scottish students would clamour to attend. Tabhi hum manenge, that India really is taking over the world!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Working harder than ever - and lovin' it

This is a slightly extended version of my piece which appeared in Businessworld magazine, issue dt 29 Jan 2007

The 'Extreme Job' Syndrome
by Rashmi Bansal

IT is the latest buzzword in yuppiesphere. ‘Extreme jobs’ are screwing up lives and yet, they are on the rise. A recent study published in Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes that 52 per cent of America’s top income earners is working more than 70 hours a week (sample: 1,564 respondents). Extreme hours, extreme demands and extreme pay packets form a heady cocktail — sleep, sex and serenity be damned.

The HBR study, ‘Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek’, co-authored by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, president of the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York, drops scary statistics, but much of it along expected lines. Nearly 50 per cent of those who work these gruelling hours say it has affected their sex life; 46 per cent believe it is affecting their marriage as a whole.

So, what is new? Workaholism has long been recognised as an unhealthy way of life. “The nation’s best-dressed addiction,” says Bryan E. Robinson, author of a handbook on workaholism titled Chained To The Desk. In an interview to Forbes magazine, Robinson noted, “Workaholics often come from dysfunctional homes and have learnt that putting in crushing hours helps calm their anxiety about other aspects of life.” Like alcohol or drug addiction, it only masks the underlying problem, and creates more.

The ‘extreme jobs’ phenomenon, however, goes beyond. While some folks in extreme jobs would qualify as ‘workaholics’, most of them are otherwise happy, well-adjusted people. They don’t lack confidence or self-esteem. They are not bitter and crotchety. And they would be happy to ‘switch off’ from work. If it were not for that buzzing BlackBerry.

At least, that is what Hewlett’s study would have you believe. She classified a job as ‘extreme’ if it entailed working for 60 hours or more a week and at least five additional performance pressures including 24x7 client demands, profit and loss responsibility, and frequent travel. Technology, globalisation of work and leaner work forces are contributing factors. But let us scratch below the surface.

The single most revealing aspect of the HBR study is that the majority of these extreme workers love their jobs. What’s more, only 43 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women listed high financial compensation as the reason for being in an extreme job situation. Money is a definite ego boost but not the primary motivation. It is the adrenaline rush that the work provides — a kick that is much harder to come by in ‘life’.

Let’s face it. Once the honeymoon is over, marriage is something you have got to work at. Kids are lovable but as Hillary Clinton once said, it takes a village to raise a child. And we haven’t got any villages to depend on any more. Day-to-day, family life is like drifting along in a slow boat, and work is one non-stop transatlantic adventure. Unlike the workaholic of yore, extreme workers may not be using work as a refuge from life. But the new workaholic uses work as his primary trip — the part of life that provides challenge and stimulation, a sense of control, of tangible return.

So, what is wrong with that? Nothing, perhaps. But not too long ago, work was what you did so you could lead a life. Life, like work, was steady and routine. You ate, slept, spoke and sat around as a family. You did these things year after year and one day woke up to find your kids grown up and ready to start their own families. And so the cycle continued. Work wasn’t ‘who you are’, just what you did.

Now, it is quite the opposite. “Meet XYZ, working with ABC” is how introductions are made. Work is what provides a sense of identity. And so you embrace it. In the new, extreme economy, the more you love your work, the more it loves you back. You get more recognition, rewards, and a sense of satisfaction for a ‘job well done’.

And you get it instantly. Overachievers or “road warriors”, as Hewlett calls them, are addicted to doing stuff that takes them closer to some tangible goal. Timeframe? The next quarter.

On the other hand, there are no quick fixes in ‘life’. If your child eats beans, he will be healthy and is likely to do well in life. And one day, you will feel proud and he will be thankful for it. Meanwhile, you are engaged in a battle at the dinner table where logic and reason, bribes and threats have no effect. And you can’t even fire the person!

The bottom line is that technology and globalisation are to blame for ‘extreme jobs’. But so is ambition and greed; not just for money, but for constant stimulation and excitement. It is a choice we are making with our eyes open and hearts willing. We may say we want ‘balance’ in life, but are afraid it may bore us to death. Extreme jobs? Expect them to remain extremely alluring.

Except for women - they are simply opting out. The HBR study found that only 20% of extreme job workers are female. And of that small pool, 80% have ‘one foot out of the door’. They do not want to work this hard, under this kind of pressure, for more than 12 months. There are men who feel that way as well, but only 58%.

The truth is, extreme jobs are possible only when there is someone to manage the mundane and the domestic. And except for the rare instances where the man takes off the pants and puts on the apron, that someone is the woman. When life as a dual-career couple gets too complex, crazy or exhausting, she exercises the ‘choice’. Of leading a life more ordinary, but free. At least from that guilty feeling of not being a good mommy.

So what about that adrenalin rush? She gets it from her new role – bringing up perfect, all around accomplished kids. The kind who attend the best school, have the right friends, don’t eat junk food and watch only Animal Planet on television.

Long hours, constant demands, close-to-impossible goals to achieve. Sounds like yet another extreme job– minus the pay!

Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth