Archive for December, 2006

Home-Sick

Posted: December 31, 2006 in MBA Ramblings

This is one think that does not change irrespective of how my age counter keeps ticking or how the context or the geographies keep rolling. It happened during my under graduation, during my the period when I was on a job and now when I am finally doing my MBA, it still comes haunting back. Whenever I am set to go to home, the last days before that big day passes in a jiffy. with almost the whole world ‘conspiring’ to keep me on my highest spirits. And then before I can bat my eyelid its time for the return journey, now this seriously hurts! That day its almost like everything works against my wishes and no matter what happens I sorely miss home and my folks there! It always was this way, as far as I can remember!

Currently these are the things that I miss sorely of my home.

  1. The cozy place called my house and the luxury of having a refrigerator, a microwave oven and a car at your disposal (if you know what I mean)
  2. The chilly and fog smeared mornings, the nice colorful sweat shirts and the warm and comfortable quilts and of course the TV remote and the time to indulge in it abundantly
  3. The numerous FM Channels that are there on air. This time there were two new FM channels and my favorite of them all shifted from Red-FM to Radio-City
  4. The nice and friendly people of Delhi (Not to mention the pretty ones of opposite sex)
  5. The hot Cup of Coffee or the aroma of Darjeeling Tea which my mother is so excellent at preparing
  6. All my favorite foodstuff during the meals and other generous helpings (on a self service basis from the refrigerator)
  7. My nice room which beautiful oak furniture and my excellently lit table.
  8. Lastly, my Family who would always go that extra mile to provide me all my wants (Not NEEDS, mind you! WANTS!)

Dwarka Flyover

Posted: December 29, 2006 in Gibberish Blabber

My blog has off late become something which is so typical of a B-School student. This is primarily because the typecast that I have followed while picking topics or even while deliberating on any one. I am so aghast at this realization that I have almost made a silent New Year resolution that I will try to become a more ‘Wholesome Individual’ or in the words of ‘Kaavya @ How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life‘ become a ‘well rounded personality’
In keeping with this I have decided to shed some light about something which is very much a ‘ground reality’. The ‘Dwarka Flyover’, the largest flyover in Asia-Pacific region spanning what would (after completion) be 11.2 KMs connecting the dream sub-city of Rajiv Gandhi ‘Dwarka’ with the mainstay of the city, the ‘Outer-Ring road’.

It provides easy access bypassing the treacherous and unpredictable the railway crossing at Palam. This was a big headache for residents of the posh suburb as traversing through here in the busy office hours could be an assault on all your senses. It could take anywhere between 20 to 80 minutes to negotiate the short distance of 500 meters depending on the time of the day and the timetable of the trains having through fare through the passing lines. This was a longtime bottleneck but what was proving to be hindrance in construction of the flyover was the fact that this is just adjacent to the military airport which remains on ‘Critical Operational Readiness’ protecting the capital city from any impending disaster. Hence the armed forces had a lot of reservations over allowing any form of construction which would bring their facilities within observable range. However with the onset of Google Earth and other such Digital Satellite imaging services, they had bigger things to worry about!

From Google Earth

Another roadblock which was threatening to be a show-stopper was the fact that the construction of this flyover would require the evacuation of numerous illegal houses which had mushroomed in and around that area. In fact the whole of Mahavir enclave and the majority of Palam were unauthorized colonies. Removing them was like igniting a political dynamite as all these were controlled by the ‘Jat’ community, one which has the largest say over the vote-bank in Delhi.
However with the constant brow-beating of the courts & thanks to the relentless efforts of the housing RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations) this finally got completed. With this the Airport just became a 7 minute journey from the gates of Dwarka. More importantly important fixtures like Connaught Place and Nehru Place came at a workable distance by Delhi standards (both at < 1 hour)

dwarka-flyover-2.JPG

For Dwarka residents it meant a booming time not only because the added convenience it brought for them but because of the instant trippling effect it had on the real estate prices. Now with the metro too having come to Dwarka in a very big way, (the average distance between two station in the sub-city is 1 Km) there is no looking where the prices have skyrocketed to!
For me, I am hardly complaining as the eight lane width and the splendidly lit up concrete build make it a pleasure to cruise along!

comming-out-of-flyover.JPG

Its just been about 5 days in good old Delhi and you bet its beginning to strike, the cold I mean. In the last three days I have been twice to the airport and once to the railway station to pick my relatives up.
My Dad and brother came today and the day before and my cousin came yesterday. all these three days I have been kept stranded and waiting for at least three hours. Delhi is extremely foggy these days, so much so tat by the time I normally wake up, which is by noon it still seems like its 0700 in the morning with an outside visibility of not more than 10- 15 meters. As a result there have been mass delays in flight schedules and train arrivals.
The day before yesterday when my dad was arriving from a flight from Mumbai, the 16:30 flight finally landed up in 22:30 and today my brother’s 17:00 hours flight landed at 22:20. But, as I understood from the ground situation out there, we were clearly the lucky ones. A lot of flights were actually running behind schedule by 10-12 hours. The airport waiting lounge, including the sparkling new state-of-the-art waiting area was swarming with people resembling more ISBT(Inter state Bus Terminus – The Central bus stand from which busses to all other states depart) than an airport. what had accentuated the problem was the massive lag in the information system. The information being doled out to the waiting passengers and/or their waiting relatives was either outdated or clearly lacking any valuable content. For example a Jet airways had already landed at 5:55 and yet the status message still showed as expected. What was surprising was that the chaos was even worse for the private airlines. The Jet Airways and Sahara Airlines were lying deserted and there were no trace of information counters for Air-Deccan, SpiceJet or for that Matter any LCO’s (Low cost Operators). Even The Prettiness’ of Kingfishers were nowhere to be seen! the Indian (Airlines) counter was staffed by one or two people on rotation and these folks updated the ‘INFORMATION’ white-board with quanta of information every 30-45 min.
What was however a sight worth seeing was the scenario at NDRS(New Delhi Railway Station). We went there yesterday to pick up my causing who are coming over to spend their Christmas vacations with us. After a quick lookup from the ‘friendly’ Railway Telephone Enquiry System (Automated Voice Response system) we were informed that the train we were looking for was delayed by 2:30 hours and was expected by 19:30. This information remained unchanged even until the train finally arrived at 22:40. There was apparently no updation of information taking place. What was much more troublesome was the fact that yesterday it was a disaster waiting to happen at platform number 6&7. Almost 5 trains were expected from the past 4 hours of delays and the loudspeakers uncannily kept announcing all of them to be coming to platform 6 or 7. The result was total confusion and huge and chaotic commotion. The platforms, staircases and even the over bridge corridors connecting the different stations were lying choc-a-bloc with people. The place was so much crowded that it was almost difficult to get a stable foothold in the platform.
This was getting aggravated every passing minute for the past 40 minutes when the Railway police suddenly got into action and started threatening blows on people in the stairs and the over bridge in an effort to de-Clog them. What they risked was a mass stampede and huge casualties especially with lots of children, ladies and senior citizens waiting in the platforms. By an act which can only be described as a grace of God, before anything so tragic could have occurred the Railway Authorities quickly realized the impending disaster and started announcing people to come out of station 6&7 as they would be diverting some trains to stations 1,2&3 which were empty by now. They also kept repeating to them, asking them to move slowly and in order and not causing panic or succumbing to the incredible tendency to push and jostle for that extra opportunity for movement while moving.
The AutoRickshaws as usual had a field day, and ethical as they are known out to be (For Non-Delhi folks: A Very Serious Pun is intended here) they ended up making profits which they would probably would have made accumulated on three normal working days!

Yup the pain in the neck finally ceased, hopefully! This by far was the most taxing and the most strenuous term so far (Ok.. now we have only had two terms so far, but what the heck!) The take home from this term was almost proportionate to the number of sleepless nights we spent. (None for me ..Thanks .. but No Thanks !)
We understood the true essence of the Harvard Case Methodology, which was overused to an extent bordering abused in one of our subject. The efforts we were asked to pour in were clearly insane, and there lies the catch, we were almost pushed off the cliff and had we not opened our parachutes (Read Unofficial Co-operative work) we would sure have been dead meat by now.
Something which is really sad is that in our system the profs see that students readily cheat or resort to ‘un-ethical’ means but they don’t see the greater picture that they in fact push us to this point by blindly copying the western system without applying the minimum required customizations.
While a Harvard MBA graduate student spends on an average 4 hours in class (taking 5 subjects) and another 6-8 hours studying doing projects, assignments and so on, an IIM student has to take 6-8 hours of class (taking 8 subjects) and at least about 8-10 hours of house prep after that. This leaves almost no time to even relish whatever are learnings of a day and is more like a mad guzzle which leads to at best an indigestion and at worst a Puke! Not to mention that a Harvard/Wharton/Kellogg student rarely needs to muggify for subjects and here we are made to save humongous amount of data even for social subjects like ‘Ethics’! I really wonder how much ethics we end up learning considering that all we learn is various theories like Piaget and Kohl berg and its pro’s and cons. Some things which are absolutely abhorred from real life significance.
There was a big issue regarding Plagiarism this term in one of the subjects, but what the instructor failed to understand was that he was giving disproportionate workload to the amount of credit hours his subject carried. A two credit course should no way carry a case and two text book chapters to read every day (This requires 8 hours on a conservative note to do), irrespective of his beliefs regarding the importance of his subject. Some people had to pay a heavy price for omitting certain references in their term reports. But there is where the fun begins.
The Faculty actually flunked a number of students for quoting verbatim certain research papers in the term reports even though proper references were provided. His logic goes as follows,”When in a 50 pages report 10 pages are from an external report quoted verbatim, how can I not give an ‘F’ Grade”.
A very simple counter logic that should have worked in any JUST system is that “if a report is relevant it can be quoted end-to-end even if that is all what is contained in the student’s report. After all why should anyone re-invent the wheel. In worst case scenario the instructor may choose not to give any marks to the student on grounds that he did not do any new path breaking work, this would qualify for a ‘D’ grade; but no way an ‘F’. Moreover, the instructor should have made clear that he expects authentic path breaking research work from MBA students for 20% weight in a 2 credit course”
Unfortunately for the students, the IIM system posts more faith in its faculty than in its students and goes to an extent of giving them ‘SACROSANCT’ powers wherein no one has the right to even question him.
I would have indeed loved to get into a debate with the said instructor PROVIDED I am assured that I can speak without fear or favor, and this would in no way have any effect on my grades.
The best part is that the said instructor justified his ‘HARSH’ punishment because a group of this students were caught peeping in another subject quiz. Talk of impartiality of judiciary. I mean, following the same logic anyone who has stolen once should always be punished in the event of any theft in the locality he/she lives. And Does that sound Fair!!
Anyways, as someone said, ‘If Life was fair it would have been as interesting as an algebra Equation!’

Finally when this subject almost lost its complete relevance, I am able to pen my thoughts about the wonderful experience of having the dabbawalas with us in IIMK at our Operations Management seminar OPUS 2006.

On 26th November the junta of IIM managed what would be undoubtedly one of the incredible feats, that of waking up at 7:55 AM on a SUN morning braving the intoxicating lethargy and the uncanny sleeplessness which always brings an incredible listlessness to any IIM student. The occasion was the onset of the Dabbawalas, a marvel of Six sigma for the professional community, that of immaculate reliability for the common office go’er and that of high curiosity value for the likes of globetrotting royalty, the likes of Prince Charles.

Let me describe the quintessential dabbawala for those who have never been to Mumbai (Bombay), they are ‘the daughty little man in distinctive white Gandhi cap, who delivers thousands of hungry lunches to officer-goers every afternoon. The dabbawalla gets his name from the dabba, the aluminium containers fitted one above the other, held in place by a wire grip and lowered into an outer tin case, which serves the double purpose of keeping the food warm and preventing it from splashing out during the dabbawala’s rushed and jostling journey

Two senior folks in their largely flat hierarchy came over, Raghunath Megde the President of New Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier Association and the secretary Mr. Gangaram Talekar. The both were very plainly dressed with the signature ‘Gandhi topi’s’ on. They spoke not in a faked accentuated Hinglish (An un-cognizable amalgamation of hindi and English) but in their natural and earthen Mumbai-Hindi. The fact that they had no pretensions about them and spoke witty one liners like ‘Teaching IIM students about management is like Teaching Amitabh Bachan acting!’ help in capturing rapt attention of the sleepy and drowsy junta.
To state some facts about the organization, as revealed to us by them. The Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association is a streamlined 120-year-old organization (started in 1890 and registered in 1956) with 4,500 semi-literate members (Average literacy being 8th grade schooling) providing a quality door-to-door service to a large and loyal customer base(roughly 200000 in numbers) at an unimaginably low cost (Rs. 300 per month). The organization is an absolutely flat structure with everyone a stakeholder in the final profits. Every individual gets equal share in the overall profit at the end of the year irrespective of rank, age, work etc. There is a body of seniors ‘The Mukhadam’ who do the overall monitoring of the process and engage in any crisis management. These are simply the folks who have been in the business for about 30-40 years and are now in a position to guide and mentor the others. A common misconception goes that these are the contractors which is not true as in the true spirit of any co-operative they draw the same salary as any other.

Raghunath Speaking on Diaz

The whole chain starts with the friendly dabbawala knocking at your door to ollect the tiffin case at 0930 from your doorstep. This tiffin case has a uniquely marking which indicates the Originating rail station, the destination station the building name and the floor number of delivery. The color of the marking indicates the groups responsible of collecting this dabba at any particular point. This is a simple but very very efficient system designed and as any Operations Consultant would tell you involves failsafing techniques, called POKA-YOKE.

Markings on a Box

The marvel of this organization goes beyond operations management and encompasses cross-functional stuff like Organizational Management and Logistics Control (Supply Chain Management). But most importantly it is the business model which works seamlessly even in an environment as uncertain as ours. There in an inherent discipline that ensures that order is maintained. For every 6 people on active duty in the structure there is one who acts as a backup for contingencies. Load balancing is done through a heuristic involving human expertise and previous field knowledge. The mantra always being ‘The Show must go on’. Members adhere by a liberal but inflexible code of conduct which includes never being in an inebriated state at work and always donning the signature ‘Gandhi Topi’. Moreoever all duties and responsibilities are collectively owned, just like the whole profit earned are collectively distributed amongst member partners. Also, their regiment is not tailored for VIP visits and/or other ‘Occasion Specific’ demands. So when Prince Charles wanted to meet them, they eagerly consented on condition that he would have to meet them on Victoria Terminus (VT) Railway station at exactly 10:00 hours and he would have a maximum time of 20 minutes because at 10:20 hours the train to Andheri/Vile Parle departs and most dabbawalas need to board it. Lesson from all this is simple yet pivotal in any successful engagement. Its of prioritization and identificatoion of core responsibilities. The customers, the recipients of the tiffin boxes are the first priority of the dabbawalas. Everything else comes second to that, or maybe third or fourth. There are no compromises made with the core responsibility of delivering the boxes on time and at correct destination.

All in all it was a wonderful experience having them there with us !