And I love a Rainy Night …

Posted: June 21, 2009 in MBA Ramblings

It’s been quite a while since I have web-logged on the forum of my choice, not that I was unaware or incapacitated by any means but just that I needed a break. Lots have happened from the last time I posted on my blog, I’ve passed out of B-School, joined a job, walked back into my favorite city after a longish eight years and the list could go on and on. I would like to believe that this usual ‘so much has happened’ rant be replace by the new stuff which is very much in and here now. Somehow history is always a bit boring and retrospective mode seems so unimaginative to me.

So with thy permission, fast forwarding to the present day which is where I am and the action is. Got back on line in a step-by-step mode as I opened my twitter account, not that I knew much of it but then it was something seriously in and self-professed technophiles like me could ignore it much at their own peril. So got it installed found the best media to use it with which would be twitterfox (in firefox) and twittle in my Nokia E63. Have been twitting on it ever since whether it is from inside metro en-route to a party or on office transport while heading home. It’s some serious fun, believe me! Much more so when you might wonder what’s the small-insignificant happenings in all your friends lives much as you try to make sense into the same at your end, In case you haven’t tried it out, do give it a shot.

Bought a couple of books, which I had been planning to read up since those MBA Days. These include (but are not exhaustively include) Liar’s Poker, Money Business, Barbarians at the Gate, Fooled by Randomness, Random Walk Down the Wall Street, Made in America, Tipping Point & Freakonomics. I presume I would have covered about 15% on an average of each book before switching to the next more interesting fad I’d managed to catch up.

There are these lots of stuff which I seriously intend on doing, somehow I can never myself to do them but one at a time. These include getting myself back to shape which means reducing some serious flab, regenerating the insatiable appetite for reading good material, gearing up on major happenings and keeping abreast with the turmoil in the modern boardrooms (after-all this is what comprises ‘core competency’ of MBA junkies!), hitch-hiking around the world getting to know this strange planer and the stranger people who reside in it a wee bit better, getting to re-discover my favorite city (New Delhi) and getting to know it as much as I have got to know places like Kolkata, Calicut and Hyderabad etc. to name just a few.

Here is my work-in-progress list. Have begun on the health front and thankfully I’ve made some progress on that front, become a regular reader of NYTimes and WSJ (at the cost of being almost oblivious to the home grown dailies), been trying out new and interesting stuff in Delhi thanks in no small measure to Time-Out magazine and Eicher City Map (both of which are I believe overpriced. Try Google Maps on I-phone/Nokia E-series for a better value deal), got the motivation finally on to get to make some friends in the fairer sex (Why do we keep calling them Fairer? Are we being racist or is it just that admission of being incredibly unfair as some men are!).

I’ve also been catching up with some really lovely old songs taught to us by Mr. Brown, Music teacher at Don Bosco School (Alaknanda) as a part of the School Band. Thank Goodness for YouTube that these are now within ready access for any music aficionado (and at THE price Indians are willing to pay for access to classics … ZILCH!). The title for this post is one such number. ‘And I love a Rainy Night‘ is a lovely all time great country song which brought back the memories of the Don Bosco School Band of which I was a proud member and the competitions and expeditions that we took part in.

Funny that some things in life which we start of thinking as secondary or barely as the paraphernalia to the crux later turn out to be the most cherished and prized of all memories that encompass that period.

Ending with the earnest belief of Ben Okri, Our future is greater than our past!

Stepping Back

Posted: March 14, 2008 in Management, Philosophy

Its been a shocking revelation how loads of free time and no work can soil your habits up. After a jam packed past six months the past week seemed almost revolting to our by now streamlined systems. The decadence seemed to set in fast and rather pungently. Watching movies, playing Counter-Strike or Call-of-Duty and chatting with batchmates and junies often till early hours of daybreak caused us to sleep well till noon, skipping breakfast for a hefty Brunch and again after a couple of hours of hovering around various ways to spend (read that ‘kill’) time going out to beach and hopping at some place for a sumptuous dinner. Needless to say the whole body-clock and intrinsic timetable just became topsy-turvy.

When I finally got to writing this blog, it was surprising what all I could write about. Term 5 had been really eventful in terms of learning and take-away. Term 6 had been interluded by lateral placement processes, Backwaters 2008 (our Annual Fest), Alumni meet and Sangram
2008 (IIM K Vs. IIM B Sports meet). Thus, it had by far been the most happening non-academically and least happening academically. The placement interviews and the overall processes were a very interesting affair in itself and do warrant a dedicated post too. By the end of the processes I had three offers one a project finance role in a large corporate, a consulting profile and a front end trading in derivatives with a prop trading firm. I was again made aware of the inherent risk-neutral to bordering risk-averse nature of my personality when I gave the highly lucrative derivative trading profile a go for a more secured career in consulting. The foreign exchange students this year were an interesting bunch, but they ended up faring pretty much miserably when it came to examinations. A stark reminder of the academic rigor in the IIMs, something which is not the case for most global MBA programs. (An IIM term on an average spans 3 months with an average of 7 subjects whereas most US B-Schools have term of 5 month duration with 4 subjects. The course content and curricula of each individual subject is almost identical both in terms of breadth and depth of coverage and the assignment load)

Stepping back for a while and looking at the ‘big picture’ sort of thinking all these trivialities matter less than two cents. Matter of fact remains that it’s been quite an achievement from the dismal 7th ranker among 50 students in my section with 70% marks in my early schooling to complete engineering in computer science from a premier institution and finally graduate from an IIM. The first time I stepped into the 80s was in grade VII and I had duly celebrated that by watching the first movie in a cinema hall. I still remember very clearly it was Terminator 2 and me, my brother, my uncle and my father had gone to ‘Priya‘ in Vasant Vihar, the popular up-market cinema hall at that time in Delhi. Most of my peers were toppers in their batch with a grade point average between 90 & 100%. Most of my peers are doing quite well and most have met with varying levels of successes, which bear no co-relation to their schooling grades or rankings. The fact that I was not built by nature to be a ‘Natural Winner‘ in everything I did hit pretty early and might I say, it hit pretty hard. I was the average student in class with a below average performance in sports. The only silver-lining was that I was immensely and insatiably inquisitive and with very little of a filler between my thoughts and my words. What I thought, That I spoke! And just to be fair to the Creator, had a better than average baritone.

Its really quite futile to try and comprehend the factors behind this because lots of times there is an intrinsic randomness (Refer: Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholaus Taleb) or entropy in environment around us which throws the best plans into a disarray and what we are left with is scanty pieces of an otherwise perfect piecemeal plan. However, one thing can be safely deduced even in this robust stochastically non-deterministic system, the dots truly seem to connect much as Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford Graduation speech. The idea can be explained as follows. Just like when solving a puzzle in which the objective is to draw a route map connecting a rabbit to the carrot through an array if complex intermingling routes, its always necessary to keep an eye on the carrot and then try and work our way through various combinations of routes to reach it, similarly while making way through various uncertainties both of means and outcomes one should never lose touch of the central objective or the primary motive of the game. Of course, the attempts at trying to rework alternatives at any stage of the process should never cede i.e. one should never give up and accept defeat. Over the entire span, one thing led to another; quite often the fate that my plans for future met was something like ‘I proposed & God disposed‘! However after lots of twisting and turning, the rabbit finally reached the carrot and here I am writing this blog largely content over an MBA degree which I relished earning.

On a largely incongruent note, I came to know a few days back that one of my classmates in school committed suicide jumping from the 7th storey of his office building. Much as I wanted I could not feel sad or sorry for him and this I am really uncomfortable to admit. This boy had been the quintessential mean SOB in school. Unfailingly condescending, taunting and poking sorts. One who never missed an opportunity to demean or humiliate and make others feel miserable. His winning streak however met with a rude shock when I jostled him out of his position in high school graduation. But more importantly, he never really made many friends in school. Most his companions were as self-centered and mean as he himself and hence loosely fitted the definition of ‘fair weather friends‘ at best. Sadly enough, this apparently had not changed in the past 9 years of our disconnect. I find it unethical to be sympathetic to such undeserving candidates for sympathy, after all its very little that nice guys can look up to these days and I can’t deem it fit to cast aside what truly belongs to them on such unbecoming subjects.

Was eagerly wishing that get to see my campus one last time in full bloom and glory before I take leave from it. For that to happen it must rain generously. Let me get into a wee bit more of prelude. IIM K is on the most picturesque location of all IIMs posted right on top of three hills and a valley in between (We literally have Hill #1 for academic campus and Hill #2 for residence purposes). Atypical to ‘God’s Own country‘ its all lush with green trees. Palm, coconut, mango and what not. These are lavishly garnished by multitude of layers of flora and fauna. The campus has been designed with a keen aesthetic view. But all this looks best when they are watered plentifully and naturally. Rains do that trick, washing out the old and bringing in the freshness back. By quirk of fate (or environmental climatic changes as some would say) it suddenly rained today. This is the most untoward time to rain, its usually hot and uncomfortable this time of the year. The rains brought back that aroma of moist soil, the scenic beauty came flooding back all over and today as I opened my balcony doors whiff came the clouds into my room whispering into my ears. It truly was surreal. All the spectacular beauty that we got so used to in the past few years came flooding back.

Couldn’t help feel sad that my campus will not be mine for not too long anymore. But what the heck, K shall always remain my IIM. I will belong to K and K shall belong to me!

Would end with a conscious effort on my part to be regular again on my blog. Till then, so long!

Was wondering the other day, sipping tea and gazing lazily into the cupboards in front, about how when we go deeper into subjects the ‘dots begin to connect’ and the out of sheer chaos how order becomes visible. Been watching a Sitcom a lot of late. ‘ED’ is about Edwards J Stevens a lawyer who owns a bowling alley and prefers not to be called the ‘Bowling alley lawyer’ 😀

In one of his episodes a character gives a message that when things go really wrong and nothing seems to be working our way, one should hang on and stay put. Bad times will pass. Should not indulge in self-doubt or loose faith in one self. I am not new to this concept and might add a few lines to that; one should never ‘short’ his dreams or ‘long’ a compromise solution. In layman’s terms that would be translated (somewhat fancifully) as “Don’t give up, Don’t Give in“. Our Grandma’s never tire of sermonizing the fact we can rarely come across someone who fulfilled his dreams or became anything of worth without having made to sweat-out for it.

Paul Cohelo in his revolutionary book ‘The Alchemist’ says that once we have made our intentions clear that we want what we want and will not stop till we get what we want, the whole worlds starts to conspire to help us achieve that. But what he does not talk about is the intermediary period when the world goes about testing the intensity of our desire to have it and for what its worth makes us literally bleed through the nose to have it. Steve Jobs talked about connecting the dots and the fact that while connecting them we aren’t really able to see through to our destination. We are only guided by our Karma or intense desire or that sacred inner voice in our actions. However when the picture is complete, it all comes back to us as how obviously it was a part of our destiny that we would have connected that dot. How else would the picture have come out in all its glory. What he does warn us though that it’s not all rosy, and the road to such perdition will ask and call for immense sacrifices and will test the will, spirit and soul of the person so desirous.

So, what’s so great about this, one might be tempted to ask. What is so great about dreaming and then believing in your dream and working at it even if the whole world thinks you are crazy to finally live out your dream! Further what has Present Value (PV) calculations got to do with any of this. In case you have read so far of this blog post, I an sure you would have scratched your beard at least once or raised an eyebrow or two or if nothing else twitched inadvertently at the berserk contextual fallacy of this post.

In Warren Buffet’s words investment is ALWAYS for the long term and when we buy shares of a company the way to look at it is not like we are buying some shares of it but we are buying a partnership in the business of the firm. As someone has rightly said (& Prof. Uday Damodaran elegantly pointed out at his SAPM class) A Pessimist is someone who knows the PRICE of everything but the VALUE of nothing. Price has little to do with the fundamental value associated with an object. Valuation of any business thus has to do a lot with these contextual framework and philosophical backbone.

If we sit back and think how does an astute investor make money in the equity markets without retorting to market manipulation. It is by realizing the Hidden Value of a Business. The value of a business which is not recognized by the market yet but is evident to the investor. In other words the dreams of the promoters and the prospects of it coming through not being gauged accurately enough by the investor community in general. The two words in this phrase are of equal importance, ‘Hidden’ and ‘Value’. If the vision of growth and prosperity of any firm is evident to the general community then the current price of the stock would have already factored that in. It needs to be something which has slipped accidentally or more commonly disregarded naively as an achievable and actionable objective. Moreover the Vision of Growth must lead to Value generation. In keeping with the maxims of Shareholder Wealth Maximization (SWM) the new projects undertaken by the firm must be because the management believes it will generate positive Net Present Value (NPV) for the shareholders and not because it is a ‘Pet’ project of the executives. The Present Value (PV) factors in the time weightage of the returns a $100 bill today is more precious than $100 bill bill a 100 years later.

I am sure the mathematics above is not at all pleasing to read, being banal and trivial to say the least. Let’s move into the more interesting aspect of this. The Philosophy side of it. What it essentially means is that the number crunching MBA investor managing wealth should be able to connect to the dreams and aspirations of the entrepreneurial promoter sweating in some remote area across the globe. What it means is that he should be able to gauge the intensity of this man’s psyche towards not letting go of his goals and his dreams midway. (He of course would also need to analyze the reality elements of his dreams, but considering the stock is actually being traded, it does have a decent chance of making it through. What is really in question is how much is the chance!). So while people going about their daily chores need to keep believing in themselves, an Investment Manager will need to believe in other people. He would need to access the chances that the promoter would not chicken out when the market is sloppy or when the tides suddenly turn unfavorable. Because if really has to jettison out from the firm when its going through a rough patch his investment would have been severely impaired.

Add to it the fact that the promoters are mostly over critical of poking investors and aren’t really forthcoming with the true state of the difficulties they might be facing in implementation of the projects and we really have a very difficult job for that ‘Astute Investor’! No wonder then that we just have one Warren Buffet!

Have been Reading the wonderful Foodies Guide to IIMK in the Taste of Heaven Blog. It’s a wonderful compilation with a direct “From the Horse’s Mouth” coverage. I’ve been doing my own Food outlets discovery in this city and decided to put two of mine up too.

Sagar

(A good family restaurant that is light on your pocket and a treat for your taste buds)

INTRODUCTION

If you miss your the bicker & quibble-quabble of your naughty nephews/nieces as you would dine with your extended family, then look no further. A splendid family restaurant catering to local folk who more often than not turn up with their families, its a wonderful change from the aristocracies of Taj and the noise of Sea-Queen. Most importantly, its a place where you can drop over for a sumptuous dinner after you have completed your shopping (Whatever you would have done on that …!) and had some change left which if left unspent would risk making your un-accustomed pockets jingling with coins. Its so damn cheap!!

HAVEs and HAVE-NOTs

For non-Veggies ask for ginger chicken and pathri which is something like rice chappatis but only thinner and tastier (Its like rumali-roti made with rice and of dimensions of a normal roti). Alternatively you could substitute pathri with ‘Appam’ in case you have an eclectic taste, Appam is something like baked version of rice cake and has appearance hybrid between idli in the middle of a small dosa. But, Boy! Does it taste good! If you are too tired of garlic chicken, then try ginger chicken as well. But, by far garlic is the best; ginger comes close. A rider: don’t try much more, its not all that great! For fish lovers, you’ve plenty of choice. Most of the fish curries are delicious if you do not mind the strong aroma of coconut oil.

For Veggies, substitute chicken curry with paneer butter masala and/or mushroom masala, and you got your own winner combo!

LOCATION

Sagar has two branches on two ends of Mavoor road and most often is swarming with people. It has three categories of seating: normal, family & AC. The cost escalation for AC is marginal so taking that is highly recommended!

COST

In all a gluttonous meal will set you back by anything like Rs. 85 to Rs. 120 and with larger numbers the per head cost comes significantly down.

Al-Bake

(The Authentic Arabic Cuisine served at a fraction of the Arabic prices)

INTRODUCTION

The city of Calicut has been known for two things, Vasco-Da-Gama’s Entry and its next-door proximity to the Middle East. How then you would wonder would the city not be served by at least one authentic Arabic food joint? Well with Al-Bake you can put all those qualms at rest. Situated tight in the corner opposite Baby Memorial Hospital, the chain of restaurants are all labeled with bright neon lights so that you cant miss them even if you are doped that you couldn’t differentiate between a dove and a crow! It’s a largely conservative up-market restaurant frequented by most gulf-returned Mallus. Its not too well light but the ambience is quite decent. The space is a bit constricted but the air conditioning and the service more than make up for these minor defeciencies.

HAVEs and HAVE-NOTs

For non-Veggies: Try out any dish, most of them are quite palpable. I had something which tasted like ‘luckhnowi Biryani’. The beauty about this place is that I never came across a single item which was not worth trying out at least once (and maybe twice as well!). Also most food retain their distinct “Arabic” flavor and the customizations to Indian Taste if any are hardly visible to naked eyes. The desert is amazing with Ice cream shakes which are worth dying for. My favirte is the Pista Flavored one.

For Veggies: It has some dishes , but largely there are better avenues where you can try out the food. Skip Al-Bake if you intend to stick to a Veggy meal.

COST

Al-Bake is slightly prier than Sagar but much cheaper than Sea-Queen or Mezbaan. The food is really worth the price they charge and a decent non-veg meal will cost two people Rs. 130-160 per head with a slight lessening with increasing numbers. Look for this place when ARABIC is what you are looking for.

A Rider:
Ambience is Very conservative, so consider a different restaurant if you plan to have a cosy dinner with your lady interest.

Prostituting News

Posted: August 27, 2007 in Gibberish Blabber, MBA Ramblings

Read this

The Journo who wrote this classic piece is the ‘Famed’ editor of B-School Rankings. A kind of guy whose core competency remains marketing shit by posting it as ‘Research Verified and OUTLOOk stamed authentic’. My thoughts on that article follows.

Of course! As C-Fore correctly points out MDI and likes are truly a world class MBA college. Much better than three of the IIMs. Especially when the 8 lakhs siphoned off from students make its way to advertisements in Outlook and the editors of such ranking articles are taken good care of. After-all it’s situated in MY Delhi! That alone suffices.

Minor trivialities like quality of students and level of academics really count for a petty sum. The Weighted Average Value calculation really puts a trivial score of such factors. The fact that most decent profiled professionals who are well placed in life already don’t even care to apply to this institute is due to the Evil Axis spinning IIMs who keep fudging-nudging with the mindsets of people.

And, yeah any institute has the right to force a sloppy job on its students so as to protect its ‘Average Salary Figure’ even if it ends up ruining his prospects of following his dream career path. So MDI really cannot be held at guilt.

After-all the top B-School in the world is SUNY (State University of New York) and not Wharton. You see the reason causing that is the fact that Wharton is in an investment impoverished state of Pennsylvania whereas SUNY is in the Cradle of financial capital of the World, New York! 😀 (I almost fell off my seat laughing)

Thank my stars that policy matters are decided by dumb politicians and not smart journos!!

By the way, I wrote this as a comment on that article. Of course it has a Moderated comment section to ensure that only ‘Proper’ comments are filtered through! Lets see how sportive is Premchand Palety, the self proclaimed expert on B-Schools and the humdrum journalist Prostituting news.
I have written this article with MDI because this institute happens to be a particular favorite with this magazine. I could however have replaced it with many others like IMT/SPJAIN and even government ones like IIFT!

~ ‘There is nothing so PATHETIC as a man with an AMPUTATED SOUL’

They say that the honeymoon period begins in reverse order in IIMs. So to say it peaks the month before the course ends and starts somewhere midway, i.e. with the start of second year.

My prolonged absence from what used to be one of my frequent pit-stops, my blog, is due to the unforeseen academic load that has viralled in. This unusual load is not a matter of chance or of co-incidence, as most people believe. The talk doing rounds is that a two-pronged approach was taken by the PGP (Post Graduate Program i.e. MBA Program) office to curb this infidelity to their sacred subject, ‘Academics’. Firstly, they brought all the important electives in this term, so if you have even an iota of hunger for learning you got nowhere to run to pal! Secondly they squeezed a normal 3 month term into a 2 month ‘crash-course’. I don’t know where crash course got its name from, but from my end it looks to be inspired from the fact that there is a very high probability that the course will end up in a crash!

Anyways looking into the various aspects after my previous blog, here goes.

  • Summers was a fantastic learning experience. Got a feel of an Investment Bank though the workload will almost quadruple when I finally join one. I finally decided on the first stroke in the white canvas in the post-MBA employment scenario. I was decided on Investment Banking, but was not sure which branch would it be. Now I know which one it will be and more importantly the difference between them. Private Equity has become a long term career goal and Hedge funds the intermediary one.
  • Delhi was a welcome change. It was great to be back in my home-town for a longish span after almost 7 years! It was hot as a furnace, even in the nights when on one day it was 43 degrees Celsius! It was home though and that made all the difference!
  • Went for a visit to the school of ‘Babus’ in Mussoorie: Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. This is the place where newly minted IAS officers are polished before they take chair and officiate as Babus of India! The systems in the institute were actually generations behind what we have in IIMs and it was without doubt that it wasn’t faring half as well in living up to its mandate! In fact, the IAS Cadre Students (Officially called Officer Trainees or OTs) were so reckless with government property that they actually opened all taps of their hostels before they left for their postings at the end of their training. As a result the institute was parched for water for one full day! It’s sad that these people will be undertaking the nearest equivalent of management of government machinery.
  • Back in Campus the weather was sheer Bliss! The clouds and the rain drops laden breeze seem to be romancing all day long. The campus is so picturesque that I almost felt a pang of sadness that next year this time I will no longer be here! Our section went to a beach party one day. We all packed off early afternoon and off we went to Kappad. After many rounds of Ocean-water dumping, sand ball flinging, beach football, drinks songs and merry making we made our way joyously back to campus. The photos came out superb the next day and flaunt my flickr account now!
  • Juniors are a primarily work-ex laden batch, however they are still being treated with kid-gloves by the system. They are having a very merry time and the euphoria of having made it to IIM hasn’t collapsed yet. Probably the Mid-term examinations will do that for them. We pray that they have a soft landing so that they aren’t crippled and can rise again!
  • Our classes have started on Turbo mode from day one. I averaged 8 hours of classes till yesterday and today as I write I have chosen to conveniently skip two hours of classes that will be stretching to 23:30 hours! Management of Banks is proving to be more that living up to its precedent of being morbidly loaded, but the nice part is that the facilitator is a very nice and understanding person. Securities Analysis and Portfolio Management is by far the best course I have taken till now and the facilitator, Dr. Uday Damodaran is no way the lesser cause of that. UD sir is sheer music to ears, his classes are like listening to a maestro play Mozart or Beethoven! Financial Derivatives is a steep learning curve and the terror of Black & scholes model with their option-pricing model has already taken grip of students!
  • Finally, booze parties have been allowed in the campus, and with that it brought back the sparkle to the freshers party and to the numerous hostel parties. Hostel ‘G’ods is recreating history and truly adding glitter to its illustrious reputation as rambunctious and happening hostel. Junies have taken to watching movies and competing in all frivolous competitions in true earnest. Academics has taken a backseat for them!
  • After a lot of fanfare the Doctoral program was rolled off this year. We finally have Fellow Program in Management students in our midst! Surprisingly quite a few of them are rank freshers (what in IIM lingo is called ‘Bloody Fresher‘). They are provided air-conditioned cottages and a princely stipend of Rs. 12,000 per month for studying. The first year is common for them with the MBA students and thereafter theirs charters its way to thesis and doctoral research. Met two guys from them, nice people with an academic bent of mind and a steely resolve to achieve their goals! Wish them all the best as the flag-bearers of Doctoral program of this IIM!
  • Watched two movies (even in this academic load!), ‘Corporate’ and ‘Life in a Metro‘. Of them, the later was easily avoidable and a typical bollywood quasi-masala contemporary genre movie. Corporate on the other hand was a very nice movie and threw up many questions of business ethics and its importance in the life of professional managers like us.

Saw this as a status message on one of my friend’s! Realized the gravity of what had happened exactly a year back.

As I kept pressing the refresh button sitting in the posh ambience of my organization and sipping coffee nervously, waiting for IIM K results to be out! I had royally messed up all the other IIMs thanks to an over jingoistic approach at answering the highly dubious  quant section! Kozhikode was my last respite, hopefully!

As the link to the results finally came, I clicked it with the pressing urgency of being the  first few among the 200000 students who must have waited for that opportune moment! (Not a frequenter to the MBA hullabaloo, the forum called Pagalguy, a friend of mine had called telling me that the results for K were finally out)

Once the form to ask for Date of Birth (DOB) and Registration number came, I jumped at  it and finished the whole thing at the drop of a fiddle! For the first time as I was about to  click on submit, my fingers refused to comply on the mouse buttons. No wonder, they  were terrified at the prospect of seeing ‘Sorry! Not selected!’ message. The tremors  actually ran right through my spine.

It is in this hour of weakness that the words of Rabindranath came floating to my mind,  ‘O God Protect me from disaster is not what I ask of thou, provide me but the  strength not to be afraid of facing them though!’ The words instantly calmed y frayed  nerves as in a split second my mind had already seen the future where a temporary  hurdle met me. I had prepared myself for the worst, so fear was no more a concern! I clicked the ‘submit’ button with the new found inner courage, and a schocking surprise  sprang up! ‘Congratulations! You have been shortlisted for PDGM program in IIMK’

Words failed me, as I ran a quick recheck in the ‘Welcome Mr. XYZ’ part so as to ensure  that it was not a cruel joke of fate. But apparently, that was not the case. XYZ here  correctly represented my name!

I had made it to IIM Kozhikode!

An ode to the beginning of my Journey to the haloed world of the Big-eye (I-banking). It all started when I took a conscious call to move out of software services to core investment banking while still making software solutions for a leading north American bank. It really had nothing to do with the fact that they (the ‘business users’ as they would call themselves) would always have the last and final say on all issues sometimes asking for the impossible to be done!

Anyways, in the past one year I have had ample discussions and debriefings with people in various stages of investment banking career. I knew all about (or so I thought!) the hardships of getting selected and then slogging relentlessly to stand out even among the outstanding peers and finally the obscene compensation packets. I also knew of the fantasy of work-life balance, of failed marriages lending itself to a costly divorce, of early health problems and other folklore associated with this profession. This is one of the reasons I thought I would put down my thoughts just as I complete the first few days of internship with India’s leading Investment Bank
(and the largest in Asia Pacific region). I intend to put forward my thoughts in later phases of this journey and maybe compare my notes later down the line.

What it takes: People keep giving interviews about how much you need to know in order to get into I-Banking. Rediff, Times of India, Sify and what not keep featuring ‘experts’ who let people insights into what it takes! Frankly, most of it is loads of crap. So nice and pretty Miss Su (an imaginary name!) might have made it to Goldman Sachs (GS) just due to the pretty face and that flirtatious
smile (and not because of her supposed prowess in ‘Valuation’ theories). It is a known fact that most I-Banks and Consulting firms would recruit pretty sexy girls in a jiffy, without batting so much as an eyelid while taking male candidates through 8-10 odd steps of selection. The pecking order is true and very much present. What I mean to say is this, do not go for all the sermonizing that people keep spreading as to ‘What to do’ just because they have been successful in getting through. It might be a ‘Inspite of that’ rather than ‘because of that’ causal relationship that it shares! Truth remains that you need to be pretty good in communication, in general calculation ability, in articulating business documents and possess a good overall knowledge about finance world (in that order of preference) in order to have a good chance of making it. Most misconceptions arise due to lack of understanding of difference of I-Banking from treasury, Wealth Management and Mutual Fund Management Roles. I-Banking is a very relationship and a customer oriented role. It requires a different level of interpersonal skills and a finesse which enables you to better understand your client’s business requirements and to communicate your ideas across. Hardly a ‘fully technical role’ as most people tend to portray it! Mutual Fund Management and Treasury on the contrary are hard core financial technical roles requiring very little of client-interaction! In fact the highest paid people in the industry are Fund managers and the treasury heads, but you would never hear too much about them because they are geeky, quiet and sober and hence highly un-glamorous! A brilliant example in this case is of Sunil Singhania, Fund Manager of Reliance Mutual Funds.

What it has to offer: I will not deal with the tangible benefits like an affluent bank balance and a prestigious role (Not in India though, where your next door aunt thinks you are some kind of salesman who could not get into a ‘proper bank’ like ICICI or HDFC!). I will talk about the numerous intangible benefits it has to offer like a systematic honing of your negotiation skills and your domain knowledge of various businesses. Investment banking typically requires performing valuation of various business models, projects and companies. Like Aswath Damodaran writes in his famous book on Valuations, “Valuation is neither the science that some of its proponents make it out to be nor the objective search for the true value that idealists would like it to become. The models that we use in valuation may be quantitative, but the inputs leave plenty of room for subjective judgments. Thus, the final value that we obtain from these models is colored by the bias that we bring into the process!”
Thus our understanding of underlying facets of the expected returns and the anticipated/unanticipated risk factors has wide ranging implications on our performance as I-Bankers. This makes is a much more wholesome job, so instead of limiting ourselves to financial documents of the project/firm what is required is to get well acquainted with the scenarios under which the businesses would be operating. Quite akin to doing a knowledge transfer from a 15 year old veteran in the business. This requires extensive and exhausting readings into the nitty-gritties of the business and leads to the infamous 18X7 working hours per week schedules! The good part about this whole exercise is that by the time you have spent two or three years in an I-Bank and have taken pains to work across different industry verticals, you would have acquired an enviable exposure to businesses which few others could afford. This would however require a conscious effort not to get ‘holed up‘ in the comfort zones that one creates after getting a good knowledge about any industry.

Where the Roads Lead: Investment Banking is rarely if ever a career move. It is generally a ‘pit-stop’ with the next destination being off to various domain knowledge intensive positions. The roads from here lead to consulting, Treasury, fund management and wealth management. As I read from various international authors about their accounts, the half-fife of an MBA graduate in an I-Bank is about 19 months, so 50% of fresh recruits leave I-Banking jobs within the first 19 months!

More Insight: A lot more insight is available in these two world renowned booksMonkey Businesses’ and ‘Liar’s Poker’. The former is about the more recent version of Investment Banking profession whereas the later is about ‘Trading’ profile, which is now one of the subsets of the complete gamut of services of an I-Bank. For a little more technically inclined two other books to read in addition to these are ‘Random walk down the Wall Street’ and ‘Investment Fables’.