Monday, December 06, 2004

Entrepreneurship, followup!

So, I did finish the entrepreneurship course after all. Must say that it was really interesting and exciting in a way. It was really "unorganized" in the sense that there was no rigid structure to the way it went (evolved would'nt be the right word, since Im not so sure there was a definite increase in the quality of the course, though it maintained a certain level of it all along). There was a lot of material to read, and a lot of "stories" told by the prof about his first hand experiences, which was nice, maintained a good interest amongs us. Textbook was by Robert Hisrich called, you guessed it, "Entrepreneurship".

It is interesting to see the various dimensions of an entreprenuer and Im sure that anyone with a sense of adventure, can find traits in her which are suitable to take up some venture or another. There IS some risk involved, especially if you dont have a precedent or some similar experience before you, but the entire idea of doing something on your own, starting with a new idea, developing around it, playing with it, trying to see how it can really create some business, analysing the market for opportunities, making up a product or service idea, hooking up the resources, arranging for financing, making the marketing plan, organization plan, financial projections, estimating business potential and future, thinking about risks, and actually planning and doing it on your own, its something everyone Must do atleast once in her life! The course has given me an idea of what it might mean to be an entrepreneur, and we heard a few successful ones share their experiences including the Indian starups like PharmArc, and StrandGenomics.

I do hope that one day, not too far away, I do gather the courage to strike out for a venture, maybe a temporary one, maybe a success or maybe a failure, but just to feel the excitement of it, lest I forget what it all meant later!

Will close on that note of hope! And expect to write some more stuff, more often!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Entrepreneurship, anyone?

Hello there. Its been a while since I returned to this here blog thing.
Anyway, the news is .. well, life goes on, more or less as usual, and so do the courses. After a short and sweet break of a weekend (effectively 2 weeks) Im back in the next quarter with a new set of courses. Yup.

This time Ive opted for some "techie" sort of courses (given my inherent (genetic? memetic? natural? nurtural? whatever) liking for the same). I was given a choice for the electives and I saw it in my benefit to takeup these (see below). I see 2 advantages to this, one, this might allow for a reduction in the number of "readings" I have been forced to do in the name of course work, and do some Real (techie style) work, two, it might allow for a quarter of relaxation, ahh ... hold on, Ive not yet considered all of my courses yet! Ok. 2 of the courses (outof3) are the techie ones - 1 on Business Data Mining and Decision models (BDMDM),and the other one innocently called Strategic behavior and Industrial Oranigzation (SBIO), the first one quite self descriptive, while the second one is cunninly turning into a fairly "brainy" sort of a course, with the first six lectures devoted to a fairly mathematical treatment of game theory (my favorite subject! well atleastI should try to make it one), which will later be applied to the analysis of managerial and oranizational strategy. Anyway, the important thing is - both are more focused on exams and projects rather than something like continuos assessment, like CP.

The third course, Im afraid is bound to shake me up a bit out of whatever inertias I am currently entertaining - be it mental, physical, psycholoical, motivational, or anything else. It is on Entrepreneurship and Venture creation, and requires us to delve into a more or less existential understanding of the beast called entrepreneurship (its a french word! and so is "manager"). Its a new thing for me, certainly, though somewhere in some dark and dimly lit recesses of my mind I seem to have a conception that I am made for doing something new, independent, something different from the crowd (well, given that the latest survey in the US puts the percent figure of the number of people wanting to start on their own a whopping 56% and it being 40% for the student community(is google to blame for this?), it seems like everyone today wants to be one! anyway, that does not stop me from thinking that I AM different!). I hope the course proceedings help to consolidate this rather irrational belief of mine, that being my main motivation, at least for the present. The practical/operational aspects of the matter are of course as important, how does one start? is an Idea sufficient? how to I sustain the initial drive? how do I fund myself? what do I need to be prepared for? how do I draft the BP? can I afford to chuck my "secure" job for something like this? am I too old? do I have the network/contacts to be a success? is it a wild sea full of sharks where I can quite unlikely survive? I hope to get answers to ALL of these (and any other) questions, AND also hope to come up with an idea REAL FAST! At the end we will get it examined by the erudite and much experienced (in the matter of startups) prof of ours, and hopefully be prepared for a life altering course! Just kidding. Or perhaps not!

Anyway, it is something which might take up some of my intellectual space or the course of the next 2.5 months, in addition to a fairly technical exposition of the discipline of data mining (or dredging as it is now called) trying to extract some pearls of knowlede (or wisdom?) from the sea of data that the business professionals of today are bombarded with - applying any or all of the myriad techniques which have been developed till now including classification trees, enetic alorithms, pattern reconition, neural networks, inductive rule bases, KD, etc etc), and of course a wholistic understanding of the nature of strategy as applicable to managers and economists, seen from the interesting lens of game theory!

Hope to have a "stimulatin" 3 months ahead!

In the meantime please let me know any ideas/opinions/sugestions you might have about entrepreneurship and Id love to have a discussion on the blog or in person!


Saturday, August 07, 2004

Gearing up

Am sitting in the IIMB CC after a long day of work (study + assignments). With the end-sems coming in the next 2 weeks it is going to be a hectic 2-3 weeks. Work pressure at office is guranteed to build up during this time, since Im into a new role, which needs a lot of study (yes, more of it!) and a lot of presentations, and coordination. Hope I dont get stressed out at the end of it all, considering we have 3 reports, 1 presentation and 3-4 exams to get over within these 3 weeks.

We got a circular from PGSM team about the electives being offered next quarter. This includes a few courses on
Finance (Investments, Banking, Finance markets and systems, Risk management, Computational Finance),
Business Marketing Strategy,
Corporate Governance,
Political Economy,
a couple of courses on Enterpreuneurship (E & VC, Corp E & Venturing, Social E),
Strategic Behavior and Industrial Organization,
Business Data Mining and
one on Creating High Performance Organizations.

Quite a variety. Some are interesting in a genuine sense, e.g. E & VC seems promising, with a lot of readings (again!) and an activity to come up with a detailed business plan at the end. Coursework includes extensive readings, videos, case studys (interviews with successful enterpreuneurs), reading from journals and novels and generally seems to be a high value adding course, especially if you are planning on or are genuinely interested in starting your own venture, now or in the future. Will have to weigh in the excess course load, against the advantages if any, and how immediate.

The most interesting course to be offered is on "Spirituality and Self-development for the Global Manager"; the write up seems truly impressive, with the course aiming at a number of things which one one typically not hear of, including a promise of getting the gist of all the great religions, and things like "realizing the underlying order that governs the universe", things youd hardly expect in a subject like management! But perhaps it is not surprising. In fact, with complexity (and abstractness) of any dicipline increasing, courses which are more wholistic and genuine are hard to come by. Hope (Im quite sure actually, having seen the prof) that this is a genuine attempt at achieving something of this sort. I do hope however that it does not go too much into the esoteric and un-practical, especially when I see words like Sensing, Flowing, hidden order that governs the universe etc. Just curious as to how such a course could be pulled off.

Have been reading (rather trying to read) a highly abstract book which kind of resonates with the subject of the abstract in general - its called "The order of things: an archaeology of the Human sciences" by Michel Foucault (20th century French Philosopher). This book was a classic when it was launched, and one can make it out from the breadth of coverage, and the lucidity of writing, though it can get a bit boring and a bit dense in some places. It is however phenomenal how any person is able to come up with something of this magnitude in terms of the sheer magnitude and depth of thought. Im in my first reading and I am yet unable to get a overall idea of it (having read about a third part). Some of these philosophy guys are in a league of their own (just like some of the most accomplished scientists or mathematicians). There have been few books which I have found "difficult" to read, and this includes one of them (others are - "Being and Time" - Heidegger, "Tractatus logico philosphicus" - Witgenstein, the existential philosophy writings of John Paul Sartre, just to give a sample :).

Anyway, I think I count myself as a fairly techie person, and what Id look for in the courses from IIM is a perspective to gain more of the soft skills, and domain knowledge in management. Im attracted to finance due to its technical nature, and large scope for analysis and application, and find things like Marketing a bit boring, ie. unless Im in a marketing sort of role, which I am not. But there are areas in business which Id like to explore more, like Strategy, International Business, Basic Negotiation skills etc. Lets see how things turn up!


Monday, August 02, 2004

This and that

Had been busy for some time now. Last weekend saw me through two quizzes, CorpFin and IB. Nothing worth mentioning, except for the total uncertainty about what is going to be the result of the same.

There has been some good news on the international free trade negotiations front with some sort of an agreement reached on the Doha round of negotiations of the WTO, preventing it from being a complete failure ( see here ). This is something which directly related to the stuff we are studying for our IB course, and it would be interesting to study the actual resolutions reached. From a cursory study, it seems essentially, that the rich nations (US!) have decided to cut down on excess farm subsidies, whcih result in dumping huge amounts of agri products into the world market by the developed nations at drastically reduced prices, making the market uncompetitive, and preventing the developing nations from benefiting; by atleast 20%, and there has been acceptance on the Singapore issues which incidentally developing countries like India were opposed to. Arun Jaitley seems to be unhappy about this, since he was one of the negotiators at the Cancun meeting.
Anyway, the hope is this leads to a better world, and a bigger share of the international market for developing nations like India.

There was an interesting lecture in IB by Prof. Murali Patibandla on the concept of National Innovation Systems. Basically these are a framework for nations to be competitive in the increasingly important field of Innovation to remain successful in the world markets. Plan to do a small write up on the same and post it here withint he next couple of days!

Also, the news about PGSM (the course Im doing) is that they have released a circular for admission for academic year 2005, this was released in the Economic Times recently. The only difference this year is that instead of the special exam for PGSM we needed to appear for, this time it is either CAT or GMAT which are well recognized (and perhaps slightly difficult) tests. If anyone is really interested in getting hands on the circular about PGSM, send in your comments, Ill be happy to mail the circular (pdf format).


Monday, July 19, 2004

The nature of exams

Exams nowadays are very quick affairs. It takes less than a couple of days (is that too much?)
for the realization to set in, a couple of hours of thinking about what to read, some more to motivate myself, and the very last moments to get some useful stuff into my head. At the end of it, its not a surprise to find myself facing the exam paper, and being in the middle of an existential confusion as to where I am, what am I doing here, and what is the purpose of life (perhaps due to having been in a half sleepy haze while reading through the notes the day before, resulting in a sweet confusion, a breeding ground for all sorts of "basic" questions to arise in ones fertile mind, is this what the profs mean by "real learning" or is it "relearning" or better still "un-learning"?). The exams however seem to get done with in an uncannily similar manner, irrespective of what the topic happens to be. For example, the CF (Corp Finance) exam did start somewhat in the manner described above, and it tool me a full 15 mins to understand what I am doing. I had this huge CF book (Brealy, Myers) in front of me (it was an "open book" exam), and set of quite long questions talking something about investments, discounted cash flows, depreciation, interest, taxes, decisions, IRR etc. I was almost certain that the pages I was looking at in the book had never been glanced upon by intelligent life in the past, while any intuitive understanding of the subject was still to sprout in my mind. At the end of it, I seem to have been able to attempt all the problems, though I have a very hazy recollection of my thought process during actually "solving" the questions. Makes me wonder about the nature of intelligence. But that is a topic for another time.
In the meantime we covered some interesting stuff in IB - game theory, auctions (checkout Klemperer's site on auctions and economics), how the 3G auctions in UK were "successful" in raising an unearthly 22 billion pounds (UK used the money to pay off its debts!) and some advise on auction design (do check out googles investor site for what kind of methods they are pursuing for coming out with a "successful" IPO launch, which includes auction options). Both game theory and auctions are very interesting topics, and I hope I can do some good readings on them in the future.
Talking about exams, it seems increasingly difficult to get oneself motivated enough in advance of exams to read topics, specially if they are monotonous and drab. Perhaps thats why the readings handed out in our courses are quite diverse, from different sources, and sometimes not directly related to the exams, which is good (but for the fact that they are getting far too numerous in the second year, e.g. in the IB course it has not yet been 3 weeks, and we already have close to a 1000 pages of printed material to read, with more promised in the near future! Let alone the "suggested readings" and GK we are supposed to be "well-versed" with) .
I dont fancy reading a book just because I expect to be quizzed on it. It is not motivating enough. Trying to understand something new, and knowing that it will be useful in an interesting way in the future, or just for the sake of it, is much better. I do have a habit (good? bad?) of piling up myself with all sorts of books which happen to "span" the maximum amount of "knowledge space" my mind happens to occupy at a moment of time, and this sometimes leads to lost focus, and dire consequences in scheduling my time, and "preparing in advance" for the exams for which I am supposed to restrict to a much smaller set of topics. And before I begin to read one, I inevitably think about another, and end up with atleast 4-5 books in my bed, scanning them in some order (depending on my state of mind then, and of course the "context", is it exam time, free time, serious study time, tension time etc.), till finally the "goal" of having to read and finish a case or a book chapter for tomorrow's class or exam, takes up urgency, thus providing me with the "motivation" to read it! This could be a good topic for an OB (Org Behavior) case study - how to motivate oneself for studying for exams, which may lead into the interesting topic of whether exams are really necessary! I have a feeling that there is a unanimous decision (especially among, "experienced", professioanls with years of corporate life behind them) that they are definitely NOT. Atleast in the way they are designed. Perhaps the IB prof could try and take a look at "exam design" instead of "auction design" to come up with a solution which"extracts the maximum VALUE out of the (poor) students", which currently happens to be a one-sided understanding of the nature of VALUE in the life of a student by the professors.
In fact, I seem to face similar "problems" (of motivation) while writing to a blog, which does bring me to the question (seriously) about what blogs and blogging are for?? Is it to let out pent-up-emotions? :)
Is it to "educate" others, rather in the sense of sharing information about what one does that others cannot, or rather happen not to? Is it just "conversation" (rather one-sided one for some unfortunate folks)? Is it the be-guiling nature of the "cyberspace" which attracts all sorts of characters to discard their wordly traits and pose as something new, fresh and fantastic, a figment of their imagination, an unattainable goal for which they strive for, but which the harsh nature of the real world quite certainly denies them? Is it a survey, free-speech, an ego-manical tendency to inflate oneself with the promise of being famous in cyberspace, and having enough "fans" and "eyeballs"? What do you guys think? :)
It could turn out to be a chaotic combination of all these, and of course a lot more for which my "bounded rationality" is currently incapable of apprehending, for all I care. The truth remains that I may or may not continue to write these pages, and hope that there remains a semblance of reason behind the entire effort!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Game Theory

In the IB class today we started with a classic case on game theory, Boeing Vs Airbus,
which described how these two major players in the commercial airlines business reacted to the possibility of
a future market in Very Large Airplanes (seating >=500 passengers).
Boeing being an existing player in 420 seater planes, could be considered the incumbent player, and the intuitively better suited to preempt others from entering this potential market. But as the analysis revealed, intuition can be wrong. The simple reason which comes to mind why Airbus was the actual preemptor, was the extensive subsidies offered it by the European government, however, that turns out not to be the cause of their entry. The answer evolves only through a game-theoretic analysis.
Game theory can be a bit confusing and difficult to comprehend, but it is an uncanny tool to predict outcomes in multi-player scenarios where the actions of one player are affected directly by those of another. The classic example of a simple game is that of The Prisoner's Dilemma. But it can get much more complicated that that!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Fifth Quarter Starts off

The fifth quarter has begun,and will be picking up pace pretty soon.
The IB course began with an introduction by Paul Alapat over the nature of international markets, the significant risk factors existing, the methods employed for analysing markets, and a general whirlwind tour of the topics involved in micro and macro. The pace of the lecture and the breadth of topics we went over in the first 2 days, I suppose it was meant to tease us into thinking more about the topic, develop a background and an interest, or perhaps just to make us aware of the nature of the topic and the types of areas in which we have to think and develop while keeping an open mind. On first impression, the subject looks fascinating, but Im sure that developing expertise in it involves sustained interest, study, dedication, and experience, and a constant touch with the global markets, and time on your hands to do all this!
IB will cover the macroeconomic analysis of world markets in the coming four lectures, starting with competition and monopoly, and going into monopolistic competition as a means of injecting (forcing?) "efficiency" into the inherently inefficient non-competitive markets which exist in the real world.
HRM, has also started off in an interesting manner, the focus here is to prepare us to be "change leaders" in our respective organizations, which means, in addition to understanding just the basics of "what is HRM", we need to dwell on the issues we encounter while working, and how we can push for better policies, and get our voices heard! The initial lectures have revealed the close relationship of HR with the corporate strategy, and how some organizations have HR (the way they recruit, train, retain, utilize, develop their people) as one of their "core" strategies, this will be developed along a "porterian" framework of competitive advantage.
Corporate finance seems appealing and we have dived headlong into the concepts of Present Value Analysis, and instruments like annuities, perpetuities, bonds etc, with loads of mathematics promised in the very near future. Text book used is Brealey, Myers - Principles of Corporate Finance. Time to enjoy!