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This blog has moved

Posted by Adcoms on 07 September 2010

After 4 years, we decided it was time to give our blog a makeover.  Please visit our new look blog, complete with a fresh group of London Business School student bloggers from our MBA, Masters in Finance and Masters in Management programmes at London Business School student views.

The new site retains all of the content found on this blog, along with a few new features that we hope you’ll enjoy. We look forward to welcoming you to the new site, and hope you continue to follow the London Business School student experience!

If you link to this blog, please adjust your links accordingly.

We have moved to http://blog.students.london.edu/

 

India Business Forum Conference

Posted by Debasri on 01 June 2008

1 On 24 April 2008, the India Business Forum, one of the most active clubs at London Business School dealing with a wide range of issues related to the region, held their annual flagship conference in London. This year's theme was India: Still Untapped.

Please read below the press release* for this year's conference.

2_2India: Still Untapped

Six and a half years after the publication of Goldman Sachs’ BRIC report that catalysed interest in India, the sixth annual conference of the India Business Forum of the London Business School examined the challenges and prospects for the Indian economy in the current economic climate.

The mood was one of cautious optimism. Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of WPP, highlighted the regional breadth of the Indian economy and its youthful population as key drivers of growth for multinational corporations. He categorised the country as “underbranded”. This mood of optimism was also echoed by R. Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director of Tata Sons who felt the boom in the economy still lay in the future.

Chandrashekhar Bhave, Chairman of SEBI also suggested that activity in Indian capital markets was likely to grow with the potential for a junior market for small enterprises, foreign listings in India and increased trading in derivative instruments in India.

However, there was a recognition of the challenges faced by the Indian economy. Jim O’Neill, Chief Economist of Goldman Sachs and author of the BRIC report suggested that India was not outperforming the other BRIC economies. Indeed, he felt that there was a need for a greater push in education if India is to achieve its potential.

Most panelists also agreed that valuation of equities and real estate in India was high and that there was likely to be a correction (but not a crash in asset prices). Real estate was seen as vulnerable to price rises in raw materials that exceed the rate of inflation. However, as Ravi Raheja, Group President of the K. Raheja Corporation, pointed out, although returns are likely to be lower than in the recent past they are still good and investors need to manage their expectations. Other panellists suggested that investors may find more attractive returns in tier 2 developers.

Panel discussions also focussed on the politically sensitive retail sector. Vinod Sawhny, President and COO of Bharti Retail, emphasised the breadth of the retail opportunity in India, from the food to the luxury sectors. Panelists like Shashank Singh of Apax Partners acknowledged the macro drivers of growth but felt that current restrictions on foreign investment were impeding growth. Other risks highlighted by the panellists were the low margins and the fact that the retail sector was over-reliant on the metros. Vibha Paul Rishi, Executive Director of PepsiCo, suggested that local retailers were re-inventing themselves and were part of the changes in this sector.

Finally, speakers and panellists discussed the “decoupling” of the Indian economy. Jim O’Neil pointed out that while India was not immune the slowdown, it would probably be less badly affected than the other BRIC economies because much of its demand was locally generated. However, he cautioned that reductions in leverage could affect infrastructure investment and that the budget deficit in India gave the government less room for fiscal manoeuvre than the other BRIC economies to stimulate the growth.

* Acknowledgement to Nikhil Narayanan, MBA2008 for the press release.

Milk Round

Posted by Debasri on 11 January 2008

I have more respect for what Matt writes than what he says and I tend to agree, to a great extent with most of what he has to say about the milk round. In the absence of the Hollywood writers, I will gallantly come to his rescue (talk about 'times, they are a changing') and add point 6.

6) Try and make it to the gym or buy larger clothes. With all the free and fattening food, the suits might increasingly become a bit tough to breathe in. And in case you are doing up your wardrobe now, I'd recommend you buy one a size larger. That being said and done, I’ll get to why I started writing this post in any case.

When we came to school, we were being narrated horror stories by those in the 08 batch and before of how difficult it will be to speak to company representatives at the networking event, of how friends turn into foes and how elbows are overworked (from either elbowing in or others out of circles surrounding the company representatives) and the 6-pack goes sore from being jibed at. I tend to understand what would cause such behaviour, but that does not necessarily mean that I agree with it.

My own, personal, first hand experience at these events have been markedly different. And the few others I have discussed this with also tend to agree with me. The atmosphere was obviously tense and purposeful, and the US economy, together with the mortgageholders could not have better timed their performances, but at the same time we all remembered that we are human beings in an educated and civilised society. I didn’t have to push anyone and nor was I pushed around, I got to speak to whoever I wanted to without anyone trying to outspeak or outwit me and every time I tried ‘breaking into’ a group, someone did indeed make place for me !

I am not going to attempt to analyse this experience beyond what it was, but I am glad that at the end of the day, we all chose to continue to be who we are and not transform ourselves into attention seeking, self aggrandizing, individualistic monsters.

London Leadership Series

Posted by Debasri on 18 November 2007

On 13 November, Ian Davis, Managing Director of McKinsey & Company, came to London Business School, as part of the London Leadership Series and shared with students and staff, some key thoughts that he said was a gift to London Business School, for the many gifted individuals that the school has given the firm.

Some of the key themes that he shared with us were as follows:

Growth: Companies are obsessed with growth and the capital markets reward it. He believes that the threat, in the short run, to growth is the slowdown in the US housing market and its effect on decreasing consumption demand, especially in the light of trade contagion between the US and other countries. However, he is personally very optimistic about the future, especially about the role of Asia and other emerging economies in fuelling this growth. The primary take-aways from his message were that countries with good education infrastructure and companies with skills to manage culturally diverse workforce will be the leaders of tomorrow’s growth. Some of the sectors that he believes will fuel global growth in future are infrastructure and retail/ consumer (especially in emerging markets), healthcare and knowledge based services.

Managing Risk: Organizations will have to rethink the way they perceive, price and manage risk. The definition of risk needs to extend beyond business and financial risk, and will need to incorporate reputational, organizational and geo-political risk. While the current crisis in the financial services industry will lead to a redefinition and repricing of financial risk, Mr. Davis fears that the next crisis will be from the unwinding of certain nations and thus in the form of political risk. And as had happened in the liquidity crisis, the global economy, will yet again, be perhaps caught unaware.

Focus on Talent: Talent is the set of capabilities, attitudes, attributes and characteristics that make organizations function effectively and efficiently. Mr. Davis pointed out that nations and organizations, especially those in emerging markets with increasingly face the challenges of not having a history of capital markets and of not having a culture of corporate management. In this scenario, how effectively companies manage globally and culturally diverse workforce and customer bases will become the key success factor. Not only that, he believes that the competitiveness of emerging markets will increasing shift from a pure cost advantage to one in which they will start leveraging their talent pool.

Technology & Internet: Mr. Davis believes that technology today has become a foundation of capability and that the internet has become much more pervasive than before. This is a significant development and the use of technology will perhaps shape the way business is conducted in the future.

Fads: Debt has always been cheaper than equity and Mr. Davis believes that fuelled by private equity activity, capital markets are today the ‘in’ thing. Whilst he recognizes the importance of capital markets in the development and smooth functioning of the global economy, he does make a point of mentioning that obsession with capital markets today is indeed a fad.

Some other points that came out, in the Q&A section, were issues related to rejuvenation of success, of why companies succeed for only the short term, the importance of company boards in transparent, responsible decision making and the challenges he faces everyday to create a common culture at McKinsey & Company, in which leadership of thought and leadership co-exist.

It was indeed an intellectually rewarding experience to hear, in person, the man who leads an organization that can safely be said to be today’s thought leader.

Little Hanoi

Posted by Debasri on 23 September 2007

One of the best things about London that I have discovered is that one can be in this city but at the same time experience a slice of life (and a pint of the local brew) from almost any culture or civilisation in the modern world.

This was a long weekend and that too a badly planned one. The weather was nice, mostly sunny, my Indian bones weren't chilling and would have been the perfect occassion to have planned a trip to the continent or at least to some place outside of London. Since the realisation dawned only about Saturday evening leaving me with not much time to venture out of the city, a fellow foodie and I embarked upon a project to make the most of what remained of the weekend and to try out some unusual cuisine, the choice for the evening being, Vietnamese.

We went to a place called Little Hanoi (about a 15 minute walk from Bank Station), where the main street is lined with Vietnamese restaurants on both sides, offering a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine at very affordable rates (read student rates). We chose a place called Cafe Vietnam (or thereabouts) and plunged into ordering roast duck, beef noodles, chicken starters (some form of chicken wings) and my favourite part, Bia Hue! Even though my friend seemed to have enjoyed the food greatly, I am afraid I preferred the Bia Hue! It's in these moments that I tell myself, that it is often not the destination (here, liking or not liking the food) but the journey (the experience of trying out new things) that matters. [In case you would like some more follow-on on this line of profundity, do make it a point to read Ithaca by Constantine P. Cavafy.]

We then went on to Oxford circus (or was it Picadilly) and walked around looking for the Haagen Dazs store - what better way than to wrap up a big meal with some Belgian dark chocolate ice cream. We couldn't find the store and I had to come back home, to crash into bed and into deep slumber, dreaming of the cup of belgian...

It was a great evening, despite the chopsticks playing truant (and moi having to use a random, often messy combination of forks and fingers!) and I intend to make a habit of trying out a new cuisine and explore a new part of the city every weekend that I am in London.

Lunch n’ Learn

Posted by Debasri on 19 September 2007

I am a woman. And in business. Though currently, not in business but in business school. And these qualifications makes me somewhat of a ‘usual suspect’ as far as membership to the Women in Business club at London Business School is concerned.

The WiB club has started a new initiative called the Lunch and Learn series, in which women students, over lunch with faculty, get to know each other better and take the first steps towards increasing faculty student interactions, outside of class.

At the particular session I attended, six first year female students, together with the President of the WiB club had lunch with Professor Kristine F, who is an assistant professor in Decision Sciences at London Business School. The meeting started with the usual introductions, followed by discussion on the research that Prof F is currently involved in. Through the discussion we realised that faculty partner industry, through research, to help the latter make key decisions; the point being that not all research is arcane and academic but that a lot of the research has some very relevant and critical implications for business. Some of the projects that Prof F is involved are related to developing models for pricing optimisation and revenue management in different industry sectors. One of the ladies present at the lunch had experience in a field that Prof F is currently researching and the two got talking - the first steps towards greater involvement of students in faculty research may just have started at the lunch table!

The discussion then moved towards the challenges related to the multiple hats that women today have to wear. In other words, the multiple roles that women have to assume – that of a professional, a mother, a spouse, a daughter, a sister, a friend. The working woman today may have mastered the art of doing justice to multiple roles largely due to her ability to prioritise and multitask. One of the MBA09’ers at the lunch, who has a 2-month old daughter, laughingly said that she has multiple projects running at any point in time – curriculum related at school and then the baby back home!

We also talked about the multiculturalism that pervades not only school but also all of London and how easy it is for someone to feel welcome in the city. We talked about how London Business School is significantly more diverse as compared to some other business schools, which may have very localised student catchment areas and how this diversity of the class makes the learning experience even more enriching. For those of us at the lunch who were yet to believe in school’s diversity, all we had to do was to look around – Argentinean, Canadian, Icelandic, Indian(s), Israeli and Italian! Absolutely incredible!

I believe the objectives of the meeting were to open channels of communication with faculty to learn from their experiences, to get to know one another better and to form a strong support system for women on campus, to have fun but most importantly, to eat a 'non Bite non cold sandwich' lunch.

I enjoyed myself at the Lunch and Learn session - I ate haddock and chips.

Open Your Mind

Posted by Debasri on 13 September 2007

Slave to my worldview, I went for the first of my series of back - to - back UGM classes. The first case we read was the Honda (A) case – written by consultants in pin-stripe suits, people like you and me - out of business school and interestingly far removed from the place where the ‘action was’. Throughout the first hour, I kept wondering why we were not using Michael Porter’s competition model to ‘solve’ the case. It’s classical conditioning – if there is a case, it has to be solved; and solved by fitting it, somehow into some arcane framework that someone somewhere has developed. By the time my frustration reached a crescendo, the professor handed us another case, Honda (B) and I attacked the case with hope, ‘this one we will solve’. I am not sure that the discussion fitted into the classical definition* of ‘solve a case’. To belabour the scene and the situation a bit more, in the post lunch session, we dissected the Apple case – again, discussion but no concrete solution (please refer my definition of 'solve a case' below).

We didn’t quite ‘solve’ any of the cases in a traditional sense, but I got some very key insights into not only how general managers work through the interrelation of four key elements - values, frames, commitments and processes. A little bit of thought convinced me that everyday life may also be influenced significantly (if I may be allowed to flaunt my newly acquired business statistics knowledge, at a 5% level of significance or 95% level of confidence) by the interplay of these forces. Without becoming too philosophical or pedantic, I’d like to share my personal experience with frames.

What is a frame? It is our worldview; it is reality as we see it, its reality as we believe it. The frame is a double edged sword – it can facilitate what we make of ourselves, but at the same time it shuts us from absorbing new experiences and prevents us from growing – intellectually and more importantly, as human beings. For example, a couple of days back, I believed that a case that is usually taught in business schools (mostly across the Atlantic) to teach strategy (read how to apply models) cannot be used to understand something quite as subtle as ‘what goes on inside a manager’s head’ – that was my frame, constraining me from new experiences. I believed that cases are meant to be dissected with such rapidity and by fitting them into one of the many available frameworks that the consulting companies would just have to roll out the red carpet (and hopefully the dough) for me.

I am still new around here and haven’t figured out much about how the ‘general manager’s mind’ framework works or even how to approach dissecting a case. But I am now aware that there are processes in my head that are, without my knowing, stymieing my growth. And it has made me question some of the frames within which I operate.

So, if you think that business school is only about textbooks, networking and getting the million dollar job, you should probably take a step back and analyse the frames within which you are operating.

All I’d say is, if you choose to come to business school, just open your mind.

* The classical definition of ‘solve a case’ is to fit it into some framework or model and take full advantage of what is called the 'hindsight bias'.

P.S. Thanks Professor BL for opening my mind.

Prelude to Loving London

Posted by Debasri on 12 September 2007

I cannot even pretend that I am well traveled but I have been a few places and seen a few things. But the excitement has never been quite as palpable as at the time of my move to London. Yes, I am excited about escaping from the corporate jungle (albeit for a few months) into a safe and seemingly carefree student life, but I am more excited about ‘being a student in London’. I have read tomes on ‘The London Experience’ and now it’s my turn to get the proverbial ‘piece of the action’!

I have always wanted to stand at Piccadilly Circus in front of the statue of Eros and experience what it feels like to be standing at the center of civilization! On the quite not so dramatic a note, I am excited about the visiting the usual tourist attractions such as St Paul’s, Madame Tussaud’s, the National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum but at the same time, I also want to explore the quieter side of London, away from the maddening crowds and look forward to long walks at the many London greens. I look forward to attending the ‘Proms’ at the Royal Albert Hall or catching the occasional performance at the Royal Opera House. And while I take in the operatic extravaganzas of London, I look forward to ‘meeting’ the ghosts of Arthur Bourchier and Violet Melnotte at the Garrick and Duke of York theatres! And almost as soon as I reach London, it will be time for the Notting Hill festival and Indian Summers at the Regent’s Street Festival and I am invited! I look forward to losing myself in the Virgin and HMV stores and while I am enjoying my Parmesan ham sandwich and hot chocolate at Café Nero, I hope to catch, if only a fleeting glimpse of some of the iconoclastic music legends of our times. In short, I want to experience the London, which is a unique amalgamation of rich culture and heritage with modernity and cosmopolitanism. Needless to say, I look forward to ‘testing waters’ at the many pubs and watering holes in London and at the end of two years aim to be a quotable authority on the subject!

While I eagerly wait to ‘drink in’ these experiences, I know that it is the company of the friends I will make at School, which will make these experiences richer. I look forward to forging some lifelong friendships and earning membership to a closely-knit network across the globe – a home in every country represented in class, a network that would have started in London.

London, here I come!