Read this article today: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Citycitybangbang/entry/the-longevity-of-the-indian-politician

Pretty interesting thoughts from Santhosh Desai. He argues excellently that the job of politicians is very complex but still many manage excellently well into their 80s. Should we then look at ways to utilise people over 60?

Honestly, in about 12-13 years of corporate life, I have come to question it at times. Many of my friends have talked about early retirement. I perfectly understood their view but personally I would never do that. Right from my college days, I have always argued one should not look to retire at 60. Reason for my thoughts – if you live till 90, you waste 30 years!!!

By the way, the question that Santosh Desai ends with is irrelevant to those who are not looking for answers from others. Theethum Nanrum Pirar Thara Vaara – No sweetness or bitterness in your life is others work. Even today there are professions that keep you occupied till you die – here are some: writers, social service, academicians, business administrators, lawyers and doctors. But still the question remains: why some retire early and others go on and on?

On one hand you have people retiring in 50s, 40s, and even 30s. On the other hand corporate life has shown that the best of the best have never retired or retired late. Ratan Tata retired at 75. Just talking about the exceptional people – Sujatha. APJ – radiant eyes even at 75. [side note: Man I must thank the IIM-A seating strategy of giving assigned seats – otherwise I would have never sat in the front row, even for APJ! ]

So is it only that the best of the best retire late? There was this doctor – Lakshmi Narayanan in manapparai, a small town near trichy. When he died at 90 the procession was bigger than what anyone got. I am sure he wasn’t the best – leave alone the state or nation – not even the best in the small town. But just his dedication and his unwavering focus on service was unflinching. He was the cheapest – charged like 10Rs etc when others charges 100s. For some it was free too! The hospital was much better. Our family never went to him but I admired him for what he did.

Why do these people want to go on and on? When I looked at people who retired early, it was enthusing just from one point – man these guys made money so fast that they could retire early or wow they are so content that they took VRS. But self-sufficiency or contentment can never stop one from pushing for more. I guess when one realises that life is a gift and especially when it is a hard-fought gift – you want to make every minute or year count.

ps: about self-sufficiency and contentment being reasons to stop. On the contrary those are the reasons why people make some exciting decisions in life. Self-sufficiency and contentment allows you to take risks. Did you see when Kamal talked about Viswaroopam controversy – “I have tens of houses to go eat and sleep and I am not worried about loosing money”. Dont you think that gives a sense of freedom to go do what you want.

Nowadays I am reading a lot of market research reports on technology and business process in various industries as part of my job. As I read these, I am reminded of the book Prof. Laha recommended in statistics course “The Tiger that Isn’t…” (I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is reading reports regularly either for politics, stock trading, general management or even just general newspaper reading).

The general belief that “numbers don’t lie” was shattered as we read that book and discussed in class. It gave my already suspicious mind another reason why business reports and newspaper columns need to be taken with a pinch of salt!!! The causes vary from simple negligence to manipulation. More than anything the book helped me on how to read/critically analyze below statements:

  1. Two drinks daily increases risk of breast cancer by 12% on women!
  2. 1 in 4 brit teens steal!!
  3. Students of single-sex schools fare better; so single-sex schools are better for girls!!!

Averages are merely average:  Example is Indian per capita… do you decide whether you want to live in India based on Indian per capita? Then why choose MBA programs based on averages!!! I remember vaguely reading of white rainbow: Remember the average of all seven colors in a rainbow is white – which doesn’t even exist in a rainbow.

Sampling issues: A survey is only as good as the sample and the sampling mechanism used.

Detractors in market survey questions: if u wanted to get a skewed opinion to one of ur choices you can easily clone other choices to increases chances of favorite.  Same as candidate to split votes of opponents in elections;

Clustering: Whenever there is a cluster our mind likes to demand reason. Accept that clusters can happen randomly too (a quality batsman goes out of form) or it is bcoz of extra attention: recent trends – IPL bids, policy issues in managing airways; honor killings. All these damning things existed all these years! Read again when you just read “Honor killings on the increase!”

The point of this article is not to dismiss numbers or reports. Ask questions and get closer to the numbers. For example, on the above statements, ask 12% of what? What is the baseline risk? What is the absolute risk? What was the sample? What are you measuring? Is the correlation right? Or just ask what do you mean?

Ref: The tiger that isn’t. By Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot; creator and presenter in BBC Radio

As the excitement of learning new theories catches on, I feel the strongest challenge an MBA student faces is to remain defiant. Let me explain more. Within the first term at IIMA, I got emphatic answers for the question: “Why MBA?” Firstly, one learns concepts. For example I learnt quickly that higher fixed costs are risky for startups and one can convert fixed cost to variable cost through outsourcing; while evaluating options for investment, financing or any managerial decisions the best choice is to evaluate using ‘relevant’ cost of each option; Efficient ways exist to manage cash conversion cycle; Hero Honda and HUL have mastered negative working capital! Second, one learns the science aspect of management – how to use statistical models to derive meaningful insights from historical data, how to use decision models etc. Third, one gets the broad understanding of business. For example one is taught to use frameworks like ‘five forces’, ‘SWOT’, ‘five-Cs’, ‘four-Ps’, plethora of two-by-two matrices to understand a firm and its environment and then focus on solving a problem again using a plethora of tools.

But one must be vary of being dictated by theory. First reason, among the reasons for why one should be defiant, is that defiance is the only way for continuous improvement. I ‘wowed’ an article I read ( and thanks to Prof. Saral Mukherjee who delivered the punch message in his usual flamboyant style of delivery). Japanese were clearly the leaders in Quality with people like Taguchi spearheading implementation of classical quality concepts. In this context let’s look at this: When EOQ was the norm, Toyota went for smaller lot-sizes and JIT! Decoupling stocks made problems more visible at upstream (blocking) and downstream (starvation). Thus quality was under the scanner all the time. This helped in achieving higher quality and lower inventory costs. The point is: if one were to just go by classical theory one will never improve. Thus, remember, what is taught is not sacrosanct – question and hence improve to create cutting edge concepts/frameworks/tools.

I intend to write this as a series – that’s why the title says MBA traps -1!

As we enter into the placement season, one of my friends asked me this question – what is the difference between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship? Here is an analogy:

Entre = I climb up the tree with risk of falling down and get my own ‘tender’ coconut and drink it up

Intre = Coconut in self-service mode with fickle just under the tree. Pick up the right coconut, open up without hurting yourself and drink up!

(c) lifewithmonkeys.typepad.com

How different is it really? Forget the end (upside / downside limits in intre), the means are just the same in Intrapreneurial activities and entrepreneurship.

Intrapreneurship is entrepreneurship with lowered risk – don’t the VCs have lower risk propensity than the angels? Don’t PEs have lower risk propensity than VCs – does it mean VCs and PEs don’t take risk or don’t need entrepreneurial spirit? Guess u got where I am getting to. What links all of them together are three things: thrill in identifying or generating opportunities, managing risk and creating value.

Conscious of making full use of the breather between the two terms, even if it was just 1.5 days, I slept through most of the weekend, took my son for a horse-cart ride around the vastrapur lake. Bought some DVDs hoping to watch with wify and to write some movie reviews in the blog; instead watched India loose to the windies.

Suffering from ‘can’t stay away from mails for half a day’ syndrome, opened my mailbox on Saturday to find an invite for a weekend party with the EIRs. I decided to check out; Partly since, I found quite a few of the Re-search EIRs interesting and was confident about the same kind of caliber with iAccelerator EIRs. And also bcoz, I wanted to attend a party!

Well, it turned out to be quite interesting. I am only sad that I did not carry my camera. Otherwise, I intended to have one photo per blog entry. I didn’t expect the non-photo blog to appear this soon. Hmm… let’s not worry about frills alright!

Some of the profiles I met that night and what they are working on:

Freeman Murray, Founder of Upstart.in, a consultancy that assists technology start-ups. Freeman is a co-investor and is part of the Management Team of iAccelerator.

Ram, one of the EIRs and founder of Hashcube, an iaccelarator startup; HashCube has become one of the most successful companies to launch games for the recently opened up social networks of MySpace, Orkut and Friendster.

Vishal and Arpan; EIRs and founders of meraevent.com; Arpan and Vishal complement each other. Arpan is a complete techno-geek and a graphics designer. Vishal is the management guru.

Selvan and Sankar; EIRs working on an idea to build a statistical analysis tool for stock trading; Selvan says that he got fed up when his mutual fund firm kept loosing much more than what he did and that was the inciting incident for his discovery process. Since then he has worked on the algorithm and CIIE has put him in touch with Mr. Subinder Khurana, an IIMA alumni and CEO of MarketRx, a business analytics major now acquired by Cognizant technology solutions. He hopes to launch “bitstat” successfully by August 2009. Apparently, bitstat does a bit more than what transpired in our talk that night – check out http://www.bitstat.com/.