Thursday, 22 May 2008

I am back...

It's been a long long time since I touched this blog. Life took some interesting twists and turns preventing me to devote time to this blog. But now is the time that I start putting the missing pieces together and move on.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Harry Potter and my SCP Hallow

Harry Potter began its final retail journey as the clock struck midnight with the excitement and rush to be the first to receive the final chapter of Harry Potter saga went skyrocketing. Live from the Cornmarket Street in Oxford, UK I saw kids, teens, adults all standing outside the book stores to buy the much awaited book. I cannot express in words the vibe and excitement of all those successful people coming out of the stores with Harry Potter book in an orange paper bag in their hands. Kids crying, embracing their friends, shouting loud in praise of Harry and what not... And it will continue throughout the night as there were more than 2000 people on that street. I am expecting my copy to be delivered by Monday morning and then hope to read it on my way to Portland, USA.

I sincerely apologize for being dormant for almost a month. Well, these past 4 weeks have been one of the most hectic of my life and I will try to summarize them all in one single post.

Week - 9: The preparation week went into a little bit of procrastination before I began my final battle towards the two formal assignments submission and one written exam of Restructuring & Implementation. As in earlier weeks I had written about the assignment of Branding & Communication, so most of the week went by in putting up this paper. A quick brief, we had to develop a branding plan to uplift a brand that was losing its identity in the market or was a new brand launched. This need to be done from the understanding of cultural myth and the populist world about which most of the incoming SBS students will study in their Trinity term, given they take the B&C elective, which to me proved to be a very interesting subject though the assignment was laborious. Three to Four interviews were done and then a whole report of more than 9000 word was written including appendix to pen down my understandings of the brand chosen and how it can return to the market with a bang. Other than that the festivities had begun as many students who were done with all their papers planned to leave for home or on fun trip to return only at the end of August month for electives and course completion.

Week - 10: I had only one exam in 'Restructuring & Implementation' on Wednesday and had to prepare all night long to be in shape for the paper as the B&C paper continued to kill me, though figuratively only. The paper went well and after that we all headed to the 'drain yourself in drinks after last exam pub' at Turf Tavern at almost around noon. Well, it was the final written assessment for me in the Exam school and I sincerely pray that I never ever have to return back there in my subfusc. Remaining of the week, I was tied up with the Retailing paper in which I had to write a business plan of setting up a retail store anywhere in the world with the place ranging from New York, London, New Delhi to Timbuktu and stores from Swarovski Crystals to Lingerie wears to I don't remember what else. In the end almost around midnight on Sunday, July 1 I was very satisfied with what I had written and hope to get decent to good marks in it.

Week - 11/Week - 0 (Summers): Summer is here though it doesn't feel like with temperatures still not crossing 65 F. We can call it week 11 for Trinity or Week 0 for the summers while my SCP team continued its struggle for the US visas amidst welcoming our esteemed Intel manager Shauna from Portland, OR in the USA. The first day went into getting to know each other and giving Shauna a guided tour of Oxford as she tried to catch up on her jet lag. The next day was an intense discussion about the project scope, its objectives, the background of the need for this project and many other related things. I apologize but due to a non-disclosure agreement, I cannot discuss the details of the project though I can say that it is way too different from the default image of Intel of being a chip and microprocessor manufacturer. And yes, we moved a step closer towards getting our US visa problems sorted out.

Week - 1 (Summers): The SCP research began with a bang as the papers were sorted and filed to be in place for the US visa appointment and finally on July 12th, we all did successfully get our respective visa. A relief to the biggest y with respect to being able to physically present while making final presentation to the executive committee of Intel. As the SCP went on, I took some time out and went with Puneet, Anubhav and his wife Tulika to a nearby city called Bath Spa. Interesting name and it has the "Roman Baths", where Romans indeed went in for a bath. The city is beautiful in its own style with Roman architecture and fashion museum covering the British fashion from 18th century onwards. A tiring but an interesting trips walking the pavements that Romans did walk centuries ago.

Week - 2: This week went into watching movies, which primarily began with "Harry Potters and the Order of the Phoenix", continued to "Die Hard - 4.0" and ended with "Ocean's Thirteen". Potter was the usual dose of witchcraft and wizardry in Hogwart, whereas Die Hard became more high tech and Ocean's army returned to take revenge for their mate Reuben Tishkoff. For me, the order of liking remained the same as above. Sampath and I also visited Intel office here in UK to get enrolled into their system and get our travel plans sorted out for our Intel, USA office travel. We also celebrated the birthday of our friend Deb at the Rewley Abbey Court housing facility as I mark the end of the day with a visit to the Cornmarket Street to experience Potter Mania.

Recently have been in touch with few incoming students, who are trying to get the pieces in place with respect to their admissions, fee and travel arrangements. I would say here that please do not hesitate in coming back to me with your queries with regards to SBS & Oxford and I will try to be of as much help as I can.

My next post will be most probably US as I will fly to Portland on Wednesday sometime thought I am still waiting for my tickets but they will definitely be for Wednesday. Wish me luck guys...!!!

Good Night and Good Luck!!!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Week 8: Trinity goes into history

This was the final week of my formal classes. It was only nine months ago when I was looking forward to an exciting MBA course up ahead of me and now here I am with all the three formal course term getting over. And yes, I enjoyed every minute of it. This week we had three parties/get-together and an equal number of assignments.

The week began with the restructuring and implementation class talking about the turnaround strategies that company adopt and the post-acquisition management done by the companies and associated outcomes. Branding class along with the MPP class was devoted to a brief revision of all what we did during past seven weeks.

How a subject like Retailing can be kept devoid of the implementation of advanced IT solutions into the Retailers solutions. German group Metro in collaboration with IBM and other IT giants is developing future stores. A small video about the same can be found on “Future Stores”. We had a hearty laugh about some of them, got worried about the security of personal information and at the same time some of the concepts appeared to be of extreme benefit to the consumer as well as the retailer. Do let me know what you guys think about the Fridge, Checkout, Mirror and other things by means of your comments.

Corporate Valuation class was about discussing the assignment and educating us about the latest top 5 trends in the global economy as presented by McKinsey to the European countries financial heads. Strategic Decision Making class on Friday discussed the Mann Gulch, Storm King Mountain and Mount Everest tragedies and the wrong decision making, ineffective leadership and group thinking that caused those disasters. Saturday was the simulation linked with the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster and the Mission Management Team meeting on Flight Day 8 from the perspective of six different managers involved and the engineers associated with the NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Our first assignment for the week was from the Corporate Valuation class where we had to discuss about the rights issue offering strategy of British Aerospace and Time Warner. On one hand, it was interesting to know and understand the logic that BAe used behind coming up with the rights offering at the time when they were experiencing huge losses in the first half-yearly results in 1991. On the other hand, Time Warner came up with an entirely innovative concept of variable price rights offering leaving the stockholders utterly confused as to what price will they be paying in the end for the number of shares that my get allotted. This variable program was out rightly rejected by the market and Time Warner had to resort back to the fixed price issue offering.

MPP had the second assignment in line where we had to talk about the benefits that an organization can have by making use of different kind of metrics when they implement the project portfolio management in their organization. Last time also the knowledge of IT project management was very useful in completing the assignment for this subject and this time also it came real handy, though writing 2000 words just about the benefits seem to be quite a mammoth task.

The final assignment for the week was from SDMDE where in we had to reflect our understanding about the failures in the Storm King, Mann Gulch fire accident and Mount Everest tragedy from the perspective of various decisions taken by the leaders of the group under the life and death situations. It is apparent that even experienced personnel sometime take decisions that may be totally adverse to the situation causing disaster or a good decision taken if not communicated well can leave the group in complete dilemma of what to do and where to go.

The fun part of the week began on Wednesday when around 30 of us went to the Trinity College for a formal dinner, thanks to Diptendu. I have been to quite a number of formal dinners but I must admit that barring Kellogg College, the food in Trinity was the best. Since most of us were done with the assignments for the week and were ready for their submissions so we had a dinner and after-dinner fun without any pressure on our mind about anything in particular.

The same night Brian and I went to one of the pubs (Angels) in Oxford, where we had a small get together to celebrate Brian’s birthday at mid night. Even we had class next day morning but we could not resist staying back talking about things from computers to life in Denver, USA and India.

Over the last two terms we were having sessions every Friday evening to understand the demographics and business environment in different countries across continents. This week it was Kenya and Nigeria and I must say that I never ever got so much information about various countries in such a fashion. The real party was the African drumming that was supposed to be held in the open air amphitheater but seems like God was having no mercy on us so it rained like anything and we had to do it indoor. It was awesome fun and every single person present enjoyed to the fullest. A video of the same can be found at YOUTUBE. After all the fun at school, venue shifted to another party area where we had a Bollywood Dance night organized by the Oxford Indian Society that went on till don’t know when.

Saturday night was the best of all the events we had as the student social community create a red carpet welcome to all MBA students to the Sylvester Awards night. SBS stars came down to the stage and there were awards given for some of the most outstanding performances in different categories. More details on the main page of the awards as we mark the end of the year with music, fun, dance and laughter as we moved from awards night to a dance party at Bar-Risa, which went on till 3 am next day. An amazing evening to always cherish came to an end and so did our formal classes of the MBA course.

I will miss every single moment of all that we enjoyed in Oxford, be it academics or be it the parties we had. My struggle for visa continued and eventually we have got a new proposal to work on with where we may be heading to altogether a different country for research. Let’s see how it all goes. Till later…

Good Night and Good Luck!!!

Week 7: The Week in Silence...

This week was probably the quietest amongst all in the Trinity. Not much happening on study front and neither there was much on the parties side. The classes were the usual ones and nothing much interesting happened. Though we did get invited to the dinner meal at the Christ Church College where we had the pleasure of eating in the same dining hall where Professor Dumbledore, faculty and Harry Potter & his friends' had their meal in the Harry Potter movies. It was fun, and we really enjoyed the ambience of the place. Other people attended Real Estate Summit and Media Strategy Lecturers organized in the school.

I will keep this week short and let it pass by as quietly as it can.

Good Night and Good Luck!!!

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Week 6: More parties than assignments

This week had more number of activities planned that were beyond the boundaries of class and the business school. After the flurry of assignments we had last week, this week was bit relaxing with just two assignments in line to be submitted.

Week began with the Restructuring class where we discussed about the companies in bankruptcy, status of financial & economic distress. Eurofood and United Airlines were the two extreme cases discussed with respect to the Chapter 11 filing.

Branding class had discussion mainly concentrated around the branding myths associated with Harley and how the mass culture interpretations of the outlaw biker world built Harley’s identity value. The second part of the class discussed about the "FUSE" music channel and its brand promotion by mocking MTV’s bourgeois tastes and making use of provocative point-of-view commenting on contemporary American Society. Fuses Beach House campaign and the Fuse Uncensored got the ball rolling for the channel with increase in viewer ratings and more and more national advertisers pooling in. Towards the end came in the shocker in terms of the assignment that we had to submit today. In a country, within a category pick 3 brands. For those 3 brands, pick two commercials of each that reflect brand building and not promotion, and then do a critique analysis contrasting against what we have learned in last three classes. Ten pages to be written for ten percent of the grades.

Project Portfolio class had less of my interest that day especially because we discussed a case about a technology company based on our last weeks understanding about categorizing projects under different segments and prioritizing them.

The best for the day was saved till the end with the movie show planned for the night with 4 of my friends. The number grew to 15 by the time we reached the theater for the "Pirates of the Caribbean". In a nutshell I enjoyed the break from studies but the movie did not live up to the expectations I had from it. Ok, lets' put it in simple words, it was horrible.

Tuesday, my Corporate Valuation group sat down to finish the assignment on Royal Mail due Thursday. Puneet, Vijoy, Chad and I dig deeper to find what all could be deducted from their enterprise value of £10 billion to get their equity value. Saptarshi later joined us in finding the market beta for Royal Mail. It was a tough assignment and required due dilligence rather than calculations to justify our answers.

Wednesday, was the day for Supply Chain and Store management in Retailing class. Ben Gordon, the CEO of "Mothercare" talked about the operational aspects and the problems he had to take care of when he joined Mothercare. Thereafter, it was a dinner at the "Hertford College" where along with some 20 other guests I was invited to by Andrew, Simon and Swapan. It was a fun filled night starting at Kings Arms, moving on to Hertford for dinner and then the Hertford Bar to the Turf Tavern before ending at the Merton Bar late night.

Thursday wass a quite day with me procrastinating most of the day and finding the two commercials for my B&C assignment. Later that night we celebrated Andrew Bergbaum's birthday.

Friday was the day for the Great Gatsby Ball at Templeton College. Most of the MBA guys joined the summer party organized at Templeton to which I paid my first visit ever. After the initial drinks and dinner, focus shifted to the after-party for loads of dancing and more drinking that lasted probably till early in the morning. All the photos from the event are here.

Saturday, I finally found a couple of interesting ads for Cadillac to write about in the paper. The two ads I used were for Cadillac CTS 2008 and Cadillac V-series.

Sunday went into updating my resume, doing research for some jobs and talking to old buddies over phone. A partial rest day watching some TV-shows online and enjoying the warm sunny afternoon in Oxford.

Good Night and Good Luck!!!

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Week 5: Assignments, Assignments and....

Did I say assignments...??? Yes, this week was devoted to the assignments for different subjects we are reading in Trinity. Here I am providing a very brief about the various assignments I completed.

1) Managing Project Portfolio (Individual - Due on Mon) - In 2000 words, write a set of 20 questions that can help an organization decide on whether it would be beneficial for them to implement the project portfolio management process. Also provide reasoning as to how each question can contribute towards making that decision.

2) SDMDE (Group - Due on Thu) - In 2500 words, evaluate the Nucor's decision making and negotiation propositions in an HBS case. Run to Examination schools to submit the same as a formal coursework.

3) SDMDE (Individual - Due on Thu) - In 1000 words, critically evaluate the decision making process of Medtronic in an HBS case.

4) Retailing (Group - Due on Fri) - In 3000 words, explain the strategical context of multi-channel retailing and the effects the online retailing can have on the other channels for that particular retailer. Out of ASDA, HMV and Woolworth, our group chose HMV to understand better about the dynamics behind the not so successful online store of HMV and their digital music download store. We also had to prepare a 10 minute class presentation for the class scheduled for Wednesday.

5) Branding & Communication (Group - Due on Sun) - Toughest of all... No word limit. For an outdoor adventure sports company Patagonia, two long interviews were provided. We had to detail the key identity of the person interviewed using information provided, giving details of informant's conception of Patagonia and point out how Patagonia serves as symbolic function for informant's identity. Size of each interview - 32 pages, so you can imagine the task at hand.

Even though the task was mammoth and we worked pretty much day and night to get these assignments polished the best way we can, every second of it was worth it. For the MPP assignment, we got the far better understanding of the need and adaptability needed for the portfolio management process to be implemented. Retailing, by far gave the maximum insight into customer behavior, store design and other aspects of retailing that can either sky-rocket your sales or sink the sales to rock-bottom. SDMDE was an extension of our previous assignments refining further our thought processing and implementing our MPP learnings' as well. B&C interviews tell us about how a person's identity can be sketched without exactly asking him/her directly about the particular brand he/she is being interviewed for. Our final B&C project involves doing three such interviews, which I am still doing analysis for as to how to go about.

We had no time for any other activities but still were able to enjoy the happy hours on a rarely seen bright sunny evening in Oxford. The photo above is of a "SHISHA" ("Hookah" as called in India) bought by Saheel in Morocco. I don't smoke but still took a picture as it looked so cool, though may not be cool for the lungs.

Other than the assignments and a nice Friday evening, I did some work related to some job hunt that still goes on and tried to resolve the visa related issues for our two month summer consulting project at Intel in the USA. We have already sent our query to the US Consulate and are waiting for the response, which is likely by Friday or so.

I sincerely wish to go and work in the hub where we get all the micro-processors for our laptops and desktops developed, even though my project is a diversified one in a different field about which I cannot disclose yet due to non-disclosure agreements. Next week seems to be a relaxed one as got only two assignments due, however the preparation for the big ones towards the term-end will begin soon.

Good Night and Good Luck!!!

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Week 4: I passed my Hilary Term

The week as I mentioned in my early post was supposed to be really tough and hectic one for me. It indeed started the very same way. A couple of interviews with different companies were lined up. They did go fine but still the luck did not favor me and the DTC project was awarded to other team.

But the biggest event of this week for me came from Hilary term. I got through in all my subjects in high spirits. That was quite a relief as most of us were not sure what will happen based on the way our papers were framed.

Wednesday, in the retailing class it was fun to know more about the customer insights from Mike Sherwood, the CEO of Zara. We had no further class after Wednesday because of the MBAT sports festival in HEC, Paris over the long weekend for European business school.

On Friday, a few of us MBA guys went to London to meet Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from the Art of Living. It was an honor and pleasure to meet such a personality who is preaching the world to be happy and live life given to us as a precious gift from God. Well, I am not trying to be philosophical but yeah doing some mediation always revitalize a guy. :).

And yes, I got a Summer Consulting Project with Intel. I was really really interested in that project but due to non-availability of sufficient number of people couldn't form a team. The team that was eventually selected had one guy move out of the team due to some personal reasons and I filled in his place. I have a long way now to go in order to get my visa in place before I can fly to the USA...

Our sports warrior returned on Sunday from MBAT and they did make Oxford proud by winning a number of events, especially Rowing. Table Tennis and Ultimate Frisbie. Second in team sports, winner in recreational sports and overall fourth, even though the contingent of 90 odd was very small compared to LBS having around 300. Great job done fellow MBA's...

Good Night and Good Luck!!!