Meenakshi Lekhi visits IIMA campus

Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi, MP, Govt of India and Supreme Court lawyer, visited IIM Ahmedabad on July 6, to give a talk on “Ms. Meenakshi LekhiPerspectives on Indian Economic Development and Policy Making”, as part of the Speaker Series organized by the PGPX batch.

Ms Lekhi began her talk speaking about the situation in which the current government took charge, and proudly spoke about its achievements in the past year, including reduction of fiscal deficit, improvement of current account deficit and containment of leakages. She spoke about a two-pronged strategy for development- augmentation of the current resources and distribution to people who require it. She touched on a number of issues, such as the contribution of food and a healthy lifestyle to economic development, creation of an economic policy for the unorganized sector, focus on renewable energy and the PM’s pet project, Make in India. She justified the dismantling of the Planning Commission, saying that it carried the burden of a “dole out” economy. She also laid out the new government’s idea of using a quasi-federal structure, with a central policy but localized implementation.

She moved to talking about Delhi and criticizing the previous government’s land acquisition policies. She took to task the fact that there were slums and squatters on government land authorized for development. She spoke about smart cities and waste management systems required for better management of resources. She ended with a flourish, declaring that India deserved a UN Security Council seat as it was part of the country’s destiny.

After what seemed like a slightly haphazard speech, touching on a plethora of topics while not giving specific insight into the vision of the government regarding policymaking, the floor was opened up to audience questions. A gentleman questioned the lack of direction in the government’s plan on implementation of reform in various areas, such as administration, judicial and labor. Ms Lekhi refuted the statement that there was a dearth of talent in the government, and asked the audience to have faith, affirming that the GST bill would be passed, and stating that improper articulation about the land acquisition bill led to the current state of confusion. She skirted the question about implementation of policies, and avoided the question on the government’s education plan.

When asked how much black money would flow back into the country, she joked that she was bad with numbers but said that means needed to be created to make the black money white and bring it back. On facing a tough question about postponing investment in flashy things like the Sardar Patel statue or bullet trains until necessities for all were achieved, she stated that while necessities were needed, it was also necessary to generate pride in oneself, and hence some of the above expenditures were required. She avoided the tougher questions about the government’s plan of action and repeated that the country needed to have faith in the PM’s vision and desire for change.

In all, the talk summarized the achievements of the government since election, but did not give much clarity or perspective about the state of policy making in India.

– Arundhati Hazra (PGP 2014-16)

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An Insider Perspective to Assam’s Political Turmoil: Guest Lecture by Dr Haren Das

IIM-A student fraternity got the unique opportunity – thanks to Public Policy SIG – of hearing about Assam’s three decade old political turmoil from a person with immense experience in Assam Polity. Dr Haren Das, chairman of Assam Industrial Development Corporation and Ex-member, Assam Legislative Assembly engaged the students on a discussion about the various political problems that Assam has faced in the recent past ranging from Bodo crisis to the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants. He gave the students a brief history about these issues starting from the Bodoland demand of the 1980s to the recent riots in August. Then the floor was open to the discussion and student poured in their questions that are unanswered and largely unattended by Indian mainstream media.

Dr. Haren Das Lecture

Being in the midst of all the political efforts that the Assam government has been taking to make Assam more inclusive, he was able to give the students an idea of the long term efforts that are being taken. While he was confident that in the long term efforts like industrialization and increasing literacy can help win the trust of tribes, he said that there are no short term quick-fixes available for this problem. On the illegal immigration problem, he remained optimistic that the ongoing creation of National Population Registry will help the government to tackle the problem. He rounded off his talk by urging IIM-A fraternity to be in the forefront of change. He urged students to show the wider community that North East people are no different from the mainland Indians. He went on to point out that North East people are none other than ethnic groups from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who migrated four hundred years back.

The talk was well received among students. “It was good to hear from someone from Assam itself. There was so less coverage from mainstream media that lot of these issues was difficult to comprehend for outsiders,” quipped Francis Xavier, a PGP-2 student.

An abridged version of the session is available in Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sbAGNQLnwg&feature=g-user-u

IIM-A Students and Faculty ready for a Public Sector Stint!

Public Policy SIG of IIM-A conducted a panel discussion on the National Youth Policy draft bill that is to be tabled in the parliament next season. The panel was headed by Prof Anil K Gupta (Padma Shri award winner and founder of Honey Bee Network) and consisted of six students from IIM-A. Apart from students across programs of IIM-A, the event was also attended by faculty, Prof Shailendra Mehta and Prof Dhiman Bhadra. The panel critiqued the bill and pointed out several of its shortcomings like lack of concrete and radical measures to tackle problems faced by youth in skill development and entrepreneurship.

Prof Anil Gupta urged students not just to think what India can do for its youth but also what the youth can do for India. He floated the idea of three month compulsory stint for management students in public administration, public enterprises, rural or developmental sector, similar to the compulsory stint required for doctors. His idea was received with applause by the students. Prof Dhiman Bhadra joined the fray and suggested that IIM-A professors can also go on short stint to rural or developmental sector. The participants acknowledged that such stints will be very helpful for both faculty and students in getting to know the ground realities of India.

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The feedback and suggestions collated from the discussion are to be submitted to the government as a part of its policy consultation process.

Prof. Anil Gupta’s talk can also be viewed on  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcvcDd5JLNE&feature=g-user-u

Dr. Sarah Cooper talks about technology innovation and entrepreneurship

In an event organized by the Entrepreneurship Club of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA), Dr. Sarah Cooper, the Director at Centre for Entrepreneurship Research at the University of Edinburgh came down to campus to deliver a talk on technology entrepreneurship. She was accompanied by Professor Rakesh Basant, Professor of Economics and Chairperson, Center for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) at IIM, Ahmedabad.

While delivering a talk at the CIIE, Dr Cooper brought some interesting research findings to light. She explained that the average age of the lead entrepreneur in the software domain is fairly young –  lower than other all other areas that are witnessing entrepreneurial bustle. “Principal entrepreneurs in the software domain start as early as 24 years of age”, she quipped. “This drastically goes up to 40 in case of biotechnology”.

She also added, “a  balanced team and strong industry connections – which are the essence of social and human capital play a key role in the startup phase”. Usually, magnet organizations – established talent hubs, help in forming a web of skilled credible workers and quality jobs. Magnet organizations also help in bringing the principal entrepreneur in contact with suitable team member. “It has been noted that even though the principal entrepreneur is younger, there need to be experienced members in the team to form the right mix.

“Cluster creation and growth are closely linked to entrepreneurship. Spin outs from such hubs provide the requisite knowledge base to start ups”, she added.

Her research indicates that the recessionary phase helps in bringing out the risk-taking ability of a knowledge worker to the forefront. This leads to more product innovations and subsequent boost in employment generation. The impetus for cluster development lies on the industry as well as the government.

In an exclusive interactive session with the students of IIMA, the entrepreneurial drive of the students was at the forefront as they posed compelling questions to Dr. Cooper. Technology – specifically in the software domain, seemed to be the running thread of the conversation.

The buzz around native app development ran high. However, Dr. Cooper cautioned technology-focused individuals to first develop a sound understanding of the customer needs and emphasised on the importance of feedback. She also laid stress on understanding the financial viability before undertaking projects in this domain. “A single app is not sufficient to spell success. You need to develop a range of products to realise profits”, she said.

She brought to light an interesting suggestion of collaborating with large firms by offering complementary products to ensure a continuity of sales.

She gave pointers on following a ‘service to product’ transition – initially selling software services to third parties, thereby gaining productive business insights and subsequently generating cash flows even before one goes out to launch their own products.

While discussing the activities of the university’s entrepreneur cell, she talked pooling of talent – collaboration between the tech students and the B-school students. She remarked, “A single set of knowledge base and skills is not sufficient to run a business efficiently”.

On being asked about the viability of a geographically distributed team, she mentioned that it poses both opportunities and challenges. In the initial phases of a start up, this poses a challenge. However, it stands at a litmus test of the commitment and work ethics of the team member. In the slightly mature phase, it acts as a boon for market penetration.

The student community at IIMA  expressed interest in setting up social businesses. Dr. Cooper advised them to formulate a sound revenue model – as the principles of business are essentially governed by sustainability for all businesses. At instances where the target customers for a particular models is not well-off to pay, it becomes imperative to work on a unique model for revenue generation. This could mean creation of an alternate revenue stream altogether.

For those gravitating towards the non-profit route, she suggested that there needs to be a compelling story that urges the audience to donate.

The talk ended on a high note, with her expressing strong growth projections of the technology sector in India and motivating students at IIMA to gain a head start in the same.

Paranjoy Guha grabs eyeballs at IIM-A

Independent journalist and educator, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta engaged IIM-A students on a debate about ethics in Indian television news on July 16, 2012. The session organized by Public Policy SIG of IIM-A started with the screening of Paranjoy Guha’s acclaimed documentary film “Grabbing Eyeballs: What’s Unethical about Indian Television News”.  This was followed by a short lecture by Paranjoy Guha on ethical problems in the Indian TV News industry.

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Apart from juggling his many roles in the media, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is also a visiting professor in IIM Ahmedabad where he teaches a course in Media Studies. The crowd was rapt with attention throughout the 32 minute documentary film. The event and the documentary film revolved around the ill effects of ‘over-competition’ in the TV News Industry. “Information has to be viewed as a public good. So market failure has to be addressed immediately,” Paranjoy argued. He further criticized the archaic TRP rating systems and urged for an independent regulator to resolve the issue. The discussion turned lively as students discussed their questions and concerns with Paranjoy. “It was great hearing Paranjoy Guha,” said Maruthi Raj, a second year PGP student. “He put his finger right on the core issue plaguing our media. Thanks to him, we were able to make sense of an otherwise chaotic industry,” he added.

Former High Commissioner Nalin Surie addresses IIM-A community

Former High Commissioner Nalin Surie held the IIM-A community spellbound in his guest lecture organised jointly by Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs and IIM Ahmedabad at the IIM campus on 16th February. A diverse set of audience including students, faculty, alumni other members of the business community attended the talk on “Indo-China Relations: Compete or Engage”. Nalin Surie, who retired from Indian Foreign Service, last July after 38 years of exemplary service, has served as the High Commissioner to the UK and the Indian ambassador to China (2003-06).

The talk was part of the proactive effort made by Public Diplomacy Division to educate and inform the public and especially the student community about the efforts made by the ministry on various fronts. “The Public has a lot of misconceptions about our foreign policy. It is partly our mistake failing not to communicate to the public our efforts properly,” Nalin Surie said during his talk. He urged the people to refer to the government websites to get the latest updated information about the activities undertaken.

The talk was followed by an interactive session where Nalin Surie answered audience’s questions about India-china relations and its strategic importance. “It was interesting to hear about China and the dynamics of India-China relationship from a person who has spent a good amount of years in China and played a crucial role in building Indo-china relationships. It busted many of the myths that the media had built around this issue,” said Nikhil Gulati, a first year student and Public Policy Student Club member.

Marketing 3.0 – A preview by Mr. Suman Srivastava, CEO, Euro RSCG India

After Mr. Anil Agarwal, Executive Chairman of Vedanta group, Mr. Alok Sharma, Police Chief of this year’s Kummbh Mela and Strategy Guru Mr. Govind Vijayarajan, it was time for another guest lecture at WIMWI. This time the PGP-1 students had the opportunity to attend a talk by Mr. Suman Srivastava, the CEO of Euro RSCG India. This lecture was held as a part of the Marketing course taught to the first year students.

Mr. Suman explained how the means of marketing change as media changes. There is a need for marketers to adapt their strategies to the swift spread of internet as a source of media. If the past was about using mass media to get reach and frequency, the future is a lot more complex than that. Marketers no longer control what the customers see. The consumer no longer looks at just the product, but due to easy availability of information in this internet age, he/she can see what the company is doing for the benefit of the community. Hence, instead of a linear relationship between a brand and the consumer, he proposed an interconnected linkage between the brand, employees, consumer and community. He gave examples of brands promoting higher causes like ‘Jaago re’ campaign by Tata Tea, Real beauty by Dove and ‘Jagmag desh mera’ by Voltas. He called this as Marketing 3.0: Leveraging social networking media. He concluded by stating customer, community, collaboration and convenience as the 4 C’s to replace the 4 P’s (price, product, promotion, and place).

An enlightening session indeed, with all the marketing buffs eager to learn the implications of Marketing 3.0

Aviral Jain,

Media Cell

Beta Career series talk: Carbon Finance

Mr. Guruprasad Mohapatra (IAS, 1986), the Managing Director of Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals(GACL) and Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizer(GNFC) Co. spoke to the students of IIM Ahmedabad on the 14th of August. An M.A., M.Phil. in international relations from JNU and MBA from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia he has a substantial experience in development and administration. He has had several appointments as collector in various districts of Gujarat and has been the Municipal Commissioner in Surat Municipal Corporation. His active association with power sector reforms during his stint with the State Electricity Utility is especially noteworthy. Under his able leadership GACL has gone from strength to strength and is currently the only PSU in the country, which has earned CERs and offers consultancy to other PSUs on CDR mechanism.

Outlining the Carbon Trading Market

Mr. Mohapatra started by outlining the origin of the carbon trading market. It has its roots in the Kyoto Protocol which came into force in 2005 and envisages a reduction in the emission of 6 polluting gases by industrialised nations in the period 2008-2012 by at least 5.2% as compared to the 1990 levels and is monitored by the UNFCCC. However, given the high level of industrial activity in such nations, it is difficult to achieve these standards and hence they have been given an option to purchase CERs (Certified Emission Reduction) from developing nations, giving rise to the Carbon trading market. The buying and selling of these CERs enables the industrialized nations to continue running their industries at similar levels of output while providing the developing nations the necessary capital and technology to use more eco-friendly sources of power.

Procedure to earn CERs

Mr. Mohapatra also enumerated the procedure to be followed by an organisation to apply to the UNFCCC for registering the carbon credits and the conditions that a project must satisfy in order to be eligible for getting CERs. He also talked about the various kinds of projects that fall under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of emission reduction, the major industries that could benefit under this scheme and the major buyers of such credits. In this context, Mr. Mohapatra described the kind of projects that have been initiated by GACL, of which 2 have already been registered by the UNFCCC, and the kind of cash flows that were associated with the projects.

Growth Prospects in India

He also said that while the recession had adversely affected the CDM market both in terms of volumes and value, it was on a recovery path. Comparing India and China, the two biggest players in this market, Mr. Mohapatra mentioned that while China had a larger share in the number of registered CDM projects as compared to India, the quality of Indian projects was considered as superior to the ones from China and this is something Indians could aim to capitalise upon.

After doing a SWOT Analysis of the CDM projects, he concluded that their future hinges on whether the Kyoto Protocol is extended beyond 2012. He concluded that if it did the opportunity for Indian organisations to benefit from would be immense.

This session on Carbon Trading Mechanism was extremely interactive and provided an enthusiastic assemblage of students with keen insights into the CER industry along with instilling in them a desire to continue learning about this nascent but important field.

Anuj aka popat

Media Cell

(Inputs: Beta, the Finance Club @ IIMA)

Beta career Series Talk: Ashish Gupta

About the speaker ‘Mr. Ashish Gupta’

Ashish is currently managing the G3 Interest Rate derivatives trading and Interest Rate Risk management for Reliance Industries Limited. Before he moved to Reliance, he was Vice President with the Structuring desk at Citigroup for 3 years. Additionally, he was instrumental for growth of the structured options business. Prior to Citigroup, he spent 3 years with ICICI Bank Limited at their International Banking Group and was heading the treasury at Offshore Banking Unit with responsibilities to head G3 Interest Rate Derivatives trading, G3 Asset & Liability Management and Fixed Income Bond Investments and Trading.

He started his career in treasury at EXIM Bank of India, Mumbai and was in charge of Asset & Liability Management and rates trading in INR rates. After spending 2 years with EXIM Bank of India, he went on to pursue MSc (Financial Engineering).

Ashish, is also a visiting faculty on Fixed Income, Derivatives and Structured Options. By education, he is B.Com (Honors), MSc (Financial Engineering), Chartered Accountant (FCA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA Institute, USA), Financial Risk Manager (GARP, USA), and Certified Treasury Manager (ACTM, USA).

Session 1: Careers & Opportunities in Fixed Income: Structuring & Trading

The first talk targeted the 1st year students interested in financial markets careers. Mr. Ashish Gupta, the speaker kept the session informative and interactive. He shared his experiences in both structuring and trading. He gave examples of how trades for a big corporation might be structured. He described the way the trade would go from a sales person who would initiate discussions, to structure who would create and price the product, to a trader who would trade it on the market. He narrated anecdotes that highlighted divergence in theory and practice, and brought into focus the transaction costs and other things which theory ignores but which make a difference in practice. He responded to a question on work-life balance by saying that he goes to office, problem solves for most of his day and comes back home. The problem solving might be for a client or for a proprietary desk or the sales team.

Ashish Gupta in Session 1 with First Years

Ashish Gupta in Session 1 with First Years

The session focused on the skills needed to enter and be successful in the industry, like a feel for the markets, quick decision making and being aware of the major goings on in the world. Ashish advised on various financial indicators that students can track to follow the financial situation like the LIBOR, the US-Euro, USD-INR rates and debt issuance by governments. Students really enjoyed the session and learned about a career in trading and structuring.

Session 2: Fixed Income Hedging & Trading

The second talk was a session on advanced fixed income ideas. The speaker himself being a senior trader discussed trading and hedging strategies relevant to the current markets. The audience were 2nd year students doing a course on derivatives and risk management as part of their chosen electives. The speaker explained the pit-falls of employing a few trading strategies which might seem very profitable in the current market conditions but in reality might play against you in the long-term. He gave real life examples of trades in interest rates that look very profitable at first sight but will require significant changes in the interest rates prevailing to break even given the spreads and transaction costs.

The next session with second years

The next session with second years

The session was assisted by Bloomberg captures of market data and an explanation of what one might expect to do in rates trading. All-in-all it was a very interesting and interactive session with focus on practical aspects of the job as well as an informative session about the anomalies caused by perceptions and risk-aversion.

Lessons from a Mountaineer @ IIMA

Everest down, What next?

Everest down, What next?

Mr. Atul Karwal, who became the first IPS officer from India to climb the Mt. Everest, enthralled the students of IIMA by sharing his experiences from the monumental adventure. In a session organized by IIMA’s Entrepreneurship Club on Friday, he also gave some valuable lessons in life through some truly inspirational examples.

In the journey to Mt. Everest from Base Camp, one first encounters the Khumbhu Ice falls. Navigating through metres-deep moving ice is one of the toughest and most dangerous parts of the journey. In life too, the first hurdle is often the biggest and overcoming that is half the job done.

Earlier, it was considered that the only way one could possibly climb the Everest would be through Tibet and that going through Nepal is near impossible. However, since China banned expeditions through Tibet, every expedition has gone through Nepal. This shows that determination can overcome any obstacles.

Among the deaths that have befallen Everest climbers, almost 80% have occurred during descent. This means that any job is done only when it is complete. One must not get complacent until the final objective is achieved even if a major part of the plan is accomplished.

He also explained that fear up to an extent is good. Fear is what makes one prepare in anticipation of a danger and fear is what keeps one away from danger. However, when fear prevents a person from taking any risk, it means he has lost the battle. Risking nothing equals risking everything as one doesn’t gain anything without risking.

The session also had its lighter moments. He explained that while climbing the Everest, one side was Nepal some 10,000 feet below. On the other side was Tibet, some 12,000 feet below. And one would live longer if he fell on the Tibetan side!

And finally, true to his role as the Joint Police Commissioner (Traffic) for Gujarat, he ended the session by giving tips to students on traffic safety and urging them to follow rules religiously. One of his biggest learning from the expedition was the value of life and he advised students not to risk it for some cheap thrills on the road.