Wednesday, December 30, 2009
mankind) made any sense.With this perspective, I began to analyze the recent Google - Yelp acquisition talks. I feel that the synergies associated with Yelp as part of Google do make sense, and Google should acquire Yelp, if the price is right. What do you think?
Monday, December 7, 2009
As this article on Techcrunch would tell you, Tagga initially started as a company offering free way for users to launch their own SMS campaign. Thus I could for example choose a keyword (lets say CHIPMUNK. I don't know why that was the first word that came to mind. But now that it did, let's just say CHIPMUNK). I could put up signs that say 'Text CHIPMUNK to 82442' anywhere. If you did text CHIPMUNK to 82422, you will get a text reply with whatever content I wanted to distribute to you. It could be a link. The catch was that the content would be atmost 80 characters long, and it would be followed by an 80 character advertisment.
The business model was: advertisers could buy keywords for the placing their 80 character ads. So lets say I really wanted to sell nuts, I might buy the keyword CHIPMUNK. (Do chipmunks eats nuts....Whatever). Or I might just buy ads via other methods, like geographical region. Like if I want to see coats, I would buy Chicago. It's cold here.
Back to the point. Now if you visit the Tagga homepage, it says that Tagga is now an Agency Platform. In the words of the website, it 'is the ultimate opt-in direct marketing platform that is 100% focused on the agency world.' There is one problem with that - I have no idea what it means. It seems like a whole lot of jargon to me. Like synergy.
To really understand what Tagga is doing, I need to click the features button. And then read what each feature is.
To sum up, this is what I think Tagga is doing now: take the original idea, add a bunch of features, but reposition it as a white label service to help agencies launch marketing campaigns. Interesting. But why, why is it making it so difficult for ordinary people like me to understand what they are doing? Why not give a short summary of what they are doing on the homepage, rather than just throwing around buzzwords?
That's it. I have rambled way too much. Time to call it a day
Saturday, December 5, 2009
There seems to be no better example of a small business using social media, than Kogi BBQ , the Mobile Barbeque business. The company operates a fleet of vans that drive around, and post the location where they would be stopping 45 minutes before they get there. When they arrive, there is already a line of people waiting to buy food from them. These are the kinds of ideas I look at, and say 'Brilliant!!'
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
While several aspects of cloud computing are completely new, I would argue that it has been around for a while. When I first joined logistics.com in 2002, it was an Application Service Provider (ASP), providing technology for companies to manage their transportation needs online, without a need for installing any software. It was soon acquired by Manhattan Associates which provided installed software. We worked for an year to enable our software to be packaged, and installed at the client's site. In 2007, we were back to where we starting, positioning our Software as a Service (SaaS) capabilities to target medium sized customers, who did not want to install software on-premises. Of course, this is very similar to Cloud Computing, as far as Business Software is concerned. I am sure MANH would be repositioning the software as a Cloud Computing Solution.
But back to the original question: are we in for a disappointment? I would argue that there are several factors working for and against cloud computing:
Sales people - yes you heard that right. Salespeople. Like I was. Why? Very simple - most companies haven't figured out a model for paying salespeople for selling Cloud Computing technology, especially as payments come a recurring installments rather than lumpsum payments. Ask any sales guy what he would want - a $100K payment in lumpsum, or four payments of $30K per year for the next four years? The 100K would be much preferred
IT Departments - IT Departments have much less work to do if the application is delivered over the cloud; in effect, you are outsourcing most of the IT maintainence work to the provider.In addition, IT Departments hate to lost control.
Economics - For major applications, like ERP, supply chain systems, I would argue that the economics do not vary much between buying and maintain the software vs. using it SaaS, especially for larger companies. Think of it; fundamentally what changes? The software is still being hosted on a server and database server. The server and DB server are still very efficiently used in the installed environment, because of the high needs of the company. So in one way or the other, things need to be paid for
Flexibility & Scalability - This is the single biggest driver for cloud computing. Several scenarios work very well for this, but perhaps no better than if you launch a new startup, you can just pay for usage. If things go well, your application is used more, your bills (and hopefully revenue) increase. If things do not go well, just end your service, pay your final bill, and you are done.
Cost - If the application usage is limited, and a lot of different clients can work off the same server/group of servers and use the computing resources more efficiently, the cost automatically goes down. Include the cost of installation, and cloud computing suddenly sounds like a much better option
Try before you buy - doesn't need much explanation
What applications are then prime for Cloud usage?
- File Storage - example, Rackspace's Cloud Drive service
- Platform as a Service - Microsoft's Azure and Joynet cloud service, amongst the multiple services in this arena
- Operating Systems/Browsers for Netbooks, like Google Chrome and Jolicloud
- Collaboration and Document sharing - Google Docs
So on and so forth.....
BTW I just realized, the Wiki overview of Cloud Computing Covers this and a lot more. So read it.
Another great resource explaining SaaS and PaaS is the Keynote address of salesforce CEO at Oracle Open World
Sunday, November 22, 2009
1. I want to form a group with my friends on some site forum
2. Each of us is going to read some technology related RSS feeds, probably using Google Reader and FeedDemon
3. We want to 'clip' the interesting, relevant articles we find and post it to another RSS feed for the whole group (rather than emailing this article to everyone)
4. Each group member should also be able to subscribe to this RSS Feed, and mark articles read/unread etc, as we would do with a normal RSS Feed.
I haven't been able to find any tool so far that lets us do this easily. If you know any such tool, please leave a comment. Your help appreciated!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Business School Ranks are so important. At Kellogg, that's all we talk about. Everyday we celebrate how Kellogg is equal to Wharton in the US News Ranking. We dream of the day that K will surpass W, and maybe one day, start rivalries with H and S. Oh the day....
Now back to reality
I am sure that the above is how many B school applicants, include me at one point, thought how things might be. I mean, how can Business Schools just be 'different' from each other. They need to have a number, that measures exactly what the net worth of the school is as compared to other schools.
But the truth of the matter is, Rankings have never once been mentioned since I joined Kellogg. They are just not relevant enough. The general rank tier is important - what you get from lets say a top 5 or 6 School, is much different from what you get from a top 30 school. But if you are a B School applicant, don't waste your time discussing on Businessweek exactly which school is best. I wasted a lot of my time when I applied, despite being told not to. It's just not worth it. Not just time, you end up adding anxiety to your already very stressful life.
Instead, explore the school. Understand the culture. Talk to current students a lot, and find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about the schools. Typically, students and alumni are pretty honest; they will not try to recruit you. Don't try to necessarily impress them; but do try to come across as someone who has a good idea of what he/she wants.
And oh, be nice. Be humble. If someone reviews your essays for you, email back and say thank you.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Note - I am calling all panelists as Panelist 1,2 and 3. If you are one of them, and want me to include your real name instead, just email me!
Panelist 1 worked in finance before school, in stock research. She has been focussed on Entrepreneurship from the get go. This summer, she worked with a startup through the Kellogg Entrepreneurship Internship Program (KEIP). Despite a strong focus, she felt sometimes that she should take advantage of all these companies coming to Kellogg and apply. She had to go back to why she wanted to do what she was doing, to resist the temptation.
Panelist 2 loves travel and hotels. She had an internship with a hotel this summer, and is passionate about the industry outside of work. She felt that it would be awesome if she could combine her interests with her work, and so is determined to find a full time position with a hotel, despite the fact that the hotel industry is doing pretty badly today. She did follow the herd in some sense, and started preparing for consulting. During the winter, she was sitting in a hotel room in Miami, and working on her cover letter for one consulting firm. She could not get herself to write why that firm was important to her. Then she realized that to her, all firms were the same, and she wasn't really interested in any of them. She dropped the consulting idea right there and then.
Panelist 3 is interested in healthcare marketing. She was also applying for consulting, and in fact, got interview close list calls to the top 3 firms. She did the whole consulting interview case preparation, an long and very involved process. However one week before the interviews, she withdrew. She knew it that she didn't want to do it.
Advice for 1st year students
1. The internship summer is the only chance you get to try something new and different, completely risk free, for a year. Don't waste it!
2. Think of both Industry and Function that you want to be in. One might be more important than the other, but ultimately both are needed for you to be focused
3. Often jobs that might look very different in title, are really similar to what you are looking for. Do research on the day to day activities, and think of what transferable skills you bring from your past experience and activities at Kellogg.
4. Think of why you want a role - are your reasons externally motivated (e.g. money, proving something to yourself or others) or internally motivated (e.g. Skills you learn, passion for industry/function, location preference). Always decide based on internal motivation.
5. Be really calculated on what you spend time on in Business School. Developing your positioning statement, and stories for interviews takes a lot of time. Spend time on developing these for functions and industries you really want to go into, for the right reasons
6. Do a lot of informational interviews with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Tell them what you like to do.
7. Smaller companies might not have any positions for you. If you tell them what you can do for them, and what you like to do, they might be able to design a position for you
8. Take Careerleader results seriously. There is often a tendency for you to interpret the information selectively. Try to look at it as objectively as possible. Don't anchor yourself
9. Think through projects that you have loved in the past. Tell people about these projects and ask them to listen for themes.
10. The biggest success you will achieve is by strengthening your strengths, not by trying to mitigate your weaknesses.
11. Marketing is much more analytical than people make out to be.
12. Prepare a mission statement before winter break
13. You need a buddy/group that tells you to stick to your guns
14. In the winter quarter, try to avoid Jacobs Hall as much as possible. You will hear of people getting offers, and feel bad.
15. Traingulate your facts. If you hear that consulting is good for getting a jump start in your career, ask people in your industry. Often deep industry knowledge is critical, especially in specialties like healthcare. Try to find someone to talk to for whom it worked, and others for whom it didn't
16. To get a true perspective on the culture of an organization, ask someone who has left there. Ask as specific questions as possible e.g. What happens there on Thursday evening? Do people hang out together, or leave as soon as possible.
14. Make a list of what you enjoy, what magazines you read etc. Use this list to influence your carrer choices
Friday, October 30, 2009
Speaking of MMM, we had our first Design class taught by Professor Don Norman. He gave us an excellent understanding of what the Design Thinking aspect of the program brings to students. He described it as follows. Before the Design curriculum, the MMM program tried to build a T - shaped specialist. The operations specialization of the MMM program added deep expertise in operations, while the Kellogg MBA curriculum added the broad expertise of a general manager.
With the Design Curiculum, the MMM program introduced another horizontal bar, emphasizing Design Thinking in addition to Management thinking.
But why this this important? This is because Engineers, and MBA's are great at solving the given problem. What are Designers good at? They are good at discovering the right problem to solve in the first place. Prof. Norman's philosophy is "Never solve the problem you are asked to Solve!'
The MMM program also emphasizes SOS - Systems, Operations and Services. Systems because the most successful products come with a full system of complementary products and services e.g. the iPod and iTunes. Services because everything we consume is ultimately a service, we just think of it as a product. E.g. Digital cameras give you recollection of memories, pictures are just a by-product. And Operations, cause you gotta make the damn thing work!
After 2 years of MMM, I do not hope to be a designer. That would take 6 to 8 years. I do hope to inculcate Design Thinking in the way I approach business and life. Looking forward to the next year, and beyond!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
President Clinton started by talking about globalization, and its relevance in todays economy. He discussed the merits of globalization, and the demerits of globalization. For example, with globalization, one can source product from anyplace in the world, wherever it is most efficient to produce those goods. We are hence increasingly interdependent. This also comes with increased risks of failure of the system when a few parts of it start failing. The recent recession is a good example.
Then President Clinton spoke about the kind of work he has been doing on a global scale. Taking into account that the crowd was a group of engineers, entrepreneurs, technologists, and business leaders, he discussed Entrepreneurship in emerging economies that he supports through the Clinton Foundation.
He told us a story of a group of Entrepreneurs in Haiti, who have created a profitable business, and simultaneously help alleviate the problem of deforestation in Haiti. Most of the wood in Haiti is used to make charcoal, which people use to cook food. In addition, Haiti has no trash collection system in the residential areas. These entrepreneurs started collecting paper from people, and saw dust from the furniture factories. They developed a very simple, mechanical way of rolling the paper mesh with sawdust to create these oval blocks, which could be used to run the stove for two meals a day. They are less than half the cost of wood charcoal, yet are made at a 50% profit for the entrepreneurs. We need people like these to solve the world's problems. President Clinton emphasized that he intends to solve problems not by charity, but by supporting such people.
There was one funny moment in the speech. Right in the middle, his phone rang. He said,' It must be Hillary. She is the only one who has this number.'
He then picked up the phone, told her that he was addressing 2000 people at that moment, and asked her if she wanted to say hi to her. He talked for another ten seconds, told her 'Good for you,' said bye and shut the phone, and said 'Hillary said Hi from Zurich!'
Overall the speech left me highly inspired about entrepreneurship, and the impact it can have on the world.
I would not be a true MBA student if I did not analyze the reasons why this speech was so powerful. If I look at the approach Chip and Dan Heath suggest to make ideas stick in people's minds, they suggest the approach of SUCCESs. The idea should be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and have stories. The components that made this speech inspiring for me was that it was emotional, and it had statistics. President Clinton complemented statistics like 'x% of the world is malnourished' with emotional stories about people. You could relate to these people, you could visualize them, just like you, they had dreams, aspirations, hopes.
I hope I will get another chance to hear former President Clinton speak at sometime in the future.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Professor Ulrich recently wrote a book called Innovation Tournaments, which demonstrates how to systematically identify exceptional opportunities for innovation. The process consists of a generator phase and a refinement phasr. The generator aims to develop a large number of ideas, which have as much variability as possible. The filter/refinement component then rates the ideas based on a set of criteria, in order to eliminate most of the ideas, narrowing down to the best couple of ideas available.
While both the generating mechanism and the filter generally have a lot of noise, and are highly subjective, I feel that the central idea could be very useful when looking at entrepreneurial opportunities. After all, the most important resource for an entrepreneur is his or her time. Why not generate multiple ideas and select the best, as rated by a large group of people? As per Professor Ulrich, better ideas did have a strong correlation with eventual commercial success.
Professor Ulrich also discussed Design Thinking, and described it as the second best process for solving problems. The best? Exact science. Unfortunately, in most cases, exact since does not exist, and using the process of innovation tournaments seems to make a lot of sense. There are a lot of tools available here, including Darwinator, an interesting, free, web-based tool for group evaluation and filtration of ideas.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
1. If I even talk to someone from my school, my year or senior, I add him/her as a friend on Facebook and Linkedin. It always seems appropriate.
2. If I talk to an alum, what do I do? This issue came up in a Career Management Center presentation. The center says that it is appropriate to add the alum on linkedin, but not on facebook, unless you two are really good friends. This seemed to be fine until...
3. I spoke to another alum (all names not mentioned, of course). He complained of a neighbor who knew him, and added him on linkedin and Facebook. He felt that building networks was all about creating value for the other person, and if the neighbor had never added any sort of value for him.
4. Last, but not least, what about Professors? A classmate added a professor on Facebook, and the professor told him (and the rest of the class) that it was fine to add him as a Facebook friend, but only after the grades for the class had been released. Now I am certainly friending him on Facebook the moment the grades are released.
5. At another event, three speakers said completely different things. One said if all the participants did not add him on linkedin, they were losing an opportunity to engage with a potentially importnt contact. Another speaker said that she did not take linkedin requests from anyone other than people she knew very well, but would gladly allow everyone to join her linkedin group. And the last speaker said that he would not accept anyone on linkedin unless he had known them for a while.
So where does this leave us in terms of Facebook and Linkedin etiquette? Nowhere. Like all good cases, there is no one correct answer (notice the effect B School has had on me!). It all depends on the context. The best thing to do is to ask the person, and only then send them a linkedin or facebook request.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
We recently had the 'CIM Ball,' a prom style party to celebrate the dn of CIM. It was hosted at the Navy Pier Ballroom in Chicago. It was very well put together, with great music, lots of drinks and food, and plenty of place to sit, stand or dance.
There is no doubt Kellogg throws some awesome parties. It is reputed to be a party school, and it is. Not in the sense that people do not take academics seriously, but in the sense that parties and socializing and drinking are such a big part of the culture. Many of my peers have actually complained about it; why should this socializing be limited to only drinking and going out, which are often not very conducive to conversations. I agree; I participate in the Thursday morning 8 AM coffee sessions which one of my classmates started, and hope to have a lot of small dinners where I can build stronger friendships with my peers.
Another amazing thing about Kellogg is the Honor Code. People trust each other. I assume that my peers will not cheat. For example, we might have a closed book, 3 hour time limit final exam that the professor will give us to take home and do at our convenience in a 3 hour period. The exam would account for 40% of the grade in the class, yet there would be no monitoring for the students. This related directly to one of the most importance principles of Leadership we learned - voice and choice inspire people.
One of the things that our Dean mentioned at the start of CIM was to lead with your weakness. Do things at Kellogg that you would typically not do, and use the safety net the school provides to step outside of your comfort zone. I did that the first week, by standing for election for a representative of my section to the Kellogg Students Association. The process of campaigning, asking my peers for ideas, generating thoughts myself and asking people to vote for me was awesome. Ultimately I did not win. An awesome peer of mine did. But the experience was great. And i made several friendships - both by meeting new people and strengthening ties with people I already new, by finding common areas of interest. I am very glad I did it.
The courses I am taking this semester are Accounting For Decision Making, Marketing Management, Business Strategy and Analytical Methods for Operations. The classes are all over the map; from being very quantitative to being very entertaining. I do feel that international students sometime have a disadvantage. I do not include myself in this category, as i have lived in the US for over seven years. I mostly refer to people who just came to the US for the first time, and for whom English is not the first language. Some cases are confusing; for example in the first Strategy class, we did a mini-case on Baseball, a sport most of the world is not familiar with. Often, I have found some of my international friends struggling with some jokes cracked in class. For example, we were studying a case where a manufacturer of nylon cords was trying to diversify, and was launching an initiative to manufacture pet leashes. It was his pet project; get it?
Friday, September 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I am also considering taking part in several extra-curricular activities. I need to narrow down my list from the following:
1. Neighborhood Business Initiative - the Kellogg Pro-bono Consulting club. It seems like a great opportunity to get ome real life consulting experience while helping non-profits or socially minded businesses.
2. The High-Tech club and the High-Tech recruitment trip to the west coast. Self explanatory
3. I am also considering running for the position of the MMM representative to the Kellogg Student Association. This seems just the perfect way to help shape the ever-evolving MMM program.
4. Kellogg Entrepreneurship club - self explanatory
Which of these would I end up participating in? Time (and this blog) will tell..
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Nowhere it is most prevalent than future career/recruiting discussions. No matter what everyone's goals are, they seem to mention (other than a small minority) banking or consulting. Especially consulting, as banking is less sought after the financial melt down. Everyone (including me) fears missing the consulting salaries, the quick (expected career growth) and the variety of work, despite negative factors like travel and lifestyle. Kellogg typically sends about 35% of its students to consulting companies, so the effect is even more pronounced.
Another is parties. One of the major parts of B School is networking with classmates and alumni, and understandably, my peers and I sometimes go to events, socials, parties that we had no interest in. Especially if alumni is going to be present.
I have some goals from my B School experience, which include getting particular positions and the industry, building true friendships and growing personally and professionally. I have written my goals down, and am going to fight hard to not take on too much, and lose sight of what it is that I want to achieve. Would I succeed? That is the question..
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
1. Section Time: Kellogg students are divided into eight sections: Poets, Highlanders, Cash Cows, Moose, Turkeys, Bullfrogs, Big Dogs and Buckets. The names of the sections are based on the background of people they used to put on these sections. For example, Poets were the Arts Majors, Highlanders were the foreign students, and Cash Cows were the former investment bankers. At some point, some wise person had the bright idea that diversity is good. So they retained the names, but mixed up people into different sections. Also, each section has one sister section and one rival section.
Everyday during CIM, my section, the Highlanders, would get together and go through various activities with our section leaders. Probably the most fun activity was the name game, where you learn your section mates' first and last names. To help facilitate this, all students come up with adjectives starting with the same letter as their first name's first letter. We also spent a lot of time preparing for various activities like the cheering contest and the CIM showcase. Also, when someone would show up late, they would be asked to do some fun activity, like performing an 80's dance (see video below).
2. Cheering Contest: On the first day of CIM, we prepared for and participated in a inter-section cheering contest. We dressed up in all sorts of gear, and prepared a coordinated 3-minute cheer for their section. We also prepared a supporting cheer for our sister section, the Bulfrogs, and an anti-cheer (or rather a jeer) for our rival section, the poets.
3. Amazing Race: Another inter-section contest was the amazing race, a race/scavenger hunt on campus. I served as one of the home-base personnel, which means I sat on the computer and waited for my teammates to call me so that I could google their clues, and help them figure out the right places to go to.
4. CIM Showcase: The CIM showcase was a 7 minute skit put together by each section. Our only requirements were that we reference atleast one recent Chicago area event, and show one cultural misunderstanding. We did our skit in the form of a newscast from Kellogg, taking our audience all the way from KWEST to all the different activities at CIM. The winning section's skit featured a guy who did the Tiger Woods golf ball commercial(see below)!
Here are few videos from last year's showcase.
5. CIM Olympics : The final event in the week was the CIM Olympics, in which we competed against other sections in five events, including a tug of war and golf ball toss. The best event was the dizzy bat race, where you run to a bat, roll it on the ground with your head on one end, and then run back to your section mates on the other end. Needless to stay several people fell while running back, and made for some great laughs!
6. Other stuff: Between all this madness, we have been going out every night, and also attending a class on Leadership, in a very intense format (one 3 hour class every day of the week). I love the class and will write more about the class later.
The whole week has been fun, and I feel like I already have learned several lessons about teamwork and leadership. My section mates are awesome, in their backgrounds, talents and friendly manner. There have been some moments where we butted heads, but we got through them. I am glad I joined Kellogg. I sum up this week in one sentence from one of the CIM showcases: the most expensive summer camp in the world, but definitely the most fun.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I just came back from a seven day trip to Denmark and Sweden, with 19 of my classmates and five second year students at the Kellogg School of Management. The trip, known as KWEST Scandinavia was just one of the 30 odd trips planned by second year students. The idea behind the trip is to help you get to know some of your classmates very well. Kellogg students organize this trip fully, and do a few things to make sure that the trips really facilitate getting to know one's peers well
1. Selection - First year students register for trips by giving their top ten choices. They are assigned one of the trips, based on a combination of factors, including their choice, the popularity of the trip, and the intention of keeping all trips as diverse as possible. KWEST Scandinavia was my second choice, right behind Egypt. My intention of choosing these places was to try and visit a place that I would be unlikely to go on my own. I also wanted the trip to give a rich cultural experience, and not be crazy hard in adventure or partying
2. The hide and the big reveal - Another fantastic thing is that you are not allowed to share your previous job, place of residence or undergraduate degree major/university with any of your peers. If you are going with a partner, you are also not allowed to share who is the partner and who is the student! An event called the 'Big Reveal' is held on the penultimate night of the trip, in which people can judge your background, and then you reveal it all! Doing this really helped us focus on talking about items other than the usual what-did-you-do and what-you-are-going-to-do, and helped me really find out very interesting things about people. Also, the constant guessing of people's backgrounds was great fun!
3. Organization - the trip is fully organized by the second year trip-leaders, which helps first year students enjoy themselves, without any worrying about logistics etc.
The trip was one of the best experiences of my life. The trip leaders did an awesome job organizing the trip, and I got to know some very interesting, accomplished, talented, funny and friendly classmates. Watch my blog as I post more details about my trip.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
When I started organizing the competition, I suggested that we restrict entries to these four areas, and strictly to the US. However my incredibly passionate teammates persuaded me to open up the competition. I am glad we did. We have had an incredibly high number of entries coming from India.
While I cannot comment on any particulars due to the level of confidentiality we need to maintain, the one area that I am glad to see a lot of focus on is Education (especially in entries from India). Most of the ventures are for-profit, which is the right way to go when it comes to providing high-quality education in India. Another focus is health care, especially in entries from the United States.
Another thing that has surprised me is the sheer number of entries. I thought that IITians were entrepreneurial, but now I know truly how much passion and zeal current students and alumni have for entrepreneurship. I am proud to be part of this alumni base, and wish all participants the best of luck!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I hate moving. Period. Moving within the same city is hard enough. Moving cross country is torture. Especially when you have movers like I had. I researched and compared prices on self-moving options like Budget and U-Haul; moving pod services like www.pods.com and full-service movers. I found some pretty reasonable movers like Nationwide relocation (also known as www.movingcost.com) and signed up with them. As per the contract, I gave them a certain estimated weight, and would finally pay according to the actual weight moved. My estimated weight needed to cover the actual weight, as the cost for overages would be very high.
My first mistake was not researching the company. BIG MISTAKE. Just google the name, and look at all the links from the second result onwards. You would know just why.
Nationwide relocation is a broker that works with local transport companies. In my case, the move was assigned to Express Movers LLC. They scheduled my move for the 29th, with 30th as backup date. Around the 26th, they called confirming the 29th as the date, and said that they would call later with the exact time.
i hadn't heard back from them by the 28th, so I called them. They said that something had come up, and they were going to pick me up on the 30th instead. This was the first sign of trouble. When exactly were they going to inform me that they were going to come a day later?
On 29th, after several calls to both Nationwide Relocation and Express Movers, I was given a time of 8 AM to 10 AM EST. In the evening of the 29th, the time changed to 'morning.' On 29th, it kept changing to late afternoon, early evening, 10 pm etc, until the movers showed up at 11:30 PM. 11:30 PM - who moves at that time? The person managing the office told me that the truck broke down, they needed to get a new team for me from Connecticut etc. etc. When the movers showed up, I asked them what had happened. They said calmly - oh we were just scheduled to do too many moves today!
Next comes the minor matter of the delivery. I did not expect to see my stuff for a week or so. I called in to check on the 3rd, to see when I would receive it. I was supposed to be given a 48 hour notice so that I could book the freight elevator and the loading dock that my apartment complex provides. I was told that they would get back to me with a time very soon. The lady did get back to me with a time - two hours from then!
I was out of town, so somehow arranged my wife to go to the apartment and receive the stuff. When I asked how much I owed, I was asked to pay according to the moving estimate. Why so, I asked? Had the stuff not been weighed, as promised, as as per DOT Rules? I was told that I would get the refund later, and while they had weighed the stuff, they did not know the weight. Confused?
My hands were tied. I paid them the estimated amount, but with a credit card. Once my stuff was delivered, I disputed the charge, until I get the final weight and amount owed. Several emails and calls to the moving companies has not resulted in any response so far. I continue to fight..
The only saving grace of the move? My stuff came in undamaged. I totally expected the expenses glasses gifted by dear friends and family for my wedding to be shattered. All came in one piece. Phew!
Moving is followed by another dreadful experience; unpacking. I have spent a lot of time on that, but now have started going out to see Chicago, meet my future classmates, and generally have fun. It is exciting getting to know people from all sorts of background coming to B School. A lot of my peers seem to be from the Bay Area. I heard that Kellogg has a very strong alumni presence there; I am glad, as I do plan to pursue a career in the technology industry and there aren't many locations more exciting than Silicon Valley for that!
Leaving my Job
Tomorrow also marks my last day at my job, at the same company that I joined right out of undergrad, and where I have worked for seven years. I would miss the people, the work environment, the travel, and especially the paycheck :) But the transition is exciting, and I look forward to filling this blog with more Kellogg experiences!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I have purchased all sorts of things from Vistaprint.com . Now I am a pretty loyal customer, and don't browse around for a cheaper price at a competitors site. Or at least till a recent incident.
Visaprint sent me a coupon for 15% off. I was going to order thank you cards that week, so I was glad I got the coupon. As I am about to press the submit button on the order, I decided to check and see if there are any other internet coupon out there for the site. I found one with a simple google search - a 50% off coupon! 50% for everyone vs. 15% for your loyal customers? So a first time customer is as good as one that generates an order every three months or so? Now I would certainly shop around at other print sites before ordering
Lesson of the story: be careful what sort of orders are floating around, before you award your loyal customers.
P.S. As I pressed publish on this post, I saw another coupon for Visaprint on my confirmation page - 90% sitewide!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
1. Getting a new credit card - you either get pre-approved offers in the mail, or you simply enter your Social Security Number and some details on a web form, get approved in a few seconds, and there - you have your card!
2. Apply for Health Insurance - First fill in atleast 30 pages of form. All health information since you were born. Then do a verification phone call with the underwriter (which sounds like undertaker). And often get rejected for ridiculous reasons - Mono, which I have had personal experience getting rejected with (Imagine the statistic from Wiki, well over 90% of all adults are exposed to at some point in their life!) or Acne (someone from a forum reported getting rejected for THAT!).
Now why is health insurance not as easy to obtain? Why do I need to enter the same information several times. Just like a credit history, who don't I have a centralized health history? How can America, the most powerful country in the world, have such a broken health system? Something's gotta give...
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
A couple of years ago, he felt that he should go buy an MP3 player. He went to the obvious choice - an apple store. There was an apple associate that greeted him - not just any electronic store sales guy, but a person who had the right combination of 'geekiness' and 'likeability,' to inspire respect from the customers. John could tell that this guy had a lot of passion for Apple, and its products.
Typically, the sales guy would take the customer right to the product. But this salesperson took John over to a mac, and showed him iTunes - the store where one can buy a song for a buck, and the moment when one plugs in the ipod, it is automatically synchronized. Next, the salesperson took John to the genius area - the part of the store where you can bring in your ipod or laptop, and ask any sort of question to the experts, who know all about apple technology. And in fact, you can schedule the appointment online or over the phone, so that you have a guaranteed slot when you do come in! Next, he took him over to the accessories area for the ipod - with cases, earphones, and speakers which can be used to play the music at home, in the car etc.
Now at this point John had not seen the product - the ipod. However, he was ready to buy it there and then. He didn't care how the product looked like, or how much it cost him! This is 'productization' - adding great service and the right complimentary products, to a a solid product, which makes the value proposition of the whole ecosystem so compelling.
This experience had its impact two years down the road. John's old dell laptop crashed. All he needed to do, was to buy a low-end Dell laptop for $400. However he went to the apple store to see the Mac notebooks, and happily shelled out $1600 for a Macbook Pro. And he is very happy that he made the decision to spend four times as much for similar configuration, but superior design, service and complementary products. All's well that ends well (atleast for Apple).
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The other day I wore this on my flight to Atlanta. I got two compliments from 2 different women aged between 50 and 70, about how much they loved the shirt. I guess this is reflective of the mood; wall street is interpreted as a group of suit-wearing, MBA degree carrying, greedy workaholics. And my T-Shirt is interpreted as a protest - a war cry - against the stereotypical Wall street types causing the mess that main street is dealing with. While the T-Shirt is from a firm very much a part and parcel of Wall Street. As, the irony of interpretation.
Friday, July 3, 2009
1. Ease of Use - Facebook and Linkedin both ask the question - What are you doing now. But facebook has made it so much easier for me to post what I am doing - through use of Tweetdeck. Sometimes I want to post a link to an interesting article that I have read on linkedin, especially as it might be more suited to my professional network. But I don't take the effort to go to linkedin and post it.
2. Fun - no doubt Facebook is so much more fun! Understandably so, given the more professional focus on linkedin. But who says professionals cannot have fun? There need to be more easily discoverable applications on linkedin, to gain the same level of engagement. I do not expect people to start posting pictures on linkedin, but reports like conference experiences etc. would be welcome
3. Applications - While Linkedin has opened its API in response to Facebook, the kind of applications available on the site do not rival Facebook in any way. There needs to be a way to encourage developers to develop more applications, such as revenue sharing/generation opportunities.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Don also talks about the need for these robots to have emotion to effectively perform their tasks, and make appropriate decisions. We, as humans, use emotion to make several decisions without even realizing the fact. Robots will not necessarily have human emotions; on the contrary, they would have emotions specialized to their needs. Don discusses a situation in which the emotion of frustration might help the robots in deadlock scenarios, as described here.
Suppose there are 3 robots in the household; a pantry robot, to fetch things from the pantry; a dish-washing robot, for washing dishes; and a servant robot, who does common chores around the house. You tell the servant robot to go fetch a cup. The servant robot goes to the pantry robot and asks for a cup. The pantry robot does not have a clean cup, so he(at the risk of assuming that all robots are male!) requests the dish-washing robot for a clean cup. The dish-washing robot does not have any cups - clean or dirty - so he requests the servant robot to get a dirty cup lying around the house so the he could clean it. Now the servant robot is waiting for the pantry robot for the clean cup, so he cannot take on a new task. And so, we have a deadlock!
Now what if the servant robot gets frustrated, quits his task for the time being, and moves on to the next task? Problem solved! Now he listens to the dish-washing robot, gets him a dirty cup, and in a few seconds, the clean cup passes to the pantry robot and finally to the hands of the servant robot (who now experiences happiness!). All's well that ends well, even if it produces a little frustration in the middle.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Now that I have made this information public to my peers at my company, I am proud to announce that I am headed to the MMM program at Northwestern University, a dual degree program that will lead me to the MBA degree from Kellogg and a MEM degree from McCormick School of Engineering.
The application process for business school has been long and frustrating, but immensely rewarding. A few 'things' were invaluable in helping me get through it:
1. Friends and advisors - Several friends and mentors from work, my undergraduate college, the TiE Leadership program and at other business schools helped me with various aspects of the application: developing my story, reviewing my essays, preparing for my interview, and connecting me with current students and alumni of the schools I was applying to. And of course, my fiancee and other friends who kept me in good spirits as I was getting depressed doing the 10th round of the Why MBA essay.
2. Time - There is no substitute to starting early, and giving yourself enough time to do the essays. I had taken the GMAT a while ago, so that wasn't a problem. I concentrated only on the essays, and developed and changed my story several times. Ultimately, the applicaton process was an exercise in marketing myself, and plenty of time to craft the story helped quite a bit. Also applying in the second round to several schools helped. My Kellogg application was actually my last application, and I feel that I had been able to refine it on because of all the time I had. This brings up an important point - the perennial 1st round vs 2nd round debate. I strongly feel that both rounds are the same for most schools, and one need not submit a hurried Round 1 application.
3. Talking to current students and alumni - Doing this helped me really understood what each school stood for, beyond the brochures. It helped me understand Kellogg's social culture, Ross's laid-back students, and Wharton's rigor. Of course I did not get in everywhere, but gave it a good shot nevertheless.
4. Taking time off - Business school essays can be extremely taxing. Like in most creative endeavors, one needs to mix periods of extreme focus with periods of fun. Working too hard can be pretty harmful
5. Not listenening to everyone - Everyone has an opinion that they would share with you. If you are a B School applicant, you are reading my opinion right now. Listen to everyone, but then do your own thing. You know yourself best. I heard several conflicting opinions, and ultimately stuck with what I felt was right.
6. Energy during the interview - By nature, I am laid back in my social interactions. While this works well for me in several situations (helping me come across as an approachable person, for example), it wasn't the best strategy for the interview. My mentor, Anupendra, pushed me several times on this aspect, and challenged me to express my passion for the school when I interviewed. It clearly helped; my Kellogg interview was by far the best, and really helped me get through.
7. Not going to the Businessweek forums - they are evil! Avoid them like they plague, they will just make you nervous. I started going to the forums for a while in between, and stopped once I realized how I had become part of a group of panicky,nervous Type-A applicants who get pissed off and have useless arguments utilizing the anonimity that the internet provides us.
8. Why MBA? Why this school? - I struggled till the end in getting these questions answered in a concise, believeable, and interesting manner. Ultimately, I feel that I got accepted to the schools, which had special aspects that linked well to my career goals, background and personality. A great book that helped me craft this message was Made to Stick.
Perhaps it is because businesses love to gain access to customer data, with the objective of targeting the customer with better advertising. However, at what price? At the risk of missing out on several potential customers? And even with Facebook Connect, they are getting access to basic user information, and the potential of reaching out to an even larger set if the customer posts to his/her Facebook Profile?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Seeing that I could not exercise at the gym, it was time to look for alternatives. I found these free, on-demand videos on the hotel TV which were pretty awesome. I did a 10 minute stretch workout which stretched muscles that I did not existed! The videos were free, courtesy of a site called Exercise TV which features these free videos as well. They make money by selling these videos as DVDs, or as videos for your portable devices. The try-before-you-buy business model seems sound; by providing the free videos at the hotel, they get publicity, and new customers. The hotel benefits, and customers like me (who are too cheap, or maybe too sane to pay $30 to workout) benefit.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Another cool thing is how my company is using Twitter for the conference. They have asked everyone to follow and post one a twitter name they created, and actually have a large screen showing the latest tweets.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I am switching to a Mac. And the ad above really shows nothing as to why I am switching. Yep, I do like the slick aluminum feel of the new MacBook. But the key feature is the OS! I am sick and tired of Windows hanging on me, of not being able t shut the laptop cover and then having it power back in a couple of seconds. Of having to reboot my laptop just to get access to the wireless. Of having my laptop freeze on me randomly. That is why I switch. Unfortunately I am no longer a PC
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
1. One Welsh guy who is here with his wife. His wife is on a program with Harvard, and he is taking tons of classes at the CCAE to keep himself sane
2. A voice-over specialist who told me how profitable doing voiceovers is
3. A very shy young guy, who did open up in the class, but found it too much, and left halfway through.
4. A model trying to get into some acting
5. Several other people who just wanted to learn to be more expressive
I learned about the four key emotions of acting; happiness, sadness, anger and fear. What was surprising is how one can fake physical actions that mimic the emotions, and start feeling these emotions. Try it - maintain a happy face and you will get happy pretty soon! For an actor, the challenge is not getting into an emotion; the challenge is to quickly get out of it and then switch to an entirely different emotion. We did an exercise which involved acting in pairs, playing off each others emotions and quickly switching between them. There was no script and no defined guidelines.
Loved the class! Also realized that I am probably not going to become a professional actor (duh!) but would certainly love to learn this art more to improve how I express myself.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I nudged her to make sure she was ok. She woke up with a start, obviously pissed at me at waking her up from a deep sleep.
Friday, May 1, 2009
After being a fan of delta airlines over the past few years, I have really started disliking them. 2 incidents led me to do this:
1. One morning my flight to Detroit was delayed due to a technical glitch. I was supposed to go to Atlanta later in the day, so I got off the flight and had my ticket changed to an evening flight to Atlanta. I went back home for the rest of the day, but delta refused to pay me for a cab back to home and back to the airport.
2. Recently I had a flight booked from Boston to Chicago and back. I had a work trip scheduled the day before to Chicago, so I figured I could tell Delta that I wouln't take the first leg. They get an extra seat, I get convenience and everyone is happy! WRONG! I had to pay a $150 CHANGE FEE to make the change to my ticket. Why? Because I apparently violated my contract with delta.
After 2 years of being platinum and gold medallion, and spending so much money with them, these events have totally ticked me off. A great case in how you get your customers to start taking their business elsewhere!
Of course, in reality, I have 4 friends on google latitude. I need more people adopting the platform if it is to become useful. To the scale of Facebook and Linkedin.....
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Next Step: I am going to stop talking and listening. Email would be the only method of communication :)
Monday, April 6, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
One of the things I am trying this month, is from the book 'The Power of Less.' The simple idea - I will try my best to single task, and report my progress on my blog everyday. Not that my blog is followed so widely that I need to worry about boring my readers.
So today, I did make some progress. I concentrated solely on my work related call, and was surprised that I was able to come up with inputs that normally I don't. And I really listened. Now that I am blogging, I am just blogging. Not checking my crackberry simultaneuously - which is really a disease! I wish I could get rid of it. At least I have shut off the buzz when new email comes in. Now if I can figure out how to turn off the red light that indicates a new email, I would be golden!
UPDATE: I just turned the red light off!!
Monday, March 23, 2009
[Posted with iBlogger from my iPod touch]
Friday, March 6, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It is one of the best books I have read in the past few months. It is just 170 pages long, and it took me all of a day and a half to finish it. Rather, I could not stop reading it. The central theme of the book is simple: passion. The book marks a clear difference between passion and drive.
Passion pulls you towards something you cannot resist.
Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do.
Looking back at my career, I realize drive often does win. Commitments made to others somehow seem more important than a commitment made to myself. This needs to change.
Another important point of the book is the Deferred life plan. Quite simply, today we often do what we must do, and postpone what we want to do for tomorrow.
For the rest, please read the book
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The time - around 1947, when India gained independence, and was partitioned into India and Pakistan. Biji and Bauji lived in the Pakistan side of Punjab, with their eldest daughter (my mom), their eldest son (my uncle), and with Biji preganent with another son (my younger uncle). With the partition, they decided to move to the India side - to Delhi. Biji started gathering all her valuables and jewelry . Bauji told her to just take the kids and leave. He said, "Zinda raha to sab kuchh phirse bana doonga." Translated it means "if I stay alive, I would make everything again from scratch."
Biji moved to Delhi with the kids. Bauji eventually moved there and found Biji. It was all based on trust - there were no cellphones, no way to track where she was. Eventually they did rebuild everything they had, and a lot more. They went on to have four wonderful kids and nine grandchildren.
Whenever I think of all the adverse situations I have faced, I cannot but think of how they all are trivial as compared to what Biji and Bauji faced. I cannot but feel inspired, and feel proud of having such grandparents. I miss them.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
"Kathy, It's Alice. And I'm just looking at this snow, I'm wondering if you're gonna be coming. So, give me the word. It looks bad to seeing. Just like give me the word anyway. I'll be happy to see you no matter what. But, just take your time. Thank you. Bye-bye."
I called back, and got a retirement home. I had the message passed back to Alice - but the operator did not know which Alice. She said that she was going to try to find the right one. I would never know if she did. The woman who left the voicemail sounded frail and weak. I really hope she gets the message, and gets to see Kathy.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Also check out this book - it gives some basic principles for generating ideas. They include:
1. The single biggest determining factor in whether you would generate a good idea, is a belief in your ability to generate ideas. You do not need to be a pony tailed artist to generate ideas.
2. Initiate idea generation with an idea; any idea for that matter. That will get your creative juices flowing and get ideas out
3. Not acting on a good idea is equivalent to never having generated that idea at all
4. To get ideas about a topic, you need to have insider knowledge on it. Expand your knowledge. Expand your horizons
5. Forget rules. Be illogical. Be silly. Ask Ask Ask.
6. When you have problems generating ideas on a topic, switch and start working on something else
7. Have Fun
P.S. If you are now inspired to generate ideas, and end up launching a startup with that idea, a 1% share in the startup would be adequate compensation for my contribution :)
Meanwhile, excellent job Mr. PiloT Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger! That was some amazing maneuvering, and the people on board, and their friends and relatives would be thankful to you forever!
Some interesting details about the plane's trajectory here
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
One cab driver I met shortly after the Mumbai Bomb blasts. The guy saw that I was from India, and expressed his sympathy. He was an interesting fellow for sure - he had actually recovered from 2 cancers, and said that doctors had spent millions of dollars in saving him. He really understood the value of life, and could not imagine why anyone would want to take lives. I was touched, to say the least.
Another guy was upset at his girlfriend. He was in mid -50s, and his wife had passed away 2 years ago. He had been dating this woman for 8 months, and he was really frustrated that his girlfriend was not taking him to a family function despite 8 months of their relationship! He was gonna get drunk that night for sure.
Ah the joys of meeting these people is what keeps us travelers going on the road.