Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kellogg KWEST Scandinavia

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

Organizing the IIT Business plan Competition

I am currently organizing the Business Plan Competition at the Pan IIT Conference 2009. We are organizing the conference in two stages: regional rounds to be held in four major centers in the US, followed by finals at the Conference itself, on October 9th.

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

Getting Ready for Business School

I am finally in Evanston, IL and getting ready for the exciting life of a B-School student at Kellogg. Some exciting(?) things happened during this time...

The Move

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 and full-service movers. I found some pretty reasonable movers like Nationwide relocation (also known as 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!

Settling Down

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

Internet Coupons and Loyalty

Coupons are meant to build customer loyalty. Of course the scheme can backfire. Let me give you an example

I have purchased all sorts of things from . 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!