Friday, March 16, 2012

Centrally Planned Citizens in Market Driven Economy

The drama around the railway budget was absurd, if not hilarious. Here is this one man who wishes to put his image at stake to ensure the health of the Indian Railways and what he gets in return is simple - a political middle finger. Mamata Banerjee, the ‘pro-people’ ‘messiah’ of India, shocked everyone by doing something which has no precedence before; protesting against one’s own party’s railway budget. Such bizarre arguments make one wonder whether the Indian population is even aware that from the dawn of 1990s, the Indian economy has positioned itself as a market based economy.

I think the problem lies in the history of Indian economy. I vaguely remember the stories which our history teacher would tell about his childhood and the post independent India. About how they would stay on a queue in front of a ration shop to get ones share of wheat, rice, oil, kerosene etc. The quantities of these goods were rationed (fixed) based on the number of people in the household and the prices were tightly governed by the government. From a macroeconomic perspective, the economy was run in soviet-style centrally planned manner. The five year plans, which were a brain child of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, had a huge impact on the macroeconomic and microeconomic condition of India. Lets fast forward to the early 90s and there we have this Indian economy on the brink of filing chapter 11. Narsimha Rao brings on board a soft spoken economist, Dr. Manmohan Singh, as the finance minister of India. He pushes ahead with a series of reforms and hence started a transformation from a socialist economy to a socialist flavored economy.
Let us fast forward even further to the India of today. I would not dare to call India a capitalist country, but it surely is hugely market driven. Government has exited many of the markets where it shouldn’t have been present on the first place.  There is still way to go with the disinvestment plan. The reason you have so many options while buying a cold cream is because of the reforms of the 90s.

Coming to the current debate of prices, what I fail to understand is the kind of expectations which people have with budgets and government. They still want the prices to be controlled like the old days and don’t realize that India has moved on from that. Politicians are thoroughly responsible for such perception. It seems like a norm that politicians would turn economic illiterates and irrationals, the moment they are forced to sit on the opposition chair. I can vouch for it that a majority of MPs wouldn’t even know the meaning of ‘fiscal deficit’.
Even the media, in its attempt to raise TRPs, portrays the budget as a simplified diktat of the government on what prices will go up and what will go down. The newspapers sum up the budget with excellent infographics on the same.

Price rise is a serious concern and it should be thoroughly debated. I totally understand that even a slightest shift in prices pinch the lower strata of the society very badly. And for this very same reason, we want our politicians and even the media to debate on the issue of price rise in a more rational manner. I would be really proud of the Indian economy when the opposition party would come out and appreciate a bold decision of the ruling government.

Friday, March 9, 2012

WAT and Personal Interview experience for New IIMs - Part 1

4th March 2012 is a different kind of a Sunday. I appear for the Personal Aptitude and Written Ability Test for five new Indian Institute of Managements (Raipur, Ranchi, Rohtak, Trichy and Udaipur). The interview was scheduled for the second half of the day. So I start my day with tasks ranging from making noodles, polishing shoes to more serious task like taking a decision on whether I should be carrying a Best Story Teller Certificate from my 4th standard in school.
After grooming up for the interview, I jump onto an auto for Hotel Monarch Luxor where the interview was going to take place. The moment the auto guy sees me in my shining red tie, he knew he could extract meter plus 20 on a dreamy Sunday afternoon. And extract he did.


Now this is the thing about IIM interview, the moment you see other candidates, you start a mental sizing up game.”This guys doesn’t look like he can speak English”, “Oh this guys is a stud”, “Why is that girl not wearing formals?” and the likes. So, anyway, at precise 1 PM an elderly gentleman enters the room. The candidates put on their best manners and politely greet the person. Moments later he hands out a sheet and sets the topic of WAT(Written Analysis Test) as “FDI in retail should be allowed in organized retail”. In the merriment of having received a common topic to write on, I forget to adhere by the time and had to give my sheet back mid-sentence. The person correcting my sheet would be clearly amused at my chain of thought which ended nowhere.

The interview was happening in the hotel rooms which had been converted to look like office cabins. I happily went and sat on a chair kept outside the interview room 5. The door of the interview room was a little ajar and I could hear the TV with the professors taking their lunch break by listening to the post-poll pre-counting analysis of UP elections. I was scheduled to be the fifth person to go in. The first interviewer went in at 2 and people keep going in and coming out at a regular interval of 20 mins.
Just when it was time for the 4th person to come out (and my turn to go in), I thought that I should get the graduation certificate out of its separate cover and place it along with the other certificates. And as I was busy juggling the certificates, I hear my name being called.


I enter the room. There are three gentlemen sitting in the room. The person on my left hand side is the youngest among all three, late 30s or early 40s. The other two professors look like they are in their late 50s or early 60s. For convenience sake, let me call them Prof Utonium, Prof Calculus and Prof. Xavier, some of the most excellent professors from the world of fiction.
The professors direct me to sit. Professor Utonium looks at my resume sheet and asks me about my surname. I tell that I am a Keralite born and brought up in North India. After talking for a while about how I am a half keralite, half rajasthani and a full Indian(cheesy right? I know!), Prof. Utonium stops me and asks me to state three differences between Kerala and Rajasthan. “Sweet” , I tell myself. I start off my answer by telling that there is a difference in the climatic pattern. Prof Utonium interrupts me midway. He doesn’t seem impressed. He asks me to tell three differences about the people of kerala and people of rajasthan. Now that is a tricky one. I scratch my head (in my imagination ofcourse, it’s an interview!). After trying to convince the professors about how Mallu people like showing off their wealth and Rajasthani people like NOT showing off, they look semi convinced. They ask me to give my second point. I scratch my brain some more. I tell something about the immigration pattern and how Mallus louve Gelf and how Marus are all over the country.
Professors think that a third point would be stretching it a little too far and so they ask me to describe my role in the current company where I am employed. I tell about how my company powers the internet and some blah. Let me tell you, it is a difficult task to explain the functioning of a B2B company. After having given a fairly satisfactory answer, I am asked the typical MBA interview question. Why MBA?” I start off by telling that I would like to be involved in a marketing role. Just when I was going to make a home run with this answer, Prof Calculus asks me “Are you happy with your current employer?”. I promptly reply “Yes Sir, I am”. Now this was a booby trap. Prof Xavier jumps in and asks “Then Why MBA? Why are you even here?”From there it took good amount of conversation maneuvering skills  before I got out of the spot. I believe I was convincing.
Since I had mentioned marketing in my Why MBA answer, Prof Utonium ask me to sell India in the next one minute.

To Be Continued …

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