Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Restarting the blog after 6 months

Last time I made a posting on this blog was way back in March, 2009. Since then lots have happened. First, I decided to give up my association with CES, since it was turning out to be a pointless vocation. I tried to help out in restrucuring (or should I say starting afresh) a HR policy in the organisation, whose employees in general were suffering from having nothing of its kind in place. I did a little bit of research and conducted a survey through a questionnaire among the executives; submitted a report to the top management, who appreciated my efforts but did nothing to implement any of the suggestions made therein. I made an effort to chalk out a training schedule, both for the freshly recruited engineers and the existing executives at large. However the management did not want to make any investment whatsoever to get the plans started. Sudhansu Chakraborty (Sudhansuda), the CMD of CES, who was actually instrumental in my joining CES as a Consultant after my stint at IMI, wanted me to help CES get Design/development projects from SAIL, but all my connections there had retired , and those who were now at the helm were in relatively junior ranks when I left SAIL in 1993. As a result my efforts in lobbying at SAIL was not likely to show positive results in a hurry. By the end of April, I decided that all these exercises are becoming futile, and I stopped going to CES from April 20, 2009.

Second, within a week after I left CES I fell ill with angina pain in my chest. I consulted a cardiologist, Dr Upendra Kaul of Escorts Heart Centre, and he promptly advised me to go through an angiogrphy test, and immediately thereafter an angioplasty treatment , which were done at Escorts on 29 th April. The operations went off rather well, and as Dr Kaul, claimed, I should now be a "young at heart" by a virtual 12-15years. Now, after about 6 months post that operation, I must say I feel a healthy person overall, and can easily take brisk walk for 2-3 miles without ant difficuly. Later in the year, on 11th and 13 September, I also underwent phacoemulsification and lens implantation on my two eyes to get rid of the cataracts that had set in. These were done by Dr Pakrasi, a well known eyesurgen at the Aslok Hospital in SDA. One and half months afterwards, I can see very clearly without any glasses, which have been with me since I was only 8 years old.

Third, Munia (Nandana), younger of our two daughters, left for USA on 6 August last, to study for PhD at the Carnegie Mellon University. Though she had been living in Mumbai for the last three years, we are missing her very much for being so far away from our home in Delhi. From Mumbai she used to visit to Delhi regularly literally with any excuse and whenever she felt home sick; I doubt if she can do such escapades from CMU. Thanks to Technology though, we can see and speak to her on Skype every other day. She however looks like settling down well in her new country, making new feiends and getting into her studies with quite a vigour.

Last but not the least, our elder daughter Bulbuli who now lives in Cambridge UK with her husband Sambit gave birth to a bonny son last week on Sunday the 1st of November, 2009. The baby came to this world some 12 days before he was scheduled. Rupu and I had planned to be with Bulbuli before the child was born, but that was not to be. We arrived in Cambridge on Friday the 6th, and now that we are here, we are truely delighted with our first grandchild. he has been named Siddhartha. He is very cute and rather small, and his ears are quite long just as Gautam Buddha ( Siddharta as he was also known ) had, as they say. He has also quite a similarity in looks (as far one can make a guess) with his other grandfather , ie Sambit's father, Late Dr Sanjoy Sen .

We shall be Cambridge for sometime, unti the end of December. Apart from spending time with Siddhartha and her parents, we hope to revisit Cambridge and its many nooks and corners, like the colleges, the meuseums, the riverside and the art theatres. We were in Lion Yard, Corn Exchange, Market Square and the King's College today, and mingled with young crowd which included a number of new graduate students who seemed to have had their convocation ceremony today.

I hope to add to this blog regulrly during our stay in Cambridge.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Selecting MBA Candidates at IMI

Yesterday I sat on the interview board at IMI for selection of students for the 2009-2010 MBA batch. I took part in two panels, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon; in total we spoke to 20 candidates, who had CAT scores above 96 percentile this year. One candidate had 99.7 percentile CAT score. I have been participating in selection process for the last five years, ever since I worked at IMI, but one conclusion I could reach is that CAT scores alone hardly characterise the ability or aptitude of students. This is recognised by most institutions; for example at IMI the CAT percentile is used only as a sreening parameter. This year,I was told there were more than 10000 applications received by IMI, and some 1000 were shortlisted for the final selection process.

The process at IMI consisted of an essay writing on a specific subject by each candidate, followed by a group discussion (GD- also on a contemporary issue) and a personal interview (PI) by a panel of three to five "experts". I got delayed during the morning session yesterday, because of a horrendous traffic jam in front of the two schools in GK II. CBSE exams are on and literally hundreds of cars that had brought students and their anxious parents to the schools had assembled there and parked in an extremely haphazard and unruly manner, blocking roads and intersections. These jams reflect the typical social attitudes of Indians in general - that of trying to get into whatever or wherever first, jumping queue and breaking elementary societal customs or courtesies expected of a good citizenry. This happens everywhere, in the airport, at bus stops, at concert halls or cinema hall line, without the least concern for fellow citizens.

I got diverted into the subject of traffic jams here. When I reached IMI for the morning session, it was nearly 10-30 AM. I was in a panel which had four other members, and they had started the process half an hour earlier, had completed the GD and also interviewed two candidates. There were eleven more candidates in that session, interstingly seven of them were women. The panelists included Professor Singvi, and Professor Khanijo, both faculty members of IMI and one professor from DCE and the other was an economics faculty from a DU college. Anyway, Singvi in his usual style decided to dominate the interview process and scowled, barked and occasionaly polite talked at the candidates. Rest of us asked only one or two questions. I for example decided to be quiet in many cases. Later, Singvi explained that he had already spent five days in Bangalore last week interviewing some 100 canidates, and he opined that the quality of candidates there were definity better than those interviewed this morning. He thought that out of the 13 who appered here only 3 were good enough to be offered a place straigtaway. Others intervened and this number rose to four. We all signed in the presribed outcome form accordingly. In the afternoon I was in a panel where there were two other experts - Arindam Banik the Professor of Economics at IMI, and one lady(Ms Jaya Vaidyanathan?) who had been an Alumnus (1992 batch) of IMI and with American Express as a Marketing professional for twenty years. There were 9 candidates in this session. We thought three should get offer letter straight away. A few more would get into the waiting list.

My impression was that most of the candidates in the two sessions were smart people, though some were a bit introverted - especially the few who I thought were academically quite sound. We came to know that all of them had call letters from other management institutes, such as IMT Gazhiabad (allmost all), MDI, Fore School and even one or two IIMs. How many of the first list candidates will take to IMI is uncertain, but they might attaract many from the waiting list. Though some of the candidates opined that for them the quality of faculty was the main criterion for the choice of the institute (and IMI seem to score very high on this ), it was apparent that placement history could be the most important parameter, and IMI is somewhat less successful in placing successful candidates with highly paid jobs with good companies after two years of study at the institute. It was also very clear that CAT score does not necessarily give any indication about the candidate's preparedness for taking up MBA Course. The overall system therefore needs a serious review to remedy this obvious defect.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Munia's offer from CMU and my Birthday with Delhi 6: the film

Yesterday when I reached home after a boring day's timepass at CES office, I found a big envelop delivered by an international courrier service waiting on the centre table in our drawing room. It was for Munia, and since she was now living in Mumbai (working with ICICI), I opened it. It was from the Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. It was an offer letter for Munia for a PhD course in Econmics in CMU starting from the Fall semester of 2009. The offer mentioned a complete tution fee waiver (around $47000) and a felowship of $25ooo yearly for the next three years. The Tepper School of CMU is one of the top schools of its genre, that boasts of a number of Nobel Laureates among its faculty. To get an offer from such a place is in itself a great achievement, and I was immensely pleased. I called up Munia on her cell phone, and she was literally ecstatic. She said at it was her dream fulfilled. Later I also phoned Rupu and she was excited too. Munia later SMSed me "I love you Baba", and I messaged back promptly "We are so proud of you".

Incidentally, yesterday was my birthday; I am now 65 - a bit old, would you not say? Actually it was Munia in the morning who called me up earlier in the day to wish me. Later, when I told her about the CMU letter, and also informed her that she has to report at the university in Pittsburgh on August 11 (which happens to be our wedding anniversary day), she exclaimed that these were really good omens that the offer letter comes on her dad's birthday and she must be there in USA on her parent's anniversary day. I do not know, but there is some coincidence, is it not?

Munia had applied to a number of top US universitie this year, and I have a feeling, she will receive a few more offers of admission with financial assistance. Obviously, Munia has to decide which one to accept, but CMU being the first offer (and a very good one too), I think it will get some preference. She has got upto the second half of April to take a call.

Rupu and I went to see a movie in the evening to "observe" my birthday. The movie is called Delhi 6 and the it was screened at Satyam Multiplex in Nehru Place. It is a well made movie, with a potent message about purging of a "beast (kala bandar)" resideng in the minds of the society in this country. The AR Rahman music was out of this world, a mixture of Indian classical and folk, and western pop and orchestra tunes craftily put together. I have to buy the soundtrack CD. The reviews in the press has, however, been a little unkind, and rated the movie beteen 2 and 1/2 and 3 stars. (For reference, the movie DevD, which I have not seen yet, got a 5 star from Nikhat Kazmi of TOI, and Slumdog Millionnaire got a 4 1/2 star). I suspect that for many professional reviewers, the storyline of Delhi 6 was perhaps a bit too revolutionary, directly attacking the Hindutwa philosophies, especially caricaturing VHP and Uma Bharti. There are lots of shortcomings in the film, of course, yet the concept of liberalism and modernity that continue in the ordinary folks in an old Delhi suberb is very refreshing. The dream scene combining New York streets with Chandni Chawk melee was superb. Using the Ramayana drama as a part of the background of the film was also a novel way of expanding the underlying message.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Visiting Mumbai for Munia's Convocation

Rupu and I went to Mumbai for a short 3 day trip, ostensibly to be present at the 2009 Convocation of IGIDR where Munia got her certificate of M.Sc in Development Economics.

We flew by Spicejet in the evening of Thursday, the 5th of January. Munia was there to receive us at the spankingly new terminal of the Mumbai Airport, and took us to her apartment in West Andheri area, near the beach of Versova. Later we went to a restaurant in Juhu called Mahesh , where we had one most amazing meal that consisted of four types of fish, namely Bombay Duck, Lobster, pomphret and sole, all cooked in different styles. This was truely an experience of great eating.

Next morning we took a taxi to IGIDR at Goregaon. Munia(Nandana) wore a sari in bengali style, and interestingly the mother daughter duo had almost identical attires. The convocation was addressed by the present chairman of RBI, Dr Subbarao, and also the chairman pf the 13 th Finance Commission of India, Vijay Kelkar. IGIDR being a very specialised institution (and a deemed university), there were only around 30 recipients of degree, which included 5 PhD , 8 M.Phil and 17 M.SC candidates. The whole function lasted for barely one and a half hour, including a very erudite lecture on the GST (Goods and Services Tax) by Kelkar. Kelkar claimed that introductiof GST in India (slated for April, 2010) would constitute the most significant reform after the 1992 economic reforms, and would fuel economic growth of the nation by as much as 1.5 %. The function was followed by lunch in the beutiful IGIDR campus. We met some of the professors who taught Munia in IGIDR. They all spoke fondly about her, and praised her academic ability.

Later that afternoon we went back to Munia's flat, had a bit of rest (sleep?) and took a taxi toward Worli to go to our niece Babi's residence. It took us nearly two hours to travel what would hardly be a 12 kilometre journey, giving us a taste of slow traffic and congestion on the Mumbai roads. Pampa (Sanu's Daughter) was also there, and joined later by Bibek, her husband. Pampa (Debopama Sen) is with the Citibank. This was the first time I met Pampa since the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai, in which she got stuck for 12 hours in the Tajmahal hotel and was witness to much of the mayhem and killings that happened. We did not speak about it much, but I felt I must express my admiration for the cool headednes she showed during that time.

Babi (Suvolaksmi Chakraborty) now works for Berkleys Bank as the Commercial Director in India. Her residence is on the 16 th floor of a highrise building very near the Worli seaface, and is a very specious and well appointed 2500 sq ft flat. We spent two nights in her flat. Babi' s mother, our Chhotoboudi, was very pleased to have us around for the next two days. Aniket, Babi's son, is hardly eight years old, and have grown to be a little diffident sort of person. He likes computer games (we took two such games for him from Delhi), cartoon networks and video films. He is also good in his studies, and also in Karate (in which he has alredy got a Blue Belt). Babi was very proud of the interior decorations in her flat, which she designed herself with help from a professional artist.

Next Day was a Saturday, and Babi took us all in her Toyota Innova for a day long trip to Lonavala (also known as Khandala?), Mumbai's nearest hillstation on the Paschim Ghat Mountains. The journey was nice, especially after we left Mumbai 's congested roads and took the Mumbai-Pune highway. We went into a resort (called the Farayas), where Aniket indulged in some water sports. We had lunch in the restaurant, after which Munia was taken to the nearest Bus station to catch a Volvo Super express to Mumbai via Goregaon. Afterwards we had another car ride towards Ambey Valley, the famous city of the Sahara Group, which was about 20 miles from the Lonavala town. We could not however enter the city, which appeared to be out of bounds from non residents and cordoned off by private security forces.

We returned to Mumbai by the late evening. Next morning Sanjay (Babi's Husband) arrived for a short visit, from Dubai wher he works. We lefft Mumbai by the 12 o'clock flight to Delhi.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It has literally been months, and more than a year, since I posted anything in my Blog. In fact, I found it tough today even to sign in on my own blog. I started this blog nearly three years ago with a view to making it my diary; but I have been too lazy to keep it up. I came across Amitabh Bachhhan' blog (http://bigb.bigadda.com/)%20aa little while ago, and found he has been meticulous in recording his life's event regularly. If I am not mistaken, it was his 299th posting yesterday, that realyy woke me up, and pushed me to start blogging again.

Last posting I made in my blog was in November, 2007. Since then lots have changed. At the end of April, 2008 I found myself at the end of my contract with IMI. I decided that in the absence of any signal from the Directoe, I would not try to continue there. Sudhansu Chakraborty, CMD of Consulting Engineering Services Pvt Limited, a BE College dada of 1957 vintage, had been asking me for years (ever since I retired from FITT) to come on board in his Company. I would like to boast that it was on my prodding Sudhansuda decided to get CES try enter the Steel Consultancy Business, with a view to filling in the enonormous vacuum in that line, only MECON and Dasturc being the two other consultants in an era of enormous potential jump in new steel plants. I decided to take up his offer, and joined CES on 12 May, 2008 as a senior consultant, to get involved in Steel Consultancy area of business as well as helping the Company in tackling the HR problems, especially with respect to the attrition of skilled executives, and training of manpower.

Well, nearly nine months have passed since I got myself into CES. They gave me a good office. And I started first to understand the HR scenario in the Comany; sent out a questionnaire (which I created mainly out of commonsense and my previous exposure to such issues in FITT and SAIL) which was responded by 68 executives (more than 5% of the total number) from various grades in the Company. I wrote out a report on the state of HR in CES, which I felt. and most CES colleagues whom I showed thought, flagged all the main issues. But CES being a somewhat elephantine organisation, where only the top knows what is best simply let the report remain in the cupboard. Perhaps some day, when CES really gets pressurisede, they will lookk into this report and do something about it.

Later I helped Induction Training modules for new executive recruits, and tried them out with general satisfaction on those who joined last year. I am now trying to develop a Training Need Assessment study (skill gap analysis?) for all the employees.

Meanwhile, I also continued to teach at IMI albeit as visiting professor two courses, namely Entrepreneurship Development and Knowledge Management during the last trimester (ie September to December, 2008). Just before my end of tenure at IMI, in February, 2008, I had developed a proposal to start an MBA Course on Entrepreneurship, which was sent by IMI to AICTE for clearance. I was told by Dr Venkata Ratnam, Director of IMI, last week, that AICTE may accord its approval soon, and he felt I should go back to IMI in that event. It may be a good idea, because I am convinced that for an "old" person like me academics is the most rewarding profession.