Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cats of the cold

"Tell me something Gaurav, why didn't you wear a tie today?"

The second panelist asked me as soon as I had took a seat for my personal interview at TAPMI (Supposedly reputed MBA College in India). I replied without a flinch,

"In this hot weather sir, I thought it'd make me feel uncomfortable."

The panelist continued, "But you could have put it in your pocket and put in on minutes before the interview began. Don't you think this would have made a better impression?"

I wanted to say something in return but didn't, as I noticed he was wearing a tie and I could make out he was himself quite uncomfortable in it. The second panelist was younger and I realized he was probably an alumni of TAPMI. I wonder if the moron would have been really impressed had he known I was putting on a tie only for the duration of the interview just to show him that I can wear a tie. But later I realized that even he might have done exactly the same thing during his interview at TAPMI years back.

I replied, "I think have dressed decently enough for the interview. If you think the tie would have made a better impression, then I probably made a mistake. But I adjudged that there could be better ways to impress the panelists than wearing a tie." He dropped the topic after that.

And this is the general trend in India for MBA interviews. Apart from the top seven IIMs, almost all other top colleges have made a sham and a corporate styled buffoonery out of the MBA degree. Colleges give more importance to the superficial features of corporate culture. They claim that during the interview they are looking for leaders, visionaries, potential mavericks, innovators, and all the similar adjectives they can find in their garbage-worth collection of self-help books.

Looking practically, each of these college has around 200 seats per year to be filled by candidates. If we consider 10 colleges like that, who can generate 2000 innovators and mavericks every year, the country would be exploding with conglomerates and multidimensional industries. Yet only one of those 2000 actually turns out to be an innovator. The rest all are only a chatterbox of innovation, leadership, and all the spectacular lexicon of explosive description of successful people.

It seems behind every successful man, there is a woman. Behind that woman are 200 book writers who write about the man. Behind those writers are 200,000 readers of those shit books who try to imitate him. And finally behind them is an MBA college which boasts about the guy being educated from 'reputed' institute like itself.

Its a pitiful state of Indian education system, where such colleges attract aspirants with all their promising jargon, and bank on their wealth.

This year I screwed up in the common entrance test (known as 'the Cat exam' in popular culture, and happens to be one of the toughest tests in the world) for MBA with only 97 %ile (Yeah this is actually a poor score). I missed out on the top IIM and MDI calls by less than a percentile. And since, I have to attend interviews at the rest of the ones from of the top fifteen colleges to which I have applied to. The level of competitiveness among emerging business professional is so high that it seems murderous even for hard-workers. With exploding population, and developing economy, the race for top paying jobs might perhaps be as much tough as anywhere else in the world, but the bar for skills is being raised higher and higher every year. The aspirants' math skills are good enough to tackle any third degree problem in minutes, and the English skills are such that they speak better than the Englishmen themselves. And despite all these efforts they are still average in the Indian job market.

'To bell the Cat' - A widely used term to describe the cracking of the CAT exam

You need more than that now. You need work experience of 5 years or more, coupled with exemplary extracurricular, and several postgraduate courses. And in the end you could still lose by a margin of a couple of marks.

Looking at my own debacle I serious feel that individuals are not rewarded according to their capabilities or their achievements. Its a country where you either go in a topmost institution, or go in an institution where a stupid tie is given more weight-age than the amount of knowledge.

It reminds me of an old Sanskrit verse by Chanakya (Legendary Indian political genius and an erudite scholar). Chanakya says...

Don't live in a country that doesn't allow you self respect, honour, means of living, ways of education and self development. Quit such a country. It is not fit for living.

Chanakya is correct about the opportunities in developed contry (and I seriously feel with the same amount of hard work, I would have made it in a reputed Business school in a developed country). He is also correct about self respect and honour as many non deserving people in get top jobs by exploiting the Caste based (and totally prejudiced and vote-bank politics related) reservation schemes in educational institutions.

But I disagree with Chanakya on quitting the country.

I had read some time back in the novel 'Dune' by Frank Herbert, a principle, stating that, ' The fiercest warriors are the ones who are born and raised in the most hazardous, difficult, dreadful, and arduous places.'

This is true enough to be practically applicable. The best footballers usually hail from Brazil, where impoverished families struggle in farms to raise money to send one of their several children to a professional football school. Pashtun warriors in Afghanistan fought tanks with obsolete weapons from donkey backs, and put up a stiff ten year resistance to Russians and eventually drove them out. Even among animals, its the cats, who survive in all kinds of climates around the world (even in Siberia) that have the most advanced predatory skills, which even humans envy.

A Brazilian village kid displays his football prowess.

Its the same with India. The nature of competitiveness and breakneck competition between peers develops the personality, knowledge, and resourcefulness of a person to the utmost level. Here, most of the children have only two choices; study or be poor. Its the tough life in India that can make you a better professional in all aspects compared professionals in other nations. It is also one of the reasons why Indian are being accused of stealing jobs away from locals in countries like US. Developed countries give their citizens less incentives to work hard, as they get unemployment grants. There are no unemployment grants in India. If you cant find a job your left to starve by the government. It might be a cold and cruel environment to grow up, but its an environment on which the strong thrive.

To take positives from my CAT performance, I have secured enough to convince my parents to let me take another shot at CAT. Earlier, due to my recent drop in academic performance towards the end of my college, my parents wanted me to quit studying and join the family business which I don't want to get involved in to because I hate a marketing job. The score has restored some some of the faith my parents had in me, and they wont nag me to quit my interests and, at least for a while, and let me focus.

To be honest, I feel somehow that this score could actually do more good than anything else would have. After all, everything happens for the good, if not the best.