Friday, February 20, 2009

Digital War On Poverty

For a free marketeer like me, the ghastly poverty of the world is a nightmarish challenge. If the world were a free market, the only poor people would be the lazy or the incompetent. Sadly, that's not the case. Poverty is a rut, hard to get out of, and a challenge to the best of abilities. The poor are often enterprising and resourceful, but are defeated by a system that protects entrenched interests, mostly in the garb of pro-poor policies. Indian experience has shown that IT is one way of bypassing crippling regulation and enabling enterprise. Kenya shows another way technology can be liberating. As I heard in this story by BBC's Digital Planet.

Kenya is not an ideal nation. Most people don't have a bank account, roads are not particularly safe, and the distances are substantial. And a large proportion of population depends on buying and selling goods for relatively small amounts, or remittances from people in larger cities. Without bank accounts and safe roads, it meant a greater risk, bigger cost, and therefore less business. Not any more. The largest "bank" in Kenya today is Safaricom, a telecom operator. They started a mobile money transfer service in 2007, and today its so widely used that a survey shows 83% say they will be worse off without it. (Link here)
Its called m-pesa, and it works with a combination of kiosks and text messaging. Reducing the cost, time and risk of transaction removes the inefficiency introduced by the government. That's a small step towards lower poverty. It has the generated interest from CGAP and Gates foundation, amongst others, and there is a huge likelihood of replicating its success else where. (Like Afganistan, and Pakistan).

ITC's e-chaupal provides a very different services to indian villages It tells them the price of their produce, amongst other things. Just these simple measures are changing lives. Just by providing information and reducing transaction costs, these applications of now-mundane technologies have a potential to pull millions out of poverty.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Whither Jobs?

Re-post from EPGP Dreams

Fan though I am, this is not about the eerie absence of Steve Jobs from the helm of Apple. With or without him, I don't foresee an 80's style collapse of Apple. There is, however, another threat to Apple, and to me. The Economy.

First, the disclaimer. I am not an economist, you know. Although i read this essay by Daron Acemoglu, an MIT economist, and he details where economists too went wrong. This article by Arnold Kling is very accessible.

To quote Acemoglu, economists started believing that
the era of aggregate volatility had come to an end. We believed that through astute policy or new technologies, including better methods of communication and inventory control, the business cycles were conquered. Our belief in a more benign economy made us more optimistic about the stock market and the housing market. If any contraction must be soft and short lived, then it becomes easier to believe that financial intermediaries, firms and consumers should not worry about large drops in asset values.

I'm no one to judge an economist, much less an economist's assessment of economists, but I must say that till early 2008, I heard many economic writers I admire say that this problem was all "much ado about nothing".

Anywho, here we are, no one seems willing to give any good news. Wall Street Journal had this article, saying recruitment in Business Schools were at a lower level than even one expected in October. One quote by a student caught my eye. She said about the placement system in the college,
The system they have in place now seems to be one that works very well when the economy is good, but now that there are no employers coming -- no one knows what to do

This may be true, and therefore we will need a plan. This is the moment for aggressively reaching out, and I'm happy to say our batch is already thinking on those lines. I never would have thought that there will be dozens of mails everyday in our mailing list. Some are about mundane issues like what laptops to buy, but several talk about projecting ourselves to the world. This being the first batch, and the institute is flexible, so a lot of ideas are being discussed, and nothing is off limits.

This may sound like an ad for the batch, but it didn't start that way. I wanted to discuss the problems, ended us talking about the solutions we are working on. So.... does anyone have any idea? Where do we look for jobs next?

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Monday, February 16, 2009


As I enter the corporate world, I wonder whether I'll learn something, or will there be value addition going forward. In other words, will I resort to Corporate Speak?

I am a fan of Lucy Kellaway for some time now, and her recent Twaddle Awards were particularly hilarious. She is a columnist for FT and reads her columns out loud for the podcast audience as well (that's where I caught her). She is a crusader for sanity in corporate culture and using English instead of Jargonese.

In blogs and in forums, in conversations and mails, we are all aware of people saying things like 'going forward we should drill down, go back to the drawing board and aggressively leverage our deliverables to maximize value addition'. So it was with some relief that I read this post by Maybe MBA, who is from Chicago Booth. In a hilarious comment, Deadhedge said 'I was in a class where the professor said, "We are going to get beyond the cliches here. We are really going to drill down, peel back the onion, and kick the tires here."'

Can we start a new trend, making it uncool to use excessive and unnecessary jargon? I hate to think of myself using such language as a corporate man although I probably will.

PS. I'm much more frequent on my new blog, EPGP Dreams. While I'll often duplicate the posts here till there is some readership on the new blog, I'd encourage all to subscribe to the new blog. Just click here

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Moving On

Hi Folks,

I'm moving the blog to a new URL EPGP Dreams

This was fun, the application process..... not so much. The uncertainlties of forces beyond our control.... not enjoyable at all.

But, such is life, and it has turned out to be for the good for me.

So best of luck to all, follow the new blog to see the life at IIM Bangalore. The interactions have already begun, the teams are getting into place, and everyone intends to hit the road at breakneck speed.......

But we all know what they say about the roads paved with good intentions.

Lets hope we all end up in a good place

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hello Again, or is it goodbye?

Hi all... to anyone who still has this RSS... I'm going to IIM Bangalore!!!

These have been difficult months for everyone, and I decided to opt out of the US MBA scene. It was a tough decision, but i just couldn't see a way to either justify the investment, or to get the money to invest in the first place. In the turmoil, blogosphere sunk below my radar, though i still read occasional posts. The new 1-yr MBA's by IIM's were still interesting because of lower cost, shorter duration, and almost as importantly the higher age/experience of the students.

I studied them and found only 2 worth applying, IIM A & B. Applied at Ahmedabad, had a great interview (I thought) and was convinced I'd get it. But all I got was a ding. Bangalore depended heavily on the interview, as they had only one essay. I went to India for the interview, and was happy, very happy with it.

I didn't dare to hope, but i got the offer letter, and now I'm in the process of returning to India. And leaving my practice, my institute, and surgery. I'm excited and scared, and determined to make this work.

I hopw it does.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Inspirations galore

There are inspirations and then there are inspirations

last post i talked about a professor who inspired me with a life well lived, but today this kid seems to be living a life impossible to live.

This was sent to me by one of my dearest friends, who happens to be an ophthalmologist (eye specialist). Its about a kid who went blind, has no eyes at all.... and can play video games and skate on the roads

He has, on his own, developed echolocation. Thats what dolphins and bats use to make out their surroundings.

Watch and be amazed

Best Video of the Year - Blind Kid Uses Sound to See - The best home videos are here

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My alternate career

One of the questions that has left me stumped is Ross's Q3: What would you be doing if you were not pursuing the goals you said you wanted to pursue? (this is a paraphrase)

Gimme a break people! I am a surgeon, have worked in two separate specialties within surgery (Trauma, and Cancer) and now am looking to totally change the career path and enter corporate world. And you want one more path? Check in some parallel universe.

Then I was reading Mandy's Blog. She is a Darden student, and she posted this video.


This man is the sort of professor you dream about. He is exciting, and excited, he is informative and funny, loves Star Trek AND Football!! (Seriously, how many people in this world want to be Captain Kirk as well as play in NFL?) 

But most of all, he is excited about teaching. Not the traditional academia, but teaching, helping, nurturig (Now i sound like a New Agie)

And i remembered it felt like to teach. We teach undergrads when doing post-graduation. And it was fun. We used to take our students to late night operations, (thats not a euphemism),  there were impromptu discussions during ward rounds In 1998-99, even an internet search was a new and exciting thing, and we used to have chat sessions in yahoo on weekends. None of these was traditional, none of these were done anywhere close to the extent we did it either before or after us, we all had fun, and we all learned.

I was, for a year, an assistant professor too. It was a new college for me, a new state, and a totally different set of students. Indians will understand when i say that the earlier college was Government, this was private. Nowhere near he same aptitude, or attitude. I taught enthusiastically though, and within weeks, felt confident enough to ask the group of 25 students allotted to me to attend the emergencies. It was unprecedented, but they did come, and we did have fun. To the extent that in a multidisciplinary class that I took with faculties of other departments, i got a applause on arrival. (there were some pissed senior profs that day) 

This is what I would have loved to do: teach by participation. I am good in a team that learns and does at the same time. This will be an asset in college as well as (presumably) in corporate life, especially healthcare sector, which will always keep changing.

This is going to be my theme for that essay. I know its crude, doesn't properly connect the dots and all that, but i was excited to have atleast found a theme. 

And by the way, if you have an hour, watch the video. If you only have 5 minutes, jus watch the first 5 minutes. Randy Pausch passed away on 25th july. RIP