Monday, September 19, 2011

Job Ek Khoj - Opinions and Decisions!!!

I had come to meet the chief risk officer (CRO) of Dhanvanti Bank – a bank which had grown in age but not size. If a bank had top-line of less than Rs. 1,000 cr in 90 years, it could only had been a parking lot for me hence I had no real business in meeting the CRO. More than that, it was the name. I found it hard to imagine that I would need to tell people, “Hey, I work with Dhanwanti Bank”. The name itself sounded like a Paan shop. But I wanted to give it a shot – what if it really clicks well. I was told that money would be good there. A friend of mine had given me the contact of the CRO and advised not take his name as reference.

“Are all IIM guys are like that?” was his first words to me and I was stumped.

“Like what?” I seriously wanted to know.

“You all change jobs so frequently. You all are confused.”

“That is not correct. Among my friends, some have changed frequently; some haven’t changed at all. These two ‘somes’ don’t make the entire sum as well.”

“I don’t believe you. I am yet to meet an IIM grad who hasn’t changed jobs and that too frequently” he had worked in India’s number one private bank for 23 years. Why he was working in such a small bank after such rich experience was something that puzzled me.

“In my humble opinion, you cannot generalize anything. One has to look at such things on case to case basis”

“That is the problem with you IIM guys. You have opinions but when it comes to making decisions, you fall flat.”

All I could do was to smile.

“You have mentioned in your resume that you have handled XYZ Ltd. How was your experience?”

“Company is good but I think their management is not up to the mark. You cannot really trust them”

“So will you lend them money?”

“That depends on the purpose of lending. If the project is viable, I shall be willing to take a small exposure but not a big one.” I thought I gave a very sensible answer.

“Where does the size of loan come in? Do you trust them or not?”

“I didn’t mean that trust factor was completely missing with XYZ. I meant that I wasn’t very comfortable with the management”

“Why cannot you take a call? You either trust someone or don’t. If you trust someone, you do business with him else not”

“I beg to differ. In my opinion, it has to be a function of risk and return. If a bank starts deciding who to lend and who not to lend just on the basis of trust, it might well end up with the government as its sole client. I agree that trust is an important factor in this business but one needs to look at the entire picture, analyze it and then decide. ”

“Again you are giving an opinion. Why cannot you make simple decisions?”

“It’s because you are giving me only scenarios on which I can only opine. I want my decisions to be based on facts and figures. There is another angle to my answer”

“What is that?” he asked.

“I met XYZ in a different capacity. If I meet them in the capacity of a banker, they will surely act differently”


“Trust is formed on the basis of how someone behaves with you. People behave differently with different people. Their behavior often depends upon the purpose of the interaction.”

“What crap? Either you trust someone or don’t”

“Well one has to look at the complete picture”

“You seem to have even drawn the picture but I am yet not clear if you trust XYZ or not. Being opinionated is good but being indecisive could be terrible”

I was thinking ‘At least one thing is decided, there is no match of opinions between us’

“Ok. Tell me the names of four of your four favorite Indian companies?” he asked.

I answered.

“How much loan will you give to each of them?”

“It’s tough to answer. You need to tell me the purpose of lending.”

“You are a banker. Lending is your business. Tell me how much you will lend. Where does the purpose fit in?”

“I can tell you what all things I will look into before deciding the amount. I cannot think of an amount without more inputs”

“Again, you have opinions but you cannot make a decision”

I felt like slapping him hard and saying, ‘In my opinion, you deserved this. So I decided to give you what you deserve’.

By now, the outcome of the meeting had become obvious. So I tried to end the meeting.
“Can I ask you something?” I politely asked.

“Yes” he said.

“When you received my resume, how much salary did you decided to pay me?”

“What a stupid question. I don’t decide someone’s salary just after seeing his resume”

“Well you are a prospective employer and I am a prospective employee. You pay, I work. Tell me how much will you pay me?”

“Son, it’s not me who alone decides the salary. We have to take others opinions as well before a decision is made to even hire you, forget deciding your salary.”

“So you neither have an opinion nor made a decision” I said and rushed out of his office.

I called up my friend who had given me this CRO’s contact.

“How did it go?” he asked.

“Dude, what is his problem? Is he anti-IIM?”

“Well he is. Even when I was there, he used to take his vent out against IIMs. I saw him doing it so many times” my friend said laughingly.

“Was he brutally raped by someone from IIMs?” I asked.

“He…He…. No. I think it’s got something to do with his son. He couldn’t make it to IIMs in 4 years”

“Well not my fault if his sperms had low intelligent quotient.” I was wondering.

Job Ek Khoj - Colors!!!

I was sitting in the office of Armpit capital. Armpit capital was an investment bank which boasted to have global ambitions. But to my mind, all they had was local intellect.
I was waiting for my interviewer. After a few minutes of waiting, one of the senior guys came, shook hands, introduced himself and sat down.
“Hey. Let’s start. What I would like to do is to give you a bit of color about ourselves – what we are doing, since when we have been doing, how are we doing, why are we doing, shall we be able to do it or not. Once I am done with that, I would like you to give a bit of color about yourself. Does that sound okay?” he said with a colorful smile.
“Yeah, sounds great. I love rainbows.” I said expecting a really colorful time.
He started talking. He talked, and talked, and talked. All I could understand was that he worked for some investment bank in UK. That bank, couple of years back, had sent him to India to set up their business. If you read between the lines, it’s plain and simple case of “Either you get fired or take an asylum in your motherland”.
Once he stopped, he threw the ball in my court “So why don’t you give me some colors about yourself.”
In front of his digital quality picture, VFX enabled, DTS Dolby, 3D movie, I looked like Alam Ara ().
“Tell me something. In your last job, you changed from one industry to another. Did you do your homework before making this change? Did you enquire about the industry you were moving in, I mean this industry?”
“How did you do it?”
“I asked a few friends working in this industry”
“Okay. But don’t you think that wouldn’t have been the best way.”
“Why is that so?”
“If you ask a frog, he will only tell you about the well because that is his well. He won’t be able to tell you about the world outside that well”
“But if you are outside the well, you know all about the world outside. Frog can enlighten you about the world inside the well. That completes the portfolio, isn’t it?” I replied.
He changed the topic, “You have such an impressive profile. Why do you want to be in this business? You can do whole lot of things.”
“Well, I am in this industry because I like it”
“Yeah but you can do a world of things other than this kind of job. You have such a good profile”
“As I said, among all those world of things, I like this profile”
This went on and on. He kept asking me why I was and where. I kept telling him why I was where.
Finally I asked him, “Why are you in this industry?”
“Well, I have been in this industry for quite some time”
“The way you said it, looks like you want to move out”
“Why don’t you move out?” I asked before he could complete.
“What do you think?”
“You may not like my answer” I warned him.
“Shoot” he sounded confident.
“All I can say is that either you don’t think that your profile is good enough or you think that you cannot do anything else” I said with a smile. I was looking like two colors which never make an entry in a rainbow – black and white. But it was red that started to take control.
Thankfully, he changed the topic and asked me “Have you done CFA?”
“Have you registered for it?”
“Neither have I registered for it not I intend to do so” I said in a rude tone.
“But why?” he asked while looking a bit shocked.
“I don’t think that the certification will add any value to me.”
“To be fair, I know very little about the course structure. But what I know is that the course structure has very high US flavor in it whereas I am working in Indian markets. So I see no relevance of the certification to the skill set I should be building upon. If I have to do it for a CV point, I don’t think after more than six years in job-life, I need a certification as a CV point” I tried to be logical.
“But I don’t think you have even seen the course structure. How can you say so?”
“I consulted my friends” I replied.
“Tell me something. If you have to buy a stock, will you do your own research or you will consult your friends”
“Well, there are 5,000 stocks listed in BSE. If I go researching each and every stock, I may not get a chance to buy anything, at least in this life. So I will have to consult my friends and then, do my own research”
“So you apply the same logic to certifications”
“I don’t know. Your logic doesn’t sound convincing enough” he looked a bit pissed off. By now, it was clearly evident that he himself had done CFA.
“Okay. Let me explain. If I do CFA affiliated with US, you would say – why have you done US affiliated CFA when you are working in Indian markets? If I do Indian version of CFA, you would say – US CFA is like Pink Floyd and Indian CFA is like Altaf Raja. If I do both, you would say – why haven’t you done FRM? If I do everything, you would say – why you keep doing all these certifications, you are either zero confidence in your experience or you are totally confused. Hence I have decided that I won’t even touch any of these certifications” I was pissed off.
By now, only color left in the room was red with maroon tinge in it – resembling blood, real bad blood. Both of us had developed a strong disliking for each other. Before the disliking turned into hatred, we needed to end it. End it we did.
He stood up, shook hands with me, thanked me for coming, and said a few more formal words. But he didn’t say what I was waiting for.  
Like every life has to end with death, like every Anshan done by someone other than Anna Hazare has to end with Police Lathi Charge, like every Hollywood movie has to end with a kiss, like every Ajit Agarkar over has to end with a boundary, every interview has to end with a particular sentence. Yes, THAT sentence.
While he was continuing with his monologue, that sentence was still awaited. I was getting impatient. I was about to ask, “So will you get back to me or not?” before he said it “We will get back to you”
Back I was, with loads of colors.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Birthdays and Resolutions!!!

I have never understood the reasons behind celebrating birthdays. Why should I be happy and celebrate on the day I was born – my contribution in my birth was as good as Sehwag’s contribution in Nottingham test. But then, celebrating on an achievement which is a result of other’s hard work is something that no one minds to do. Didn’t we all celebrate on the night of 2nd April?

Birthdays are strange. On your 0th, you start celebrating by crying without tears. Next time you wonder why there is so much chaos around you. Slowly you start realizing that there is this one day in the year when you are treated really well – you wear new clothes, you get a lots of gifts, you can get away scot-free even after breaking new crockery at home and all that. You realize that this is your day.

But soon, birthdays start changing their meaning. They are no longer celebrated at home. You celebrate them with your friends, somewhere outside. Gifts are replaced with birthday bumps which are the best way for others take their grudge out against you. If you are lucky/ unlucky to have a girlfriend, you ditch your male friends to celebrate the day with her. “Can’t you spend one day with me? Just one day?” And you are left thinking “Don’t you get tired of using the same trick every day?”

If you are lucky/ unlucky to be single, you spend rest of the day thinking “Will she wish me? Does she remember that it’s today?” She often wishes you your birthday weeks after it has passed “Hey, belated happy birthday. Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday? You should have, no?” And you are left thinking “I remind you 200 times a year that my birthday falls on this day of the year. May be I should get that tattooed it on my forehead now”

Slowly it all starts getting boring. Celebrating with friends becomes rare as people hardly have time. You get rid of “Can’t you spend one day with me” problem posed by girl friends as you have a bigger issue at hands – wife. All you get are calls from friends and family wishing you on this day and asking a question – “So, how are you celebrating today? How is it going?” and you start thinking the answer “How is it going? My son dropped the cake on my new shirt which is beyond repair now. My boss, the pig, has had me for breakfast and lunch and preparing me for dinner too. Market tanked 500 points today which means a loss of 50k. My friend who cannot even spell raise has got a raise of 50% in his new job. And these buggers lost again, this time in 3 days.” but all you say is “Oh, it’s going great”.

Birthdays also mean it’s time for resolutions, the birthday resolutions. Very often, these resolutions are broken on the very next day. Only once, I have opted for a resolution. Interestingly, it is yet to be broken.

The date was quite interesting – 9/9/99. I was doing my graduation. In case you know me, I guess you know it all. In case you do not know, I am happy about it as you have no idea how awful I was as a student. But I somehow always managed to get marks good enough to take me into next semester. Not that I didn’t dream big – I always dreamt of topping the class but my efforts made sure that this dream ended in being a day dream. But there was one course; I think transport phenomena (TP), in one of the semesters that I found very interesting. I liked it not because of the quality of the content but because of the lack of efforts needed to understand it. The subject was taught by three different teachers hence we had our exams in three parts – each part was to be set by a different teacher, 10 marks each.

Mid-semester exams happened, for TP as well. I did well and for first time, I felt confident after an exam. Soon, we were shown our answer sheets. I saw my answer sheet for TP-1, I had scored a perfect 10. I saw answer sheet for TP-2, I had scored a perfect 10. TP-3 was remaining to be seen. A perfect 30 was there for the taking. Never in my life had I scored 100% in any subject, never. This was going to be my moment – my moment of glory, my 1983, my 1947, and my 1857. I was thinking on the lines of “All this while I was struggling because none of the subject tested the real skills. You could blindly swat up the stuff, puke it out in the exams and score. They didn’t test the analytical ability of the mind. Damn our education system. It kills the real brains like mine” Confidence can do wonders is what I was told.

It was 9/9/99 – my birthday. Marks for TP-3 were displayed in the department office. Lot of guys scored 10 out of 10. But only 3-4 of them had got a perfect 10 in both TP-1 and TP-2 as well. I was expecting 10. I got 9. First words that came to my mind were “What the F****? Have I just seen Javagal Srinath sledging someone or Kumble turning the ball?” I was angry. I was distraught. I couldn’t believe it. To me, I had written the most perfect answers ever yet somehow professor found a way to deny me a perfect 10. Where could he have cut that one mark? Where? Where? Where?

I went into professor’s room where people were looking at their answer sheets. Professor was sitting in his chair with a boring look on his face, “What are you all searching in those answer sheets. I asked. You answered. I checked. You got marks. Now go back to your hostels and let me go home, you morons” he looked like thinking.

I, high on thinking that I had a right to be treated as a king on my birthday, barged into his room. I made my way through the crowd of my batch mates, picked up my answer sheet from the heap, had a look at it and almost threw in front of the professor saying “Sir, you have given me 9”

“What? Have I? 9 to you? There must have been a mistake. Let me have a look”

I felt a bit relieved “Even I thought so Sir. Please have a re-look”

“Yes. I am sure you couldn’t have scored more than 5” he said in a sarcastic manner. I had a terrible impression on him. To him, I was the most useless student of his class.

“Sir, I think I deserve 10. There is nothing wrong with my answers”

“I wonder how you managed to answer the questions. You must have copied from someone” he said while looking at my answer sheet.

“This is a baseless allegation. Either you should have caught me then or you prove it now” I was fuming.

“Son, I think you have got more than you deserve. Now get the hell out of my room. I am getting late” he tossed my answer sheet towards the heap piled up on his desk.

I picked up my answer sheet and started comparing it with a batch mate’s, X, answer sheet. X was professor’s blue eyed boy. He was one of those intelligent, cunning, diligent, hard working students who had a really long tongue. If I was a pain in a certain place for the professor, X licked that certain place really well. Hope you get what I mean by that certain place. To the professor, he was above all. But I cared a damn. I wanted my perfect 10. I thought I deserved it more than anyone else. I wanted to prove that I was better than professor’s best.

I showed my answer sheet to the professor along with X’s – “See Sir, my answers are much more perfect than his. Then why 9 to me and 10 to him”

May be this act of mine lit a fire cracker in a petrol pump. I could see professor’s nostrils turning as big as Sreesanth, his face turning as red as Shaun Pollock’s hair and him standing up as if he was getting ready to bash me up.

“How the hell you compare yourself with X?” the pitch of his voice left everyone stunned.

“Sir, I am not comparing myself with X. I am comparing my answers with X’s. There is a difference” I wasn’t going to back out.

“One more word and I will re-evaluate your answer sheet. Let me assure you, you may not get more than 5 this time”

“Oh, I would request you to do that. I deserve 10, nothing less than that”

Anger was fuming on both the sides. “Sir, it’s his birthday today. Please…..” A friend tried to pour some ice on fire.

“What the hell I am supposed to do if he was born today? Declare a national holiday?” roared the professor “One more word and I shall make sure you never pass in my course. Get the hell out of here. All of you” he stomped his authority and victory. I had to back out this time.

I almost threw my answer sheet on his desk, stared at him hard but caved in to his threat – I didn’t utter single word after that. I came out of his office.

A friend asked me, “Why were you fighting with him? What’s the difference between 9 and 10? You almost spoiled your day”

“I don’t know” I said. I couldn’t have explained the dates to him -1983, 1947 and 1857. Articulation has never been my forte.

Later in the semester, professor kept his promise too. I did manage to pass in his course. Just that he made me pay for my stare and other histrionics; I barely managed the passing marks.

On that day, 9/9/99, I decided to never go for a review in my life, never. This is one resolution I have always stuck to. May be that is why I am not a DRS fan.