Week 2: Dealing with Failure

Hey there Abhishek,

This week I delved into the realm of failure, a rarity for us as we have hardly introspected on this aspect of our lives. Most of the times, when faced with failure I have overlooked it and moved on. Here comes a chapter, which wants me to stand still and stare at its face. Here is how we can benefit by understanding this monster.

  1. Remember the good old days when you were in primary school. The pressure for grades was on and you were a razor-sharp beast at getting them. You took the shortest path to the assumed goal (perfect grades). As time flew by, we have both realized that such an approach is not the best one neither sustainable and have mended our ways of doing things with a holistic view, the way of the optimalist. But somewhere inside you still lives that perfectionist who wants to get what he wants, at any cost. Let this message act as a warning for you to keep that beast in control and choosing and optimalist way of doing things consciously.
  2. One of the primary associations that you have with failure is “fear of failure”. This is the elephant in the room. No matter what you want to do, this guy is just sitting there and giving you the same old boring nudge. Interestingly, many people in the class shared the same thought. There were those who felt that failure will lead to inferior judgement from the society and others who felt that their efforts will account to nothing. You have a mix of both in you. Firstly, don’t take yourself so seriously all the time, you are a mere spec in this galaxy. Do you care what other specs think about you, how they judge you? Failure is inevitable, learn from it and hit back harder. You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. Deal with it!
  3. Now to some good news, resilience. This is a big factor in dealing with failure and I think you have demonstrated a fair bit of resilience in your live, not Victor Frankl level but appreciable. Claps! You are good at staying grounded and improvising; but can improve in finding meaning out of tough situations. Make it a learning opportunity, imagine a future utility of your hardship and carry on. Never play the victim card and never back down.

To conclude this letter, look at your own crisis situations. The one where you failed thrice to clear SSB, the one with a dead-end job in Noida, the one with a shady school and dad posted elsewhere; what do all these three have in common. They have served as catalysts for an accelerated spurt of growth. It was only when you lost it, that you rebounded stronger each time, would you be sitting here writing this letter otherwise? This does not mean that you should go out looking for crisis situations but to help you understand that the fear of failure is just not worth it, look at it whichever way you want.


Week 1: Notions of Success

Dear Abhishek,

This week I had a chance to revisit the idea of success, what does it consists of, does it have a singular meaning or does it change from person to person. Below, I summarize my learning on three concepts related to success which I think we can benefit from.

  1. I conventionally though of success as something which makes my family happy, it gave me happiness too. We are on the right track with this one but here is a thought, will simply being happy give you the satisfaction that is heavenly? Research shows that a better approach to success is to hit a range of dimensions including self, family, work and community in the realms of happiness, achievement, significance and legacy. Time is limited, try out activities which hit a lot of these dimensions together and I believe you will see a difference.
  2. Sometimes even after achieving something you may feel empty inside, what causes this? The answer my friend is lack of coherence of your action with your values. I have created a list of values for us and Freedom, Courage and Unity are on the top of it. Yay! The idea is to pursue opportunities where the way to success reinforces these values rather than hurting them. Keep an eye open for a match and have a blast.
  3. I have learned over the years to not compare my situation with someone else. Everyone has a different story and you simply can’t judge people and start comparing. This learning shows that we are correct on this one. One potential way of positive comparison is to delve into the story of the person you see as a success be it your mentors or your peers and find out how did they do it? You can then possibly learn something out of it and apply to your own life.

As a final appeal, get out of the definitions set out by peers, family and society. Listen to your own heart! Make ambitious goals and keep them on a realistic time period and don’t be afraid to fail (we talk about this next week).

Keep rocking!

GST: The Final Frontier

The following discussion is largely based on the talk and follow up discussion by Mr. K Balamurugan, Indian Revenue Service, Customs & Central Excise. He provided a candid view of GST, its origins, implementation, and challenges. We also discussed about the impacts on the manufacturing sector. This discussion is preceded by the previous interview and would provide a holistic view on where GST stands in the taxation structure of India.

GST: The journey so far

GST is the much-needed fiscal reform needed in the country. Many opponents of GST give the argument that it is a regressive tax, effecting the poor as well as the rich. However, studies have shown that indirect taxes could be the best way to bring tax equality. The split of tax revenue in India is 50-50 between direct and indirect taxes [data]. The long-term aim is to push this more towards the realm of indirect taxes. This step promises to increase the governments tax revenue.

The foundation of GST was laid down in 2007 by Mr. Chidambaram. The initiative had a twofold story the DTC (Direct Taxes Code) & GST (Goods and Services Tax). While the former has died a political death, the latter promises to shine presently.

There is a plethora of indirect taxes in India, there is VAT, customs, central excise, service tax and many more. GST envisions to unify them under one umbrella. It will be a value-added tax, at every point of value addition.

The concept is not new to the world. It dates to 1950’s [data]. In the 1960’s the success of VAT was evangelized by IMF and lead to widespread adoption. Over 150 countries have adopted indirect taxes in one form or the other. There is however a dark side to this story. In every country where GST was introduced, the immediate impact was a dip in growth and political instability. Almost every party which bought out these changes in their respective country, lost power soon after.

Thus, it is a great challenge for the central government to make this shift. This problem is further aggravated by the conflict in interests of different state governments. Take for example Karnataka, a state which has invested heavily into developing manufacturing capabilities and receives tax revenues on business originating from its state. As per GST, all the tax in for of production tax and cross border transport is gone and the state in which the product is sold will be collecting the net taxes.

The major debate on reaching a consensus on this bill is thus the revenue sharing between different states and centre. It has been stipulated that the centre will compensate the state for lost revenue over a period of 5 years to bring them into the boat.

GST: Benefits

Industry Consumers
Multiplicity in tax removed, e.g. octroi Simple tax structure
Double taxation while crossing state borders will be avoided Effective tax lowered (removal of double taxation)
Enhanced mobility of goods leading to common national markets Taxation will occur as the good moves through its supply chain
Simple and uniform tax Uniform prices
Fewer tax exemptions for PSUs and defence manufacturers. Transparency
Greater transparency and equity for the manufacturing sector leading to a level playing field. Increase in employment to support GST implementation

GST: Challenges

Indian constitution 101st amendment act paved the way for implementation of GST under the GST council. It also brings with it a mandated deadline of September 2017 when states will stop receiving tax revenues if they are not through GST. This fact has led to different states and political parties resolving their issues on revenue sharing in the past few months at a fast pace.

The biggest challenge to GST implementation is Invoice matching. As and when a good moves through the supply chain from manufacturer -> warehouse -> wholesaler -> retailer -> end customer; the invoice number will move with the good and will be tracked at each point of value addition. At every point of transaction, the invoices will be matched to enable tax credit transfers which will make evasion difficult.

To perform this humongous task, it calls for a solid IT infrastructure. Introducing GSTN (Goods and Services Tax Network), a 49-51 split organization between Infosys and GOI. Currently, about 60% of the project is complete and work is going on at a fast pace. GSTN network will check and make sure that only after the taxes are paid on a good, that the corresponding tax credits will be passed on to the manufacturer.

This will ensure greater tax discipline among traders and India’s tax to GDP is bound to increase because of this. However, for a section of retailers who were avoiding taxes, this would come as a huge blow and may cause public unrest. It is believed that the GST fiscal reform would take a 10-year stabilization period and would see an initial dip in growth. The burnt will be the highest in the year 2019 and thus, GST has also now become a political bet.

Leading account keeping software vendor, Tally has come up with GST match facility on its systems. In a broad sense, the accounting and tax filing practice will become easier and give a boost to MSMEs by reducing middlemen and improving transparency via automatic returns facilitated by GSTN.

In a city like Bangalore where 30 thousand businesses are registered but only 6 thousand filing their taxes, GST brings a promise of widening the tax net and could potentially lead to lower tax rates in the future. All the data regarding businesses will be stored on the cloud and brings with it data security issues.

It is important to note that many sectors are free from the ambit of GST and it is not so uniform as it was promised to be. Road taxes, real estate stamp duty, liquor taxes and taxes on petroleum products will continue to persist on their own. With the amendment act hanging with the deadline of September 2017 and the recent fiasco of demonetization effecting the economy; it has indeed become a tricky way ahead for GST.

This shift will force firms to change their strategy in terms of distribution. New business agreements will be framed among various parties of the supply chain taking into consideration the implications of GST. The whole exercise was championed by the multi-national companies who wanted simpler tax reforms. Will the investments now rise as we move ahead with GST? Will the supply chain get smarter and integrated and be fuelled by credit growth? Will the honest retailers who pays his taxes on time be incentivized by the manufacturers? Only time will tell.

The Indian Tax Story

The following discussion is largely based on the talk and follow up discussion with Mr. Sibichen K Mathew. He is an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) cadre and working in the Income Tax Department. He is of the belief that the country should abolish all kinds of taxes one day, especially GST which is a regressive tax (i.e. everyone in the population would come under its ambit).

Taxes in India: Case in Point

Taxes originated in the medieval ages with the advent of wars between tribes and nations. To continue their massive war campaigns, every nation used this instrument. Even in India, the origin of tax comes about from the colonial rule and the tradition has continued till date. Historically, it is easy to see why taxes are looked down by the people of the nation as something which is unjust, unfair, and biased.

There are multiple factors as to why we dislike taxes so much. During the British rule, it was a tool of repression. It has been politically and sociologically moulded in the following years leading to its present state.

While in the European nations, taxes have a certain degree of social reciprocity meaning the taxpayer can see the benefit coming back to him. The situation in India is completely different with the general notion on tax being a welfare scheme for the less able. Once you cough out the money, just forget about it. The limited accountability of the government in terms of its expenditure of taxpayer’s money further aggravates this problem.

Once you keep this existing notion in mind and look at tax regulations, it all boils down to simple application of game theory. The penalties are so lax and the chances of getting caught dramatically low, why should one pay taxes. Let’s just follow the norm and evade like a pro.

Income Tax Collection: Now and next

qThe effective tax base of India is pathetically low. The government’s aim to increase tax revenues and is looking at innovations in the taxing process to achieve its aim. Tax payment, in the language of the IT dept., can be treated as a national good. Like any other good, it follows a supply demand curve. Further introspection shows that the tax revenue should follow the Laffer’s curve.

wThe objective is to reach this peak, where tax rates are lower than current but the tax base has widened.

IRS has limited resources and must be selective in perusing cases of tax evasion. An implication of the situation is the plethora of amnesty schemes announced every other year.

Here in lies the challenge and a prospective solution in the form of digital payments. The current regulations which stops cash payments above 3 lakhs give a great boost in this direction. This allows the IT Dept. to create a 360-degree profile of every PAN card holder and use non-intrusive and non-invasive methods to keep defaulters at check. A special mention of the PMO office to push these reforms through.

To illustrate the importance of this step, take the net yearly seizures by the IT dept., a miserly figure of 3000. The limited manpower calls for innovative steps to solve this problem. Digitization not only increases transparency, it also brings down the cost of tax collection. Gone are the days of making rounds of IT office, now you can e-file your returns from the convenience of your home or office. This has an added benefit of bringing down corruption by removing the middlemen from the process.

The nation is ready for a leapfrog in the prevailing tax culture. To further strengthen this move, a low rate of tax (say 5%) should also be applied to agricultural income and religious institutions. This would promote transparency and plug the leaks in the tax net which occur via these activities, i.e. the practice of fund transfers into these instruments to evade taxes.

Counting days, summer placements at IIMB

Day 0

I woke up to a cold weather in Bangalore, awakened by the noises running throughout the hostel corridors. I glanced at my clock, it showed “6:45 a.m.” which is hardcore for a PGP student. All of us were expected to be present at MDC lawn eight in the morning to kick off the summer placement season 2016. I wandered into the odds of me getting placed today. I essentially had zero shortlists for the day except for BNY Mellon, quite a fancy name, don’t you think?1024px-bny_mellon-svg

I was still on the fence with the thought of sacrificing the early morning slumber for the  MDC call. My only hope for the day rested on the infinitesimal probability of getting an extended shortlist. As per seniors, these will be floated around the end of the process and I could potentially get a shot at an interview with the much-coveted consulting firms.

Hope is a powerful force and it just keeps you pushing ahead.

So, with one big breadth I got up and ready, donned the freshly stitched suit and went dashing towards my destination.

The placement cell had made elaborate arrangements at the MDC lawn. It looked like a big fair with multitude of students seated in their respective marked positions, the scene was bought alive by the presence of seniors, moving all around the place and constantly chatting on their walky-talkies. My colleagues seemed anxious but excited at the same time. Many of us have been preparing hard for this occasion and it reflected on their faces.

Soon, the process of interviews started and out came a mix of happy and sad faces. Those who cracked it were pulling out their ties, exhalation on their faces and surrounded by a crowd of buddies congratulating them. Those who lost this battle, buckled up and got ready for their second round as interviews were lined up one after the other. In addition to these two, there was a third group of people who were like me, quite disengaged from the tension of the moment and making merry among themselves. The chances of getting an interview call was going down by the minute. Some of us even had second thoughts about staying at the MDC, and as a result a few left in between.

This sequence repeated till the evening. I found one part of the process very interesting. Those who were placed early were sitting there to support the others.

These guys, the future consultants and VCs; the sharpest minds at IIMB and they had now formed a team to make sure that all of the batch gets placed ASAP.

We were lucky that such a powerful team of people were now backing us up for the days to come.

I reached my room late at night and awaited instructions from the placement committee. But alas, the tiredness of the day put me to an instant sleep.

GD Day

“It’s 6:15, wake up dude.”, shouted my neighbor Nikhil as he knocked hard on my door. Today was going to be the pre-processing day for the companies visiting for placement tomorrow. In a nutshell, the whole day was going to be spent in group tasks and discussions arranged by the firms which you have applied to and have you in their shortlists. I quickly downloaded the list of companies and to my surprise, had 14 such activities planned for today. It was going to be a long day.

I reached the MDC at the designated hour and awaited further instructions from the trackers. This is what followed afterwards:

  1. 1280px-reliance_industries_logo-svg[8:00 AM, Reliance, failed] I entered the room with nine other participants for this session. The discussion was based on a case which presented the Jio story. Essentially, “a firm has setup the infrastructure for their 5G services and want to penetrate the rural school markets using digital education as a driver.” We saw a fierce discussion with participants taking a dig at each other. I was pleasantly surprised by such vigor from the group and was relatively quiet.
  2. 2000px-samsung_logo-svg[9:00 AM, Samsung, failed] This was a repeat of my first GD, with a very generic topic: “Uniform Civil Code”. As expected, there were quite a few enthusiastic speakers. The generic topic didn’t help the process as few members hogged the airtime with their elaborate globing skills. Not much luck in this discussion either.
  3. 640px-procter_and_gamble_logo-svg[10:30 AM, P&G, failed] This was a breath of fresh air. There were three panelists and three candidates in a room. It felt more interactive with ample participation time for all. The panel was actively communicating with all of us. They presented us with a case revolving around “attrition in an organization and how will you solve it in a short time frame.” There were some excellent points raised by my colleagues and we reached a consensus on the solution. This was the first GD of the day which I learned something from; kudos to the P&G team. My losing streak continues, but the other two in the group made it to the next round. All is not lost!
  4. mahindra-logo-f6291b6661-seeklogo-com[1:30 PM, M&M, passed] We eight entered the room with two panelists. This was going to be a chairman GD with a twist. “There were several case scenarios to choose from across various sectors and each scenario had eight characters; one of whom you had to play.” In total, each of us will chair one case and be a member in the seven other cases, playing eight different roles in the process. I had to play roles ranging from an ex-RBI governor, flipkart founder, pro kabaddi league manager, micromax founder, an Olympic coach, a common man, the chief minister of Gujarat and the producer of a big-ticket movie. It was a fun, entertaining and taxing process which also served as a great learning experience. The breadth of topics we brainstormed during that hour was immense and formed some pleasant memories. I passed through this round but eventually did not get a chance to interview with M&M. One of my buddies here also got through and cleared the interviews. Yay! He thanked me later to bring in the fiscal policy discussion when I played the role of Mr. Raghuram Rajan.
  5. aditya_birla_group_logo[3:30 PM, ABG, failed] Another group of 9 people, we were given a case to discuss on. The problem was “to select the best choice of company from a given list for an acquisition into a sector of interest, which in this case was the garment industry”. I don’t know the origin of this behavior but in the GDs of these big conglomerates, candidates try to show their ethical heaviness by bringing out ethics in every possible situation. Anyways, I was brain-dead at this point after my past discussion and contributed little to the discussion. Prior to the discussion, there was also a group task with the members split in teams of two. “It involved crafting origami objects and pitching a business plan associated with it.” Our team quickly split the task and made a lot of puppy dogs, tulips, boats and hearts.
  6. ck_birla_group_logo[4:30 PM, CK Birla, failed] Another generic discussion on the topic –“whether Facebook is good or evil”. Even though I actively contributed to this discussion, couldn’t get noticed.
  7. 08iscbbr_400x400[8:00 PM, Alshaya, failed] Alshaya is a Kuwaiti company with  an international workforce. The panel consisted of a lady of African origin and a gentleman of Saudi origin. The room had been arranged such that we were sitting in a round table fashion. We were given a topic –“Should social network data influence recruitment?” and each of us had to take a stand on the topic and mention it at the start of the GD. After that, we had a discussion spanning around 20 mins on the topic and came to a consensus. I took a minority stand in this and changed my stand on hearing convincing arguments from the proponents of the other view. This could be a reason for my dismissal?
  8. airtel-new-logo-ver[8:30 PM, Airtel, passed] We were presented a case and were to discuss on its solution. The discussion revolved about “relaunch strategy of an already existing deodorant brand”. The discussion saw a few people taking up the role of moderators and delegating the meeting as if they are the chairpersons. I guess, it was the drudgery of the whole day which had forced them into following such tactics to hog the limelight. Anyways, I put forward some concrete arguments and that was it.
  9. 2000px-johnsonandjohnsonlogo-svg[9:00 PM, J&J, passed] This was another fun activity for the day. I was hoping for another boring round of GDs but was in for a pleasant surprise. “Each of us were given few clue cards and a common problem statement”. There were three set of questions and we had to use all the clues to reach to the answers. I was lucky to get relevant cues for the first question, and could solve it as soon as the matching clue was mentioned. The next questions were built on the solutions to the previous ones and we solved them in due time. Finally, we were asked about our solution methodology and what could have been done differently. Kudos to J&J team for keeping it fun!
  10. logo[9:45 PM, Saint Gobain, passed] Another generic GD on the topic “Smart ways for smart cities”. Same old discussion followed by recommendations. One thing bothered me about this was the exceptionally long introduction to the company. I know about it or else won’t be here, we have more GDs to go.
  11. hul-logo-680x382_tcm1255-462595_w680[10:30 PM, HUL, failed] An enthusiastic and witty panel, we were given the topic – “MBA in India just a degree and no skill”. It is ironic that all my fellow grads of this elite institute took a ‘for’ position on this topic and were going about proving that their MBA degrees are worthless. I was the only guy standing on the other side of the fence and fighting for the importance of MBA. Damn!
  12. tatalogoeps[11:00 PM, TAS, failed] At last, the big daddy of GDs. It was a chairman style GD with separate cases for each member of the group. This one went smoothly; I suggested many ideas, most of which were accepted by the chair in their respective cases. I seriously could not understand why I was not selected for the next round. Sigh! Maybe should have put on some ethical drama in my communication mix.
  13. dbs_logo_kasistohomepage_01[12:10 AM, DBS, failed] Again the same old story. I think it was a case or something, too sleepy at this point to remember it and yeah, mostly silent in this one too.

As soon as the process finished, I jolted back to my room grabbing a bite on the way. It was not time to sleep yet, as preference forms were to be floated in an hour and they had to be filled in a half hour window. So, I kept awake till 1:30 AM, filled the form based on my shortlists, set the alarm for 6:30 AM and fell into a slumber hoping to to catch those few sacred hours of sleep.

Day 1

2000px-american_express_logo-svgI had just close my eyes and the alarm started beeping. It was time, judgement day has arrived. I had a few shortlists which I wanted in on. The top three were M&M, Amazon, J&J; not necessarily in this order. It was interesting to see that I got a call from Amex, who knew? Anyways, business as usual as I got ready and jolted to the MDC.

The A-team of our section was getting everything tidy to make it smooth for the rest of us. My mates were sitting in their respective seats and anxiously waiting for the instructions. Soon, my call came and it was for amazon. Let’s go!

td-amazon-smile-logo-01-largeThere were multiple interviews going on for multiple roles at amazon. I went to the designated area and was assigned to an interview room soon after. There were two panelists taking my first round of interviews, which went on for half an hour. After this, I waited for some time and went in for a second round which again went for half an hour. Soon afterwards, I was informed by the volunteers that I have been selected for the program manager intern role. Hooyah! The placement process comes to an end for me. I was elated and rushed down to meet my fellow mates, many of whom were already placed.

The process was over for me but it was far from ending for our batch. The rest of my day was spent moving from person to person, who were still in the process of giving interviews, sharing some fundas and info about the companies to follow, boosting their morale and making sure that they are comfortable.

I saw the true spirit of teamwork on this day with everyone making sure that everyone gets placed. I understand that after a few rounds of unsuccessful interviews, there is a drop in morale for most of us. It is at this point of time that the team pushes you through. When you see someone coming out with a smiling face, the fact that you had helped him a teeny-tiny bit, it makes you feel as if you got placed all over again.

That’s all folks!


The best dinner I’ve ever eaten

The thought of best dinner brings to my mind exquisite dishes; chilly chicken, fried rice followed by some great dessert; gulab jamun maybe. However, I can easily recreate such an experience in any hotel. Considering this fact, my mind takes me back to the year 2005 when I had such a dinner which is still fresh in my memory.


At that time, I was on a family trip to the Mata Vaishno Devi Temple; which is located at Katra in Jammu and Kashmir. We started the hike early in the morning, moving through one turn after another, filled with enthusiastic chanting of “Jai Mata Di”. At around sunset, we reached the temple at the peak. After offering our prayers, all of us were pretty hungry and the only source of food at that hilltop was hot steaming rajma-chawal. There I was in the moment, after a long day of walk, up on a chilly hill-top, enjoying my hot dinner. That was the best dinner I’ve ever eaten.


Humans of IIMB


Working in the garden near Amphitheatre, are two people Ramesh and Bisla Shetty. They come to campus as early as 5 a.m. and are responsible for keeping our campus green and clean. We may have passed through them in our busy schedule, appreciating the greenery of the campus, seldom realizing about the people responsible for it. Ramesh, who lives around 1 km from the campus, has 3 children and after seeing the students passing through him, wishes that someday his children also walk through this campus. Bisla has four children, all daughters. One of them wants to become an IAS officer and wants to serve the nation. One wants to join the police service and another one wants to become a doctor and treat people. They have aspirations to break through their present state and work for the people. They want support from the government and the institute to meet their aspirations.