Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Thoughts for Applicants

I have been a lazy blogger of late, and it has to do with a combination of an unexpectedly high workload and a cold/fever that refuses to go away. I have, however, been thinking back to my application saga and what advice, if any, I might offer up to future applicants. Last year, around this time, my fellow bloggers launched the MBA Advice blog. I wanted to say a few things but resisted because I didn't think someone who hasn't actually been accepted to a school really has the credibility to tell anyone else what to do. What Not to do, maybe. I have similar feelings now - my oftentimes bumbling approach to the entire admissions process is not exactly one that anyone should emulate. That said, I have learned some along the way, and there might be applicants out there who find it interesting.

I'm quite impressed by a quote I read during a recent visit to Megami's : "It's not what you tell them ... it's what they hear" - Red Auerbach.

So, what I will offer up is no advice. Just my thoughts about certain aspects of the application process that I have, well, thoughts about. Take it for whatever it's worth.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Lies, and the Lying Liars who tell them at b-schools.

My apologies for appropriating the title of this post from stanfordmba, a former blogger from Stanford. A few months ago s/he wrote a post titled 'Lies, and the Lying Liars who tell them at the GSB' which was about a classmate who had blatantly lied to get his way during an exercise in a class on Negotiations. It was a recollecting of an observation and the blogger's feeling about it. It also resulted in an ourpouring of negative comments, some from people associated in some way with the school I assume, that led to the blogging effort being abandoned.

So, why am I talking about it now? I followed a link from iWhoElse's blog to The Wharton Journal a few minutes ago. In that piece was this snippet:

Thou shalt not lie in negotiations class - I certainly broke this one, by accident, I must say, and it was a white lie by comparison to some. As an example, if you are in a negotiation representing management and the union is asking for a salary increase, do not anchor your negotiation at a 15% salary decrease when the lowest settlement is a flat salary...No, that does not make you a good negotiator, it makes you a LIAR!!!!

If my memory serves me right (and I don't have an RSS feed, nor does Google a cached entry, to confirm) this sort of a situation was EXACTLY what stanfordmba was talking about! And it's gotten me hopping mad. Why is it OK that a school publication can talk about something (albeit cloaked in humor) but it's not OK for a student to make the very same observation on his or her blog?

At first blush, I was wont to dismiss this an institutional approach to what I'd think is Free Speech. Wharton's always facilitated it (right ?), through forums, diaries etc; while Stanford (the University) is the alma mater of a couple of famous graduates who recently fired an employee for blogging about life at the company that, in the ultimate irony, owns Blogger. But this is plain short-sighted-stupid thinking on my part.

I think a possible explanation, if one can be offered, may have to do with a collective sense of guilt. The fact that a similar observation was made at a similar class in two separate schools leads me to extrapolate that this is limited neither to one school nor one person in a class - it seems to be rather widespread behavior (I will know for sure when I am in similar class). So, when it is indeed addressed, the forum and tone take on a special meaning.

Bring it up the way WJ does - humorous, it-happens-all-time-and-you-are-not-the-only-one, almost condoning - and it is no threat to someone who may have, for lack of a better word, Lied in class. They can laugh it away. But the same person may take offense when this behavior is singled out and condemned. Cast now as an exception to the accepted norm, methinks they tend to retaliate against the person(s) making this claim so as to justify their actions.

The troubling aspect of this pattern of action is that the voices that take a stand against something when it happens are silenced in favor of possibly laughing it away after the fact. Isn't this the type of behavior that led to the Enrons of the world in the first place? And, shouldn't we be asking if our b-schools are filled with students who are on the path to creating more of the same?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

London beckons again.

Just got an interview invite from LBS !

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

swooping up profits from the bottoms of pyramids

An interesting discussion at swoop's gave me pause today. I spent the better part of the day goofing off from work and thinking about some of the issues raised and debated in further comments to the post (of course, that meant i had to stay late to do some 'real' work :)

The original post talked about corporate social responsibility in the context of the fast-food (offical term: quick serve) industry, and its responsibility towards consumers' health. A more specific item of interest to me was the proliferation of fast-food chains (FFCs) in economically depressed areas and its corelation to obesity among the people who live there. Now, the effects of junk food on people's health are well-documented, and of course, open for debate. But, that's not what this is about.

In the spirit of Professor Prahalad's research, I was wondering if there isn't an opportunity to make a fortune at this bottom corner of America's pyramid where food and economics intersect. Well, there is money to be made, as ably demonstrated by the FFCs who seem to have a lock on these markets. This dominance has everything to do with the affordability of their product to their target audience. BUT, this diet has slowly but surely resulted in an obese customer base which is, with due apologies for reusing a phrase so soon in a sentence, slowly but surely being made aware of the associated health risks. And, as is to be expected of megaliths, these FFCs are loathe to pro-actively change their menus to offer healthier options.

So, given this situation, here's the thought: If I were to start a competitively priced healthy (distinct from the chi-chi 'health') food alternative in said areas of the country, would it be successful ?

The obvious question would be : Is there a demand ? This is a tough call, since there is no way to effectively measure this. There would appear not to be an overt questioning of the status quo, since the means at the customers' disposal are so limited. It is also important to note that most of the options available to these customers are FFCs, so a swing from quadruple cheeseburgers to turducken tacos doesn't say much.

So, I've asked, Is there reason to believe there will be demand if presented with an alternative ? I think so, but am going by gut here. My premise is that an overweight person would, if presented with the opportunity, take steps to better their health. For the above statement to be true, though, the 'opportunity' MUST be a filling, relatively healthier, meal that costs the SAME as the current FFCs.

Is this even possible?

On my way home, I decided to stop by a local healthy fast food place called b.good, to check out their menus. I've eaten there before, and the food is awesome. 'Reinventing fast food', they claim, but at $5+ for a burger, they don't even come close on price. Why IS that ? Is it the food itself that makes it expensive ? I actually think not. First, their location - in the same building as Bain, right next to a T station, in the Back Bay of Boston - must cost a fortune. Second, they are a one-off store with all the clout which comes with that in negotiating purchasing deals, which jacks up prices. Finally, their target customer base is not very price sensitive, at least at these prices. I mean, walk two blocks up and you enter $40/dinner territory. I'm assuming these guys have pretty good margins tacked on.

Each of these things can be mitigated, and if done so, a cheaper price tag on some healthy fast food does appear realistic to me. Interesting and worth a closer look methinks. This post probably sounds pretty random and all over the place, but I'm intrigued. More thoughts to follow, but it's time for bed now.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I Had a Dream.

How does one know s/he is addicted to blogging ?

I haven't blogged the past two weeks, and last night I had a dream that ended with "i've got to blog this !". dammit :)

So, (in my dream, though I woke up this morning and kinda thought it was real) I've just finished dinner (alone, though that's cause for a different type of analysis) and on my way home I walk past a store with an electronic display - kinda like the fancy plasma ones in airports now. It had one entry (yeah, it was a pretty detailed dream) which read 27 and it was in a red box. Just as I was about to walk away, another entry popped up which again said 27 but this one was in a green box. I was intrigued (though not sure if dreams can be described such, but anyways) and stood around to watch. Soon, the screen was filling up with more boxes with 27, some in yellow in addition to the aforementioned green and red. Accompanying this action was a counter of how many reds, yellows, and greens were on the screen.

By this time, intrigue had turned to fascination. And, I had company. A crowd of people started to develop around me staring at this strange screen. They seemed to get worked up at some point when a green box with the number 5 popped up. The excitement reached fever pitch when all of a sudden three green boxes with the number 1 flashed on the screen. Cell phones were pulled out, and i started to hear words like 'appointment', 'fees', 'guarantee' etc. I was so confused I could wake up.

I turned around and looked at the people instead of the screen and I found some clues to the mystery. You see, every single person around me (and it was a substantial crowd by now) had a GMAT prep book in their hands. I turned back to look at the screen to see what exactly people were looking at. I couldn't make any sense of the numbers and colors. At some point during this pondering process, a very (did i mention very) sexy woman tapped me on the shoulder and told me that if I was going to Chicago and yet couldn't figure out the numbers, what was I good for? (hmm, was this somehow related to my eating dinner alone? But, I digress. Back to the point - ) WHAT was going on?

That's when the lights came on. The storefront, until this point, had been dark save for the plasma display. Now, all was revealed. This was an admissions consulting shop! And the numbers were a running display of the results their clients were reporting - green for admits, red for dings, and yellows for waitlists. And the numbers - well, turns out they are the business-week school school rankings. That explained the rising excitement with seeing lower and lower numbers pop up.

Whew !

I think it was a pretty cool dream - maybe it was an expression some hidden desire to see admission consultants release numbers like the schools - admit rates etc. Interesting thoughts come to mind. I don't particularly remember how this dream ended, though i suspect the flashes of Rio I recall were part of an entirely different fantasy altogether.