Wednesday, August 31, 2005

oops, i've got to pay for this mba thing ya.

over dinner a couple of days ago, my dad asks me almost casually if everything is now in place for me to get on a bunch of planes and start school at chicago. which is when i remembered that i didn't have my loan approved yet. see, in usual fashion, i mailed in the paperwork for the loan just about 2 weeks ago. this freaked out my dad who couldn't believe that i would leave such an important matter as financing this monster upto the last minute. he then asked me if i was sure if my paperwork had reached chicago. i said, sure, i mean i did send it by fedex. they don't screw up. tracking number? dunno, i must have lost it in the whole travelling all over the place deal.

well, just checked my inbox to find an email from the fin aid office that my loan will be approved.

so, i'm all set to go now. through 5 airports in 4 countries in 2 days. and then drive from boston to chicago with my stuff. arrive in Chicago the night before start of school. which also happens to be a soon-to-be classmate's birthday. Happy Birthday in advance, Wakechick.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

My Gandhi Moment, and other random travels.

In 1893, Gandhi was thrown off a train in South Africa for sitting in a first-class compartment with a valid first class ticket because it was prohibited for 'coolies' and non-white people to travel in first-class. That experience was the start of a life-long struggle that ultimately led to India's independance from Colonial rule.

Two days ago, I was thrown out of a gym in Dubai - even though I was working out on the proper day reserved for 'males' because a British woman wanted to use the treadmill !! So, what earth-shattering event happened next ? All I'll say is that India sure is lucky not to have to depend on sons like me to earn its freedom :-)

I tried to talk to the guard (who, ironically was Indian :) as he led me down to the lobby but he wouldn't budge. So, as soon as he turned the corner I snuck back upstairs, struck up a conversation with the treadmiller, and broke some local law by exercising in the same room as a woman :-)

Local, as in the United Arab Emirates. Which is where I find myself now. Within a few hours of my writing my previous post last week my passport arrived in the mail, even as the authorities concerned assured me that it had not yet left the American Consulate. That issue resolved, I got on a plane soon after for my first visit to India's capital city, New Delhi. Got to say, I really like Delhi. Actually, it seemed to me like there were many Delhi's, each different from each other.

I stayed at the apartment of friends of my dad's in Lutyens' Delhi. This is the part of the capital where the elected representatives of the people and top bureaucrats live a lifestyle completely and totally removed from the rest of the country. Wide boulevards, proper roads, mansions with immaculate gardens, official servants to do their every bidding, and so forth. Fascinating, actually. The British designed this part of New Delhi as a fit capital for the Jewel of their colonial crown and the Indian political class eagerly moved in after independance.

I also went to the narrow, crowded streets of Old Delhi, to see the Jama Masjid. I got there around 1 PM and was told that non-muslims aren't allowed in until 2. So I decided to explore the area. It was a sunday and Crowded (like with a capital C). Turns out there are two special sidewalk bazaars on sundays - a book bazaar and a kabadi(junk) bazaar. I spent a couple of hours walking around these, and it was so cool. (the weather was was incredibly hot, though). People were selling stuff like an almost empty bottle of Tommy Girl, dusty circuit boards, rusty cycle chains, pirated VCDs of a movie that had just released. I was told that there is a local restaurant-type place called Karim's that was the place to go for traditional meat dishes. Tried searching for it but got lost in the bylanes of the area. Stopped to get a drink at a vendor selling coconuts on a pushcart. As I was sipping the coconut water, a cop came by and started beating the vendor with a stick !!! turns out he wasn't allowed to sell there or something, but man was it a shock to see the guy get beat up like that.

Thirst quenched, I made my way back to the Jama Masjid. And this place is something else. Huge was the first impression. Beautiful followed soon after. It was built by Shah Jahan, and I overheard this loosely translated snippet of a conversation between two young boys: "Shah Jahan sure had some great artisans. Everything he did is still so amazing today." So very true. The highlight of the visit was a climb up a long spiral staircase to one of the minarets of the mosque. They must be one of the best views of the city around. I also fell asleep for a while on the cool marble flooring alongside others who were also trying to beat the heat.

From there, a 20-rupee autorickshaw ride took me to what I'd call Next Delhi - The Metro. Now, I've travelled in subways in many cities and I have to say Delhi's metro is one of the very best. It is especially impressive considering the environs immediately outside. The stations are completely air-conditioned, very clean, good signage (rare for india, IMO), and with very clean trains that run on time. There seemed to be a lot of folks (like me) going for a sunday joy ride. Good thing, if you ask me. I saw many people trying to get on an escalator for the first time, and the kids seemed pretty excited all around asking questions of their parents about things like how the doors open automatically and what the symbol for the handicapped meant.

As a tourist of three days, the thing I loved about Delhi - new, old, next, whatever - is that all of these seemingly different worlds somehow make sense next to each other. Kinda like this stall I saw in the Book Bazaar where a kid had laid out his wares on the street. Lined up on the right side were these kitschly romance books and in one column, one below the other, were the titles:

Linda's Baby, Father Found!, and The World's Greatest Dad.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Homeless in my Hometown

There was a plan. Like Always.

And, it's all gone haywire. Like Always :-)

The US Consulate, having issued the Visa in less than a minute, has decided to take its own sweet time in sending me back my passport. I was supposed to be in Mumbai tomorrow along with my mom and we were going to go onwards to Dubai to hook up with dad-man and do some desert-chillin' before I head off to school. My parents are going to be away from Bangalore for the rest of the year so we have rented out our home and a tenant is moving in tomorrow.

So, I have spent all of today running around cancelling tickets and making new reservations. Here you have to deal with travel agents, and tickets are not only to be picked up in person, but cancelled tickets have to be returned to get refunds etcetera. Not so fun. Modified plan is that mom now goes to Hyderabad, and I find myself homeless here. I'll probably bunk at a friend's place until my passport comes in, and depending on when that happens, somehow meet up with my mom in Delhi and fly out from there. I might have to detour through Hyderabad for all I know ! Then, there's a flight from Delhi to Mumbai on my way back. Fun times, only I'm coming to realize that not too many people think of it that way. Definitely not my mom :-) and she's got ample backers in random friends and aunts :-)

The news (conveyed by a voice behind a phone obviously irriated at hearing my voice so many times) is that my passport is still sitting at the consulate. Damn. Drop it in the mail people. Please.

I've hardly done anything else since I've gotten here but Run. First to get all my documents in order, then to Chennai to the consulate and back, and now with all the travel planning stuff. No meeting friends. No making phone calls to people I was supposed to. Sorry guys. Will hopefully catch up before I leave. This evening, I found some time to go to a bookstore. In keeping with the general mood, I picked up a couple of books - From Heaven Lake Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet by Vikram Seth; and Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World by Pico Iyer.

I was also tempted to get a copy of What they don't teach you at Harvard Business School, when I realized that if I won't know what they'll teach me at HBS, this might be moot.

Monday, August 15, 2005

[Thoughts for Applicants:] Entrepreneurship Coursework at Chicago

It's that time of the year when applicants are probably considering schools and narrowing down who gets their undivided attention, sometimes love, and 200 bucks. From my own experience, one of the things I underpaid attention to was the school curricula. Partly because school reputation, alumni, recruiters etc got much more public attention as the key factors, and also because of the sort-of perception that you can't really go wrong if you go to a top school. Both true. But, the result of this thinking was that the first time around I didn't even consider Chicago because it was a 'finance' school. Re-application time, I looked closer and realized that obscured by that reputation was a very strong entrepreneurship program. I say strong based on the quality of faculty, infrastructure, and yes, coursework.

All the information is available on the website, but I thought I'd just collate it here in one place for those of you who might be interested. The pre-requisites required are usually a subset of those listed, depending on the professor.

34101 : Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity / Kaplan S., Meadow S., Weisbach M.
prereq: 35200, Corporation Finance/35201, Cases in Financial Management/35902, Theories of Financial Decisions II/33001, Microeconomics

"The chief objective of the course is to provide an understanding of the criteria for a successful entrepreneurial endeavor and the methods of analysis to make the proper judgment. The casework will consider ventures representing broad sectors of the economy, including telecommunications, healthcare and consumer services. These sectors will be used to examine entrepreneurial activity and analysis. The impact of the Internet as an enhancement to these sectors will be interwoven throughout."
- Prof. Meadow.

34102 : New Venture Strategy / Hapak S., Lowitz J., Schrager J.
prereq: 6 GSB courses completed.

"Emphasis is placed on producing a framework to analyze business opportunities of all sizes. The centerpiece is a series of models abstracted from the cases prepared during the course. These models allow the class to categorize ideas quickly, discuss benefits, note problems, and ideally, predict performance.

The class is not a series of "nuts and bolts" lectures about running small businesses, nor is it a guest lecture series. Students must be willing to become involved with the material and approach the topic with analytic rigor. From that, an organized way of thinking should evolve."
- Prof. Schrager.

34103 : Building the New Venture / Deutsch. W
prereq: 30000, Financial Accounting/37000, Marketing Strategy

"This course is intended for students who are interested in starting new businesses with a lesser emphasis on investing in start-up companies or buying existing firms. The course focuses on small company management and the development of new enterprises from both a strategic and a tactical, action-oriented, hands-on perspective. Students learn how to raise initial seed funding, compensate for limited human and financial resources, establish initial brand values and positioning, leverage a strong niche position, determine appropriate sourcing and sales channels, and develop execution plans in sales, marketing, product development and operations."

She just received the Innovative Method of Teaching Entrepreneurship Award for this course.

Personal Note - I was in her session during Admit Weekend and I blogged then: "My biggest take-away - the amount of passion she had for what she did. I must say I have not seen that in many of the professors I have had the chance to observe at various b-schools. It was motivating, to say the least." I am really looking forward to taking her class.

34104 : Special Topics: Developing a New Venture / Kaplan S., Rudnick E.
prereq: Advance to second round of New Venture Challenge.

"This course is designed to allow students who have advanced to the second round of the New Venture Challenge to develop their ideas into full business plans. Student teams will work largely on their own to develop their business plans. The class meetings consist primarily of plan presentations. Venture capitalists, private investors, and entrepreneurs will help critique and improve the plans during the presentations. The class meetings also will include presentations by a lawyer on the legal considerations of a new venture."
Prof. Kaplan.

34105 : Entrepreneurship Internship Seminar / Rudnick E.
prereq: selection as a Polsky Center Entrepreneur Intern or other approved internship.

"This course provides students who were selected to participate in the Polsky Center Entrepreneur Intern Program or Social Entrepreneur program a forum to strengthen their entrepreneurial network and insight skills. This is achieved through the development of unique case studies and analysis presented by the faculty, by outside entrepreneurs and by the students themselves. The students will also interact with the other interns through presentations and sharing of experiences in order to broaden their perspective on entrepreneurial/private equity career opportunities. Outside guest lecturers on entrepreneurship and leadership will be included as part of the classroom session. In addition to the forum sessions the students will have one-on-one meetings with the faculty advisor in the development of their own cases. The best cases developed in the class are entered into a national entrepreneurship case competition."

34106 : Commercializing Innovation / Meadow, S.
prereq: None.

"Using the case method, this course will focus on the strategy and tactics of forming, acquiring and growing new ventures i.e., increasing shareholder value for business ventures funded with private equity. The exit goal for these enterprises will follow an initial public offering or a sale in approximately 3 to 5 years. This course is meant to aid those students who are considering being part of an entrepreneurial project or evaluating such enterprises from the position of a public investor, private investor, or any stakeholder serving these emerging companies.
In order to familiarize the students with the strategy to approach success with these fragile companies, the course has been designed to consider the unique constraints upon the functional areas of marketing, operations, finance and strategic planning in entrepreneurial endeavors."

34110 : Social Entrepreneurship / Gertner R.
prereq: None listed.

"This course is about social entrepreneurship and non-profit management. There has been significant growth and attention given to borrowing ideas and institutions from the world of entrepreneurship and for-profits to social enterprises. We will study the theory and practice of this phenomenon.
We will study cases from a broad set of industries including the arts, community banking, microfinance, health care, the environment, and education. The course will largely be case discussions with occasional guest speakers and lectures."

34701 : New Venture and Small Enterprise Lab / Darragh L.
prereq: 2 full quarters of GSB coursework.

"This one-quarter course is intended for students who are interested in starting or working for a new venture and/or smaller business or are interested in consulting to such entities. This course is designed to apply the GSB's strong base of theoretical knowledge to the problems and opportunities of new ventures and smaller enterprises. Teams of three or four students work on specific strategic and operational projects for early-stage companies in the Chicago area. The students work with the venture's management under the guidance of the instructor. The clients represent diverse industries including technology, biotech, industrial and consumer based firms. Not-for-profit organizations and inner-city businesses may also be included."

34702 : Private Equity/Venture Capital Lab / Rudnick E.
prereq: 6 GSB courses.

"This course is intended for students who are interested in learning more about what it is like to work in or with private equity investors or a venture capital firm. The course is designed to complement the student's academic courses through hands-on experience in the analysis and understanding of investment decisions of venture capitalists/private investment firms.
Students will work as interns on specific assignments for venture capital/private equity firms. These assignments can range from evaluating new market or business opportunities for investment to working on specific issues/opportunities for portfolio companies. While the course is scheduled for the spring quarter, the internships may begin earlier and possibly continue beyond the spring quarter."

34703: International Entrepreneurship Lab - China / Kooser W. & Zmijewski M.
prereq: Need to apply and be selected, not available for bidding.

"This course is designed to provide MBA students with the frameworks and practical experience necessary to understand the nuances of starting or growing a business internationally. In particular, it will focus on the critical aspects of building a business in China. Given China's accession to the WTO and growing attention on business development there, there are increasing opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures of all sizes and types. However, success in this market requires both a solid mastery of business fundamentals and a deep understanding of China's unique cultural, regulatory and institutional frameworks.

The course will be run much like a GSB laboratory course. Many class meetings will consist of the project teams working on their analyses. And, in most cases, the direction of each project and the key issues that need to be addressed will be determined by the students themselves. The faculty coach will provide an overview of an analytic framework and general guidance on developing the projects.

Not a huge list, but I think a nice breadth that covers many aspects of preparing to start or finance new ventures. It is also worth keeping in mind that Chicago is one of very few schools where every course you choose is an elective. Even the *required* courses can be chosen from a basket of courses, and can be taken at the student's convenience. The full import of this flexibility is not inconsequential. Consider, for instance, that one wanted to take all of the above courses. There is the freedom to plan a course of action spread over two years rather than just one (in the case where Y1 is to be spent in Core). I am not saying one is better than the other, just different. I have not yet thought too much about my course selections but i suspect i am going to work backwards - pick the courses I really want to take, figure out what pre-reqs i need to get done, and spead them out over the two years in a smart fashion. One of the things I want to do is take Building New Ventures in my first year so that I have the option to spend the summer working on the idea as part of the Entrepreneurial Internship Seminar course. I have the freedom to make other choices along those lines.

I hope this was a useful listing. Good luck to all applicants as you take those GMATs and start to work on applications. Feel free to ping me on any questions relating to Chicago GSB or if you come to visit the campus. I will be happy to offer any assistance I can.

Friday, August 12, 2005

It's official: I'm Easy

I just got out of the US Consulate after spending an increasingly apprehensive two and a half hours waiting for my turn to speak with an officer. I don't know if today was typical, but it seemed like almost everybody's F1 visa applications were rejected. The most common cause was that the candidate is a potential immigrant. The other one, and this surprised me, was that the consular officer thought that the student wouldn't do well in their graduate studies. If you failed a subject in undergrad, or you had low test scores, you didn't get a visa. A couple of people were asked to retake GRE's and TOEFL's before their next appointment !

So, I finally get up in front of this stern-looking lady who asks me "you went to the US to study, ended up working there, and now you want to go back and study. why?". Two years of writing application essays had prepared me for a 30-second pitch, ending with "that why I need an MBA, and not just any MBA but a good MBA". She goes "i see you've chosen one of the best". and before I could respond:

You're easy. Visa Granted.


Sunday, August 07, 2005

It's all about Trust.

I thought of my mate bskewl last week. One might suggest that if that was to happen then it must have been the direst of situations :-) Well, it could have turned out to be. I was getting a haircut when I suddenly remembered his experience with a disobedient barber in the boonies of Ohio.

I, on the other hand, had asked for it. Was walking around Milan, having been refused (well, they were actually full) access to The Last Supper, when I spotted a funky hair salon. I figured if I can't afford any of the designer duds, I might as well walk around with some Milan style on my head. And, so I walked in, and they spoke English, and pretty soon I was decked out in what seemed like three layers of color-coordinated gowns. Only problem was that only the receptionist spoke English. So, I'm sitting there and I 'think' i told my 'stylista' what I wanted done - something along the lines of you're the artist, show me your art - but was pretty sure it didn't translate at all. I vaguely remember making some hand movements at the back of my head etc which was all she probably noticed. I've also been told that some of our more primitive body language like yes or no mean the opposites in different cultures.

All of those thoughts, and some more, came to mind as soon as a snip of the scissors dropped the length of my hair from i-can-chew-it to above-the-eyebrows in one fell swoop. Not quite the buzz-cut that the barbers of ohio acquainted bskewl with, but nonetheless. Of course I really couldn't tell her anything, which I suspect had less to do with my inability to speak Italian than with an unwillingness to see her oh-so-cute smile turn to a frown :-) So, I decided to chill and see what turns out.

I don't know. I don't even think I check in the mirror anymore. Probably because I don't really like it, but I feel like the fact that I have a 'Milan' haircut over-rides what it looks like. They've got to know what they're doing right. They're the gurus of style.

Come to think of it, it's kinda fucked up. Not unlike going to business school. Will I show up at Chicago and expect it not to be what I wished for? Or worse, be not what I want. And, will I, then resort to walking around feeling summarily good about being associated with Chicago?

I'll have to wait and see. For now, am busy with getting paperwork ready for my Visa interview this friday. I had a kinda nervous moment last night - what if my visa is rejected? All this work of two years applying etcetera ... Good thoughts, Good thoughts.

Caught up on the blogs today and I see that the folks at the other schools have started to arrive on campuses and some have started pre-term and others are pre-pre-term partying. Here's wishing all of y'all a good time for the next two years.

Off I go to fill out the DS-157.

Monday, August 01, 2005

arrivederci, boston. next stop: well, um, ...

So, I´m done doing Boston. For once, I made my plane with plenty time. This was after actually managing to get my bank statements and other paperwork squared up, packing and moving most of the stuff I needed to, getting auto insurance issues taken care of, and - here i outdo myself - finishing all the required pre-MBA tests et al a full two weeks before the deadline! just when i was beginning to think that this whole MBA thing was probably getting me to fall in line, I walk into the terminal at Boston and realize that I had left my phone in the car and my brother who had dropped me off had driven away :)

ah well. these things have to happen right. i was compensated by an empty seat next to mine so the journey was pretty comfortable. Get off in Milan, make certain clarifications with regard to my checked-in luggage, read my book, and walk up to my gate, again with plenty time, for my connecting flight. And, what do you know -


Yup :-) The rains in Mumbai have apparently shut down the airport for another 2 days and so today´s as well as tomorrow´s flight have been cancelled ! the alternatives are to either fly back to where you came from, or wait it out for a few days. Oh, and this being a weather-related emergency, they are under no obligation to put people up in hotels and such. it´s a pretty bad scene at the airport. people have to pretty much stay for 24 hours in the terminal, most likely 48 or more if they want to go into Mumbai. The only other flights are to Delhi, and they are packed.

Aah, my adventures continue. I decided to jump the status-of-tomorrow´s-flight line of questioning and got myself the next available confirmed ticket out on thursday. and my visa from last month´s travels gets me into Italia ! So, here I am, in a small hostelaria a few blocks from the train station.

Next 3 days: Milano. After that ... :)