Saturday, August 1, 2009

Swine flu scare in India

Yesterday I returned to Pune after 10 days and was shocked to see almost half the population wearing face-masks to protect against swine-flu (H1N1 virus in India). Considering that there have been 6 H1N1 related deaths in Pune in the last week, the fear among the people is understandable. But is the mass hysteria justifiable?
Y'day, I watched a TV interview by the Indian health minister talking about the preventive measures taken by his goverment. He proudly claimed that India has screened 4.7 million people which is the biggest exercise of its kind in the world. He also blamed travellers coming to India for bringing this virus into the country.
While I agree that this virus has come to India through passengers coming from overseas, I would say that the biggest blame lies with the Indian government for its negligent attitude which has led to this situation in India.

The first reports of Swine flu came from Mexico in April and in May, the WHO talked about Swine Flu being a potential pendemic. What was Indian government doing then to prevent the spread of this virus in India? I returned to India from Paris on 29th June. I took the flight from Paris to Abu Dhabi and then changed a flight from Abu Dhabhi for India. After the flight landed at Abu Dhabi, every passenger had to undergo a test where thermal scanners manned by doctors screened passengers for potnetial flu symptoms. The system was very simple to implement and very efficient as well. Compare this to how this threat was dealt in India.

Before landing in Mumbai, each passenger was given a declaration form in which the person had to fill in some basic information like whether they had been to a flu affected country or had been in contact with a flu infected person. I filled this form in the flight and then landed at the airport. There was utter chaos at the terminal. There were some officials who wore face masks and asked each passenger to go to a particular room to get the form attested. I duly went to that room and got the form attested. After that I cleared immigration and entered into Mumbai with that form still with me; no official had looked at that form after I got it attested. So here I was, back in India, with a useless form in which I had mentioned that I had been to a swine flu infected country. No one had bothered to read that form and test me for any possible symptoms. And now the government blames travellers!!!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My latest reads

In the last couple of months, I've read many books and thought it worthwhile to write brief reviews of some of the books I liked and would recommend reading:

Wolf Totem - A story, set in the late 1960s, about some Chinese students who spent some months in the Mongolian grasslands as part of their academic project. It is an interesting book that sheds light into the relationship between man and wolf, Chinese and Mongols, nature and civilisation, nomads and settled farmers...

AK47 - A very interesting book, which examines the genesis and impact of the most widespread assault rifle the world has seen. Of particular interest are the stories of how this weapon came to be used in all the major conflicts in last 60 yrs and how it has now become a cultural icon - both as a symbol of resistence and of terror.

The African Dream - This book has been written by using excerpts from the recovered diaries of Che Guevara. It describes the events surrounding his attempt to support the struggle in Africa (mainly Congo) against the "Imperialistic powers". It makes an interesting read if you want to understand the history and political aspects of the conflicts in the African continent.

Emperor: The Field of swords - A part of a series of books on Julius Caeser, this book details the period when Caeser returned from Spain to Rome, won the election as a Counsel and then left Rome to conquer the world; It vividly describes the battles he fought in conquering the Gaulish region. The book ends with Caeser's return to Rome setting into motion a bloody power struggle which eventually led to a civil war and downfall of Roman Republic.

The God Delusion - One of the most thought-provoking books I've read, it talks about the conflict between science and faith (or superstition). Dawkins raises questions about the existence of God and then uses scientific arguments to challenge the theories commonly used to support God's existence. He also raises important questions about religion and its impact on our lives.

A Year in the Merde - One of the most hilarious books I've read, it is about a Briton who moves to Paris to work and about the merde (shit) he finds himself in. Having lived in Paris for almost 2 yrs now, I could relate with most of the book :). A must read book for anyone who has spent some time in Paris.

Friday, April 17, 2009

HEC and Exchange programs

Here's a question I received in response to my last post:
"In every interview or article regarding HEC i see that it partners with 50 schools around the world for Exchange programmes. I get that you did not do the exchange program. Any reasons? How is the procedure of selection? or does every one get to do the exchange prgm."

I am glad that someone asked this question because this is a topic which I had missed covering in my posts and this is quite an important question.

So this is how exchange program works:

Procedure of selection
HEC has exchange program partnerships with close to 50 schools across the world. The way it works is pretty simple. HEC announces the opening of applications for exchange programs with its partner schools - the announcement basically informs students about three things -
1. Names of the partner schools
2. No. of seats with each school
3. Deadline of application

Once the announcement is made, every MBA participant is free to submit his/her application for target schools. The application contains some short questions asking applicants about their motivation for that school etc.
After the deadline, all applications are collected and reviewed by a committee at HEC. In case of multiple applications for a school, the participants are invited for interview and then a final decision is made. The decision is made solely by the committee at HEC and the partner school is not involved in this decision.

Why did I not go for an exchange program
As with your b-school application, there are several factors that you should consider while applying for an exchange program. Why do you want to go for an exchange program? The main reasons are:
1. A different experience - HEC gives you a European experience. You could go to a US b-school to get a different experience and enhance your professional network
2. Brand Name - Getting a better recognized b-school name on your resume
3. Career - You have specific career objectives that you could achieve by going to a particular b-school

For me, there were two main reasons why I did not go for an exchange program:
1. Career - I figured that going for an exchange program will not improve my career prospects. Most of the schools I was interested in were based in US. Going to a US school as an exchange student did not appeal to me because of the economic uncertainties and work-visa related problems faced by international students. Also, by staying at HEC, I had better chances of leveraging its brand in France and continental Europe to get a job
2. Funds - Going to any school for an exchange program will have required me to spend around 5K $ which I was not keen on spending

Does every student get to go for an exchage program?
The answer is No (generally). I think there are around 50 seats for exchange and there are 130 odd students in Sep intake. So it's not possible for everyone to go on exchange. However, there are only 50-60 students in Jan intake. So most of the students in Jan intake can go for exchange program.

Friday, April 3, 2009

HEC MBA - differences between Sep and Jan intakes

In some of previous posts, I have addressed the common queries about HEC that people have asked me over the past couple of years. In this post, I am addressing another such important query - the difference between Sep and Jan intakes

The biggest difference is the program structure. Click here to look at the program structure for the two intakes

The 16 month HEC MBA program is divided into two halves - Core Phase and Personalized Phase; Core Phase is the backbone of the MBA and has common, mandatory courses for everyone. Personalized Phase allows one to customize the program and provides options for electives, internship and exchange program.

As can be seen from the table, the program structure for Sep and Jan intakes is very different. Personalized phase for Sep intake allows for a lot of options - one can attend classes at HEC for the entire 16 months, for 8 months (do the core phase at HEC, take up a long term internship and then go on exchange program) or 12 months (core phase, internship and electives/exchange).
For Jan Intake, things are completely different. They must take classes at HEC for 1 year (Core Phase and PP1) and in the last 4 months, they must either do an internship or go for exchange. Thus, even if they want, they cannot attend classes at HEC during the last 4 months.

Apart from the program structure, the main differences are:
1. Class Size - Sep intake has around 130 people and Jan intake has 60-70 people. So Sep intake allows you to interact with more people
2. Choice of electives - This comes directly from the difference in program structures. During summers, HEC attracts some great visiting professors from other universities; Sep intake is at an advantage here and I've had some of my best courses with visiting proffs.
3. Internships - In Jan intake, you can finish classes in 12 months and then start working (even full time without technically finishing your MBA). It also becomes easier to find a long internship if you are in Jan intake. So if you want to spend less time studying, Jan intake is better.

Friday, March 27, 2009

HEC - top b-school outside US for marketing

In a survey of over 19,000 students conducted by The Princeton Review, HEC has been voted as the top b-school outside USA for teaching of marketing. You can read a press article here

Monday, March 23, 2009

HEC v/s other European schools

Here's a post to address another frequently raised question - How does HEC compare with other European b-schools.
Disclaimer: The views given below (in Italics) are NOT mine, but of an INSEAD 2003 alum who shared his views on this forum in response to a question on HEC v/s IE

Now here's the scene. I am going to give u a non-biased opinion on both the schools. Having said this, please understand both are superior business schools and I have not done my MBA at either school, so I can only tell you from what I have heard and understood.

Let me dissect your question.

1. Lets keep RSM aside when you have already made it to IE.

2. IESE - It's a two year program and very expensive. So when you have IE, lets even keep IESE aside.

3. ESADE - What is your career goal? is it in marketing? Then Esade is a very good school. But for other specializations like finance and strategy, ESADE is just about mediocre. But, I would definitely put ESADE on the league of IE Spain though there is a huge difference in their rankings.

Now we come to HEC v/s IE Spain. I need to know your career interests to give u a more detailed answer on this. If i were you, I would have taken HEC - Paris and I'll let you know the reasons.

(i) Curriculum - The way HEC has planned its 16 months curriculum is fantastic with projects, internships and its a shortened 2 year program. So you enjoy the process of management.

(ii) Diversity - After INSEAD, HEC is second when it comes to class diversity. With IE you will have 75% Spanish speaking people. If you know Spanish well, its great (you will anyway have to learn either French or Spanish) but you might just feel left out because the Asian influence on this school is very low.

Whereas HEC is 30%+ Asian, along with applicants from other parts of the world. The school is completely in English. I have also visited HEC long time back and the campus is beautiful. You will definitely need to learn French but during the 16 months, French is not a mandate, you pick it up along the way. and that's beautiful because by the time u r out, you know an extra language which takes u so many notches higher.

(iii) INSEAD does not give HEC a competition, for one that HEC has a class size of 150 and its easier to place these students. INSEAD is in a different league altogether. INSEADians wont find it tough to get a job.

(iv) Placements wise IE and HEC will have the same placements, though HEC being in France, closer to LUX, BEL, SWI and UK will give u better opportunities.

(v) It scores over IE in marketing, strategy and finance. IE scores over in entrepreneurship.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

100 blogs for MBA students/aspirants

I received an email today with a link to 100 blogs for MBA students. I believe that most people reading my blog are interested in MBA and could benefit from this list. You can access the list here

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

H1-B issue - BofA withdraws job offers from MBA students

In my last post I had talked about the possibility that MBA students could face problems because of the restrictions imposed on companies receiving TARP funds. Well, the problems have begun. BofA becomes the first company to withdraw job offers from MBA students because of these restrictions.

Is this a stand-alone incidence or just the tip of the iceberg? I hope it is an isolated instance otherwise it will have a huge negative impact on USA's reputation as an attractor of world's brightest minds for higher studies!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Problems for prospective H1-B workers in US

In my previous post, I had touched upon the new clause in US Stimulus Bill to prevent companies from hiring foreign nationals on H1-B visas.

I found some more details about the same:
Companies currently seeking Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds

Specifications on how companies receiving TARP funds will impact H1B hiring

I think this is an issue which MBA applicants should consider before applying to US schools.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Getting UK Tier 1 visa to get tougher from April

Came across this article yesterday. This comes only a week after the clause in US Stimulus Bill to prevent companies receiving bail-out funds from hiring foreign workers on H1-B visas.

One's opinion about this story will depend on which side of the fence one is on - you'll applaud if you are a US/UK resident who is worried about his job and you'll despise it if you are looking to enter US/UK on H1B/Tier 1 visa.

With no clear signs of improvement in the world economy and looming fears of more bank failures, I believe that such protectionist measures will only increase. Makes me wonder if this is a reversal of globalization??

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Understanding the Credit Crisis

Came across these videos which explain the credit crisis:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lipdub video by HEC Students

Check this out

P.S. - This video is by Grand Ecole students from HEC and not MBA students ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Career Prospects at HEC

Over the past year, I have received several queries about the career prospects at HEC. I have mostly responded to those queries over emails and now I think it will be better to dedicate a post to this important topic.

I would start with the way recruitment works here.
At HEC, recruitment is always an ongoing process and the school does not have a specific recruitment season. Throughout the year, companies visit HEC, meet students and deliver presentations. During presentations, they advertise the positions they are recruiting for and then invite students to apply. Applications are made mostly through website/email and consist of CV and cover letter. The applications are screened and then shortlisted candidates are invited for interviews. Thus, there is no recruitment season where companies would come to campus to shortlist people and interview them.

Let's talk about Career Change now. Most of the people I know mentioned Career Change as one of the key reasons behind MBA. Career change usually involves changing one of the following variables:
1. Function (e.g. Marketing, Finance, HR)
2. Industry/Sector
3. Geography

In my experience, changing Sector or Geography is relatively easier than changing Function. Also, the task becomes much difficult if your desired career move involves more than one variable. It is extremely difficult to change all three variables at the same time.

Role of Language:- This, according to me, is one of the most important yet underrated factors while choosing a European b-school. Business in continental Europe is still conducted mostly in local language(s) and one must speak the local language (fluently) to work in client-facing positions (e.g. Consulting, Sales).

Coming to the theme of this post - Career prospects at HEC, I would say it is very subjective; depends on a lot of variables. HEC is probably the best known b-school within France and has a pretty good reputation in western Europe. So if you are looking to work in this region, HEC is a good choice provided you take into account the above mentioned points about Language and Career Change. If you are looking to work outside western Europe, then HEC might not be a good choice unless you are confident that you can achieve your post-MBA career goals without seeking school's help.

If I were to summarize my post, I would say that at HEC, you are in charge of your career. The career services will help you in updating your CV and getting in touch with companies; you will have to then network with recruiters and get yourself an interview call. Despite its enviable reputation, HEC MBA tag will not, by default, guarantee a great post-MBA career unless you are practical and put in the required efforts.

You could also read this related post about MBA from Europe

Friday, February 6, 2009

Life after MBA

It has been almost 2 months since I finished my classes at HEC. After finishing my course,I went to India and spent a month there. It was a good break - helped me relax at home, spend time with friends/family and most importantly gave me time to think.

It was a much needed break for the last few months at HEC were pretty tiring - because of work pressure and job-hunt. Right now, things are pretty bad for MBAs - most of the companies have frozen fresh hiring completely. This has created a bigger problem for people who were pursuing MBA to change careers; in these times, it is extremely difficult to get a break into a new career-path.

I had received an offer for a position based in New York but then visa turned out to be an issue. I could not find anything else that interested me. So I decided to pursue another option which is a long term internship. Long-term internships (3-4 months to 1 year) is something unique that I found in France. Most companies here offer internships throughout the year and the interns do the same work as full-time recruits. It works well for the companies because they don't have to commit for a long term and they can employ people on project basis. In this downturn, the opportunities for internships have increased as companies don't want to commit to recruiting full-time employees.

Things are similar at other b-schools. I spoke with friends at other top schools and most people of the class of 2009 are in a difficult spot; It will be extremely difficult for people graduating this year to get their first choice; we might have to settle with our second/third choices right now.

In my future posts, I am going to write more about MBA, my takeaways from this experience and pros-and-cons of international MBA. Drop me an email if you have any specific questions that you want to be addressed; I will try to answer them too