Writing Case Studies- Some Tricks

I often get asked in faculty development programs or elsewhere, about how one can write a case study. Sometimes, even why one should use one at all in teaching management. The usual excuse is that students elsewhere are not very high IQ like in the IIMs, and therefore will not read/understand them. Or that the university system does not allow them to be used etc. My take is that internal exam and everyday teaching is under your control (the teacher's) and you should use whatever method is effective. Students will also generally find cases more effective and fun than lectures. You can supplement that with tips on tackling university exams if you like.

The other question, how to write one and why to write one, is best answered by someone who has done this. My own experience at IIML, IIMK, Kirloskar Institute and elsewhere shows that you can write effective cases in India in two ways. One, use public domain or secondary data. You can fictionalise it if you want- give a new name to the company.

Second, go to small companies or start-ups who are more willing to share information rather than large companies who are generally reluctant to do so. Some will, most won't. Go through a contact if possible-makes life easier.

Lastly, student projects can be turned into cases if you make the effort. I have several to prove the point, done at IIMK and Kirloskar Institute. The pleasure of using your own case study in class, makes the effort worthwhile, even if you don't publish it.

Playful Songs

Some playful songs.

1. Chhedo na meri zulfein, sab log kya kahenge

2. Zara nazron se kehdo jee, nishaana chook na jaaye

3. Baagon mein bahar hai?

4. Aap yahan aaye kis liye? Aapne Bulaya is liye. Aaye hain to kaam bhi bataaiye, pehle zara aap muskuraiye. I think this is from Kal Aaj aur Kal.

5. Achcha to hum chalte hain...

6. Hamare siwa tumhare aur kitne diwaane hain? from Apradh

7. Hum the woh thee aur samaa rangeen samajh gaye na..Chalti ka Naam Gaadi

8. Arey yaar meri tum bhi ho ghazab ghunghat to zara odho...

9. Chhod do aanchal zamaana kya kahega...in adaaon ka zamaana bhi hai deewana,..

10. Jawaan jaaneman haseen dilruba, mile do dil jawaan nisaar ho gaya...

The Author-answer to the quiz

The two long passages that I quoted in my last blog were by a fairly ancient author not too many of us would be currently aware of. Marcel Proust is his name. He was French, lived a fairly long time ago and wrote a very, very long novel which ran into many volumes, among other writings.

His thoughts on living and various aspects of life have been summarised by Alain De Botton (not Bottom, please note) in a marvelous book called "How Proust Can Change Your LIfe." I would recommend this to anyone who has the time. Proust's views on original use of words by a writer (rather than cliched expressions) is indeed eye-opening for an occasional author like me. So are his thoughts on what could make love successful (apparently, its denial), and many such gems that probably require savouring. His take on kissing was so funny as to be an ROFL, to use Facebook jargon.

I think I had read another book by Alain De Botton on Philosophy and Status before this, which was also good.

Guess the Author

"That abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors are transformed for us, who don't even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of cafe au lait."

Who is the author of this? Answer will follow in my next blog. Hint- the following passage is also his.

"There are few things humans are more dedicated to than unhappiness. Had we been placed on earth by a malign creator for the exclusive purpose of suffering, we would have good reason to congratulate ourselves on our enthusiastic response to the task. Reasons to be inconsolable abound: the frailty of our bodies, the fickleness of love, the insincerities of social life, the compromises of friendship, the deadening effects of habit. In the face of such persistent ills, we might naturally expect that no event would be awaited with greater anticipation than the moment of our own extinction."

The Vague Woman's Handbook by Devapriya Roy

This is not my diatribe against the fairer sex, but the title of a very good book I read. The author (Devapriya Roy) is a woman, and not an MCP (Male Chauvinist Pig). And the story is engaging, and full of identifiable characters. One of the two (vague?) women protagonists is a fifty plus Indira Sen who works for a government literary outfit. The second one is a just married, confused young lady who joins the same organisation on contract, and ends up making friends with the first.

Without too much melodrama (there has to be some, because women are involved), and with gentle humour, the story nicely keeps you involved, as these two women fight their own battles- nothing dramatic again, just everyday stuff like balancing credit cards and loan sharks, husband, in-laws, daughter, Delhi's autowalas, and the like.

The characters are etched very well, and most readers would be able to identify with some or all of them, like a retired defence officer, the parents, the maid, the neighbours, the landlords and so on. Very easy read. Recommended.

HDFC Bank

Ages ago (it seems), India had a nationalised banking system, and they used to treat customers like dirt. And for housing, there was no one to turn to for loans. Then Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) was set up and the rest is history. They became the pioneers of the housing finance industry in India. All others were imitators. Later on, the company ventured into banking for retail and corporate sectors. All through, they preserved their ethical standards of doing business. Briefly, we worked for the erstwhile HDFC as their market research agency when I worked in industry in the mid-eighties. I was struck by their professionalism and niceness towards everyone, customers and others, while dealing with the company.

The reason for such a long spiel about the company is that even today, they come across as a very honest, conservative bank- which is probably how a bank should be- if you don't want to send the financial world into a tailspin, that is. They have a program of recruiting managers for their fast-growing branches through a collaborative effort with select B schools, and IMT Nagpur is one of those B Schools.

Songs with a Soul

Soulful numbers abound in Hindi films. Here are some of my favourites.

1. Koi hota jisko apna hum apna keh lete yaaro, paas nahin to door hi hota lekin koi mera apna...

2. Ghunghroo ki tarah bajta hi raha hoon main..kabhi is pug mein kabhi us pug mein bajta hi raha hoon main..

3. Kiska rasta dekhe ae dil ae saudai, meelon hai khamoshi, barson hai tanhai...

4. Jeena yahaan, marna yahaan, iske siwa jaana kahaan....

5. Zindagi, kaisi hai paheli, hai, kabhi to hasaae, kabhi yeh rulaye...

6. Kai baar yoon hi dekha hai, yeh jo man ki seema rekha hai, man todne lagta hai, anjaani aas ke peeche, anjaani pyaas ke peeche, man daudne lagta hai..

7. Din dhal jaaye haye shaam na jaaye, tu to na aaye teri yaad sataaye....

8. Dukhi man mere sun mera kehna jahan nahin chaina wahan nahin rehna..

9. Dil aaj shaayar hai gham aaj nagma hai, shab yeh ghazal hai sanam, ghairon ke sheron ko o sunnewaale ho is taraf bhi karam...

10. This is a ghazal and not a movie song, "Dil mein ek lehar si uthi hai abhi..koi taaza hawa chali hai abhi.."

11. Main khayaal hoon kisi aur ka, mujhe sochta koi aur hai..sarey aaina mera aks (reflection) hai pasey aaina koi aur hai.....(also a ghazal)

Problems and Solutions

We often act as if every problem has an instant solution. Example- India loses a cricket match. Replace the captain, selectors, or a couple of players. Reality is that whoever is playing, has to play well. Also, if a game has winners and losers, someone has to lose, even if both teams have played well.

People are an important part of many solutions, but not the only ones. There may be infrastructure issues, for instance. Indians were always good, relatively, at Maths or Science. But we did not (until recently) have the facilities for them to be able to use these skills, due to flawed economic policies. So while they designed solutions for networking of banks in USA sitting here or on site, we could only bank with third world systems in our banks. Computer imports took years and lot of red tape.

So, we need the environment for people to use their skills, and some organisations (or countries) have these. China came from nowhere to build sports superstars in just a few years, because they focussed on doing so, and removed the bottlenecks that might have existed.

It may be time for us now to get FDI in retail for example, to increase the efficiency of our supply chains and people. Healthy competition may help us improve everything, and consumers may benefit. Maybe, we could try it in higher education too. Let the foreign universities in.

Every problem may have a solution, but it may take hard work to actually implement it, even after you have found one. Sometimes, there are many solutions to a problem.

Training in Spoken English

Visited Elixir Academy, Pune, where my daughter is a trainer. It provides training to anyone who wants it, in spoken English and Personality Development. The students were graduating, and some of them put up a delightfully impressive adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, "The importance of being Earnest". It was all the more impressive because a couple of months ago, the performers were struggling to speak English well.

It is amazing what the ability to speak correctly, and in front of an audience, can do to one's confidence. Those of us fortunate to have learnt this in school can probably never appreciate the difference it makes to someone who has been to a vernacular medium school. But this is indeed a great business, and serves a social and economic need.

If you can read and write, you can never get bored too, as you tend to find books to read almost anywhere, or at least newspapers and magazines, if not books. So it is a cure for all time. But if you can speak well too, it is icing on the cake, and opens the door to many career options as well.

The Malayali Mind

A strange dichotomy seems to exist in Kerala. The average guy there is intelligent but avenues to use the intelligence don't seem to exist anywhere in his own state. It is racked by the wrong kind of politics, one which does not let any enterprise thrive. We all know what it did to West Bengal over the years. As a result, any intelligent student has to migrate out of the state to get a decent education in any field, and the average worker to the Gulf for a decent job.

Why the state cannot create good educational institutes in any field is hard to understand. When even so-called backward states have a few good institutions of learning in all fields, it should be a priority for Kerala too.

In contrast, places like Pune are an educational hub and attract students from all over. Even Tamilnadu gets a lot of its students from Kerala, and so does Karnataka. There is an old movie called Hum Nahin Sudhrenge, and I hope this does not continue to be the case with Kerala's job and education scene.

Tourism and IT could perhaps be job generators of even greater potential, aided by Ayurveda and medical tourism. But quality higher education must also fit in somewhere, for Kerala's own sake.

Bade Miya, Chhote Miya

While flipping channels yesterday, I came across the old Govinda- Amitabh classic (don't frown, it's a classic of sorts) 'Bade Miya Chhote Miya'. Made in the typical irreverent style of David Dhawan, it unites two comedian cops in a caper that is fairly mindless, but very entertaining. Leave-your-brains at home kind of a movie.

But what is more interesting about the movie is one of those fun songs which starts with a grunt that sounds like "oonh" and continues through its 'lyrics' such as they are- Kisi Disco mein jaayein, kisi hotel main khaayein,' and so on. Not exactly poetry, but Govinda and Raveena bring a sort of uninhibited zaniness to it. That reminded me of yet another of my Govinda favorites, the only song that was ahead of the prevailing technology at the time- I am talking about "What is mobile number, what is your smile number" which I think Karisma and Govinda absolutely rocked in. Such an unusual way of wooing a girl for those times!

If you think of Bollywood as entertainment, then many of the Govinda films would qualify for No.1 status. Though Amitabh looked a bit jaded in Bade Miya, he held his own in all the comic scenes, adding to the fun.

Creativity and Good Ideas

Reading a book on Creativity by a prof. whose name sounds Russian and is too complex to remember. Anyway, he has a theory about "Flow" of ideas. He quotes an interesting Q/A with Linus Pauling, a Nobel Laureate, and a student about how to get good ideas.

A student: "Dr. Pauling, how does one go about having good ideas?"

Pauling: "You have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones."

He also says finding pleasure in the right things is the best thing we can teach the young. And, that our schools and teachers are ineffective in bringing interest to the subject being taught. Parental models and behavior also usually sets wrong examples, hindering creativity and satisfaction among the children who grow up with wrong ideas.

Interesting thoughts based on interviews with highly accomplished and creative people including authors, musicians (Ravi Shankar) and the like.

Milestones

IMT Nagpur hosts its annual fest, Milestone 35, soon. In preparation, there is an internal competition called Milestone 34. This just concluded last week. This week, there are two more events- a sports competition called Rann Bhoomi, comprising 13 teams and many sports, like Baddy, Cricket, tennis, Throwball, Football, etc. But the interesting part is that it is integrated with an alumni get-together across all batches, called Melange. A big turnout of alumni from all over the country is arriving, to celebrate togetherness with their alma mater, and their juniors. These events can be very emotional, as anyone who has attended one of their own can attest. IMT has a few entrepreneurial acts to its credit, like a cooperative store managed by students, and a Frost 'n Fun outlet, a Snooker facility and a Laundry, run entrepreneurially on campus.

Talking of milestones, this blog has reached one too. Over 5000 views. Though it started somewhat uncertainly, I have managed to continue this activity over about 3 years, because I like its nature of sharing in a stress-free environment at my own pace. I admit I am sometimes scared by Facebook, with its in-your face style of communicating, though I have found several long-lost friends, students and occasionally, family through it. Occasional comments from readers let me know if I connect, so keep them coming. I have been surprised by unexpected references to this blog by some friends I meet. I did'nt know they read it!

Services Marketing- Lessons from Thailand

Why do I get the feeling that we are a nation of sour-pusses whenever I visit Thailand? What does it take to smile, joke, be friendly with anyone you come across? Why are we 'like this only?'

Just came back from another visit to play golf there. But this is not about golf. It is about service. Even apart from the smile, I saw a few things and they left me thinking, "Why can't we be like these guys?", on the lines of the My Fair Lady Song, "Why can't women be (more) like Men?" The Thai people are prone to smiling, and even joking, with the limited knowledge of English that they (the people on the road) have. More importantly, they take pride in doing their work, mostly without direct supervision. Can you imagine that happening in our country? I can't. One of the managers in a company (in India)used to joke that"follow-up" was the largest industry in our country, because people will not do what they are supposed to, or what they promised they would.

All appointments, like the taxi driver, the tour guide, were kept meticulously. People apologised even when they didn't need to, because it was not their fault. Smiling is like a religion. So is light hearted banter with anyone at all.

I also saw Alcazar, the revue or variety show again. It was amazing the second time too. Why can't we do something on those lines, beats me.

Of course, it's not all hunky dory. They have their problems. Education seems to be missing in a big way, for example. But looking at them, you wouldn't guess it. We seem to be carrying the burden of the whole world, on the other hand.

One other thing. Their lyrical, sing-song way of talking is really nice to hear.

Why I Hate Self-service

Self-service is a non-starter, as far as I am concerned. First of all, the meaning of service is that the service-person is dedicated to ...

These Were Liked a Lot