Thursday, January 28, 2010

What does an MBA worth?

Recently I celebrated Golden Jubilee (in days) of my unemployment with my friend, Indian Naval officer. It was our good times again, as we used to have in school. Beach drives till night, ferry ride, roaming in the lanes of Gateway corners, Paani Puri in Navy Nagar, Chaat, Dinner at Officer's Mess at dirt cheap prices (but with highest quality), mid-night ice cream with pista at Baskin-Robbins, Marine Drive and many more...

Life of an unemployed MBA was looking more scintillating than an employed one, the difference is just that I am losing money and then I was gaining money ;). Anyway I wanted some reason to celebrate and here I found one - "50 days without job"

Did I expect this life before leaving my job at Infosys 2.5 years back? Never... What I expected was a good job with pretty decent salary (above Rs 8-9 Lakhs) with opportunity to grow. I am sure most of us would agree with it. There are people who have got even more than this salary, but considering 2008 batch, we were very hopeful to get at least a minimum of Rs 7 Lakhs. But I guess for B Schools, 2008 is the only year which doesn't have a successor, i.e. after 2008 we have straight away 2010. Where is most of 2009? Who wants to know anyway!

2008 recession killed all hopes and what remained with some of us was the spirit of growth, sans package ;). There were companies that came to campus first time, with offers less than what we left before joining MBA. Now the question before an MBA was to take up a profile with whatever maximum available and decent profile. This was no-choice status for them, not because there are less jobs, but because s/he is laden with a burden of fulfilling loan amounts ranging from 10000 to 20000 every month and in some colleges more than 30000 per month. What if my package drops below 25000/month, Will I be able to meet my deadlines?, were the kind of questions arising in everyone's mind.

I have been speaking with many of my friends lately, and what I conclude is that an MBA is worth some Aspiration and not a package. A bare minimum package with good learning and growth environment can change the whole story of package philic attrition. There was a time when our resumes in market would fetch us umpteen number of jobs without much follow up. But now things are pretty different and companies who never used to go to campuses (due to financial constraints), are taking MBAs at dirt cheap prices. From an employer's perspective, the question is not what - but how to sustain. Are they doing justice by offering them low packages? Will they be loyal? What all decides these things should have been given a well thought before hiring.

Let me tell you one example - during our final placements, there was a leading paint company that offered very low package (normally not to be offered to a good B School grad) to one of my friend, who told me that its VP was so excited on the fact that he could manage to get them at such low prices. They also hired an IIMB guy at same price. I seriously do not want to comment on that VP who mocked these low priced MBAs during placements because they did not have a choice. He would come to know about his decision in coming months for sure.

If we see the situation now, every MBA from good institute is doing job hopping unless he is gets his/her desired stability. Another friend of mine started at a package of 7.5k per month, not to be mentioned that even a software engineer gets more than 20k/month, and with continuous hopping to 3 companies, her package has gone to 48k/month now within 8 months. But there are others, who would prefer to sit at home than taking up offers in small companies, where even getting salaries in hand at the end of month is a tall order. You will have to beg for it for 10-15 days, unimaginable, but its truth! Would you stay in a company where babu mentality prevails at work and perks or credits are given for kinship rather merit? What if your sales account is given to someone who is closer to VP, so they can show that their sidekick is doing better every quarter than you? Innumerable questions follow with the time and in the end, what happens is what we see on charts in double digits at the end of quarter - attrition percentage!, which is the only thing rising in corporates this year. There are many still left, doing jobs and struggling to get out of the shackles of poor work environments.

That gave an idea of coming up with - what are the worst companies to work for? Only take answers from the 2009 batch. Lets utilize their survey filling capabilities at least. Lets make it e-survey, what say?

To see another picture, there are some positives also which have happened during this time. These MBAs got the opportunity to know the markets and working in small companies taught them about the problems which they usually would not have seen otherwise. May be then we would come to know about the importance of HR as a subject ;) in our first trimester. These MBAs have learnt things that was only taught in class rooms and never experienced, especially not in B Schools. Politics in reality and crookedness showed its face to everyone. In classes, we were always taught about ethics and honesty - and it does pay in long run - but hey, who considers it when you can just manage your bare minimum financial obligation? Where is loyalty to ethics taking shape? Let me rephrase it in crispy manner, What is "ethics"? Should i inflate my conveyance and mobile bill to get 1-2k extra every month, will it be ethical?

Talking about the salary part again, the question that comes to my mind is "What is sold in a recessed market - Potential or Skill?" When companies take from campuses, potential takes front seat, but in open market skills do matter. When an HR asks your previous salary, what is s/he trying to conclude? What if i say 3Lakhs, will s/he just add 1Lakh to it and give me 4 or will s/he still give me what is designated for that profile? Very few companies ask previous package to meet aspirations and not to decide your current package, very few. But here we are - getting raise - package over package and job over job. We have become so smart at selling ourselves with false excuses as to why we want to change our previous company, that we can crack any interview with an ease. Some severance reasons are so true, that if told, would surely not fetch any job and those reasons are better not to be disclosed here or anywhere.

So, the question still remains - What is an MBA worth? Answer it and take a JOB free! :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Even A Broken Anda Can Succeed!

1 Month & 18 days - guess what!? Its the number of days I have been unemployed, i.e. Dec 7th 2009 till now and still counting... On Dec 3rd when i received the final words from my company I got little tensed and was trying left and right to get a job in similar profile. But who wants an overhead in recession! I was thinking more about my being jobless for a long time and in turn default on my loan EMI.

It is January end now and i am still searching for one profile that suits my competencies and also that could satisfy my professional desires. But now I have started enjoying my stay at home. This little time, instead of turning into a discouraging stint, has changed me into someone who has had his introspection done many times. This time has given me correct reasons as to why i did my MBA and why Marketing/technology. I started reading magazines and books which i used to read rarely. In the mean time, I also started with Blog writing which i am still continuing. Many don't follow and leave in between, but i am going to write about my learning.

Life is a race and you don't want to become a broken egg - right? Few days back i used a broken egg and made a nice omelette out of it. I swear it was tasty! ;)It did not lose its potential even after losing its cover.

Before doing my MBA, I used to read "SMART MANAGER" - a magazine that talks a lot about self motivation, entrepreneurship, articles from big shots. I never noticed what brought that change in me to not take failure as a discouraging moment. May be this magazine and other aspirational books instilled this "never say die" attitude in me. Edison learnt 999 ways to not discover a bulb - a self-motivational phrase for me during this time of recession, that taught me how we realize our learning. I also started browsing sites which I never heard of. Usage of Linkedin from one level to another with participation in groups and discussions left me with some good new connections. Normally we do not just add people to our network unless we know them, but discussions help a lot in building a base of people who share similar ideas.

I also learnt about new technologies like WiMax (Wireless Broadband), LTE (Long Term Evolution - 4G), HSPA+, and others. These areas have always intrigued me with its power of speed. The speed which I am talking is about the Data transfer on mobile and PC. A 256 Kbps is considered to be broadband in India but outside countries have some different parameters. 8Mbps could also be a level of yardstick that categorizes Broadband at some places. Are we really growing then? I doubt sometimes.

To make myself a Telecom savvy guy, I started with websites like Telecom yatra, Telecom You, NDTV telecom, ET Telecom,, CNET,, Fierce, Wiki on Telecom, etc and started getting their feed and subscriptions. These websites have lot of statistics and white papers that, if read properly, could teach about new technologies and countries implementing them with updates. Carrier information was also present in some of the papers which were written by people from those companies - say Intel, Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, Sprint (ClearWire), etc.

One day I found one magazine named "Voice and Data" by Cyber Media, while going through some magazines in Land Mark - with really nice articles on latest in Indian Technology (Telecom) markets. Evolution in foreign countries has gone beyond a level but India is yet to come out from its shackles of regulations. It is still at 1990 level of India's reforms. We must have another 1991 in Telecom also with respect to latest technologies and this is bound to happen as we see it coming every now and then. I don't see people using queues for their work or even requiring a laptop for their work. A simple 3-4 min work on cell phones would do the job. Streaming is an in thing and would solve all problems of the content management and its dissemination on time.

Recently I was in an interview with the CEO and VP of a Telecom company. It was such a great experience as we were discussing more on these terms and technologies. We shared the same feelings for the growing Indian market. We discussed on all latest technologies in Mobile and Internet and also gave a thought on 1/2 Paisa/second billing by Telecom providers. It is sometimes good to find people at CXO level appraising your knowledge and showing interest in you. This feeling gives a good fillip to your motivation to learn new things without break. I got that job or not was decided by the monetary benefits so I would not comment on it.

It has been more than a month and I surely feel a level up. I compare my knowledge with latest technologies - evolving everyday with new excitements. May be that is the reason i like Telecom and Technology. I hope if things continue I would have a good knowledge base to share with people around. Even if I become a broken egg, I would have to potential to fight back as knowledge is like Love/AIDS - it spreads when shared - so decide as per your perception how you want to see it :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Offer

My past few posts have been about my life in a VoIP company post my MBA. I left that company in September 2009, i.e. 4.5 months after working as Management Trainee. Reason - I got another offer. As simple as that! Was it?

NO - that too a BIG one!

A leading OSS (Operations Support Services) company from USA hired me through one of its HR consultants. Reason given that they do not have a legal presence in India so they can avoid having me on their payroll. There were totally 8 people from India selected for this profile. People from batches like 2007, 2008 and 2009 applied for it. After our selection we were very happy that in the times of recession also we could see the fruits of our hard work. The money was good and it involved international travel also. No inside India Sales! What else could an MBA require?

But things change and the wrath of the 9/11 came up to me too. The security factor in USA led to my disaster. Long story! Downsizing is what I call it. Two of us got the final salary soon and life of struggle moved on. Once a low paid worker in market, to a highly paid one, and again to a pauper. I was living the life of a story teller. Just like movies. Anyway, December 7th was the last working day in the company and I had only few months to take care of myself, which I calculate after checking my bank balance. This company provided me enough to support my EMI of loan, rentals and other expenses in Mumbai till March 2010. What if I don't get a job by then? Will I be on Mercy on others for daily expenses? I am already running more than a Lakh of personal debt.

I started using Linkedin for jobs. I went through the company lists on Linkedin and found some good people in HR or VP level. My idea was to convey them what I have done and how it will help them if they just hire me ;). I asked my friends, friends' friends, my college placement team, Naukri, Monster, Consultants, and what not. I wrote names of companies where I wanted jobs, found people in those companies and sent them customized mails with my resume attached. I even went to Naukri office to flash my resume on for Rs 1250/- for a year. I joined more than 25 groups on Linkedin for jobs and mainly in Telecom and Technology.

My work was fruitful to an extent. I got mails from heads of some good companies but the package restricted them to offer me a position. Demands grow with time and as my age progressed, I started become more uncompromising on my package part. All home work was done as to what level could get me a stable job without much personal problems. Monetary part was the major challenge. I had to see my profile and also the package. No company offered me any profile with more than Rs 30000/month. "Market seems to be going up", who said? Companies still leverage the bad times to get talents at lowest costs. And there I was - fighting with myself for the profiles. How can i prove my worth without much experience? In Campus placements, companies come and pick us and pay for our potential/talent rather than our skills. They think that skills can be developed anytime but the talent was born with surroundings.

From Dec 7th till now, I have attended few interviews but no one showed mercy to my financial demands. Why should they? They are not running charity here, right? :) Struggle is what makes a man understand himself; it gives lot of room for introspection. That is what i have been doing till now.

Recently I was rejected from a VoIP platform making company for being "under qualified" on experience part. They wanted minimum 3 years of work experience and I had 5 months only (Telecom). I went to companies that are in security systems and new technologies, 4th gen wireless broadband, VoIP and ISP providers, IT, KPOs and what not.

Let me see where I go and what line I get into - Telecom or IT!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How Do I Sell Boss??

Time was a traveler in a fast moving train, rushing away from me with every moment of my life in this company. Either I get a good client or face the brunt of my boss. 2 months in the job and still no sales - what do you expect? Bonus?

I had to build my own Marketing tool kit without much expectations. I gathered all questions and sent to my boss who replied in his favorite line, "Sales of VoIP is no rocket Science". Indeed not. But don't we have training to even sell a pencil in market. There are brochures, guidance, field work and tips for acquiring any customer. But without all this, get ready to start from scratch. Of course an opportunity to build your foundation and learn on your own - which is one of the best learning.

But how can I run this region without all the formal introduction to staff, products and leaders in organization? But Yes! I joined this company without even knowing who at the helm and how it is being run. I had to develop my own way of working - more on theory of Marketing because that was the only thing I knew in Marketing (Oooops!! now I am in SALES). One thing which I always kept in my mind was "Customer Delight" - If you have the key to deliver that, you could be the best in any market.

I started reading more about VoIP by downloading more material from God "Google". "VoIP for Dummies" was one great book to read. I also kept good relations with my technical team and sales professionals to share my ideas to improve sales. It did improve to an extent that we got clients that fell in the category of Fortune 500, 5 Star hotel, Mobile Application company (which I heard could not be converted after i left the organization), Jewelers and Exporters with residential tidbits.

Main problem in selling a VoIP is that it loses its value proposition of cost and quality as soon as customer sees an immediate investment of installation for device. Normally it stays around but it differs on the kind of deal you are getting. I even went to an extent of providing free of cost installations to my clients on written agreements that after usage of 2 months, if they are satisfied, they would pay for the set up along with the renewal or return the equipments (called ATA - Analogue telephone Adapter - converts analogue signals to digits to meet Internet Protocol requirements for voice transfer). Clients did agree and were really happy with the service. It was not that issues didn't turn up, rather they did and in numbers but support we provided on instant basis was really commendable. I had my own SLA (Service Level Agreement) running for my quality work. I tend to compete with my previous service to see how I can give better than last time.

In a company (a leading mobile application company), I even went to an extent of staying in its office with its staff to see how they work on international clients and how their technical aspects could complement my service activation. It took around 5 days, and people there started thinking that I am a new employee :). Interesting!!? After 5 days of hard work and some hard core negotiation with Technical head, HR head and staffs, i could manage to provide them my service. This was a Rs 10000/- deal. Yes!!! you are right!! VoIP deals are of this standard only as it runs of your cost sir. Rs 10000 was for a 2 months only. There were various other proposals also we gave them and things went ahead. But during that time I left my position with my organization and my company missed out on this client.

Another case was with a 5 star hotel - VoIP for its usage. I was with my Business Partner (BP) in Mumbai and we went ahead to meet its IT Director by making a call. I was confident of making some good deal here as I was along with my BP, who had very sound knowledge on technical lines. At least more than i knew. He invited us in and we started with our proposition as to how it can save them costs. Within 1 minute of our explanation he said he has all his IP infrastructure (IP phones) in place. We didn't know how to take it forward. I started slowly by asking his permission as to how his calls are made and majorly for which department. What we could find that his Reservation department was the major potential for us. We asked him to forget about our earlier proposal for his 200 rooms and look at the reservation's perspective. He checked with his team and found that the calls are made by IP/Analogue phones only to destinations like Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, US, and more than 20 countries. We figured out that most of the calls land on land line and less on mobiles. We offered him a plan to have a soft phone (like skype) installed on his computer and start with Rs 500 plan with full talk time (at Re 1/min to major destinations). I even waived off the installation after talking to my CEO. This would have been the biggest brand that we could leverage. Rs 500/- was not a big amount for them and also for us. We just got a chance to deal with situation and an entry into one of the finest 5 star hotels in Mumbai, where even Priyanka Chopra came for shoot that day :). I had to manage this account somehow and I started keeping track of its calls and showed them, on excel, their current saving with Rs 500/-. Believe me, we saved their Rs 2000 that week. They recharged with Rs 500/- again and I again showed him his savings on bigger picture. I even took my time to make an excel to show the annual savings if the call rates don't drop. And guess what was the outcome, he called one day and said we want to go ahead with Rs 5000/- recharge. That was the time i realized how "Repeat Sales" is done and what all you need to do to remain in attention.

I will write more about other experiences in my next post :) Stay tuned!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Salesman Vs Darwin

One thing I liked most about my job, and that was traveling and meeting new people everyday. This always excited me because it left me in field without knowing who was going to be convinced today. How will I start explaining myself? Which area will i be venturing and how many people will give me respect? Questions and more questions.

Mumbai is a huge area (though not in square miles), but with its 3 different lines - Western, Harbor and Central, there was immense potential for growth. I used to travel from Andheri to Lower Parel, Churchgate, Powai, Santacruz, Vile Parle, Bandra, Dadar, Marine Lines, and many other places. Areas that brought memories of fun and pleasure, became hunting grounds for me. I was always look out for a new territory, a new industrial estate, a new list of people and companies. That search never ended.

Experience teaches more than theory and when you are out in the field, your theories take a back seat and says "Present Sir" only when required. The most important attribute in Sales, for me, was "Patience" and "Hope", backed by your zeal to achieve and "never say die" attitude. Its a cup of tea for people who know the meaning of "I can and I will". I was very curious about 'what', rather 'how', should I sell VoIP to corporates. Why should they take my connection when there are competition from Skype, Yahoo Phone out, Vonage and other domestic players. Only things that kept me motivated was to learn about technology. The USP of delivering service personally to our customers, providing good technical support and giving customized plans in less turn around time was a factor I always used to speak about. My company provided me complete empowerment to take my decisions in Mumbai, which helped me to an extent of even changing plans from pre paid to post paid. At least I could put forward my views to my GM Sales.

Cold Calling was the fun part where, sometimes, I was shown doors and sometimes a seat with water/coke or tea. The respect of being an NMIMS alumnus came from many who knew where I was from. But, frankly speaking, that didn't get me any good sale. Business came from contacts and customers' references.

To an extent, I also realized the importance of being a Tele-caller. His/her job is not very easy as most of us feel. Most of the times companies hung up without even talking to them. They are like robots, uttering the same old lines to everyone who comes in contact. Motivation is the fuel and target is their destination. Some people even tell lies to customers to at least get a meeting fixed, which I felt was not right. Because of which, we even had to hear long lectures on commitment from our potential customers. It does not add any value, rather degrades the company image. Tele-caller can make or break with his 1 minute talking, so keep ones who know the business sense. But how to get them for a start up company at less way - a daunting task! Let my HR worry about it.

In the mean time, I was asked to work on NSE (National Stock Exchange) companies. I started my work by making an excel with the complete company list and adding company website details, countries they have businesses in, contact details like phone and mail ids, comments after making calls or visits, etc. It was a difficult task, as there were 1000 companies to look out for.

Now the BIG question arises,

- If I do the documenting work then who will do sales,
- If I do tele-calling then who will go to the field,
- If I get involved in channel partners problems then how will I utilize my time,
- If I go for technical support & installations, how will I show my growth numbers,

Boss! I am a sales guy, not a Spiderman ;)

Reimbursement and call limits were another problems which forced me to use my phone for making less number of calls, unless I am ready to pay from my pocket. But as far as traveling was concerned, I could not wait for BEST buses as it used to take a lot of time to reach its destination during peak hours. I required an auto or a train (empty or jam packed enough to even breathe). Discussions went on to solve all the issues; some got sorted out, some remained.

One more interesting fact I must share, a sales person never likes to be called a marketing guy. For us, Marketing guy is a person who sits on his recliner chair in an A/C room, drinks wine or beer and jots down a number as per theory of uncertainty, which he may have calculated by multiplying previous sales numbers by some double digit figures, or anything he sees on sky after drinking. I was doing Marketing part also for my job, but not in A/C room or while drinking beer. Activities like making competitors' analysis, metrics, below the line (BTL) activities, graphs, price analysis, tacking customers' usage and providing him/her with the information about his/her savings, voluntarily, were my areas of work. I wanted to be the single point contact between my company and customers in Mumbai - be it technical or business concerns.

Demo of VoIP connections, where we show the customer how our product works with their systems, was one more area that required some basic technical knowledge. There were lot of changes to be done if our system didn't work automatically in their system. I had to take care of that also most of the times, as technical support always remained busy on some or other call/complaint.

As a sales person, I should have confined myself only to get numbers, as other do and then rush to some place where customer could not reach me for any help. :) This is a general practice adopted by some of the sales guys in every organization. Let our customer retention and complaint handling guys alone do the maths for the customers later on. But for customer, it is a reason to repent his decision. Poor king (Customer) feels the burn of not identifying who is fake and who is not, after living for more than 40 years with similar species (human and sales people have differences). Pun intended :)

Basic templates in Sales were also missing for me. Things like mailing customers after giving connections stating the hierarchy of calls for complaints, SLA declarations with lead times, cheque/DD payment modes were some of the tasks I took care of. I even passed on this formats to my colleagues to build a good image.

My idea was not to quit but to change the system. Loopholes started filling up at a rapid pace and I continued with my journey of change. But I alone could not change everything, Could I? Darwin knows about it!