Sep 28, 2016

Tips from Top - Consulting as Career, A talk by Mr Amit Singh (Director, PwC) & Ms Shalina Bhatia (Associate Director, PwC)

Everyone has an idea about the world of consulting but only few are aware of what it actually is. To allay our doubts and provide a glimpse into it we had Mr. Amit Singh (Director, PwC) and Ms. Shalina Bhaita (Associate Director, PwC), who visited our campus for a session on Consulting and consulting to government bodies in particular.  Initially Mr. Amit gave us a brief introduction about PwC, its working and about the Smart city Project of Government of India to which he is closely associated.
 During his talk Mr. Singh emphasized on the skill set required for a consultant. The first among them was mentioned as the ability to learn and unlearn quickly. And for that one must read to stay relevant and contextual.  Further he mentioned how this must be complemented with peer to peer learning, with emphasis on learning not just from acquaintances but also from surroundings. Another prerequisite for a consultant was mentioned by Mr. Singh as building a good network of people with focus on long term relationships rather than short term benefits. He also mentioned the importance of perpetually staying ahead in the learning curve by gaining knowledge continually. Another paramount term about working effectively as a consultant was mentioned as the “Voice of Customer”, which implies gaining perspective from each stakeholder before reaching to a solution.  
Mr. Singh enlightened us to a dilemma faced by consultants, of choosing between being a specialist and a generalist.  Specialists have irreplaceable domain specific knowledge and generalists have a bird’s eye view about multiple domains. Mr. Singh along with Ms. Bhatia led us through a consulting exercise, where they put forth a problem that had been posed to them by their client. Making us put our thinking caps about all the possible challenges which might crop up and finding solutions for them, they shared an interesting insight- that technology no doubt can be a game changer but sometimes the need of the hour might be to think beyond that, as technology cannot be the panacea of all ills.
Mr Singh and Ms. Bhatia were also benign in sharing with us valuable insights about their current area of work- Smart City Project and indulged in answering the queries the students had regarding the same. The Questions ranged from- definition of a smart city, criteria for selecting a smart city, employment creations, financial viability, tourism potential, etc. Answering these questions, the speakers stated how definition for a smart city varies across countries. However in the Indian context the Ministry of Urban Development defines smart city as one with smart utilities, smart governance, and smart economy along with smarter people.
Cities being the center of all economic activities have a pull for people aspiring better lifestyle. With Urbanization in India being about 32% and a sizable amount of population shifting to urban cities, this could lead to crippling the resources in existing cities, and hence a need for new cities which are well planned and equipped with world class amenities. There was also a discussion about the Smart Pole project that was implemented in Bhopal for making the city street lighting system a revenue generating source.
The speakers gave an enlightening and engrossing session with great insights about how consulting firms are doing their part in nation building, by working today to create a better tomorrow.

Sep 25, 2016

Tips from Top - Seminar on Advanced Analytics by Mr Siddhartha Roy(GM Advanced Analytics & Cognitive Solutions, IBM)

The morning of 24th September started with a thought provoking session, when Mr. Siddhartha Roy, General Manager, Advanced Analytics & Cognitive Solutions at IBM, visited IME Department of IIT Kanpur for a session on Advanced Analytics, Big Data and recent trends. An alumnus of IIT Kanpur, Mr. Roy started  by defining consulting as a guiding force for thinking right  in order to bring out best solution for a set of defined problems. Talking about ‘data’, he said it has both quantitative and qualitative parts, and knowing how both of these match is the key to understanding it.
Mr. Roy mentioned how every problem or case starts as a nebulous one. To emphasis his point and to impart an approach to students for tackling real life business problems, he carried out an interesting activity by dividing the students into groups and presenting them with a problem faced by a certain company having dipping market share of its products. With the required focus on the market metrics used to analyse the data, each group presented their approach towards solving the case. After all the groups presented, Mr. Roy explained about use of four core metrics in analysis, which was certainly a great insight for the students.

Diving into the technicalities, Mr. Roy talked about data analytics being used for finding relationship between cause and effect which has wide applications in the field of direct marketing, forecasting, identifying critical influencing drivers and segmentation. He talked about the tools used for analytics such as R, SAS, gretl, MS Excel, Hadoop, python, etc.
Mr. Roy talked about continuum of advanced analytics which includes Descriptive, Predictive and Prescriptive analytics. Talking about the phenomenal growth of analytics and its usage in the business world, he mentioned about data analytics being used in surveys, tapping into transnational data, social media, and marketing. Mr. Roy further illustrated on how something conventionally thought of as an unrelated factor can have a huge impact such as weather can actually affect sales and businesses as a whole.
From the business point of view, behind all the jargon's, the essence of analytics boils down to making and saving money. It was interesting to know how big names like P&G, Amazon, Google, Netflix use data analytics on an extensive scale to leverage their competitive advantage and base critical decisions on the results obtained from such studies. Moving into an era of competitive analytics, Mr. Roy gave examples from the business world of P&G and Walmart using analytics for supply chain and consumer behavior, MCI using data analytics for networking and pricing, etc.
Mr Roy, a true expert in the field, parted with some pearls of wisdom by advising those interested in analytics to pursue it passionately, as this path can be unforgiving and requires one to keep learning, keeping the inquisitive child alive and letting the creative juices to flow.

Sep 23, 2016

Tips from Top: Corporate roles and career in consulting - a key perspective, Mr Himanshu Verma (Lead HR, IT Consulting Services, KPMG)

“How to become a ‘leader- across all levels’? How to generate confidence for providing solutions to a myriad of problems? And not only that, how does one proactively simulate problems, solving them even before they occur, and step ahead in the learning curve?” These are some of the intriguing questions that were raised and were very efficiently answered today, by a very young and dynamic persona; Mr. Himanshu Verma (Lead HR, IT Consulting Services, KPMG) when he delivered an enlightening seminar on ‘Corporate roles and career in consulting, a key perspective’ while addressing an audience of MBA students at IIT Kanpur.

Mr. Verma began by defining the two terms: ‘consulting’ and ‘consultant’. He stated that consulting can be understood as a process of not only giving solutions but also creating (simulating) problems proactively, in order to get efficient solutions beforehand. According to sir, a ‘consultant’ is not just a job role; it’s a breed of people with relevant domain knowledge, with a mindset to analyse thoughts and with a capability to arrive at useful conclusions. In that sense we are surrounded with consultants, including our parents, doctors, lawyers and people from all walks of life. The key for success here being, the ability to perform the role, perpetually and progressively; learning and innovating at every stage.

Sir candidly listed and lucidly explained few key traits that budding managers can inculcate in order to achieve unprecedented success in not only the field of consulting, but across various fields. First and foremost being the ‘Theory of Questioning’, the zeal towards asking relevant ‘self-questions’ and finding the answers via introspection. Sir emphasized the importance of this by giving an example of children below the age of 6 years, who ask more than hundred questions per day and as a result their learning graph is very high as compared to the elders. According to sir, the power of questioning can help in increasing one’s experience and knowledge base. When performed on a daily basis, this has the potential to provide all answers in life!      

Moving forward, Sir talked about the golden concept of 'polymorphism'. In the context of consulting, it can be understood as the ability to provide what is actually good for clients, but in a manner that also looks good to them. This according to sir can be achieved by developing a flexible mindset and ability to connect the dots, which in turn are attained by asking relevant self questions and categorizing the thoughts sequentially. Sir advised students to improvise and evolve continuously because nobody is perfect and it’s always a pursuit to perfection!

Last but certainly not the least, Sir talked about the significance of effective time management.  According to him, and rightly so, this is the soul of all concepts for managers. Sir suggested that performing SWOT analysis on an individual level and allocating a good part of time daily for self-development can help in structuring the valuable resource of 24 hours productively. This when followed with an ardor to think different, can provide a vital edge and can indeed lead one to become a ‘leader all across’!  The breed that doesn’t follow trends but sets them!  

Sep 12, 2016

Tips from Top: Business Intelligence and Analytics, Mr Manish Menon (Manager, Business Technology, ZS Associates)

Mr. Manish Menon, Business Technology Manager at ZS Associates, visited IIT Kanpur campus on 11th September. The topic of the seminar was Business Intelligence and Analytics.
The seminar began with how analytics affects every walk of our life: from taxi aggregating service Ola, e-commerce giant Amazon, superstores like Walmart, to healthcare services such as Apple Health Kit. Mr. Menon elaborated on the shifting focus of analytics over the years from “what to do with data and where to get the data from?” to “how impactful can we make it?”
Mr. Menon talked about the evolution of analytics from centralised passive reporting, periodic monitoring and data warehouse to decentralization, active experimentation, advanced use cases and data lakes.
He also emphasized on a pragmatic saying – “fail fast so as to recover quickly, learn the lesson, and move on to other projects”.
Mr. Menon discussed how the growing trend of cloud computing and storage of huge quantities of data on remote locations might not be as much of a fail-safe and fool-proof idea as the general perception was turning to be because of varied concerns like security.
He also briefed us about what stages or steps advanced analytics entails to arrive at a solution. These include- descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analysis. Descriptive analysis deals with “what has happened” and thus includes business intelligence and dashboards, Diagnostic answers “why it has happened” using model fitting and data mining, Predictive helps us to formulate “Will it happen” through forecasting and statistical prediction and last is Prescriptive which mentions the future course of action or “what should we do” using optimization models.  Mr. Menon emphasised on the role of analyst’s intellect and intelligence on each and every stage of analytics, using certain pragmatic examples. The icing on the cake was a case study task for the students, which invoked active participation from the enthusiastic audience. It gave hands-on experience on using appropriate analytic analysis’ stages while approaching the problem.
There was also a brief introduction about the various analytics tools available that are also being used in corporate. He emphasised on how the key to a successful analytics project is to ask the right question! Furthermore he gave guidance on approaching an analytics problem. He also recommended certain books that he reckoned would help in streamlining the thought process. 
Mr Menon ended the enlightening session with-
“If you don’t pursue your passion as your work, you will end up in a job and not a career!” 

Sep 7, 2016

Tips from Top - Big Data Analytics, Mr. Sanjay Sharma (MD, Accenture; Data Science Lead)

The fundamental requirement in corporate is not only about survival but about thriving in chaos. Thriving in chaos and not letting oneself be unnerved leads to growth. Targeting the sunrise opportunities, learning continuously and evolving perpetually were some of the insightful learnings from Mr. Sanjay Sharma (Managing Director, Accenture; Data Science Lead – India), who was at IIT Kanpur, MBA for a seminar on “Big Data Analytics”.
Mr. Sharma simplified the definition of Big Data and gave a generic definition for us to understand. According to him, Big Data is collection of unstructured data to derive useful information out of it for making decisions. According to him the huge amount of data available has generated the need for Big Data Architecture. For example Banks need to maintain a lot of data due to rules, regulations and requirement of customers. A lot of querying on this data is necessary to generate information out of it. This is where cloud computing and distributed computing comes into the picture. According to Mr. Sharma the need for Big Data analysis arises because unlike small data that has more signals and less noise the big data has less signal and more amount of noise. Hence processing of this data becomes necessary to fetch useful information..
He stressed that working with data analytics, a person should always think from a business perspective and not from data perspective since it is the business that drives an organization, data only assists in it.  
Further elaborating the scope of SAS and R in data analytics, he explained that SAS being licensed software, it is used in industry where security and trust is of utmost importance and R being open source tool and its ease to connect with Spark has led to R being widely used in industry.
Furthermore he also stressed that analytics as a career requires an appetite for coding and programming. Doing MBA specialization in Data Analytics helps to get insights about the business perspective. However, the technical know how is also a must.
According to Mr. Sharma the next big thing in analytics is going to be in operations where data processing, information management, visualization, predictive analysis would be required. Citing an example from the aviation industry, he said that tracking information from the regular operation of an aircraft, the company can prioritize the maintenance of a particular dysfunctional part instead of the overall maintenance.
Talking about career prospects, Mr. Sharma said that a person should always strive to search for sunrise opportunity. However, if a person is passionate about his aspirations than irrespective of the growth in that industry, he should follow his heart. The session came to an end with the students discussing about scope of data analytics and how they can plan their future in Data analytics.

Sep 3, 2016

Tips from Top, Digital Marketing – A Key Perspective by Mr Vikash Kumar and Mr. Mohit Goel (Trident Ltd)

Mr Vikash Kumar, Chief Digital Officer at Trident Group India Ltd, visited the IME department at IIT Kanpur along with his colleague Mr Mohit Goel, GM at Digital Trident, on the 3rd of September, 2016. Talking about the changing scenario of digital marketing and the challenges and opportunities that it poses for today’s marketing managers, he shared his insights as the Chief Digital Officer of the textile giant Trident India Ltd, about the marketing and branding strategies being followed in the current scenario.

Mr Kumar stressed upon keeping the session as informal and interactive as possible, making it into a dialogue rather than a one-way lecture. He started with defining digital marketing as a medium that provides two way flow of information or communication on world wide web.
He emphasized on how the rapidly changing world of digital marketing has made textbook knowledge insufficient, and further emphasized the importance of learning on the job, staying unique, and believing in one’s own capabilities. Mr Kumar said a wonderful line that “If you don’t ask a question, the answer is always no”, which was also his formula for kick starting his own career as a manager at Trident. He helped us in relating the issues that textile giants like Trident Ltd faced when trying to make the switch from B2B to B2C market. 

There was also a detailed discussion about how “touch & feel” of the product plays an important role in deciding consumer behavior and buying pattern for certain products when shopping online. Probably this is the reason some of the biggest sellers in the eCommerce market in India are those products that do not require a touch and feel before purchase, such as electronic goods and books. As a result of this it has become challenging to get consumers to buy apparels and other textile related items such as bed linen and towels, which although are much cheaper than Smartphone, but yet are not bought so often over the internet. There was also a small exercise done where all the students were asked to provide their insights into how this problem could be tackled.

After a short break, the talk turned towards the digital marketing trends as a whole. Mr Kumar talked about how in order for a technology to become truly successful, there must be widespread acceptance, so much so that the technology should become a part of any consumer’s routine. He discussed how the multiple marketing and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide varied opportunities to marketers in targeting different consumer segments.
The session came to an end with some discussion regarding the scope of digital marketing in B2B markets, and how positioning of different offerings by the same company may affect the consumer perception and purchase behavior. The students were glad to have such an insightful and interactive session with Mr Kumar, and he too left with appreciation for his audience.

Sep 2, 2016

A talk by Mr. Vikram Ahuja, C.T.O. of ‘Vlink’

“A leader not just shows the way, he walks with you on that path”- Mr. Vikram Ahuja, C.T.O. of ‘Vlink’, shared these immortal words whilst his candid session with the students of MBA IIT Kanpur. Sir gave the perfect example of Elon musk to drive the point home. World famous personality, Musk with his futuristic and altruistic vision has raised the bar for innovation. The solar city venture by Musk, aims at scaling up the entire level of civilization of our planet!
Mr. Ahuja led us through his journey after leaving the portals of IIT Kanpur, his experience at his family owned business from where he moved to Boston to work with companies in the domain of healthcare, retail and artificial intelligence to his post Harvard experiences in start-ups, as an angel investor and as a business strategist.
He added in particular how the case study method deployed at the IME department was helpful to him at Harvard where the same methodology is applied, and how case studies bring students closer to the practical scenario, urging them to think innovatively to solve the problem at hand rather than getting engrossed in the theoretical details.
Mr. Ahuja also shed some light on the difference between the work culture in US and India and how in US innovative ideas are more encouraged and ample opportunities given to employees to further nourish and market their ideas, even though Indians are more hard working.
He emphasized on the differences between the start-up ecosystem in US and India, where the US system is one step ahead with more prominence on innovation whilst the Indian system is still in the e-commerce stage primarily. He further talked about the disruptions caused by social capitalism where in companies like ‘AirBnB’ and ‘Blah-Blah cars’ have changed the market scene and are getting increasingly popular with the public.
To a query on how he identified start-ups to invest in, in his capacity as an angel investor, he mentioned certain parameters like the idea and its relevance in the current market scenario, whether the startup has a genuine business model and competence for meeting the customer demands. He also shared an observation of his, of how in the US, it’s mostly the MIT graduates who start the company but it’s the Harvard graduates who sustain it as the former would have moved onto another innovative venture.

The session was immensely inspiring and uplifting as is also evident from Mr. Ahuja’s ‘LinkedIn’ page where he has asked people to contact him for help in Business & marketing Strategy. In a nutshell he advised us to be leaders and not just managers; and to innovate and not shy from taking risks; as the biggest risk in today’s time is not  taking a risk!