Management matters

Ruchi Chopda tells you why it is still the right time to pursue a degree in management studies
No matter the intensity of the debate on the sheen wearing off an MBA degree, B-schools across the country are positive about receiving a stable number of applications to their programmes this year. And this sentiment is corroborated by a recently released survey report ‘Prospective Students Survey’ by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The report includes data collected during 2009, 2010 and 2011 from over 56,000 MBA aspirants. According to the report, “Interest in MBA is strong and steady. Majority of today’s prospective student respondents were only interested in pursuing an MBA degree (55%).” Concurs, VK Menon, senior director – careers, admissions and financial aid, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, “MBA applications were dipping in 2010-11 but everywhere the numbers have started going up in 2011-12 and continue to do so albeit not very strongly. However, the negative trend has gone.” Menon elaborates, “European markets are clouded by the actual recessionary environment. If a market is facing a tremendous recession and people are losing jobs, then the people with secure jobs will think twice about moving. Having said that, people who have lost jobs will actually take this as an opportunity to re-tool and re-skill. So these two categories will even out and there will be a balanced, maybe a small drop in scenario. In India, whether the growth is 8% or 6% it’s a macro scenario, it’s a very large market for MBAs. And the overall demand is far more than the supply of MBAs can be. So the Indian demand is very different from the demand in a smaller market like Europe. Here even if there is a down sentiment in terms of the economy, the premium schools will keep doing better but the pressure will be on the not-so-premium schools because of the hedging on the student’s part who will wonder whether he/she should continue with the job or take on a management degree.”
MBA: A GOOD OPTION? An MBA, be it a full-time, online or executive programme, helps one move up the career ladder as well as facilitate a career change—two things that can take comparatively longer sans the degree. It, of course, also helps one build a strong network of possible business associates and tries to enhance one’s entrepreneurial skills. The rigours of the course and the intensive classroom interaction all contribute towards developing a person’s leadership skills.
However, though an MBA can be a good add-on to one’s resume it has to be a conscious decision. Stephen D’Silva, director, Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS), advises, “Today, with various courses being offered and with such a wide choice of electives, greater opportunities to pursue executive education, and the growing number of Bschools in India, it is important to thoroughly analyse these programmes and key take-aways. Some of the most important factors students should consider before applying for a management programme are the courses offered, syllabus and learning. Value from learning should be the key focus and students must also be sure that the course they opt for suits their interests and competencies. The primary objective should be to build capabilities through a course that would help them succeed in the corporate environment.”
GETTING THAT COVETED SEAT With over two lakh students appearing for the Common Admission Test (CAT) each year, securing a seat at reputed B-schools cam be a Herculean task. Recommends Menon, “Beyond their academic quotient, students need to sharpen their analytical abilities, develop their leadership quotient by doing anything out of just the ordinary such as mountaineering, charity drives, etc, add to their breadth of knowledge and widen their outlook by reading newspapers, improving their general knowledge, etc.”
Concludes D’Silva, “Students appearing for their entrance exams should keep thoughts of economic slowdown aside. None of us are in a position to predict the financial scenario two to three years down the line, hence predicting impact on current jobs and future placements is next to impossible. They should focus on their preparation to ensure that they get admission into the B-School of their choice.” 


L&T General Sheds Flab, Plans Merger

L&T Finance CMD Deosthalee says the company is not averse to partnering with someone in the general insurance space
L&T General Insurance is shedding flab as it prepares to combine with a rival to create a bigger entity in a market where intense competition is squeezing profitability. “Merger may happen in medium term, but nothing is there on the table right now,” said YM Deosthalee, chairman and managing director of L&T Finance Holdings. “We are not averse to partnering with someone in the general insurance space.” Deosthalee said that a few people have left on account of roles getting marginalised in the wake of a zonalised structure, which gives greater autonomy to zones for better customer service. The company is looking to hire 80 people this quarter.
The company is understood to be in talks with Future Generali General Insurance, people close to the development said. Deosthalee denied any such move, but a senior Future Generali executive said that the management was in talks with some companies but they have not yet reached final stages.
The company, in a letter to employees, said it has brought some changes as part of implementing various strategies in its 10-year business plan. “Consequent to the implementation of the zonal structure and considering the targets underlying the business plan, the head office is also poised for proper realignment in terms of various functional aspects of the business,” L&T General Insurance said in the letter. In the first quarter, the company grew 74% over the last year.
L&T controls 100% equity in the non-life insurer. L&T was earlier in discussion with US insurer Travellers for a partnership. However, the talks fell through and L&T decided to go ahead with the venture on its own. Having started operations in 2010 with an initial investment of . 175 crore, the company has been focusing on technology to reach out to customers.
Getting into Shape

• THE CO IS UNDERSTOOD TO BE in talks with Future Generali General Insurance

• A FEW PEOPLE HAVE LEFT the company on account of roles getting marginalised in the wake of a zonalised structure

Crop Insurance Picks Up on Weather Woes

Business is growing at 25% annually and now covers more than 200 districts in 21 states

More farmers are using weather insurance to mitigate risks from climate change. Top two weather insurers — Agricultural Insurance Corporation (AIC) and ICICI Lombard — say business is growing at 25% annually and now covers more than 200 districts across 21 states.
“The growth has been so spectacular over the past five years that as many as 12 million farmers, growing crops on over 15 million hectares of cropped area, might have been insured during the 2011-12 crop year,” said KN Rao, deputy general manager, AIC, which enjoys over 75% market share in this insurance category.
While the state-owned AIC covers almost all the designated districts, its nearest competitor ICICI Lombard is present in 11 states, covering over 50 districts. According to Union agriculture ministry, five insurance companies including AIC, ICICI Lombard, Iffco-Tokio and Cholamandlam MS offer insurance to farmers based on monsoon data. “Uncertainty over monsoon and frequent climate changes have made it necessary for farmers to go for weather-based insurance. This provides them the much-needed cover and helps them withstand financial stress, which may happen due to crop loss,” said RS Sharma, senior agri-scientist, Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
Weather insurance was formally introduced in 2003 as a pilot, and by 2007 the government adopted it as an alternative to the existing yield index insurance. Around 40 crops are insured under the category for various climatic phenomena like deficit rainfall, dry-spell, excess rainfall, low temperature, high temperature, high humidity, and high wind.
The premium rates are capped for the cultivator and the premium (rates) beyond the cap are shared by the Centre and concerned state government on 50:50 basis. “The premium rates for farmers depend on various crops. For wheat, it is capped at 1.5% while for other food crops, it is 2.0%,” said an AIC official.
With rising popularity of weatherbased insurance, the premium business as well as beneficiaries have gone up over the past few years.
“In the 2010-11 crop year, premium collection was around Rs 1,300 crore while the claim was around Rs 635 crore, benefitting 43.29 lakh farmers. In 2011-12, the premium collection went up to around Rs 1,850 crore while the claims and beneficiaries increased to Rs 887 crore and 46 lakh farmers, respectively,” said an AIC official.
However, weather insurance has its own challenges while catering to over 25-crore farmers in the country. “One of the key challenges in weather index insurance has been establishing an adequate network of weather stations to service weather insurance as a credible insurance programme. It is estimated that the country needs around 8,000 automatic weather stations and about 32,000 rain gauges to effectively service the index insurance compared to the current network of 5,000,” added Rao. 

The new people manager

A universal corporate fact is that the people of an organisation are its most vital asset. And managing them is not only the role of the HR, but also CEO. Arshie Chevalwala profiles key human resource challenges faced at the CEO level

It is a know fact that the humane facet of an organisation is vital. So much so that, there is an entire function dedicated to meeting the challenges they develop and solutions they require. Despite that, the CEOs of organisations, even at their imperative stature, have to make sure to devote conscious time and effort to ensure their HR challenges have been met. D S Negi, chief executive officer, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre opines, “Attrition is one of the biggest issues facing the HR domain and being such a vital provocateur, the responsibility seeps up to even the top management level.” So, what are some of the people management challenges faced at the CEO level?
One of the most vital functions of the corporate arena is in fact the basic business function. Thiruvengadam P, leader, human capital advisory services, Deloitte, India is of the opinion that the way in which business growth and business cycles are managed effectively by proper HR interventions by the CEOs plays a vital role today. He says, “With the business cycles becoming shorter and changes in the economic conditions taking place every two to three years; this puts a lot of pressure on the ability of a business to respond effectively. This means the human function demands support with the right talent management initiatives. As a senior level executive, it is vital for him/her to make sure this process is carried out efficiently.”
Since today, the business environment is becoming more and more unpredictable; it becomes a challenge to control and create a systematic process and order. Debasis Chatterji, CEO, Netxcell Limited explains how, “The most prominent HR challenge faced by the CEO is sustaining and maintaining seamless coordination among vertical heads. The understanding of what is in the right direction for the company is most important. Sometimes, this becomes a challenge for the top management.”
The purpose of a conglomerate is to constantly seek vertical growth and progress; and while it does that, so do its employees. Madhukar Kamath, group CEO and managing director, DDB Mudra Group says, this is a challenge faced by CEOs too. He further explains, “A CEO needs to spend time with the HR function, pay attention to key employees by external monitoring and help them in creating clarity about their career progression.”
Kamal K. Sharma, managing director, Lupin Ltd concurs, “CEOs today need to manage the vices that arise due to the simple complications caused by human nature. Keeping the team closely knit and providing an essential platform for managing employee aspirations are vital.”
Today, every organisation fosters innovation. What CEOs need to do is sustain these innovative practices. Deodatta Kalyankar, head HR, Zicom Electronic Securities Systems Ltd explains, “The most important challenge for a CEO today is to attain the ‘profitable growth’ and in order to do that, a CEO needs to create an ‘environment of innovation’ in the organisation.”

Five Ways To… Make a Good Presentation

Five Ways To…
Make a Good Presentation

Presentations are de rigueur in the corporate world. Engaging the target audience with the right words is critical for success, says Anumeha Chaturvedi.

Practice Before Hand
While some people are confident of impromptu presentations, others are not. “Presenters should practice as much as they can before a presentation ,” feels Rajita Singh, HR head of Broadridge Financial Solutions. One may also make a note of questions that might be asked.

Keep it Simple
Since the primary motive of the presentation is to make a lasting impact, it should be simple. “Trying to use big words and corporate jargon is a baggage that professionals carry,” says Singh. “They should use simple words and back it with data instead.”

Use Non-verbal Cues
“More than 70% of our communication is through non-verbal means. Hence, the use of hands, eyes, and eyebrows is also important for effective communication,” says Ramesh Shankar, EVP and cluster HR head, South Asia at Siemens.

Evoke Emotions
Evoking positive emotions will engage the audience. “If the audience is primarily male, presenters could draw examples from the sports arena; if it is largely female, it could be about relationships,” says Singh.

End with a Catchphrase
“Ending one’s presentation with a popular catchphrase or a quote will make it memorable,” feels Singh. If half the people look or sound excited, your mission is accomplished.

Why I Like People with Unconventional Resumés

Professional success used to depend on experience, knowledge, and skill. But things have changed in recent decades. First, knowledge has become as rapidly obsolete as universally available. Second, we live in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world where, I often say, even the past has become unpredictable. And, finally, business has become more global and diverse.

In this new normal, experience and knowledge are less relevant, while the abilities to learn and adapt, to be resilient and to connect with others are ever more crucial. That’s why, as an executive search consultant, I like job candidates who have followed non-traditional career paths. That’s why I look for people who have shown the penchant for personal disruption I was asked to talk about as part of this recent HBR article.

When making senior appointments, I look both for two things: readiness for the job and potential for further development. Readiness is about the fit between the requirements of the position and the candidate at that particular stage in his or her career. It rests on critical competencies and cultural fit. And, in my view, non-linear job changes can tell a lot about several powerful emotional intelligence-based competencies — flexibility, adaptability, empathy, organizational awareness and relationship management — that differentiate stars from average performers in new roles. Disruptive moves can also tell you a lot about potential because they show a candidate’s curiosity, insight, inspiration and determination, which in turn indicate a search for learning and challenge. In fact, I’m usually worried when I don’t see major job shifts on candidates’ resumés. It could suggest they’re not seeking growth and that they’re not fully prepared for a leadership transition.

One of the most dramatic examples I’ve seen on this, at a national level, is that of Japan. When together with local colleagues I did a series of analyses for the local edition of my book Great People Decisions in Japan, we discovered that young Japanese executives had higher potential than the average in our global database, while senior Japanese executives had lower-than-average competence. Why weren’t these leaders living up to their promise? I believe it’s due to the extremely limited degree of job- and career-shifting in Japan, not only across companies but even within them.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a perfectly linear career if you are still proactively growing and learning and successfully performing at ever higher levels of complexity. But as Nitin Nohria and Boris Groysberg have shown, leaders are not as portable as we might assume. Employers — and recruiters — know this. So it’s important for all aspiring executives to think about disruption in the context of their careers and to consider job changes that prove an ability to master new companies, sectors, cultures and strategies. You’ll be measured against people who already have.