Days of our Lives!

April 9, 2008

IIM Bangalore – GD & PI

Filed under: I at IIM I — Santhosh @ 3:03 AM

My last interview. After the Indore fiasco, this was pretty much my only shot at an IIM admit this year. I was scheduled for the 9am batch on 2nd April. My panel of 8 had 6 from IIT/NITs, 1 from PSG Tech, and myself.

The GD was a case study. We had 10 mins for preparation, 20 mins for the discussion, and 10 mins for writing down the summary and answering 2 other questions.

The case was about an MNC retail chain Costco who cater to an exclusive set of customers generally. The products are a bit expensive but the quality is all top-notch and the cusomers trust totally on Costco’s choice wrt quality. Costco has only recently started sourcing products from China and has seen 50% increase in profits with no difference in quality. Some customers are not happy about sourcing from China though. Last night, the global media has come out with news that ToysCo, another retain chain but exclusively for toys, has stocked toys that had carcinogenic paints and these toys were being sourced from a a provider in China. Though Costco doesn’t use the same provider, many customers aren’t happy about it. Costco also needs to maintain relations with the Chinese government because they have plans of entering into the Chinese market.

My contributions – Made 6-7 original points that pretty much formed the entire discussion :

  • Let’s bring a structure to the discussion – Costco’s short-term and long-term decisions. For the immediate term, release a press statement that Costco doesn’t employ that particular Chinese provider. Also release the list of Chinese suppliers and their credentials.
  • If possible, release a list of the various quality controls – the government’s, Costco’s and the suppliers’ – and what each is doing to meet the said specified quality requirements. For eg, the levels of testing of products, CMMI, ISO, etc.
  • Any country will have both good and bad companies. So just because the supplier for ToysCo was bad doesn’t mean all suppliers from China are necessaryily bad.
  • Since the news has just come out last night, Costco needs to wait for the validity of the report. Also look at the credentials of the tester and the testing methods. Also look at the past records/history of ToysCo’s supplier.
  • Could the report have been a result of a negative publicity stunt by the Chinese supplier’s competitors or some political propaganda?
  • Open the doors of Costco to testing by experts. In fact, go ahead with the testing and publish/advertise the results. This could lead to reassurance of existing customers and pull in new customers who in the current scenario would want to spend that extra for assured quality.
  • Rather than reducing the sourcing from China, look at the types of products being sourced. Since the Orient has always held some interest in USA, start sourcing ethnic and indigenous products from China so that these will be ‘original’ products.
  • Take into the account the communist government in China that would control most things regarding companies anyway. Talks with the Chinese government, either via the US government or Costco themselves, and set up contracts on the quality expected of the products. China also needs the revenue from these exports. This could help set up a relationship for Costco to enter China.

Good points by others :

  • Look at expanding the customer base. Maybe under another brand name so that this exclusivity is also maintained.
  • Since it’s exclusive, the customer is important. So listen to him and look at maybe reducing the sourcing from China.
  • Globalisation, etc…
  • Display boards in all of Costco’s outlets, displaying the various quality controls and measures.
  • Mega advertising drive to capture more customers right now.
  • Good summary at the end – encapsulated everything we’d discussed on in a structured way.

Foot-in-mouth points by others :

  • Very ordinary start by the guy who started – jumped right into “talking with customers”.
  • Completely stop sourcing from China.
  • Set up a board to make sure there are some controls. (would obviously already exist)
  • It says Carcinogenic paints are hazardous. Redo research on whether this is true.
  • The USA government should step in and ask Chinese gov to arrest that supplier.

Since we had 20 mins for discussing, it was a very peaceful session, people gave each other space, and we came to a consensus on the courses of action.

Apart from the summary of the discussion, we also had to answer the following questions :
1) The most influential personality of the 20th century
2) What are your career plans and how will an MBA from IIMB help you get there?

My answers :
1) The most influential personality of the 20th century : Hitler
Directly responsible for :

  • Germany’s industries, infrastructure, physics research
  • Medical experiments on Jews, though horrifying, have driven medical research for decades
  • Racism out into the open
  • Vegetarianism in Europe

Indirectly responsible for

  • Fall of Europe. Rise of USA and USSR.
  • Independence of many nations. Sooner. India also.
  • current issues – Palestine, Israel, Iran – Einstein
  • Focus shift from theoretical physics to appl – Einstein
  • atom bombs -> nuclear power, jet planes, missiles, computers, wireless
  • End of imperialism, Rise of UNO, more power to Press.

2) What are your career plans and how will an MBA from IIMB help you get there?
Short term – management consulting
Long term
1) free lance writer
2) Small Scale Industry – ornaments and fittings for interior designing.
3) educational reforms
~ IIM-B — need I say more?
~ excellent varied peer group, emphasis on each as an individual (selection process, emphasis on profile)
~ real-time research projects, tie-ups, CPP
~ consulting comp placements
~ beautiful infrastructure 🙂


I was the last person to be called in for the interview. For the other 7 who’d come out all-a-smiling, the interview was as expected (from pagalguy), just the HR questions, no acads, etc, and the interview was for just 10-15 mins each. And I didn’t want that. I wanted my interview to get into discussions about my thoughts and analyses so that the IIT/NIT thing or the past acad records get covered over.
The interview panel had two people : an Older Lady Professor (OLP) and a Younger Guy Professor (YGP).

YGP : Please come in..
ME : I had to do some travelling because of which I couldn’t submit some of my referral documents.
OLP : No problems. Just give them now.
ME : I was also not aware that I had to send across photocopies of my extracurricular certificates –
OLP : Have you brought them now?
ME : No, I realised that I had to only from my fellow panel members. Also, since I realize you wouldn’t have had the time to analyse my extracurriculars, I’ve listed my achievements in this sheet.
YGP : The call letter clearly stated that you had to submit these also.
ME : Yes. But I had travelled and I had to submit the form and the documents with the help of a friend. I also had another call, from Indore, and we somehow compared and got it wrong. It’s completely a mistake on my part and I’m really sorry.
OLP : Please submit them by tomorrow at the admissions office.
ME : Yes maam.
YGP : So how would this friend who filled up your form for you –
ME : Actually, I filled up the form when I came over for the Indore interview. My friend helped me in mailing it.
YGP : Ok. So how would this friend describe you?
(I now had to make up an imaginary friend and think up on what he’d think of me)
ME : He’d say I’m someone who understands the world at the ground level, why people do things the way they do, why things happen, etc. And as far as work is concerned he’d say I employ a no-nonsense approach.
YGP : So this is what he’d say and do you agree?
ME : Yes. And this is pretty much what he’d written in my autograph book. He was my college mate.
OLP : So you have no-nonsense approach to work?
ME : Yes.
YGP : So you are a people’s person?
ME : No. A people’s person is different. I understand wha –
YGP : Ok, tell me what types of things you look at?
ME : For example why we have the dowry problem, why piracy occurs, school dropouts, corruption, why the policeman doesn’t arrest those who sell pirated stuff –
(The piracy bits were my bait. I wanted them to go for it. They went at it like sharks.)

YGP : So why doesn’t the policeman arrest them?
ME : People generally say it’s because the policeman collects money from the cd or dvd walla. But if you ask him, he’ll say he doesn’t feel piracy is a real evil in our society. He says his own community and family would look down on him if he arrests these guys because it’s the pirated versions that are affordable for the majority of –
OLP : Do you buy pirated dvds?
ME : Yes.
OLP : Why haven’t you filed a complaint against them?
ME : Because I feel the same way as the policeman.
(This visible got their attention!)
OLP : But piracy is punishable by law.
ME : Yes. But I also look at it from another perspective. Why couldn’t it be bad business sense and bad ethics from the producers? For example, if you take movies, they are increasingly being sold to just the expensive multiplexes and the producers are just concentrating on one section of our society.
YGP : Bad business sense…? Whom do you mean by the producers?
ME : The publisher in the case of books and the production company in the case of movies or music.
YGP : Firstly get your knowledge right. The movies and books are sold first to the distributors. It’s the distributors who then market them to various multiplexes or theaters.
ME : Yes, I understand that but –
YGP : – so you can’t say it’s the producers that sell them to multiplexes –
ME : No, I’m not say –
YGP : – apart from Yash Chopra, we don’t have any producers who are also distributors.
ME : By the producer, I meant both the producer and the distribu –
YGP : No, you mentioned the producer specifically.
ME : Can I validate my point now please? Thanks. I look at it as two blocks – those who carry out piracy and those who are responsible for the products that are being pirated. So by the producer I meant the producer of a product in general, not the film producers. I just tried to look at piracy from a different perspective as to why couldn’t those producing be in the wrong too.
YGP : Carry on.
ME : Is it ethical on the producer’s side to price products to cater to just one economic strata? Especially when these are not elite products? And by bad business sense I meant the pricing and the accessibility of –
YGP : Are you aware of the business model being employed by them? Without that knowledge how can you term it as bad business sense.
ME : I’m not aware of their business model but any model’s bottom line should be in getting the products to as many as possible with the maximum profits and not just business ethics but with consumer ethics also. Especially when we’re talking about things like music, movies and books which can be used by everyone. Piracy has also had some good consequences. Take pirated books for instance. It has been the best advertisement for reading. Someone sees an interesting book on the pavement and takes a look at it. The affordability has pulled in a lot more people into reading than ever before. Would those from the families of bank clerks or teachers or government employees be able to afford the current prices? Take my hometown for an example. It’s a small town and there’s zero piracy on books. However this is directly cyclically connected with the fact that not many people read books.
OLP : So you mean to say that under certain circumstances, if it’s for the greater good and for a greater reach, piracy is fine.
ME : To a certain extent, Yes.
YGP : That’s not a certain extent. This is what you’ve been saying, right?
ME : It’s all contextual –
OLP : Yes, under certain contexts, piracy can be forgiven?
ME : Yes.

YGP : You’ve mentioned Hitler as the most influential person. Don’t you think he was evil and was responsible for so much loss?
ME : Yes. But the question was for the most influential person of the 20th century. My answer would have differed if it had been phrased differently.
YGP : You’ve mentioned Einstein here. What can you tell us about thought experiments?
ME : A thought experiment is like a physical experiment but without any actual physical experimentation or observation. It’s thinking a hypothetical situation through –
YGP : What was Einstein’s thought experiment?
ME : Sorry. Einstein’s was on the Special Theory of Relativity. Of a pair of twins, one is put in a spaceship and travels at the speed of light. After he comes back, this twin will be younger to the twin who –
YGP : What is Einstein’s Unification Theory?
ME : There are 4 basic forces of nature – gravity, electromagnetism, strong force and weak force. The Strong force binds the nucleus of the atom and the Weak force tries to break the atom and we get radioactive decay. The Unification Theory is in having a single equation to explain how all four are linked.
YGP : So what is the unification equation that Einstein came out with?
ME : I don’t believe Einstein was able to. That’s when –

YGP : You’ve mentioned that you read a lot. What do you read?
I stuttered a bit here, talking about “anything actually”, because I didn’t know what or where to start. I finally came up with a lame answer with “fiction, non-fiction, biographies” and then added something about “blogs, articles, science…”
YGP : What was last non-fiction book you read?
ME : A psychology book called “Games People Play”. The author categorizes all social communication as stimuli-response transactions with 3 modes – Parent, Adult, Child – on each side. Good communication can occur only under 3 cases : Parent-Child, Adult-Adult, Child-Parent.
YGP : So they have already specified the cases of good and bad communication?
ME : Yes. Also the modes are not physical or physiological here. The categorization is based on how the communication comes out from either side. Parent mode looks down upon the other party, Adult mode is a mature level, and the Child mode looks up to the other party during communication.
YGP : So what mode were you in during the Group Discussion?
ME : I’d say I was in an adult mode. Because I tried to give a structure to the discussion, made sure I didn’t dominate the discussion while also making sure I came out with what I had to say. But then, everyone tries to and believes to be in an adult mode.
YGP : So you are now telling everyone is in an adult mode only?
ME : No. Everyone wants to be, and everyone believes he/she is in the adult mode. But the notions of the modes have to be looked at from a third person perspective. So for the protagonist, he believes the Parent or Child mode he is in is the Adult mode for that particular situation. He believes the mode he is in is the right one for that particular context and environment, though from a third person’s view, it’ll be something else.
YGP : How does he come into these modes then?
ME : He selects the mode for a particular context or environment based on his observations and his own analysis of how the people around him acted in a similar situation. It could be anybody, his parents or friends or peers or someone he admires.
YGP : What do you think is the mode in which this interview is happening?
ME : I’d say that you’re trying to have it as a Parent-Child mode with me and I’m trying to make it into an Adult mode.
YGP : So you mean to say I’m acting like a Parent
ME : To an extent, because you’ve been trying to stress me a bit when I try to reply –
YGP : Do you think this is a stress interview?
ME : I;m not sure, but you’ve been cutting across my answers and I’m finding it hard in getting my points across –
YGP : – and you’re trying to bring me to Adult mode?
ME : No. I told I’m trying to make sure I remain in Adult mode.
OLP : Do you know under what stream of psychology this falls?
ME : No maam.
OLP : Have you heard of Transactional Psychology?
ME : No maam.
OLP : You never came across this term in the book?
ME : I may have, but I can’t recall it off my head. I’m sorry.

OLP : You’ve mentioned you’ve been working in IBM for 33 months. In a few words tell me what exactly you do.
ME : Blah blah blah.
(Surprisingly no further questions on work. So I should have told them all they wanted to know.)
OLP : So you’re happy with IBM –
ME : Yes –
OLP : Why do you want to leave?
ME : It’s about wanting to do something. I don’t believe that the revenues coming into India or the economic progression because of the IT sector is having a direct say in the world of the common man. Economics says the flow of money will take care of that, but that would happen only if that spending was made on products made by the people I’m talking about. Coming from a small town, this is what I look and this is what I understand. The feeling in a small town is also about how –
YGP : So Madurai had been a small town when you moved out?
ME : It still is and I’m still a Maduraiite. The entire radius for the major part of the city is 7kms –
YGP : But it has its own High Court –
ME : Yes, but I’m talking about the industrial develo –
YGP : So compared to just Chennai, Madurai is a small town?
ME : No. I’m comparing Madurai with Coimbatore, Trichy, Vellore, Tuticorin… Madurai has always been an administrative center but I’m concerned about the industries and the job opportunities and the skill sets –
YGP : That’s fine. I’d also love to hear on “educational reforms” as you’ve mentioned here, but we’re short of time.

YGP : Have you ever brought up the topic of piracy in IBM?
ME : No.
YGP : Why? What would IBM have to say about piracy in IT? Microsoft windows is highly priced for example.
ME : I personally believe software is optimally priced. Microsoft Windows for example costs around 1500 to 2500 Rs.
YGP : That’s expensive for me.
ME : Maybe, when you buy just the software. But in most cases it comes packaed with the computer you buy. And it’s not just about the price. It’s also about the accessibility of –
YGP : Microsoft Office doesn’t come pre-loaded.
ME : It does. Dell, IBM for example have contracts with Microsoft to pre-load Microsoft.
YGP : Do you use an original version of Windows?
ME : Yes.
YGP : Is it because it’s free for use in IBM?
ME : No, I have an original version for my home desktop also.
YGP : What about the software that you write? Would you be ok with it being pirated?
ME : I work in the services division, so what I code would be useful only for my client. As for piracy, it’s not just about the software. The providers generally also give lifelong warranty and support –
YGP : What do you mean by lifelong warranty?
ME : Software updates for instance are always backward compatible –
YGP : But what about problems that come up in real-time?
ME : The warranty would support that too. My work in fact includes working on issues that come up in production –
YGP : But this is not warranty. Updates are different from warranty.
ME : Yes. Updates are a part of warranty –
YGP : So what you said about lifelong warranty is wrong.
ME : No.
YGP : See, updates are just a part of the warranty, and providing updates doesn’t mean you provide warrant.
ME : Yes, but –
YGP : So –
ME : Let me complete this please. The provider also provides the other things in the warranty. Support for instance. Guarantee. Exchange. Fo –

OLP : What then is the problem?
ME : I look at piracy as a demand-supply gap. The product is priced for a very small portion of the population and it’s not easily available. Take Bangalore for instance. How many contracted dealers do we have that stock original books and dvds? Are they easily accesible? Are the products always available? I live in Domlur. And there isn’t a single outlet that sells original versions. I’ll have to spend a couple of hours in travelling to Koramangala or CMH Road, standing in long queues, and spending much more than what I think the product is worth. Take a look at who buys from the street-side vendors and when they buy them. Most people are capable enough of buying the originals, but at the end of a work-day you get off the bus and chance upon something interesting and buy it at a very reasonable price. So rather than the producers talking about stricter legislations and tougher policies and keeping quiet or blaming the society in general, they should be thinking of how to get to the consumer better.

OLP : So, if a person murders another person under some circumstances, he has to be forgiven?
ME : Even our law has provisions for that. Unless it’s a pre-planned, cold-blooded murder for profit (ethana tamil padam parthrukom), the accused is given a lesser sentence – like murders in passion.
OLP : But the law for piracy clearly states that irrespective of the circumstances, piracy is clearly punishable.
ME : Yes, it does. But –
OLP : That’s ok. So the law has provisions for leniency for murders but YGP says there is nothing like that for piracy. Right YGP?
YGP : Yes.
OLP : Ok, thanks Santhosh.


I personally feel the entire GD-PI process went pretty well for me. I definitely couldn’t have performed any better in the GD. As for the interview, it went for a good 35 mins and they were visibly impressed with “Games people play”, pretty satisfied with my answers on Einstein and my job profile, and agreed with the points on piracy as a demand-supply gap. Not sure about piracy being forgiven though but otherwise the only part I feel I may have slipped is that I may have come across too aggressively. But in all it was pretty satisfactory – I made sure it didn’t go the Indore way with them just asking a list of questions and me not being able to play to my strengths.

If they go by just the GD-PI, I should get get an admit. But then again, that’s been the story of my life – how do I go back and change my past acads from the 70s and 80s into the 90s? Especially since IIM-B gives so much weightage to past acad records and the Interview panel just gives me marks for GD-PI. Some one else is going to look at my profile objectively and give me marks for everything else. The selection criteria states :

… Such candidates effectively replace candidates who have only a high CAT score and have done well in the GDPI but score poorly in terms of their past academic record and work experience. IIMB emphasizes consistent and high performance in past academics.



  1. Hi,Have read your interview Q’s and replies … . its awesome . . how come you have knowledge in all fields…well i am your fan …. everday hit from me is guranteed .. . .Keep it up !!!! you rocks

    Comment by Anonymous — June 23, 2008 @ 10:33 PM | Reply

  2. I prefer to the quality first in every thing……Placements in USA

    Comment by laya — July 4, 2008 @ 3:35 PM | Reply

  3. After that Santosh got selected in IIM B or not? Can anybdy pls reply?

    Comment by CP — August 16, 2008 @ 2:51 AM | Reply

  4. Thanks for u r information its very useful Madurai Hotels

    Comment by vinesh — October 9, 2009 @ 6:18 PM | Reply

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