Friday, August 22, 2008

Notting Hill Carnival - LBS Outing

LBS'ers - I threw this together knowing that a few of us are interested in the Carnival. I suggest going on Monday, meeting at Plowden Reception at 11 AM and departing thence via Baker St. Tube/Chyube Stop. Later in the day gets very crowded. Of course, you could go any other time Sunday or Monday - just go as a large group - apparently petty crime is prevalent given the million-odd crowd.

And feel free to circulate this to other LBS'ers and invite them.


21 August - Calypso Monarch Finals
23 August - 30th Panorama – National Champions of Steel (Hyde Park)
24 August - On the Road Junior Costume (several categories including King, Queen and Best Band)
25 August - On the Road Senior Costume Competition (several categories including King, Queen and Best Band)

Mas (short for masquerade) stems from the ceremonial African masking traditions, as well as the pre-lent 'Carnivales' of European Catholisism

Soundsystems are an integral part of the Notting Hill carnival experience and traces back to 1950s Jamaica - it's dance hall and backyard party
scene with it's sound clashes and homemade PA equipment. This year's line up features 38 soundsystems spread throughout the carnival


Saturday 23rd August

12pm – 9pm 30th National Panorama Championship
Ten of the UK's top steelbands, each comprising of between 40 and 75 musicians, compete for the title 'National Champions of Steel'. Artists will perform on stage 12pm-4pm & the Championship takes place 4pm-9pm London Notting Hill Carnival Ltd will also host a variety of stage and family activities on the day.

Sunday 24th August

6am – 10am J'ouvert
Steelbands participate in a procession to mark the official opening of the 2008 Notting Hill Carnival. Revellers daub paint and mud on themselves and that tradition has now been taken up here.

10am – 7pm Notting Hill Carnival Children's day parade

Monday 25th August

10am – 7pm Notting Hill Carnival Adult’s day parade

Take the Hammersmith & City Line towards Baker Street. WESTBOURNE PARK STATION: On Sunday 24 and Bank Holiday Monday 25 August, between 1100 and 1800, the station is exit only.

Paddington (Hammersmith and City line) – on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday it may be advisable to use this station instead of Notting Hill Gate or Royal Oak, as both stations will have diversions in place.. Most other stations in the Carnival area will be ‘exit only’ until 6-7 PM. Other stations near to the Carnival: High Street, Kensington (Circle and District lines), Kensal Green and Queen’s Park (Bakerloo line).

CABWISE is a text message-based service that helps you find a taxi or licensed minicab. Simply text HOME to 60835 to get one taxi and two
local, licensed minicab numbers sent straight to your mobile.

Is the Carnival safe to visit alone?

Carnival organizers and the police strongly advise people to NOT visit the carnival alone; arrange to meet friends and family before entering the Carnival area. They also advise bringing only a small amount of cash and leaving purses, backpacks and wallets home. Some people advise that groups wear similar coloured clothes so its easy to identify others from your group in the crush.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A mini-post from the city of mini-cabs

My move to London was smoother than expected. Not that I had anticipated pain! I had some anxiety about how my life in Boston would map to my life in London. For example, where would I find a wash-and-iron service that would be as cheap as my drycleaners in Boston? Would my flat have air-conditioning? And would there be a Starbucks within walking distance of LBS? Here is what I have found thus far.

In the “Plus” column:

London architecture, walking everywhere and liking it

I couldn’t have asked for better B-school colleagues

LBS is every bit what I had expected it to be, and I’m glad that its not part of a university campus (easier to recognize LBS students in the neighborhood)

I have fantastic flat-mates and a fantastic flat in Marylebone, a minute’s walk from the school and 221B Baker Street (Holmes, Watson?)

Even though delays and cancellations on the Chyube (a.k.a. Tube) are common, what’s entertaining are the reasons given – signaling problems, power grid failure, labor strike (Seriously, on just one short section of Jubilee Line between West Hampstead and Swiss Cottage?), sheep crossing holding up train traffic,
endangered frog species mating between train tracks causing delays

The colorful and sometimes eccentric denizens of London – for example a Dickensian man with a scruffy jutting chin who marched into the bank in a purple velvet full length coat, top hat and cane and proceeded to cackle and talk with a heavy Cockney accent – could have well passed for Fagin from Oliver Twist (the pic btw is Ben Kingsley in Oliver Twist, the movie)

In the “Negatives” column

I can’t for the love of God make out the announcements on the Chyube, and when I finally figure out what they are saying, I feel incredibly stupid for not have figured it out first time
the squawk-box squawked

The concept of filter coffee does not exist, even the Starbucks near the Baker St. Chyube stop has had a broken filter coffee machine for five days

Everything takes twice as long, finding a flat, getting any kind of service or a phone line or opening a bank account

There is more to report. Look for more mini-posts.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A couple of B-school essays

It seems that my last posting of a B-school essay was well received and "advice" was sought by some future applicants. The only "advice" I can give is a) be yourself, b) make your examples short, pithy and colorful, c) tell a story that stands out, d) strongly link your past experiences with your future goals, e) avoid vagueness at all cost f) don't assume the reader's ability to read between the lines, and above all f) answer the question clearly. And yes, have someone else who knows you and has a command of the language, read and critique your essays. I could go on, but posting a few of my essays might just be more helpful. Here are two essays I wrote for Columbia GSB and London Business School.

Essay 4 (b): If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?

I love art, history and education through travel. I visited Florence last year and couldn’t get enough of the city. I’d spend my free day on the streets of the city of the Medici. I’d be woken early by the pealing of church bells. I’d stop by a neighborhood trattoria and jostle with the locals for pastries and a steaming cappuccino. I’d strike up a conversation with friendly faces and find out what the day held for them.

I’d hurry to stand in the line snaking outside the Uffizi so I could see Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’. I’d stroll through the sculpture garden in the Piazza della Signoria and make charcoal rubbings off Ghiberti’s doors at the Baptistery. I’d climb the 414 steps of the Campanile for breath-taking views of the city and the Tuscan countryside, much of which hasn’t changed in centuries. I’d spend time crawling through the vaults of Brunelleschi’s Dome of the Basilica del Fiore, an engineering marvel to this day with the world’s largest masonry span. When the church was built to be the largest house of worship, the neighboring streets and houses were actually lowered so that the Basilica would look more imposing that it actually was. I’d revisit Michelangelo’s David and take sneaky photos of it. I’d have to take in a pistachio gelato as I walked the cobbled stone streets of Santa Croce, which reeks of tanneries. I’d make my way to the piazza where Savonarola’s ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ blazed. I’d spend a moment in silence mourning all the works of art that civilization lost, thanks to the mad monk.

As dusk draws near, I’d avoid the ‘Menu Turistico’ for dinner. I’d buy cichetti and some homemade wine - bottled in used plastic bottles. I’d hike up one of the hills, south of the Arno river and watch the setting sun glint off the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

LBS Essay 1: In what role do you see yourself working immediately after graduation? Why? How will your past and present experiences help you achieve this? How will the London Business School MBA Programme contribute to this goal?

My post-MBA goal is to work for the Private Equity (PE) consulting practice of a tier one strategy consulting firm and to specialize in Merger and Acquisition (M&A) due diligence studies in the Indian pharmaceutical sector. Very specifically, Bain’s global reach, its strong focus on PE and pharmaceuticals and its collegial culture would provide the best career fit, enabling my long-term goals. Having relished the intellectual stimulation of tackling a variety of business problems in diverse industries in my four years of management consulting, I know that Bain would provide an exciting opportunity to further expand my ability to devise creative solutions and lead organizational change.

At Advion, a biosystems startup, I collaborated with pharmaceutical scientists to develop analytical devices which expedite drug discovery by accurately analyzing drug candidates in 1/100th the time that other techniques require. While learning the science behind drug discovery, I also observed how Advion’s PE backers used their business consulting backgrounds and financial expertise to guide Advion’s executives on innovation and growth strategies. This foundational exposure to key aspects of the pharmaceutical industry would help me address industry-specific issues at Bain.

Following Advion, through a business strategy and operations consulting role at Stroud, I learned to facilitate operational turnarounds at multi-billion dollar corporations in sectors from food and beverage to electronics to consumer goods. Recently, I worked on the exciting transformation of a PE-owned packaging products company, leading 5-10 person teams at each of nine plants to identify a total of $40MM in profitability losses through a financial analysis and deep operational assessment. The subsequent 6-month pilot program which I led focused on improving operations efficiency, product quality, logistics and inventory management, resulting in a $7M profitability increase. I gained extensive finance and supply chain knowledge and a practical understanding of organizational change management, preparing me to lead consulting teams to solve clients’ strategic and operational problems.

After growing through two promotions, in order to gain expertise in post-merger strategy (an issue prevalent in PE,) I eventually accepted an advanced role at Accenture. I started acquiring expertise by leading two eight person case teams (client VP’s, directors, consultants) to integrate two global supply chains and realize merger synergies at a Top 3 computer manufacturer, initiatives which improved cash flow by $30MM and profits by $20MM.

The London Business School (LBS) MBA is the next logical step in refining my leadership skills, acquiring a general management aptitude and developing the financial acumen necessary for M&A due diligence in a post-MBA role at Bain. My conversations with N. Mehta (’08) and N. Patel (’06) have convinced me that LBS’s flexible curriculum would allow me to integrate the knowledge I acquire from electives in Finance, Strategy and International Management and Private Equity. Through a semester at Wharton’s healthcare program and through UCL courses such as ‘Business Enterprise Training in the Life Sciences,’ I would build my financial knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry. LBS’s global reach and its diverse community would teach me to leverage the cultural diversity inherent to consulting firms.

Having grown up in Bombay, India’s commerce hub, I understand the unparalleled benefits of being at the heart of a cosmopolitan capital. LBS, with its proximity to 70% of the FTSE 100 and 75% of the Fortune 500, would give me an unbeatable edge in achieving my professional goals.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A dark and disturbing preoccupation…..

Counting down two weeks before I wrap up my last consulting engagement at the world’s largest mining equipment manufacturer (every boy’s dream – being surrounded by bright yellow big diggers, six stories tall). Then, a week of unwinding, including visiting a friend in Philly who started at Wharton and NYC to see a cousin, who is stateside for a month. Then London, mid-August! Found out that I’ll make my bonus which takes a major chunk out of my year one loans, leaving me with a little more travel/fun money. Woohoo!

I’m in the habit of reading several books at the same time. Most recently I’ve switched between Walk On, which chronicles U2’s foray into social justice and political activism, Making of a Leader which examines the incubatory stages in the development of a leader and The Monster of Florence, which I just finished.

Frankly, after reading The Monster of Florence, I creeped myself out. I looked back over my reading list and have discovered a disturbing preoccupation. I’ve lately been riveted by books with romantic but dark underpinnings. These tend to be books like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Devil in the White City and The Mistress of the Art of Death – all of which juxtapose grisly elements of the macabre and the dark side of human nature against idyllic settings.

For those of you grew up in Italy, il Mostro di Firenze was likely something that invaded your cultural existence over two decades. For the rest of us, our limited exposure to The Monster of Florence is through Hannibal where Thomas Harris used gory details of the real Monster’s fiendish exploits to wreak havoc on our psyches, causing many sleepless nights. The real Monster was responsible for the ritualistic murder of fourteen lovers in the Tuscan countryside, the destruction of the lives of many innocent suspects and the exposure of the somewhat corrupt underbelly of the Italian justice system.

The book itself is split in two halves with the first half presenting facts in chronological fashion, as recorded by Mario Spezi. Spezi is the book’s co-author and a crime beat reporter who covered the Monster case over two decades for La Nazione, a leading Florentine newspaper. Spezi himself is one of those characters one can find only in exquisite crime fiction from a previous era – complete with Boagartesque fedora, Gaulouise hanging from lower lip while “downing a single shot of espresso with one sharp movement”.

The second half describes the collaboration between Spezi and New Yorker writer Douglas Preston (of fictional FBI agent Pendergast series fame) to uncover the real Monster who the authorities have been unable to identify in spite of an international effort involving the FBI. In their effort to nab the Monster and quell public outrage, the authorities serially arrest and convict a motley cast of suspects - noble scions, doctors, cult members, pimps, prostitutes, mental patients, goat herders and Sardinian immigrants, using each conviction to systematically propel their individual careers. You can’t turn a page without encountering prosecutors who gain their best intelligence from eccentric psychics and conspiracy theorists, inspectors who string together flimsy evidence to frame the most improbable of suspects, judges who award warrants to tap phone lines at will and carbinieri who conduct unwarranted house searches. Shake the book hard enough, and from your bound volume will fall Van Dyke beard sporting Counts hailing from Rennaissance-era Florentine families such as the Frescobaldis and Capponis (and their striking American wives).

Conspicuously absent is a profile of the killer, which forces you to step in his shoes and wonder what kind of person would do such things. This for me was the disturbing part. Preston and Spezi do manage to uncover the real killer, providing the most coherent evidence based theory presented in the book. The theory being counter to one proposed by the authorities, lands them in trouble, Spezi being summarily arrested and Preston being made persona non grata on Italian soil.

I did enjoy reliving my time in Florence through the book. In spite of the foreboding subject matter, Preston does a great job of drawing you into the Tuscan environs and painting an accurate picture of Florentine life. I’m suddenly nostalgic about Florence, and want to be there again soon. Now back to filling out LBS forms for Orientation week, finding a doctor in London, emailing other LBS admits and preparing for Flat Hunter’s Pub Crawl.