Thursday, November 27, 2008

Salaam Bombay!

I'm still in a state of shock. My city is in flames.

Last evening I was at the Deutsche Bank London office near Broad Street, having the time of my life, when I received a spate of emails about the attacks on Bombay. This is not new to me. I lived through the 1993 bombings which claimed 250 civilian lives, but the brazenness of guerilla attacks and the use of grenades crossed a line. I'm sure once my emotional response dies down in a day or so there will be time for rational thought, but for now I'm distraught.

There is more to this is terms of what this means for the country - politically with the upcoming elections, and economically since this is our 9/11 in the face of a bursting bubble. This also impacts inter-faith stability in the country with religious riots and it impacts how the world sees us. How can India portray itself as a destination to visit, and live and work in when its financial, cultural and educational hub is so vulnerable? Having lived abroad for so long, I feel woefully inadequate to address these topics.

A quick phone call to my parents who live in Bombay and a sigh of relief later, I started emailing, texting, calling and skyping the rest of my family and friends, who live in Bombay. I tried to cram for a Strategy final while manning the lines till the wee hours of this London morning. As I dozed off around 4:30 AM, I realized why I was so provoked.

I was born in Bombay near Opera House and lived there for 16 years. The first movie I watched in a theatre was African Safari, and I watched it with my parents at Metro Cinema, one of the sites attacked. Years later in school and college, I would bunk classes and run off to the movies at Metro with my friends or shop for cricket bats at Nadkarni Sports, right by the theatre or scarf "bheja masala" at Metro Café. Leopold's, another of the sites attacked, was where my college buddies and I would head for a cold Kingfisher after kebabs and baida rotis at Bade Miyan.

I remember cruising Marine Drive on our motorbikes, cool salty evening breeze from the Arabian Sea against our faces, the lights of the towering Oberoi Sheraton in the distance. We would sit on the low sea-wall facing The Taj Mahal, sipping from our green coconuts, and watch the floodlights turn the hotel into a magical palace in the dusk. And CST, or Victoria Terminus as it was called, is Bombay's busiest railway station where grenades were flippantly lobbed and automatic weapons fired, like in a scene from Band of Brothers. Built in the gothic style in the in the late 1800's to resemble Kings Cross St. Pancras station in London, it remains one of the most beautiful building in the city, with ornate gargoyles that spout steady streams in the monsoon - rain-water collected from the rooftop gutters. I remember having to dodge these spouts of water on my way to The Times of India building, where I freelanced as a journalist while in college.

My backyard was attacked, my family and friends were endangered, and I mourn for those who lost their loved ones. I know Bombay is resilient and will rise like a phoenix from the ashes. But I'm pissed as hell. Something has changed and I see things in a different light and I'm not assuming Gandhian notions this time around. If it is non-Indians THEY are looking for, they should take it elsewhere. What's the best way of dealing with these Neanderthals?

What do you think?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

London Business School Global Healthcare Conference, December 1, 2008

(Press Release)

The London Business School Healthcare Club is delighted to announce the first London Business School Global Healthcare Conference, to be held on December 1st, 2008 at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Regents Park, London. Conference organizers expect 250 delegates.

The purpose of the conference is to provide a forum for healthcare leaders, London Business School alumni and current students to openly discuss issues facing the healthcare sector. Conference delegates will explore the global healthcare industry, led by prestigious speakers who will share insights on current and future industry opportunities and challenges.

Panels will engage in thought-provoking debate on issues faced by pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology firms with a focus on the emerging markets. In addition to educating delegates, fostering an exchange of ideas and providing an opportunity to network, the conference will increase student awareness regarding the most exciting employers in this sector.

The conference will have a keynote address and two plenary sessions. The keynote address, "Perspectives on the Future of Healthcare" will be delivered by William Burns, CEO of Roche Pharma

The first plenary session is on "Financing and Access of Healthcare in the Emerging Markets". Confirmed panellists include; Jon Symonds - Managing Partner Goldman Sachs and Ex CFO Astrazeneca, Nicolaus Henke - Lead Healthcare Partner McKinsey London Office and David Redfern - Head of Strategy GlaxoSmithKline

The second plenary session "New Ventures and Technology in Healthcare" will feature the following speakers; Alan Mackay - Partner and Head of Healthcare 3i, Prof Simon Best - Entrepreneur in Residence and Partner TVM Capital and Dr John Patterson - Head of R&D Astrazeneca

For further information please visit or email

Addendum: The London Business School Global Healthcare Conference shares a significant number of speakers with the Financial Times, FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference. The FT conference registration costs € 1,500, whereas the London Business School conference is about 1/100th of that cost and is open to the public – that means you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Over the Rhine – Pratham Indo-German Business Forum in Dusselfdorf

Pratham e.V., the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, the Indian government and London Business School co-sponsored the 3rd Indo-German Business Forum in Dusseldorf last week. This was the most fun I've had since joining LBS. A large LBS contingent flew to Dusseldorf the evening before. I for one flew into Amsterdam Schipol with my buddy Krish, and I assure you that the choice was made owing to discount airfares, not due to the presence of certain coffee shops that sell certain brownies. Driving from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf was a blast though. If there is one thing fantastic about driving through the North Rhine Westphalia hinterland after dark, its' going 200 kmph on an autobahn.

Dusselfdorf is really beautiful – almost like an upscale and cleaner version of Boston. Our HQ was at LBS'er Gaurav Mehta's home, and following a large Indian dinner, we stayed up well past midnight hammering out last minute event details. Gaurav has been our event champion – the man hasn't slept for more than 4 hours a day for the last 3 months - manning the phones, and sorting out speakers, sponsorship and event logistics.

The rest of the evening turned out to be quite eventful. We had checked into a Bed & Breakfast, with an attached stablehouse and rumor has it that a few of the horses were Arabians. After turning in around 2 AM, the fire alarm inexplicably went off. As it turns out someone (Anni who shall stay unnamed) took a scalding hot shower and the steam set off the alarm, which brought us all out in our PJs. We didn't know how to turn off the alarm unit, the property manager lived offsite and when we called the local fire brigade, they asked us if there really was a fire, to which we responded "We don't know, but the alarm is going off." This was followed by a curt response in German "If you can't see a fire, we're not coming."

Would you want this pretty thing to be served medium rare?

If not, register your protest with the Dusseldorf Fire Department!

So much for the Dusseldorf fire brigade! The place could have potentially turned into a horse barbeque and they wouldn't have cared. Eventually the red-haired (dyed) property manager tore into the B&B courtyard in her BMW (you wouldn't expect her to drive a Kia would you?) wearing only a purple bathrobe and no slippers, and she switched off the fire alarm with a key which was sitting in a closet next to main fire alarm unit. She chided us for taking hot showers and suggested opening the windows to the rather nippy elements before taking any future showers. Apparently in Germany, one is supposed to know such things before stepping into a shower, stupid! Go figure!

The next day started bright and early at 5:30 AM and we were at the venue by 7 setting up for the event. The theme of the forum was innovation with a focus on the energy, automotive and technology sectors. For more on innovation read "Game Changing Strategies" by LBS Strategy Professor Constantinos Markides. The Indian ambassador to Germany inaugurated the event following which there were several keynote speakers and panels. The most interesting talks were by Walter Bender from the MIT Media Lab, Amit Mehra from Reuter's Market Light and Madhav Chavan, the founder of Pratham.

Later that day we had a private tete-a-tete with Madhav Chavan where we chatted about Pratham's origins, what drives him personally and what we could do to help further the organization's future impact on primary education in India. The man is a legend and this was the high point of the entire event for me. Times like these inspire me!

All in all, the event was a tremendous success and we celebrated at Meerbar, a seafood restaurant on the banks of the Rhine, following which we stumbled to the local bars singing silly songs and staying out till 2 AM. Those of us who had early morning flights decided that the best strategy was staying up with a bottle of Jack for company. Really bad idea!

Missed and cancelled flights notwithstanding, I made it back to London in time to shower, change and head to a friend's graduation party in Soho. Three days, three cities, one conference and one fire alarm later it was time to get back to a report on the economics of the British beer market and start prepping for my French and Corporate Finance midterms - leveraged betas and French verbs are not kind masters.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Leaving New York Never Easy… (London Business School NYC Finance Trek)

(As published in the London Business School newsletter)

"In New York freedom looks like too many choices" - that's the opening line from U2's "New York".

My thoughts exactly and those of fifteen other London Business School MBA2010s on the NYC Finance Trek, as we boarded planes bound for JFK from Heathrow on the evening of October 22nd. The school's Career Services Office had helped us line up networking sessions with the six NYC investment banks. Over two days we would meet bankers and traders, and make choices that could determine our careers.

The prospect was exciting, making the plane ride feel less like crossing the Atlantic, and more like hopping on the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf. Just a few hours ago we were in a mad scramble - attending lectures and finishing assignments. A surreal feeling overcame me as I sunk into my airplane seat – was this the lifestyle that would define us? Fast-paced, impactful and intellectually stimulating yet stressful and at times stretching us beyond our abilities. Phew! I cracked open a textbook and started cramming for an upcoming Managerial Economics midterm, while casting a baleful eye on the fare that passed for in-flight programming.

A few hours later, and past midnight, we arrived jet-lagged in New York, and grabbing a few hours of sleep was top priority. In spite of the sleep deprivation, at seven thirty the next morning, we rendezvoused at a Starbucks outside Credit Suisse's office, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and looking, shall we say, quite purposeful in our dark suits. We were ushered into a conference room in the Credit Suisse building where we were warmly greeted by the recruiters who then introduced us to the bankers and traders from various industry groups and trading desks. We were surprised by the huge turnout of London Business School alumni, including several VPs and MDs on a busy Thursday morning. Networking was a free for all, and we asked questions about the bank, about the various roles and about more pressing matters such as the bank's response to the credit crisis.

Credit Suisse was followed by a quick cab ride to Citi's offices and an hour of Q&A with two post-MBA associates – one from industrials coverage and the other from derivatives. Next stop, Deutsche Bank on Wall Street. We were admittedly wowed by their offices and trading floor and the art in their hallways is exceptional. There was a large turnout of reps at all levels from various IBD departments and Sales and Trading. An MD from the Telecom Coverage Group gave us a short presentation. A networking session followed and the entire event lasted for two hours, more or less. Merrill Lynch wrapped up our day by hosting a fantastic cocktail reception at a restaurant at the World Financial Center. Once again, we made great connections who encouraged us to contact them as recruiting season approached. Later that evening we attended a trademark London Business School Sundowners event in the West Village and mingled with NYC area alumni.

Day Two was more of the same, with visits to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and both firms lived up to their stellar reputations. This was the day after the Dow had hit one of its historical lows and we noted with interest that while reps from both firms pinpointed risk-management decisions that had gone awry, they also clearly articulated what the firms were doing to prevent a repeat crisis. We were impressed by the methodical sangfroid with which they approached the situation.

The last 48 hours had been eye-opening and we had learned more about the NYC banking sector and had evaluated the gaps in our recruiting strategies, doom and gloom notwithstanding. By Friday evening we were arguably beat. We said our good-byes to each other before heading our separate ways – some to see friends in New York, others to shopping trips. I for one boarded the Acela to Boston – excited to return home and see my friends so soon after having moved to London. I was listening to my iPod as I watched the receding skyline in the dusk from the other side of the East River. R.E.M.'s "Leaving New York" came up in the shuffle, immediately making me nostalgic as Michael Stipe's plaintive voice wailed "….. Leaving New York, never easy, I saw the light fading out!"