Besides perfecting the art of getting suspended, organizing musical events and assisting in the successful launch of such cult classic movies like Sholay, the Class of 1976 also indulged in various pseudo-academic pursuits.
These included holding pan-Indian conferences in the pre-Jurassic days when not many money-gobbling dinosaur-like management institutes with a dubious pedeagogy happened to be clogging our streets.
Participation in elocution contests and winning trophies for the Alma Mater was a routine affair. So was attending professional events in New Delhi, holding a bridge championship, organizing a quiz contest and such other endeavours.
Maruti was then being heralded as a fulfilment of the common man’s transport ambitions. A detailed market survey based on ‘product attribute analysis’ was conducted, the results of which were eagerly lapped up be the Automobile Association of India.
Here are some details of the pseudo-academic endeavours of the gang of 1976.
A confluence of management intellectuals
The year 1975-76 saw the gang hosting the first-ever All India Management Convention. Studious beaks drawn from all over the country got together in the sylvan surroundings of the Sector 14 campus. The Chandigarh Meterological Department was none too pleased with the high concentration of Intellectual Sulfide and Managerial Monoxide in the air.
After a painstaking research to collate information on the Management Institutes in India, one was appalled to discover that the total number of such august bodies was less than forty. With detailed planning and fleet-footed follow-up, around ten odd institutes decided to send their teams to the event. This included XLRI Jamshedpur and FMS Delhi, besides several others from all parts of India.
A cultural evening was held to showcase the soft power of UBS. However, a fashion show planned as a part of the fixture had to be scratched due to two reasons – a stiff-upper-lip attitude of the powers-that-were, and the sheer absence of participation from the tribe of the delicately nurtured.
One often wonders if this initiative of the 1976 batch was ever replicated by any of the subsequent batches over the past four decades, that is from 1976 till 2016. If so, it would be nice for one to stand corrected on the issue.
Bridging the intellectual divide
Incidentally, the gang of 1976 had five/six avid, die-hard bridge enthusiasts who burned many a midnight oil perfecting their skills in this unique game of patience, anticipation, mind-reading and clairvoyance.
A bridge championship open to all departments of Panjab University was duly held and was a resounding success.
Revitalizing the grey cells
Yet another initiative of the gand was a quiz competition open to teams from all departments of Panjab University campus.
This one, too, had several teams participating and created tremendous interest, excitement and buzz. It saw a nail-biting close finish.
Maruti and the Third Law of Academics
Some of you may be aware that, much like Newton’s Third Law of Motion, there exists a Third Law of Academics. It stipulates that ‘For every teacher who is not able to do justice to the subject at hand, there exist students who react by learning the subject with much gusto, entirely of their own initiative’. Their curiosity gets aroused. They try to read as much as they can. The end result is that they end up being passionate about the subject. Some even go on to build their careers around the same.
The Class of 1976 was no exception to this rule. Fundamentals of Market Research were handled in such a manner by the honourable faculty member concerned – may God bless his soul – that some members of the gang became quite passionate about the subject.
Learning from Philip Kotler
The launch of a Maruti car – touted then as a ‘peoples’ car at a price point of Rs 25,000 apiece – was in the offing. One of the groups decided to take up a market survey exercise. Mind you, this was not the kind which was done while sipping coffee with one’s female companion of the times at the Student Centre. This one involved real field work, burning of the proverbial midnight oil and lots of brains and brawn.
Principles of marketing laid bare by Philip Kotler were perused with a heightened degree of interest. Based on the sector scheme of the City Beautiful, a stratified random sampling was made. A preliminary survey led to the identification of some twenty five odd passenger car attributes. The master survey then followed, based on a questionnaire which was duly pre-tested. Unsuspecting citizens were pounced at at all hours.
Digestive troubles and Fortran
Those were simpler times, sans mobile phones and internet. Gaining entry into households was not a difficult task, save and except houses where members of the canine species resented the arrival of strangers and were not too amused with the proceedings. In many households, hospitality was awesome. Some of the field workers had a problem with their digestive systems, what with having been forced to gulp tea, butter milk and cold drinks at different houses within a matter of a few hours.
A sub-group of super-intelligent members of the group were tasked with writing a Fortran-based computer program which could analyse data along twenty five different dimensions. Members of the group were afloat with punching cards, used those days for feeding data into the single computer the entire university boasted of.
The inner glow of satisfaction
The end result of a survey of about 125 households was the brand mapping of Ambassador, Fiat and Standard cars in a twenty five dimensional space. The ideal point in this space was identified. Speculation was made as to how close the yet-to-be-launched Maruti would be to this ideal point.
Academic scoring apart, the exercise gave immense inner satisfaction to those involved. The Automobile Association of India, when contacted, was happy to publish the results in its journal.
The Third Law of Academics was thus validated. One does not know if Philip Kotler ever got to know what he had inspired in us lesser mortals, but the faculty involved with such subjects as Marketing, Market Research and Statistics was apparently happy with the results.
The germs of conventionitis resurfaced some eleven years later.
During November 1987, in association with friends from other batches, a management convention was organized at the Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi.
This event was also a resounding success. Besides business leaders and management professionals of all hues, it saw an active participation from the UBS faculty as well.
Burnishing Brand UBS
All such pursuits perhaps helped one to shape one’s intellect even better than the academic course one was mandated to undergo. The art of event management was learnt. The value of networking was appreciated. In the process, Brand UBS got a new sheen.
(Inputs from Lalit Kapur are gratefully acknowledged)