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ashokbhatia

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. Panjab_University

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 by the Automobile Association of India.

Here are some details of the pseudo-academic endeavours of the gang of 1976.

A confluence of…

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ashokbhatia

One of the major rewards of being a part of the gang of 1976 has been the kind of strong and resilient bonds of friendship one has been able to forge. Bonds which have survived the harsh slings and arrows of Life. Bonds which are like underground cable connections – dormant, but in place, ready to be reactivated as and when necessary.Panjab_University

Way back in the 1970s, UBS was an integral part of what was then known as the Department of Commerce and Business Management. Students of the Commerce stream would tend to treat the ones from the Management stream with some degree of awe, though laced with not-so-healthy contempt. Some lecturers from the Commerce side regularly put on a tie, trooped down to the ground floor, and shared their wisdom in de-mystifying balance sheets and cash flows with the Management students.

How friends made me gate-crash, cruise through, and…

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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. Panjab_University

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 by 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.

MBA 1976

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

gandhi_bhawan_at_punjab_university

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 gang 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.

maruti_800_first

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.

fortran-punched-card

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.

philip-kotler

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.

DRISHTIKONE 1987

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

panjab-university-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)

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-class-of-1976-some-encounters-of-a-musical-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/the-class-of-1976-forging-the-lingering-bonds-of-friendship)

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One of the major rewards of being a part of the gang of 1976 has been the kind of strong and resilient bonds of friendship one has been able to forge. Bonds which have survived the harsh slings and arrows of Life. Bonds which are like underground cable connections – dormant, but in place, ready to be reactivated as and when necessary.Panjab_University

Way back in the 1970s, UBS was an integral part of what was then known as the Department of Commerce and Business Management. Students of the Commerce stream would tend to treat the ones from the Management stream with some degree of awe, though laced with not-so-healthy contempt. Some lecturers from the Commerce side regularly put on a tie, trooped down to the ground floor, and shared their wisdom in de-mystifying balance sheets and cash flows with the Management students.

How friends made me gate-crash, cruise through, and then leave UBS

For one of the university management outfits ranked as number one in India then, it could have surely done without having to grant admission to someone of such a low calibre and managerial potential as yours truly.

But fate had other plans. Thanks to some postmen and a bunch of caring friends and well-wishers, yours truly did manage to worm his way into the not-so-hallowed portals of UBS.

Friends made then assured a lively stay on the campus, notwithstanding the dinghy hostel corridors and the tepid food dished out by the canteen contractors.

Friends also ensured that one got evicted from the system in due course of time, despite a Bollywood-style road accident which almost prevented one from taking all the examinations scheduled in the final semester on the campus.

UBS surely heaved a sigh of relief when yours truly boarded an outbound train and headed to one of the metros on a job-hunting spree.

This is how the saga unfolded.

Worming one’s way into UBS

Rewind to December 1973. A nation-wide strike of postmen ensured that a letter from IIM Ahmedabad asking yours truly to attend a group discussion and interview never made its way to me at Delhi University where I was busy pursuing my M. Sc. in Physics.

May 2014 037

In the first quarter of 1974, a similar call letter from UBS was about to be summarily ignored. But two close friends finally managed to persuade me to catch an overnight bus to Chandigarh. My argument – that an important laboratory examination scheduled at Delhi University on the very following day could go for a toss – fell on deaf ears.

When a somewhat groggy me reached the hostel where a 1974 batch friend was staying, the latter was dumbfounded to discover that I planned to attend the group discussion and interview in our national dress – a simple pyjama and kurta. Prompt arrangements were made by him to borrow a corporate style dress. A crash course was conducted on the fundamental particles which govern the technique of participating in a group discussion. Thus, suitably dressed and armed, I was led to the UBS entrance, much like a reluctant lamb about to be slaughtered.

pu-student-center

The rest, as you would put it, is history. By evening, it became clear that UBS had had the misfortune of taking yours truly in its fold, howsoever grudgingly.

Resistance on the family side was gradually overcome. A property had to be liquidated by my parents so that a part of the proceeds could be used to finance my further education. In July 1974, the session began in right earnest.

Cruising through the university eco-system

Surviving the hostel food

The tyranny of the hostel canteen food – a relentless serving of raajma-chaawal ad nauseam – had to be overcome. Late night visits to gobble up greasy omelettes and bread slices topped with half of an Amul butter pack offered at the hand carts opposite the PGI gate were looked forward to. On Sunday mornings, delicious breakfasts served at the nearby PEC canteen were put down the hatch with a flourish.

With the help of a friend, a make-shift cooking arrangement was made in the hostel room of yours truly. Yet another friend pitched in with his procurement and logistics services.

Yummy omelettes followed by senwai-ki-kheer were often whipped up, leaving several of our hostel mates green with envy. Some others, unable to resist the aroma wafting around in the corridor, did attempt to replicate the endeavour in their own rooms, each with a varying degree of success.

The Sholay magic

sholay-poster

After having been through the rigours of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and mind-numbing formulae of quantum mechanics, management subjects were relatively easy on the grey matter. Routine trips to movie halls boosted up their revenues somewhat. The highlight was the release of the movie Sholay at Jagat theatre. One did not realize then that box-office history was in the making.

A batch mate, ostensibly the only one who ever maintained a car while staying at the hostel, belonged to the family which owned two movie halls in the city, Jagat being one of those. One day, having seen the first day, first show, he came back hugely excited and was all praise for the Hollywood-style pacy, action thriller. So much so that he picked six of his batch mates in his Fiat car to watch the late evening show of the movie.

Much to our dismay, the hall was fully booked. But lo and behold, out came six chairs, placed on the aisle, for this bunch of crazy cine goers , a VVIP treat, courtesy the batch mate.

An exciting time for the automobile industry

The car owned by this particular batch mate was a source of perennial fun for many of the 1976 gang. We had endless sojourns, exciting trips and fun-filled days and nights exploring the City Beautiful and its neighborhood in the Fiat – the then Empress of the road. (The then Emperor being the strong and sturdy Ambassador car). A test model of Maruti was just in the offing, at a price point of Rs. 25,000 each!

MBA 1976

Once in a while, nocturnal visits to Morni Hills cheered us up no end. So were visits to Sukhna Lake, Kasauli and Shimla. Rock Garden was just about beginning to take shape.

Shaping the intellect

The hostel room of yours truly also doubled up as a mini lecture hall. The door of the cupboard served as a blackboard. Classmates who had been busy – either with juicier escapades elsewhere on the campus or had been mentally absent when a lecture was getting delivered – made it a habit of trooping in to improve their intellect.

The trauma and the relief

The trauma of the final semester examinations eventually caught up with us. A friend from the 1975 batch offered to share some of his class notes with us. A mobike trip was made to his house nearby. However, on our way back, a wayward cyclist hit us near the Sector 15 market.

In my whole life so far, this was the first time I experienced a complete erasure of memory and a blackout which lasted a whole night. Much like in a Bollywood scenario, I came to my senses the next morning while reclining on my bed in the hostel room, only to ask in a feeble voice, ‘Where am I?’. Concerned friends had spent their entire night sitting by my side, keeping an eagle eye on my condition. They were quite relieved when I did not ask the dreaded question, ‘Who am I?’

With the final examinations due to start within a day’s time, a process of reverse coaching started, where I was at the receiving end. Groggy, unfocused and in a dazed condition, I was somehow made to take the Business Policy examination. Rest of the examinations followed in quick succession and were a bit challenging to the frayed nerves. End of examinations always calls for a celebration. This one was even more so.

The bonds that linger

These are but some of the memories one cherishes. All of us have a unique story of our own – that of entering, cruising through, and exiting the MBA program of Panjab University. Of the friends we made and the cliques we were a part of. Of the acts we indulged in, whether glorified or goofy.

bacth-of-1976-in-2016

UBS played the role of an airport on which our individual planes taxied for some time and finally took off. Some became entrepreneurs. Some soared to great heights in their chosen career.

Wherever they happen to be, and whatever the time-lapse, the lingering bonds of friendship endure. Regular get togethers are not essential, but highly desirable. These do help us to keep the embers of friendship glowing.

(Inputs from Lalit Kapur and Kul Bhushan Khullar are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-class-of-1976-some-encounters-of-a-musical-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/an-ode-to-our-teachers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/revisiting-the-alma-mater)

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