Sunday, 6 October 2013

The two T's

As MBAs we are all quite familiar with the 4 Ps of marketing or the five forces of strategy. But only KGPians will know that there are 2Ts which form an inseparable part of our stay here -'Trains' and 'Technology'. These 2Ts have fascinated me all my life. The long whistle of a zooming train in the middle of the night used to stir up my emotions like no other and I used to yearn for going on long train journeys. In a similar manner, technological advances which made life easier for the humankind never ceased to impress me. When I was a kid, I used to visit my uncle’s place only for two reasons – to explore a new computer that they had bought which was a rarity in those days, and to stand on the terrace of their house and wave hands to passengers on the trains on the Bangalore-Mysore route. So, when I finally got admission in the railway and technology town of Kharagpur, there was little hesitation in quitting my job and coming here.

HWH-YPR Duranto

16383 KGP WDM-3A awaits signal amidst slight drizzle while shunting in the rakes of 12245 Howrah - Yesvantpur Duronto Express. Taken on 22.06.2013(Saturday)

Kharagpur is home to the longest railway platform in the world and is a major junction for the Indian railways. All trains on the East-South and East-West routes invariably pass through this station. Equally famous in Kharagpur is the Indian Institute of Technology, the first of the world class engineering institutes started in India. The IITs are known world over for producing the best quality engineers year after year.

The beautiful Kharagpur railway station, at km 114 from Howrah on the South Eastern railway

But the only dilemma facing me when I got an admission was whether a management course in middle of a technology hotspot was the right choice or not? After all, location seemed to be the most important thing in choice of a management institute. Would the two years in a remote place like Kharagpur be as rewarding as some of the self-advertising, money squeezing B-schools in other financial hotspots of India? It was a tough call to take but the experiences in my work life came to my aid. I had observed the daily issues in the company where I worked – one of the technologically admired companies in the world. I realised that technology had the highest scope for management. It is relatively easy to manage small scale industries or firms which operate under little number of constraints. But the real challenge for a manager lies when the technology gets advanced and quick decisions have to be taken under a wide variety of constraints and limitations. And how well a manager uses this technology to improve the daily activities in the company determines the success of the company. No wonder then, we see a large chunk of MBAs having engineering backgrounds. With these thoughts in mind, I left all the comforts of my workplace to be a part of this technology hub in middle of the jungles of Bengal.

The first Indian Institute of Technology was established in the year 1951

Universities across the world have management schools which offer under-graduate, post-graduate and doctoral programs in management. The number of management institutes in the world has only grown in the past few decades, and we have around 3500 management institutes in India alone offering the once prestigious MBA degree, compromising on the cost and quality of the same. However, this was not the case in the early years of the modern corporation when the new B-Schools were set up in the world like Wharton School of Business in 1881 or the Harvard Business School in 1908. The premier technology institute, MIT, foresaw the need for creating specialised courses for technology management and created the MIT School of Management which later came to be known as MIT Sloan School of Management. In India, IIT Kharagpur was the first technology institute to recognise the need for such techno-managers and with sufficient funding from one of its alumnus Vinod Gupta, opened up the first IIT B-school in 1993 – the Vinod Gupta School of Management

Vinod Gupta School of Management is one of the most beautiful structures inside the IIT KGP campus

There is technology everywhere inside the IIT campus. People here are so obsessed with technology that even the hospitals, clubs, swimming pools, and gymkhanas inside the campus have the prefix “technology” attached to them ? Work on the cutting edge technology for the next generation happens here and an expert in any field is right in the department opposite yours, if not in the same department. We got exposed to so much of technology here and felt that we could be aptly called as “techno-managers”. No other costly B-school claiming to have a location advantage could have given us the same exposure to technology.

People are so obsessed with technology here that all sport/recreational places inside the campus have the prefix 'technology'- Technology hospital, Technology guest house, Technology sports gymkhana, etc... there is even a technology swimming pool where all technologies swim together :P

While I relished the two Ts that define Kharagpur, there was one important thing I had missed – there is little else apart from these two Ts here. For someone coming from a big metropolitan city, the difference was immediately obvious – no motor vehicles inside the huge campus, no shopping malls or multiplexes, no choice of fine restaurants, not even street lights on the road outside the IIT boundary wall. It took some time getting used to the life in midst of greenery, cycling through the huge campus, the humidity of the place and the food at the hostel (even the mustard oil). But the journey was made very easy, thanks to the friends that I made here. Having stayed and worked in one city all my life before, the kind of diversity that this place offered me was simply amazing. One thing that was common to everyone studying here was the determination to succeed and the motivation to keep going despite many hurdles.

One fourth of my MBA life is already over and even as I write this article sitting in the comforts of my house during the semester break, I am filled with a sense of pride of being a part of a great institute and a deep desire to go back to the two Ts which have influenced my life all along... to the greens of Kharagpur, to all those places where we roamed around in KGP, and to the place which I have come to know now as my home away from home.

1. This article was written by me when I was pursuing my MBA at Kharagpur. It was published in the college’s annual alumni magazine. It is reproduced here with minor modifications and slight additions. You can read the original publication here
2. KGP - the station code for Kharagpur, and KGPians - people who stay/study at Kharagpur
3. Few images are copyrights of their respective owners, used here only for representative purposes. Specially those of the trains and stations, will reference the orignial links from the original source