The Best Manager at ICFAI Utsav 2008

On 31 Jan 2008, we were informed that there is an Intercollegiate competition organized by the ICFAI National College, Hubli. It is a prestigious event in which a lot of colleges will participate. There were 5 events in which we were supposed to perform. And now, the surprise! "The fest will begin tomorrow". It was five in the evening when we got the information about a fest that was scheduled at eight in the morning. Perplexed, I gathered along with my friends and started planning to see if we could do something. We found that we had a quiz team and so, we don’t need to bother about it. Further, there was a need to perform a dance show and none was ready for that. A round called Bindaas Bol (Speak your mind) was obviously meant for me. Another event called Prachaar that involved the marketing of a product was also taken up by me and another 2 students. An event called Icebreaker which was the introduction round also had my involvement. Now, the prestigious event of the function was, The Best Manager (Ustaad), and even this was given to me. We started preparing for the Icebreaker immediately. We had to present a fairy tale. After a lot of discussions and thoughts, we finalized the script and make a few practises.

Incidentally, on the same day, I had to attend the college football team selections as well. I went on with it. On the ground, I was interrupted and told that, there is a cultural program also. I left immediately to join the team and started plan. As no one had an idea, I came up with a crazy idea that we shall present a dance and unfortunately, I had to join this too. The practice went up to 10 in the night. I never ever danced in my life and this was a real impossible task. But, I knew, had I not joined and motivated, no one would perform in this. Tired and exhausted, I reached home and got asleep.

The next day began and I packed up and moved to the college in the early morning. I asked everyone to come and we had a some rehearsals, etc. We registered our team and the events began. Our team was named PARLE. There were a lot of teething issues. I was not allowed to participate in the event, Prachaar, as I was supposed to participate in another event at the same time. Although there was enough time gap and I would definitely make up easily, I was still stopped. One of my teammates took my position in the event.

And then, we performed the Icebreaker. Our story was about a king who has given everything to his beautiful daughter but never exposed her to the world. The princess wants freedom but never gets it. Things take a turn and finally, the king realizes his mistake. We had almost zero preparation and still managed to perform well. Further, this happened in Hindi, which was really difficult for the teammates to cope up immediately.

Now began the hunt for the best manager. We were all given an objective type question paper to test our reasoning skills, interpretation skills, verbal skills, analytical skills, data interpretation, general knowledge, etc. There were 60 questions and 60 minutes to answer them. I started writing the paper and exactly, the same moment, there was an announcement saying that the participants of Speak your mind were supposed to be on the stage immediately. I knew I was the 16th person to speak on the stage. Each person would be there on the stage for 2 minutes and at least 1 minute will go in entry and exit, etc. So, 3 x 15= 45 minutes. I started the test and went on like a hungry horse. And guess what, it was over in 22 minutes. No cross checks, no second thoughts, I just got up and handed over the paper and ran on to the stage.

On my turn, the topic that was given to me was "Is performing tests on animals necessary?"

How I wish I had continued to be a science student, and it would be a simple task. I gathered whatever I could from whatever I had learned at school, and gave my best shot. I, like others, thought I did well, but only the results would say how I did.

Just then, the results of the first round of best managers was announced. A large number of participants were eliminated. I was the 2nd highest scorer in the test. A big surprise! The very next moment, all the 12 participants were called out, locked in a cab that drove us to the college, about 3 km from the place where the competition was being held. We were given a case study of the Himalaya Drug Company. The company did many branding and re-branding exercises. We were asked to read the case study carefully and answer the questions asked including justifications. It was all an individual effort. After 15 minutes (we were still reading the case), all were asked to close everything and move to the computer lab. We were asked to prepare a powerpoint presentation on the case in the next 15 minutes. Preparing presentations in 15 minutes and that too with insufficient knowledge was a herculean task. Next, we were asked to present these slides. Gusshh!! Most got frustrated. But, there was a need to perform and all did that. I managed to ring the bells here as well. The HR manager asked a few questions which were answered to the best I could. After all drama, we all were brought back to the event location. We were told that the results will be announced before dinner. And after dinner, we would have another round to go.

I joined my team and realized that we had new problems. The participants said that they will not perform as it would be an insult before everyone as we were not prepared for the same. However, my contention was, quitting will give us zero but even the worst performance will give us 1 point. After a hour long tussle, they agreed. I was nailing myself with all this. I never ever danced in my life. The people with me have not even practiced a bit, and they don’t know the steps either. "What to do?", they asked again, and I said, "Just dance".

We went on the stage and performed, what can be called, the worst ever performance.

It was the time for dinner, and the results of the best manager were out. Out of 12, 6 students were eliminated and I was in the lucky six that got selected. We were supposed to move for the next round but as it was already 10.30 pm, things took a small change. We were asked to prepare a hand written business plan to set up an educational institution. And this had to be submitted by 8.30 am on the next day.

I left to home almost dead and rejuvenated with a shower. Preparing a project to make profits is easy as I had been doing these in college. But, this was a social project and ideas were hard to come by, given the exhaustion. Suddenly, I thought, why not make a project report of a defence school rather than a business school or normal college. I knew that no one would ever think of this. My mood changed and I started gathering information. I used the Ajeet magazines, NCC books, etc. for reference. I kept reading whatever I got in my hand and it was 3.45 am when I looked at the clock. I lied down for few minutes and the clock said 6:15 when I woke up. I had not written a single word. I used a very strategic style in writing. My key points were clearly mentioned as the acute shortage of officers in the armed forces and the need to groom a person from childhood. I stressed upon the importance of all this and finally, the 6 page project was ready. It looked good. It was 8.05 am already and I was still in the bed suit. I just changed my trousers and raced to the event hall. I was the first person to reach. The cut off time was 8.30 am, beyond which, negative marking would begin. Only 2 were able to come in time.

I had the next event at 9.30 and it was already 9. I rode home, took a shower, got ready and was back, along with an un-ironed shirt, which my friend later helped me get ironed. The first program for the day was the quiz competition and we won the second place in this. Then, the results of the best manager were announced. 3 out of 6 participants were eliminated. And I continued to glue, after all, my project was titled "The Parle School of Defence".

We three were given a cricket bat and 4 balls to be sold to anyone. They were priced at a sum of Rs 500. And they could be sold at any rate. If we sell them above Rs 450, we get 100% marks for this round. I knew, no one would waste time selling these products at this time, especially considering the exhaustion (or say torture) faced until now. Although we were sent out to sell, I just went and kept them in my college. I said that the bat has been damaged badly and no one will buy it. And so, kindly replace the bat. But then, I was told to sell it at Rs 100 less and I would still get 100% marks. We were also given Rs 50 as petrol allowance. Now, I thought, there is a bat and 4 leather balls and I have to sell them at Rs 450 at least. After reduction due to damage, my selling price must at least be Rs 350. I had received Rs 50 for petrol and I could use that too. So, all these 5 items will cost me Rs 300. I asked my friends if that was worth. So, I just paid 301 and and closed the deal with 100% marks.

The moment I returned, the second round of Speak your mind began. Here, we would be given a topic and 1 minute to think. And then, we have to speak 2 minutes for the topic and 2 minutes against the topic on spot. I got the topic "Parliament expenses are a waste of public money". I did well. But then, a new problem arose, probably because people were seeing me everywhere by now. I was disqualified from the event as I was participating in the best manager. However, there was no such rule mentioned anywhere by anyone. Even other colleges had done this but they all were already eliminated at some round and so, we didn't have a point. We tried our best but it didn't work. The pain was not that I was disqualified, but that had we knew about this, someone else could participate and get us points. Yesterday, when I participated in the first round of both these events, there was no opposition at all.

The very next minute, the 3 finalists of best manager were called. I was taken to a room and made to sit for some time. Then, I was blindfolded and a number of things were put over me, such as flowers, papers, designer items, etc. and after 20 minutes, I was taken in the same condition to the stage. All of a sudden, the blindfold was opened and the whole audience started shouting. There were 2 judges who had plans to screw. There was an endless conversation under all conditions. Some of the highlights are,
  • The interviewer asks me to sit and when I sat, he says, who asked you to sit on the chair. So, I sat on the floor.
  • A girl comes with a rose and interrupts. The interviewer says she is your girlfriend and you are more worried about her than the job. So, I never bothered about her at all.
  • A guy comes with a Pepsi and offers it. He’s not ready to leave you and the judge says, you have lost concentration. I said, "Get the Pepsi out of here"
  • He asked how much does a cricket ball bounce. I just said it depends on the pressure or force applied and the height from which it is dropped. He asked me the exact measurement. I just held my view.
  • He asked me the distance between the boundary line and the spectator. I said it depends on where the spectator is sitting. He asked me to tell it in exact measurement. I said- "Distance between stumps and spectator minus the radius of the ground". This probably was my winner, as the entire house went bonkers, cheering me on the answer.
  • He asked me to sell condoms to the other judge. The other judge says he is not interested to buy as he and his wife want to build a cricket team. He made me speechless saying that his wife doesn’t like condoms and there is no fear of AIDS either as she is his only partner. I was helpless. The judge says, the product is still unsold. I tried again but the response was the same. So, I just told, "There is no meaning in selling a comb to a bald person". Not sure if the judge was impressed, but the audience was

I had refused to do almost everything that I had been asked to do till now, in a very interesting manner although.

There were many serious discussions where the judge tried his best to get angry and nasty to hurt my temper with negative remarks and swear words. I was pulled completely. However, throughout the period, what I never lost was a confident smile and uber cool temperament. They tried from the first moment to break me down by teasing, scolding, shouting, bullying, and yet, I kept up my confidence and smile, to an extent that they finally told me, "go and join a toothpaste company", and then everyone including the judge and I broke into huge laughter. Probably, that was an ice breaker.

And guess what, I was not wearing socks.. They saw that (as I sat down) and asked me why. I said I lost them yesterday during the dance competition and as it was late night, I could not find any shop open to buy them. And today, I am feeling more comfortable without socks, thereby smartly blocking the next set of questions.

Finally, the meat. I was asked for 5 qualities that makes me the best manager. I knew, this is the most important question of all. All that has happened earlier was mainly to divert our mind away from ourselves and finally, put ourselves in such a position that we forget our own strengths. It helped to stay calm and composed all through.
  1. I have grown in an environment of leaders
  2. I can manage a team well
  3. While I lead, I am more a team player than merely a leader
  4. I can make right decisions consciously in a short time
  5. I can perform better under stress

Point no. 5 reiterated my confidence in words this time, and was like an icing on the cake, apt and appealing.

Everything came to an end. We received the second prize for the quiz competition. The results of the best manager were announced. My name was called out first, and I was sad that I ended up third, while everyone in the hall believed I should be the winner. So, I just walked up to the stage and collected my prize. I wasn't very happy or excited. While I was walking back, the event host said that they the prize distribution is over, and I was confused. I then looked my certificate, which said I was "The Best Manager", and so did the trophy. I raised the trophy half the way back, and everyone in my team cheered along (when the auditorium had gone quiet). Oh God, how I wish I could have had the sense to see this while on the stage, I said to myself. Nevertheless, it was a big achievement considering I was a BCom student and 90% of the participants were MBA final year students from reputed colleges across Karnataka. I was delighted, and just closed my eyes in prayers and gratitude.