Its the time of the year when b-schools are bursting with activity playing host to festivals, events, inter-college competitions. When students are seen drowned in paperwork, stuck to their laptops, mobiles perpetually against their ear, travelling all over the place, getting sponsors, connecting with media, sending invitations and the works. It's the most maddening time of the year because their erratic schedule of lectures during the day and assignments during the night, has to now also fit in festival work.
But what does all this mean to the student or his degree at the end of the two years? Does all this activity translate into anything concrete or is it just a frill to add to the bio-data.
Those who are a part of the organising committees say that working on the festival teaches them many important skills - be it leadership, team work or just plain bargaining. But most of all, these festivals can also sometimes turn into poaching grounds, they say. A killing marketing speech by one of the students to win over a sponsor may just net the student a job with the sponsor.
Faculty of Management Studies' (FMS) Rahul Savardekar, who was the at the helm of affairs at the recently concluded ICON festival said that event management is a big thing and cannot be viewed just as a b-school 'something.' One is dealing with real time competition. There is so much competition that you have to think of ways to stay on top year after year. One way to do it is to innovate constantly and this exercise really pushes one to think deep and think differently, says Rahul.
The FMS student adds that with innovation comes the opportunity to speak to a different set of people every time and also speak the right things to them and that becomes a fresh learning experience in itself.
Sharada Kamarkar from Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow (IIML) agrees on the innovative thing and says that efficient networking is an important lesson learnt from festival organising. For months, we are dealing with people from the industry, corporates, and seniors and all of it helps us in developing our networking skills. To be able to know so many people and interact with them is a big task. What starts from efficient networking in the campus expands to the world outside.
She adds that the extensive talking and discussi0ns which happen during the days prior to the festival helps in their academic life as well. Our concepts become more clearer. By talking to different kind of people about different things, we learn practically what we are learning in theory in the classroom.
Some more important skills
But networking and innovative thinking are not the only skills that make it to the list of 'skills learnt at festivals' page. Vijay Shankar, key organiser of Symbiosis Centre for Information Technology's (SCIT) Graffiti says that learning to listen is the biggest thing to gain from organising festivals. How to put across ones views and how to listen patiently does not come easy to most people. But here, circumstances make one do it and at the end you realise that it is actually a great trait to have. To be able to listen patiently and understand others' view point is actually beneficial in day-to-day life too, says Vijay
In the same vein, talking to strangers suddenly becomes an easy-going experience, says the SCIT student. It is not a comfortable task to strike a conversation with a stranger. But here, while organising events, one has to do it all the time. Thanks to festival-planning, today I have learnt the art of talking to strangers and also to enjoy it.
For Neeraj Kodia, the main man behind Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB) Techfest, organising such events truly teaches one what barter means. You learn what is it to give and take and the best ways to do it to benefit your college. You learn to think deeply about such issues and what to ask and give so that your college's interests stay protected, explains Neeraj.
Another important skill, Neeraj says, one learns, is what to do when things go wrong and deals dont happen. Not all deals and barters eventually sail through. Sometimes things dont go your way but one can't lose sleep over such things. One has to come out of such situations and hop over to the next task. Such circumstances happen in real life too and one can be more prepared, says Neeraj.
Adding to the same point, Neeraj says that festivals also teach one to work and stay with people one might not like. You are thrown in with a group of fellow students, not all of whom you get along with. The key is to interact with them to make the festival a success. Later in life, you might face a similar situation at your work place or some other group and you will be more prepared on how to work with such groups for the benefit of the company.
While most festival organisers do mention it in their resume that they have organised or helped organise events, they do not think it is a ticket to heaven. Rahul says he may add it in his bio-data but not as a thing to be counted for recruitment. Even Sharada and Neeraj say that they are not sure if they will include it in their resume but if they do, it will not be to win over some brownie points.
Vijay is however more candid. He states that adding to the resume may or may not net a job but just being part of the organising team could. Working for a festival gets people in close proximity and long conversations with potential recruiters and this not only helps make contacts but also net in a possible job offer. I am sure that if during such dealings a potential corporate finds a student having good communication skills, the student might just bag a job in the company.
That jobs could just happen, is also reiterated by Pears Capital's Founder and Managing Partner CA. Ramkumar. If I like the student who is dealing with me and I think he or she is pushy enough while in a positive way, I may take him in my company.
Ramkumar adds: We are talking about skills which are part of their academic life especially for those opting for marketing and if they display those very skills at the festival level, then they possibly have it in them to do things right.
The Pears Capital Founder agrees that every facet of a festival is a teaching tool, be it just hand holding delegates and guiding them to the dais, or co-ordinating with outside agencies such as media, sponsors, publicity. If the student excels in whatever he is assigned or taken up, it is a job well done, Ramkumar asserts.
Sachin Oswal, Versatilist with Infibeam.com says that just making a note on the bio data about some festival or the other does not make any difference to him as a recruiter. But if I see confidence and a positive attitude in the student, then it is worth making a note of the festival because then I will know that the festival has taught the student something. Of course, the student may also just be a confident person, said Oswal.
The Versalilist adds that being a part of such team events helps student learn team work. It teaches them practical stuff like breaking down a project into smaller parts and working on the parts as a whole. How to get smaller tasks done to achieve the big task.
Oswal affirms that much also depends on the type of festival organised and the b-school involved. If it is a prestigious b-school and the festival is one to reckon with then of course the skills imparted are much better but if the event itself is not so known, then it makes a small difference to the student and to the recruiter as well.
Strangely, many other corporates and recruiters refused to speak on this issue of recruitment in b-schools vis-a-vis festvials.
Older MBAs speak
MBAs, today properly settled in their careers but one-time active festival organisers differ on whether 'festival-organising' actually helps in the job-run or not. Vinamra Srivastava, a 2008 IIMA graduate who was an avid debater, sports person and also organiser of events and who recruits for his own company says that he likes to see extra-curriculars in resumes. I know that if a person who has given time to things other than just acads, is better of the lot and that his personality will help him succeed in the world. You dont need bookish knowledge for a successful corporate career.
Vinamra adds that being an organiser or participant of a b-school event is teaching for life. Today I have to interview CEOs as part of my profession and I need to hold intelligent conversations with them. I need to present in front of my board members where my confidence and interpersonal skills are tested to the max. I can do all this because this is what my extra-currics have taught me right throughout.
Vinamra worked 24x7 when he organised Chaos 2008 with his team.
When asked about the relevance of adding the bit of the festival in one's bio-data, Vinamra says that it depends on the right mix of acads and extra-currics. Its tough to differentiate between candidates of different b-schools only on the basis of acads, so extra-currics can make the difference in the final run, he says.
Suhas Anand, alumnus of IIMA says that organising events does bring in the leadership skills but the role should be that of a person on the top. There is no point being some random person lower in the pyramid and working for the festival it may not count finally.
Not all MBAs agree in the glory of festival organising though. Ankush Trakru said that to-date he has not seen any better placement for students who are part of festival committees. The heads of such committees however do enjoy an advantage over others.
Arka Bhattacharya, an active quizzer and debater, who passed out from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) in 2008 says that b-school fests form a critical part of the MBA experience. Most b-school events have a plethora of industry leaders speaking on campus over the 2-3 days. Events these days (even in my time almost 3 years back) offer significant cash prizes and come with PPIs & PPOs as possible corollary benefits. I firmly believe, participating in these events greatly enhances one's CV and organising these events has an even greater impact on one's ability to deal with tough situations later on in life.
Participating in festivals comes with rewards as well. Arka confesses that he made quite a bit of money from winning at the festivals. I won a lot of money (Rs 1 lakh at conservative estimate) and goodies during my two MBA years of quizzing and debating, and these achievements along with my student council credentials always appeared in my CV and no doubt helped when it came to placements as well, because I bagged the highest paying job on campus in my batch.
Apart from that I recollect no less than 10-12 people in my batch snagging PPOs and PPIs from competitions across campuses. Some of them took up these offers, he adds.
Below are Arka Bhattacharya's views on what it means to participate and host b-school festivals.
Participating in B-School fests:
1) Taking part in B-school fests first and foremost is a great way to establish links and friendship with peers in other B-schools.
2) It gives you an insight into how life is at other B-schools and what's great/unique/different about their MBA experience
3) You get to interact with the "studs" in your field of interest
4) Most of the paper writing and case analysis and or business simulation competitions often showcase live industry problems and are great places not only to learn about the actual industry/sectoral issues but also to showcase your talent and impress industry big-wigs
5) The prizes are not insignificant anymore , and I'll not be lying when I mention that the quizzes and debates kept plenty of pocket money flowing throughout my two years at IIFT, and BT-Acumen (which in my time never gave away Cash prizes) ensured that I never spent a pie on electronics (my laptop, 3 phones over two years of MBA, and an iPod to boot apart from the huge vouchers from Raymonds & Van Heusen which ensured that I was nattily dressed.
6) How you perform in these events forms as critical a part of your image during your two years on the Campus as where you got placed during summers. It may not be quite logical or fair BUT my bet (and definitely my experience back in 2006-2007) is that dudes/dudettes landing plush summer jobs at coveted companies on campus PLUS folks who've won big ticket competitions early in their MBA stint, go on to dominate student councils/bodies on most campuses.
7) These events can definitely help you land great jobs.
Organising B-School Fests:
1) Organising any college fest involves huge logistical/planning/budgetary and workload pressures and involves a lot of firefighting in the run up to and on the D-day
2) B-school fests doubly so because you have to not only benchmark against what your seniors have done the previous years but also against what any other B-school campus may be doing this year (OR ELSE beware the wrath of the batch!)
3) Organising Sponsorships, co-ordinating event timings (especially Talks) with Guests and Invitees, ensuring hospitality arrangements for visiting dignitaries and contingents from other campuses, Publicity/Website and Fest merchandising apart from specific event related merchandising plus a host of other activities (add coordinating with a massively slow College Admin in IIFT's case at least and am sure it's similar at several if not most other B-schools) ensures a crash course in disaster management and ego management (of most invitees and dignitaries who strangely enough are very quick to take offence at the slightest of things)
4) Organising a B-school fest is more rewarding in the long term, and people who stay out of the entire organising ambit miss out on a HUGE education.
BUT participating in B-school fests is less work than organising one (IMHO), and has more benefits. Apart from the goodies when you win and the adulation on campus, you meet a lot of new ideas, peers and learn a lot about managing your time, better showcasing you viewpoints (for the moment I'm not discussing quiz and debate events) how to manage last minute stage hiccups and prop failures (failed pen drives or presentations). Apart from that a lot of my batchmates in IIFT did get PPOs & PPIs as a direct result of how well they did in certain B-school events.