Financial Planning: How Indians perceive it

financial planAjay is 32 years old IT professional, married and has a four years old kid. He and his wife have a combined annual income of 20 Lacs. Ajay and his wife have a few financial and lifestyle goals, some of which include, owning a 3 BHK apartment in Delhi/NCR, a hatchback car and being able to afford a sedan in next three years, a 7 to 10 days holiday each year, save money for his kid’s education and finally for his own retirement.

Ajay’s goals are the most common aspirations of today’s middle to upper middle class income group. But how many of us are able to fulfill them? Are we able to plan our future wealth to the last detail? If yes, then are we doing it right?

So, what is financial planning and why is it important? It is true that no one knows what lies ahead. We do not know what to anticipate. But when it comes to money, we all want a magic wand that could turn our wealth in to a fortune! A financial plan is no such magic wand. But if you are a wise investor who is clear about his future objectives and lifestyle expectations, then planning your finances meticulously can help you achieve those goals.

Let us first understand, what includes a financial plan, who can prepare it for you and what benefits it could yield for you.

The first step towards financial planning is assessing your current wealth, assets and investments. Second is to deploy those assets to match your financial objectives.  A financial plan can help you find answers to the following questions:

  • What is your asset allocation and is it optimum?
  • Are you able to prioritize and put a number to your financial goals?
  • Do you have adequate life insurance?
  • Are you prepared for any contingency or medical emergency?

Financial planning can help you provide these answers and in turn can help you fulfill goals like stress free retirement, children’s education and marriage, buying a house, managing your debts and investments etc. It decides your net worth, calculates the adequacy of your insurance and can help you build a reserve for your retirement. It creates a portfolio for you, where your current and future cash flows are mapped to your goals.

Other advantages of financial planning include:

  • Minimizing your tax liability
  • Maximizing your return on investments (ROI)
  • Helping you keep track and maintain a balance between your income and expense
  • Suggest means to increase savings and offer financial security

There are two very important factors in financial planning. One is inflation and second is changing lifestyle needs. Inflation causes the depreciation in the value of money and its purchasing power every year. It causes the rise in price levels. A product which used to cost Rs. 100 one year back, today costs Rs. 108, assuming the inflation rate is 8%. The second factor is related to lifestyle changes. With increase in disposable income, it is common for us to want to upgrade our standard of living. What used to be luxuries have turned into basic lifestyle needs today; a benchmark of comfortable living. A sound financial plan can help you upgrade as well as maintain your lifestyle.

I sold financial plans (FPs) during my first job. It was the signature product of my company that based its USP on custom made financial plans based on the customer’s current financial strength. It was then that I closely observed the common perception among people about having your wealth managed by some third party. Clearly, the awareness on the matter is very low and people do not know the value of financial planning, which is directly related to inadequate levels of financial literacy. People living on a day-to-day basis find it hard to plan their finances. It is only when there is an increase in your wealth that you feel the need to save and multiply.

Financial plan 1

Another reason that financial planning is not very mature among India consumers is because of the long and extended family structures. It is common in Indian culture for children to take care of their parents after retirement. Indian investor is not akin to the idea of being used to paying for advisories. However, this scenario is changing slowly in the urban Indian market. With increased life expectancy, lack of pension schemes from the government and lifelong employment schemes by the employers, consumers need to take responsibility for creating their own wealth.

Financial planning becomes all the more important because of the unpredictability of the market conditions and lack of social security system in India which in western countries is quite developed. The investment landscape is becoming more and more complex and people do not have much time to devote in understanding and managing their finances on their own.

Financial plans are prepared by Certified Financial Planners (CFPs). But in India, consumers still have to rely more on sales people for information than on the advisors. This is another reason why there is limited trust among consumers on the companies offering financial planning services.  These days many banks also offer financial planning services, selling it under the names of wealth management, portfolio management etc. Important things to keep in mind before availing financial planning services are:

  • Hire an independent financial planner as you directly deal with the advisor and get more reliable information.
  • Make sure he charges you a fixed fee unlike a broker who charges percentage of your portfolio.
  • Do not fall for an investment that would sound too good to be true. Use internet and do some of your own research as well.
  • Be clear about your goals and prioritize them.

From a sales perspective, financial plan is challenging to sell because of its virtual nature like insurance. You are asking consumer’s money for a product that is planning your future based on speculations and might not consider market risks. Sometime it might ignore your risk appetite and suggest investment that you personally might be unwilling to make. Also, a financial plan might not yield the desired result, if down the line you are unable to follow it. For example, making an unexpected investment or facing a family emergency leading to cash outflow etc. The success of financial plan depends upon many factors, all of which cannot be foreseen and considered. A financial plan is not meant to be for life time as your short term financial goals might change after 10 years and you might have to reassess and modify your previous plan.

In the end, I would also like to throw some light upon building a career in Financial Planning. You can enter the field of financial planning if you have/are

  • An MBA in finance
  • CA, CS
  • CFP certification from Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB), India, Mumbai;
  • CFA
  • PG Diploma in Financial planning

You can start your career by working with wealth management firms, banks, NBFCs, AMCs etc. With experience and time, you can also get into private consulting and advisory business. Many KPOs also hire financial planner as business analysts or research associates.

The major target segment for financial planning currently is the high net worth individuals (HNIs) and is still establishing its foot prints among the middle and lower middle income group. However, the services offered by CFPs is not just restricted to individuals but can also be rendered to corporate and institutional clients like banks, mutual funds, insurance companies, stock brokers, portfolio management firms etc.

Although the times are changing, financial planning is still a growing field and the consumer confidence level is limited, it is important to stay committed to your clients and offer them unbiased and impartial opinions.

Lastly, always remember, financial planning is not a tool for creating wealth or making you rich. It is just a way of helping you live judiciously today to have a more comfortable tomorrow.

Contributed by Isha Jajodia (class of 2010, IBS Gurgaon)


The Paradox of MBA Vs CA

MBA vs CA 1During my first job I had my boss, aged 28, who was a Chartered Accountant (CA) and he was inquiring about my MBA course. He said, he has heard a lot about MBA specially the course structure and various electives it would introduce at various levels of the program. Then I walked him through the entire program and he was impressed and  he sounded very keen to pursue it. Most importantly, he was happy about the fact that the course was for 18 to 24 months duration and also that there was a good surety of completing it unlike CA which would be uncertain at times.

On the other hand, I met a guy in my social circle who was an MBA and he was talking about the fact that how things would be different had he pursued CA. He meant he would have got better employment with better packages and being associated with big 4’s. He felt CA is a much better course and gives a more in-depth knowledge in commerce stream.

Maybe I met very few people, but I am sure this paradox of MBA vs CA is much more pronounced than we realize it. One has to understand what is their own need and how do they perceive these courses. Each course has its merit and demerit just like any other course you take it. These are not just limited to MBA and CA in isolation.

Let us compare both of it and see if MBA or CA is better:

Knowledge: MBA has multiple domains from Operations Management to Human resource management, from Financial Management to Marketing Management and so the list goes on. While CA focuses on Accounting, Auditing, Financial Management, Taxation and various similar subjects. So both courses have its level of knowledge and intensity. MBA is spread out to subjects more than CA while CA devotes more time towards Accounting. Individuals who have a preference towards commerce and finance then this course can be an apt, but individuals who need management knowledge with finance and accounting then MBA is a win-win situation.

Duration:  A full time non executive MBA typically ranges from 18 to 24 months broken down into various semesters. While the duration for CA is minimum 4.5 years if the candidate has successfully completed all the papers in one go. This duration increases until the person has successfully cleared all the subjects to qualify as a CA. Therefore the duration of the MBA is much lower as compared to the CA program.

Campus: A residential MBA or a full time MBA is provided in the classroom of the Institute for the entire duration of the course. Candidates are required to attend the lectures on a regular basis. All the subjects are trained within the campus equipped with various course related facilities and trained lecturers. While CA is a self-study course where individuals, mostly take tuitions and study in groups. The study materials are provided to the candidates and they have to study by themselves.


Study Methodology: The teaching is imparted by experienced lecturers who are well known and specialized in that particular electives or domains. The study is comprised of case studies which is taught in the classrooms and candidate has to brainstorm and prepare assignments, projects and have to take part in activity groups. During the course industry leaders and guest lecturers provide time to help candidates to provide important updates. CA course does not provide campus training, but they do conduct General Management and Communication Skills (GMCS) for 15 days twice during the course. The study material does have rigorous case studies.

Internship and Articleship: MBA usually has one semester dedicated towards Internships which pans from 2 months to 4 months. In this, the candidates have to relocate and take up a well designed Internship program in a company and have to apply theoretical knowledge and learn on the job. A guide is provided to the candidate who act as mentor and guide. While the CA program here provide 3 years of articleship or audit assistant. The candidate has to go through a rigorous training on a company under an experienced supervisor and extremely well regulated by Chartered Accountant Regulations, 1988. Further, the candidate has the option for industrial Training for 9 to 12 months.

Code of Ethics: CA candidates are governed by the Regulation and each charter holder needs to comply with the Code of Ethics and professional standards. Any deviation to the code of ethics would attract disciplinary action and punitive measures are taken.  The association may even de-register the name of the member permanently if the CA is found violating the code of ethics. This however is not the case for an MBA. There is no association who can de-register the degree unless such is acquired illegally.

Exposure: The focus of the MBA is to provide exposure to the candidate on multiple domains, bring a social change, instill leadership and management roles, time management, bring a strategic perspective and   help specialize in a particular domain or two. Social groups, clubs, management exchange programs, projects, and fests provide a new dimension to the candidate. CA course in particular does not conduct such social team building activities but it does bring the best out of the candidate from its intensive syllabus.

So the paradox if we see is self created. What MBA provides is not the same what CA provides. We all need to understand that each professional course is different and respected in their own terms. The grass will always look greener on the other side. An MBA would think CA is better while CA would think MBA is better or a CA would think CA is better or MBA would think MBA is better. Well, the truth is both courses are unmatched and designed for a purpose. Each has a high degree of exclusivity for which each of it is known. One course may take extra time, but gives an intense knowledge of the subject and other may take less time as it would like to provide only some important aspects of the subject.

MBA focuses on management subjects so that such candidates don’t find it difficult to manage business when they are on the job dealing with different departments. Their focus is high on team building and communication. While a CA program is focussed towards accounting where individuals manage the books of accounts and provide an expert view on the subject.  Individuals who do not wish to pursue advanced statistics may not go for CA or Finance in MBA.They will be better off doing a marketing course where they can explore their potential. Individuals who want to pursue financial management they can very well opt for Finance in MBA or if they would like to pursue accounts then CA can be one of the best options.

How much hard one may proclaim that MBA is better or CA is better, the answer remains the same, that each professional course is best to its objective for which it has been designed. The efficiency of the individuals does not come from holding a degree or charter boat and only through his or her learning and endeavor.

Contributed by Mitesh Agarwal  ( Class of 2011, IBS HYDERABAD )


IBS Entrance Selection Process – A personal experience

unnamedI have procrastinated on this article for a few weeks now.

The thing is I don’t believe there was an Aha! Moment where I knew I had made it – impressed everyone and earned my ticket to IBS. The day was surreal. The memories still echo in my mind, which mostly recalls my time there as filled with immense anxiety and joy.

It would not be possible for me to write about the second half of the IBS Entrance Selection Process (i.e. post the written exam) without going into some finer details. This may result in my inadvertently missing out on some larger issues (Apologies for this). Those you may have, in all probability, already covered.

I reached Hyderabad a day before ‘The’ day.

If you, an IBS aspirant, have the time during your visit, you may find it a nice idea to go check out the Dontanapalli Campus. Even if it isn’t your desired location, you may learn something invaluable while connecting with potential seniors and teachers there.

We thought it a nice idea too but unfortunately Google Maps wasn’t such a big thing in those days. The jungle highway routes can get a little confusing you know. And the language barrier didn’t stop the locals from giving us wrong directions. We saw them twice before we knew we’d been had. We spent three hours getting lost.

It was frustrating not getting to see my future (I hoped!) home and school, being so close.  It would be a few months more till I did.

The next day, I reached the venue a little late. This though not advisable, did not hamper my chances, I think. I missed attending the Orientation, which is actually intended for the Parent/Guardian.

Smell of Dosa and coffee permeated the air. Hungry parents munched gracefully trying to gather whatever local lingo they could from the caterers. Anxious students gagged at each smell.

A word here- It would be difficult but do try to force some food down. Given that the day is long, an empty stomach will only slow you down. Anticipation anxiety as it is can cause a lot of uncomfortable physical symptoms like Headaches and Acidity. Why not have a go at the native fare so generously provided by the host and line up the nervous stomach?

Clutching a handful of ‘Current Events’ memo-notes, I proceeded to mingle with my designated group.

There would be a Presentation and an Interview that day for each of us.

I was prepared for the former. The latter I had very little experience in.

You know what helped me relax? Each one of my supposed rivals!

Good vibes. Positivity. Motivation.

Sometimes you just need people to believe in youwithout even knowing you.

My presentation went smoothly and within the prescribed time limit.  It was an ‘Argument against Capital Punishment.’ We brought our own projector-friendly slides of our presentations. As part of the audience, I enjoyed my group members varying and interesting productions, occasionally asking an unoffending question or two regarding the topics.

There was a waiting period before the interview where the students mingled with each other, read newspapers and listened to the radio to pick up on as much news as they could.

Some of us would go on to study at our preferred location, and some to our less favored choice, while some would simply move on to make their future elsewhere.

And yes. People faint in the sordid Hyderabad heat.

Be prepared.  It will be hot. Carry your own bottle if you don’t want to blackout.

Whispers of how other interviews were going floated down to us- the anxiously waiting students.

MBA Graduates

I managed to note a few tips down based on the incidents of victories and failures.

Assume comfort and confidence-

The interviewers are not there to see you squirm but won ‘t deny themselves the pleasure if you show any discomfort. You can create a stress-free zone for yourself by doing a basic breathing exercise before you enter the Interview room. Take a deep breath (inhaling for four seconds), hold it for seven seconds and exhale through your mouth, releasing the breath for eight seconds. This is the ‘4-7-8 Breathing technique’ that helps calm the nerves.


You may not feel like it but a genuine smile from you will almost certainly get reciprocated by the interviewers, release endorphins and create a pleasant feel-good ambience.

Be respectful-

Attitude and bad Attitude are two very separate things. Stand your ground but don’t be disrespectful. Listen to what they have to say. Let them finish.

Be humble and honest in your delivery-

You do not need to be a Know-it-all to impress your worthiness upon them. Let them see your personality without resorting to pompousness. On the other hand, if you don’t know an answer, do not opt for pretense.

Don’t go on and on-

Make sure you take pauses while speaking so that you don’t sound out of breath. Speak knowledgeably. Also have an approximate ending prepared before you answer a question. If you go on and on, you are bound to trail off somewhere and appear disorganized.

Be ready for follow-up questions-

After the first few obvious questions, the interviewers will try and gauge your strengths and weaknesses. They will try to get an idea of who you are, who you think you are and who they see you becoming. The questions are likely to come from your previous answers. Word your answers carefully so that the follow-up questions don’t stump you.

During the interview you basically need to show your merit without seeming obscenely self-important. The interviewers are having a tiring day too. Do nothing to aggravate it. Keep the conversation light and knowledgeable.

Everyone did his or her best. And then we waited. It was quite a long wait.

If I remember correctly, we got our verdicts around ten in the night.

I was in. I had my choice of campus. I was ecstatic!

And so were thousands of others.

For a while there, the mobile networks got jammed from the crazy amount of outgoing calls that the candidates placed.

A memorable day for sure.

–All the best to aspiring IBSiians! —

Contributed by Ankita Verma, IBS Hyderabad, Class of 2009


Coping With Interview Rejections

RejectionThere is a throng just in front of the notice board for the ‘Final Selects’ list of a company is out. You struggle through the ocean of people and make it to the list. You place your finger on the first name on the list and scroll it down to the last but unfortunately you don’t find your name in it. The smile dies on your lips and you lose all your hopes for making it to the C-World. You lose your strength to buckle up once again for the entire process of selection. But why don’t you find a way to clear the next interview in your last rejection? Yes! Let’s bring in limelight some of the ways to cope with interview rejections and taking lessons from them to clear the next selection process.

  1. Prepare Yourself

    1.          Before the interview : It is said that the Prevention is better than cure. You know about yourself everything but little do you know about the company. Do your “Homework” before sitting for the interview. Browse through the web pages of the company, try to know their future plans and most importantly get familiar with their products (or services).             2.         After the Interview : In worst case scenario if you get this intuition that you won’t be able to make through the interview then prepare yourself mentally for the outcome. Don’t give yourself false hopes because that might lead to distraction from future selection processes. Nevertheless, in any case don’t forget to follow the following points.

  1. Learn from your mistakes –

    Either we feel very low or we indulge ourselves in preparing for the next interview just after we face a rejection. In both the circumstances we forget to review our performance in the last interview. We definitely know what all questions and areas have led us to the rejection but rather than giving those areas a time we jump over to the preparation of next process. Though in the next interview we might not face the same questions but if those questions come in another form we should be able to tackle them easily. Hence make sure to correct yourself on those questions which have led to your rejection.

  1. Have a word with the selected candidates –

    Try to approach those colleagues of yours who have cleared the interview and made it to that company. Ask them about the questions they were asked during the interview and the way they answered it. You even adopt this approach even before appearing for any interview.

  1. Take Feedback –

    Almost every one of us don’t even remember the face of the people sitting behind the desk at the time of interview once we face a rejection from them. But if we could network with the interviewer after the process is over we could take a qualitative feedback on our performance and could polish the areas which led us to denial. One of the ways to reach Interviewer is with the help of references, if any, mentioned in the resume.


  1. Don’t feel blue about it –

    Once it comes to your knowledge that you have been refused by the company don’t get depressed and feel sick about it. Rejections can happen with anyone and everyone. Rather stay motivated and remain focus for the next interview process. Taking the spoils of the last rejection to the fresh interview might again lead you to turmoil.

  1. Remember it is not personal –

    ‘They [Interviewer] didn’t like my graduation college or university’, ‘Because I am from this city or state he or she rejected me’, ‘I am rejected because I don’t know a particular language’ etc. thoughts races in your mind after you have been rejected by the firm. Remember if they want a candidate from a specific state or city who could speak a specific language then they definitely mention it at the time they come to recruit otherwise you are accepted or rejected on the basis of your performance only. Interview is truly a professional way of hiring.

  1. Don’t cry foul over intentional rejection –

    Let’s face the fact. Sometime it so happens that at the last momentin the interview hall you change your mind to get into the company. Either because you get to know the actual work from the interviewer and you don’t like it or there is some catch in the pay. You try your best to bungle up the interview in such cases. Also, everything ran as smooth as silk but when it came to the salary negotiation part or Job location part you didn’t agree with the employer. In both the cases you knew the outcome but when the result was declared and you didn’t find your name in the list you were all depressed to prepare for the next process. Hence try to overcome such situations rapidly.

  1. Control you emotions –

    As mentioned above that rejections are not done because of personal grudges. Keeping the same in mind make sure that you don’t blow a gasket against the firm which has rejected you and bad mouth about it everywhere.Even after giving your best you are rejected don’t speak ill of the company because that does not count under the professionalism. And in future if again an opportunity arises in the same firm you might end up cursing yourself for your behavior after your rejection.

  1. Go for Mock Interviews –

    There is a lot of difference between college entrance interview and a job interview. You might have been a part of lots of college entrance interview but if job interview is completely new on you then take your time before hoping from one job interview to another. If you face a rejection make sure you enroll yourself in some mock interview sessions and get a detailed feedback over the same. Well, as a part of IBS family then luckily you need not have to worry about it. Just before the placement season the management organizes GD & PI mock sessions for each and every student. The professor becomes the interviewer and that way you get a constructive performance review from them.

  1. Adopt conservative approach –

    You are from a Marketing stream. That does not mean in any way that you fit in each and every firm which is there to recruit marketing students. The firm might be looking for some Marketing Research student and you don’t have even the bits and bobs of this discipline with you. Hence be very selective about the firm so as to avoid the fear of rejection repeatedly.

Rejections come to everyone. Unless you are rejected in your life you won’t be able to enjoy the taste of acceptance. Rather than mulling again and again over the rejection, take some positive out of it and carry the same to the next interview. And always remember to keep a positive attitude even if you are rejected.

Contributed by Hasan Ali Gumani (Class of 2014, IBS HYDERABAD)



“Nothing in the store is by accident.

Everything is by design.”

–  Paco Underhill (Founder and CEO, Envirosell)

The human brain is easily influenced. Thousands of years of evolution and adaption have made it unknowingly vulnerable to external cues. The hunter in us subconsciously reads these signs and prepares for action. There is a clear science behind our decisions. And this science can be maneuvered.

An inordinate amount of time is invested every year by the retail industry experts to advance and apply the scientific tactics which influence consumer choice and help stores sell more stuff.

Ten of these are:-


Notice how most stores share a similar layout?

Ever wonder why the dairy section is usually all the way in the back?

The strategic placement of the dairy display case (which contains high conversion essential products like milk and butter) draws in the shoppers deeply into the store. During their journey to the back of the store in search of a must-have item, they must pass the tougher-to-sell items, sighting which increases the chance of their purchase. Some stores like Ikea have a frustrating maze-like layout to disorient customers into stop looking for what they were shopping for and jump headlong into the exploratory shopping experience. This phenomenon experienced by the shopper is known as Gruen Transfer.


The more time they spend in a store on average,

the more things they’re going to buy.

 – David Bell



Stores keep expensive items on shelves that are at eye level. This is done because products at the same eye level as the customers garner psychological favor with them. Brands pay hefty premium to obtain this visibility.

This strategy is especially effective for children’s products. Take candy for example. Stores intentionally place it at a child’s eye level. Once they spot it, majority of children are likely to nag their parents to buy them that colourfully wrapped candy on a lower shelf. If you listen carefully, and over the noise of a kid throwing a temper-tantrum in the middle of a store, you may be able to hear the sound of one store marketing strategist high-fiving another.


Olfactory senses can be exploited with otherwise innocent holiday smells to establish an ambiance of trust.  This is why stores prefer to have the bakery located up front. The sweet aroma of the baked cinnamon-y goodness gets the shoppers to instinctually crave and buy more. Flowers at the entrance create a welcoming atmosphere and the accompanying smells comfort and sway customers to spend more time shopping.


Studies show music affects purchasing habits. Slow music blaring from the store speakers slows down the time for the shoppers, who thereby spend more. In an attempt to increase sale of expensive items, stores have been known to resort to Classical music as well.


Colour is responsible for roughly 62-90% in the making of a first impression, say researchers. Different colours hold different associations. When Heinz changed the ketchup colour from red to green, they noted over $23 m in sales in the first month itself, higher than ever.  The experiment found that the customers associated the colour green with health, wealth and peace.



As a supermarket customer yourself, you may have experienced feelings of gratitude towards the establishment for graciously providing you with amenities of convenience that are shopping carts. You may have even marveled at their generosity when they shower you with freebies at the sample stations. In reality, store management is a little more selfish. The large sizes of the carts encourage addition of more stuff in order to fill it up as much as possible. Free goodies, on the other hand, aim to please only to invite off-the-list purchases. A sweet treat can “activate goals associated with indulgence… and encourage subsequent acts of indulgence” concludes Journal of Consumer Research.


The checkout counter strategically plays on people’s impulsive natures. Knick-knacks are displayed at the last station of the shopping experience because the customer is quite likely to pick them up due to the build-up of a sense of urgency felt towards the ‘end of shopping’.


From simple counting to complicated digital signs, sneaky stores use various methods to track and analyze consumer movement. Customized advertisement is pursued based on the analyses of products the eye visits the most. Store loyalty cards – believed to be instruments of frugality- are in fact part of a store’s active demographic data technology.



Discount signage and Bulk sales appeal to and turn customers because human beings are emotionally poor at mathematics.

The more-value-for-money illusion pulls them in. Just the thought of getting a good deal persuades shoppers to buy more than what they may need. 6 for the price of 5 sounds better than paying full price for just the 3 they originally came in for.

Not only this, the customers also have little fore-sight. They will buy a shirt for 5% off only to pay more later on the credit card.

The 99 effect is well known, yet effective. People tend to pay more attention to the left most digit since most reading is done left to right. Apple successfully used numbers to make its pricing seem like a steal ($499). This effect comes in handy for supermarkets and even the budget-conscious customers struggle to keep track of spending.



Lighting can effect mood and evoke emotions. Bright lights in the fresh produce section can make the fruits and vegetables look vibrant and healthy. Dim lighting in the lingerie department implies the discreet nature of the store. Humans, like birds, are attracted to and fascinated with shiny stuff. One particular study found that pedestrians automatically stop outside a sparkling store. This may have something to with our ability to help find clean water which evolved back when the skill was a very big asset for survival.



  • Always make a list to avoid hasty decisions.
  • Make the list aisle by aisle to cut down on time.
  • Shop without children whenever possible.
  • Shop at off-peak hours.
  • Never shop hungry or tired.
  • Get through the checkout area without getting distracted.

Now that you are aware of how stores use science to trick you into spending, you can gamble and hunt with the difficult knowledge that a predator is a possibility. Stay and shop as long as you feel in control. Just remember not to stay too long for the house always wins in the end.

Consider yourself shopping-savvy? Think you can see through the little tricks that retail outlets employ to increase sales? Share some of your own shopping experiences with us in the comment section below.

Contributed by Ankita Verma, IBS Hyderabad, Class of 2009



Somewhere out there, is a communication-strategist named Megan who hands out her business cards like a boss!

Check out the clever play on words and typography.

Business Stationery

Creatively designed by Ascender, this beautiful stationery has not only increased Megan’s corporate visibility but her brand value as well. This is a just example of what properly strategized Business Stationery can do to strengthen the image of an individual/company.

Business Stationery 1

The origin of Stationery can be traced back to 15thcentury China.                                                                                                                                                                                            In those days, visiting cards essentially served as a personal advertisement tool for the upper class. They were also used as calling cards and handed out at doors of establishments with the intention of receiving meetings or to forge introductions with specific people.

During the highly elaborate reign of Louis XIV, visiting cards and letterheads depicted rank or title to effectively communicate status.

Personal stationery was largely used to maintain good social etiquette in Victorian era; for instance a letter of congratulations to the happy couple on a wedding that, unfortunately, could not be attended.

Visiting cards were frequently used by the average 17th and 18th century suitor to make acquaintance with the object of his affection and her household. Strict protocols had to be followed while delivering a card and admittance into the house would only be granted after the matriarch satisfied her inspection of it.

Business Stationery 2

Image credit

London merchants are credited with bringing stationery into the world of business. Visiting cards were employed to establish trade links and credit with other businesses. A signed card could stand in for a contract and was considered legally binding.

Today, though a business card no longer serves as an I.O.U, it is a key element in creating a long-lasting impression and improving recognition of any successful individual or business.


Branded stationery items are tactile and personal instruments of communication.

Business Stationery 3

Yoga One business card


By its very nature, business stationery indicates a long-term and committed investment in a particular field. It is regrettable that in the ever-evolving markets, its potential as a potent marketing tool still remains underestimated.

The benefits of good quality custom stationery are many. Majorly, it:-

  1. Demonstrates professionalism
  2. Projects and promotes brand image
  3. Helps with networking
  4. Improves visibility and credibility

Not all stationery is good stationery, however. Owning stationery that is not up to standard can convey a wrong message about your product/service to potential clients and business partners.

Critics agree that no representation would be infinitely better than an off-putting one.

Business Stationery 4

Church of Scientology of California Letterhead


Choosing stationery that complements your corporate identity is a time taking task and rightly so.

There is a variety of elements that need special creative attention before they can work together to make agile foot-soldiers of your business stationery:

Company Logo,

Relevant Contact Information,

Uncompromised Quality,

Eye-catching Design,

Representative Font,

Brand Allied Colours, and

Empty Space

 It is important that a manager keep a note of elements that have been finalized.  As a best branding practice, these elements must be kept cohesive and coordinated across all the stationery items.

Creativity in business stationery exploits these elements and often creativity itself makes most of these dispensable.

Especially if you are Steve Martin!

Business Stationery 5

Steve Martin’s (fan) visiting card




Business Etiquette for Dummies gives a list of essential business stationery:-

  • Corporate letterhead

8 1/2 x 11 inches, with the following information printed on it:

  • Business name
  • Business address
  • Business telephone number
  • Business fax number
  • Business e-mail address or web page

Envelopes are printed with the company name and address.

Business Stationery 6

Bronx Zoo’s Letterhead (Back; Front) & Envelope

  • Plain sheets of paper

8 1/2 x 11 inches; same quality as corporate letterhead

      Usage: Presented as second and subsequent pages instead of letterheads, in case of longer communication.

  • Monarch paper

7 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches

Contains the following information:

  • Person’s name, but not the business name
  • Business address

Envelopes are printed with the person’s name and business address.

Usage: Personal business letters

  • Correspondence cards:

4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches

Contains the following information:

  • Person’s name, but not the business name
  • Business address

Usage: Personal messages and thank-you notes.

  • Business cards:

3 1/2 x 2 inches

The card should contain:

  • Person’s name and title
  • Business name
  • Business contact information (address, telephone number, e-mail address, etc.)


Apart from the above mentioned, a complete suite of business stationery would include:

  • Invoices, Receipts, Purchase orders,  Carbonless forms
  • Internal use forms – Inventory, Billing orders, Supply request
  • Labels – Shipping, Return
  • Announcement cards
  • Envelopes – Regular. Window, Return, Announcement

Business Stationery 7

One of the early Bills of Trade of a Tailoring Co.

Itching to get your own business stationery? There is a plethora of online printing services eager to please you. Before deciding on any, do your research. Give your business to the one that has the best reviews. Customer satisfaction is a good indicator of quality.

The creation of business stationery needs proper deliberation. A creative design which is both coherent and aesthetic can impress and build repute. Moreover, uniformity in branding across the stationery spectrum is more likely to convince people that it is okay for them to place their trust in you.

Business stationery does not have to be financially severe, for truly, clarity and relevancy hold more weight than extravagance. ‘Simple’ can be effective too.

Simplicity does not have to mean ‘cheap’ however.

With so many bits and pieces to be manufactured, it is a common sight to see quite a few compromising with quality in order to save some pennies. Why is it that they chose to overlook the fact that customers tend to treat a company’s stationery as a reflection of the company’s objectives, values and professionalism?

What a tragedy it is when the device of self promotion itself, misfires and misinforms!

Great care has to be taken to ensure that the subtle message delivered is in fact the intended one. Branding one’s stationery in such a distinctive manner is a grass-root marketing strategy and vital for image building. And, we can safely say that if brand image is the ‘face’, business stationery is the ‘selfie’.

Just ask Megan Sheerin.

Drop us a line in the comment section below and tell us about a piece of business stationery which you found inspiring or even disturbing. Did it alter your perception of the owner?

Contributed by Ankita Verma, Class of 2009, IBS Hyderabad


Soft Skills vs Hard Skills: Comparative Relevance for MBAs

The present-day Corporate World’s tryst with ‘Soft-Skills’ have made the term an omnipresent but hard to define buzzword. If you ask people to define Soft-Skills, you’ll by and large encounter rather ambiguous and divergent definitions. For the sake of clarity, Wikipedia defines soft skills as “associated with a person’s  EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people.” While Hard-Skills or traditionally known as technical skills are more closely related to a person’s IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and are defined as practical abilities learned through education and training. For example, the hard skills that an accountant would need include arithmetic, familiarity with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and financial statement preparation.


Undoubtedly, dependency on the seemingly more-important ‘Hard-Skills’ cannot be undermined. But one thing is certain – the days of domination and exclusive control of these so-called Hard-Skills are a thing of the past. This is evident from this statement made by Harvard Business School professor in an interview. He said, “Many consultants said that technical skills – once the prime goal of executive searches – are still important but have become merely a baseline requirement.” For most jobs, while the hard skills are essential to getting into the interview, it’s the soft skills that will land the job because employers want someone who won’t just perform their job function, but will be a good personality fit for the company and make a good impression on clients.

During your entire 2 years at your B-School, you’ll observe that the methodology of teaching all the subjects is unique in the sense that in virtually every lecture, you’ll have to confront and deal with widely used ‘presentation oriented’ style of teaching. It is a precursory exercise universally adopted by B-Schools to equip their students with a blend of various Soft-Skills set, which will be instrumental for your future professional success in the severely harsh and competitive white-collar world.

For example, a project manager in an MNC, who belongs to an engineering background writes a report and assumes that people will read it – but that never happens. Because these days, however crackerjack and inch-perfect your report is – if you are not able to present your work effectively, you may never get the credit you deserve. And to be able to that with finesse you need the right kind of training and exposure beforehand. Then, with experience you can further hone and nurture those skills acquired over a period of time. That’s why the usually diffident and stand-offish but ambitious engineers invariably want to go for an MBA degree to boost their career graph by combining both their soft-skills and hard-skills. They get the best of both the worlds this way and hence an edge over others.

Just introspect – what good are great ideas if you are not able to articulate them well before the target audience. What good is your technical brilliance if your well-intentioned supervisor (Even that’s a rarity these days) does not feel confident to put you before the senior management. Moreover, Hard-Skills can be learned from books or online tutorials. Financial Accounting, for instance is a hard-skill that may be self-taught. An old-school proponent of Hard-Skills may argue that a financial accounting specialist may go on to associate himself with a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and eventually become a CFA Charter-holder thereafter making a lot of moolah!

I would like to re-assert that depending on the kind of job your are in, you’ll need the relevant technical skills to get the job. However, it’s your repertoire of Soft-Skills which will actually make sure your technical skills shine and visible to your seniors and colleagues alike. A medical practitioner, for example, essentially needs to know what medicine to prescribe after an appropriate diagnosis. Isn’t it? But, in reality, which doctor would you prefer going to for a monthly regular check-up? A rude, eccentric genius who treats you like a lowbrow and attacks your ego (House MD rings a bell anyone?) OR a sufficiently qualified physician who knows you and your body well, is pleasant & courteous and takes time to answer your questions patiently? Mull over it!

Soft Skills vs Hard Skills: Comparative Relevance for MBAs

In situations like this, Soft-Skills do matter a lot. Perhaps more than you think they do. Your emotional quotient, self-confidence, presentation skills, ability to work in a team, work ethics, leadership/mentoring skills, selling skills et cetera all contribute towards a thriving career. Two vital skills hugely relevant in the present-day business enterprises worldwide and which are not included in the above list of Soft-Skills are worthy of mention here.

First one is ‘Self-Promotion’ skills. For whichever organization you are working for and regardless of who and how your boss is, just working hard doesn’t cut it. You will have to painstakingly promote your skills & working results within and even outside of your organization. You need to smartly but subtly build your reputation with the all-important people who may in any which way influence your performance review. You’ll realize that baby steps in this direction will yield rich dividends by the end of the financial year and will help you make your way up the corporate ladder.

Second important skill is ‘Managing Office Politics’, which has become a self-proclaimed but an unsaid component for professional growth and white-collar ascendancy. If you are adept in understanding the nuances of people dynamics and the goings-on inside the office premises, you will make yourself immune to discriminatory behavior and unscrupulous wheeler-dealings that sadly and surely exist almost everywhere.

Unfortunately, the significance of soft-skills is still underestimated in our country. This is where the role of MBA education comes into play. The entire MBA curriculum focuses on the skill-sets stated above. Personality development, self-awareness and increased confidence are natural by-products of a standard MBA course from a reputed B-School. Primary soft-skill attributes are inherently ingrained in its course structure and are deep rooted in its way of teaching, which is specifically adopted for the modern business world.

And it has become a prerequisite because present-day organizations expect their employees to know how to behave on the job without the need of a formal on-the-job training. They tend to assume that an employee already possesses the essential soft-skill traits in addition to the apparently more valuable hard-skills. It is a dangerous assumption which may lead to an increased attrition rate caused by non-productivity and de-motivation amongst the staff members. This preconceived perception needs to be changed.

Contributed by Pranshu Awasthi ( Class of 2007, IBS GURGAON )

Prioritizing your MBA Subject

One of the complex decision aspirants has to undergo is what to prioritize and what not when they are flooded with so many subjects, some of which is completely new to them. Adding to this, in no time they would have to give their preference for specialization. No doubt this comes after one semester, but then time flies. Some aspirants realize it at an early stage some regret it even after opting it. Such decisions once taken cannot be made retrospectively. Therefore, it is extremely important that one has to pre-plan it before the time runs over them.Prioritizing your MBA Subject

Well ,when I was pursuing my MBA, I already knew what  I was supposed to do and what specialization I had to choose. But what I could see among other batchmates were the kind of confusion they would have to live in, the confusion of what specialization to choose? One thing which many of the people inadvertently did was getting influenced either by their immediate friends or from feedbacks from seniors and super seniors. But is this the right way to go about it? Certainly, many have found it completely cherishing after graduating, but then there has been lots of “ifs and buts” to it.

My most common experience and research showedthat prioritizing a subject is ONE of the efficient ways in choosing a specialization. The context of prioritizing simply means exploring one’s interests and developing it continuously.  Prioritizing your subject is extremely crucial. Sometimes before starting the course you may not be certain what to do and where to keep the focus. Mostly with so many diversified subjects, one gets so carried away that choosing one particular specialization becomes a task. Moreover, one has to keep  pace with all the subjects else the entire score may get affected.  For some aspirants, some subjects are distinctively new and unfamiliar. Like for example aspirants from Arts who do not know about  accounts finds Accounting extremely difficult to crack.

One might think MBA course of 18 months /24 months is a long period to align the interest, but the truth is, time flies so fast that one may end up picking subjects which at the end one has to bite the bullet. In order such situation do not crop-up, one has to be focused and prioritize their subjects accordingly. One cannot be a  jack of all trades and master of none.

Identify interest areas, businesses, industry, company, fields etc. :

Aspirants have to be very aggressive after they have settled and made themselves comfortable within 15 days of the program has kick started in full throttle. They would have to start introspecting what business they would like to associate with or what industry interests them most. They would have to identify companies which they have been dreaming of to work. Some aspirants have a family business into manufacturing and he/she would  continue the legacy and therefore he/she would like to explore the same. Some have a strong preference to accounting and finance and therefore would like to get associated with financial institutions. Some have a Biotech degree and would prefer to get associated with a pharma company. Some have a strong inclination towards technology and would like to work with IT giant. Identifying such specific interest help the aspirants pursue similar subjects and prioritize the same.

Identifying skill sets, passion and aptitude:

Sometimes it so happens that aspirants are in a dilemma as to what to choose even after introspecting. In such confusing situations they should resort to identify their skill sets, passions and aptitude. For example, one may be excellent in communication and therefore he/she can explore Marketing and sales, one may be very good with creative thinking and he/she can think of Brand Management, while some are extremely quick in calculation and one can explore Finance. One may be good with operations and subsequently keep focus on similar subjects. So in short aspirants have to invest time in themselves in order to determine which subject to focuson.

Reading and reference:

Once the interests are shortlisted,  aspirants would have to now explore these areas in several ways until they feel comfortable and confident. In order to do this, they would have to read books, articles, journals and other materials which are relevant to the interest. Aspirants would have to even focus their project topics in their area of interest. This will further develop interest and provide an effective approachin dealing with it. This will also help understand the subject in a more refined way Prioritizing your MBA Subject and gives much needed clarity.

Influence of externals and Feedback:

After having a fair idea about the interest, they would have to start interacting with people around them, especially the ones who have a prior experience in the subject. The first and for most is the lecturers who could be extremely helpful in providing feedback. They could be a strong touch point to assess you and solve your doubts. They would also help you touch base with people who have similar interest and provide you strong reference material to stay updated. Their opinion would really be a great influence in prioritizing the subject as it will help mentally prepare the aspirants.

The next person would be seniors who already have opted the specialization.  Their feedback can help understand the seriousness of the subject. Aspirants at the same time can involve friends from the classmates too who have similar interest and discuss the same. This is conventionally the most popular way as one gets valuable inputs from them as they have already researched on what to choose and what not to.

This will make the aspirants almost close to the difficult task of prioritizing the subject. Then they should start keeping a full fledged focus on those key subjects or electives. Electives which have a greater importance to their interest area, automatically stays on top of their chart. Like if the aspirant finds himself well inclined to business strategy and have been reading research articles on merger and acquisition, then he would find Strategic Management a key subject to focus on. And additionally, Financial Management could be an added bonus which will augment his understanding and make him proficient.

So as we have seen just by identifying key areas help in turn identify key subjects which ultimately help in determining the Specialization. Additionally,  this will help in pushing the electives up on the priority list, which ultimately will have a greater role to play in shaping the career path.

Contributed by Mitesh Agarwal  ( Class of 2011, IBS HYDERABAD )

Setting Effective Performance Objective

There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. Performance objective is a specific end result that contributes to the success of the unit or organization and that you as a future employee will be expected to accomplish or produce.
Performance objectives provide focus to an employee’s work to ensure that his or her actions are directed towards achieving important mission-related outcomes. This has become really challenging in today’s business environment where lack of proper goal reduces the top line of an organization. Performance objectives are not work activities, task descriptions, or responsibilities listed in a performance description.

A work activity is an overall action that an employee takes when performing his or her job. A performance objective specifies the outcome or end result of a work activity.
There is a subtle difference between the task and the performance objectives. For example-Setting effective performance objective

  • Task: Determine sourcing strategies to avoid cost.
    Performance Objective: By the end of the financial year, present two sourcing strategies for existing and new vendors based on a thorough analysis of volumes, customer needs, capabilities, and value addition.
  • Task: Prepare and deliver executive leadership deck.
    Performance Objective: By March end, deliver three decks to key stakeholders regarding the new process, and consolidate a detailed report on the feedback received.
  • Task: Collaborate with others.
    Performance Objective: For each project received during this year, solicit at least one individual to provide input at the planning stage. Incorporate the individual’s input into your final report.

Difficult times disrupt your conventionalways of thinking and push you to forge better habits of thought, performance and being. Young people often gets discouraged when encounters on immediate failure. You need to hold up your aces, think what went wrong and develop performance objectives to overcome in future. There are five ways to set good performance objectives and if worked diligently on achieving can work wonders for all of us. I believe effective performance objectives should be:-

1) Specific
I think that the Japanese culture is one of the very few cultures left that have its own identity. They’re just so traditional and so specific in their ways that even till now they our amongst the world leader. If your team is going to do what you ask them to do, then you need to be specific about the end result. Use action words like “to increase”, “to establish”, “to reduce” and “to create” in your communication. You can also use “specific” to remind yourself that objectives need to relate back to a specific personal or organizational goal. It’s a constant cycle to remind you.

2) Measurable
Imagine you are playing the games ‘Candy Crush’ or ‘Words with Friends’ and it doesn’t show a score or progress indication as you go along. You wouldn’t play it – there’s no motivation!
You want something that will allow the person to gauge how well they are progressing toward achieving the objective. You don’t want an objective that is vague. This leaves room for misinterpretation and that will end in disgruntled people. So tell the person how you are going to measure the achievement. Then you both know when it hasn’t been achieved, when it’s been met and when it’s been exceeded.
For example, 100 percentile push every student to compete with other. It’s also a good idea to record the source of the measurement. For example, the profit & loss report for retail division, client survey, and sales reports.

Setting effective performance objective

3) Attainable
When a warrior learns to stop the internal dialogue, everything becomes possible; the most far-fetched schemes become attainable. I’ll quote a story once upon a time there was a leader and his three direct reportees. The first employee’s objectives were too hard; there is no way they could be achieved. First employee just gave up at the start. Second employee’s objectives were too easy; they just weren’t motivating at all. But third employee’s objectives were just right. They were a stretch and it might be difficult, but employee thought there was a good chance she could achieve them. She was one motivated passionate employee. The moral of the story is “Persist and persevere, and you will find most things that are attainable, possible.”

4) Relevant
Relate the objective back to the team and company goals. Being part of a team effort is much more motivating than just having an objective. Is the objective within something the person will have control or influence over? There’s always going to be the circumstances you can’t plan for. There’s always the unexpected relevance never question the relevance of truth, but always question the truth of relevance. Your goals should be relevant enough for you to achieve it. You can become a shining star or will be shot down depending upon the relevance of goal you have. People are overwhelmed looking up at the Mount Everest of environmental challenges that we face. But you put one foot in front of the other and you recognize that not everyone is Sir Edmund Hillary.

5) Time bound
What is the time frame for achieving the objective? A target date and some milestones help keep things on track. Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. Ensure your goals are time bound and should have a fixed hard line. If the objectives are fixed it helps you to work hard until they are achieved. Imagine a 20 over cricket match, the batsmen has a set target or are in process of setting target, they can’t wait till the last ball is about to be ball. It’s a time bound game and everyone wants to win.
Most “impossible” goals can be met simply by breaking them down into bite size chunks, writing them down, believing them, and then going full speed ahead as if they were routine.

Contributed by Vaibhav Chandra (Class of 2009, IBS HYDERABAD)

“Your Mom is the best manager!”

You would have read hundreds of lessons in management and would have studied hundreds of case studies on management. But did you ever think that the best manager in the world is at your home only? Yes, she is none other than your sweet Mom! She may not hold an MBA degree from a well reputed university and may not have worked as a manager of a corporate but she knows well how to manage your family!

"Your Mom is the best manager!"

Let me define first who is a real manager according to me. A manager is the one who is able to manage a number of things in a given frame of time and handles each and everything well, completing all things within the stipulated time. “Manager” word does not apply only to those people who are sitting in the air conditioned offices, well dressed and managing their sub-ordinates. But it applies to anyone who manages well! Well, a good manager has the qualities of proper planning, leading, organizing and controlling. A mother exhibits all these virtues in her day to day responsibilities and manages everything in her day to day life without any expectations or rewards.

Management at all the levels of the family

A mother has to handle all the tiers of the house which are in-laws, husbands and the kids. In-laws come under the top management, husband is the chief managing director, children are the executives and maids are the employees. There is hardly any dispute and she manages all the members of the family as an efficient manager. She has to manage the expectations at all the levels and if there is any conflict, she is the first one who has to listen and provide a solution. When the kids are growing and lots of turbulences and happenings are going with them, it is the mother only who manages all their resistances to change and ensure a smooth transition. Whenever things go wrong and there is a possibility of corrective action from her side, she willingly accepts it and takes necessary corrective action. She is the best reviewer of everything in the family and always works to bring improvement and effectiveness in the family. Do you really feel that a company manager can do better than this?

Effective Management of resources

A mother manages all the Finance like household expenses, income from your father and other external expenses. She is efficient in making the budget of the family, she forecast well and she always keeps a surplus and makes proper planning for the future requirements. At the time of financial crisis or instability in the family, it is the mother only who manages and handles all the incomes and expenses and runs the family smoothly. She manages stores, raw materials and each and every resource at home with full perfection. For all these management skills, she was never taught by anyone or she never took any degree. She developed everything after she took the responsibility of your family. Even, the managers at office get at least one day off in a week, but a mother never gets any off and she has to be in operation throughout the week!

An invaluable service with no expectation of rewards

If someone ever thinks to evaluate the services of a mother in terms of money, then I don’t think that her work, services and her love and concern can ever be paid in return. No amount is ever more than her sincere works and many times her works and services remain unnoticed and unacknowledged. Whenever someone asks about her occupation, the label of just a ‘house-wife’ is answered. But if this housewife is to be paid for her services to her family, then she deserves a number of times more than what her husband is paid in his company or occupation.

A saga of love, dedication and hard work

The world oYour Mom is the best managerf mother is confined in the four walls of the house but she always remains as a saga of love, dedication and hard work. She has an endless love and concern towards her family and

she is the only manager who does not have any designated working hours. She gets up early in the morning when everyone is sleeping and goes to bed so late that everyone has slept off till that time. When we enjoy watching different channels on the television, she is preparing yummy food for us in the kitchen. Whether she is busy or free, she is always smiling and concerned towards her work at home. She is never indifferent in her work and never has any grievances or complaints with anyone. In a company, if a manager is fed up of all the responsibilities and expectations, then he submits his resignation and starts planning to shift to another company, but a mother has one and only one place to stick to and that is her family only.

There are some valuable things in our lives which we learn practically and the lessons of management from our mother are one of those. She helps us to grow as a better person and while growing with her, we learn a lot of important aspects of management which no theoretical books can teach us. She teaches us that everything in this world can be managed by the art of love and dedication. She teaches us the virtues of honesty and sincerity towards our work and responsibilities. She never writes anything on a piece of paper but whatever she demonstrates by her acts are enough as the biggest practical lessons. Let us value our lovely mother for the excellent role of a home manager she has played so far and let us not complain for what she has been unable to provide us. The role of a home manager is really an unmatchable one with hundreds of difficulties and challenges on the way. We have seen that how beautifully our Moms perform this role without the expectation of any reward or compensation. Simply, she is the best manager in the world, even better than the managers passed from the IIMs and the Harvard.

Ashish Singh Parihar ( Class of 2008, IBS PUNE )