The BT Acumen 2008 eastern zonal finals again proved that Kolkata is the hot spot of debates and quizzes, as the best of B-schools fought it out. Somnath Dasgupta reports.
Citibank’s board was reported to be thinking of replacing CEO Vikram Pandit and General Motors was considering filing for bankruptcy. But on Saturday, November 22, as these events took the global centrestage, in Kolkata, the best of eastern India’s B-schools had gathered at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C) to fight for a place at the national finals of BT Acumen 2008, India’s only national B-school debate and quiz event.Among the participants at the two-day event, co-sponsored by the Aditya Birla Group and moderated by the self-effacing Harsha Bhogle, were IIM-C, XIM Bhubaneswar, XLRI Jamshedpur, IIFT Kolkata and Praxis Business School.
The first debate semi-finals pitted XLRI’s Shrikanth Thunga and Vineet Sharma against XIM-B’s Shashank and Jojo Jay Mathew. The topic: Barack Obama’s presidency is good news for industry. With XLRI Jamshedpur speaking for the motion, Vineet said Obama’s plans for the economy contain hidden opportunities for Indian companies, especially those in infrastructure and metal, generic drugs and consumer goods.
Speaking against the motion, Jojo of XIM-B said Obama’s focus is on the US middle class and the lower income group, and his tax breaks will be aimed at local jobs and so cripple the BPO industry. Among the judges were Niladri Roy and Ajay Sinha of the Aditya Birla Group and Mahesh Motwani of Initiative Media.
At the second semi-finals, Abhishek Nagaraj and Saurabh Bajaj from IIM-C faced Cheishta Katyal and Apurva Harsh from IIFT over the topic “Sustainable development is only marketing jargon and cannot be implemented in the real world”.IIM-C spoke for the motion, but Cheishta and Apurva of IIFT survived the gruelling battle to move up to the zonal final and face Jojo and Shashank of XIM-B. The motion: Indian companies should be allowed to downsize workforce in order to survive a slowdown. Cheishta, speaking for the motion, said a recession spares no one as demand slumps and excess capacity appears.
She said companies operate in a boom and bust cycle, and can always recruit afresh when the economy looks up. Cheishta and Apurva’s argument: companies have no problems with policy measures that induce them not to fire; but this should not be turned into binding legislation because that is “economically unfair”.
The XIM-B’s Jojo said: “The question is not about survival, the question is about showing confidence.” The IIFT team of Cheishta and Apurva won over the judges and are headed into the national finals. The second place went to Jojo and Shuhant of XIM-B.
Among other events, in the B-school quiz, the IIM-C team of C Ram Shankar and Shobhit Bhatnagar were the winners, with the first runners-up being Subhamoy Pati and Vishwas Mysore of IIT Kharagpur, followed by Manoj Bharathi and Titash Bannerjea of IIFT and Avneet Singh Bhatia and Auritro Chowdhury of Praxis. In the Alumni quiz, the winners were Jayashree Mohanka and Sudeep Chatterjee.e