The audience, comprising mainly students from the participating B-schools, raucously cheered their teams, as the latter put forth arguments and counter-arguments in support of their contentions during tense debates and wracked their brains and intellects for answers to some very difficult questions thrown at them by inimitable Acumen host Harsha Bhogle from his cue-cards during the quiz competition. Summing up the contest succinctly, Bhogle says: “The Business Today-Aditya Birla Group Acumen is about putting one’s acumen to test and that too with a dash of fun and entertainment.”
The competition kicked off with the elimination round, which was hotly contested by the participating teams. In the end, four teams each in the debate, quiz and alumni quiz competitions made the cut for the semi-finals. The debate semis for which the topics were “We have failed in building Brand India” and “India should push for an Asian Dollar”, were keenly contested by IIM-C (Arzi Adbi and Naviin Ibhrampurkar), Praxis Business School (Vinay Joshi and Saurabh Agarwal), Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Kolkata (Vivek Tiwari and Judhajit Sen) and XIM, Bhubaneswar (Sumeshwar Dhuper and Vandana Lisa). After an engaging battle of words and wits, IIM-C and Praxis Business School qualified for the zonal final.The debate final tested the erudition of the students with the topic “Diversified conglomerates will have to break up to retain focus”. And judging them, quite appropriately, were Amit Chincholikar, Group Head, Compensation & Rewards, Aditya Birla Management Corporation and Manohar Samuel, Senior Vice President, Birla Cellulose. The IIM-C team argued in favour of diversified conglomerates. Its contention was that individual units always stood to gain from being a part of a conglomerate, as the latter not only worked as a venture capitalist for them but also helped in better coordination with other units. Praxis Business School took the opposite stand, showing how subbrands and associated brands worked wonders in a more focussed manner. The judges saw greater merit in the arguments of IIM-C’s Adbi and Ibhrampurkar and declared them winners. The duo now go to Mumbai for the national finals. The Zonal Quiz final was contested keenly by four teams from Xavier Labour Research Institute, Jamshedpur (Raghu M. Reddy and Shrikant N.), Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (Neelotpal Goswami and Jinu Mathew), IIM-C (Arnab Sinha and Vijay Anand Menon) and IIFT (Vikram Sardeshpande and Manoj Bharathi). Some of the questions hurled at them were: (i) Aheda Zanetti, a Lebanese who migrated to Australia, designed a swimwear for Muslim women. What did she call it? Answer: Burqini.(ii) What does MSD stand for in the advertisement featuring Mahendra Singh Dhoni? Answer: Monday to Sunday Dressing. (iii) His stint with advertising began in 1987 with Allwyn’s Trendy Watch campaign. He went on to compose more than 300 ad jingles—Boost with Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar, MRF Tyres, Premier Pressure Cooker, Asian Paints, Hero Puch, etc. He owns Panchathan Record Inn, one of India’s most advanced studios. Who is this person? Answer: A.R. Rahman. (iv) Marriott, the hotel chain, tops in terms of sales in which particular category? Answer: Inflight Catering. After seven gruelling rounds, the XLRI team emerged a clear winner. The fun and excitement during the two-day jamboree reached its climax during the Alumni Quiz final. It kicked off in a rather relaxed atmosphere, but as the rounds progressed, it became charged and tense. Sample some of the questions thrown at the contestants: (i) It is synonymous with ‘money’ in more than 14 languages including French and at least one country is named after it. Milton Friedman pointed out that it was a major monetary metal in history. Which metal is this? Answer: Silver. (ii) Till 1957 when the rupee went decimal, how many pies were required to make up one rupee? Answer: 192 pies. (iii) When KBC introduced the first celebrity round with invited guests in 2000, four people were invited—Rani Mukerji, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta were three. Who was the fourth person? Answer: Shah Rukh Khan. (iv) On May 6, 1919, US President Woodrow Wilson did something that was a first in the history of air travel. What was it? Answer: The first person to take out flight insurance. (v) What’s the name of the knowledge city that Sabeer Bhatia is developing near Panipat in Haryana? Answer: Nano City. Although Gautam Ghosh (IIM-C) and Arup Banerjee (Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai) started off extremely well, the duo lost ground to Rabi Sankar Saha (Delhi School of Economics) & Jayashree Mohanka (IIM-C) and Dushyanth Jayanthy (IIM-Bangalore) & Subhendu Roy (IIFT Delhi) as the rounds progressed. The Saha-Mohanka duo out-answered the others and booked a berth for themselves at the national finals. “Business is all about leadership and great leadership can only come from individuals who are not only sharp but are able to communicate their ideas effectively. Acumen is a platform that brings the best talent of aspiring business leaders to compete,” says Pavan Varshnei, Publishing Director, Business Today.
Chincholikar, Samuel and Varshnei gave away the prizes that were sponsored by Birla Cellulose and Harvard Business Review South Asia (all-India prize sponsor).
Apart from Business Today and the Aditya Birla Group, other sponsors and partners for the event were: TravelGuru, Aditya Birla Minacs, Birla SunLife, Esprit (prize sponsors for the final), Headlines Today (TV partner), Fever 104 FM (radio partner), Exchange4Media.com (media partner), PaGalguy.com (online media partner) and IIM-C.