A sunny Saturday morning saw the auditorium of Mumbai’s Welingkar Institute of Management filled to capacity to watch the brightest B-school minds from the West Zone battle it out for a spot in the finals of the national B-school challenge. And right from the word go, 34 quiz and 28 debate teams went for the gold—to qualify for the semi-finals.
Taking advantage of a partisan crowd and the home ground, Welingkar’s Deepak Verma and Raj Singh Chauhan breezed through to the finals after overcoming the challenge from Pune’s Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resources, represented by Navtej Singh and Ashwin Jain. Their topic: ‘Economic reforms in India have benefited only the rich’.
Slugging it out in the other semi-final was the country’s numero uno management school, IIM-A, with its duo of Vinamra Srivastava and Mohit Sadani, locked in an intense battle with Giridhar Gopal Bagri and Nayana Renukumaran from the Institute of Rural Management, Anand. Both teams debated whether ‘An MBA is the most hyped qualification in India today’.
IIM Ahmedabad triumphed in the end to set up a battle with Welingkar in the zonal finals. After a brief break, both finalists squared up to argue whether ‘Soft skills, more than technical proficiency, are what separate the great managers from the good ones’.
Welingkar’s Verma and Chauhan argued convincingly for the motion, but their arguments were quickly offset by IIM-A’s Srivastava and Sadani who were adamant that technical skills were what mattered when push came to shove in the corporate world.
And while it must be said that Welingkar’s stand did hold water, it was better articulation by the IIM-A duo that saw both judges—H. R. Shashikant, Senior President, Group Human resources, Aditya Birla Group, and Pavan Varshnei, Publishing Director, Business Today—awarding them the title. That allows them a shot at winning the national debate championship in the Grand National Finale to be held in Mumbai on December 15, 2007.
But the fireworks weren’t limited to teams matching their debating skills; they were also on display as four teams reached the zonal finals of the quiz round to match their wits and knowledge. It was a contestroyale of seven rounds between Souvik Basu and Govind Grewal of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies; Prashant Sampath and Chaitanya Marathe from SJMSOM, IIT Bombay; Tanmay Kumar and Alok Dattaray Malshet of Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune; and Srinath T. B. and Abid E.H. of IIM-A.
The victors: Basu and Grewal from Narsee Monjee. But what really stole the show was the B-School Alumni quiz in which alumni from various institutes were randomly paired into four teams. M. Suresh Kumar of TCS and an alumnus of IIM-C joined forces with Tushar Chaudhary—an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode—working with Axis Bank.
Others in the fray included Saurabh Goel of Cognizant (IIFT) and Rakesh Taklikar of SCB (FMS, Delhi); Vishwajeeth P. of Sun Microsystems (IGNOU) paired with Samrat Sengupta of Capgemini (IIM Lucknow); and Prasan Potdar of ICICI (NITIE) with S. Sathi Aseelan of Netcribes (Bharatidasan Institute).
Of course, the questions thrown at both the teams and the audience were aimed at the recipients’ intelligence and ingenuity. Sample this: What is the angels’ share in the alcohol trade? While Kumar of TCS wasn’t sure of the answer, he hazarded a guess—the content in the barrel lost to evaporation—and won some handsome points for his team to eventually finish as the 2nd runners up.
The quiz rounds—named after Business Today’s departments like Cover Story, Back of the Book, Current, Trends, Features, etc.—saw a heated contest among the four teams, two of whom were ousted in the penultimate round. The eventual winners: Goel of Cognizant with his team-mate Taklikar of SCB who came from behind to prevail over Vishwajeeth P. and Sengupta.
And it wasn’t just the participating teams that were drawing the audience’s applause—Acumen host Harsha Bhogle and anchor Tarana Singh kept up the energy levels with audience questions—prizes for which ranged from Acumen T-shirts, Business Today diaries and mugs to Braun electric shavers, Nokia phones by Business Today and a year’s subscription of Harvard Business Review.
And injecting some more fun into the audience round, Bhogle’s throwing of the audience prizes often had them landing in the wrong hands—though they eventually did find their way to deserving persons!