Tuesday, February 12, 2008

CEO Connect : Mr C. Venugopal MD & CEO, Krysalis Consultancy Services Pvt Ltd . on Econometrics and more.


The first speaker of another fresh quarter at the Department of Management Studies (DoMS), IIT Madras, under the auspices of the CEO Connect forum, was Mr. C. Venugopal, MD & CEO of Krysalis Consultancy Services Pvt. Ltd. He is an IIT Kharagpur and JBIMS pass out and has had a diverse and rich experience of having worked in many companies across multiple domains. He represents Nathan Associates, an Econometric Consultancy in US that uses econometrics and related models to add value and better the businesses of its clients.

Mr. C. Venugopal, at the very start, announced that he would rather have an informal session of give-and-take, so he asked students to barge in with their questions and queries any time they felt fine. He began by describing the background of consulting through the means of econometrics, based on sound economic theories. He gave the difference between a business consultancy and a consultancy using econometrics. A conventional consultancy would be primarily hired to give creative solutions using its client’s resources. In contrast, an econometrics consultancy would gather transaction data of its clients that includes customer information and invoices; try to understand the nature of the customer through demographic and physiographic data; and then would create econometric models using economic theories. He emphasized that econometrics is a mathematical methodology that questions the data and asks whether the data is unveiling any trend or information that may go undetected to the naive eye.


For this purpose, he presented the example of a major US transport corporation that had a profit insurance cover that would pay it in case its profits dipped below certain levels. Post 9/11, when the profits started to dip, the corporation approached its insurance company for a monetary claim which was denied. Enter Nathan Associates. It requested for the transaction data from the corporation and build econometric models of revenues before 9/11, some days post-9/11 and much later after 9/11. With such data, Nathan Associates’ client was able to prove in the law of court that its revenues had certainly dipped and it had a genuine claim to the insurance money promised. The judgment went in their favour, garnering a couple of million dollars for the transport corporation.
Sensing a similarity between econometrics and business intelligence exercises, a student raised a doubt. Mr. C. Venugopal answered that econometrics is different from analytics as analytics offers only tools for problem solving while econometrics’ scope is grounded much more in theory. Also for a person to work in econometrics apart from analytical skills required in analytics, he would need economics, particularly microeconomic knowledge.

Another doubt raised was how was a start-up to be helped by econometrics if it couldn’t come up with data on its business, as start-ups really don’t have many customers. Here, Mr. C. Venugopal highlighted the difference between data collection in the US and India. He said that while in US it was common to be able to access business information on consumer behaviour and corporate activities on even the most niche areas, in India such practices and services hadn’t picked up. In this light, he stressed that econometrics would need some form of primary data before it could help transform an SME’s business.
From econometrics, Mr. C. Venugopal moved to discussing the difference between working for a large corporation and running one’s own enterprise. Describing his own case, where he worked for almost 25 years across functions such as marketing, sales, strategy and IT, he said that the greatest difference was an entrepreneur previously employed by a company would be shorn of the protective shield of its employer. As someone working for a firm, you take things for granted and are assured that someone will take care of the other functions and aspects of management. However, none of this matched the heady feeling of working as an entrepreneur, of being your own boss and feeling secured in the fact that your time is your own now.
Probably wanting to stimulate another thought through the minds of the attendees, Mr. C. Venugopal asked the audience what is the most important thing as an entrepreneur. He said that he couldn’t agree more when a student answered that you need to have strong determination and confidence in your ideas. Another issue while operating as an entrepreneur, he asserted, was the lack of finance and the management of cash. Mr. C. Venugopal said that more than 50% of SMEs end up unsuccessful because they cannot manage their cash. This insight was something that he himself used while acting as a consultant to his clients, as a series of answers to this question lead to the core problems that plague a business.Mischievously smiling, Mr. C. Venugopal then questioned the audience whether MBAs were overpaid or not. While the class stood divided, he stressed that MBAs start becoming useful only after 3-4 years. Carrying on from there, he listed the traits that would make an employee invaluable to its employer. He said that a person must have credibility, possess high energy levels, be willing to learn, be bright and have a good attitude. These characteristics help a person integrate better with his/her organization and add value. Also, one must underpromise and overdeliver.
From the topic of adding value to a firm, Mr. C. Venugopal segued to the difficulty of an MBA graduate in selecting whom to work for, especially during placements. He asserted that 8 out of 10 MBA graduates he had met choose pay package as a differentiating factor between their prospective employers. This was a wrong decision. Such a decision had another dimension, when it came to an experienced MBA graduate selecting between multiple offers, as he/she would have worked in some domain before and would be swayed to join back the field he/she would be comfortable with. He underscored the worthlessness of looking back at the 3 years of work experience that one has had and the importance of looking forward to the next 30 years that lay ahead and their potential.
Mr. C. Venugopal, perhaps sensing the next question that would come, came forth with the type of profile and company that one should choose for one self. He maintained that one should take up an assignment that enriches your portfolio of knowledge, gives learning, new skills, gives chance to interact with people and challenging opportunities. He said that one should work with an organization that has good systems of cash management and exemplary processes and great people. So even if you get lower salary levels but a chance to work for a firm that offers the above mentioned traits then let go of the offer given by the other company that tries to lure you by a higher CTC or a snazzy designation.

To his advice of trying to work across different functions and sectors, a student asked if such a candidate would be deemed unstable in following a single career path. Mr. C. Venugopal replied that he had himself worked in many roles, so when he took up a different role he knew what the person on the other side of the table was thinking and this helped him transact business better. He said that after working in such a manner for about 10 years one would become a well-rounded manager as it diverse roles would ensure that you try to learn the roles of each profile quickly and this makes one stronger and definitely counts for something in today’s rapidly evolving business scenario.
A student then asked Mr. C. Venugopal to shed light on the right time to become an entrepreneur. He answered that it was preferable that one starts only after some work experience. Also doing so without any work experience would make it difficult as you would be bereft of a business network of known associates. Success without experience was only possible with solid financial backing and a passionate idea. Taking this idea forward he told that in fact you didn’t really need a passionate idea as most businesses of the world have achieved success by implementing someone else’s idea better.
At the end of the talk, Mr. C. Venugopal said that he hoped that students gave more importance to knowledge outside the books and gave Shuba D. of MBA I Year a prize for asking her question on the perception of instability in changing job roles, adjudging it to be the best question of the session.
KUNAL LAL
DOMS INTERFACE TEAM

2 comments:

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