Two weeks later in Saudi Arabia – First Impression

It’s been nearly two weeks since I came to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on a business visit. A lot of assumptions that I had either made up myself or was forced to make due to inputs from others have either been proved wrong or reinforced even more strongly. When I first mentioned coming over here for a month or so, people (family and friends) made faces, scared the hell out of me and made me believe I wasn’t safe here. Whereas, people at my organization assured me things would be just fine and Saudi Arabia is a great place for living and getting business. Since, both of them care for me from different angles, I decided to believe fractions of what each one said.

We took a Saudi Arabian Airlines’ flight on May 18, 2009 that would take us from Bangalore directly to Riyadh. I was travelling along with my HR Manager Mr. Raja. The flight was scheduled to leave at 1.30pm, but took 30 minutes more for reasons that weren’t explained to us. We took our allotted seats and waited patiently for the flight to take off. We landed in Riyadh 4 hours and a few minutes later. The very first process at the airport, that of getting ourselves immigrated, pissed me to the core. We had to wait for 4 long hours, standing in a line predominantly populated by other Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis. The staff at the airport would treat you terribly if you are brown. It doesn’t matter if you have come for business, leisure or for toiling in scorching sun to lay roads and build building for them. Finally, when our turn came to face the immigration officer, we had to show our passport, get all our ten fingers scanned and get our photograph taken.

When we were finally done and came out, you cannot but feel the hot Arabian weather. It is hot as crazy! Yet, since there is absolutely no humidity here, you won’t sweat a bit. Luckily, my company had sent a driver who was standing for us outside the airport with our names printed with bold letters on an A4 sheet. He took us to our office-cum-residence close to Thabab Street near Olaya. I currently stay on the road exactly opposed to King Fahad Medical City. As you drive back from the airport towards the city, the tall buildings, fast cars and wide roads would never stop amazing you. Since Olaya is like the Central Business District here in Riyadh, you can find all major food and clothing brands here. The city is peppered with shopping malls, fast food joints and apparel stores (many of whom offer great discounts!). I knew my next few weeks here wouldn’t be as bad as many of the people had warned me about back at home.

My first few days passed by meeting clients and working on few marketing material for our new office. I also had a chance to go meet my sister and brother-in-law who also stay in Riyadh. At least, there is someone to make me feel at home. Each evening we take a walk on Thabab Street and go eat Shawarma Rolls and drink a tin of Coke. Taxis are available in plenty and don’t charge you a lot due to cheap oil. You can normally go to any corner of the city for less than SAR 20-30 (Around $8), if you negotiate well. Most of the taxi drivers here are either Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. They normally try to chat with you asking where you are from, how long you would be staying in Saudi and other questions that would let them compare their own lives against yours.

I had a chance to go to a lot of hypermarkets, apparel stores, shopping area including Hyper Panda, Tamimi, Geant, Centerpoint, Carrefour, Euro Marche etc., and there are tones of other places that we have planned to go visit sometime soon. I also had a chance to go visit ‘Kingdom Tower’. It’s the tallest building here in Saudi Arabia and is 300-ish meters tall. They have constructed a skywalk right at the top from where you can see the entire city. At night, the city is fully lit up and looks lovely. The food here is also great. You get to eat a lot of things here. I just loved Cinnabons and Dunkin Donuts. Coke and Pepsi is also cheaper here compared to India with a tin selling at Rs. 13!

I guess my first impression of Riyadh has been pleasant and I have started to like this place a bit. But staying away from my dumbo, family and friends is the toughest thing to do. I really miss home and at times feel so lonely out here. But since I would be back home in another two weeks time, I try to not think too much about home and depress myself. I intend to write a lot more about specific incidents that took place here since I came over. Hope you find them interesting. 🙂

Love
Sen

Done being a student!

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With the end of this month, I would no longer be a student anymore. (Well, lets assume I don’t get crazy enough to go ahead and do my PhD or something like that!). Now you might be curious to know how I feel about the whole thing. Well, I myself cannot figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I mean, I just woke up the day after my last presentation we made for CAPSIM like it was just another day. It didn’t somehow hit me that I can no longer be a student. Strange.

But when I look back at how I felt when I was done with school, I felt the same – Nothing!. But years later, every time I think about school, I always get nostalgic and never fail to smile. ‘School days are the best’, I’d tell myself. And again, I somehow feel this is exactly how I’m going to feel about college years from now, when I hang my laptop on my shoulder, carry files in hand and fake a smile for a foreign client from whom I expect to fetch my company millions in dollars. I just hope those days aren’t any day near. Yearning to go back in time can be killing! Let that feeling take its own sweet time to reach me.

Having said I have done classroom-studying, I’ll never let my need to keep learning leave me ever. What’s there to outside one’s classroom far outnumbers what one learnt in class. And as I prepare myself to jump across frames that will transform me from being a student to an employee (a businessman later in life), there are things to be done, habits to be changed and people to be thanked. Since the list can get long, please bear with me!

I cannot but start thanking some of the most nicest teachers I have studied under in Christ School, Bangalore. Starting with Sr. Sagaya Mary (Taught me maths in Standard Two), Mr. Baby Philip, Mrs. Shashikala, Mrs. Amita Chaturvedi, Mrs. Latha Renji and Mr. Pandey. I guess if not for them, I would be less competent in one way or another. And then I must thank Mrs. Mariyamma, my accounting lecturer in Christ Junior College. My professors at Alliance Business Academy, where I did my BBM, always believed in me and have played a key role in my academic life. I cannot, but thank Prof. Ray Titus for his wonderful lectures in Services Management and Strategy, that I remember until today. The list is absurdly long when it comes to my Ohio University Christ College MBA professors whom I love and respect. Thanks to Dr. Raghu Iyer, Dr. Amalendu Jyotishi, Dr. Venkatesha Bhagavat, Dr. John Schermerhorn, Dr. Felicia Morgan, Dr. Dinesh Iyer, Dr. Jayanta Sen and Mrs. Gayathri (Placement Officer). I am really going to miss the office staff in Ohio Christ.

I met some of my best friends while being a student. Though I’ve lost contact with a lot of these people, they still mean a lot to me – Fijo Paulson, Dhanush Jose, Derrin Joseph, Asma Rafeeq, Sharan Sridhar, Soumya Madhavan Soumya R, Ninal Joseph, Nandini Narayan, Jiji John, Sachin R, Ammar Khan, Krishna Murthy, Vinay Chetan, Nimisha Saha, Nayanshi Shaw, Preethi Paul, Shalini Kashinath and Salma Raheem. I am so sure I’ve missed out a lot of names. If you are among them, my apologies. I really wish I could throw you all a party for being such good friends of mine!

As I start my career, in an not-so-awesome fashion in a not-so-good recession ridden economy, I am nervous and excited. Years from now, as I look back to tomorrow, I just hope I can say to myself – ‘I’ve come a long way!’

Love
Sen

Last day of my MBA Program

Its 8.42 am to be precise. On a Wednesday morning, as I type this post, my team members are preparing for the last presentation we would be making as MBA students scheduled at 9.00 am. Since we are the first team to go to the podium, we reached college early and began rehearsing. Now all we have to do is wait till Ershad, our senior from Batch 11 and someone else (who we still not sure) is going to be here to judge our presentation. Since we are going to be called in any minute. I’ll stop here. More to come in less than 90 minutes. Stay tuned. Since its my last day in college, I have a lot to rant and cry about! Lol

Love
Sen

MBA Placements

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Some of our worst fears are coming true lately. We are completing our MBA program in a couple of days and a large number of us are yet to get a job. We have been two trends in the job market this year – Companies are outright not hiring or are willing to hire one or two students at half of what they used to previously pay.  Thanks the global economic crisis and reduced demand that most of the companies are now suffering from.

Very few students have been lucky enough to get jobs. Currently, as I write this, 4 students out of 100 have been placed with less than 3 weeks left before we complete our MBA program. We, as students are pretty much stuck in the middle. We have to decide between accepting meagre salaries in not-so-good companies or wait for bigger companies. You can successfully argue for both.

In the time to come, I guess each one of us need to work and have a lot of patience. The best thing for us to do now is to do our best to get employed in the first place. A time will come (shortly!) when we can get choosy again. Until then, we should keep our expectations a bit low!

Wish us luck!

Love
Sen

Getaway to Mysore

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Nandini’s dad happens to be Karnataka’a High Court Judge and customarily gets passes for all major events the Karnataka Government organizes. So this Dasara (An extravagant festival celebration organized by the Government in Mysore District, Karnataka, India. For more information read here) her dad got gold passes for the event and since they had other plans, Nandini gave it to Sharan and me to go watch the event.

After enough discussion, we decided to reach Mysore on Sharan’s Honda Unicorn since it was only 140 kilometers away from Bangalore. We left on Wed, 8 Oct 2008, at around 6pm and stopped at Barista which is located on the highway. Since the last time I saw the highway has changed a lot. The highway now houses Cafe Coffee Days, Barista, McDonalds, tens of Dhabas and plenty other places for one to stop and relax for a while.

We finally reached Mysore at 9.30 PM that night and since we had our hotel rooms confirmed in advance, thanks to Sharan, all we had to do was get in and freshen up and leave to have dinner. The security guard in the restaurant told us about RRR, one of Mysore’s famous place to have Biryani. We did find the food amazing after our dinner.

Mysore Palace

The next morning, we left to the Mysore Palace where the procession was scheduled to begin at 12.30PM. We reached the place at 11.30 and found a mile long queue. We wondered if we would even get a place to sit. Suddenly we felt the Gold Passes we were holding wasn’t all that precious. There were many others with similar looking passes. Laugh out Loud. After security checks, when we went in, one cannot ignore the spectacular Mysore Palace in the background. Even though I’ve been there a couple of times earlier,  each time you experience a whole new feeling. We sat in the seats allocated to us and watched the entire procession. It was a colourful and a splendid performance for people all over the state.

That evening we went to the closing ceremony for Mysore Dasara 2008. It was organized in a place called Banni Mantap. I loved the parade and the fireworks in the end, not to mention the motorcycle stunt performances. Since cameras weren’t allowed inside, we couldn’t take pictures.  😦

We left the next morning early at 6 AM stopping once to have breakfast in a highway restaurant. I was worried I would fall sick in all the bike rides we were doing in cold mornings, scotching hot afternoons and dry evenings. But luck was on my side. I am fit enough to be writing this post two days later.

Few pictures of the Procession (Click to Enlarge)

Mysore Dasara 2008

Love
Sen

Photo Shoot!

As part of placement efforts, our college releases a placement brochure every year. Its like a neatly printed book with each page dedicated for one student, with a nicely taken picture of each student along with his/her academic and work credentials.

Here’s a page from the placement brochure printed last year. Featured is one the brightest minds I’ve met in a long time.

Photo Shoot

This year is no different. Our college is bringing out a placement brochure this year as well. And on last Wednesday, we had our photo shoot scheduled. With around 100 students to be shot (Photos I mean), it took quite a while before each of us got our chances to be photographed.

When my chance finally came, I was nervous like never before. The room where the camera and lights were set had over 15 people. And when I sat around the round table, the room was uncomfortably silent and to add to my uneasiness were 15 people staring at me. Not able to take all this, it didn’t take me much time before I started to sweat profusely.

The photographer seemed so heartless. In spite of all this, he still wanted me to smile. Now that is too much ask out of me. I took great pains to conceal my nervousness and did my best to smile. The result of which is this –

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The placement brochure is going to have this picture of mine on my page along with few other pictures of mine. Will surely post my page here when its ready. Hope recruited don’t frown when they look at me! Wish me luck!

Love
Senthil

Bengalooru to Ohio

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For those who don’t know me that much, and those who were confused what my previous blog was all about, I am one among those millions called ‘An MBA Grad’. I have felt proud and pissed at the same time about my decision to pursue MBA program.

Almost 18 months ago, I had just completed my BBM program, from one of the world’s leading university. No, not Harvard or Stanford. I was talking about Bangalore University! (Now why did you make that face? Eh?) For three years, all I did was read books and magazines, watch movies in PVR, lunch in restaurants and spend one week each semester to diligently go through Neeraj Semester Scanner (this book deserves a Booker Prize) that neatly give you everything ever needed to clear the tough to crack Bangalore University Exam. While I loved those three years for all the friends I made and fun I had, I passed out of the program dumber than I got in. To a large extent, I think we have options to work hard. But we don’t take it. The environment doesn’t support geniuses! (Lol, I was talking about me!)

After my BBM, I could choose between working or continue splurging my dad’s money on a MBA program. I had cleared my BBM with good scores (Thanks to Neeraj Scanner again!) and was full of confidence. My dad largely made my decision when it comes to this MBA program. He asked me to continue studying. And that’s what i did and still doing and would continue doing for the next three months.

I’ve learnt and unlearnt a lot of things since the time I joined Ohio University Christ College AME. Coming from Bangalore University background to this place was nightmarish. To start with, there is no Neeraj Scanner. Everything is so organized here. To just survive, you need to have 75% marks and 90% attendance.  These are unheard of figures in the wonderland of Bangalore Univ.

I learnt how to be patient and dynamic at the same time, how to (and how not to) work with teams, value of being punctual (I mean you can loose grades and attendance if you don’t be punctual), participating in class discussions (10 Marks!) and what it takes to reach great heights (Its atleast 4 floors upwards). But I think the most important thing an MBA program in our institution does to you is to REFINE you.

And its this refinement, I feel, that is priceless. Now I am more confident than ever to work for an organization, I make make better presentations and write good reports. I understand businesses better. I am more efficient in managing time and being professional. As we step off to work for corporations in some time, I cannot but thank all that I’ve taken from this institution, while giving back so little in return.

Thanks!

Love
Sen