Friday, January 29, 2016

What is the best mindset while preparing for Civil Services exams?

Well, no doubt, if you wish to be a doctor, you should imagine being in the shoes of one. It helps understand - to some extent - the challenges and the pluses. Similarly, you can try to imagine yourself as a Civil Servant even while preparing for the exams, as that can (to some extent) help you raise the bar from time to time.

The Young Aspirant as the Civil Servant - A Guide

Balance Extremes Blog Sandeep Manudhane SM sir BrightSparks blog PT education PT's IAS Academy Indore
Extreme approach
  1. Avoid the Extremes - "All politicians are corrupt. All judges are lazy and slow. All policemen are brutal. All teachers are idiots. All businessmen are profit-hungry". If you have been conditioned to think like this, your preparations for IAS are doomed. This is so because India has had exceptions to the above in all fields. It's only that you haven't read enough to discover those names. Think extreme => Write extreme => Look like an extremist => Fail for sure.
  2. Embrace the Truth - Our personal opinions can, at times, cloud our judgement in many matters. For example - most Indians think Pakistanis are bad people, and there is no hope for Indo-Pak relations. But turn the clock back, and you'll discover that our stock is the same. We all descended from the Indus Valley civilisation originally. So if they are bad, we are perhaps bad too. A better statement could be - "Pakistan is a horrible State, though most Pakistanis must be good people, as people are, everywhere". This is a positive way of looking at a rather despondent situation!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How to have an unfair advantage always?

Creating your own, personal, unfair advantage!
Well, the most unfair advantage a person can have is - to learn to stay happy and contented under all circumstancesI say so because such a person
  • Never runs out of hope
  • Is always much envied!
  • Views life very differently
  • Never really loses anything
  • Depends on nothing external
  • Can keep enemies confused always!

All other advantages can get blunted with time or circumstances, but this spirit of perpetual happiness can last forever.

How to achieve this?

  1. Realise that you only have your effort under full control, not the output
  2. The world went on fine before you came along, and will continue to do so millions of years from now
  3. Every small moment of joy can be turned into a celebration if you do not remain foolishly wedded to the notion of 'scale'

All the best!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Does an MBA help in managing family business?

The legendary Dr. Peter F. Drucker gave a striking insight about the art and science of management when he said "the job of a business enterprise is to serve customers profitably".

The people who make this happen in a business enterprise are the owners (shareholders), the managers and administrators, and the workers.

At a preliminary level, there are three kinds of managers -

  1. Managers who manage others' resources
  2. Managers who are owners of their resources, and do manage, but passively
  3. Managers who are owners of their resources, and actively engage in day-to-day management
FMB MBA IIM NMIMS Manangement Programme CAT XAT PT education
Family is my business.
First of all, you should clearly understand which category you'd fall into. I assume that if you are a young and driven person, then it's probably going to be the third.

Most of the management programmes in India, even of the IIMs, were designed to produce managers of the first type. Starting in the 1960s, that seemed to be the only sensible thing to do, as most of the economy was under a Licence-Quota-Permit-Raj and the only "owners" in the private sector were legacy owners of companies. There really were very few first-generation entrepreneurs or Startups then. What would anyone do by learning the art of management with an ownership mindset, when all you could do is play by the rulebook and manipulate the system enough to get the licences and permits to make shoddy stuff, sell to a desperate population hungry for goods and earn guaranteed profits!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Comprehensive analysis of UPSC Mains 2015

Good news!

India's only comprehensive, questionwise, bilingual and detailed analysis of UPSC Mains 2015 is now available. We have prepared a systematic solution, that will give you a thorough insight into how the papers (Essay and all GS papers) were designed, and how you should have tackled them.

Very useful for all upcoming exams, and those students targetting UPSC 2016, 2017 and 2018.

You can buy the Book + Session (DVD) from here

Enjoy this brief excerpt from the full session -

All the best!

If Indians suddenly ceased to exist, what would happen?

So someone asked in jest - If Indians suddenly ceased to exist, what would happen? I thought about it, and a scenario like this emerged :

When Indians suddenly cease to exist (today, not in some distant past -as that will make my answer too complex), India too will.
Shri Xi likes it
Then, on a sunny but chilly Beijing morning -General to Xi - Boss, hey boss ...
Xi - Hmm ... (without moving the eyes)
General - Indians are all gone ... they're gone ... our satellites show a dark subcontinent ...
Xi - Move in by tomorrow morning. (Xi is suddenly charged up after a really bad spell of artificially managing the stock markets and Banks, and pretending Constitutionalism while arresting dissidents by the thousands)

Then -
  1. Pakistanis are shattered, and lose their reason for existence! With India not around anymore, whom to blame, whom to benchmark their history with, whom to refer to for all their ills and miseries. They will simply lose their sense of being, and will move into the Indian mainland, and try to claim and rename it, and discover that the Chinese are already here, have renamed it, and give a penny's worth to the Pakistanis now.
  2. Pakistan comes to an end - With the Indian mainland now completely under the Chinese control, they will simply rampage through entire Pakistan and turn it into just another of their territories. They don't need the Generals any more to checkmate India in the high Himalayas. Bye bye both Sharifs. The Pak nukes, army assets and naval ports are simply appropriated by the People's Liberation Army. All Kashmiri separatist groups headquartered in Pakistan are sent to forced labour camps in Tibet and Xinjiang.
  3. Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh will voluntarily offer themselves as candidates for Chinese territories!
  4. Microsoft and Google get a huge headache - With their best and brightest vapourized suddenly, they'll be at a loss. They'll try to ramp up and realise that without a steady supply of talent that they'd taken almost for granted, they're literally smothered! Dumping Alphabet, the founders move back to the dirty job of running advertisements and android. The driverless cars and the internet balloons have to wait that extra decade.
  5. Facebook is blank - With India gone, a whole market it had based its future growth upon, the valuation drops drastically overnight. Mark rethinks the 99% giving pledge. Stares at the dashboard showing a jaundiced FB. And recalls China is forbidden fruit anyway.
  6. NASA reschedules its entire decade's worth of planning - It is staring at empty seats across departments, and too scared to fill them with the next available alternative!
  7. Sri Lanka realises China was not that good a choice to counter India with, through the past decades. They wait and watch. And recall with fond memories the civil nuclear deal they had just done with Indian friends.
  8. Indian Ocean is renamed The Ocean of Confucius or The People's Liberation Ocean or The Great Chinese Dream. The British and US forces on Diego Garcia ask for a long leave of absence.
  9. The aboriginal tribes on Andaman-Nicobar don't give a poisoned arrow's worth to all this. They continue their blissful existence as ever, hugging each other for hours on end.
  10. The British curse themselves for voting in the Labour Party in 1945 - Churchill would never have given up the British Indian Empire, and now was the time to encash their 200 years of brutality. Land worth 80% of today's entire European Union - all lost to the Communists.
  11. Saudi Arabia ramps up its defence budget - With one of the topmost oil importers suddenly gone, the world oil market is devastated, perhaps reaching $ 9 per barrel. Rebels, ISIS and Shias would gun for blood. Time to buy more missiles, tanks, and perhaps, a nuke or two!
  12. Food worldwide suddenly goes bland - with Indian spices no longer around, the world begs for more from the new government, that is yet to make up its mind on renaming the spices before exporting.
  13. The GREs, GMATs, and Foreign Universities of the world lose their profit streams suddenly, with the teeming millions no longer around to compete. Many American universities go blank, and bankrupt altogether.
  14. The Swiss and the Cayman guys are the happiest lot - With the hundreds of billions no longer claimed by anyone, they stop working altogether and throw an year-long party to celebrate. Reclaim their moral high-ground again.
But come to think of it - the probability of exactly the reverse happening is higher - Indians would perhaps be the last ones remaining on the planet, given our increasing appetite for numbers!

No offence meant, anyone! Hope you enjoyed.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How to make India a super-power?

Every patriotic Indian dreams of it - a day when India will count in the world fora as a mighty superpower that has made it big on all fronts. We also understand that despite all our progress, there are problems, and this article is an attempt to understand the same.
First, what do we mean by a super-power?
Concept 1. To me, a nation that claims super-power status in the modern urban technological era must have (a) a top-notch economic output, (b) excellent living standards for the average citizens (not just names in the Forbes Richest tally), (c) a strong defense mechanism powered by local R&D, (d) strong national identity and culture (including native languages), and (e) an ability to project power globally, and peacefully (otherwise you're a bully).
That means we have work on Hard Power as well as Soft Power (in which we are very strong historically).
Concept 2. The idea of a "nation-state" is a recent one, barely 500 years old. We had cultures, or empires, or civilisational societies before that.
Concept 3. Super-powers too can have their lows, defeats, down-times.

So, if I begin from 1 AD (the beginning of so-called modern history timeline), India rocked for the first 1700 years. Dr Angus Maddison proved it with facts (this is a good, neutral, third-party proof).
Hey, that's our India, right at the top!
GDP India Superpower China Blog Sandeep Manudhane SM sir PT education Indore

Now, back to 21st century. As an honest patriotic Indian, I find we are in quite a miserable situation. Let's see how.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Life's bare truths!

As we get entangled in our daily busyness, we rarely find time to think about the bigger aspects of life itself. Here's an attempt at unravelling some truths of life. The joy lies in realising these, and yet striving optimistically to improve oneself consistently.

Seriously speaking -

Life Happiness Sadness Blog BrightSparks Sandeep Manudhane SM sir PT education Indore PT's IAS Academy
It goes on, with you, or without.
  • It will all end one day - No matter who you are, how mighty or resourceful your position is, or howsoever intelligent and positive you are, you die one day. All your movements cease to be, the blood stops circulating, and you change from a person to a dead body that needs an almost immediate disposal. And within days of that happening, you become a bookmark in history, that too for just a few years. It all ends then. There will be a day in the future when your name will be taken one last time and your face and deeds remembered for the last time.
  • Nature does not care - Nature / Prakriti / The Universe / The Multiverse ... no matter what name you use, it just does not care what you think (of it). Nature moves with its own rhythm, bound in its own cycles, driven by its own instincts, and your presence or absence hardly matters. And we are tied inside it, and despite being blessed with the powers of analysing and rationalising its presence, cannot escape its clutches. It's a state of permanent bondage for most, unless spiritually freed.
  • There are very few true friends - No matter what you do for others, the number of people who stand by you in your toughest moments can be in lower single digits! This can be rationalised by the Law of Karma spanning multiple lives, which indeed seems to be working for many.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I don't want to go to Delhi to prepare for IAS exam. Can I make it?

Can you clear IAS exam without going to Delhi? Yes.
Can you stay at home and prepare for IAS exam? Yes.
Do people go to Delhi and crack the IAS exam? Yes.
Do people go to Delhi and fail to crack the IAS exam? Yes.

I started with the range of possibilities we witness every year. So it is safe to say that you can prepare well for the UPSC IAS exam, even while remaining at home (or while working), if you are disciplined enough to stay focussed, sincere enough to prepare structured notes daily, and intelligent enough to realise what's important and what's not. And this discipline + sincerity + intelligence has to be sustained, and not sporadic or spasmodic.
UPSC IAS PSC Civils CSE PT's IAS Academy PT education Sandeep Manudhane SM sir Indore
We're with you, even at home

You can also try and get hold of a comprehensive solution for Self Prep that can help you go step-by-step in this long and arduous journey. Such a solution has to go way beyond being just a "collection of books, newspapers and internet content". It has to be a comprehensive solution.

Now coming to the broad and generalised "Delhi-jaoon-ki-nahin" conundrum, here's what I feel:

A complete answer to your question depends on knowing certain things about you:
  1. Is this your first attempt? (from the question, it appears so)
  2. What is your reading background so far?
  3. What is your educational background?
  4. How much do you know about the demands of the UPSC exam?
  5. Which location do you hail from?
I asked the first question to judge your present state of exposure to the various dynamics of UPSC preparations. If you have written the exam even once, then you surely come to know about (a) the names of top classes in India, (b) the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about perceptions of people regarding the exam, the teachers, the course materials, and the Optionals, and (c) your own standing vis-a-vis what is needed to crack the Test. So, if you have no idea about what the UPSC prep is all about, going to Delhi is not a bad idea, if you can afford it. A lot of well-intentioned people on this forum and on the internet may aggressively advise you against it because it did not work out for them. But it does work for many people who may not write any answers here! So, it is not proper, IMPO, to totally depend on someone's personal experience of Delhi. That "someone" is not you, and does not share your constraints or resources.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Can I practice actual CAT questions?

Yes, you can.

Well, I have just the right stuff for you. From 2009, when the CAT became computerised, the questions were never available in public domain. But prior to that, printed test papers were available.
I've been invisible lately

The pattern of questions, and their toughness levels, have varied over the years since then, but a general structure has remained the same.

If you want to check out the entire test papers of CAT 2005, 06, 07 and 2008, question by question fully solved, then just follow this process:

Go to PT's online actual CAT questions

Enter your details, and use these credentials (case-sensitive)

Username : CatpracticebyPT
Password :  ptedu2015

Bingo! It's all ready for you, question by question. Practice, and improve. Wishing you great luck for your CAT!


Sunday, January 10, 2016

I failed a big exam twice. Should I give up?

It often happens with students in tough exams - say, UPSC or IIMCAT or XAT. They give their best, and yet are unable to make it even after two attempts. What to do then?

Ask yourself these questions:
Failure Success Mindset Exams Competitive UPSC IIM XAT Sandeep Manudhane SM sir blog PT education
Failure, Success, Mindset

  1. How many aspirants crack the exam in the first attempt? If the answer is anywhere less than 100%, you are not on the wrong track.
  2. How many crack the test in the second attempt? If the answer is again significantly less than 100%, you have hope left.
  3. Do some people make it in their 3rd or 4th attempt? If the answer is Yes, you can be one of them.
The real questions to ask, post the above, will be
  • Why did I fail in my two attempts? Where did I fall short? Which topics could I not master adequately? Can I master them now, given this background? Was I really sincere enough? What did those who got selected did right that I missed on?
  • How badly do I aspire to be a top civil servant? If it's bad enough, striving for a couple of years more is a good idea.
  • What do my parents think of it? Do they have faith in me? Will they support me emotionally, and if required, financially through the next few months/years?
  • Do I have the energy left in me to go the whole hog again? Or am I exhausted? Was I exhausted even before the second attempt came through?
  • If I do not make it even in the next 2 years, what are the other options I am looking at?

Take a small break. Think deeply along these lines. If there is that "aha moment" when you feel totally at ease, totally relaxed and full of clarity in mind, follow the decision that you take at that moment. 

We have all had our share of failures in life. But successful people do not stop at a milestone, or when in a ditch. They keep moving forward, because life does not stop for anyone or anything. As they say, our mindset and attitude has to ultimately mould our lives to best fit our reality, and there is no one better than you to reach that conclusion. 

Finally, it's just an exam! Your success in life may lie way beyond it. God bless!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The power of being child-like

Not letting the child in you die, can be a source of great strength. Why? 

childhood, childish, child-like, brightsparks, sandeep manudhane, sm sir, pt education, indore
Open up the child in you
Hope was all one had in childhood days - unlimited, unadulterated hope. Parents were the ultimate shelter. There was no stress other than playtime quarrels. All festivals were full of unlimited joy. Friendships were intense. Kids spent time with each other and not gadgets. Comics, comics, comics all day long in holidays. Very long breaks for major festivals, with tonnes of school homework!

But honestly, when we were young, we could never imagine that those days would become such fond memories later on. We so strongly desired to grow up, have control over our lives, be the masters of the Universe - driving cars, spending money, taking decisions - rather than continue as children! We, at times, envied the seniors.

We know our days are limited and with every passing phase in human life, perhaps we long more and more for the days gone by, because after all, they have gone by. 

If you can allow your mind to become that child all over again, even if for a few minutes every day, your creativity will be boundless, joy unlimited, passion for life rekindled.

Be child-like. It works!

[Being childish can be avoided. Childish = immature, Child-like = Innocent]

Monday, January 4, 2016

India's Pakistan problem

There is no doubt about it now - India has a problem, a big one, and it is Pakistan.

But the real statement is, or should be - India has a problem, a big one, and it is the non-civil-government agents of Pakistan, who are out of civilian control totally.

I have worded this carefully, as I understand that
  • Pakistan's civil government may actually want peace with India
  • Pakistan's army may not entirely want disturbance this side of its border as they are at the receiving end of terror anyway
  • Pakistan's non-civil actors (some fringes of its army, or the ISI, or some radical break-away groups or some radical individuals) may never want peace with India
  • Some terror groups that are enemies of Pakistan may carry out attacks here in India as that suits their final motive (India gets angry, talks derail, skirmishes happen, Pakistan pays a price etc.)
Irrespective of the subtleties of the argument describing today's situation, India is definitely a loser in it, as our sole worthy aim - raising the hundreds of millions out of poverty and into prosperity - gets defeated. Our focus dilutes. We deviate. The national debates change all over again. Not good.

Meanwhile, uncle Xi smiles in Beijing. He would be happy India is temporarily derailed. His huge One-Road-One-Belt strategy could ask for nothing else. If India loses its way, China gains in a big way (a crudely put statement that's true nonetheless especially given the increasing difficulty Xi faces in controlling democratic impulses of his citizens now).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Why do IIM - MBAs get paid so much?

A fantastic question, that often riles subject experts like Lawyers, Tax experts, Production experts, CAs and IT experts.
"Why, oh why, do these young men and women bag the cushiest of jobs, despite their lack of in-depth knowledge in anything?"
First, some reality check -
IIM Ahmedabad Bangalore Calcutta Indore Sandeep Manudhane SM sir Blog PT education Indore
An Indian dream
  1. Not everyone from an IIM is Tom Cruise - Every student from an IIM does not bag a multi-crore package. In fact, most do not. However, a lot of them start with Rs 10 lac + annual packages, and if they have what it takes, can double / trible / quadruple those in a few years flat. Many start with a low grade - just about more than Rs 5-7 lacs p.a., say.
  2. Not every Subject Expert is worth his salt, either - It is a mistake to assume that every single student who clears all the stages of the CA exam (one of the toughest in India), or graduates from the reputed Law Universities (not everyone gets in), is a genuine expert, ready to demolish the world! He/she may not be. They often are good at some topics, average at others, and bad at some. Many of them may be out of sync completely with latest IT tools, communication skills, and presentation / visualisation abilities. [ I say this out of my experience as an employer for more than 2 decades ]