MBA in 90 minutes ft. Mumbai local train


By CA Vijaykumar Puri ~ Partner, VPRP & Co LLP, Chartered Accountants


photo of train station
photo of train station

When it is your first time, the fright of waiting for the Virar Fast local to arrive comes directly out of the top horror movies of Hollywood. It is the devil we all know yet one that we cannot tame.

Even before the train pulls into the station, the terror inside you magnifies seeing the crowd on the platform. And mind you, it is not a random crowd. The people in the crowd are highly trained, technically brilliant and supremely experienced. Opposed to your nervous face, their face bears a remarkable sense of calmness yet their eyes are visibly alert.

By the time the train pulls in, you are already evaluating your life choices and cursing yourself for your actions which ultimately led you to being present here.

The next 1.5 hours of your life are a complete haze. The train arrives, you (luckily) get pushed with the crowd into the train, and by the time you can breathe properly, you are standing at Virar train station.

As you walk towards the platform exit, you realise that the past 90 minutes were not really hazy. In fact, each moment is perfectly stored in your memory. Your inquisitive mind processes the journey and you find management lessons hidden in a seemingly normal ride.

1] Know the Challenge(s)

You recall the crowd at Dadar Station and assess their preparedness. All of them were aware that the Virar local arriving at Dadar would be already crowded and there would be a struggle to enter the desired compartment. Further, they all understood that not everyone in the crowd will be able to board.

Knowing your challenge is a pre-requisite to a successful plan to face the challenge. As students of the law, we know that ignorance of law is not an excuse. In the same manner ignoring the challenges can never be a valid reason for a business failure. A proper SWOT Analysis is necessary for the business to identify, plan and act against challenges.

2] Define your Goal(s)

The people in the crowd waiting for the Virar local had different aspirations; some wanted to get in a position to grab available seats, some were content with a place to stand between the seats while some aspired to stand on the foot board (illegal, though necessary).

The basic rule of running any successful business is that you define the meaning of success. Whether be it making a billion-dollar company or penetrating global markets, you define the goal. To quote SRK from Raees, “Koi dhanda chota nahi hota aur dhande se bada koi dharam nahi hota” (No business is small and no religion is bigger than business). Every business needs a clear direction to move forward and your goals (short-term and long-term) provide the needed direction.

3] Adaptability is the key

The train journey was definitely not going to be a walk in paradise. The passengers realised that and were prepared to adapt to the situation presented to them and act accordingly.

The component of risk and dynamism in running a business makes it extremely difficult to achieve targets. The business is faced with uncertain and unprecedented situations more often than not. To achieve success, the managers need to find a way through them while keeping an eye on the goal.

4] The ‘L’ word

The passengers were well aware that no matter how hard they try, there is no guarantee that things will go as per plan. In fact, there was no guarantee that they will even get to board the train.

A business is run on similar principles. You never know what is coming next. It may take a single unexpected event to flush days or weeks of planning down the drain. Every manager is naturally reluctant to speak about the component of Luck in success. However, it is prudent to recognise that there are loads of uncontrollable external factors which govern the outcome of a business. Even the best of managers cannot control certain factors.

But does that mean we resign to our fate and sit doing nothing? Absolutely not. Just like the passengers who knew about the looming uncertainty yet tried their best, the manager must take cognizance of external factors, keep a positive outlook and give his/her best shot in the business.

5] Be positive and adjust

The passengers who boarded at Dadar tried their best to accommodate the crowd trying to board at Bandra station. Meanwhile, the crowd at Bandra station was infinitely optimistic that they will be able to board the train.

No matter what the situation is, every manager must have a balanced outlook. It is easy to get caught up in the challenges while completely ignoring the positives and building on them. Also, the ideal manager realises that everyone is part of the same rat race and it does no harm to go out of your way to adjust for others. After all, good deeds have a funny way of paying back when you need it the most.

6] Never Give Up

During the journey, you overheard some passengers conversing how they had missed the previous 5.45 pm Virar Fast train. One had been trying since the 5.30pm Virar local. Yet despite tasting failure, they had managed to try again and again to finally achieve success.

As discussed earlier, there are a number of factors which determine the outcome of a business plan and not all of them are under the manager’s control. Thus, initial success is never imminent and it is highly probable that there will be setbacks during the course of day-to-day business. However, a successful manager should always remember that persistence and resilience are essential qualities to march towards success.

7] Enjoy the journey

Inspite of an overcrowded train with noisy passengers, sweat, foul odour, sweltering heat and what not, most of the passengers seemed happy. Some read books while some called up their loved ones, some enjoyed memes on social media while some even chanted bhajans(with loud background music of course!)

The end can never justify the means. If a manager asserts that the business can be run successfully only by working 100 hours a week, it will lead to discontent within the organisation. Sooner or later, things will fall apart. The only way to actually sustain over a longer time frame (which statistically increases the chances of success) is to create an environment wherein the path to success is thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling to all who are a part of it.

The recap throws immense light on how subtle messages lie everywhere for those who seek. As you exit Virar station, you smile to yourself knowing that those 90 minutes among a ‘common’ crowd taught you more about management than a 2-year MBA ever will.

Thank you for reading!