‘From The Suburban Part Of Chennai To India’s Best50’ – A Writer, A Public Speaker, A Percussionist – Manikandan Desikan – Best50 – Class Of 2017

About Me:

“To finish off like Dhoni, one needs to have a good start like Sachin” – I was fortunate to have had a good start to my life. I did my entire schooling in St.Mark’s MHSS located in Chromepet, a suburban area of Chennai. My school gave me the freedom to explore many options beyond academics. Apart from being the school topper in 10th and 12th std board examinations, I excelled in being an Orator, a Writer and a Drummer. I was the lead Drummer for my school music band and have won many interschool competitions in the solo instrumental category. I had a strong inclination towards writing and had contributed many articles for the school magazine and also I had given many speeches on multiple occasions including few for the All India Radio. I had been the Master of Ceremonies for all major school fests. I was able to strike a balance between academics and extra-curricular activities and I guess I gained the maximum that one could get from a school.

Then I did my B.Tech in Information Technology from SRM Valliammai Engineering College, Chennai. The urge of doing something beyond academics was always there right from the day one of my college. I made it to the college debate team and music band in the very first year. I took my writing to the next level by writing articles for the leading daily newspaper “The Hindu”. I still remember that it was towards the end of the second year I first thought of doing an MBA and took necessary efforts to improve my profile and knowledge that would help me in securing an admission from one of the top B-Schools in India

After my engineering, I was working in TCS as a Systems Engineer for two and a half years. I was the SPOC for the entire batch during the initial training program. I was working in the area of Business Intelligence and Data Analytics. My project had a lot of scope for learning. In addition to the technical knowledge, I got more exposure to the business functions of my client and acquired sufficient domain knowledge to be the domain expert. I was one of the “Go-To” man of my project. I had an excellent team with me and I was thoroughly enjoying my work. One of the best things that happened to me in TCS was that I was introduced to the Toastmasters International Organization. I was an active member of my club and eventually, I was elected as the Vice President Membership of Toastmasters International and I was the recipient of the prestigious “Competent Leader” award.

It was March 2015 when I had an Onsite offer on one hand and an admission offer from XIMB on the other hand and I had to make one of the important decisions of my life. I chose to follow my dream and now I really feel that was one of the best decisions that I had made in my life.

These two years in XIMB have been the most productive years of my life. Like how Sachin was destined to play Cricket, Superstar Rajnikanth was destined to act, ARR was destined to compose music, I feel I was destined to do an MBA. These two years have absolutely been enriching and have learned a lot of new things and I have changed a lot as a person. If I were to describe MBA in one word, I would tell MBA is like a Buffet – You have N number of things in front of you and you have the option of taking whatever you like and the option of leaving whatever you don’t like. When I joined XIMB, I came with an open mind without any restrictions or preconceived notions and I guess that really helped me in these two years. Apart from the regular things that interest me, I found a new interest here in XIMB – taking part in Business Case study competitions. I personally feel that this is where the actual learning takes place and the learning is immense. I have taken part in various corporate case study challenges and I’m the winner of M- Quotient – a case study challenge conducted by Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles and I was also one of the campus finalists in Loreal- Brandstorm case study competition. I currently head the Competitions Committee of XIMB. Among all the responsibilities that I have taken before, holding a POR in a B-School is completely different and challenging. I thoroughly enjoyed this responsibility. For me, MBA isn’t just a degree, it’s an experience.

With less than 50 days of MBA life left, I feel that the game is not over yet. Many more targets are yet to be achieved after this. I’m all geared up for the next phase of my life and really looking forward to it. I have many plans, one is to publish a book. I’ve been working on the script in the recent times. Hoping that it would come out pretty well. Fingers Crossed!

To sum it up, I would say that the journey has been excellent so far with many ups and downs. Whatever I have achieved till now, I would attribute it to my parents and friends who have been there with me throughout providing the necessary support and encouragement. I use to draw inspirations from my friends and all of them are doing exceptionally well in their respective fields. One thing that I have understood in all these years is that “If one wants something and if the want is justified and if one feels that he/she deserves that, one has to go for it, irrespective of the adversaries one has to face. Because in the end, everything would be worth it”


If you had a magic wand, what is the one problem in India that you would magically wish away? Explain why.

If I have a magic wand, I would like to eradicate the problem of Illiteracy in India and would like to provide quality education to each and every individual. Currently, the literacy rate in India is 74.04% which is well below the world literacy average of 84%.

I personally feel illiteracy is the root cause for many other problems in our country. Having been given the opportunity to access the quality education I strongly feel and understand how important education is to an individual. If each individual is provided with quality education that would, in turn, result in the eradication of the following problems: Child Labour, Unemployment, poverty and would reduce the number of Crimes that are committed. Quality education to all will give more awareness to everyone and will eliminate the ignorance of the people

On a serious note, I feel that in order to eradicate the problem of illiteracy in India, one doesn’t need a magic wand. All we need is a better system (on a national level) focused on ensuring quality education to every individual. Everyone needs access to good quality education than high-speed WIFI. Don’t We?


How would you explain the “The Credit Crisis of 2008” to a12-year-old?

To explain the credit crisis of 2008 to a 12-year-old, I would first explain him/her about all the parties involved: The common man who wants to buy his own house, the banks (lender), the Investment Banks, the Federal Bank and the investors. I would then go on to explain the credit crisis in the form of a story involving all stakeholders as follows:

Once, the Investors were sitting on their pile of money looking for a good investment to turn into more money. Traditionally, they go to the central bank of The US (the Fed) where they buy treasury bills which is believed to be the safest investment.

The central bank lowered the interest rate to only 1%  to keep the economy strong. 1% is a very low return on investment, so the investors were not interested. Meanwhile, the other US banks can borrow from the Fed for only 1% resulting in the abundance of cheap credit.

This makes borrowing money easy for banks. The banks will lend to the public at a lesser interest rate. The family buys a house and becomes homeowners. Housing prices have been increasing practically forever. One day the lender gets a call from the investment banker who wants to buy the mortgage and the bank sells it to him for a very nice fee. The investment bankers borrow millions of dollars and buy thousands of more mortgages and put them into a nice little box. This means that every month the investment banker gets the payments from the homeowners of all the mortgages in the box.

He then cuts the box into three slices- Safe, Ok and Risky. They pack the slices back up in the box and call it a collateralized debt obligation (CDO). A CDO works like 3 cascading trays. As money comes in the top tray fills first, then the second and whatever is left goes into the bottom. The money comes from homeowners paying off their mortgages. If some owners don’t pay and default on their mortgage less money comes in and the bottom tray may not get filled. This makes the bottom tray riskier and the top tray safer. To compensate for the higher risk the bottom tray receives a higher rate of return while the top receives a lower but still nice return.

Now the investment bank can sell the Safe slice to the investors who only want safe investments. He sells the Ok slice to the other bankers and the Risky slices to the hedge funds and other risk takers. Thus the investment banker makes millions. He then repays his loans. Finally, the investors have found a good investment for their money much better than the one percent treasury bills. The investors are so pleased and want more CDO slices. So the investment banker calls up the lender wanting more mortgages

When homeowners default on their mortgages the lender gets the house and houses are always increasing in value. Since they are covered, if the homeowners default, lenders started adding risk to new mortgages not requiring down payments, no proof of income, no documents at all.

So instead of lending to responsible homeowners, they started to get some that were less responsible. These are subprime mortgages. This is where everything began. The family buys a house and lender sells the mortgage to the invest banker who turns into a CDO sells slices to the investors. This actually worked out nicely for everyone that makes them all rich. No one was worried because as soon as they sold the mortgage to the next guy it was his problem if the homeowner were to default they didn’t care as they were selling off their risk to the next guy and making millions.

Not surprisingly the homeowners start defaulting on the mortgages which at this moment is owned by the Investment Banker. This means he forecloses and one of his monthly payments turns into a house which he puts it up for sale. But more and more of his monthly payments turn into houses. Now there are so many houses for sale in the market creating more supply than demand and housing prices aren’t rising anymore, in fact, they plummet. This creates an interesting problem for homeowners still paying their mortgages as all the houses in their neighbourhood go up for sale. The value their house goes down and they start to wonder they are paying back their $500000 mortgage when the house is now worth only $50000. They decide that it doesn’t make sense to continue even then they can afford to and they walk away from their house. Default rates sweep the country and prices plummet.

Now the investment banker is basically holding a box full of worthless houses. He calls up the investor to sell his CDO, but the investor says that he is not buying anymore. The investment banker tries to sell to everyone but nobody wants to buy. He is worried because he had borrowed million and he can’t pay it back.

He’s not the only who is worried but the investors have already bought 1000s of CDOs. The banker calls up trying to sell his mortgage but the investment banker won’t buy. Thus the whole financial system is frozen and things get dark. Everybody starts going bankrupt.  This is the credit crisis of 2008.


Give us an instance when you failed miserably and how did you overcome that downfall?

Since my school days, I have written many articles for the school magazine and I continued the same during my Under Graduation also. Over the time, I developed immense interest towards writing and I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to publish articles in the leading newspapers and magazines.

Initially, I sent many articles to the newspapers but my articles were not getting selected for publication. I was extremely dejected and depressed for not being able to make it to the leading newspapers which in fact was a huge set back for me given my interest towards writing. But I decided not to give up. I started reading more and more articles that were published in newspapers and tried to understand the style of writing that it involved. I found a significant difference between my writings and that were published. I understood that it should connect to the audience and should be simple and very relevant to the context and trends. I did my homework and I tried to change my style of writing making it more engaging to the readers. I met few of the professional writers and got insights from them and learned where I was making mistakes. I understood that it’s not just about my interest but the content should interest the readers.

Accordingly, I chose the topics that were trending and that were talked a lot about by the people and wrote my content in a way that it would add more interest and bring more connect to the readers. Even after I changed the way of my writing, my articles started to get published in local newspapers and I wanted to take it to another step forward. I started sending my articles to the leading daily national newspaper “The Hindu” and to my delight, my articles started to get published in the national newspapers.


Manikandan D

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