"How do you make Beer?" This was a 10 mark question in my 2nd-year finals exam. As naïve as I was, I wrote the textbook answer of how the ingredients react and how fermentation occurs and how the process differs from ales to lagers and pilsner to stout. Well, you might wonder, which engineering paper questions your knowledge of Beer?That's because I am not an engineer, I am a Hotel Management graduate who answered the question bookishly and landed at IIM Raipur.
But really, how do you make Beer? Is it really that simple a chemical process that someone who just read it a day earlier can answer and score graciously? I never pondered on the question; for me, the purpose of my learning had concluded, all I cared was that my beer was chilled, not how it was made.
Today while I attend my classes here at IIM Raipur, I sometimes find myself asking the same question: How do you make Beer? This question became more relevant when I sat for the marketing class: What is it that differentiates beer from Whisk(e)y, Rum, Brandy? How are all these beverages, with almost the same ingredients, so different from each other? I was able to name 10 international beer brands with their origin of countries very easily. How was it that of all the beer brands in the world I recognized only those 10 brands very well? The answer was very clear:
It was Marketing - a continuous affair among the consumers and the product that gave that beer their recognition.
Well, I thought I had found the answer, but alas it struck again during the operations class. I remembered having a cold glass of Amigos, a Mexican beer. How smooth the Mexicans are in their craft, as was represented by this lovely pint. But how did it reach here in Porvorim, Goa, where my college was? I could hear the professor’s words resounding: Process, Capacity, Inventory, Logistics, and slowly like a jig-saw, all the pieces were coming together. It was not just the taste but also the hard work and passion of the Mexicans that was delivered to India via a successful operations strategy. It was the immense theory of combining the simple chemical reaction with a vision to deliver the best across the globe and that was the recipe for how a Beer is made.
I was content. I finally knew the answer to the 10 marks question. Yet how wrong I was. You see, the lecture for economics had just begun and my professors again shook my grounds. What I had learnt did not completely answer my questions. My economics professor peevishly said a Beer can be replaced by 2 bananas, and I was amazed, as to how the two can even be equated together. He slowly began explaining the concept of supply and demand, and I slowly began to contemplate that my dear Beer would not even have existed if this romance of supply and demand had not been there. Farmers would have sold the Barley to cattle feed instead of the brewer, it was for the holy grail of supply and demand that beer was possible.
I had now known all that was there about how Beer is made but yet my finance professor had something different in mind. He explained me the concept of C.O.G.S (Cost of goods sold) and how if this cost is more than your sales, you might as well close the shop and have a lovely time at your CASA De Sueños. Beer is possible to make because the manufacturing cost was always kept down from the selling price and so the companies survived, and the pint stayed chilled.
You might think after all this," You sure are ignorant if you are not able to score a 10 pointer in this one". The truth is, I am still not able to score full marks because to answer the question you don’t just need A, B, C points; you need the skills to communicate the answer effectively.Anybody can write the correct answer. However, it is a combination of how well you are able to combine your thoughts, how descriptive and articulate are you in your words, and how quantitative you must be. This is a skill I could only learn from my Communications class.
After this term at IIM Raipur, I sure as hell don’t know how a beer is made but what I do know is that every day I am taking a step forward towards the correct answer. Well, you know what, it is not the answer now that I am seeking, it is the process that I am enjoying that leads to the answer. IIM Raipur has taught me it does not take a chemical reaction to make a beer, it needs”more than that”, and it is this “more than that” that I enjoy learning.