‘I Am A Part Of All That I Have Met’ – Bonani Sahu – Best 50 – Class of 2017

About Me:

“I am part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch where through

Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.”

Lord Alfred Tennyson could not have made it easier for me to describe myself and my journey so far.

I spent my formative years of schooling in Sambalpur, Orissa where I completed my matriculation and then moved to Bhubaneswar for my secondary schooling. Being a high academic achiever throughout, I chose the much sought after career of engineering and graduated as an electrical engineer from NIT Rourkela. Throughout the course of the degree, I was actively involved in community service as the Director of the institute’s Rotaract Club, conducted competitions and workshops as the publicity head of the institute’s mathematics club and organised college festivals as a member of the core organising committee.

After graduation, I worked for 24 months as a Business Technology Associate at ZS Associates where I have been awarded ‘Project Champion’ twice for exceptional client feedback. I was nominated for a company sponsored MicroStrategy Level I and II certification (International Business Intelligence certification issued by MicroStrategy Inc., USA) and was also ranked 3rd of 192 teams for developing a Business Intelligence based minimalist search engine in QUEST, 30-hour long inter-office hackathon.

A couple of entrance exams and insightful introspective interviews later, I found myself pursuing the PGDM course at IIM Indore. The placement committee has been the biggest part of my 2 years at IIM-I, where, as placement coordinator, I have shouldered the responsibility of placing a 2-year batch of over 1000 participants. Having interned at American Express, I was awarded a Pre-Placement Offer for excelling at my summer internship stint. I have represented IIM Indore in the South region finals of Deloitte Mavericks and was a part of the team that clinched the National Runners-up title at SABMiller India’s Brew-a-Career Case Challenge. I also lead the Projects vertical of Utsaha- the rural marketing festival at IIM Indore and have worked on real-time projects for brands like Emami and Shree Guruji. Lately, I have also been associated with ‘Terribly Tiny Tales’- a social media platform for bringing together a fantastic pool of really short stories every day, in the capacity of a community curator.

What makes me stand apart from the crowd is my motivation and initiative. I have a tendency to take up uphill tasks and then work with sheer dedication to accomplish them. I am a firm believer in the power of goodwill and the old age saying, “whatever goes around, comes around”.

How would you explain the “The Credit Crisis of 2008” to a 12-year-old?

Beginning in the 1990’s, the U.S. became infatuated with homes as investments. The government encouraged home ownership. All the smart journalists and financial writers advised Americans to drop everything they were doing and buy a house. Really smart people, let alone the common crowd, began to believe that housing prices were rising without bounds.

Normal deal: A person with $10,000 buys goods worth $10,000 and sells it off to another buyer for $11,000, making a profit of $1000.

Leverage deal: A person with $10,000 borrows $990,000 giving him $1,000,000 in hand. He goes and buys goods worth $1,000,000 and sells them off for $1,100,000. He now pays off his debt of $990,000 and an interest of $10,000. After deducting his initial investment of $10, 000 he still makes a profit of $90,000.

Banks on the Wall Street started luring investors with money using this theory. They proposed connecting investors with homeowners through mortgages. Lets’ say a family wants a house. So they save for a down-payment and contact a mortgage broker who then connects them to a money lender who gives a mortgage. The brokers earn a commission and family gets a house to become home-owners. Since everyone starts doing this, house prices keep rising. One day lender gets a call from an investment banker to buy the mortgage and sells it off for a hefty fee. The investment banker similarly borrows millions of dollars and buys thousands of mortgages. He earns revenue from the monthly payments of homeowners as an installment for their purchased houses. The investment bankers bundled these loans into mortgage securities and sold them off into the investment community, making money in the process of course. With Americans wanting more and bigger houses, banks and non-banks found ways to lend them money. Lender creativity in making loans to people who could never afford them was exceeded only by lender greed. Lenders had little reason to worry about loan repayment. Loans were sold to investment bankers. The lenders made a profit on these sales and had no ongoing risk of repayment. Then the lender went back to doing what it did well- making even more ridiculous loans.

All the while, the government slept well believing that housing prices never fall and as long as prices rise, people can refinance if they get into trouble. As a result, no one bothered to investigate the kind of loans people were receiving or, the awful processes by which these loans were being underwritten and marketed. Now, if a home- owner defaults on paying the mortgage, the lender gets the house and since house prices are always increasing it makes for a great deal. So instead of lending to responsible parties, lenders started lending to less responsible/sub-prime mortgages (more risky). Now, more people start defaulting and the monthly instalments to the investment bankers are lost. Ultimately the number of houses for sale due to default rises exponentially. Owing to high supply, prices of houses starts going down. Even the responsible homeowners forsake their houses because they cannot pay hefty instalments for cheap houses. Now the investment banker is basically holding a lot of houses but no instalments of money. Hence ultimately, the investment bankers and the investors are left with empty promises of the return of money but no actual return! And by 2007 – 2008 the whole system starts to fail.

Like the body shutting down after a long night of too much alcohol, banks and investment banks realise they are holding lots of toxic debt instruments, and so they hang on to their capital for dear life. They stop trusting each other and the U.S. economy starts to freeze up. In short, the economic crisis was caused by DNA – the genetic code of human beings prodding them toward pleasure (easy money) and away from pain (clear-headed analysis, fiscal discipline, patience).

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

The very first thing that I would wish away if I had a magic wand is the discrimination on the basis of caste and religion. There are a hundred problems with the country, but on a closer look, most of the social problems in India today have their roots in the diversity of religion, language, region, culture and caste. Attachment to one’s region, language, religion is a natural sentiment but when these attachments grow to an extreme level to breed intolerance for other religions, regions or languages, problems are bound to rise.

Since Independence India has experimented with an extremely modern political system, namely, multi­-party parliamentary democracy based on the universal adult franchise. Equality of opportunity in education and employment, equal promotion of all languages and cultures by the state and reduction of inequalities are important components of equality; whereas reservation of seats and posts for backward classes, protection to minorities, prevention of exploitation of the people of one region by outsiders etc. are essential components of social justice.

However, very often, this very modern system in India is often operated with pre-modern units of mobilisation. Thus the choice of candidates by most political parties is dictated by the caste or communal or linguistic composition of constituencies and these identities are freely used in mobilising votes and support. This ultimately leads to corruption and a vicious cycle of boosting the minority leading to the strengthening of vote banks of the parties in power.

In fact, the problem of this discrimination is so multi-fold that any political party that decides to condemn this act will ultimately lose its vote bank and another party that feeds on such negative emotions of the populace will come to power and thrive. Hence, it is a democratic fallacy in itself to expect the system to ever change in this country. The biggest reason that only a magic wand can only do this trick is because the need of the hour is the need of social and communal harmony in India, without leveraging the same for any ulterior motive and no single individual/party has the capacity to ensure this other than a magic spell that ironically shakes people out of the spell of this caste/religion divide.

India does not have 1 hospital bed per 1000 persons. It is much below WHO’s average of 5. If you were the prime minister of the country, how would you solve this problem?

The most significant challenges confronting the hospital beds in the country are deficient infrastructure, deficient manpower, unmanageable patient load, equivocal quality of services and high out of pocket expenditure.

As a Prime Minister, policies around a few measures can cater to the above challenges. Firstly, encourage the Cuban system of having a family doctor for a few families to make sure that patients will need a hospital bed only if needed, thereby taking the pressure off the hospitals. Secondly, encourage hierarchical arrangement to take off the burden from speciality hospitals and ensure optimum resource use (Family doctors to Taluk hospitals to District hospitals to Medical colleges and so on). Thirdly, telemedicine should be implemented in non-accessible rural areas by leveraging the mobile phone penetration in India. Preventive care – Vaccination should be of top priority in case of preventable diseases. This can reduce the patient load in hospitals in the long run. Fourthly, implement the public-private insurance based investment models. Insurance cover for everyone will reduce the expenses of healthcare considerably and make it more affordable. Fifthly, the social audit of healthcare facilities to prevent corruption with special emphasis on primary care and child health care that integrates state, district and local governments with national health policy goals.