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Excerpt: MBA at 16

Hindustan Times   April 26, 2012
First Published: 12:26 IST(26/4/2012) | Last Updated: 12:26 IST(26/4/2012)
One Day in the Life of Manisha Krishnan

Manisha hated getting out of bed in the morning. Why must school start so early and why must she be up by 6 a.m.? It was a tussle every day. First mom and then dad had to cajole, pester, and yell before she finally got up.

One day, she produced convincing proof of why it is natural for young adults like her to sleep late-it is because of complex hormonal changes that make them 'naturally' want to stay awake late at night and sleep late into the day. Unimpressed with her discovery, her father growled that she better be ready in time for him to drop her to school the next day or else walk herself to school!

This morning, as she stumbled into the bathroom with bleary eyes, she couldn't care less about the toothbrush and toothpaste she was about to use. She had no clue that her Oral-B toothbrush was first designed by a California dentist named Dr Robert Hutson, who created it in 1950 and named it Oral-B 60, as it had sixty nylon bristles. The Oral-B 60 was on the moon mission aboard the Apollo 11. In any case, toothbrushes came into being only in 1938, once DuPont's scientists created nylon. Before that, people in India used twigs and, in the US and elsewhere, animal hair! Eww! She didn't need to know that.

* * *

Manisha emerged from the bathroom, looking squeaky-clean and set for the day. The shower made all the difference. After donning her school uniform that she so loved to hate, she inspected her face in the mirror. Like all teenagers, she was unsure whether she looked pretty or horrible. Strange, how she alternated between extremes. This morning, she chose pretty because they had dramatics rehearsal after school and the very thought put a spring in her step. Her mood magically lifted and she was rather sweet to her mother as she reported for breakfast.

She liked Kellogg's cereals for breakfast. It was the quick and easy way to gulp down stuff, unlike the weekend when she rustled up her own omelette. As she unmindfully gobbled her cereal, she read the comics section of the newspaper.

Usually her father would growl, 'You must read the front page first!' He always sounded as if he were speaking from a pulpit. She would say, 'Yes, yes,' and stick to Calvin and Hobbes.

The cornflakes she ate this morning came from corn grown a thousand miles away. Kellogg's purchased the corn from the farmers and brought them to their factory, where the corn on the cob became cornflakes in the carton.

Can you imagine, in 2010, Kellogg's was a 12-billion- dollar global company by simply serving cereals of all types!

Kellogg's was started by a man named Will Keith Kellogg, who had studied up to sixth grade, and his brother Dr John Harvey Kellogg. They were Seventh-Day Adventists, managing a sanatorium in the US and looking to provide a vegetarian diet for the inmates. By accident, in trying to save some boiled wheat one day, they put it under a roller, expecting dough. Instead, they got flakes. When they roasted the flakes and fed them to their patients, they simply loved it! Encouraged, the brothers experimented with corn and that is how cornflakes were first created. They applied for a patent on 31 May 1895, and so the journey began.

Engrossed in Calvin and Hobbes, Manisha was quite unmindful of the fact that her father was already in the car downstairs, waiting for her. When her mother warned her that he would soon fidget and rant, she jumped off her chair, gathered her school bag, left the newspaper in a big mess on the dining table and scampered down.

Manisha only looked forward to the comics section of the newspaper every morning-somehow she never thought of the newspaper as a business. She did not really stop to think that the newspaper industry was indeed a large business that employed thousands of people who gathered, edited, composed and printed the pages at night while the world slept. The papers were then carried all over the country by plane, train and bus, segregated at street corners early next morning by hawkers who then went house to house, distributing them. The newspaper business earned money by selling not just subscriptions, but by collecting advertising revenue. Even in India, where 35 per cent of the 1.2 billion citizens cannot read or write, there are over 62,000 newspapers of all kinds in circulation. Though every major paper can be read online, people still prefer the printed paper delivered at home, which implies the global consumption of millions of metric tonnes of newsprint every year!

* * *

Manisha's father dropped her to school and drove off. As she ran in, she did not stop to think that education itself could be a business. She would, of course, hate to think of it that way. How could a school be a business? The fact, however, is that school and college fees, sales of books and other teaching aids, tests like GRE and TOEFL, all these add up to a neat pile. Countries like England and Australia see themselves as education destinations and actively promote education as an industry.

The amount of money spent on education is indeed staggering. In India, states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha are turning out to be centres of higher education; students spend enormous amounts of money to get admitted into private schools and professional colleges in these states. Though estimates vary, the education business in India alone is in excess of 42 billion dollars annually and is predicted to grow at 15 per cent every year for the next five years.

* * *

School was great fun today. They had a couple of tests, the usual lectures including her dreaded chemistry class, a round of basketball during recess but the crowning glory was the play rehearsal. For weeks, the class had been practising for an inter-school competition being held by a leading newspaper that believed in catching them young. By the time Manisha got home, it was evening. She kicked off her shoes, peeled off her smelly socks and crashed on her bed for a much-needed siesta before she started her second shift.

This is an excerpt from MBA at 16 by Subroto Bagchi

Penguin Young Adult / Rs.199


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