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By: Interviewed by Teena Mary Kurian

Rajagiri National Business Quiz - Behind the Scenes

Teena Mary Kurian: Rajagiri National Business Quiz (RNBQ) has become one of the leading Business Quiz shows of the country. Could you tell us about the origin of this?

Prof. Angela Susan Mathew (Faculty in charge of RNBQ): I was not directly involved with the initial days but I remember that Dr. Rose Mary and Dr. Rakesh Krishnan were the ones who started it. Dr. Rakesh was the one who was involved in the quizzing event which was part of Inflore. I have heard that Dr. Rakesh had to travel a lot to get the quiz master, the buzzer etc. It was Dr. Rosemary who gave it the shape of a national business quiz. It became so popular that it was separated from Inflore to a separate event in 2010. This is the 8th year now.

Teena Mary Kurian: Were the initial quiz masters also from outside?

Prof.Angela: Initially, it was Mr. Rohit Nair from QuizWorks. In 2015 when I started to be a part of RNBQ along with Prof.Arun George, Rohit Nair was not available, so I contacted the Kerala Quiz Association. They suggested Mr.Mitesh Agarwal (CTO & Vice President, Oracle India) as a very good Quiz master. Mitesh is associated with several Quizzing events. He participates as well as conducts them. He was also one of our earlier winners in 2012.  Mitesh had represented Oracle and their team had won.

Teena Mary Kurian: Can you tell me something about the growth of RNBQ from the first to the current year?

Prof. Angela: In the initial years, the focus was always to get maximum participation, a cross country participation. We used to hold regionals in different places. We went and conducted the quiz in Delhi and a lot of other places. Later with the growth of technology, we started online preliminary rounds so that maximum participation could be ensured without us having to go to those places. In terms of participation, this year, the exact number must be around 1238 teams. Last year we had around 800 something teams. So the growth has been about 50% increase in one year alone. So it’s been good, it’s been growing. We also got very positive feedback from the participants. So in terms of numbers, in terms of the format of the quiz, in terms of the quality of participation, in terms of the kind of intake that we do and the diversity of the participants, we have grown. Maybe when it comes to the winners, yes, they are the regular quizzing teams which often come. We have had Trivandrum engineering college beat IIM Ahmedabad in one of the quizzes. So all that kind of battle happens.

Teena Mary Kurian: So which year did you actually get into RNBQ?

Angela Susan Mathew: I joined Rajagiri in 2014, June. At that time RNBQ was headed by a faculty by the name Sumesh. I assisted him that year and then Prof.Sumesh moved on for other reasons. So in 2015, Prof. Arun and I were given the charge of RNBQ.

Teena Mary Kurian: Can you tell me some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced in conducting RNBQ?

Prof. Angela: I always tell Arun, the biggest challenge came in 2015 because we did not have a quiz master or an online platform to conduct regionals. Arun and I, we both were new although we had, of course, the support of Dr. Rosemary, it was definitely a challenge. I remember how Arun and I used to call  so many places and people, to get a good quiz master. I remember calling up Siddartha Puzzles agency. I remember calling up a person who comes on CNBC by the name Anand Narasimhan and I was told the kind of prices they charge and we didn’t have that kind of resources.

The second thing was of course creating an online platform. Till then somebody else was doing the online prelims for us and they were giving us the details once the quiz happened. We did not have any control over those factors. So, we decided why not go for a quiz engine that we own. That happened in 2015. We had a software vendor called Thinking Code in Kochi. They built it exactly to our needs. They did a beautiful job and the quiz engine has worked without a technical hitch at all. Not a single time has the server crashed or has there been problems in logging in. For three years now it has been running perfectly fine. I’m sure it will continue to do so for many more years.

Teena Mary Kurian: Is there something that you saw this year and you thought that “I would like to change this next year”?

Prof. Angela: Yes, every time I see the stage, especially when the semifinals happen, I think the stage should be bigger to accommodate the nine podiums- of the eight teams and the quiz master. I think we should have one of those sleek quizzing stages now that the quiz has grown to this level. But of course, the primary focus should always be in conducting a quality quiz.

Teena Mary Kurian: Why do you think RNBQ has become one of the biggest quizzes in India?

Prof. Angela: I’m sure it’s because of the way it’s conducted. There are just a very core team of students that are involved. But they completely bring it to the best. I’m sure that’s what makes it a very good event. Everybody comes and always admires the hospitality, and the way we take care of them. And I’m sure there is a certain sense of professionalism that is associated with it, especially when people like Mitesh came into it. Mitesh is not a showman, not an entertainer, he is very factual, very to-the-point quiz master. I think that’s definitely one of the big reasons. I’ve also often got feedback that the way the online prelims are held is excellent. But of course there are areas where we can improve too. In the coming years maybe, publishing the score immediately could be something that can be done. That’s another thing that can really change the nature of participation and the quality of the quiz. But we’ve always had certain limitations there.

Teena Mary Kurian: What are some of the other well know quizzes in India that you’ve referred to?

Prof. Angela: I think the closest competitors would be Tata Crucible (started in 2004). I remember in 2016, I actually went and attended it. Siby sir and I  attended it to feel and understand how Crucible is. We found they had very good participation. Well, to emulate the way they do it is a challenge for us, but we are younger than they are and will catch up soon.

Teena Mary Kurian: RNBQ is showcased as a student initiative. How much of participation is there from the students for RNBQ, since in many ways the student front is not as visible as in Inflore?

Prof. Angela: Inflore is a fest that is spread across two or three days with many events happening in different venues. The students’ strength that is required is much, much, more and the faculty involvement required is also higher because you need judges for different rounds. Whereas in RNBQ, the only role of the faculty and the rest of the students is to become very active audience – cheer the teams, make sure that they’re being watched etc. If you look at the online preliminaries also it’s the technology which facilitates the whole thing. The quiz master gives us the questions, it goes online and  that is how it’s done.

But if you look at the actual, final, event – if you look at the logistics, if you look at the food and refreshment, if you look at the stage, it’s all done by the students. The stage is the biggest challenge every year and we’ve got so many students work the whole night to get it ready. As faculty, we are in the background and we help out for a while and we leave for the day. These students, the team led by Joseph John and Jaise Mary- the RNBQ student coordinators, stay back till 3 AM, and get back again at 6AM. A few of them run from the hotel to the airport, picking up and dropping the guests back and all of that. So I think it’s a purely student coordinated event. Of course, the faculty have to be there for several guidance issues.

Teena Mary Kurian: Have you seen any noticeable changes in the students who are organizing this event – before and after they’ve done it?

Prof. Angela : Yes! In fact, there are some people who show remarkable changes. Or at least probably because I have never noticed them before. There’s a student called Sachin – Sachin John (PGDM B, Sr). Sachin is one such example. When he came and started handling the media, I felt that Sachin was rarely around. He didn’t interact much or respond enough. But the way he did it once that responsibility was fully given to him, I think at no point of time did I have to tell him “Sachin, this is what you should do”. Every time he would say “Ma’am this is being done, this is being done, and this is being done”.

There are so many people who teach us important lessons. Anusha Antony (PGDM A, Sr) is another girl who has shown it. I remember when RNBQ was choosing its core team members for 2017, Anusha happened to be a name that was suggested by everyone. But since the some of the other main student coordinators were from PGDM, we said that we cannot have one more PGDM person. But the best thing about Anusha was that despite that, she was always so cooperative, no grudge, no bad feelings. She was always around - anytime I tell, she would be there right till the last minute of the event, till the event got over. She was such an involved person. Now that’s the kind of maturity required. There are of course many other examples as well.

Teena Mary Kurian: Also, with regard to networking?

Prof. Angela: That’s another thing. When I started working on this event, I had to literally hunt for sponsors. But we’ve come to a very stable point now. For example, we’ve had Indian Oil and South Indian Bank as sponsors this time and we have promises from both the teams that they will definitely give us better sponsorships next year. Even after the event, when I was in Trivandrum, I was standing in the Taj Hotel for a meeting and suddenly this man comes to me and says ‘Hello’ and I look and find the chief general manager of Indian Oil there. He had come on the RNBQ stage that day. And I definitely know it’s not because we were friends. It’s because he was happy with the event, the way he was treated, what he saw and therefore that is what is reflected. So that networking, that kind of exposure when you are associated with the flagship event of the campus is great. It’s very good.

Teena Mary Kurian: Do you have any changes planned for the next RNBQ?

Prof. Angela:  Yeah, there’s definitely going to be a change. I’m not going to be there. Well, I’m sure that there would be a new faculty to coordinate with Arun. I don’t know who that is going to be. But definitely there will be a new team taking over. That’s the big thing, because when new people come in, they bring a lot of different ideas. We’ve put certain things into place, we’ve set certain systems in place. I remember in 2015, there were no written rules and regulations but we sat down and created one. For all that is there, I’m sure, a new faculty team will definitely give it fresher ideas and newer colors.

Teena Mary Kurian: How was RNBQ changed you?

Prof. Angela:  It has definitely helped me a lot because there’s a lot of interaction with the students that happen. That is something that I really enjoy. Immediately as RNBQ finishes, I miss my WhatsApp, I miss my phone calls. The last day when everything is there on stage I really feel happy to see the fruits of the effort put in by all of us. And to see that happen every time is a passion for Arun and me. I really enjoy it. It’s been great bonding with Arun as well, who has been a great teammate.

Thank you, Angela Ma’am, we will miss you!

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