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Take the Tata quiz. Win Rs 2 lakh!

Last updated on: June 29, 2005 15:33 IST
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"Quizzing is very popular in India as Indians are very curious and love information. There is a quizzer inside everybody. It is only a question of awakening that inquisitiveness," says Giri Balasubramanium, the quizmaster, who is all set to shoot questions to thousands across the country, waiting to take part in the 'Tata Crucible Business Quiz' to be held on June 30, 2005.

Tata Crucible, a business quiz, was launched in 2004 as a part of the centenary celebrations of the Tata Group. The first edition of the quiz received such an overwhelming response, due to its innovative formats, that the Tata Group has decided to make it an annual event.

This year's edition will begin on June 30 from Chennai and will travel to other cities till it culminates in Mumbai on July 24.

Giri Balasubramaniam, CEO, GreyCaps, is better known as 'Pickbrain'. Credited for presenting a new brand of quizzing that emphasizes on thinking, Balasubramaniam and his team have presented about 500 shows across 39 destinations in India. He has also conducted quiz shows in the United States and Oman.

In an interview with Manu A B, Balasubramanium elucidates how quizzing has become a 'product' to develop brand value for corporates, and speaks about his journey towards make quizzing an entertaining experience.

Could you give a brief about this year's contest? What kind of topics have you covered for this competition?

The quiz will be organised on two tracks -- one exclusively for employees of the Tata Group and its associated companies, and another for the employees of companies other than those of the Tata Group. The team will consist of two participants from the same organisation.

Any number of teams can participate from an individual organisation or company. There is no entry fee. All participants should carry a valid organisational identification on the day of the quiz.

The regional rounds will be held at Chennai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai.

It is a true business quiz that will cover a wide canvas of subjects from business houses to brands, business history, people to products, business fundas to fundamentals, from creators of wealth to architects of scams, from Wall Street to Dalal Street, and Manhattan to Chandni Chowk. It's all about the world of business.

Why did you choose to become quizmaster?

Quizzing was always a passion and I was a quizmaster during my school and college days. I then did my management and worked for a while with Walt Disney. It was during this phase that a couple of us tried making quizzing a more entertaining platform rather than a measurement of intellect.

We felt there was huge potential in presenting quiz shows very differently. Simultaneously, we saw quizzing as a great brand-building tool -- for companies to reach out to audiences -- that could make it commercially viable to be pursued as a business model.

To me, quizzing is a product and the quizmaster is its product manager. It is all about positioning, packaging and presenting.

What are the innovative formats that you have introduced this year?

We strongly believe in this modern age where access to information is just a click away, the challenge of a quiz is not in the questions but in the way it is formatted. We have, therefore, pioneered several new rounds into quizzing: from interactive crosswords powered by software, to rounds like jumbled words, testing the ability of a contestant to think 'out of the box.'

This year's quiz would have its share of oral, visual and software power rounds, with some of the popular quizzing software developed by my team.

The quiz this year has been specially structured with rounds of quizzing that would evaluate, both, the depth and width of knowledge of the teams. This would make the quiz operate on a wider canvas giving every corporate a fair chance to win.

The wider platform would actually be a 'fair for all' platform. This has been done to ensure we have winners from various business backgrounds and not just one industry.

Could you share some of your interesting experiences while conducting quiz contests?

Quizzing is very popular in India because Indians by nature are curious and love information. I have always maintained there is a quizzer in everybody. It is only a question of waking up that inquisitiveness.

This passion translates at quiz shows into intense battles and sometimes interesting tactics. The tactics which teams employ these days are quite fantastic. One classic experience at Tata Crucible a year ago was to witness teams choosing to travel out of their home city to take the quiz at another location.

This stems from the fact that some Indian cities have a very good quizzing quotient and one cannot really predict who would win. Hence, at a national challenge of this magnitude teams choose to travel to lesser-known locations to fancy their chances and at times it works.

How do you frame questions for a quiz? What kind of time, effort and research go into making a quiz competition of this nature?

We develop a clear research framework. We take nearly two months to put a quiz of this scale together from start to finish. It has 18 shows in all with not a single question repeated in any of the rounds.

The research work flows in a very production line scenario, starting with the research team drawing a framework of the areas to be covered to working on a set of defined sources.

Then starts the gathering of raw data to question-framing, called baseline research.

Then it moves to editing to source verification and authentication of questions to quality testing.

The technical team works on the designs and templates, and the software. Once the questions are frozen they begin coding and testing.

Finally, interface testing is done to ensure easy readability for the teams.

And what are the topics that interest you?

As an individual, I fancy information technology and business, but as a quizzing company we do quizzing on just about anything.

How did you become a part of the Tata Crucible contest?

The Tata Group identified us a potential resource partner for the quiz from the work we were doing and the innovation we have brought into the field of quizzing. As a quizzing company we are known for being very different in what we do and the Tatas were looking at creating a quiz with a difference, so that probably was a synergy.

How many people are likely to participate in this contest?

That's a tough question. The number would surely be in excess of few thousands across India. The good thing is the quiz has no entry fee, so it is a fair shot for even those teams who sometimes think they may not be good enough to come forward and give it a shot. They lose nothing but could end up winning a fortune!

The winning team will get Rs 200,000, a Voltas AC and a trophy for each member and gift hampers.

Winners at the regional level get Rs 60,000 (per team), gifts, air tickets to Mumbai, one-night stay at the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers for the grand final and a gift hamper for each team member.

The runners-up at the regional level get Rs 30,000 (per team) and gift hampers.

The prizes for audience at all regional rounds include Titan Watches, Westside gift vouchers and books. The gift hampers will be from Westside, Titan, Tata Mutual Fund and Tata Motors.

What are the aspects that draw huge participation?

In the first year of a quiz, it was the promotion and the prizes that helped to turn heads. This year people would walk in only if they have enjoyed the quiz last year. Another factor is to peg the quiz in a manner where everyone stands a fair chance.

A quiz should not be tilted towards any particular industry. So 'fair play' is another aspect we have worked on at this quiz. A very transparent system of scoring with a level playing field for all the finalists makes people come back.

How knowledgeable are the participants of this contest? What percentage of questions is answered correctly?

Corporates by nature are very knowledgeable. With the advent of the Internet, people keep track of what is happening around them and that in itself is a big plus for a quiz contest. A year ago we had teams answering in excess of 75 per cent of the questions that we asked them. If I include the answers that came from the audience it would easily cross 90 per cent.

How has been the response for the Tata Crucible quiz so far?

The response is very encouraging. We have been receiving e-mails by the hour with several doubts and clarifications regarding entry details, et cetera.

How different is the Tata Crucible quiz from the other contests?

It is a very broad-based business quiz that gives everyone a chance. It is fairly topical in its research so people with regular reading or browsing backgrounds would do well.

It is not just about knowing the answer; it is about application of the mind. It is very interactive and engaging for both the teams on stage and the audience. The prizes are really huge and the audience can win fantastic prizes as well.

How would you rate quizzing a profession?

It is a very vertical area if one should look at it as a profession. It can terribly boring and monotonous, if information does not excite you as a person. I guess without a quizzing background one can't really pursue this as an enjoyable profession.

How does one become a master quizzer?

To be a good quizzer is a process. From basic skills like observation to methodical reading and maybe in this age, surfing does help. A quizmaster needs to be a good quizzer and also requires a natural flair and a sense of inquisitiveness, apart from presentation skills.

He needs to be an entertainer too. You have to acquire communication skills and an ability to understand the audience.

What is the most difficult question you have asked?

Once a quizmaster feels he has reached "the most difficult question" it is the end of his career, so I have a very long way to go! The search for the most difficult question is like trying to find the last page on the World Wide Web.

Romit Chaterji, vice president, corporate affairs, Tata Services Ltd, talks about why the Tatas decided to make this quiz an annual event.

Why did Tatas plan to make the Tata Crucible quiz an annual event?

The Quiz helps the Tatas to engage with young minds in an intelligent manner through a well-constructed property that has sustainability.

How does the quiz competition add value to the Tata brand?

The quiz reflects the Tata values -- teamwork, respect for the individual and leadership skills.

Why did Tatas choose a quiz competition for a brand-building exercise?

The quiz competition in itself is not a brand-building exercise. However, the activity does enhance the perception of the brand.

Will it be broadcast on television?

The highlights of the quiz finals will be telecast as a recorded event, as was done last year on CNBC TV 18.

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