Tata Crucible 2019 winners – Interview

India Business Quiz conducted an interview of the winners of this year’s Tata Crucible Corporate Quiz – Abhishek Kumar and Subrata Dass of Novartis who took part from  Bengaluru. They recount their journey and share their experience. The interview is being released in two parts. 

Abhishek and Subrata Crucible

Subrata Dass ( Extreme Left) and Abhishek Kumar ( Extreme Right)  of Novartis receiving the Tata Crucible 2019 Winners’ Cheque from Praveer Sinha ( 2nd from Left) , the Quiz Master Giri Balasubramanium( in Centre)  and Harish Bhat ( 2nd from Right) 

Interview – Part I 

IBQ: Congratulations !! Can we start with your Tata Crucible journey before 2019?

Subrata Dass ( SD) : I first participated in Crucible in 2006 right out of my college ( NIT, Kurukshetra) … first qualified in 2009.. : then in 2013,  we just missed qualifying in Campus crucible because only one team from a college was allowed..I qualified from Bangalore in Corporate in 2013. In 2017 / 2018 we were the 7th team and the last team not to qualify from Hyderabad. Never won anything though

Abhishek Kumar ( AK) :  I have been quizzing since 2002. We used to have DARE TO BE (Brand Equity) in Infosys. This was a business quiz and was a way to prepare for Brand Equity. I have qualified 2 times and was on stage in Chennai. At that time Tata Crucible was not there. Chennai was really a tough city. Then when Tata Crucible started, first time we qualified and were on stage, with the highest marks in prelims, but we could not move ahead. In between I won along with Yagnyesh, first ever Hindu Business Line quiz and won quite a lot of prizes. After that I went to US and then went for MBA in the US and then I lost touch with quizzing.  When I came back in 2009, I again started from 2012. In between I came to stage thrice in Tata Crucible but could not move ahead beyond the Regional.

IBQ: So this was your first win and you won straightaway  the National Finals?

SD: Yeah, this was our first win in Crucible.  Although, we have done well in other quizzes. Last year we came second in all quizzes including Rajagiri, GIM and AMUL to JK (R Jayakanthan)  and Naveen ( B Naveen Kumar). I won a quiz in Kolkata in IIM Calcutta in June,  defeating Rabi Saha and others

On City vs. Regional vs. National rounds – standards and level of competition

IBQ : So when you won the Bengaluru round, what was your own guess, how far you would go?

AK: To be honest, Bangalore round we felt we will win

SD: Our equation was simple. We had to beat one of JK,  Naveen and Pai .When Pai did not qualify it became more simple , beat either Naveen or JK and that was it. We knew if we qualified from Regional, we had a real chance in the finals

AK: South Regional, was nerve-breaking for us

SD: Yeah, we had a negative in the first question and till the 12th question were in negative.. We had a Dhoni style finish in last 6 questions to win. At the end of 20 questions  I think the scores were 500, 450 and 200 with JK,  Naveen and us and we ended up as 600 , 500 and 450 with us , JK and Naveen in the end.  ( JK represented TCS, Chennai and Naveen represented Sai Mitra, Hyderabad)

IBQ : Given your really formidable competitors were in South, having won South , Nationals would not have been so daunting ?

SD: Yeah ….Nationals is a completely different game and we backed ourselves

IBQ : Do you see any difference in standards or formats between City/ Regional and National Rounds

SD: There is a clear difference in the standard of question. : in Zonals,  one rarely gets a direct question. Most of the questions are derived questions

AK: Agree. You have to think  before you answer

SD: With fundae and requires joining the dots  and a good amount of guessing

AK: Guessing becomes easy if you enjoy it but if you are under pressure, this can be a challenge

On Luck vs Talent vs Temperament

IBQ : If guessing is an essential part, then where does luck play a role in winning a quiz ?

AK: Your guess becomes the answer!

SD: Luck does play a role. In the final,  for example we had two questions where we buzzed wrongly but still gave the right answer for e.g. in the question on Jubilee diamond ….Abhishek had buzzed thinking it was a Morganite …but thankfully Giri had just mentioned diamond  so we made up an answer with Jubilee diamond which the Tatas owned at one point . It was not a random guess but a learned guess

IBQ : That leads me to the question , how much of quizzing is keeping the nerves and how much is just talent or preparation ?

SD: Preparation is most important..Keeping  the nerves comes next .Finally,  I guess talent if one calls it so. 70% Prep 20% nerves and 10% talent,  I guess

AK: Preparation  is definitely required but you also need to maintain your nerves , otherwise this time questions were so framed that you can easily get negatives

SD : Without preparation  it is  very difficult to win …..Especially,  because how JK and Naveen have skewed the game with their massive amounts of preparation

 AK: Also you cannot just prepare in 1 or 2 years, it is a gradual process and knowledge keeps on accumulating and you never know , when it will be your day

On Team

IBQ: Very often old quizzers struggle in finding a worthy partner when they join a company

SD: yeah that is a big struggle. I cannot overstate how lucky I have been to have Abhishek as a partner.  It is very important to have a partner who you can trust to prepare equally with you

IBQ: How do you take a call as to whose guess , you go with when in doubt ?

SD  It is a big issue. We often have a debate over it

AK: If someone says I am more inclined to this then we go with it. But then we have to force on it.  We do not think much after the quiz as I have seen people having heated discussions post quiz . It does not happen with us. We see it more as a part of a game

SD: That said trust is the biggest factor .I trust Abhishek blindly usually when it comes to quizzes

IBQ: Have you had occasions when some simple misses have led to you going down badly in the quiz ?

AK: Yes, many times , and again it is part and parcel of this mind game

SD: Yeah many times …we messed up Divya Suryadevaras name in a quiz this Feb in Goa and ended up coming third

IBQ: How do you prepare physically and mentally for the quiz to be fit and alert?

 SD: I ensure to sleep 8 hrs everyday and especially the day before the quiz we make sure to reach the venue a day before,  if it is in a different city.

 AK: Sleep is definitely required

IBQ: Any superstitions you would like to share ?

AK: Hahaha .. Subrata you tell

SD: Aah in the hotel I usually sleep near the Window

AK: 😂 every time!

SD: and I usually keep my bag with me during the quiz

SD: and I also sit on the right in the quiz

IBQ: Have you had quarrels or arguments with quiz master over points or some answers ?

AK: We give up mostly and do not quarrel with QM

SD: yeah, quizzing is a game ….. And I usually take it as such ….. At the end of the day it should be fun

AK: The rule is, quizmaster is always right

IBQ:  Some teams are pretty aggressive, what do you think of such an approach ?

AK: I think there are multiple quizzes happening. Aggression only spoils the environment of quizzing.

 SD: It is their decision to be aggressive ….I believe the aggression one should show in their points on the scoreboard ….no point in showing physical aggression. The only place one should be aggressive is in preparation.. Oh and buzz aggressively as well

AK: If you do not like a particular quiz master, you can stop going to his/ her quizzes

IBQ: Does the quiz master make a difference? 

SD: yes he does …

IBQ: Of late TV shoots seem to have played a role.  Does that affect quizzing?

 SD: Yeah, one has to be more mindful of the strategy

 AK: Yes, probably we can have only some part for TV . Also,  all the questions on the buzzer creates the environment tougher

IBQ: Any plans of what you want to do with the prize money /

AK: My wife will plan  !

SD: no plans

— End of Part I–

In Part II of the interview  we get their views on some important aspects like how they prepare, what they read, what are their views on the role of Internet and social media, corporate sponsorships, company culture etc.

  • The Interview was conducted by G.Mohan and B Vishnu of IBQ over Whatsapp spread over 2 evenings. The chat has been edited for brevity and readability. 


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