A curious case of a Flu!

by Satyajit Sinha, Executive MBA 2019 


There are two things that happen when you catch a flu. One – you feel quite sick and miserable (and even more so if it is the latest bad Aussie flu strain going round). Two – you have a lot of time at your disposal that you spend doing nothing but cogitating. Interestingly, the flu hit me almost as soon as we had returned to our 2nd term at the LBS EMBA. The first term was just over and I presume we were all full to the brim and in fact spilling over with some newly discovered subjects and terms. The desire to outpour and apply these skills onto the first possible real-life scenario was intense. A flu was an easy target for me.

Economics of Flu: Economics is a very welcoming subject. It’s quite easy to start off most problems with what appears like a big cross (X) on a graph, and then use the right arguments to prove it right. Although mine hit at a fairly relaxed time, Flu inherently is an inferior product. However, it causes major supply and demand shifts in terms of sleep, food intake and peace. There are very few substitutes to it and in the flu market, consumer power is almost negligible and restricted only but to paracetamol. On a typical night of flu, the Nash equilibrium is usually achieved quite late in the night when the tiredness of body and mind finally take over and the body is just fighting a marginal cost battle of survival. The flu market is also quite elastic to seasonality and in the best market conditions, arbitrage presents a major problem too.

Accounting a Flu: The flu had a major asset impact on my household accounts. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen inventory has gone up significantly in the household increasing assets significantly. The plan is to capitalize these costs over subsequent flu’s. The cash flow effect is not significant and neither is the impact on P&L. However, provisions have had to be made to account for loss of work and social commitments.

Analytics of a Flu: The confidence interval of predicting a flu is quite wide. However, once you do get a flu, the significance levels of feeling extremely poorly are quite high. The mean recovery period is usually a week with about +/-  3 day variance. Certain strains (like this recent one) introduce high deviations though and skewness. Multiple hypothesis have been built around quick cures for the flu, but in most cases it has been quite difficult to either prove or disprove them. People do build up multiple regression models to find quick solutions from flu. Although honey & lemon, lemsip and good old paracetamol have all come up statistically significant in the models, whilst the cure model itself is quite weak with a low Adjusted R2. Assignments have been shown to have a highly negative correlation to the cure too.

Ethics of a Flu: Now this is a fairly tricky area to get into. You get a flu, because you catch it from someone somewhere. What is the proper ethical behavior in a flu? Are you really NOT infectious when you think you aren’t? Or is that a serious miscalculation of judgement. Do you miss a very important meeting just because of a flu or a class? There are no right answers sadly and at the end it is an ethical choice.

So there it is – a lot of the first term learning delivered via a flu. As they say, catching a flu is one thing, learning from a flu, quite another!

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