Joint managing director, ICICI Venture, Mumbai; former Pepsi CEO in India
IIM Bangalore, 1979
How do you see management education having evolved?
Coming from an economics and liberal arts background without any work experience, to a fresher like me, IIM-Bangalore provided an interesting amalgam of how business could be applied to socialism and within the private and public context. Business schools were high in the pecking order. Most jobs were in the government and financial institution space and B-schools were just emerging from an economy that was still mired in socialist principles. There was a need to be ingenious in approach and methodology.
Salaries were conservative and progression deliberate, albeit predictable, but things were definitely more fluid as opposed to being jerky the way it is today, where young professionals can jump start their careers within the first six to eight years of starting out.
There have been some defining moments in your life—moments of elation such as creating that unforgettable Cadbury campaign and crisis management when you were in the middle of the Pepsi pesticide issue. Did B-school education prepare you for any of this?
The Cadbury campaign was a combination of latent skills, technological input and intuitive ability based on life experiences in my formative years combined with a diverse and opposite set of influences, economic and people situations and industry experiences. B-school education definitely provides a foundation but one has to build on that. Also, in a crisis situation a lot of who you are comes to the fore, the external factors—such as education, life experiences et al just add to that.
Any tips for the present lot of MBA pass outs entering the workplace?
They are not fundamentally very different from those who passed out in the 80s. They are as bright if not brighter. Where they do have a definite edge is in the number of choices and alternatives at their command. What they do need to guard against is to not let these alternatives turn into a short-cut to success. They have to clearly lose sight of linear issues and instead build in their career not on short-term but on medium-term goals.
Managing director, Kamla Dials and Devices Ltd and CEO, Ethos Swiss Watch Studios, Chandigarh
IIM Ahmedabad, 1980
The unforgettable memories of IIMA include lounging with tea at the picturesque LKP (Louis Kahn Plaza), the Sarabhai Library, the very challenging first six months, the incredible intellectual stimulation, and the wonderfully laidback second year.
Two specific recollections – the first term was specifically designed to deflate intellectual egos of students, almost all toppers from leading graduate schools. The first surprise tests in Maths and Statistics saw many engineers scoring D’s while commerce and economics students scored higher; tests in finance saw B.Com’s hit the D’s while engineers landed A’s. Intellectual humility followed with a willingness to learn from scratch.
Then there was the Written Analysis and Communication (WAC) course where detailed analysis of case studies had to be succinctly communicated in writing as briefly as possible. The submissions were to be made by 8 am. At 8.01 am the submission box would be taken away and non-submissions would score F without exception. Scenes of students sprinting towards the WAC submission box were common. The importance of keeping deadlines was quickly learned.
Personally I wish I had at least two to three years of work experience before I did my MBA—this is now increasingly insisted by most business schools.
While an MBA is valuable in today’s business environment it is by no means a necessary condition for success. An MBA imparts technical and analytical skills. Entrepreneurship, risk taking, management of people is not easily taught. An MBA can never be a substitute for the hunger to win.
President, Mudra Max, Mumbai
IIM Calcutta, 1988
I was focussed on a career in advertising mid-way through my MBA. I joined Lintas from campus, spent about five years working in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata before moving to O&M and returning to Lintas in Mumbai, heading most of Lowe Lintas’ non-Unilever advertising businesses.
The case study system that has been used well in the IIMs should be further contemporarized with greater emphasis on developing soft skills, learnings for start-ups and entrepreneurship and issues related to globalization. While an MBA creates a conceptual foundation for a career in management with a structured problem-solving framework to manage most organizational challenges, it cannot replace practical common sense, entrepreneurial aptitude, sheer talent and ambition, which is why a fair number of non-MBAs too excel in the corporate world.
My fondest memories are of the beautiful campus that was dotted with lakes, working night-long on projects, the Institute’s 25th anniversary celebrations, the annual IIMC-XLRI meet, many wonderful friendships, winning a tough-fought election for the Presidentship of the Students’ Union and my first girlfriend !
Former CEO, UTV News, Mumbai; right now in between jobs
IIM Ahmedabad, 1988
My first experience was to soak in the dynamics of a mixed group – chartered accountants, economics graduates and engineers from different socio-cultural backgrounds. This created a highly collaborative study environment, coming handy when I loved to the world of advertising which is even more cross cultural.
Interacting with just as brilliant professionals, never mind if they were college drop outs, was a big leveler. Ours was the last batch of the inter IIM festival where students had a blast as they participated in sports, cultural and other activities. I would seriously recommend that to recommense.
CEO, Maytas Properties
IIM Ahmedabad, 1976
While at a B-School, lay equal emphasis on networking and on gaining subject knowledge. In structured programmes, you learn how to do things. If somebody asks me if regression modeling that I learnt during my econometrics classes was my most significant learning, I would say, not necessarily. But if they were to say, “was it useful?” I would most definitely say yes.
Specific subjects like, valuation of a firm, managerial accounting, budgetary control systems, production planning and control may appear as a classic example of subjects that are part of a well-structured programme but they cannot replace actual experience and an individual’s basic commonsense in applying these to day-to-day tasks. Marrying these two seamlessly would be the real challenge.
Managing director, Bausch and Lomb India
IIM Ahmedabad, 1989
Love them, hate them or tolerate them - MBAs are here to stay in corporate India. Their lack of experience is often just the elixir a company needs to challenge fondly held beliefs and get some fresh thinking. Their ability to infuse logic and professional rigour supplements conventional wisdom on which companies were traditionally run. Their appetite for work and hunger to create afresh pushes the pace of the entire organization a notch.
Confronted with a mind no less than their own, the to-be MBAs must keep an open mind, be receptive to new ideas and be willing to accept opinions, other than their own. Forced to working in small teams, they will have to learn to retain their individuality while adding value to a team and develop a strong deadline orientation.
Country head, NRI, Wealth Advisory Services, Financial Planning, HDFC Bank, Mumbai
IIM Ahmedabad, 1988
Management education must include techniques and processes that allow effective collections in the FMCG environment and financial services sectors; how to handle merger and acquisitions at senior management levels - both in the acquired and acquiring company and most importantly how to bring in change in an organization.
MBA from a good B-school gives you an edge in your first job and later on helps with mentoring and networking in places where you have alumni. My experience has also shown that though an MBA prepares you to handle the rigours of the corporate world, there is enough talent available amongst non MBAs too.
Director, Wholesale Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, New Delhi
Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), New Delhi, 1986
Today more than ever before, B-schools need to introduce a formal mechanism that allows students to be sensitized to issues of corporate and social business responsibility. Business and ethics must go together and businesses must increasingly be governed by a strong value system.
It translates into profitability at all levels - organizational, business, customer and client. It may even help address challenges of attrition/ retention by getting employees to align themselves with the company’s core philosophy and value as they see merit in the fact that money and compensation is not everything.
Senior vice-president, Asia Pacific and MD-Timex Group India Ltd
IIM Ahmedadad, 1987
Looking at the present lot of young professionals, I would just say that they must enter the work place with the mind set that they have to slog. They must also make an effort to be consistently focused and positive.
For those aspiring to make the cut in CAT and XAT, staying away from Facebook and other social networking sites for two months would certainly help.
Regional director, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Tandberg
FMS, New Delhi, 2007
At FMS one was in the centre of what was a huge melting pot of ideas and people. This laid the foundation for a mutual respect of individual competencies, so necessary for being an effective team member.
One also got an early lesson in understanding that diverse business functions like sales, marketing, finance and HR are all interdependent and contribute equally to the success of a project. The MBA gave an extra edge, in that it honed a set of analytical tools, so critical in today’s competitive global environment.
Managing director and CEO, Aokang International India Pvt. Ltd
Symbiosis, Pune, 1989
The interactive sessions at Symbiosis and the thriving student atmosphere in Pune created an excellent learning ground for most of us who later went on to join leading blue chip companies.
My advice to MBA students is that they should strive to retain their originality, follow their dreams and not give up as they move towards their short, medium and long-term goals.
Director, IBM Global Business Services
IIM Calcutta, 1997
Think and plan your career from a long-term perspective, and then gather skills and experience that are consistent with this broad plan. I am one of the few from my batch who stuck to the job I landed during campus placement and worked towards achieving specific milestones over the last decade.
I believe that changing jobs can take you to the next financial level in the short-term but it is longer stints that get the best out of both the individual and the organization. There will always be changes in the environment and opportunities that require adjustment to career plans, but having a long-term vision helps ensure that responses to these changes are coherent
Group manager, public sector, Microsoft India
IIM Bangalore, 1998
Besides all the learning and knowledge gathering that happens at an IIM, it is one’s positive attitude and ability to work with different people that eventually makes the million dollar difference in how you end up getting evaluated and rewarded at the corporate workplace.
The single most important thing, which many of us lose sight of is to ‘maintain work-life balance’.
Long hours at work don’t mean anything: results count, not effort.
Director, affordable computing, unlimited potential group, Microsoft India
IIM Calcutta, 1995
An MBA definitiely broadens your horizons and serves as a valuable tool in the short-run to ensure the fulfilment of higher goals.
However, in the long run this tends to get evened out as real life experience, common sense, business acumen and individual personality traits begin to determine how you react, respond and relate to people and situations.
This is more likely to happen in highly specialized vertical domains in companies such as ours. Also a one-time degree cannot be the passport to success. Constant renewal and learning is important.
Managing director & director, tourism and marketing, Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd
IIM Kolkata, 1987
Irrespective of whether you have an MBA degree or not, what matters is to have the courage to stick by your convictions and to know that what is good for others may not necessarily be good for you.
At the end of the day, if you can follow your heart and carve out your own path, I think you have achieved success.