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Vertical Summit Interview Series: Mr Prahalad Karman

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A second wave of IT is going to come from India

At IIM Kozhikode, we keep ourselves abreast of the industry trends and as part of our continuous striving to ensure this, Vertical Summit 2016 was organized by Industry Interaction Cell, wherein we had the privilege of hosting eminent speakers from six verticals: Operations, Information technology, Human Resources, Consulting, Finance and Marketing.

The Public Relations Cell decided to give it a more personal touch and covered the speakers’ thoughts on the verticals they all work in. This one is pertaining to the field of Information Technology, where we sat down with Mr. Prahalad Karman, Consulting Leader Strategy & Operations at IBM. He is someone who comes with 16 + years of experience in Business Transformation, Business Strategy, Operation & SCM, IT Strategy, Business Development and Delivery Management. He currently leads the Consumer Products Industry (Consult to Operate) and the Supply Chain Strategy Offering for IBM Global Business Services at India and advises the IBM Senior Executive team on strategic initiatives. He has also led various business consulting and IT engagements across the Globe specifically at North America, Europe, Middle East & Africa and India South Asia.


He has managed various Service Offerings, Programs, Projects and multi-million-dollar business units and worked across industries in Consumer Products, Manufacturing, Government, Education & Tourism, Technology. He is a visiting faculty at leading B-Schools in India and has been mentoring entrepreneurs for the last 3 years.

So for someone with his experience it had to be a very resourceful discussion. Below are the excerpts from the interview:

How has been your experience so far at IIMK, this is your fourth visit to our campus? Any difference you have noticed over the years?


Firstly, I love coming to IIMK, and over years there has been an improvement in terms of questions, the type of questions students ask. You get to know that they have experience, knowledge and learning. It shows that quality of students has increased over the years. I mean students had an understanding about the basics, some of them already had opinions on issues concerning IT as such. This shows fundamentals are strong. This further stamps that brand of IIM K is improving.

Secondly, When I came the last time I had heard about the entrepreneur cell that operates and a couple of entrepreneurs here. I had expressed my wish to mentor some of them here. I presently mentor many who have ventured into these waters. I have been associated with National Entrepreneurship network, NEN. Let’s see where we get with this in long run.

We talk about cloud & automation being new trends in business, now the Indian IT industry has generated profits on the “Headcount” basis in last 10 years. Won’t the move to newer trends lead to hiring issues and a hit on basic profitability formula for them?


Yeah…Yeah…IT per se is very abnormal in its characteristic, it started in late 1990s and at that time there was a lot of demand and so Indian IT companies served the supply side. Now what happens when you have that high demand and very less supply? You become cash rich but you don’t know what to do with that cash. You simply cater to it in whatever manner it is possible. Indian IT industry didn’t know what to do with this IT other than to serve and follow up what they were told. If client comes up with different versions of the application, they would maintain that. However why client came up with those versions, the business need for it, that understanding was missing, it is still not there. So now with new technologies coming up that have been automating your processes, you are left with no alternative other than to stop your hiring and in worst case fire people.

Yes. Most of them didn’t show any hiring statistics this year…


Exactly, even IBM won’t do that… you see with automation coming in you would not want to come up with hiring stats. What remains … you can stay if you are evolving… but most of them are stuck. Evolution is required both with respects to working culture and business culture. They have been able to change their working culture in most of the cases but business culture has still not changed. It has to change.

Something on a different line, we see the IT revenues primarily exports oriented contributing 70-80% of bills. Do you see a reversing of trends and demand being driven more internally in the future?


Absolutely!! See the first wave of IT happened on the cost basis. When I say ford automated replaced its staff doing mundane jobs with an IT system, it saved money. Looking at our economy now, this is where second wave comes. Most of the developed nations are saturated. Europe, US they are all done with IT now. India is the one that is growing at 7-8 %. Indian economy’s fundamentals are strong with 60% of our population below 35 and also china being in doldrums now. I see huge domestic demand rising here. Next wave should happen in India. In fact, many companies are now focussing on India. Infosys lost a big account with RBS due to Brexit issue but on other hand it won the contract with government for GST Bill implementation. All the Intels of the world, All the Ciscos are coming to India.

Now this is for the students, what is the difference between an engineer joining the IT ecosystem and a management graduate moving to IT? For those who are looking whether IT is a fit for them.


First, they should not look at application management services (AMS) point of work for our managers here. They should look at the kinds of Google, Microsoft and start-ups in that sense. You should focus on where technology is a game changer, where it is changing the business model. Example the OLA, it has changed the taxi ecosystem in India. You should look at jobs that can change that. Why? Because most of you are engineers you know how stuff works. Most of you have done that in past. Where it can make difference. That is what you should look at. Your engineer background aids you in creating something new and your management background helps with where you can make it work. So that holistic perspective is needed. Get into business side of it. Even if it has to be with AMS, then look at how I can market say Infosys over Wipro. Think on these lines. Be more role specific then company specific.

Given the fact you have been visiting Institutes for such talks, How Important do you see such events and role of committees like Industry Interaction Cell (IIC) for the students?


Ok…I get it…you see for IIM Kozhikode it is very important that you have more such interactions. You should build your people from Industry perspective rather generic one. All over the world it is with respect to Industry not strictly finance, marketing or any such water tight specialisation. Adding a flavour of industry would definitely help. Say a consumer product company comes and holds a session on the vertical that it caters to, then in this case it helps a marketing guy when that he goes on work in the similar vertical. You see companies otherwise, in most of cases have to spend a lot of money and time training new recruits on the consumer preferences, Industry scenario they work in, their product supply chain and all those relevant topics. If you as a management graduate already have that knowledge it creates a very positive value and an edge for you and the Institute.

In a nutshell you should have more such sessions and get more Industry oriented. Make it more like a continuum and not a once a year thing.

I am sure it would be taken into account and I must this has been a very insightfully talk, thank you so much for finding time for us at IIMK. I am sure there are going to be much better engagements of IIM Kozhikode and Industry going forward.

Interviewed by | Amritansh | Public Relations Cell – IIM Kozhikode

Kanvas

Writing on the Wall: Kanvas

Kanvas

#20YearsofIIMK!

It’s more than a hashtag, isn’t it? It does something, touches somewhere, makes something tingle, doesn’t it? It does, for all of us at K. And all the feelings that it inspires poured out on the Kanvases put up across the campus for the occasion.

It was a chance for the faculty and students to express what the occasion meant to them personally, to jot down a bit of their memories, a bit of their dreams, and they responded to it with joyful enthusiasm. The result is a medley of hope, celebration, humour, gratitude and cheesy one-liners.

In the grand scheme of things, a simple canvas put up in one corner of a huge campus might not mean much. But if it drew you together for that one extra moment, made you express yourself, gave you one more chance to laugh together – if it gave you one more memory you’ll cherish – then surely it fulfilled its purpose…

 

Across the Table with Prof Pankaj Chandra

 

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“MBA education needs to a be a fusion”

 

How enriching would be the experience when you meet someone who has been the director of IIMB, has taught at premier institutes like McGill University in Montreal, University of Geneva, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, International University of Japan, Cornell University, Renmin University, Beijing, and IIM Ahmedabad (IIM A).

Apart from working with World Bank in Washington DC, he has also been a member of various government committees that have looked into Indian Higher education system and autonomy of central institutions. Until recently, he was also a member of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

That is Professor Pankaj Chandra for you. His diverse experience in Manufacturing Management, Supply Chain Coordination, Building Technological Capabilities, higher education policy, and hi-tech entrepreneurship is testimony to his stature as a profound academician.

Professor Chandra has been involved in several start-ups, has also been a consultant to large Indian and multi-national firms and serves on the Boards of several firms and institutions.

On the occasion of 20Th anniversary of IIMK, Professor Pankaj Chandra was the guest of honour. Public Relations Cell had the opportunity to interact with him, while he was on campus. He seemed impressed with the campus and had a very comfortable journey.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

You have had an experience of teaching in US based education system. What are the things that an Indian education system especially from MBA perspective is lacking? Why is the crowd inclined outwards?

So two things, the big difference especially at the MBA level is that over there, kids know why they want to do MBA. In India, kids don’t know why they want to pursue an MBA. Everybody is just on it. And that’s why that energy and that engagement is missing. This is number one.

Secondly, I think education is also about engagement and motivation. Without these there is no learning. You could pass an exam but that is not real learning in that respect and I think this is the problem globally, not India alone. Better Institutes around the globe will have lesser of these issues.

Third, a very important difference that you find is that Indian Institutes around close to the domain of their influence which is industry, government and society. That closeness is important in order to make education and learning very exciting, relevant. If you are fresh it becomes very difficult to understand power and politics in an organization, you can’t read that in a book. Also research!!

Research on industry, research on issues of society, these are not very strong in our institutions. I am not talking about faculty alone, Its student research as well. We need to have that shift.

You have been director at IIM Bangalore, were there any steps you wanted to initiate in this direction but due to paucity of time, or some other reason, you couldn’t?

Lots of them! We started many initiatives, some we were able to take to great levels. Research is an agenda we pushed dramatically but I think changing the context of the classroom is something I wanted to look at. Classrooms are very structured today. You don’t learn in closed rooms. I think learning happens when there is a lot of un-structuring of material, complex material and situation scenario. This requires a lot of time – changing the mind-set of students and faculty.

There are a lot of other things we wanted to do, like a Global executive MBA, which at that time we couldn’t push because there was no support available.

In one of your talks at IIM Bangalore you mentioned how “Knowledge lies at the boundaries of the disciplines’. As students when we come into the MBA education system, we are very structured in terms of choosing our specialisations. So, what would be your advice to students in this regard?

Yes, you are right, when you say that. You know there are two viewpoints to it. If you look at the most interesting example, there is an Inhaler company from Israel called Aspironics. Inhaler is normally like a cylinder, but this company has made an Inhaler that is as thin as credit card and it has a dry powder in it. This is unlike the usual pumping machine cylinder that you have. This powder goes into lungs and to produce this you require knowledge of biology, fluid dynamics, patents from Airplane engines so on and so forth. Now, there is not going to be a single person who will bring all these knowledge domains under one roof. Having said that you need to work together and understand fundamentals of so many disciplines to be able to create this sort of fusion in future.

People should take as broad a course mix as they can. The MBA education needs to be a fusion. It can’t be “take some courses to increase your breadth and take some course to increase your length”. It cannot be a T model.  You need to have a strategy and a finance and an accounting guy coming together. You need to have an engineer from outside and a CA doing a project together, wherein you bring knowledge of different fields on the table. That is the way I see it.

There was this article in HBR about how the main problem with businesses these days is that we define the problem wrong …

Absolutely. That is a very nice way of putting it. We often stick to the conventional model of problem solving and in many of our courses we emphasize on thinking out of the box. But the problem is that we don’t know what out of the box is.

We have a lot of new IIMs that have come up in the recent years but then they don’t attract huge crowds despite being mentored by the top institutes in the country. So, how long would it be before we can see these institutions maturing?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that to make a great institution you need $200 Million of funding and 200 years. The point he’s trying to make is that great institutions take time to become great. IIM A B C L K I came up in a span of 50 years and did great things in terms of pedagogy but these institutions are still works in progress.

The way I see it, an institution can contribute to the society in 3 different stages. The first stage is when the contribution is made through its graduates, that is where scaling up is really quick. At the second level, they contribute through the knowledge and then come the processes.

So, it will take time for the newer institutions to mature. It is only now that we can see institutions of IIM Lucknow’s age coming up and standing on their own feet. For the new IIMs to come to a mature stage, they would have to develop a faculty base that can cater to the students’ needs at all points of time. I think more than that, what is important is their processes and systems because educational systems run on processes. The institution that does well is the one that lays out its processes (examination patterns, course registration etc.) very well. Because it is these processes which help you get better faculty, who in turn help you get better students and thus the institute attracts better companies. This virtuous cycle continues year after year.

Sir, ISB was set up in 2001 and it has just been 15 years but we still compare it with IIM ABC. So how has ISB set up its processes and what are the lessons that newer IIMs can learn from the ISB model?

I had been appointed as the Associate Dean at ISB and as this was the first time that I was doing an administration role, I decided to visit institutions from Harvard in the USA to those in China and studied their models for 1 year. The thing that worked for ISB was that it started benchmarking globally and not nationally. That created huge aspirations and this not only attracted good students but also great faculty.

Parting thoughts on IIM K…

It is an unusual kind of institution and has done exceptionally well in the past 20 years. In fact, Professor Kalro who was your second director and was my colleague at IIMA, did an amazing job. IIMK has been able to capture the imagination of a large number of people despite being slightly remotely located. It still reckons attention. The greatest achievement for IIMK as an institute would be leveraging the past 20 years of success to really do a more exponential jump. I think you have everything going for you here. You are a great institute.

Interviewed by | Sushmita and Amritansh | Public Relations Cell – IIM Kozhikode

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Reflections and Recollections: 20 Years of IIM K

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Imagine a traveler advancing on a thorny path determined to reach his goal. It is a journey undeterred by fear of obstacles and unmindful of distractions. It is lots of inspiration and even more perspiration, it is an outright refusal of failure: an indomitable perseverance to reach the goal. But when he finally reaches this uncharted frontier, he feels a strange nostalgia. He fondly remembers the days that began at dawn and ended long after dusk, the tiring noons and the sleepless nights, the anxiety and excitement that he felt every day when he treaded forward in his quest. It is then he realizes that it is not the destination but the path that he enjoyed, that success was not a one time achievement but a constant advancement towards something better. And thus, he resumes his journey with renewed vigor and inspiration striving to achieve something better, something bigger.

IIM Kozhikode’s journey towards two decades of excellence closely resembles the story of our traveler. What began in 1996 as another IIM with a makeshift campus and handful of participants has grown in twenty years to become an epitome of academic excellence with significant contributions to the industry. And so when God’s Own Kampus celebrated its twentieth birthday, it was not just to look back and appreciate its achievements but also to reiterate its resolve of constant introspection and improvement.

The event began with a welcome address by Dr. Debabrata Chatterjee, Dean Administration, where he stressed on the importance of continuously looking for opportunities and of taking on bigger challenges. This was followed by a speech by Dr. Kulbhushan Balooni, Director (In-Charge), replete with anecdotes, recounting IIM Kozhikode’s achievements despite the severe challenges it faced in its initial days. He recalled the troubles that faculty members had to go through just to conduct regular classes. He wholeheartedly thanked NIT Calicut for its invaluable support during those early days. He emphasized on IIM Kozhikode’s deep belief in sustainable development and the various initiatives undertaken to ensure the overall ecological. He also fondly mentioned his long association with IIM Kozhikode and appreciated the efforts of all stakeholders in making this college what it is today.

The audience was then enthralled by reKall@20, a short film depicting major milestones of the institute since its inception. What began in 1996 with 42 students and a handful of visiting faculty has grown into a full-fledged institute with over 800 participants guided by some of the best professors in the nation. Eminent dignitaries including Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, Mr. Kapil Sibal and Mr. E. Sreedharan have honored the institute by their presence. Apart from the first of its kind hill top campus, IIM K is home to India’s first Business Museum which was inaugurated by Mr. Pallam Raju in 2013. Throughout these twenty years, it has received numerous accolades including an AMBA accreditation and Wiley Library Award. Memorandums of Understanding with top global institutes like Yale and Leeds bear testimony to its academic excellence.

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But the highlight of the night was the inspiring speech by the honorable Chief Guest, Professor Pankaj Chandra, ex IIM B Director and current Chairman, Board of Management, Ahmedabad University. He began his speech with examples from current business scenarios to elucidate the disruptions occuring in today’s world and the constant need of innovation not just to excel but simply to survive. It is obvious then, he said, that business graduates must be not just taught marketing and operations but must also how to constantly learn and relearn. He stressed that the role of institutes is their ability to inspire, and that high value that must be placed on research in order to satisfy changing work environments and develop one’s mental faculties. He emphasized why B-school learning can never be just about management but has to be an amalgamation of engineering, humanities and management in order to foster imagination and innovation. In conclusion, he quoted Tagore -

Just as a lamp cannot light unless itself lit, a teacher can never teach unless he himself learns”

and defined teaching as not a job or a profession, but as an art that inspires learning.

Such an event can never be complete without acknowledging the efforts of its long standing members and so Professor S.S.S Kumar, on behalf of the entire administration, felicitated Professor Praship Kumar KK, Professor Unnikrishnan Nair and Mr. Madhusudanan V, who have been associated with the institute for over 15 years.

The evening ended with a vote of thanks delivered by Mr. K Sadanandan after which Professor Chandra was felicitated by Professor Balooni. And thus rejuvenated and re-invigorated IIM K restarted its pursuit towards something better, something bigger.

Horizons 2016: Marketing ki Paathshala with Marketing Guru Pradeep Kashyap

Pradeep Kashyap, founder and CEO, MART and also known as the father of rural marketing, sits down to have a brief chat about his work and what keeps him going.

Mr. Pradeep Kashyap - The Father of Rural Marketing

Mr. Pradeep Kashyap – The Father of Rural Marketing

You say you do not do charity, but you also say you do not rip poor people off their money, so how do you strike this balance between need and greed?

We charge big organizations like the World Bank our regular consulting fees, but if a small NGO approaches us saying they would like to use our services but are not able to pay our fees, we are willing to negotiate and offer them a fair price; because we believe that just because a few people do not have the ability to pay, it does not mean that they should be deprived of quality consulting.

That is wonderful, however, the big consulting firms are not really known have the same level of social conscience that MART does. Do you think they can also develop a social conscience?

The 2008-09 recession shook up the world economy. Before that, CEOs would be paid 200 times the salary that the lowest rung employee in an organization would be paid. After the meltdown, the salaries of the people in the higher echelons came down a few notches. So one does not say that such big firms will be transformed overnight. It takes time, and events such as the recession will expose them to the realities, and in today’s world a Bill Gates or a Ratan Tata, who give a lot to charity have a lot more respect than people richer than them but without a conscience. Slowly and steadily, we are moving to that point where everyone develops this conscience.

Mr. Pradeep Kashyap during his talk at Horizons 2016

Mr. Pradeep Kashyap during his talk at Horizons 2016

You’ve pioneered the concept of ‘Inclusive Marketing’. Would really like to know a bit about the same.

C K Prahlad had come up with the concept of fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. It really did not make a lot of sense to me, because what he said was that corporates could sell products to the poor; products that they do not even need. What I am saying is, don’t just exploit them by taking their money away, first get them a livelihood, like what ITC is doing with its eChoupal. That is inclusive marketing for everyone’s benefit.

Are there any learnings from Rural Marketing that can be applied in the sector of Urban Marketing or vice-versa?

Oh! Definitely. A lot of products made for rural market have found their way into the urban market, for example Nirma washing powder or Ghadi detergent, ultimately because they deliver value at a lower price.

Among the so many projects that you’ve worked for, what is the one project that you would rate as your favorite (because of either personal or professional reasons)?

I would say the one that I won the maximum visibility for is Project Shakti. It became a Harvard business school case study, every global business chairman of Unilever that came to India was always talking about this project. It was also the one that was the most challenging, because there were a lot of stakeholders in it – there was Unilever, the women groups, the state bureaucracy and NABARD the bank for giving loans.

IIC presenting a token of gratitude to the Pioneer of Inclusive Marketing and Project Shakti - Mr. Pradeep Kashyap

IIC presenting a token of gratitude to the Pioneer of Inclusive Marketing and Project Shakti – Mr. Pradeep Kashyap

You have a workforce of 75 people, what keeps them away from pursuing their career at bigger firms where they could get fatter paychecks?

Well, first thing would definitely be the meaning that they derive from their work here, since they are contributing to their society. Second thing is that the work pressure is not very high. We close office at 5:30 PM and there are a lot of learning opportunities. So the learning curve is very steep. We also do not hire too many people because we do not want to dilute the culture that is already there. So that is the tradeoff that we make, and in return we have a very close-knit family atmosphere amongst our workforce which motivates them to continue working.

Interviewed By: Himalay Reddy

Picture Courtesy: Himalay Reddy

Behind the scenes / Research: Vishaal Pathak

Horizons 2016: Lets go Mad over Marketing!

When IIC’s flagship event Horizons 2016 announced a marketing workshop, most people were probably anticipating more of Kotler and Porter and jargons and what not. Mad Over Marketing Co-founders Siddhant More and Wamika Mimani took the stage by storm instead, right from the word go! With Mad Over Marketing at their quirky best, how can you not go bananas?

MoM in action during Horizons 2016

MoM in action during Horizons 2016

Post all the gyan and all the more fun, we caught them for a little chit chat. Here’s what they had to say:

1.We’ve heard that MOM was born over a college fest and the intention was to generate marketing interest among students. Later on, it was launched in 2012. Tell us something more about how you took off.

 

Siddhant: So yeah, we had begun through a college fest. All of us, we were in the same

undergraduate college and were organizing a fest called “Inertia”. We wanted to publicize the fest

and so what we typically do is that we take to FB, put up posters, tag friends and so on and so

forth. We wanted to do something different. Now, this is back in 2012 and we thought why not

create a page where the audience talks about marketing in general and not talk about the fest at

all. Now whether that backfired for the fest or worked for us later on is a separate thing. The

name of the page was Mad over Marketing and after some time, people started asking us the dates

for mad over marketing (and not inertia). So we somehow decided to keep the page even after the

fest and it started gathering great following. Once you have great traffic, a lot of brands reach out

to you.

 

2.Siddhant, you’ve had strong affiliations with finance, you’re a CA and a CFA. Wamika, you too are a strategist now with BCG. Give us some more details as to how you people manage and contribute towards MOM.

MoM setting the stage on fire!

MoM setting the stage on fire!

 

Wamika: So I’ll talk about the first part. MOM was co-founded by five of us, all of whom have

ended up doing different things in life, which have nothing specific to do with marketing. We had

a common interest, even while doing that summit (fest) back then. Marketing as a theme,

specifically advertising, really appealed to us. It all started as a glorified hobby almost and we

were stubborn enough to pursue it, but not necessarily as a profession. So it’s just that we liked

doing it and of course, over time people started liking the content we posted.

Siddhant: In terms of doing things parallely, it’s all about wanting to do it. You just have to set

your priorities and you’ll always end up having time to do what you really want.

 

3.You’ve grown in leaps and bounds without resorting to “pushing” your product through to the customers. The advertisements or spams for MOM have been practically none. Isn’t that a marketing statement in itself?

 

Wamika: It’s actually a very conscious effort to keep it that way. We’ve never gone out saying

that this is Mad over Marketing and so on, neither in a direct nor in an indirect manner. The idea

has always been to just put out good content. The fundamental basis of MOM is sharing and

things going viral if they’re good. And thankfully, it’s worked for us so far.

Siddhant: Yeah, and also because the users don’t like it basically. All of us are consumers of

online content and for me, it isn’t pleasant to get a spam. It’s the same with the audience too.

The audience retorts with their quirkiness to keep the hosts ROFLing !

The audience retorts with their quirkiness to keep the hosts ROFLing !

 

4.Sticking to the niche without being monotonous is key and MOM has a wonderful mix of brains. Take us through all the brainstorming that goes into posting some content.

 

Siddhant: Let me be honest with you, there’s practically no brainstorming! If we like something,

we’ll write about it and put it up. It’s each individual’s call. We trust that if one of us finds it

interesting, there’ll be hundreds outside who’ll find it appealing too. But of course, at the end of

the day, you don’t want to put out bad stuff either.

Wamika: And it’s more of a break from our usual routine!

Siddhant: Yeah, so no domain specific inputs in particular. And at times we digress from

marketing as well. For example, we also spoke about the reactions to the AIB roast. Hence,

there’s no hard limit with respect to sticking to start-ups or branding or advertising. We post

anything we find pertinent and contextual. But we definitely keep tabs on the quality of whatever

is being posted so that it doesn’t turn out to be just another piece.

Wamika: It’s also about keeping it simple and not over-complicating things. You want to be

quick and talk about things that are relevant today. Being quick, in fact, is one of the biggest

challenges we face. You don’t want to put out something after everyone else has covered it.

 

5.MOM today is one of the most successful curators of business content on the web along with being crowd-sourced too. What factors would you attribute this success to?

 

Siddhant: There are primarily two things: the team and the masses; the masses because they keep

sending us a lot of content. Every other day, our mailboxes, websites and FB pages are full of

suggestions. And we are getting around 8-10 ad campaigns every single day which really helps

us. It’s virtually eyes out for us. The team: because everyone’s so different from one another.

Everyone brings in a new perspective. Someone, for instance, is good at coming up with a catchy

title; the other at analyzing an ad and so on.

 

Token of gratitude for winning all the hearts !

Token of gratitude for winning all the hearts !

6.IIM Kozhikode has a lot of aspiring marketers and entrepreneurs. What mantra would you give to them so that they can make it big?

 

Siddhant: Don’t listen to any mantra, that would be it!

Wamika: Pretty much sums it up I guess. But yeah, from an MOM perspective, the only story or

gyan we have is that if you really want to do something, you’ll find time and energy for it. The

way might not be that straightforward, may be slightly here and there, but if you want to do

something you really should. There’s always time for everything, we’re never actually short of it,

just need to manage it well.

MoM with Media Cell members Shakti and Tushar.

MoM with Media Cell members Shakti and Tushar.

Interviewed By: Shakti Shivam and Tushar Johri

Picture Courtesy: Vishaal Pathak

Horizons 2016: Fly High with Vijay Gopalan, Ex-CFO Air Asia India

Mr. Vijay Gopalan joined Air Asia India as the CFO in August 2013 and was a part of the team that set up India operations for nearly two years. Prior to AirAsia India, Mr. Gopalan worked as finance controller of Indian operations of Compass Group, as well as manager with consultancy and audit firm Ernst and Young in the United States and the United Kingdom in various industries including oil and gas and hospitality. He is also a chartered accountant with over a decade’s experience and holds an advanced diploma in marketing and sales from the National Institute of Sales.

Hailing from a family of musicians, he is a trained singer and has bagged gold medal at the South Asian Universities music festival in the year 2000. He started off as an emcee in the initial stages of his career and still nurtures his passion for live performances.

We had the chance to explore the lighter side of his personality, and also seek some sound advice while he was on campus for IIC’s flagship event Horizons 2016. Find out what he had to say during his interview :

Mr. Vijay Gopalan at Horizons 2016

Mr. Vijay Gopalan at Horizons 2016

1. You have been at E&Y, have been an academician who’s worked with the ICAI and with IIM Ahmedabad; a freelance consultant and the ex-CFO for Air Asia. Please take us through the journey.

As long as you are confident of your capabilities you don’t need to worry about anything. I started with E&Y and eight years down the line I knew I could take a break. I needed a break, because it’s very easy for a professional to get into a comfort zone after a point of time; you get comfortable with your surroundings, everything is working for you, and you don’t want to push yourself or challenge yourself any more. That’s the first step towards rotting as a professional.

I took up radio jockeying, acting and tried a whole bunch of things. For doing that you do not need to be aware of your skill sets. Each of us have our own instincts, there always are certain things that we want to do. The problem comes when we sit and rationalize things with our mind wondering whether we are suited for something, what can be the possible outcomes of our decision etc. The moment we cut out all the rationalizing and start to believe that there is an inner calling, you will be able to look at the larger perspective. I never knew I could act. I loved watching movies so I thought let me see how I look onscreen, and I was horrible. Similarly for radio jockeying I just went for the audition and it happened, I never knew I could be a finalist there. For academia likewise I decided to give it a try and it worked, that’s all. It’s all a chance.

Mr. Vijay Gopalan during his talk

Mr. Vijay Gopalan during his talk

2. What role has been the most likeable/challenging out of the vast canvas of opportunities you’ve had so far?

Honestly, academia. I am always available to share whatever lessons I have gathered all this while. It’s a passion. We are a small group of people who actually go wherever we can to disseminate our learnings.

3. It’s a famous anecdote that your first paid assignment was that of an Emcee. I also read once that you wanted to be a professional singer and used to practice at the MRF Pace Foundation. How do you feel things have helped in shaping up such an excellent career?

All this never let me settle down with status quo. That has been the biggest learning. I as an individual am restless, I cannot handle status quo. If I am settled somewhere for too long then I know that it’s time for me to leave. I have figured out that a personality is much wider than just your office or your confinement. So the focus was on developing a large persona, hobbies, interests, conversational abilities etc. That was much larger than talking about debits, credits, balance sheets, profit and loss accounts. The Emcee thing was also helpful in shooting me up, in the sense that I figured that there were alternates available. However I wouldn’t say it boosted my confidence, because that would mean that I am seeking validation of my potential from outside. But at a much deeper level, it set the importance of having a well-rounded personality to be able to do anything. You will become a very boring person if you don’t have alternate interests and your interest is only academics. Honestly I think these extra-curricular activities taught team spirit, challenge of taking a big group of people along with you, small anecdotes and how each of those improves you as a leader.

Mr. Vijay Gopalan during the interview with Media Celll

Mr. Vijay Gopalan during the interview with Media Celll

4. You joined Air Asia in 2013 and were a part of the start-up team back then. Please share a few insights regarding the challenges and peculiarities of that environment and also in the context of setting up prudent financial practices.

The biggest challenge in Air Asia was that it had a small core team comprising all the heads of departments working together with completely different domains of expertise. We had a pilot who was a DFO, we had a hardcore engineer, we had a ground operations personnel who used to roll up his sleeves to get his hands dirty and we had Mittu who came from a different background. So to align all our individual capabilities and interests and channelize them towards catering to the common goal was a fun and challenging experience and I think this would hold true for any project team. The biggest learning was that the larger interest is always bigger than the sum of all our individual interests put together. There’s a bigger picture and you always need to make certain sacrifices. Financial practices were rather the easiest to set up. Since there was no precedent you do not have to undo any practice, it is your way and you work on it as you have envisioned it. The challenge will be in keeping it absolutely simple, in a startup mode, otherwise you would become very bureaucratic and hierarchical. Cut the red tape and keep it to the barest minimum as required by the business.

 5. Talking of Air Asia, we’d like to understand this from a strategy point of view. When Air Asia started its operations in India, for a long time it shied away from operating out of Delhi – cost probably being a factor there. Now it is operating though, and it operates out of T3, instead of may be T1, which would probably create a bigger dent in its pockets. Similarly, in Malaysia, they’ve shifted from LCCT to KLIA2. What has been the thought process behind this move?

Well with Malaysia, it was more of a regulatory requirement – the government there asked the airline to move to KLIA2.

You’re absolutely right about Air Asia entering the Delhi sector quite late, but I’d say the decision to move there has been more of a change in the thought process. The idea was to penetrate tier 2 cities, but with Delhi, the connectivity gets better. While operating out of T3 instead of T1 may be a little expensive, there are definite plusses that outweigh whatever little cost disadvantage there is. For e.g., if you’ve been to T3, you know the kind of flight experience there, which is something the airline wants its flyers to experience. Besides, congestion at T3 is less compared to T1, so that helps Air Asia be on time. Most importantly, the idea has always been to position Air Asia as a low-fare airline, but never a cheap airline. In the near future, Air Asia may even be operating out of Mumbai, you never know.

 6. How has your perspective towards life changed from the time you started your career to now?

There have been a few added attributes which have come along the way. One of them being an immense sense of gratitude to everybody with whom I have interacted in life. Along the course of your journey you would also actually like to give back to people, be it your family, and be it your friends or unknown people. Another important realization was that all that happened to me was by a freak chance because I am pretty sure if I have made it then there are tens or hundreds of other cases when people haven’t made it. So that feeling made me absolutely responsible and sensible towards this opportunity and towards the stature that I have reached to. The third lesson was taught by my father. Right after I got the offer with Air Asia he told me, “Fantastic, I am proud of u, learn to be humble.” It has taught me humility. Honestly, there’s    something beyond our own capabilities that justifies why we get these kind of opportunities. I would be lying if I say that hard work alone made me reach here, there was something beyond hard work, which I possibly can never explain which has played a role in making me reach where I am.

Media Cell in conversation with Mr. Vijay Gopalan

Media Cell in conversation with Mr. Vijay Gopalan

7. Any message for the students here?

Just chill. That’s it.

Interviewed By: Noel Roychoudhury and Vishaal Pathak

Behind the scenes / Research: Tushar Johri

Picture Credits : Himalay Reddy & IIC

Horizons 2016: House of Orators with Ms. Deepa Thomas

Deepa M Thomas is a corporate communications professional with 19 years of expertise over external & employee communications. She is leading the communications mandate for Mahindra Group Companies – Mahindra Holidays, Mahindra LifeSpaces & Mahindra Partners.

Media Cell had the opportunity to interact with her while she was on campus for IIC’s flagship event Horizons 2016. Below are excerpts from the interview:

1. With a wide exposure in established conglomerates like Mahindra to relatively new e-commerce companies like eBay, skin clinics like Kaya, channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, what are the major differences that you have noticed across industries when it comes to corporate communication?

Multinationals around the world have this very strong belief in communication, because it’s a proven science. Companies like Kaya and Marico did not have any established communication function before I joined. So there was a lot of work that we had to do to evangelize the role of communication and the benefits that it could bring. Whereas in eBay, let’s say when a communication person is employed for the first time there already was a belief around the world that it made sense. So it was much easier to get a buy in from the leadership that communication would play a major strategic role and we should invest in it.

Ms. Deepa Thomas during her talk at Horizons 2016

Ms. Deepa Thomas during her talk at Horizons 2016

2. Your specialties are as varied as Consumer PR to Pop Culture to ecommerce. How do you keep yourself updated about the latest development in all of these interest areas?

I network with my peers in various forums, I read newsletters and news articles, and I am currently jury for 30 under 30 for PRmoment. So what happens is that when you do all these, you see some of the best practices and some of the good work that is happening and you can keep yourself as informed as you can. I don’t think you can keep yourself informed about everything, since one is only human and you cannot spend your entire time gathering information but the more informed you are and the more thoughtfully you are able to process that information, you can perhaps connect it to what you are doing and bring the best practices to your work or you can share your best practices with somebody else.

3. Since CSR is also one of your interest areas, so what’s your take on companies having mandatory CSR activity, do you think it rightly addresses the issue like it is supposed to?

I think this comes down to company’s philosophies: do they see that they must serve the community that they work in, or do they see that they want to make a better impact. If the company sees that than the CSR funds whether mandated by the government or not will be invested in the right way. But there might be some companies who will perhaps not see value in it, therefore they will perhaps do it in lip service, or put money behind established non- profits and not help grass root efforts. So I think the best fit is when the company has identified a few causes like education, environment, old age that they want to stand by, find the connection with the company and locate CSR programs which are long term and make impact but also involve employees, do not just have a separate CSR department run it quietly. See how you can engage employees as mentors, volunteers, awareness creators, and social media advocates. Then they can make reports and pay it back to the community and the various stakeholders associated. That’s when CSR becomes very holistic and the community sees the real impact and the company enhances its goodwill.

But then the benefit received by the mandate is that a lot many companies are having to put their funds for good. So it’s an opportunity for non-profits to find their partners and if companies are not doing the thinking then they need to present themselves in the right way to company and help that company make an impact for a cause.

Ms. Deepa Thomas being interviewed by Media Cell

Ms. Deepa Thomas being interviewed by Media Cell

4. What is your take on women in management when it comes to issues like work life balance, maternity leaves, power politics and improper working conditions for women?

Men and women are both equally good leaders and they bring different facades and perspectives and I think diverse organizations, in terms of gender, age, race, sexual orientation etc. benefit primarily for these. Today our target audience and consumers are very diverse, so whether we can actually reflect the diversity in our board room or our leadership team, becomes a major question.
About maternity leaves, I think the increase of the leave from three months to six months is a welcome move allowing the new mother to return to the workforce once she is fully ready and has been able to develop a right infrastructure to look after her baby. However, the lady should integrate herself as quickly as possible to her company (depending on her and her baby’s health condition) or at least keep herself informed even during the leave so that she is not out of the knowledge loop. Even if she can’t work she should find ways to communicate with her organization using HR functions (who are also taking appropriate measures so that these ladies can make a seamless comeback and add value to the company soon).
Work life balance comes down to settling with the fact that women in society tend to be the caregivers, therefore younger people, senior citizens, sick relatives all need to be attended by the women employee. Today, however there are options that women can explore to set up a good infrastructure at home, but there may be times when they have to work out of home and companies need to be flexible out of it. At the same time, the onus comes down on the ladies, or for any employee for that matter (in a gender neutral company) to show their commitment and delivery and prove that their work is not getting impacted. To manage visibility related issues that might turn up (out of sight, out of mind), the employees need to be connected by emails, phone calls or at times when physical presence is required one needs to prove that he/she is just a phone call away. This will validate the value of that particular employee in his/her organization.

5. All of us here aspire to be leading managers someday, any suggestion that you have for doing well in the corporate life, since we have many preconceived ideas about surviving the corporate rat race.

You need to have passion, integrity, persistence, collaborative attitude to survive the corporate life which according to me is a jungle gym and not a ladder. You also need to find a supportive group of people, the supportive board (comprising of family, friends, significant partner etc.), with whom you can share your moments of frustration and success. And over a period you will have enough people like this who’s make the organization a comfortable workplace for you. A part of how the corporate life is, depends on the company’s performance. If it is going through bankruptcy then the employees will definitely have a tough time because the company itself is in a position where its existence itself is questionable. From the employees’ angle, there can be three groups: one, the energy drainers who choose to play power politics, second, who choose to just do their work without getting their hands dirty and third, the ones who bring positive energy in their workplace. Irrespective of which group you choose to belong, you need to have passions and interests outside of work, along with a support structure comprising of a close group of people and these will help you vent your corporate anxieties and frustrations and de-stress. If you can align yourself and your work with the company’s goals, work will be less stressful. Plus an amount of equanimity and composure will definitely help make life comfortable. Don’t let noise affect you, choose what really matters and prioritize accordingly.

In a conversation with Ms. Deepa Thomas.

In a conversation with Ms. Deepa Thomas.

Interviewed By: Noel Roychoudhury

Picture Credits: Ravi Mohan Bhola

Echoes 2016: Campus Princess with Koyal Rana

Echoes 2016: Campus Princess with Koyal Rana

Interview with Koyal Rana

Q- How has your stay been in IIM K so far?

It’s been great. It’s a beautiful campus all surrounded by hills n greenery. I haven’t got the chance yet  to look around but I do have plans to go for a round.

In conversation with Ms. Koyal Rana

In conversation with Ms. Koyal Rana

Q-You won the Miss India crown in 2014, henceforth how was the year 2014 for you?

It felt really great winning the crown as it really was a dream come true! Since then journey has been great. I was in 3rd year so after winning the pageant I just had one months to prepare for my exams. Afterwards I had some sponsor commitments and some appearances to make. It was quiet a fun journey and yes I also had prepare for miss world. So all of these kept me occupied.

Q- Tell us something about your experience with the most beautiful miss world ever Aishwarya Rai?

It was great meeting her, she has been the idol for so many girls and even now girls idolize her. She really is a very nice person.

Q-It has been long time since India has won the miss world crown. In your opinion where should we improvise so that the next crown is ours?

Any girl who represents her country gives her best. She has endless nights preparing for it. In a lot of competitions which were held there I did quite well in all of them and was ranked 1. You can’t really say what exactly is needed cause is if you see every year the winner is very different from the previous year. It depends a lot on the judges and on what they are looking for.

Q-You have been involved with several NGOs like Moksha foundation? How is that coming along?

I have worked with several NGOs like Pratham, Aarohan, Help Age India, UNDP etc. For Moksha we have reached our 2nd phase. We have also started sanitation for women wherein we are trying to provide sanitary pads to women at a very low price. We are students and there are other things also to take care of expanding is bit difficult.

Q-You are always smiling in all of your pics even during the photoshoot here, how difficult/ easy it is to be like that.

I would say I am just a happy person! Smile does make you look pretty!

Femina Miss India 2014 Koyal Rana

Femina Miss India 2014 Koyal Rana

Q- In most of the Indian families even now girls are not allowed to participate in beauty competitions. What message would you like to give to those families?

Even my family was not very supportive initially. When they agreed they convinced our relatives. So yes this still is a problem, but to start with miss world has taken off the bikini round. I have been trying my best throughout the year to convince the parents that it’s not just what you think it is. A girl gets so many opportunities, it gives her confidence, enhances her personality. With time it’s changing and I am sure it would reach greater heights and anybody interested would be allowed to participate.

Q-Any message to students of IIM K especially to girls to encourage them to come forward and participate in beauty pageants.

Well, I would say that it’s just a contest not the end. Treat it as women empowerment. Just go out there participate win not win come back and continue being a manager or an engineer. I want to be an entrepreneur and I am working towards it. Just be confident!

Ms. Koyal Rana with Media Cell members Ravi, Himalay and Shakti

Ms. Koyal Rana with Media Cell members Ravi, Himalay and Shakti

Interviewed by: Shakti Shivam and Himalay Reddy

Pictures: Ravi Mohan Bhola

 

 

 

 

Echoes 2016: A Musical Date with Nikhil D’ Souza

Interview with Nikhil D’ Souza

Q. If not a singer, what would you have been?

A. Difficult question, I tried many different things. I was a geologist, but I wouldn’t be doing it. I would rather work on my cooking skills and be a chef. A secured job is not my thing. It’s kind of being part of a system that’s very predictable, for me I just always want to break out of that. For me the kind of mental flow of this world is not about restricting yourself to a certain time frame of the day to be busy. It’s about expressing yourself more and more every day.

Q. Since you spoke about expressing yourself, so why do you restrict yourself to alternative rock and electric guitar pop, and not try other genres like Arijit Singh, Vishal Dadlani, Amit Trivedi etc?

A. I just do what I like doing and thankfully it has paid off so far.

Q. So can we expect anything like that from you maybe ten years later?
A. Yeah, maybe. I might be a different person then. I mean if I look back ten years back, I was a completely different person, I was a lot shyer, I wouldn’t be sitting here and give an interview. What I mean is, asking yourself the question where will I be five years from now I think is not always the right thing to do, because in doing so you kind of put a restriction on yourself saying that this is what I am going to be. And in doing so if you don’t get there, there’s a lot of disappointment that comes along. You should just be open to things that happen to you.

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Q. Okay, so do you mean to say that we should not have expectations?
A. No, I should say that you should really work hard. A lot of people look at a rock star on stage and say I want to be that. So they look up to the final result and say that’s what I want. But they don’t see the (twenty) years of playing guitar and all the hard work. The people who get to that point are the ones who love the process. You look at a guy with a gym body and think I want to be that, but do you love the pain that comes with it? That guy does.

 

Q. How hard is it to write a song? As we know you are putting in a lot of efforts for song writing, and a singer related to self-written songs, how difficult is it being for you to do that?
A. On some days it is as easy as breathing and on some days it is really difficult, it is like you just can’t write a word. There are so many song writers who reach a writing block, they just reach the block and can’t write anything more. I face a lot of days like that too. But I find that when I go to America and I have someone I write with over there, we just click really well, there’s a real chemistry when we write and we come up with better songs every time we do that.

 

Q. What led you to take up a career in music?
A. There was no particular inspiration along the way. It’s just that it was the only thing that made sense after trying a whole bunch of things. You know, like you keep coming back to something, and sometimes you need someone to point that out to you. I remember while I was going ahead in the oil field industry, a good friend of mine took me aside and told me that maybe you should just do what you want to do.

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Q. What would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10?
A. 13, maybe!

 

Q. What is that one thing that separates you from the others?
A. The ability to really feel, the lyric

 

Q. How would you place yourself around singers like Arijit Singh, K mohan, Paapon, Amit Trivedi ?
A. I feel I am not as technically sound as most of them, they are definitely very well trained singers, but I have my moments too when I can sing a song better than some of them on some lines.

 

Q. Name some of your favourite female singers.
A. Some of my favourite female singers have been Neeti Mohan, Shilpa Rao. Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan are of course flawless. For me the ones I can really listen to, I think Shilpa Rao is someone who stands out.

 

Q. How have you liked our campus so far?
A. Oh it’s amazing! It looks like a resort and it’s a pleasant surprise to go to a room somewhere in this campus and it’s like a five star room.

 

Q. You liked the crowd?
A. Oh yeah! You saw what happened out there, it’s beautiful. It’s a good thing that it started off with everyone sitting down and then it was a different thing after what, half a song!

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Q. Any message for all those people out there?
A. Enjoy this campus, enjoy your life here because it’s beautiful, it’s like being in Hogwarts or something. It’s a beautiful place to be in and these are great memories that you will treasure for the rest of your life. And the friends that you have here now are going to be there for the rest of your lives. Make great memories, that’s all I am going to say!
Interviewed by: Noel Roychoudhury