Shadowing Mr. KM Birla was the most memorable experience of my two years at IIM Calcutta. Getting to know my role model from such close spheres was exhilarating. We had several hours of exclusive interaction where we talked about anything and everything. Mr. Birla shared his life journey - the ups and downs - and encouraged me to continue on my entrepreneurial pursuits. An epitome of humility, Mr. Birla even involved me in drafting of his annual speech, and introduced me to his family. I would urge every student to bid for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and make the most out of it.
With my growing interest in the management career, I was intrigued and very impressed with the global force which Aditya Birla Group had grown into, since Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla had taken the reins. I always wondered what it takes to lead a conglomerate of such expanse and take it global, to greater successes despite enhanced competition and opposition, against well-entrenched businesses of the developed world. Having learnt myriad business concepts, tools and lessons at ISB, I was sanguine that my learning would be summarised by availing the opportunity to shadow the leader who practises what we aspire to learn.
Mr Birla called me a day prior to know about my expectations from, and the thoughts about, the next day. Having heard my opinion patiently, he told me the brief plan for the day and conversed about my personal details and past experience. Having been clarified the schedule, I reached the Aditya Birla House the next day to shadow him. After a detailed conversation about my background, aspirations and the life at ISB, he informed me that we would be attending the meetings scheduled by him, so that I got the essence of different sets of decision-making activities for different types of businesses. He encouraged me to ask any number of questions at any point in time– to him or to other participants in the meetings. He encouraged me to draw lessons from the discussions and present my own opinion as well. He took a few minutes break after every meeting, to summarize the lessons and takeaways. He also clarified the myriad details and perspectives, so that I could draw pertinent lessons from all the discussions.
The day was full of various forms of learning; it was a highly insightful and memorable event for me to have met a true leader who can be emulated in every form of professional and personal conduct. It was a capstone event which helped me summarise my ISB lessons by discussing with, andwatching, this remarkable leader. He very candidly shared his vision, experiences and opinions. During the course of my corporate career, I will continue revisiting the lessons learnt throughout this day. Given a chance, I would opt to shadow or meet the great leader again, as I got much more lessons and insights than I had hoped for.
The experience with Mr. Murthy was unlike any of the expectations I had built around. Knowing Mr. Murthy and his accomplishments, one would have thought that the entire day will go around talking about Infosys, its achievements and its future. But it turned out to be a lot different and far more insightful.
The day started off with a brief tour of Infosys Bangalore campus, a couple of marketing videos on Infosys while sitting in the main board room and then a preview of the meetings lined up for the day. The day was planned from a perspective of providing me exposure to not just Infosys but to what it takes to start and run your own business. This was priceless.
Discussions on how VCs look for investments (met with founders of a VC fund Mr. Murthy is overseeing), insight into what entrepreneurs in India are facing in-terms of opportunities & challenges (had a couple of discussions with entrepreneurs and with a batch of students from iGate) and Mr. Murthy's insight into philanthropy (a Phd. Student interviewed Mr. Murthy on this topic) took me deeper into aspects of running one's own business.
While all this was going on, I was also getting insights into Infosys's Training programs in Mysore and how they are being revamped. I got an hour to pick a senior manager's brains on Infosys Labs and how Infosys is re-defining the role technology & products are playing in the Indian IT Services industry.
Mr. Murthy himself is a very humble down to earth person. Despite his age, his enthusiasm, appetite for reading and attention to smallest of details were a clear indication of what it takes for some one to be as successful as he is. Overall speaking, that fact that I could experience all of the above sitting right next to Mr. Murthy either in his own office or in his discussion rooms, while having lunch and tea with him or while just observing the way he conducts his meetings was a day extremely well spent.
Such experiences are extremely rare for any one and I am truly thankful that 'Shadow a CEO' program at ISB provides its students such opportunities.
It was an absolute honour and pleasure to be part of the Board Meeting of the Max Healthcare. I'm really thankful to ISB for allowing such a unique opportunity to learn the essential elements of the Board’s corporate culture, and most importantly - a bird's eye view from a Chairman's perspective.
I'm sure and confident that this experience would immensely add significant weight to my learning that I take away from ISB. The interactions at Mr. Analjit’s residence during various meetings and the Board at Corporate office yesterday, has been highly encouraging. I’m honored to say, that one day which I spent as his ‘shadow’, has been one of the high points during my ISB tenure.
After I came back from meeting the CEO of my choice, I also extended my wishes for the Max group to continue its journey of touching a million lives every day and serving health of the nation.
Lastly, I wish to thank the "Shadow-a-CEO" team of ISB for giving me and other students such once in a lifetime opportunity.
One of the prime reasons I joined the EPGP program at IIM Bangalore was to take a breather after 14 years of working and plan for my next stint – one being in the avatar of an entrepreneur. The last one year I had been actively ideating as well as polishing my management and business skills at IIMB towards this very purpose. Shadow a CEO program gave me an opportunity to connect and interact with Mr.Srini Raju, Cofounder and Managing Director of Peepul Capital. I wanted to understand the nuances of PE funds and what parameters they look before investing in new tech ventures. My meeting was scheduled for the 3rd of December, a Monday.
I reached Hyderabad the prior evening to relax and mentally plan the interaction for the next day. I reached their corporate office in Hyderabad well ahead of time and was taken care by his staff. Srini arrived at the scheduled time and we exchanged pleasantries and he straight away got down to business. He inquired a bit about my personal and professional experience and then spent the next one hour meticulously detailing his professional journey and how Peepul Capital came into existence. It was really exciting to understand choices he made and tamed uncertainty. He briefed his experience working as the COO of Satyam and Cognizant and various other business investments and interests. He also went into great details on how his current organization was structured and his priority investments and business issues. It was really exciting to be part of an office which was key in making critical strategic decisions.
He set the ball rolling for his office activities and kept prompting me to ask questions and interrupt him to understand the nuances of what he was doing. He focused the first part of his day to get a tab on the operational activities in his office. He had couple of more meetings scheduled with his IT and planning staff for one of his business venture. I had a first hand experience of the key parameters and drivers of business which interests the CEO. It was amazing to see how he was consuming the complex and humungous data points shared with him and he somehow knew to answer the “right” and most difficult questions.
The highlight of the day was the ingenuity and ease with which he made go/no-go decision on a strategic investment. It was quite evident that he trusts his staff and key advisors on the key data points shared and due diligence. I was also party to the most critical and interesting meeting of the day, the operational and investment review of his PE fund’s investments. It was amazing to see the depth and diligence a VC/PE investor.
My day with Srini ended at bit past 6pm. It was an amazing experience overall and gave me key insights on how they crunch huge amount of information, plan their time and manage risk.
I was equally excited and nervous about my rendezvous with K V Kamath- Chairman, ICICI Bank- The man who revolutionised the Indian Banking System. The meeting was scheduled to start at 10:30 AM. I arrived at around 9:30 AM to make myself at home and get acquainted with the organisation and its people. I was shown through the different departments in the ICICI Bandra Kurla Complex, which is an astounding office in itself. Kamath arrived sharp at 10:30 AM and I was escorted to his office where we exchanged pleasantries and he introduced me to key members who run his office.
We settled down for a brief conversation on how Kamath literally built the ICICI Bank into India’s second largest bank. The roadblocks he faced, how he restructured the organisation time and again, how he handled attrition and atrophy in the organisation. Kamath shared his insight on how important it is to listen to the grapevine, understand people’s issues and his innovative methods to handle such challenges. He also explained how dedicated departments have rolled out for strategic decision making and how they function at various levels of the organisation.
As we discussed, he stated that there might be many visionaries capable of making impeccable plans but it is the execution which really creates a successful story. Kamath explained ‘Ajay, every leader worth his salt is capable of executing plan to its finest details’. Sometime during the day, Kamath’s guests arrived in his office. I had the privilege to participate in discussions with his guests representing a MNC who were seeking Kamath’s advice and support about reaching masses in rural market, and trying to augment the benefit of their product to farmers and cultivators.
I was inspired by Kamath’s ability to filter through the labyrinth of details and facts in the discussion and ask for relevant facts and figures while arriving at quick conclusion during the meeting. Another impressive aspect is that his support for the MNC came not because of profitability of the project but because this would deliver benefit to the rural society- addressing the need of common masses. Kamath stated ‘I am in support of this because this will benefit the people at the bottom of the pyramid.’ This philanthropic approach while making business decisions is an aspect every leader would share, which makes them rise above the threshold of common masses.After which, I spent some quality time with Anindya- JGM ICICI, who manages Kamath’s office. He explained me the regular business and discussed different functions in the organisation. We discussed what qualities ICICI Bank seeks in an individual while hiring and his experience with the ISB students.
I was then invited to join Kamath for a high profile meeting with his Executives heading Commercial/Wholesale banking for ICICI Bank. The presentation was largely focused on international expansion benchmarking several aspects of successful integration by competing banks in that space. Kamath while looking into the finer details advised on the strategy and discussed on the flaws that existed in the plan. We then discussed the recruitment policy for the expansion strategy. During the conversation a subject came up about losing a miniscule market share due to older incompatible system. Incidentally ICICI Bank has been a pioneer in developing IT capabilities and Kamath has always strongly advocated the advancement in IT. Kamath actioned on this immediately, this reflected the adroitness and proactive approach of a successful leader in making quick decisions.
After the appealing discussion over a delicious lunch, we discussed about the financial crisis and he patiently listened and appreciated my opinions about finance and IT bubble. He shared some insightful facts stating how Chidambaram had saved India from economical crisis early in 2002 and the healthy state of our economy to sustain steady growth in GDP. Kamath during the drive then asked me about my family business, consulting experience and future aspirations. He appreciated my indepth entrepreneurial experience and cogent decision system, and stated that I have made the perfect career choice. Finally he wished me luck before I bid good bye to my dream CEO.
It was an honour shadowing Kamath for a day. I realised that anyone spending few months under his mentorship, would not only develop strong grounding in the intricacies of banking, but also inculcate the business acumen and leadership qualities inspired by him, and will be prepared to undertake challenging roles in his future endeavour. His quick and rational decision system, ability to cut the noise and focus on relevant but finest of the details, ability to inspire others, and contributing in his own way towards building a better world- encompassing philanthropy and profitability at the same time is more than laudable.