Guest Speakers at PGPX

I recently missed a speech by Mr. Nandan Nilekeni, Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)  at IIM-A campus. While I am sad about that, I got an idea that I should record the list of guest speakers who graced our class rooms so far and provided us gyan about the ground reality… Once I completed this post, I realized that this exercise has helped me re-iterate the concepts and ideas that I learned from these eminent business leaders. Please be warned that this has turned out to be a really long post…

Mr. Achal Raghvan, Ex-VP at Sundram Fasteners Limited and Ex-EVP Ingersoll-Rand gave us an overview of life as a General Manager and the issues and challenges we might face in each step. He effectively made us understand how concepts like Mission, Vision, Values, Strategy, Balanced Scorecard, Strategic Initiatives and Personal objectives come together to put strategy to work. Later in the context of another discussion, I came to know about how Mr. Raghavan innovated the use of BSC (Balanced Score Card) for strategic and tactical decision making exercises in the work place – it was an eye opener for me.

Mr. Anil Agarwal, Chairman of Vedanta Group gave us a very down to earth speech on how to start a business and ensure sustained focus on the goals and how to get around practical difficulties.

Mr. Anil Dua, Sr. Vice President, Hero Honda gave us an overview of how marketing strategies work at the ground level. I always used to wonder how Hero Honda is able to have multiple models in the same segment and they ensure that one model does not cannibalize the other. Mr. Dua gave a very convincing reason and explained the marketing strategies that they deploy to ensure success of all their models. This was one session which reiterated the theoretical concepts that we had acquired in the course and gave us first hand account of the right positioning of the product and ensuring value for all stakeholders.

Mr. Anil Mishra, CEO, National Multi Commodity Exchange, gave us an overview about the Commodity markets and the opportunities available for MBA graduates in the commodity exchanges.

Mr. Anil Velluri, Vice President & Managing Director, Sun Microsystems India gave us a very down to earth speech on leadership and how to manage during tough times. Listening to him made me realize that passion for the work and conviction about your actions will take you a long way… Although “I cannot die everyday” was a passing remark from him, it made a profound impact on me; made me realize that rather than worry and try to play hide and seek with an issue, it is better to face the issue head-on and resolve it. One more point that was effectively conveyed was that even the best designed strategy needs people to implement it and a successful manager needs a team that resonates with his/her thought process.

Mr. Chandran Sankaran founder and CEO of Zyme Solutions spoke to us about ways in which he has achieved ‘non-linear’ revenue growth in his S/W (BPO) company. He made me understand that BPO is not just about identifying an existing process at onsite and shifting it to offshore. It has to go beyond it and try and address the pains that the client is facing even if it involves setting up a new process at offshore. His business is an example wherein once the client realizes the value being generated due to the domain expertise possessed by the BPO, he/she might be willing to pay more than what is being spent in-house.

Mr. Gautam Doshi Group Managing Director at Reliance ADAG talked to us about managing a conglomerate, how an effective leader needs all-round capabilities in all areas and the global trends in Telecom in the context of M&A.

Mr. Hitesh Oberoi COO of Info Edge India Ltd (holding company of,,,, etc.) talked to us about developing a web based business in India and the challenges that he and his company faced during the start-up and the recession period.  He gave us his perspective on what the Indian customer wants.

Mr. Kewal Handa Managing Director, Pfizer Limited gave us a speech on “Being a CEO” and how expanding one’s sphere of influence in the work place helps in moving up the organization. He also elaborated about the value and power of conviction and the need to transform continuously.

Mr. Mahesh Lal – former CMD HPCL – The one lesson that I learnt from Mr. Lal is the power of humility – how he displayed humility with all the workers when he joined the plant and how this relationship later helped him during a crisis. He also elaborated about a situation where his sub-ordinate was able to provide a better design (than him) for an enhancement project at plant. Actually the context did not require Mr. Lal to elaborate this story. This story reiterated my belief that a manager can be frank to this extent only when he/she is humble enough to learn from anyone and mre than that confident about his/her ability.

Mr. Mike Cockrell – Chief Merchandising Officer for Bharti-Walmart gave us an overview of Walmart’s global expansion plans and reasons to adopt varying strategy for each geography.

Mr. N.S. Rajan, Partner and Asia Pacific Head of Human Capital, Ernst & Young gave us an overview of life of a HR manager.

Mr. Neeraj Swaroop – Regional Chief Executive, India & South Asia Standard Chartered talked to us about the Challenges and Strategic Issues facing the Banking industry.

Mr. Nripendra Misra, IAS, Former Chairperson, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) – shared with us the lessons learned from Managing TRAI and how this learning can be transferred to other similar institutions in India. He talked to us about India’s future needs from the Telecom industry.

Mr. Parvaiz Dalal, Senior Vice President, GTS Asia – Royal bank of Scotland talked to us about every day challenges in the finance industry and the role playes by working capital in the organizations.

Mr. Peeyush Gupta, Chief of Marketing and Sales, Tata Steel elaborated about how Tata Steel was successfully able to wake up to competition after liberalization in the 90’s and create a brand image for Tata Steel with the end customers and how it was able to convince its dealers to move to the next level of marketing.

Smt. Reemaben Nanavathy, Chairperson, STFC (SEWA Trade Facilitation Center) attended the class when we were discussing a case on growth strategies for SEWA. Her inputs made us understand the most important issue with Boardroom (or classroom) strategies – that sometimes the market realities demand a different perspective altogether…

Mr. Robert F. Bruner, Dean, Darden B- School, Univeristy of Virginia gave us an overview on issues with M&A and talked about his book – “Deals from Hell: What we can learn from Mergers and Acquisitions that go wrong”

Mr. Shailesh Gandhi Information Commissioner from the Central Information Commission was a pioneer in highlighting the need for RTI and now working in the CIC to ensure that the RTI act gets implemented in its spirit and benefits the common man. According to me an effective usage of RTI in India will help in putting a brake on bribery and reduce those illegal practices that affect the common man.

Mr. Srivatsa Krishna, IAS talked about the rise of India as an emerging economic power in the context of major advances in thought leadership in infrastructure strategy and execution, and the unique risks that often visit such projects, especially risks pertaining to their financing, governance and execution.

Mr. Sunil Chainani, Director, Fabindia Overseas Pvt. Ltd elaborated how Fabindia is able to meet the twin objectives of growth and CSR – or rather growth with CSR.

Mr. Surya Sethi, IAS, Principal Adviser, Power & Energy gave us an Overview of India’s Energy Scenario and the Relevant Policy Implications.

Mr. Sethi visited us again in Oct (he had retired by then). In the past, in his role in Govt of India, he had a first-hand experience in Enron’s Dhabol Power Plant project and he used this context to help us understand the Pitfalls in International Business.

Mr. Umang Bedi, Managing Director & Mr. U.V.G Sekar, Head-Human Resources  – Intuit (Intuit owns several S/W products like Turbotax, Quickbooks etc.) talked to us about how innovation and understanding the stated and unstated needs of the customer has helped Intuit reap success in US and how they are currently engaged in translating this success in the Indian S/W market.

Apart from these, we also had the opportunity to watch recorded speeches of several eminent speakers. One that stands in my memory is a speech by Mr. Vijay Govindarajan on the need to think out of box and innovate for the future – innovation for 2025 should start right now…

If you are thinking that this was a huge list, then I do want to point out that all this happened between June and October 2009 and there might be a few whom I forgot to include (Thanks to my buddies Guru and Debottam for helping me remember these names…). Hoping for even more gyan accumulation in my last term.

– Ganesh Jayaraman


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