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‘ISB PORTRAITS’ is a humble endeavour to showcase the impact of the School through the stories of some of our alumni and unravel what lies behind their inspiring career journeys.

It is now 15 years since ISB's founding and, in that time, the strength of its alumni body has grown to more than 7,500. To celebrate this journey, the Office of Alumni Relations sought a memorable way to highlight the School’s collective achievement and capture the essence of its impact on individuals and society. Ultimately, we felt that there was no better way to achieve this than by telling the stories of its most valued custodians — its alumni — and, in doing so, distill the elements of their success: their drive, versatility, leadership and imagination. The result is ISB Portraits, a sampling of 73 movers and shakers among our alumni, who are making their mark in the world today as business leaders, creative entrepreneurs, artists, and even sportspersons. Together, these stories of achievement showcase a slice of the ISB DNA and the footprint of ISB alumni across a spectrum of industries and fields. As our alumni body grows and extends its presence across the world, we hope to periodically update ISB Portraits so that it remains an evergreen insight into the quintessence of an ISB alumnus.

Compilation of ISB Portraits

To select profiles for ISB Portraits, Office of Alumni Relations solicited nominations from the School’s alumni, faculty, students and administrators. A committee made up of senior ISB staff, faculty and alumni oversaw the process of evaluating the nominees. Nearly 250 alumni were nominated and divided into five professional categories. Thereafter, sub-committees comprising staff and specialists with the relevant expertise corresponding to each professional category were set up to conduct an assessment against a set of pre-established parameters. This assessment process resulted in a shortlist of alumni who would be featured in the compilation.
An editorial team, with alumni at the helm, prepared the alumni profiles. Each alumnus was interviewed by the writers with the aim of capturing their unique qualities, experiences and professional trajectory, and this formed the basis of the vignettes in the compilation.

Aakash Chaudhry

PGP Class of 2004

Aakash Shah

PGP Class of 2006

Aarthi Ramesh

PGP Class of 2003

Abhijeet K. Vadera

PGP Class of 2003

Abhishek Pandey

PGP Class of 2004

Ajit Andhare

PGP Founding Class

Aju Jacob

PGPMAX Founding Class

Ankur Warikoo

PGP Class of 2006

Annie Mathew

PGP Class of 2006

Anuradha Parekh

PGP Class of 2007

Arun Shenoy

PGP Class of 2010

Atul Satija

PGP Class of 2004

Ayeleen Ajanee Saleh

PGP Class of 2006

Bijai Jayarajan

PGP Founding Class

Biju Mohandas

PGP Class of 2007

Deepesh Agarwal

PGP Class of 2009

Dilipkumar Khandelwal

PGPMAX Class of 2013

Don Mohanlal

PGPMAX Class of 2012

Ester Martinez

PGP Class of 2004

Feroze Mohammed

PGPMAX Class of 2013

Gaurav Porwal

PGP Class of 2010

Gautham Krishnan

PGP Class of 2011

Gopal Khetan

PGP Class of 2004

Imal Fonseka

PGPMAX Founding Class

Kalyan T Chakravarthy

PGP Class of 2004

Kamal Gianchandani

PGPMAX Class of 2013

Kedar Lele

PGP Class of 2004

Krishna Depura

PGP Class of 2006

Krishnan Kutty

PGP Class of 2004

Dr. Mahesh Joshi

PGPMAX Founding Class

ManikGupta

PGP Class of 2008

MeherAfroz

PGPMAX Founding Class

NalinJain

PGP Founding Class

NeerajJain

PGPMAX Class of 2012

PrashanAgarwal

PGP Class of 2004

PrashantBangur

PGP Class of 2003

PrashanthVasu

PGP Founding Class

DhimantParekh

PGP Class of 2007

DeepitSingh

PGP Class of 2003

JagdeepGambhir

PGP Class of 2012

NeerajArora

PGP Class of 2006

RahulBanerjee

PGP Founding Class

RajKamal

PGP Class of 2003

Rajendra PNatekar

PGPMAX Class of 2012

Rajiv Bajaj

PGPMAX Founding Class

Rajiv Nair

PGPMAX Founding Class

Ramkumar R

PGP Class of 2006

Ravinder Singh

PGP Class of 2012

Ravindra Upadrashta

PGP Class of 2005

Reshma Krishnan Barshikar

PGP Class of 2003

Rohit Kapoor

PGP Class of 2006

Ruchi Kalra

PGP Class of 2007

Sai Prasad Vishwanathan

PGP Class of 2011

Sandeep Gudibanda

PGP Class of 2010

Sanjiv Bhagat

PGPMAX Class of 2012

Dr.Satyanarayana Chava

PGPMAX Founding Class

SaurabhKhedekar

PGP Class of 2008

SauravPanda

PGP Class of 2010

SeemantJauhari

PGP Class of 2005

ShahnawazAli

PGP Class of 2010

ShikhaBagai

PGPMAX Founding Class

SimranKhara

PGP Class of 2006

SubramaniRamachandrappa

PGP Class of 2004

SuhailAlam

PGP Founding Class

TarunDavda

PGP Class of 2009

UmangKumar

PGP Class of 2006

VarshaBhawnani

PGP Class of 2004

Ved ManiTiwari

PGPMAX Class of 2013

VijayDalmia

PGP Class of 2003

VikasChadda

PGP Class of 2007

VirenRasquinha

PGP Class of 2009

YashrajErande

PGP Class of 2006

ZahabiyaKhorakiwala

PGP Class of 2009

Aakash Chaudhry

PGP, Class of 2004

THE PASSION TO SET NEW BENCHMARKS, SUPPORT THE GROWTH TRAJECTORY OF THE FAMILY ENTERPRISE AND PROVIDE A PLATFORM FOR STUDENTS TO PERFORM DRIVES AAKASH TO DO MORE.

" IF YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT SOMETHING, YOU HAVE TO INVEST IN IT, AND NOT JUST MONEY BUT TIME TOO. IF YOUR INTENTIONS ARE GOOD AND YOUR PLANNING IS GOOD, THINGS MAY BE DELAYED BUT THEY WILL HAPPEN FOR SURE "


Aakash didn’t set out with a clear life plan. An engineering background, an unimpressive career start and a failed attempt at an entrepreneurial venture pushed Aakash to enhance his knowledge of business management. He studied general management at the National University of Singapore and then joined ISB, which gave him the necessary business frameworks and knowledge. Post-ISB, Aakash got a peep into how businesses are run during his corporate stints with Infosys and Cognizant, and then decided to switch gears and join the family business in 2006. Aakash Educational Services offered coaching for competitive engineering, medical and foundation-level entrance exams.

The family business gave him ample opportunities to freely experiment and innovate within the education arena, which had always struggled with issues of maintaining quality with scale. His mission was to transform a small, homegrown, proprietary outfit into a professionally managed corporate entity – not only as a way to solve the quality-with-scale issue, but also to set a benchmark in the industry. He says, ‘Although a brick-and mortar business threw its own daily challenges for growth, it was the fear of becoming another Eastman Kodak that drove me to think beyond boundaries and create parallel business models and give longer sustenance to the family enterprise. The impact of technology disruptions was increasingly becoming visible in most sectors.’ He ventured into digital education delivery and launched the Aakash iTutor initiative – a round-theclock teaching assistant for students, along with virtual classrooms, centres, e-learning solutions and distance learning programmes targeting Tier II and III cities. It could be said that he spawned the genesis of technology learning for the entire classroom coaching industry in India.

Most importantly, on his journey to success, he has learned the art of filtering lessons from failures, converting failed emotions into energy, and remaining focused on getting what he wants through the formula: Knowledge (skill) + experience (own & peers) + current situation (urgency & availability) + gut + values = Best shot decision.

Aakash is also the founder of Aerika Cineworks, a movie production company built on the ‘3E’ formula - educate, empower and entertain, and of Flynk Innovations, a mobile technology products company.

Aakash Shah

PGP, Class of 2006

BORN AND BROUGHT UP IN A FAMILY WHERE DOING BUSINESS IS A WAY OF LIFE, AAKASH WANTED TO MAKE AN IMPRESSION, HE MANAGED TO CREATE HIS OWN SPACE WITHIN THE FAMILY BUSINESS AND FULFIL HIS PASSION FOR SERVING INDIA’S FARMERS AT THE SAME TIME.

" YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE IN LOVE WITH SOMETHING FROM THE BEGINNING. BUT YOU DO NEED TO KEEP YOURSELF OPEN TO ALLOW IT TO GROW ON YOU "


Aakash knew what he wanted to achieve in life. He belonged to a business family and had continued to work for the family business while at college. But he wanted to truly understand the workings of global organisations and apply that understanding to his own family business. So, he joined NIIT Learning Solutions in Chicago as Director of Business Development and, after working for a few years at NIIT, the entrepreneur in him resurfaced and he decided to head back to India and start a new division within the family business - a division that provided mechanised farming solutions to Indian farmers.

Aakash learned to appreciate the unique challenges faced by Indian farmers, such as dealing with small and scattered farm holdings, the fast decreasing availability of farm labour and the vagaries of nature. From recognising the needs of Indian farmers and assessing the products they needed, to understanding the market as well as the existing gricultural machinery and products available to farmers, Aakash’s passion for making a difference in this sector enabled him to launch a series of product and service offerings that kept in mind the constraints of the Indian farmer and the problems he grapples with. Not being an engineer, Aakash decided to dive deep into the subject of mechanised farm equipment and become an expert by travelling through more than 100 districts across the country.

Aakash is the Director of KisaanGo Agrosol Private Limited and the CEO of the Mechanised Farm Solutions business within the NIPHA Group. Aakash has become so immersed in his domain that if there’s a business opportunity that is not connected to farming, he tends to overlook it. He says that he sees a lot of business people who have a passion for money, not for the line of work they are in. For him, it is the other way around.

Aarthi Ramesh

PGP, Class of 2003

AARTHI IS KNOWN FOR HER RAZOR-SHARP MIND AND PHENOMENAL WORK ETHIC, WHICH HAVE HELPED HER ACHIEVE SUCCESS IN BOTH THE ACADEMIC AND CORPORATE WORLDS.

" FOCUS ON MAKING THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU SUCCESSFUL AND YOUR OWN SUCCESS WILL AUTOMATICALLY FOLLOW "

‘Focus is what has got me here,’ says Aarthi, as we discuss her journey. She graduated from NITTrichy as the ‘Best Outgoing Student’, topped her class at ISB and was named ‘ISB Scholar of Excellence’. She was also one of 14 executives across the country to receive the Fulbright-Nehru-CII-Fellowship. She is now the COO of one of the business units at Cognizant.

Fascinated by technology, Aarthi chose to work right after college, rather than follow her classmates down the CAT-IIM route. ‘I wanted to be part of the technology revolution and was attracted by the constant learning it required of me,’ she explains. Three and a half years at Siemens in India and Aarthi realised she needed global exposure. She quit Siemens and relocated to the US. There, she created a space for herself as an independent consultant and gained access to cutting-edge technologies. Call it intuition or luck, but she managed to escape the dotcom bust.

The ISB announcement, she says, couldn’t have come at a better time. She and her husband, Prakash, joined the Class of 2003 together – the first married couple to do so. Aarthi excelled at ISB, which she says had a lasting impact on her career and gave her the confidence to face Cognizant’s dynamic work atmosphere. In fact, she had to gradually build Cognizant’s Asia- Pacific business unit. ‘It was a blue ocean, almost like a startup,” she says. Aarthi successfully set up the support structure across different countries, hiring key leadership teams while streamlining business development and operations. Her penchant to innovate and learn is amply satisfied at Cognizant, and it is one of the reasons she continues to work there after all these years.

She credits her parents for her drive – her professor mother who balanced work and caring for three children, and her father, a renowned theatre artist who told her, “If a thing has to be done, it has to be done very well.” This serves her well today as she balances her own career aspirations and her commitment to being there for her family – her two daughters and her entrepreneur husband.

Abhijeet K. Vadera

PGP , Class of 2003

CURRENTLY ON THE RESEARCH TENURE TRACK AT SMU, ABHIJEET SPECIALISES IN ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR AND YEARNS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES CREATIVE PEOPLE TICK AND WHAT DRIVES PEOPLE TO UNETHICAL BEHAVIOUR.

" SUCCESS IS MORE THAN PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS. I AM A STUDENT FOR LIFE AND BELIEVE THAT LIFE’S DISAPPOINTMENTS ARE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES THAT HAVE MADE ME THE PERSON I AM TODAY "

Abhijeet wanted to be a civil engineer when he was a boy; he dreamed of building and creating something from scratch. This is exactly what he does now, only bricks have been replaced by research and cement by data. From our time at ISB, I remembered the sparkle of curiosity in his eyes and his keen ability to listen, especially during his favourite course – Managing Organisations - the trigger that set him on a path to a PhD. ‘I used to take 10 pages of notes in Huggy’s lectures and had so many thoughts that I used to seek him out and question him for hours,’ he recalls. Prof. Hayagreeva Rao (‘Huggy’) encouraged him to seek answers for himself, which he did as a TA at ISB instead of pursuing a career outside. ‘It was a tough decision. I was giving up my father’s business and choosing to stay behind while my friends got lucrative jobs, but this was what I enjoyed.’

As he began to delve deeper into research methodology, he became fascinated by the process of validating theories. ’There were 25 different methods to test 25 different theories!’ he says. A doctorate was the natural next step, and he joined the PhD programme at University of Illinois, which he counts as the best six years of his life. ‘Intellectually, it was the perfect fit. And personally, I learned how to cook and fend for myself.’ It wasn’t easy. He failed his first comprehensive exams but is now thankful for the silver lining. ‘I received constructive criticism from 12 different people, leading to a dissertation that was way better than what it would have been if I hadn’t failed.’ He went on to become an Assistant Professor at ISB and designed and developed a course and taught it for five years until he knew it was time for a change. He joined SMU in 2015. ‘I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see if I could cut it somewhere else. ISB was home and it’s been a wonderful ride, but it was time to grow up,’ he says, ‘all over again.’

Abhishek Pandey

PGP , Class of 2004

A RESTLESS SPIRIT, ABHISHEK BRINGS HIS PASSION FOR SHIPPING TO THE WORLD OF FINANCE WHILE STILL FULFILLING HIS NEED FOR GLAMOUR THROUGH AN INVESTMENT IN A CARIBBEAN DINING AND COCKTAILS CONCEPT.

" Most of us have the same technical skills and we need to analyse ourselves on an absolute rather than a relative basis. Always focus on what you are good at and borrow what you can from others to get the job done! "

‘I think I wanted to be Captain Haddock,’ says Abhishek, recalling his childhood ambitions, ‘but even that didn’t last long.’ The only thing he knew for certain was that whatever he did, it had to be different, an idea nurtured by his father whom he considers his role model. So when it came down to engineering or heading to Mumbai to become a Navigating Officer, Abhishek chose the latter, lured by the glamour of sailing and the chance to be close to his friends in Mumbai. After finishing his degree in Nautical Sciences from Mumbai University, he became a Junior Navigating Officer on a large crude oil tanker braving Portland winters – glamorous indeed! On the back of hard work, Abhishek received promotion after promotion while learning first-hand what it meant to be brave and work in a team. Then one day, he heard the word ‘MBA,’ and his penchant to explore landed him at ISB.

Fortunately for him, the school encouraged his restless ways. ‘ISB reassured me it was okay not to know what I wanted to achieve. It was not about finding me a job but about equipping me to be the best at whatever I did.’ It was also at ISB that he met his future wife Sipika. Post- ISB, his career took many turns, first in IT, then back to a shipping division at a South American company until he found himself in Singapore in 2007 with no idea of what he wanted to do, again. However, what he did have this time around was a thorough knowledge of shipping and the determination to make anything work. So he tapped into his ISB network and became a banker, focusing on shipping finance and investments. ‘I spent the first 15 days learning how to run financial models from my ISB roommates!’ he recalls. He believes his journey so far is a little bit of, ‘right place at the right time,’ and a belief that he can deliver on anything, backed by hard work and a spouse, family and friends who are ready to see him through anything.

Ajit Andhare

PGP, Founding Class

THE QUINTESSENTIAL OUTSIDER AND PIONEER OF THE BOLLYWOOD BIOPIC, AJIT IS KNOWN FOR BRINGING PROFESSIONALISM TO THE INDIAN MEDIA CONTENT BUSINESS AND HOPES TO PRODUCE ANOTHER ‘QUEEN’ IN THE NEXT 24 MONTHS.

" I FALL BACK ON FUNDAMENTALS, ON CONSCIENCE, WHILE KEEPING IN MIND THE CONTEXT OF THE DECISION. I ALWAYS REMIND MYSELF THAT WHAT APPEARS MONUMENTAL ONE MOMENT IS A SPECK IN THE LARGER LIFE CONTEXT "


Ajit grew up wanting to be an inventor; he dreamt of building a robot with vision. By the age of eight, he had built a prototype to sense water levels in a cooling system. Ajit credits his creativity to growing up in the Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute campus in Pilani, a ‘utopia’ free from the distractions of city life, which inspired him to follow his bliss - theatre, building gadgets and questioning everything. He went on to engineering college, only to find it was far too straight jacketed to incubate an inventor. ‘I felt like Rancho from Three Idiots,’ he says. Putting his creative alter ego aside, he earned a place in the prestigious Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) management trainee programme. By 25, he was running HLL’s `500 million animal feed business in North India. Realising a management degree could round off his learning, he jumped at the chance to be part of ISB’s Founding Class, after which he returned to HLL to lead sales and marketing of its detergent brand, Wheel, its first brand to cross the `10 billion turnover mark. In rebranding Wheel, he veered off the traditional advertising route and created a game show, Wheel Smart Srimati, which got his creative juices flowing again. He toyed with the idea of starting his own media business, but was, he recalls, ‘caught in the Matrix of Unilever’s regional marketing world while I was itching to do something to make a big creative impact.’

With the help of Raghav Bahl at Network 18, Ajit founded his entrepreneurial venture Colosceum, which produced renowned franchises such as Splitsvilla, Roadies and Masterchef India. In 2013, Ajit exited Colosceum and went on to head Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, scripting a turnaround with a new wave of films that included Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, Manjhi: The Mountain Man, Queen and Drishyam. ‘I am not here to manage. I am here to build,’ he says. Ajit’s strength lies in applying fundamental principles and using his ‘outsider status’ to rewrite the rules of the game. He dreams of directing a film one day, laughing as he adds, ‘but for that I would have to really take my suit off.’

Aju Jacob

PGPMAX, Founding Class

THE DIRECTOR OF SYNTHITE, A GLOBAL LEADER IN SPICE OLEORESINS WITH A TURNOVER OF OVER US$225 MILLION, AJU JACOB SET THE DIRECTION OF A BUSINESS THAT HAS BECOME THE EPITOME OF FLAVOUR, FRAGRANCE AND SEASONING WORLDWIDE.

" DOING YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE INITIATING ANY NEW ACTIVITY IS CRUCIAL. LEARNING FROM FAILURES AND IMPROVING EVERY TIME IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD "


Aju’s story is about connecting the dots. Chemical engineering was a path chosen for him by his father, but he defined it and took it in a direction all his own. He has big plans for the family spice business Synthite, a successful enterprise that he intends to strengthen further. But success for Aju is not in money or fame; he believes in the carpe diem approach — seizing opportunities and never postponing what is on the ‘to do list’.

Aju’s entrepreneurial adventure began when his father gave him sufficient freedom to run the company. He dived in, immersing himself in all aspects of the business and working towards making it more process-oriented and efficient at every level. As someone who is ‘motivated by new challenges and stays committed throughout the course,’ his strategy was to ‘persevere and onboard the right kind of people’ to see whether they could convert opportunities into real business. Establishing a full-fledged line for processing paprika in China and gaining significant world market share were major turning points that gave him the confidence to pursue bigger challenges. He embraced every opportunity to grow the company, from procuring the right sort of resources and acquiring key equipment, to setting up facilities, mechanising processes and implementing technology improvements. His current focus is on establishing a secure base in food ingredients, enabling the company to address the value chain from farm to fork, thereby giving customers confidence, and providing sustainable supplies in terms of both quality and quantity.

With the global trend moving towards natural alternatives, Aju’s operational market-oriented strategies have clearly made a mark. The group’s turnover has grown from a modest .`77.3 million in 1987 to .`16 billion today. Riding the liberalisation wave, Synthite today commands over 30% share of the global market, contributing over 40% of the spice oleoresins exports from India. Further growth is on the agenda. Synthite has established six manufacturing units in India, set up offices in the United States, Europe, China and Sri Lanka and is geared up to attain a target of .`30 billion by 2020. Aju is currently focusing his efforts on strengthening the company’s backward integration programme, strategic growth areas and new product development and research.

Ankur Warikoo

PGP, Class of 2006

ANKUR HAD EVERYTHING PLANNED OUT – STUDY PHYSICS, GO TO THE US AND GET HIS PHD, JOIN NASA AND BECOME THE FIRST MAN TO STEP ON MARS. BUT INSTEAD, ANKUR BECAME AN ENTREPRENEUR, CONSULTANT AND ANGEL INVESTOR.

" SUCCESS IS YOUR ONLY OPTION, FAILURE IS NOT "


As a young boy, Ankur dreamt of becoming an astronaut and the first man to step on Mars. He dedicated himself to this dream, and even went to the US to earn a PhD in Physics. But the years he spent there changed his perspective on life. He came back to India with a Masters in Astrophysics from Michigan State University, but had no idea what career to pursue. He joined ISB thinking it would reset his life, which to a large extent proved to be true. After graduating, Ankur joined A.T. Kearney as a Management Consultant and cofounded Accentium Web in 2007. He later joined Rocket Internet in 2011 as a Venture Partner and set up their India office, and he was also a part of the pre-launch team for Jabong. com before moving on to Groupon. It was then that he decided to pull off the single most courageous decision of his career and proposed to buy out Groupon from its US management.

After rigorous discussions lasting 13 months, he became the first to buy out the subsidiary of a publicly listed US company in August 2015, and converted Groupon India into Nearbuy, independent of the Groupon portfolio.

Ankur believes that courage is the most important quality one can have because it guarantees that almost everything else will fall into place. ‘You make your own definition of success. If you choose your own path, create your own goals and follow your own passions, you will always be the best at what you do. It is about having the conviction to say that it is the right thing to do,’ he says.

Ankur takes inspiration from Elon Musk, who he has been tracking for 13 years. An avid reader, he cites Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing about Hard Things as having had an extremely strong influence on him. Ankur has also developed a ‘Failure Résumé,’ a catalogue of failures and rejected applications, which he thinks would enable others to realise that their problems and challenges are similar to everyone else’s.

Annie Mathew

PGP , Class of 2006

FOR ANNIE, DREAMING BIG AND BOLD IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT CHANGES THE WAY ONE THINKS AND PLANS. SHE BELIEVES THAT TRUE LEADERSHIP AND SUCCESS IS ABOUT WORKING TOWARDS THE GREATER GOOD AND GOING OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE.

" IF YOU ARE SITTING AT A PIVOTAL POSITION, YOU HAVE A LOT OF POWER TO CONTRIBUTE TO NATION BUILDING.YOU CAN EITHER USE IT OR LOSE IT "


Not many would expect a businesswoman to quote one of Sachin Tendulkar’s theories – “Hit each ball well, and don’t think about the century” - as her inspiration. But then, Annie has had a career almost as interesting as the Master Blaster. As a young child, Annie was influenced by the strong personalities of her parents and grew up discussing management philosophies and techniques, union negotiation tactics and the importance of work-life balance. She dreamed of a career in management and leading an organisation at some point. But her reasoning and mathematical abilities first led her to a career in engineering and she paved her own path to success, adapting herself to every change she encountered in her career. Joining ISB, she says was the culmination of many years of hunger for pure learning and a validation of the management theories she had learnt.

Annie feels that it is imperative to have the ability to see the larger picture so that one’s professional work contributes to the larger good, especially to nation building. This is what spurs her to do more with less – it is the reason she finds time to contribute to the Startup Village, India’s first PPP model technology business incubator and the AP Innovation Society, among others.

Annie has been credited with designing, developing and deploying the business continuity management system for Tech Mahindra (formerly Satyam) and for facilitating servicelevel agreement-based continuity plans specific to customers spanning 35 locations globally, 18 business units and 26 offshore development centres. She contributed towards augmenting the BlackBerry (BB) 10 ecosystem and establishing Rubus Labs, the Blackberry Innovation

Centre at Kochi Startup Villages to drive innovative solutions from Indian entrepreneurs. She extensively influenced ‘first on BlackBerry’ solutions – the first non-iOS app from Conde Nast, India’s first digital payment solution in theatres using NFC, full mobile control of a car from a BB10 device, and more. And she led strategic partnerships with hospitals to create mHealth solutions in partnership with service integrators like TCS and UST Global. Annie was also instrumental in establishing BlackBerry as a technology brand in India and has piloted and formalised many successful models of working with startup ecosystems.

Anuradha Parekh

PGP , Class of 2007

FROM AN EXPERIMENTAL PROJECT BORN OUT OF PASSION, THE BETTER INDIA HAS GROWN INTO A DIGITAL MEDIA PLATFORM THAT BRINGS ALL THE GOOD HAPPENING IN INDIA TO THE FORE AND CURRENTLY RECEIVES 50 MILLION VISITORS A MONTH, SHOWING US THAT WE REALLY DO WANT TO READ ABOUT THE CHANGE WE WANT TO BE.

" DO NOT DEPEND TOO MUCH ON THE VALIDATION OF VENTURE CAPITALISTS OR CONSULTANTS OR ANYONE YOU THINK KNOWS MORE THAN YOU. NOBODY KNOWS MORE ABOUT YOUR IDEA THAN YOU DO, AND NOBODY CAN RUN IT WITH BETTER CONVICTION THAN YOU CAN "


Anuradha dreamed of becoming an astronaut or perhaps even an architect, but the one thing she didn’t foresee was running a media company.  ‘‘People assume that since I’m running a media company, I must be a journalist. I’m not. I’m an engineer! What this has taught me is that sometimes it’s futile to plan way ahead, because you never know what life has in store for you and where it will eventually take you,’  she says.  

she reminisces about joining an international property consultancy after she graduated from ISB. During the first three months of working there, she constantly felt let down by the news and how it never gave her the full picture. ‘So many of us were doing good work and nothing was being showcased.’ Finding the current views of what was newsworthy extremely myopic, she and her husband Dhimant set about launching a blog to collect positive news. Her background in engineering rather than journalism meant that she had a different perspective from the mainstream media. ‘Problemsolving comes more naturally to me than hunting for problems to report. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been able to take a different approach to journalism – one that is focused on the solutions and not the issues, ’ Anuradha says.

Soon enough, contributors began to volunteer stories and widened the scope. ‘Readers were writing in to say how their lives had changed.’ The initiative gained so much momentum that Anuradha knew something had to give. She credits Dhimant for empowering her to take the leap and focus on her passion full-time. ‘Nothing can teach you more than starting your own venture, and I think everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime.’ Success, she says, is a goal that changes with time, and for now, Anuradha’s goal is to impact the lives of at least a million people by the end of the year.

Arun Shenoy

PGP, Class of 2010

A STINKER FROM A CUSTOMER BROUGHT ARUN TO INDIA TO FIND A SOLUTION TO THE CUSTOMER’S PAIN ON BEHALF OF HIS EMPLOYER. SOLVE THE PROBLEM HE DID, BUT THE PROCESS SET HIM OFF ON A JOURNEY TO START GIBSS, PERHAPS THE HOTTEST GREEN BUSINESS IN INDIA TODAY, WHICH IS SAVING BUILDING OWNERS 60% IN OPERATING COSTS.

" GETTING INTO A GOOD SCHOOL MAKES YOU TOLERANT. THE DIVERSITY AND INTERACTIONS SUCH A SCHOOL PROVIDES TEACH YOU TO ACCOMMODATE EVERYONE’S OPINIONS, INTERESTS AND ASPIRATIONS. THEY ENABLE YOU TO DEVELOP INSIGHTS INTO REAL ISSUES AND SOLVE PROBLEMS "


By the time he finished his engineering studies, Arun had to make some tough life choices. Despite the fact that he had lost both his parents and had limited resources to support himself, he spurned the chance to join a growing IT industry. Instead, he decided to pursue a Master’s degree at Oklahoma State University, specialising in geothermal technology. ‘I knew things would fall in place,’ he says.

Stints at Climate Master and Trane followed, and it was a role at Climate Master that eventually brought him back to India to solve a customer’s problem. Once back in India, things moved quickly for Arun; he met his business partner, found his soulmate and gained admission to ISB in quick succession. In Mandar Kaprekar, his business partner, Arun found his clone. Kaprekar had a similar interest in geothermal technology, had come back to India to start a business, and had worked with him at Trane India. Arun convinced Mandar to stay put in his job while he finished his education at ISB. In February 2010, Mandar quit his job while Arun incubated their business at ISB, ditched the placement process, won the prize for the best business at the The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) contest, and started working out of a coffee shop in Hiranandani complex in Mumbai. After meeting with over 50 hotels, the pair landed a pilot project with the Leela Group, a Rs. 3.1 million effort that forced them to borrow money at a 60% interest rate. But the pilot’s success led to new opportunities.

Today, GIBSS is executing some of the world’s largest geothermal air conditioning installations in India. It has won 13 innovation awards in the last three years, including recognitions from the government. In the midst of all this, Arun convinced angel investors to fund the company’s initial growth, built a leadership team and carried out a promise he had made to himself: to marry his soulmate Namita after he got his first paycheck. ‘I had to postpone our wedding twice until after I got my first salary in December 2011 after two years of bootstrapping. Yet, she patiently waited for me to settle down,’ he says.

Atul Satija

PGP, Class of 2004

WITH BACKING FROM NANDAN NILEKANI, TATA TRUSTS AND MANY OTHERS, ATUL SATIJA’S NONPROFIT THE/NUDGE WANTS TO SOLVE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WE FACE TODAY – POVERTY – AND TO CHANGE THE LIVES OF ONE MILLION PEOPLE BY 2020.

" DON’T TAKE THE EASY WAY OUT. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF AND KEEP YOUR DREAMS AT THE FOREFRONT "


For Atul, charity began at home. After his family lost everything in the Partition, his father, the only earner among his siblings, was determined to take care of the family on a meagre government salary. Witnessing the power of giving at such an early age, it isn’t surprising that Atul wanted to be the change he wished to see. His only regret today is that he spent 10 post-ISB years waiting to do it, constantly assessing the risks, instead of plunging ahead.

After graduating from ISB in 2004, Atul first joined Adobe and then moved to Google, where he quickly rose to head the mobile business for Japan and the Asia- Pacific region. But corporate success seemed ‘uni-dimensional’ to him and he began volunteering at End Poverty in 2008. There, he worked at the grassroot level, getting the logo designed, visiting villages around Haryana and helping the organisation set up a good business model and processes. He was soon working as many hours in his volunteer job as he was in his ‘real’ job, so much so that End Poverty offered to make him Chairman of the Board. Around this time, Atul began feeling he had hit the ceiling for Google’s India base. He moved to Bangalore and joined a startup, InMobi, which went on to become one of India’s most respected global product stories. However, he regretted the loss of momentum he had made in social work, and finally in 2014, he began working towards starting his own nonprofit. The/Nudge Foundation was born in July 2015 with the vision of sustainable and scalable poverty alleviation. He had always thought of doing this after retirement, but found himself ‘pushed to do it fulltime sooner than planned. ’ He says, ‘I always knew I wouldn’t be able to negotiate with myself. Money has not been important, but self-belief was critical. If I had more confidence in my abilities, I would have taken this decision 10 years ago because it’s not like the money I made in 10 years has made a difference.’ His advice? ‘Volunteer sooner. If you know you want to do something, act on it now.’

Ayeleen Ajanee Saleh

PGP , Class of 2006

A POWERFUL DESIRE TO ADDRESS THE NEEDS AND ASPIRATIONS OF THE POOR AND MARGINALISED HAS DRIVEN AYELEEN’S WORK WITH DIVERSE ORGANISATIONS IN THE DEVELOPMENT SECTOR AND INSPIRED HER TO START AMAR DHAKA, AN ORGANISATION THAT IS REVITALISING AND RECLAIMING PUBLIC SPACES FOR THE COMMUNITY.

" HAVE THE AUDACITY TO TAKE ON A BIG ISSUE OF YOUR TIME. TRUST YOURSELF AND GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO FAIL. BUT ALWAYS LET THE BEAUTY YOU LOVE BE WHAT YOU DO "


Growing up, Ayeleen was sure she wanted to work in the development sector. The stark contrasts between the haves and have-nots encouraged her to do her part to bridge the divide. She began her career as a Management Trainee in Unilever, working in a remote part of Pakistan, where she was first exposed to communities that lacked access to basic needs. After graduating from ISB in 2006, she joined Acumen as part of their first cohort of Global Fellows. At Acumen, she was assigned to work with Kashf Foundation, a microfinance organisation serving women in rural Pakistan, and later joined the fledgling Aman Foundation to set its vision and strategy. In 2009, she moved to Bangladesh and joined Friendship, a nonprofit that supported isolated, marginalised communities living in extreme poverty. On a floating hospital serving riverine communities, she had an experience that profoundly affected her. A six-year-old girl asked Ayeleen if she had a doll. The child had never seen or played with one. Ayeleen was rendered speechless that this little girl had never experienced what most girls her age take for granted.

The challenges faced by young people she encountered during this period led her to join Bangladesh Youth Leadership Centre in 2013. Here, she provided training to youth from diverse backgrounds to address challenges in their own communities with compassion, courage and competence.

Her latest project was inspired by a question from her toddler son about the garbage in the city’s streets and lakes. This made her realise that, ‘at the very least, I am accountable for my neighbourhood’. She began Amar Dhaka, a startup whose mission is to revive public spaces through art. It engages artists and community members in creating a vibrant environment that promotes open interaction, exchange of ideas and civic responsibility. Amar Dhaka is now building a children’s library and playground in a public park.

Ayeleen’s every decision has been driven by a need to get out of her comfort zone, challenge the status quo, travel and acquire a worldview that answers a question her mother, a social worker, asked her when she was young, ‘What will you leave behind that is greater than you?’

Bijai Jayarajan

PGP, Founding Class

FOR A RELUCTANT ENTREPRENEUR, JAYARAJAN HAS CERTAINLY CHANGED THE IDEA OF RESTRAINT AND WANTS TO USE THE CONSUMER INTELLIGENCE HIS COMPANY GATHERS TO CHANGE THE WAY CONSUMERS SHOP, THE WAY COMPANIES MARKET, AND ULTIMATELY, THE FACE OF RETAIL.

" AN IDEA IS NOTHING; IT’S ALL ABOUT EXECUTION. DO THE MATH. WORK HARD. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE AND PLAN YOUR FUNDING. EXECUTION IS NOT GLAMOROUS, BUT WITHOUT IT, YOU WON’T MAKE IT FAR "

Though he had never dreamed of running his own shop, that is exactly what Bijai unintentionally found himself doing. ‘I never wanted to do it on my own but no organisation was ready to back the scale of my idea, so I decided to back myself.’ The seeds for his business were sown during his time at Jet Airways, where he led the highly awarded Jet Privilege Frequent Flyer Programme. Once he had learned the ropes of the loyalty business, he moved to MasterCard Worldwide to understand the nuances of the payments business. ‘I handled MasterCard’s relationship with State Bank of India — India’s largest bank and a strategically important client.’

He began to dream about consolidating financial transactions on a large scale and creating consumer behaviour intelligence for the larger good of multiple industries. ‘There was a broad business plan right at the beginning and the idea crystallised along the way.’ Loylty Rewardz was born in 2008 out of a gap he wanted to fill in the consumer direct marketing space. His plan had always been to create a large-scale business, and this approach helped in chasing the big deals and often ignoring the easy, low-hanging fruit. It worked.

Today, Loylty Rewardz manages loyalty programmes for about 870 million consumer profiles, doing about 2.8 billion transactions a year. It also manages programmes for over 73% of all the debit cards issued in India and awards points for one out of every two debit card transactions.

Bijai is inspired by both the people he works with and visionaries like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk who have left long-lasting legacies. Success to him means happiness, which comes from a deep satisfaction with what he does every single day. But he doesn’t belittle the value of wealth creation, which he says is necessary to ensure the security of his family and the future growth of his venture. For someone who believes in making an impact in his life, the idea of work-life balance is unrealistic: ‘If you work hard and love it, why on earth would you retire from it?’

Biju Mohandas

PGP, Class of 2007

AN ERSTWHILE ARMY MAJOR, BIJU MOHANDAS IS WIDELY BELIEVED TO HAVE ENERGISED IFC’S WORK IN HEALTHCARE AND EDUCATION IN AFRICA, SOMETHING HE CREDITS TO A WILLINGNESS TO WORK VERY HARD AND A DEEP NETWORK OF MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS.

" DO SOMETHING THAT YOU TRULY ENJOY SO IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE WORK. PUT IN THE HOURS TO GAIN TECHNICALLY SOUND SKILLS THAT HELP YOU GET TO THE NEXT LEVEL "


Some of us pontificate about giving back to our country; others, like Biju, actually do it. Biju was still a teenager when he decided to volunteer for the Army Medical Corps after watching the Kargil war unfold on television. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic process ensured he was commissioned to the Indian Army only after the war was over, in 2000, and posted to a field ambulance in Assam. The next five years saw him serving less as a doctor than as an administrator, so when his five-year, short service commission ended, he was ready to head to the US to do a Master’s in Health and Administration. ‘As luck would have it,’ he says, he was denied a visa and ended up at ISB. For someone who had not had a telephone connection for years, Biju now found himself constantly connected to everyone, from academicians to CEOs of medical companies. ‘ISB shifted my trajectory; it changed my life. What the Army did in five years, ISB did in one,’ he says

The turning point was a conversation with Reuben Abraham at a party and under the influence of alcohol, about how poverty always leads to unrest and that a combination of both market and social solutions is the only sustainable way to alleviate economic poverty. Enter impact investing. A few calls and meetings later, he was working for Acumen as its Country Business Manager in India. Over the next three years, he helped build Acumen’s India business, investing in healthcare, renewable energy and water, and sanitation enterprises until he headed to Africa to manage Acumen’s East African office. Another party and conversation later, he joined IFC to lead their nascent healthcare and education business in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, IFC has become the largest invester in healthcare in Africa with a $200 million portfolio, which he aims to double in the next three years. For Biju, success goes deeper than a career. He recalls driving down the coast of Kenya with his family and pointing to several schools, clinics and pharmacies in which his team had invested – they were the visible impact of his work and what gives him the most satisfaction.

Deepesh Agarwal

PGP , Class of 2009

AN ENGINEER BY TRAINING, DEEPESH’S STARTUP MOVEINSYNC IS TESTAMENT TO HIS STRONG ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT AND DRIVE FOR INNOVATION. HE IS CONVINCED THAT ALL ONE NEEDS TO MAKE IT AS AN ENTREPRENEUR IS AN ABUNDANCE OF PASSION, INSANITY, INTEGRITY AND HARD WORK.

" THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS TO SUCCESS "


Deepesh’s entrepreneurial spark first found expression during his engineering days at IIT-BHU, Benaras, when, in his third year, he started a T-shirt printing business. He soon had to abandon the enterprise because his grades started slipping, but he had enjoyed his first taste of running his own business. Born to a middleclass family, Deepesh had an ordinary childhood growing up in Jhansi, where his father worked for the State Electricity Board. Aspirations for a successful life entailed a government job, and starting one’s own business was looked upon with disfavour, he recalls. His first job with Infosys in 1998 brought him in contact with the legends of the IT boom, Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji. But during his time there, he was always mindful of the employer-employee divide and felt that not everyone was cut out to be an entrepreneur.

A chance meeting with the founders of MedPlus pharmacy at ISB in 2007, while on a visit to the School, first introduced him to the possibility that anybody could be a businessman if they would just give it an honest chance. He felt that an MBA from ISB would equip him with the required tools to start a business.

Founded in 2009, Moveinsync provides safer and cheaper tech solutions for the daily commutes of employees in companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. It creates and facilitates systems in such a way that the rides are safer and more efficient, especially for female employees who may have to travel at night. For instance, Google used to hire about 225 corporate taxis for its employees. But after it became associated with MoveinSync, the number of taxis came down, the taxi drivers were a happier lot and employees were happy — everyone benefited. Currently, his business has a presence in 13 cities and logs about 200,000 rides a day.

Deepesh remembers his time at ISB fondly. He was clear about what his takeaway from the experience was going to be from the very start. Determined to become an entrepreneur, he availed of every opportunity to further this ambition while he was there, whether it was participating in Business Plan Competitions or founding a wine club. He is, however, of the opinion that one doesn’t necessarily need an MBA to start one’s own business. It may help in building contacts and connectivity, he says, but it is certainly not obligatory.

Dilipkumar Khandelwal

PGPMAX, Class of 2013

THE RELUCTANT SUIT, DILIP IS DRIVEN BY THE IDEALS OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND IS CURRENTLY CHANNELLING THAT PASSION INTO THE SAP STARTUP STUDIO, WHICH OFFERS MENTORSHIP AND FINANCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO BUDDING INNOVATORS.

" WHATEVER THE COMPANY NEEDS, YOU DO. IT IS THE WAY OF THE ENTREPRENEUR. DO IT, BUT IN YOUR OWN UNIQUE WAY. NEVER COMPROMISE "


Dilip Khandelwal comes across as someone who prefers simplicity, a trait he credits to his paternal grandfather, who, as a teenager, left the comforts of his home to begin a successful business in Mumbai. ‘You don’t bother about who you are what you are. Just do” — these words of his grandfather still resonate with him. Dilip, unlike most youth from the Marwar community, did not want to jump into the family business. He realised that if he wanted to scale up and run the business efficiently, he first needed to learn how big businesses were run. So, while his brothers stayed, he went outside to gain some exposure. ‘Today, among my siblings, I am the only one who is an employee. Initially, I told myself that I would work in a corporate job for 10 years to learn, but you can blame SAP for extending this, he laughs.

Dilip never imagined that when he joined SAP in 2001, after a two-year stint at Grasim, he would spend the next 16 years there. ‘SAP is my life now,’ he says, explaining that the company has always been ‘fair’ and given him enough space to feel like an entrepreneur rather than an employee. ‘I am yet to ask for a role change, because I have always gone where I was needed. My path was never planned.’ He enjoys the adventure and thrill of venturing into the unknown, and that is the feeling SAP gives him. From being a Technical Consultant in 2001, Dilip transitioned to a management role in 2004, becoming Senior Vice- President of Quality and Governance, largely by doing ‘things as only he could.’

But his journey has not always been on calm seas; he has had his share of challenges. ‘Partnerships can fail; you will have bad days, but you need to get up and fight,’ Dilip says. He says there are only two reasons that he would ever leave the firm — the day he knows he is no longer needed, or because it’s doing so well that they have found someone better. Until then, he says, ‘I will run it like my own.’

Don Mohanlal

PGPMAX , Class of 2012

A VETERAN IN THE AREA OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT, MOHAN HAS A NUANCED UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN NATURE AND THE CHALLENGES FACING COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE WORLD. AS THE HEAD OF SYNERGOS, HE BELIEVES THAT IF PEOPLE COME TOGETHER AND CO-OPERATE TO ACHIEVE A COMMON VISION, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

" WE ARE PRODUCTS OF OUR MILIEU. TAKE THE ISSUES SERIOUSLY BUT NOT ONESELF TOO SERIOUSLY "


From Sri Lanka to the US and more than a hundred countries in between, Mohan’s journey in global development, from climate and education to food security, has been as an agent of change. What he values most is empathy; he firmly believes that mere knowledge or understanding isn’t enough to bring about change, you have to walk a mile in the shoes of the person you have set out to help. Currently, he is the President and CEO of Synergos, a not-for-profit organisation that brings people together to solve complex problems of poverty and create opportunities for individuals and communities to thrive. Even as a young person growing up in Sri Lanka, he had ideas about imbuing good old-fashioned altruistic work with professional management of global standards. As an AFS student in the US, Mohan quickly understood that while there are certain universal aspirations that unite the whole world, there are also cultural differences that must be respected and cherished, and only then can concepts of cooperation and togetherness be fostered at a deeper level. This realisation has informed his own philosophy of working with others to attain a common vision. Traditional hierarchies have no place here. ‘A leader is one who hires people smarter than himself or herself and gets out of the way,’ he says. He usually abides by the four Cs when hiring people: competence, commitment, character and chemistry. Chemistry is important as the work involved has a lot to do with people, and they must get along with one another to get the work done.

One of the key measures of success for him, personally and professionally, is whether his life has been meaningful to another person. His long career in development has proved to him that a healthy imagination for making things possible can and does achieve results. In an era where cynical attitudes about change are prevalent, he says, ‘One person can make a difference, but everyone should try’.

Ester Martinez

PGP, Class of 2004

A FORCE OF POSITIVITY, ESTER LEADS A TEAM OF CONTENT WRITERS AND RESEARCHERS IN BUILDING MEDIA PRODUCTS THAT ENABLE MORE IMPACTFUL HR DECISIONS AND HOPES TO SPEND THE NEXT YEAR STRENGTHENING PEOPLE MATTERS’ TECHNOLOGY MEDIA PLATFORM.

" QUITTING IS NOT A BAD THING; THE ROUTE TO SUCCESS IS MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICES AND QUITTING THE PATHS THAT DON’T TAKE YOU TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE "


‘What does a Spanish HR Manager turned entrepreneur who lives in Delhi know about running a media business in India?’ is a question Ester is very used to. It has been 12 years since Ester moved to India and eight since she began People Matters, an HR media brand. It’s hard enough being an entrepreneur, but being one in a foreign country requires a totally different level of tenacity. She says it may have been easier for her to take this step because she feared failure less in an unfamiliar environment. Ester grew up being ‘super-positive.’ Having lost her parents at a young age, she learned to depend on herself and built an enviable reservoir of self-belief. By her own admission, her early professional life was marked by easy choices that resulted in constant job movement. In 1998, she got her law degree, but not wanting to be a lawyer, she got a job in the HR department of a bank. Eventually, boredom struck and she got another job, a postgraduate degree, and still another job, until she found herself at ISB questioning what she wanted out of life. ISB was her trial by fire. Surrounded by highly analytical minds, she cowered before courses like Macroeconomics and Statistics until her classmate Tej Mohanram, (now her husband and fintech entrepreneur), pushed her to focus on what she was good at. Practical solutions, she realised, came from people like her who asked the right questions. ‘Once I realised what I could do, it gave me an enormous boost.’ She says she would have continued at TCS if Tej hadn’t pushed her to take the leap into entrepreneurship. People Matters began with no business plan, yet her first issue was launched with advertisements. Then came the second issue, then the first event, and after that, there was no looking back. ‘The next game for us will be building technology and leveraging digital channels. We aspire to bring tremendous innovation in media tech and that will help us increase our reach, both in terms of breadth and depth!’ she says.

Feroze Mohammed

PGPMAX , Class of 2013

A DEDICATED TECHNOPHILE, FEROZE HEADS HITACHI CONSULTING’S INDIA OPERATIONS AND IS A FIRM BELIEVER IN LEVERAGING THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY TO SOLVE BIG GLOBAL AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

" THE RAREST AND MOST VALUABLE OF ALL INTELLECTUAL TRAITS IS THE CAPACITY TO DOUBT THE OBVIOUS. - ALBERT EINSTEIN "


‘In the Middle East, the event is the key, not the time when it happens; whereas in Japan, time is sacrosanct. The meeting starts and ends exactly as scheduled, says Feroze, who admits to his fascination with different cultures and cultural nuances — a valuable trait in someone on the leadership team of an over 6,000-person global organisation. ‘I grew up a curious kid with my window to the world being sources like Reader’s Digest,’ he says, adding that most other sources of knowledge were either exorbitantly priced or unavailable to him.

It was this curiosity that took him from Odisha to Hyderabad Central University to pursue a Master’s in Computer Applications, and then to CMC, where he shaped up into an ace programmer. ‘I found all the toys I needed to sate my curiosity in the AI lab at the university,’ he recalls.

A visit to a friend at his workplace led to a chance meeting with a stranger, and their ensuing conversation on technology landed Feroze a Software Engineer position at Optima Software. The stranger turned out to be the CTO of the company. During his 20 years with the company, Optima transformed into Hitachi Consulting (through acquisitions). ‘It was a bit of a roller coaster. We needed to adapt quickly to the cultural changes of working for different owners,’ he says. Today, Feroze helms its India operations and says, ‘We are transforming the company into a consulting-led solutions company. We aim to make a mark by building solutions that solve large problems in society by harnessing the power of technology.’

It was curiosity again that led Feroze to pursue executive education at the ISB. ‘ISB helped me transform into a more rounded leader. The insights I gained from the faculty, from the collective intellect of the class, and its diversity are tremendous,’ he states, adding that the sessions he attended at Kellogg and Wharton were transformative experiences for him.

A tech enthusiast, Feroze loves to tinker with new gadgets. He also has a newfound love for golf and admits to being an ardent foodie. ‘My wife Yasmin, our kids and I love to eat out,’ he says.

Gaurav Porwal

PGP , Class of 2010

FEELING STUCK IN A 9-TO-5 JOB, GAURAV WAS CONVINCED THAT HE WAS MEANT TO DO SOMETHING MORE WITH HIS LIFE, AND ALL THAT WAS NEEDED WAS TO FIND THE COURAGE TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS HIS ENTREPRENEURIAL DREAMS.

" ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE, NOT IDEAS. PEOPLE MAKE IDEAS WORK, AND IF THE IDEAS DON’T WORK, THEY GET CHANGED "


Gaurav ‘s early academic and career choices had been fairly traditional. After earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from IIT Bombay, he landed a job at Procter & Gamble’s Far East division in Japan. But he realised that there was more to life than a 9-to-5 job with a decent paycheck, selling soap in a big office. He believed that his life was meant for something bigger and the best place to explore that possibility was inside an academic institution where he would be surrounded by freespirited individuals like himself. That thought brought him to ISB, where he met Saurav Panda. The pair decided to venture into the healthcare sector, specifically into dialysis treatment. Neither of them knew much about this area at the time, but Gaurav knew that their faith in their idea wasn’t misplaced. Patients with chronic kidney disease required dialysis treatment thrice a week. This was easier for patients in cities to manage, but for many others, access to treatment was much more difficult. Gaurav believed providing access to quality treatment was one real-life problem for real people that he would truly enjoy solving.

Despite facing numerous odds, including some scepticism about their idea, Gaurav and Panda forged ahead. He says, ‘If you have a plan B, your plan A hardly ever works out. The idea had not worked for many experienced professionals from the healthcare industry in the past, so I believe not having any preconceived notions about it worked in our favour.’ However, there’s a price to pay for this audacity. There’s the absolute danger of being broke for a very long time. That the opportunity cost is high is understood, but the real price one pays is the loss of time with family and friends, says Gaurav. The best course of action is to build a network of people who have also been on the same road and draw inspiration from them. ‘I tell a lot of people who are starting up to never do it alone because more than skills and experience, you’ll need a shoulder to cry on,’ says Gaurav.

Gautham Krishnan

PGP , Class of 2011

FROM CHOOSING A CAREER IN STRATEGY TO HANDLING CHALLENGES THAT WERE “OUTSIDE THE JOB DESCRIPTION AND COMFORT ZONE,” GAUTHAM’S FOCUS HAS BEEN ON MAKING AN IMPACT, WHETHER IN HIS PROFESSIONAL LIFE OR IN SOCIETY.

" IT IS BETTER TO FAIL EARLY IN YOUR LIFE WHILE CLIMBING THE ROPES OF THE CAREER LADDER THAN STUMBLE AT THE TOP "


If Gautham had not oriented himself towards management, he would have probably pursued astrophysics or astronomy, and probably made his mark there too. Insight, which is the ability to connect the dots, is at the heart of Gautham’s story. He considers himself lucky, but also thinks that luck is a lagging indicator for success and that the amount of effort and hard work that one puts in increases one’s chances of being lucky disproportionately. He wouldn’t describe his professional or personal journey as impeccably planned, but states that he had been sure of the direction he had to take, the actions that needed to be taken, and the things that he had to learn to reach his short-term and long-term goals.

Gautham had a good overall exposure to business during his stint at Schneider Electric, but new and emerging opportunities were what fired his imagination – the choice between staying in his comfort zone versus taking on challenging assignments. He kick-started and scaled the cloud business at Schneider Electric before joining Accenture in the management consulting space. After a couple of years there, he joined Snapdeal as its Director for Strategy & Business Excellence. Despite his professional achievements, Gautham believes that most of his success and learning came from lessons he learned by embracing challenges and unconventional opportunities that were ‘outside the job description’. During 2014, Gautham volunteered his services to the Digital India Initiative of the government at mygov.in, where he contributed towards framing policies. What started out as a voluntary activity without any expected appreciation or reward ultimately presented him with an opportunity to engage in an interactive session on Digital India with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Whether or not this is a classic case of effort leading to disproportionate luck or not, it is what he considers his most significant personal milestone.

Gopal Khetan

PGP , Class of 2004

WITH THE TWIN ADVANTAGES OF A CHARTERED ACCOUNTANCY DEGREE AND AN MBA UNDER HIS BELT, GOPAL’S LOVE OF NUMBERS AND CONTINUAL PURSUIT OF INTELLECTUAL GRATIFICATION AT HIS JOB HAVE EARNED HIM A VERY REWARDING CAREER AS AN INVESTMENT BANKER WITH HSBC FOR OVER A DECADE.

" IF I AM NOT IN A GOOD PLACE WORK-WISE, THEN AM NOT IN A GOOD PLACE. PERIOD "


Hailing from a conservative Marwari business family in Mumbai, Gopal’s decision to pursue a professional career was an interesting and radical choice. He credits his older brother with encouraging him to pursue academics. His aptitude and fondness for numbers took him to Chartered Accountancy, but it was as an investment banker that Gopal discovered his true calling. One of the youngest Managing Directors of HSBC, Gopal’s 12-year-long career at HSBC was not without its challenges.

Things have never been easy for me,’ he reflects, recalling the times that he has tasted failure and yet somehow found the inner strength to get back up and keep plodding on. He believes his early failures, ranging from not getting through the Intermediate CA exam in the first attempt to being waitlisted for ISB, fortified him for future successes.

His decision to join ISB was not so much about academics as it was about revamping himself. He wanted to transform his shy personality into a more well-rounded one. He knew ISB would give him the right kind of enabling environment to acquire the soft skills he felt he lacked. ‘For me, it was more of a finishing school than anything else,’ he says.

His time at HSBC has been rewarding, and he is quick to point out that he is not talking about compensation but rather about having the opportunity to use his training and acumen to solve problems and create solutions for his colleagues, clients and others. He has a compulsive need to be intellectually satisfied in his role as an investment banker and nothing else matches that need, not even his personal life. ‘My wife hates me for it,’ he laughs. He feels he has a dual advantage at work because his CA training helps him focus on the ‘micro’ and his MBA helps him look at the ‘macro’ of any given problem. Passionately devoted to his work, he allows himself the occasional respite in the form of marathon running and cycling.

Imal Fonseka

PGPMAX , Founding Class

THE FIRST SRI LANKAN TO BE INVITED TO SERVE ON THE JURY PANEL OF THE EFFIE AWARDS, IMAL IS PURSUING HIS VISION OF CREATING AN ENTERPRISE WITH A GREATER SOCIAL PURPOSE. BELIEVING THAT HIS NATION IS CONSISTENTLY UNDER-DELIVERING ON ITS POTENTIAL, HE IS COMMITTED TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO ITS ECONOMY.

" IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A JOB, DON’T GET INTO MARKETING! IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, THE POWER TO INFLUENCE THE WAY PEOPLE THINK OR THE WAY PEOPLE BEHAVE IGNITES YOUR PASSION AND YOU ARE WILLING TO COMMIT YOUR MIND TIME 24X7 TO THIS PURSUIT, IT’S A MARRIAGE THAT WILL WORK "


Imal never went to college. He walked into J. Walter Thompson for an interview on the first Friday after leaving high school and was at work the following Monday. He believes the confidence he displayed got him through the door and the ability to work with people and get things done ensured his success. He credits his high school, Trinity College, which provided him with opportunities to lead numerous student organisations and, unconventionally, appointed him Prefect ahead of his seniors, for nurturing his leadership skills.

It was his first client at Glaxo- SmithKline who mentored him and influenced him to acquire academic credentials and shift from advertising to marketing, after which he joined Unilever. His desire to differentiate his personal brand drove him to move abroad to manage brands and sales teams in the Middle- East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, which culminated in setting up GSK’s consumer business in Vietnam. However, expat life soon lost its sheen and he returned to Sri Lanka with Coca-Cola Far East, joining its West Asia Brand team. He subsequently led two large Sri Lankan FMCG businesses as Managing Director of Hemas Consumer Brands and CEO of Ceylon Biscuits.

He began to ask some big questions of himself, the main one being, ‘What can I do for my country?’ The inspiration for the answer came from his time at ISB where the idea of entrepreneurship and a life and legacy beyond climbing the corporate ladder was inculcated in him. Thus, he joined a longtime friend at Fairway Holdings. They are currently pursuing an innovative solution to landfills and a significant value addition to the famed Ceylon tea proposition. ‘Success to me would be knowing that because of what I did, my country is a different place’ he says.

Kalyan T Chakravarthy

PGP, Class of 2004

A STAUNCH BELIEVER IN APPLYING MARKET-BASED SOLUTIONS TO SOLVE SOCIAL PROBLEMS, KALYAN LEADS THE PAN-IIT ALUMNI REACH FOR INDIA FOUNDATION, WHICH IS COMMITTED TO EXECUTING AND SCALING SELF-SUSTAINABLE SOCIAL BUSINESS MODELS THAT ENHANCE THE INCOMES OF THE UNDERPRIVILEGED.

" SPEND 80% OF YOUR TIME ON PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTING YOUR VISION OF THE FUTURE BECAUSE HAPPENSTANCE TAKES YOU TO THE LAST MILE. SUCCESS IS TO USE WHAT YOU HAVE TO THE BEST "


‘When was the last time you thought to give back?’ asks Kalyan. ‘All of us harbour a secret desire to use our abilities for societal upliftment, but it tends to stay at the intent level.’ After graduating from IIT Madras in 2001 and handling labour relations at ITC for a couple of years, Kalyan spent his year at ISB asking himself questions like, ‘When it will be time for our ‘career burial’, and what would be its memorial?’, ‘Will it be measured through quarterly earnings or those moments of unforgettable learnings? and ‘Is the purpose of competency to contribute with compassion?’ When he happened to take the course ‘Planning an Entrepreneurial Venture’, based on the slum school education system in Hyderabad, he wrote a business plan that made it to the final shortlist of the Global Social Venture Competition at the London School of Business. This ignited his interest in social enterprise, but first he had to spend two years working in Dubai to pay off his ISB loan. ‘Two months after it was repaid, I quit the job and returned to India with just an open mind and no confirmed job offer!’ he says.

He spent a year exploring the social sector and travelling across the country. Then came a major turning point. He read the book, Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Nobel Laureate Dr. Mohammad Yunus and was introduced to the idea of combining social enterprise with market-based economics. ‘While traditional commercial firms pursue unilateral profit maximisation, social enterprises pursue two dimensional optimisation, that is, pursuing sustainability and social impact at the same time, much like an all rounder in cricket,’ Kalyan explains.

Pan-IIT Alumni Foundation’s flagship initiative is its rural skill gurukuls project, whose vocational finishing schools for school dropouts provide ‘fit-for-purpose’ skills through residential training. This initiative, he says, has endeavoured to build a first-of-its-kind revenue model in the traditionally grant-driven space of skill development and is on the cusp of scale through a special purpose vehicle with one of the state governments to set up a gurukul in every district, along with other educational interventions.

Kamal Gianchandani

PGPMAX , Class of 2013

CEO OF INDIA’S MOST SUCCESSFUL DISTRIBUTION COMPANY, KAMAL HAS REWRITTEN THE RULES OF THE MOVIE DISTRIBUTION BUSINESS AND IS BEST KNOWN AS THE MAN WHO BACKED THREE IDIOTS, ONE OF THE CULT FILMS OF OUR GENERATION.

" BE BRAVE OR PRETEND TO BE BRAVE BECAUSE PEOPLE CANNOT DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE TWO. SELF-ASSURED AND HAPPY PEOPLE TEND TO, ON AVERAGE, BE MORE SUCCESSFUL "


It is clear Kamal doesn’t like talking about himself. A quiet man, his is a story of happenstance, hard work, self-belief and collaboration, a word he uses frequently. He had never aspired to be in the film business. The way he tells it, life was on cruise control until a chance meeting with Ajay Bijli in 1995 drove him headlong into the unlikely business of opening movie theatres. They began with PVR Cinemas’ first multiplex in Delhi, a pioneering moment in the movie business. He remembers it being such a runaway hit that the ticket booths were regularly ransacked in the clamour for tickets. But ambition finally reared its tenacious head and he joined the Zee Group in 2000 to build Fun Cinemas, the company’s family entertainment centre, only to return to PVR in 2002 and leave again for Reliance in 2006, where he was ‘thrown under the bus’ and put in charge of Bigflix.com. With no prior knowledge of online business, he had to unlearn everything he knew, an experience he cherishes to this day. He credits Reliance’s ‘culture of decision making’ for learning to trust his own judgment, most memorably in 2009 when he defied conventional wisdom and decided the company would release the movie Three Idiots on its own rather than mitigate risk by involving independent distributors. It was a spectacular hit — the highest grossing film in India in its opening weekend with the highest opening day collections for any film up to that point. But Kamal missed home and, like the prodigal son, he returned to head PVR Pictures in 2010, a flailing division reeling from flops. Cutting his teeth at Zee and Reliance coupled with some surgical decision-making helped him turn the business around in 12 months. He went on, along with Ajay and Sanjeev Bijli, to create the most successful distribution business for independent films in India. He credits his team for the success of PVR Pictures and preaches collaboration or ‘sangha chatwam’. ‘Put aside your ego,’ he says, adding that while it’s easier to hoard information, in the long run, people always respond to someone who shares the spotlight.

Kedar Lele

PGP, Class of 2004

CONSIDERED APPROACHABLE AND INSPIRATIONAL BY HIS PEERS, KEDAR IS A CONSUMMATE WORKAHOLIC WHO HAS CLIMBED THE RANKS AT HUL TO ACQUIRE THE COVETED ‘LISTER’ STATUS AND LEAD ITS NEWLY FORMED E-COMMERCE BUSINESS. TODAY, HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ~25% OF THE ORGANISATION’S TURNOVER.

" YOU HAVE TO BE HOPELESSLY POSITIVE. ENERGY MULTIPLIES; YOU HAVE TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING WITH A SENSE OF HAPPINESS "


'All great things lie outside your comfort zone,' says Kedar, as he talks about his first assignment with HUL, when he was thrown in the deep end as the Area Manager for the company’s ice-cream business. Born in Rajasthan, brought up in Madhya Pradesh and a Maharashtrian by birth, Kedar represents diversity in the true sense of the word. He thrives on change and ambiguity, a quality that stood him in good stead as he changed countless schools and studied in two mediums. Change continued to be a constant in the early years of his career, where he took on a variety of roles in DDB-Mudra and Monster. But he eventually found his calling at ISB where he focused on Marketing and Operations, topping the marketing stream and becoming a Dean’s scholar. His operations knowledge came in handy when he had to turn around HUL’s flailing ice-cream business and lead the joint venture at Kimberly Clark Lever. In his 12 years at HUL, he has taken on multiple roles. He is now responsible for a large part of the organisation’s business in a horizontal leadership role and oversees about 25% of the company’s turnover. As a Vice-President for the Customer Development function, he is one of the top few leaders among over 1,200 managers in the company. Despite these achievements, one of his most cherished experiences at HUL was leading Project Shakti, a well-known initiative that connected over 68,000 rural women. He is excited about leading the company’s e-commerce venture, helping transform the organisation to face the challenges of the connected world. ‘Sitting at the top of such a large pyramid is great for the big picture, but it’s easy to lose the trees for the forest,’ he says, adding, ‘I am constantly in touch with my ASMs and visit them in the market at least once a month. Some days, I just stand and watch shelves being organised and shoppers buying their favourite brands. It’s the only way to stay grounded.’

Krishna Depura

PGP, Class of 2006

WE ALL POSSESS THE GIFT OF CURIOSITY, BUT NOT MANY HAVE THE ABILITY TO KEEP FEEDING IT WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH. FOR KRISHNA, HOWEVER, CHALLENGES IN LIFE AND BUSINESS HAVE PROVIDED CONSTANT FODDER FOR HIS CURIOSITY AND THE IMPETUS FOR HIS OWN ENTREPRENEURIAL VENTURE.

" I READ SOMEWHERE THAT SOME PEOPLE LIVE WHERE THEY WORK, OTHERS JUST VISIT’. DON’T BE A VISITOR, LIFE IS SHORT – LIVE IT TO THE FULLEST! "


Krishna graduated from IIT with 14 job offers from top companies, but his curiosity to try new things found him working with a startup instead. He did well initially, but he wanted more excitement in his professional life. At that time, his goal was to make some quick money — save half of it and use the other half to pursue his artistic endeavours. He worked in a couple of startups but nothing turned out as expected.

He had entrepreneurial dreams and understood that in order to make them come true, he needed to learn how business worked. This realisation took him to ISB. However, after graduating, he decided to put his entrepreneurial inclinations on hold and joined Microsoft to get some experience of working in a large organisation. He quickly realised that he was cut out for smaller setups. ‘I was not doing great for those two years at Microsoft because I was a misfit in the corporate culture of a large organisation,’ he says. He quit and joined an early stage technology startup, PubMatic. Finally, in 2011, he co-founded his own technology startup MindTickle, a sales readiness platform to increase the sales productivity of large organisations. Today, after six years, MindTickle enjoys an enviable position in the sales and customer success domain and has a respectable list of clients from all over the world in every industry.

Krishna believes that he’s not a doer, but more of a dreamer. He prefers to surround himself with passionate people, get them excited about different ideas and work together to bring them to life. According to Krishna, not everything needs to be measured with success metrics; experience is a reward in itself. He believes that ‘work is an important part of life, but not the only part of life’. MindTickle’s unique culture reflects this thinking. Apart from encouraging music, art and sports in house, they have what they call ‘workations’, where they move the entire office to remote villages in the Himalayas for two weeks so that the whole team can experience nature and live to the fullest while they work.

Krishnan Kutty

PGP, Class of 2004

HAVING BEEN EXPOSED TO EVERY FACET OF THE MEDIA BUSINESS, KRISHNAN IS CONSTANTLY AMAZED BY THE INFLUENCE TELEVISION WIELDS ON SOCIETY AND FEELS THAT ADAPTING TO TECHNOLOGY IS THE KEY CHALLENGE FACING THE MEDIA BUSINESS.

" ALWAYS BE WILLING TO TAKE ON NEW THINGS BECAUSE WHILE YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN, MOST TRANSFORMATIONAL EXPERIENCES COME FROM UNPLANNED EVENTS AND YOUR ABILITY TO SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES FROM THEM "


Although Krishnan’s childhood aspirations revolved around the stock market, he ended up doing something entirely different, largely because of informal interactions he had with people in advertising. ‘I was taken in by this wonderful world of persuasion,’ he recalls. So after earning a management degree from NMIMS, he joined Mindshare Fulcrum, a media planning agency, and then moved to NDTV when it initially began. ‘But I felt something was missing and wanted a worldclass educational experience,’ he says. He got the requisite work experience and GMAT scores and secured admission to ISB. Krishnan says ISB was a key milestone, ‘It made me a better person, far more complete and more humble. I was dazzled by the talent around me. ’Not wanting to go back to media, he joined Vodafone (then Hutch), which he describes as a truly rotten 11-month experience. From there, he found his way back to media via Star TV and says, ‘Sometimes you have to do something you don’t like to understand what your calling is’. His first job was to research English movie viewing habits — ‘I could legitimately sit and watch TV all day,’ he admits. But his key professional learning came when he was suddenly put in charge of distribution, an unstructured role that required him to change his attitude. ‘I was cribbing all the time,’ he says. Soon he turned his role around and spent seven years understanding the nuances of the business that are critical to his job today. It is evident Krishnan deeply enjoys curating what the nation watches. His proudest achievement so far has been introducing HD television to an Indian audience. ‘I created a new industry and made a consumer experience better.’ At every single point, he says, it was his willingness to try new things that helped him grow. He quotes the lyrics of a Whitney Houston song to illustrate his point: ‘Give me one moment in time, when I’m racing with destiny ... When all my dreams are a heartbeat away, and the answers are all up to me…’

Dr. Mahesh Joshi

PGPMAX , Founding Class

MAHESH NEVER SHIED AWAY FROM TAKING THE LESS TRAVELLED ROAD — WHETHER IT WAS 15 YEARS EARLIER IN THE THEN RELATIVELY UNKNOWN AREA OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE OR TODAY, AS THE HEAD OF APOLLO’S HOME HEALTHCARE BUSINESS, TO WHICH HE BRINGS HIS CHARACTERISTIC PASSION AND OPTIMISM.

" THERE ARE A LOT OF DEFINITIONS OF PASSION, BUT WHAT TRULY MATTERS IS YOUR SELF-BELIEF AND YOUR ABILITY TO CONNECT WITH IT "


Mahesh had a well-paying position at Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital, but it was a locum job in Hyderabad in 1999 that reshaped his career forever. When he witnessed the healthcare problems faced by people in remote locations, he decided to pursue a specialisation in emergency medicine. In 2001, emergency medicine was a fairly alien concept in India and the only place he could earn a diploma in that field was at Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad. A chance meeting with Dr. Prathap C Reddy acted as the stimulus he needed and laid the foundations of his career at Apollo Hospitals.

Currently leading the home healthcare initiative at Apollo Hospitals, Mahesh believes that more than luck, it was the trust and support he was able to garner that have been the key to his success. Home healthcare was a big shift for him and for the organisation. A highly trained staff engaged in providing healthcare services to patients puts the hospital in the driver’s seat. But with home healthcare, it is the patient’s family that occupies the driver’s seat. The venture required a leader with good clinical knowledge and a flexible approach, and the leadership at Apollo was confident that Mahesh had these qualities. ‘I looked at my journey in emergency care and I could immediately relate to this new idea. There was a need that not many people were ready to acknowledge, and there was an opportunity but not many people were ready to take the risk,’ he says.

Despite the lack of benchmarks, standards or training modules in this area in India, Mahesh believed that with the support of the leadership and the brand, he was already 10 steps ahead of anyone else who would attempt to take the idea to fruition. He found himself with seed funding of `10 million and a staff of three in a small office, but it was a challenge he was eager to accept. ‘It was only my passion that enabled me to start something new from scratch after having attained a position where my role was limited to leading the organisation.’

ManikGupta

PGP , Class of 2008

THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY TO SOLVE REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS, ANSWER CONSUMER NEEDS AND EVEN CHANGE CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR HAS ALWAYS INTRIGUED MANIK. FROM FOUNDING A TECH STARTUP TO HIS PIONEERING WORK WITH GOOGLE MAPS AND NOW IN HIS CURRENT ROLE AT UBER, MANIK HAS PUT HIS PASSION FOR TECHNOLOGY TO WORK FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE MASSES.

" TECHNOLOGY IS AN ENABLER, A GREAT EQUALISER AND CAN TRULY TRANSFORM THE LIVES OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE "

After earning a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Manik founded a tech startup, BuyItTogether.com, which allowed consumers to pool their purchases and obtain volume discounts. This entrepreneurial experience taught him how technology could be used to solve complex problems in logistics and also how difficult it was to change consumer behaviour. He subsequently joined Hewlett- Packard, establishing its e-commerce operations in the Asia-Pacific region, where he gained first-hand knowledge of emerging markets and their inherent nuances and complexities.

In 2007, after nearly four years at HP Singapore, Manik decided to return to India. He’d been away for a while and wanted to see what he could contribute by combining his technical know-how with an MBA, and thus began his journey at ISB. During the orientation at ISB, he listed Google as his dream job after graduation, and as luck would have it, he got the opportunity he was looking for. The timing could not have been more perfect — Google was figuring out how to bring the benefits of Internet and technology to the masses. Manik launched Google Maps in India and spent almost eight years on the Maps team building digital maps of the entire world.

Manik joined Uber in 2015. He was awestruck by the fundamental change Uber was trying to bring about in the way people use transportation by providing them easy access to it. He felt that Uber was creating rapid and sustained change in consumer behaviour and was excited to be a part of that journey.

Manik believes that one has to keep evaluating customer needs and understand both the needs customers can express and those they can’t. He is fascinated by the ways customers use technology and share their experiences, which allows him to focus on fixing the problems they face. He is also excited about the rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence and machine learning and the scale it enables for technology driven innovation.

MeherAfroz

PGPMAX , Founding Class

DETERMINED TO FIND HARMONY IN BOTH HER PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL WORLDS, MEHER HAS ALWAYS BEEN FOCUSED ON SEEKING SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS WHEN THEY HAVE ARISEN. NO DOUBT THIS TRAIT HAS SEEN HER THROUGH A STELLAR CAREER THAT HAS CULMINATED IN HER LONG INNINGS WITH MICROSOFT.

" I SEEK HARMONY AROUND ME AND WHEN I FIND THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM, I FOCUS ON FINDING A SOLUTION "


Meher’s determination to see things through has stood her in good stead all through her professional life. This unflagging strength stems from an early personal crisis — the sudden and tragic loss of her father. She was only 19 and in her final year of engineering at Jamshedpur, when her father, a professor, passed away unexpectedly. It was a difficult period for the small, close-knit family, and it fell upon Meher, the older of the two siblings, to take over the reins.

After college, she joined the Systems Trainee Programme at Tata Steel at Jamshedpur, followed by a five-year consulting stint in the US. On her return to India in 2001, she joined GE in Hyderabad, where she provided leadership in establishing technology centres of excellence. She also had a stint at NBC Universal at Burbank, California. While she was at GE, Microsoft approached her for a role at their India centre.

Serendipity brought another opportunity to her door. ISB had just launched PGPMAX, a 15-month programme for senior executives, and Meher was quick to get on board. She continued to work with Microsoft during her time at ISB. After graduating, she took up the role of Chief of Staff of one of Microsoft’s senior VPs in Redmond to gain a broader perspective and deeper insights into the technology world. She returned to India early this year, after completing a very challenging yet fruitful three-year stint. She currently leads a service offering that is focused on building data and mobility experiences for Microsoft.

As a successful IT professional in a largely male-dominated field, Meher is deeply committed to giving back to society and has been a champion of diversity and inclusion. She successfully launched ‘Springboard’, an initiative to help women who have been on a career break to transition back to the workforce. ‘Code for Her’ was yet another initiative that was focused on building apps that help women. She helped bring ‘Digigirlz’, a Microsoft initiative, to India. The programme works with young girls across schools encouraging them to consider a career in science and technology.

NalinJain

PGP , Founding Class

NALIN CHOSE TO PURSUE A CAREER IN THE AVIATION/ AEROSPACE SECTOR DURING A PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT PERIOD — JUST AFTER THE SEPTEMBER 11 TERRORIST ATTACKS HAD SHAKEN THE WORLD. TODAY, HE IS THE WIDELY RESPECTED AND RECOGNISED PRESIDENT AND CEO OF GE AVIATION & TRANSPORTATION (SOUTH ASIA), HAVING CONQUERED EVERY CHALLENGE WITH DETERMINATION AND PERSEVERANCE. IF YOU DON’T PREPARE WELL, ALL THE COURAGE AND DETERMINATION IN THE WORLD WILL NOT BE ABLE TO COME TO YOUR RESCUE WHEN YOU START TO EXECUTE YOUR IDEAS.

" If you don’t prepare well, all the courage and determination in the world will not be able to come to your rescue when you start to execute your ideas. "


Nalin firmly believes that the key to success, whether in business or any other sphere of life, is determination. His own trajectory in the aerospace industry reflects this conviction — he dared to dream the impossible, and then committed himself to achieving it against all odds. After having grown quickly in his first job, Nalin decided to take a break from his career and renew himself.This desire for a change ultimately took him to ISB, though he admits that it was a tough decision — he had to choose between working and looking after his family or following his heart and going back to school.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York, things were not going right for anyone at ISB, a young school yet to make its mark. Job opportunities were drying up, and economies were standing on the brink of collapse. In this scenario and in a market that put a premium on credentials, Nalin was determined to prove that personal ability mattered just as much as formal qualifications. He set his own professional goals and prepared himself for the role that he wanted. It paid off, and he was selected to lead Bombardier. It turned out to be a positive decision in the long run, he says, but the path wasn’t the easiest and neither was the timing.

His curiosity to learn and determination to succeed drove him to learn everything he could about the aerospace domain. He rapidly grew into a leadership role and won recognition from the industry. Over the years, he expanded his horizons to lead both the aerospace and rail transportation businesses of GE. From being a one-man army after

graduating from ISB, Nalin has grown to lead a large, cross-functional team.

Over the years, he has earned the praise and admiration of his colleagues who describe him as a curious and passionate professional with an unwavering commitment to being fair and balanced. He takes a more modest view of his own evolution as a successful leader, saying, ‘If you are not getting better every day, you are getting worse.’

NeerajJain

PGPMAX , Class of 2012

Some of the greatest minds in business have described the execution of ideas as the key to success. Neeraj, Managing Director of Scholastic India, believes that reviewing one's business plan and then tweaking it, or sometimes even re-planning, is just as important.

" SUCCESS IS NEVER SINGULAR. IT IS ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU LEAVE ON THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU AND ABOUT HELPING THEM NAVIGATE THEIR CAREERS IN THE DIRECTION THEY THINK IS GOOD FOR THEM "


Though Neeraj had grown up in a business family, he went against the tide of family expectations and set his sights on the services industry. Without anyone to guide him in his journey, he decided to rely on his instincts and determination and chart a career in finance. Having successfully navigated his way to the top of his chosen profession, his career path took an unexpected turn with the expansion of his role into operations and sales to begin with, and then to the management of the company’s entire India business.With the help of his mentor, he took up the challenge and began a new journey, scaling new heights. He believes that having achieved what he had planned and doing so quickly helped him move to a different track more easily. His new role gave him the opportunity to hone his decision making skills and achieve a more balanced and practical approach.

Decision-making, according to him, is a process comprising a series of calculated steps. It begins with understanding one’s objectives, and following this up with the collection of relevant data and a thorough analysis with the core team to get the best results. 'When faced with monumental decisions, one must step away from the problem and look at it from a distance with a fresh pair of eyes', says Neeraj. He believes that for decisions to be successful, the most critical element is how well you execute it, and this requires thorough and careful planning. You often have to step out of your comfort zone to ensure that ideas and solutions don’t stagnate due to a lack of execution strategy, he says.

As someone who is inherently inquisitive and willing to change his course of action when required, Neeraj believes that when we draw boundaries, we set limits on ourselves and deprive ourselves of the successes we could achieve otherwise. As his inspiration, he quotes Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s book ‘The Fountainhead’: ‘Who will let you? That’s not the point. The point is who will stop me?’

PrashanAgarwal

PGP , Class of 2004

AT A TIME WHEN MOST INTERNET STARTUPS IN INDIA WERE FOCUSING ON ADOPTING A LINEAR APPROACH TOWARDS BUSINESS, PRASHAN WAS DETERMINED TO BRING ABOUT A CHANGE THAT WOULD IMPACT THE ENTIRE REAL ESTATE SECTOR IN THE COUNTRY.

" We think that we need an excellent strategy to be successful, but sometimes it’s just the simple things that matter more than an elaborate strategy. "

Prashan comes from a middleclass business family and is among the very few members of his extended family to have pursued higher studies, first at IIT and later at ISB. Post-ISB, he spent three very successful years in the corporate sector, when the yearning to start something on his own took hold of him.

After an unsuccessful pitch to start a Netflix clone in India, he met the leadership at Naukri.com, which was looking to diversify into the online real estate business. Real estate, at that time, was far removed from the ideals of corporate professionalism. In the absence of processes, transparency and trust, it wasn’t the most attractive sector to be in. Amidst that chaos, Prashan saw an opportunity to create something meaningful.

Most Internet startups at that time followed the classifieds business model, which did not require a large capital investment, whereas Prashan wanted to bring a transactional element to the segment. He started PropTiger.com in 2011 with the aim of establishing a trustworthy marketplace where customers could get in touch with a real estate agent who would handhold them through the transaction. He had no funding and the revenue cycle was unreliable at best. Moreover, real estate companies were not keen on joining hands with a new channel partner. All this changed when he scored some early successes.

A simple insight was the key to this success. He realised that people were not searching for generic keywords like ‘property in Delhi’; rather, they were interested in particular developments by specific developers. ‘We had a two-year lead in optimising our website based on that knowledge, and it created an ecosystem for us to get more leads,’ he says.

Prashan now heads Gaana.com, a music streaming startup. ‘The media and entertainment business is where all the excitement will be over the next 3-5 years,’ he says.

Separating from Naukri and starting on his own with PropTiger. com, Prashan says, was the highlight of his journey. It was sheer determination on his part that allowed him to sever the umbilical cord and venture out to chart his own path.

PrashantBangur

PGP, Class of 2003

Prashant's focus on technical innovation and natural resources conservation has helped make his family business one of the most eco-friendly cement companies in the country. Passion is his driving force and it is what he considers to be the foundation for an efficient and energised organisation.

" If you think you have achieved your greatest success, you clearly have decided to stop pushing yourself."

Prashant, a third-generation entrepreneur, joined the family business as an Executive Trainee in 2004 and made his way up by observing and learning the essentials of the family business. He says that the extensive training he got in his first two years in all the functional areas of the cement company was the best way he could ever comprehend the basics of the business.

Prashant earned his Bachelor's degree from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and joined Ernst & Young as a Trainee in 2002. One year later, he joined ISB. After graduating, Prashant started working at Shree Cement’s plant and began his intensive education in the business. Over the years, he has developed an excellent command over all the techno-commercial facets of cement operations and today is the Joint Managing Director of the company.

Prashant measures the performance of the business against a ‘triple bottomline’ of value creation — economic, social and environmental — and this is reflected in his initiatives in the company. His passion for bringing technical innovations to the business coupled with his vision to make Shree Cement a top player in the Indian cement industry are among the reasons it has come to be recognised as one of the most energy efficient and environment friendly organisations in the country. Prashant’s unwavering commitment to conserving nature’s precious resources is the reason the company has adopted the backward integration strategy of installing captive thermal power plants to contain the cost of power. He has enabled his team to see energy not as a cost, but as a source of profit. Prashant’s focus on ‘zero loss of energy’ across all operations led the company to implement waste heat recovery power (WHRP) plants on a large scale.

Prashant believes that all the success and excellence he has achieved today is not because he has talent, knowledge or experience on his side, but because he has a strong passion for what he does. He takes inspiration from the words of Reed Markham: ‘Successful leaders see opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.’

PrashanthVasu

PGP , Founding Class

AN ARDENT PRACTITIONER OF ‘HEARTFULNESS MEDITATION,’ PRASHANTH BELIEVES IN CREATING A SENSE OF PURPOSE THAT GOES BEYOND ACCOMPLISHMENT.

" I have found joy in work when I am diligent and put my heart into serving the client and supporting the team. Everything else will follow. McKinsey is a wonderful institution with a deep value system. "


Success in life often boils down to one’s choices, and Prashanth’s choices have always been driven by understanding what really mattered to him and where his heart was. His parents lovingly graced his childhood, of which there were three distinct aspects: studies, which he enjoyed; hobbies, like learning to play the flute; and competitive tennis. Prashanth was selected to be among the first few batches of teenagers trained by the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Scheme (BAT), a resident tennis programme that sought to groom future Davis Cup players for India. He was there around the same time as Leander Paes, Gaurav Natekar and others who went on to represent India in the Davis Cup. At one point, he was seeded third in the country and number one in the state at the sub-junior level. He says, ‘I was talented, but I wasn’t sure I had what it took to be a world-class player.’ One day, during a training session at BAT, Prashanth, who says he was on the chubbier side, was ‘jogging’ during a sprint. ‘The coach asked me, ‘Prashanth, do you “really” want to win?’ and I actually paused and thought about it, despite the fatigue. I responded, “I don’t think so, Sir.” The coach was shocked. It was a moment of realisation for me too.’ He realised that though he loved the game, he lacked the killer instinct, which he had been given to believe was at the core of being successful — something he no longer believes.

That was a turning point. He could have continued his association with tennis in some form, but being honest with himself meant making a different choice. He decided to pursue academics and went on to IIT and eventually to McKinsey & Company, where he is a partner today. That said, he says, ‘I never set my sights on being partner at McKinsey. Be it getting into ISB or shaping different aspects of my professional career, things sort of fell in place. At every stage, I have been aware of what really matters to me — my family, my association with Heartfulness — and made decisions such that these primary priorities were preserved. Other things seemed to follow both fortunately and miraculously,’ he says.

DhimantParekh

PGP , Class of 2007

A JACK OF ALL TRADES, DHIMANT REVELS IN EXPERIMENTATION AND WANTS TO USE THE BETTER INDIA TO DEMOCRATISE IMPACT AND ENABLE EVERY INDIAN CITIZEN TO BE A CHANGE MAKER.

" ON WORKING WITH YOUR PARTNER: THERE NEEDS TO BE A SIGNIFICANT OVERLAP ABOUT FUNDAMENTAL VALUES AND ETHOS AND THE SETTING OF VERY CLEAR BOUNDARIES "


‘You know the concept of “single-minded focus”?’ says Dhimant, ‘I don’t have it.’ In high school he was interested in metallurgy, which even won him an award from the President of India. He has been a trained professional theatre artist, a computer science engineer writing firmware for microchips and a product manager in a large technology company while simultaneously working for an education-focused NGO. Oh, and he has also written a book of short stories, Neumonia and Other Sketch Stories, which The Hindustan Times called ‘a little jewel’. ISB, that melting pot of dreams, diversions and dissonance, was made for him. ‘ISB felt like a buffet with so much to do.’ It was also a key turning point because that’s where he met his wife Anuradha, who would later run The Better India with him. But Dhimant wasn’t keen on the corporate life even after ISB, so he joined a startup in the Internet space, ibibo, and began to build a social networking platform. Simultaneously, he began to develop a blog, along with Anuradha, that would become an alternative news medium.

They wanted to talk about ideas that influenced communities and showcase people that mainstream media was ignoring because it wasn’t sensational enough. ‘We started to tap into this inherent need to focus on the positive.’ Today, they have a 14-member team and their content is read by over 45 million people every month. But Dhimant did have his string of failures. Between 2009 and 2013, he moved to a larger company and even tried three or four startups in quick succession, all of which failed because, Dhimant says, ‘We didn’t have a plan and weren’t passionate enough about it’. He quickly realised that the opportunity that had potential was staring right at him and he decided to focus full-time on The Better India. Today, they are operationally profitable and work with large brands to help create a sustainable revenue model. ‘All my previous failures help minimise mistakes at The Better India,’ he says, and counts them as stepping stones on the organisation’s path to eventually reaching over 200 million people.

DeepitSingh

PGP , Class of 2003

DIRECTOR OF A DIVERSE INDIAN CONGLOMERATE, SINGH HAS TAKEN THE BUSINESS TO NEW HEIGHTS AND MADE IT GLOBALLY RECOGNISED FOR THE QUALITY OF ITS PRODUCTS AND SERVICES, AND HIGH ETHICAL STANDARDS.

" INTROSPECTION AND SELF-EVALUATION, WITHOUT ANY JUDGMENT, IS IMPORTANT FOR SUCCESS BECAUSE IT CHANGES BEHAVIOURS UNCONSCIOUSLY "


His story is one of determination — about working against the odds; and curiosity — an unending desire to learn about geographies, cultures and industries. It is about being a student throughout. His curiosity extends to ‘knowing himself’, and it is this self-awareness that has, perhaps subconsciously, directed him on what things to do and how to do them. Deepit has worked to capitalise on his strengths and supplement his weaknesses. His strength lies in execution, the ability to operate with hands-on knowledge and thrive in situations where uncertainty is high and where flexibility and quick decision-making are needed.

For Deepit, success or failure is not about a particular decision but about course correction, and that is why he doesn’t believe in the concept of making monumental or life-changing decisions. When he joined his family business, exploring new things and venturing into new areas was a challenge, but a bigger challenge was to figure out everything on his own. His determination to overcome these challenges gave him the strength to start without any precedent and turn a company around. His strategy was to set up the business and then hand it over to professionals; it was about getting things done.

As he started working in different sectors and geographies, Deepit concluded that the only way to ‘get things done’ was to get people on board with the requisite subject matter expertise and with contrarian viewpoints. He says, ‘When you increasingly start to question the assumption, it clears the point of view. The idea of getting different viewpoints is not just to create conflict, but also to get on the table how the other person is thinking. Many breakthrough discussions happen when you have two different viewpoints that finally help you make a balanced and informed decision.’

JagdeepGambhir

PGP , Class of 2012

A FAMILY OF DOCTORS TO RALLY BEHIND HIM AND AN EXCELLENT ACADEMIC RECORD COULD NOT PERSUADE JAGDEEP TO CHART A CAREER IN MEDICINE. INSTEAD, HE CHOSE TO FOLLOW HIS HEART – TAKING HEALTHCARE SERVICES TO THE REMOTEST CORNERS OF INDIA.

" PERSISTENCE THAT FUELS YOUR PASSION IS THE ONLY THING YOU NEED TO SOLVE A PROBLEM THAT HAS A VERY DEEP SOCIAL IMPACT IN THE FACE OF CHALLENGES, ROADBLOCKS AND QUESTIONS OF SELF-BELIEF "

A self-described ‘silent listener,’ Jagdeep’s quiet but profound observations of the world around him have brought him to where his is today. He is trying to solve one of the most complex and interesting problems facing the country — improving access to healthcare in rural India. Jagdeep had a well settled career with Goldman Sachs, but a visit to rural Bihar changed the course of his life forever. He was shaken to find that access to healthcare in rural India was so poor that completely curable diseases such as tuberculosis were not even diagnosed properly, with tragic consequences for families and communities. He resolved to change this situation and established a social enterprise, Karma Healthcare, which brought technology-enabled, specialised healthcare at affordable prices to rural populations across the country.

When he first embarked on this journey, he had his family’s support, but others opposed him and even went as far as to say that he was committing fraud since he was not a doctor. Questions were raised as to who would be held liable in case of a mishap. But Jagdeep held firm, fully aware of the ramifications of not bringing quality healthcare services to rural consumers. With the Indian healthcare industry moving at a slow pace, providing villages with access to specialist services and professionals seemed impossible in the near future. Jagdeep believed that technology could be used to address this gap; for example, web-enabled consultations could benefit people who would otherwise have to travel 60-100 kms to access healthcare facilities. With his model, Jagdeep brought healthcare to their doorsteps. Jagdeep has also been invited by the President of India to replicate Karma Healthcare’s service model in villages, and this has given him and his team a huge boost in credibility.

Jagdeep believes that entrepreneurship is challenging, and that social entrepreneurship is even more so. There are more bad days than there are good ones, he admits. But he doesn’t see himself doing anything else, and the sheer magnitude and intensity of the problem drives him to aim higher and reach further.

NeerajArora

PGP , Class of 2006

KNOWN FOR HIS LEADING ROLE IN ONE OF THE LARGEST TECHNOLOGY DEALS OF ALL TIME, NEERAJ SAYS HE HANDLES PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING RELATED TO BUSINESS AT WHATSAPP AND IS GRATIFIED BY THE IMPACT THE MESSAGING SERVICE IS HAVING WORLDWIDE.

" ONE, NOTHING REPLACES HARD WORK. TWO, A FEAR OF FAILURE LEADS TO CHOOSING OPTIONS THAT WON’T GIVE YOU AN EXPONENTIAL JUMP. CREATE A LIFESTYLE WHICH ALLOWS YOU TO TAKE RISKS "


‘Delhi boy done good,’ screamed all the headlines when Facebook bought WhatsApp for a mindboggling sum in 2014. Suddenly, all everyone could talk about was a certain Neeraj Arora who had orchestrated the transaction. Neeraj’s life had been a series of linear events where he always did what was expected, until he went to IIT Delhi, where he gained the confidence to follow his heart. So, instead of joining the most fashionable company at the time, Infosys, he opted for a small Singaporean startup. Despite the initial culture shock, he loved the diversity of his colleagues. ‘My outlook became non-linear. I realised I would never do Y just because of X.’ Five years later, a desire to head home made him choose ISB. ‘I hated my first week there. Living a structured life was not something I was mentally prepared to do, but soon I began to enjoy the intensity and appreciated the network.’ Always a step ahead, Neeraj began to tap into the alumni base in the very first month. While the rest of his class was dreaming of ways to get into McKinsey and Goldman Sachs, he had already contacted alumni at Yahoo, Google and Amazon. ‘I wanted to work in the tech space in India and wasted no time,’ he says. But he didn’t make it into Google or Amazon; instead, he found himself at Times of India’s Internet venture, IndiaTimes. ‘It was a crash course in the Indian Internet space, and I learnt what not to do there. It gave me an amazing foundation.’ Soon enough, he was where he wanted to be, at Google in corporate development, and within 18 months he found himself in sunny California working on deals that he said, ‘moved the needle’ for the firm. But ever the contrarian, he refused to sit back and enjoy his firm’s stupendous rise. Instead, he found a small little messaging service called WhatsApp, which he believed had the potential to change the world. Neeraj says success is doing what makes you happy at the time, but now, thanks to his son, leaving a lasting legacy is foremost in his mind.

RahulBanerjee

PGP , Founding Class

HAVING RACKED UP A RÉSUMÉ THAT IS EVERY BANKER’S DREAM, RAHUL TOOK THE ULTIMATE GAMBLE AND STARTED HIS OW VENTURE FOCUSED ON BRINGING TRANSPARENCY TO THE USD BOND MARKET AND PROVIDING HIGH NET WORTH INDIVIDUALS WITH INSIGHTS ONCE ONLY ACCESSIBLE TO INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS.

" AMBITION SHOULD BE LIKE A SPECIAL PIECE OF CLOTHING; THERE IS NO NEED TO WEAR IT TO OFFICE EVERY DAY, IT IS ADEQUATE TO KEEP IT HANGING IN YOUR CLOSET AT HOME. ONE SHOULD WEAR HIS HARD-WORKING SUIT TO WORK INSTEAD."


Bashful is how I would describe Rahul, a rare quality to find in a banker, let alone a bond trader with a résumé like his. But when I ask him about his achievements, he is quick to caveat them with his circumstances. ‘Luck. If you don’t have economic opportunities as a kid, you are much less likely to do well. So really, what are we bragging about?’ It takes a little bit of prodding to get Rahul to pat himself on the back and we drill it down to putting in the hours to become an expert at what he does. ‘There has to be a small slice of the world you own,’ he says. But he didn’t always want to be a bond trader and an entrepreneur. Like many young boys, he wanted to join the Air Force, but poor eyesight put an end to that dream. Instead, he found himself joining Unilever as a management trainee after earning his engineering degree, and then after ISB, he went to Citibank, the start of his phenomenal rise in the industry. He went on to become a Director of Fixed Income at Credit Suisse, an Executive Director at Nomura in Singapore, Managing Director of Capital Markets, South Asia at Standard Chartered and finally the Global Head for International Corporates, Financial Market Sales, also at Standard Charted. Having reached this level, few bankers would have risked it all to start their own venture, but Rahul was undaunted. He actually wishes he began sooner and urges others to take the plunge earlier. ‘The risks are always overstated,’ he says. In the future, he sees himself getting a PhD and moving into the world of academics.

He believes there is no better way to create lasting impact than teaching. End game, I ask? ‘Teaching in a university, having the good health to travel, and lastly, being able to shoot below my gross score in golf. Based on my current performance on the course, the earliest I can be successful will be at the age of 88!’ he says.

RajKamal

PGP, Class of 2003

AN ERSTWHILE IAS OFFICER AND MCKINSEY PARTNER, RAJ HAS GAMBLED IT ALL FOR AN INVESTING ROLE IN THE FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY (FINTECH) SPACE WHERE HE WANTS TO BE PART OF AN ECOSYSTEM THAT BACKS ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE READY TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

" ZERO RISK EQUALS ZERO RETURN. SO YOU HAVE TO HAVE A BIT OF A GAMBLER’S INSTINCT AND REMEMBER THAT THERE IS A FLOW TO LIFE. FORGET ABOUT THE END GAME. IF YOU DO GOOD THINGS AND WORK HARD, GOOD THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU "


Raj is universally respected among his peers at ISB, perhaps because he exudes that rare quality — an air of accomplishment finely restrained by humility. Raj wanted to be a cricketer like Sunil Gavaskar, but his family’s intense focus on academics set him on his way to IIT for four years of Mechanical Engineering instead. ‘I got a C if I did well and a D if I did badly,’ he says. After IIT, he decided to study for the Indian Civil Services exams, but failed his first attempt. ‘I wasn’t well prepared.’ His second attempt was successful and he found himself at Happy Valley, the beautiful IAS Academy in Mussoorie. The IAS introduced him to new facets of life.

‘At the Academy, watching movies and trekking were mandatory. I saw [Akira] Kurosawa for the first time and I was negotiating with unions before I knew it.’ After that came an eight-year posting in Chhattisgarh, which turned him inside out. ‘Out there you are exposed. I remember a tribal boy from Bastar coming to my office one morning and telling me he wanted to study; I had to get it done.’

Soon enough, he felt an itch to study further and the ISB, with its renowned professors, was an easy choice. Though he knew nothing about McKinsey when he landed at ISB, all the signs pointed to consulting. ‘Life is about seeing signals. I don’t like to fight the flow,’ Raj says. After eight years at McKinsey, he was made Partner, but his need to create impact continued to grow. At McKinsey you can only influence,’ he explains. So after four and a half years as Partner,he took a gamble and joined Naspers, where he enjoys the thrill of meeting ‘super smart entrepreneurs’ and backing them with growth capital. ‘I have always had a tremendous desire to live my own life, and I want to look back and talk about two or three investments in fintech that changed the world,’ says Raj, adding, ‘I would like to leave things with my own small signature. I don’t think I will retire till I die.’

Rajendra PNatekar

PGPMAX , Class of 2012

RAJENDRA’S SKILLS IN NEGOTIATION AND TROUBLESHOOTING AND HIS REPUTATION AS A PERFECTIONIST HAVE PUT HIM IN CHARGE OF A `400 BILLION P&L AT BPCL I&C, WHICH HE MANAGES BY TALKING TO PEOPLE ACROSS THE PYRAMID AND DEVELOPING STRONG RELATIONSHIPS.

" UNDERSTAND THE INTRICACIES OF THE JOB ON HAND AND HONE YOUR EXPERTISE. BE AN EFFECTIVE MENTOR AND ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU CAN TO KEEP PEOPLE HAPPY "


Rajendra has no idea how he got where he is today. ‘I am the sixth child of a middle-class family from Belavandi, a lace with a thousand inhabitants,’ he says. Education was important to his parents and they gave him this advice: ‘Excel in whatever you do. Even if you make shoes, make the best in the world.’

This philosophy has served him well, especially during a key turning point in his career. After completing his ICWA course, M.Com and MBA (Finance) —‘If you study for one, you study for all,’ laughs Rajendra — he joined Kinetic Engineering on its Honda project but left after 11 months to join BPCL in 1985, where he worked in the pricing department.

U. Sunderajan, the then Chairman and MD of BPCL, was asked to form a task force to study the deregulation of the petroleum sector, and he put Rajendra on the team — its youngest member. This changed his life in three big ways: One, he studied and read over 50 books on the oil industry in a two-month period. Two, he learned from the best administrators in the country.

‘We were all very narrow-minded and focused on how to protect the company, but senior officials in the ministry were focused on the bigger picture, the health of the nation and the benefits of competition. It changed the way I looked at the world,’ he says. Three, he underwent intense personal and professional grooming and continued to be part of the deregulation process in addition to his regular job in pricing. ‘There were no holidays. I worked seven days a week for about four years,’ he recalls. He finally took over treasury management for BPCL in 2005 and was made Executive Director of I&C in 2012. ‘I am the last-mile guy,’ he says. He pushes people to perfection by getting his own hands dirty. ‘My goal is not only the achievement but the perfect execution of a project,’ Rajendra explains. Despite his industry success, he is fascinated with research and hopes to write a book when he finally retires.

Rajiv Bajaj

PGPMAX , Founding Class

INNATELY ATTUNED TO FINDING A GOOD BALANCE BETWEEN THE SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL SIDE OF LIFE, RAJIV ’S OPTIMISM, CONFIDENCE AND SELF-BELIEF HAVE HELPED HIM CARVE OUT A LONG AND FRUITFUL CAREER ENCOMPASSING MANAGEMENT CONSULTING, STRATEGY, SALES, M&A, OPERATIONS AND BUSINESS TURNAROUND. I AM HAPPIER TAKING ON NEW CHALLENGES AND BEING A BIG ‘LEADER’ FISH IN A SMALLER RIVER.

" SWAMI CHINMAYANANDA’S WORDS, ‘FAITH (SHRADDHA) IS A BELIEF IN WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW, SO THAT WE MAY SOON ENOUGH COME TO KNOW WHAT WE BELIEVE IN,’ HAVE ALWAYS INSPIRED ME "


Born into a family that settled in Kanpur post-Partition, Rajiv, was, from an early age, encouraged to make the most of every opportunity. A top 10 performer at school, he was elected Head Boy in his final year, an early recognition of the leadership qualities that would mark his future career. He went on to study commerce in college and then pursued Chartered Accountancy.

It was during this period that he attended His Holiness Swami Chinmayananda’s discourses on the Bhagavad Gita and became interested in Vedanta philosophy, which eventually shaped his core belief and value system. Swami Chinmayananda became his spiritual guru.

He began his career in management consulting in Delhi at Andersen Consulting in 1996, where he learned about business strategy and performance improvement. Things were looking good for Rajiv. He loved his job and, during this period, he married his long-time girlfriend Deeksha — his ‘best friend and soulmate’. The IT and dot-com revolution of the late 90s heralded a downward trend in management consulting, and many of his peers moved to large IT firms. Rajiv, after some soul searching, moved to Rico Auto Industries, and a long and satisfying innings with Rico followed.

He scaled Rico’s business from nil to almost `2 billion in exports, developed its auto component value proposition, built teams to lead sales and strategy, and evaluated several M&A opportunities globally. He then took on the challenge of turning around a loss-making business unit at Rico as Executive Director, Operations. Alongside this intensive role, he joined the Executive MBA programme at ISB, earning the Scholar of Excellence gold medal and the top place on the Dean’s list.

Post- ISB, he decided to return to his first love, management consulting, and joined the startup team of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. From there, he moved to Nomura Research Institute Consulting & Solutions, a Japanese consulting firm based in Gurgaon, as CEO and Managing Partner.

A strong believer of karma yoga, Rajiv tries to link his day-to-day activities to the pursuit of a higher goal. A man who loves fine arts, he and his wife enjoy plays, musicals and cultural immersions whenever they travel.

Rajiv Nair

PGPMAX , Founding Class

WITH A HAND IN MANY MAJOR RETAIL INNOVATIONS, RAJIV HAS NEVER HESITATED TO STEP OUTSIDE HIS COMFORT ZONE AND TAKE BOLD STEPS. THE QUINTESSENTIAL RETAILER, HE ENJOYS BUILDING BRANDS AND INTERACTING DIRECTLY WITH CUSTOMERS.

" ONE SHOULD HAVE A SOUNDING BOARD WHEN TAKING CRUCIAL DECISIONS AND PERHAPS HAVE A MENTOR WHO CAN HELP ONE MAKE TOUGH CHOICES AT VARIOUS POINTS IN A CAREER JOURNEY "


Rajiv wanted to be an accountant. In fact, he only applied for a job at Shoppers Stop so that he could work while studying for his cost accounting exam. This is where he met B.S. Nagesh, who became his mentor. ‘He helps me see beyond what’s ordinary,’ says Rajiv. The high consumer interaction of the shop floor was addictive and the result-oriented nature of daily cash closing is something Rajiv finds exciting to this day. His first year as a management trainee gave him a solid foundation in retail. ‘They exposed us to every aspect of the business,’ says Rajiv. After the induction period, he was keen to pursue accounting when chance found him a job in the buying department as a merchandiser. ‘That was a game changing moment for me because it was the beginning of a 12-year journey.’ It was an eventful period.

His accounting skills gave him an edge over other buyers when it came to managing inventory, and he also launched some major international brands like Levi’s, Reebok and Nike in the stores. Over the years, he gained experience in various retail formats, becoming the first country head of the prestigious joint venture between Mothercare and Shoppers Stop and then moving on to run the non-food businesses of a big box hypermarket chain, Hypercity Retail. While he credits his mentor for pointing him in the right direction, he believes that careers need to be planned with some thought and vision because choices get more limited the higher one rises. A recurring theme in Rajiv’s career is his need to constantly move outside his comfort zone, be it joining retail when it was considered a disorganised market, joining ISB at the age of 38 or building the French brand Celio. He calls this ‘progressive disruption’. He now finds himself again on the cusp of change and is excited to be entering the world of service retail in the wellness and beauty space as the CEO of Kaya Skin Clinics, a specialised chain of over 100 skin clinics across the country

Ramkumar R

PGP , Class of 2006

A MUSICIAN WHO MOONLIGHTS AS A SENIOR MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL, RAM STRADDLES BOTH CAREERS WITH A DANCER’S EASE AND ENDEAVOURS TO LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC MORE APPROACHABLE TO THE YOUTH OF TODAY AND MORE ACCESSIBLE TO ALL.

" THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU WANT TO BE IS WHAT YOU DO TODAY "


‘If I had to do one thing in my life, it would be music. It is definitely my passion,’ says Ram as we discuss how he handles not just having two careers, but multiple interests. First and foremost, Ram is a musician. He plays the mridangam and, on average, performs 70 concerts a year. Next, as a Senior Director at WNS, he has helped create the business process management (BPM) industry’s first completely verticalised company. Key to WNS’ growth are its technology-enabled, industry focused service offerings that have transformed an industry that was otherwise heavily dependent on manpower. Finally, he also helps run musicrux.com, a digital platform that connects over 5,000 artists, 500 organisers, 400 venues and millions of die-hard Carnatic music fans from all over the world with the aim of making the fragmented, disorganised and rarified art form more accessible.

Ram revels in the symbiotic nature of both his lives. ‘The abstract nature of my art helps me in my corporate career. Carnatic music is all about improvisation. It has trained me for unpredictable situations, and I am always ready for ambiguity.’ He credits his ability to straddle three different professions to discipline and perseverance, which he learnt from his Guru, Umayalpuram K.

Sivaraman, the renowned Padma Vibhushan awardee. ‘He has taught me to always learn something new and practise every day. One day you don’t touch the instrument, you know it; the second day, the instrument knows it; the third day, everyone knows it,’ says Ram. He has designed his life around music. He went to ISB to become a management consultant so that he could move to Chennai, the capital of the Carnatic music universe, and make it his base. But today, his ambitions lie beyond himself. He wants to help remove barriers to the art form’s reach and ability to touch the lives of countless people. His other dream is to inspire percussion artists to give up using instruments made of animal skin. Ram says he is proud to have switched over to a “ethical vegan” mridangam designed by Dr. Varadarangan, which has synthetic drum heads and a fibreglass body.

Ravinder has come a long way since his debut novel. He says, ‘The tables turned after the first book came out. If I had to divide my life into AD and BC, that book was the dividing line.’ Ravinder also runs a publishing firm, Black Ink, which publishes only first-time authors.

Ravinder Singh

PGP, Class of 2012

RAVINDER BECAME AN AUTHOR BY CHANCE. FROM A DREAM JOB IN THE IT INDUSTRY TO FINDING HIS CALLING AS A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, HIS ROLLER-COASTER LIFE JOURNEY WAS MARKED BY SHARP TWISTS AND LEAPS OF FAITH. RAVINDER LOOKS AT HIMSELF AS AN ENTREPRENEUR AND PUBLISHERS AS VENTURE CAPITALISTS.

" A BESTSELLER ISN’T THE ONE CONFINED TO THE AIR-CONDITIONED BRANDED BOOKSTORE, BUT THE ONE THAT MAKES IT TO THE FOOTPATHS AND TRAFFIC LIGHTS "


Born into a Sikh priestly family in Kolkata, Ravinder grew up in Odisha. After receiving an engineering degree in computer science from Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College in Karnataka, he joined Infosys Technologies as a software engineer and moved to Bhubaneshwar for five years. But it was not the career that fate had planned for him. A tragic accident took away the love of his life and forever changed his life and career. Ravinder decided to share his grief through writing; it was his way of immortalising his love. His first book I Too Had a Love Story came out in 2008, while he was working at Infosys, and it remains one of the highest selling books in the country even today. It took Ravinder a year to finish writing the book and another one to find a publisher.

Amidst all this, Ravinder nurtured an ambition to do his MBA at a reputed institute. It took two attempts to get a seat, but the second time around, he was successful and joined ISB, fulfilling his dream. Ravinder believes that it is important to do a SWOT analysis of one’s strengths and weaknesses; his own analysis showed him that his true calling was writing. So he wrote his second novel – a sequel to his first – at ISB.

After ISB, Ravinder landed his dream job as a Senior Programme Manager at Microsoft. But 10 months later, he quit. 'I was writing programmes without having any idea who its users were and my mind kept going back to writing. So I took a big leap of faith, quit my dream job and started writing full-time,' Ravinder says.

Ravinder has come a long way since his debut novel. He says, ‘The tables turned after the first book came out. If I had to divide my life into AD and BC, that book was the dividing line.’ Ravinder also runs a publishing firm, Black Ink, which publishes only first-time authors.

Ravindra Upadrashta

PGP, Class of 2005

FOR RAVI, THE ROAD TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP WAS FRAUGHT WITH LESSONS, FROM LIFE-CHANGING MACRO LESSONS TO SUBTLE ONES THAT HELPED HIM HONE DIFFERENT FACETS OF HIS PERSONALITY. HE BELIEVES IT IS THIS DIVERSITY OF EXPERIENCE THAT HAS ENHANCED HIS JUDGEMENT AND ENABLED HIM TO STEER HIS COMPANY THROUGH MANY INFLECTION POINTS.

" A MORE EFFECTUAL APPROACH, WHERE WE IDENTIFY A GIVEN SET OF MEANS AND ALLOW GOALS TO EMERGE OVER TIME, HAS BETTER OUTCOMES "


A first-generation entrepreneur, Ravi quit a stable, high paying job at Trilogy and started a new value focused business, iRunway, a boutique technology, finance and litigation consulting firm with primary expertise in intellectual property, in a crowded industry and a geography known better for cost arbitrage than premium play. Before venturing out on his own, Ravi had worked in robotics research and the semiconductor and automotive sectors. While at Trilogy, he had helped launch several Internet-related businesses. Ravi believes that taking the plunge to start his own company was the best decision that he ever made, but says that there was no perfect start and that he was not a perfect founder.

In founding iRunway, his vision was to create a geography-neutral firm focused on value delivery and not on cost. This drive created many firsts in terms of impact and service line innovation in the industry. When he started, iRunway dealt with stiff competition, a changing legal landscape and other typical startup challenges. One of the biggest inflection points occurred a couple of years into the company’s existence. ‘We were by then a mid-sized company, starting to dominate the market. At the time, iRunway had a wide suite of offerings with revenue distributed uniformly. As a company, we then faced one of our most critical decisions — whether to continue as a broad-based firm, or focus on a narrower niche.’ Though the latter choice meant giving up almost 30% of their revenue, Ravi felt that the sacrifice was worth the discipline that it would bring, and that the resultant focus would help them dominate the industry. Sticking to the focused strategy helped the company innovate and emerge as the segment leader.

Ravi believes that a CEO’s job is inherently lonely and that there is always a doubt at the back of one’s mind about the decisions one is making. Self-belief, he says, is paramount at times like this. Currently, Ravi is setting up University IP commercialization; it is the largest programme of its kind in the US and has the potential to generate millions of dollars for universities across the world.

Reshma Krishnan Barshikar

PGP, Class of 2003

FROM AN INVESTMENT BANKER TO A FULLTIME NOVELIST, RESHMA HAS ALWAYS RELIED UPON HER FIERCELY INDEPENDENT PERSONALITY TO TRAVERSE HER OWN PATH TO SUCCESS AND SELF-FULFILMENT.

" THE WORST THING YOU CAN BE IN YOUR WORK IS JADED. TO NOT BE MOVED BY ANYTHING. NOTHING GREAT COMES FROM CYNICISM "


When Reshma was fourteen, a TV show based in London sparked such an intense interest in investment banking that she convinced her parents to send her to the UK. There, she completed her A Levels in Windsor, after which she acquired a BA (Hons) in International Management at Oxford. She returned to India at the age of 21, unclear about what to do next. Then, she saw a job opening for a research analyst with The Hindu Business Line in Chennai and applied. ‘I had the most wonderful boss. He let me travel anywhere to meet any CEO I wanted and visit any manufacturing plant. Being with The Hindu opened so many doors,’ she recalls. Though she loved the work, she felt the urge to go back to school to do her MBA. ‘ISB was perfect because it was a fraction of the cost of a US MBA and seemed to offer so much in terms of both faculty and branding,’ Reshma says. ISB was a gamechanger. She on the HSBC scholarship and, more importantly, made friends that are ow family. After ISB, she joined the Anand Automotive group where she centralised the funding requirements of their group companies and learned about being on the buyside in corporate finance. Her work reignited her interest in banking and she moved to Avendus Capital as an Associate, where she handled the entire gamut of work ranging from origination to execution. ‘It was everything I hoped it would be,’ she says. But one day, after about five years with the firm, she went on holiday and didn’t want to come back. ‘It had never happened before,’ she says, ‘I was clearly burnt out.’ Egged on by her mother, she wrote a few chapters and showed them to a writer friend, who was impressed. ‘I liked the process and wanted to switch gears because I didn’t see myself doing this in 10 years time. I knew I wouldn’t be happy,’ Reshma says. With her entire family, especially her husband, squarely behind her, she put in her papers and travelled for a year, building her travel writing portfolio. ‘The investment banking work ethic definitely paid off,’ she says. Her debut novel Fade into Red was published by Random House in 2014. She also found a second career in teaching, and spends her weekends running and teaching a programme at Imarticus Learning. The highlight of her writing career so far, she says, was being invited to the Karachi Literature Festival in 2015. She has just finished her second novel, and cannot wait for the world to read it.

Rohit Kapoor

PGP , Class of 2006

FOR SOMEONE WHO DISCOVERED HIS AMBITIONS LATER THAN OTHERS, ROHIT DID A QUICK JOB OF CATCHING UP AND RACING AHEAD, NOT ONLY DISTINGUISHING HIMSELF ACADEMICALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY, BUT ALSO DISCOVERING HIS PASSION FOR MENTORING OTHERS.

" IF YOU WANT TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL TEAM, HIRE PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER THAN YOU, EVEN AT THE RISK OF MAKING YOUR ROLE REDUNDANT. THE SIMPLE ACT OF HIRING AN A+ TEAM CAN HAVE THE MAXIMUM IMPACT ON YOUR SUCCESS "


Born in Kolkata and raised in a joint family, Rohit had a happy and typically ‘Benglish’ childhood, He loved to play sports, was academically proficient but showed little enthusiasm for studies, and did not find it necessary to have a grand ambition. It was his fiancée (now wife) who filled out his CAT application for admission to the IIMs; on the day of the exam, Rohit was off playing a cricket match.

All this changed when he moved to Delhi and joined McKinsey & Company. At McKinsey, he was part of some landmark projects spread across seven countries. This experience transformed him. Till then, he had believed that products of the IITs and IIMs were special, but now he discovered that he was as good as any of them. Rohit also found a plethora of mentors who taught him the value of apprenticeship and mentoring.

His year at ISB brought his true potential to the fore; he finished top 5 in his class, received the Young Leader award, was the president of the Consulting Club, and won a dozen external competitions. Still very deeply connected to ISB, he played a key role in launching the Healthcare Management Programme at Max Institute of Healthcare, sponsored by his employer, the Max Group. In addition, he claims to have recruited more than 100 ISB alumni in companies he has been associated with. As the Senior Director & Chief Growth Officer at Max Healthcare, Rohit is leading a mission to bring the best healthcare to India and make a big impact in the preventive healthcare space. While contributing to two years of tremendous growth, including 50% growth in revenue and 100% growth in EBITDA, he led two large acquisitions and launched three new businesses.

Rohit finds time for his interests, including being a visiting faculty at SP Jain Institute of Management and the Vedica Scholars Programme for Women, angel investing, mentoring startups and amateur photography. ‘My family keeps me sane. My friend, mentor and wife, Shivani, and my kids, Devansh (12) and Naina (4), can get me to do things that have no logical explanation. They complete me,’ he adds.

Ruchi Kalra

PGP , Class of 2007

AN EX-MCKINSEY PARTNER TURNED ENTREPRENEUR, RUCHI ENJOYS PUSHING BOUNDARIES AND TESTING LIMITS. SHE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT HER NEW VENTURE, ENVISIONING THAT IT WILL BECOME THE LARGEST NETWORK FOR SMALL & MEDIUM ENTERPRISES IN INDIA.

" YOU HAVE ONE LIFE, SO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND THINK BEYOND WHAT PEOPLE TELL YOU. YOU DON’T WANT TO LIVE WITH A FEELING THAT YOU DIDN’T DO EVERYTHING YOU COULD "


‘I don’t want to let opportunities go waste,’ says Ruchi, when I ask her what the endgame is. ‘I put my heart into whatever I do, and as an outcome, everything always comes together,’ she adds, as she talks about her journey from a middleclass background to IIT Delhi, ISB, McKinsey and now OfBusiness. OfBusiness, the company she co-founded, leverages technology to solve key problems of B2B commerce. In the 14 months since its inception, the business has raised two rounds of funding and has operations in 10 states. Ruchi is a true achiever – she has always given her best and sought to build her own standing in the world, right from her days working towards a berth at IIT. ‘I had to get through in my first attempt,’ she says, as if she had no choice in the matter. After IIT, she did an 18-month stint at E-value serve and then joined ISB – one the youngest in her class. She describes her year at ISB as ‘transformational’ in the way it broadened her horizons and brought her out of her shell. A desire to work across industries drove her to consulting and to McKinsey, where she spent the next nine years, working extensively in the financial services space and eventually making Partner. ‘McKinsey was good to me. People were great and the work was exciting,’ she says. A dedicated mother, she credits her supportive family for being able to get back to work quite quickly after her daughter was born. There are few women in leadership positions today, she says, pointing to the fact there were around 30 women in her IIT batch of 450 and five female partners in a group of 60 at McKinsey, but that, Ruchi insists, cannot be a limiting factor. It’s about loving what you do and setting boundary conditions that allow you to create value while doing what you love. It ensures professional longevity, she says, talking like a true McKinsey alum.

Sai Prasad Vishwanathan

PGP , Class of 2011

BORN DIFFERENTLY-ABLED, SAI HAS CROSSED EVERY HURDLE LIFE HAS THROWN HIS WAY AND GONE ON TO START HIS OWN CHARITABLE VENTURE — PARTLY OUT OF AN UNSTOPPABLE SENSE OF OPTIMISM AND PARTLY BECAUSE HE STRONGLY BELIEVES THAT EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN CREATING A BETTER, FAIRER WORLD.

" I DO NOT WANT TO BE PERCEIVED AS A PERSON WHO COMES AND TALKS WITHOUT HAVING DONE ANYTHING HIMSELF. THAT’S WHAT KEEPS ME MOTIVATED TO DO THINGS "


Sai has had to conquer more than his fair share of challenges, which is perhaps why he is so inspired by the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’. Born with a growth on his spinal cord, Sai, at just 13 days old, underwent an operation that left him with extensive nerve damage and a permanent loss of physical sensation in the lower half of his body. He was refused admission to several schools. Through it all, the only thing that mattered to him was perseverance. He believes that ‘the number of times you are hurt, insulted and fail will not matter on the day you achieve that which your heart most truly wants’. The roles he has played in his life — that of a friend, mentor, student and writer — helped him define and change his perspective at critical junctures. Today, his accomplishments make him proud, and they are many. From being the first Indian with a disability to visit Antarctica and skydive from a height of 14,000 feet, to graduating from ISB and generating merit scholarships for 100 students in need, Sai has never allowed anything to hold him back. His goal is ‘to explore and experience all the five elements that constitute life — earth, water, fire, sky and air’.

Sai thinks of risk as a relative word and believes that if we are to make progress, we should be comfortable with uncertainty and shouldn’t let it prevent us from doing our part to change the world. He says, ‘Creating a path of progress towards an empathetic, inclusive and fair world is what defines the humanity in us’. He is working on a Disability Recruitment League, whose objective is to invite premium organisations across all sectors to recruit people with disabilities. He has advised the Wadhwani Foundation and the Home Ministry on creating a business model to promote employment for the physically challenged. Describing himself as an ‘optimistic entrepreneur’, he has also co-founded a venture called Sahasra, which provides scholarships to meritorious, financially disadvantaged students, so that they can pursue higher education. For Sai, success is ultimately about ‘creating a positive change in the lives of people around you’.

Sandeep Gudibanda

PGP, Class of 2010

IT TOOK HIM THREE FAILED STARTUPS TO LAUNCH A SUCCESSFUL ONE. SANDEEP, A MARATHONER, IS NO STRANGER TO THE POWER OF ENDURANCE. THE COURAGE TO CARRY ON AFTER A SERIES OF FAILURES NOT ONLY TAUGHT HIM IMPORTANT LESSONS, BUT ULTIMATELY ENABLED HIM TO CREATE SOMETHING VALUABLE.

" COURAGE IS THE ABILITY TO TAKE UP ANY CHALLENGE WITHOUT DWELLING ON THE FAILURES OF THE PAST "


From a very early age, Sandeep was exposed to the work done by his maternal uncle, a doctor, who served patients from nearly 20 villages. His uncle’s diligent service to his patients gave Sandeep a deep appreciation for the value of service and care. When his uncle passed away, it left a huge void in the town, which could not be filled quickly. That is when Sandeep decided not to become a doctor, but instead create something that could scale to serve large numbers of people in multiple cities.

Sandeep’s latest venture NephroPlus serves 7,000+ patients every day in 93 centres spanning 63 cities across 16 states in India. It is the culmination of Sandeep’s childhood dream and vision.

NephroPlus is Sandeep’s fourth startup and the first to become successful. When his third startup failed, he decided to take a break and pursue an MBA at ISB. He says that the very reason for his success at NephroPlus today is the failure he suffered in his three previous ventures.

He says that his failures have shaped him today. He analyses the failure of his pre-ISB startups quite matter-of-factly, saying the first was due to his immaturity, the second took away every penny and left him broke, and the third was because of his lack of business acumen. The important thing is that he has not made the same mistakes again; he believes that each failure challenged his beliefs and drove him to create something valuable. Perhaps this is why he relates so closely to the advice Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) gives his son in the movie Rocky Balboa: ‘It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!’

Sandeep is an endurance specialist and has completed multiple triathlons and marathons across the world, including the Iron Man 70.3, which involves swimming 1.9 kms, cycling 90 kms and running 21.2 kms, adding up to 70.3 miles, all in one stretch!

Sanjiv Bhagat

PGPMAX , Class of 2012

FROM DREAMING OF BECOMING A CELEBRITY CHEF AS A YOUNG BOY TO BECOMING THE CHAIRMAN AND CEO AT AT&T GNS, INDIA, SANJIV’S JOURNEY HAS TAKEN MANY TWISTS AND TURNS, BUT HAS ALWAYS BEEN DRIVEN BY SELF-BELIEF.

" WHEN YOU ARE BUILDING A TEAM, ALWAYS SELECT PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER THAN YOU IN THEIR DOMAIN. YOU CANNOT SUCCEED WITHOUT GOOD PEOPLE "


Sanjiv would have become a chef if not for a home computer that made him realise his aptitude for technology. The IT industry was in the nascent stages in India in 1984- 85, and the non-availability of the requisite skills in the market made it a very lucrative choice for him.

His initial professional years were spent chasing excellence with short-term goals in view. He believed that long-term success was the sum total of excellence in the short game. But that changed with an in-house opportunity at IBM when one of his managers asked him if he knew someone who could fill a sales position in the organisation and he responded, ‘Yes, I know someone and that’s me.’ He had never done sales before but this didn’t stop him. ‘For a moment, I thought to myself whether I could actually do it,’ he says, ‘then my self-belief took over and I said to myself, “yes, I can”’.

The same confidence brought him to ISB. It’s not easy to return to academics after more than 20 years building a professional career. People close to him were sceptical, but Sanjiv believed he would come out successful. ‘Doubt is good, because it helps you prepare better,’ he says. When he joined AT&T in 2000 and was charged with setting up its business in India, it had about 30 to 35 employees and very limited business. ‘I consulted with my biggest mentor, my father. He told me if I work with a big brand that does not yet have a business in India, then my career is only going to grow.’ Inspired by these words, Sanjiv took the company from almost zero to triple digit revenue every year. ‘In addition to being aware of your strengths, you should know exactly what your shortcomings are. If you know your weaknesses, you can compensate for them with the skills of the people around you and focus on taking your strengths to next level,’ he says.

Sanjiv has been married to Neelam for 28 years and they have two daughters, Kriti and Riya. He is passionate about travelling to mountains and forests and has a special love for wildlife photography.

Dr.Satyanarayana Chava

PGPMAX , Founding Class

VISUALISING THE FUTURE AND OUR PARTICIPATION IN IT IS LIKE REHEARSING FOR SUCCESS BEFORE PUTTING THINGS ON THE GROUND, BELIEVES SATYANARAYANA, CEO OF LAURUS LABS. TAKING THE LONG VIEW AND IGNORING SCEPTICS, HE BUILT A KNOWLEDGE-DRIVEN ENTERPRISE WITH A STRONG R&D FOCUS — A MAJOR DEPARTURE IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL SECTOR.

" NUMBERS CAN ONLY DEFINE YOUR AMBITIONS, NOT YOUR VISION. VISION IS A CONCEPT MUCH BROADER THAN THE SCOPE OF NUMBERS ALONE "


All his life, Satyanarayana has been a strong proponent of the power of knowledge. He believes that before anything else, an entrepreneur must create a vision in his mind and then aim to achieve it through knowledgedriven initiatives. When he started Laurus Labs in 2005, he envisioned an organisation where knowledge would be created to support manufacturing. With a background in chemistry, Satyanarayana had a long career in the pharmaceutical industry starting at Ranbaxy in 1993. This acquainted him with what he considers the biggest challenge that he sought to overcome in his own enterprise. Most pharmaceutical companies set up manufacturing first and decide what to do with it afterwards. But he wanted to go the other way. He started with R&D and then began manufacturing based on the knowledge that had been created. By the time Laurus had 100 people in manufacturing in 2008, it had nearly 400 in R&D. ‘When we did that, people ridiculed the idea that we had a huge R&D department with no revenues,’ he says, ‘but we had a dream to create a research-driven enterprise.’

Even raising bank loans proved difficult, largely because Satyanarayana’s business plans disclosed that the company would incur a loss of `80 million in the first four years. However, he didn’t see it as losing money, but rather as investing in the company’s future. Today, Laurus Labs has a revenue of `20 billion, and he plans to invest another `5 billion in manufacturing, accepting that revenues from these investments will come only by 2020. To him, numbers are merely ambitions. Dreams, on the other hand, are always bigger than ambitions. ‘We don’t want to become one of the players, our dream is to become the leading player in our domain. As for our ambitions, maybe we’ll become a billion dollar company by 2020,’ he says.

He believes that it is critical to have the right team to execute the company’s vision; thus, he prefers to hire from the top down. Hiring good leaders and letting them choose their own teams, he says, is the key to ensuring that dreams turn into reality.

SaurabhKhedekar

PGP , Class of 2008

WINNER OF THE CHAIRMAN’S (EXCEPTIONAL CONTRIBUTOR) AWARD IN 2015, SAURABH BOASTS A STORIED JOURNEY AT THE ADITYA BIRLA GROUP. HE IS CURRENTLY IN THAT RARE POSITION OF INFLUENCE AFTER BEING APPOINTED TO THE BIRLA THINK TANK, WHICH ADVISES THE CHAIRMAN ON STRATEGIC PROJECTS AND ALSO HAS OVERSIGHT OF THE GROUP’S BUSINESSES ON HIS BEHALF.

" HOW FAR YOU WILL GO IN LIFE DEPENDS FULLY ON HOW DEEPLY THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH LOVE AND REGARD YOU, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE NOT AROUND "


When I ask Saurabh what it feels like to be Kumar Mangalam Birla’s consigliore, he laughs, and in all modesty, says, ‘There is nothing he does not know. I am just there to help.’ Perhaps that attitude is what got him there in the first place. After finishing college and clearing both his Chartered Accountancy and Company Secretary exams, Saurabh joined PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he received multiple promotions and was on the partner track within a few years of joining the firm. He recalls, ‘Everything was warm and fuzzy and perfect, and I was just incentivised to carry on with the firm. I was the happy frog in the well. Saurabh credits his father for pushing him towards an MBA. He remembers being shocked by the diversity at ISB. He says, ‘We had people from the Army, marketing, operations ... and I realised how little I knew. After advising CEOs on GAAP, I thought I knew business.’ ISB helped him understand what businesses were made of and what they required. It also taught him to think about what he wanted from 24 hours in a day. ‘To really capitalise on ISB, I had to ask myself how little sleep I could live on,’ he says.

Post-ISB, Saurabh applied to the leadership programme at the Aditya Birla Group. He was offered the job on Day Zero (of placements) and he’s been with the Group ever since, initially working in risk management at Novelis and thereafter shifting to M&A and international projects at UltraTech Cement. In 2014, he became the Head of Strategy of the Group’s Apparel and Retail businesses. But of all his roles in the Group, he is most excited about his current role as Vice-President in Chairman KM Birla’s office, which has allowed him to broaden his horizons. He enjoys the opportunity to work across multiple sectors at any given point of time and connect with more people. ‘Life is, after all, about connecting with people,’ he says, adding that he hopes he will continue to bring thought and partnership to what is going to be a very influential table.

SauravPanda

PGP , Class of 2010

THE FOUNDER OF SPARSH NEPHROCARE, SAURAV ‘S ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY WAS SPARKED BY CURIOSITY AND HIS DESIRE TO LEARN NEW THINGS AND DO SOMETHING MEANINGFUL. WHEN EXPLORING NEW TERRITORY, HE SAYS , THE BEST STRATEGY IS TO ADAPT TO CHANGE AND NOT GIVE UP.

" EVERYONE IS LUCKY. SOME PEOPLE JUST QUIT EARLY "


For Saurav, curiosity is synonymous with enthusiasm. He gets a thrill from delving into things he has no clue about. This was certainly true of his path to entrepreneurship, which was triggered by a talk by Manish Sabharwal at ISB, where he said, ‘If you are successful as an entrepreneur, you will be happy’. Saurav admits that on first look, this doesn’t sound like much of a promise as the chances of entrepreneurial success are quite low, but that it actually promises a lot. He entered the dialysis services industry after doing thorough market research and developed Sparsh Nephrocare’s successful strategy of setting up dialysis centres in Tier II and III cities. But he admits that though planning and strategy are important for success, one cannot undermine the role of luck. He elaborates, “You can prepare as much as you want, but your best laid plans can be turned to ashes by unexpected events. Luck is important and you have to last long enough to be lucky.”

Saurav’s journey was not easy. He returned to India from the US having grown used to a very different lifestyle and work culture. But one year at ISB served as a good cushion for his transition and he fell back on ISB for rescue in many situations. He started a venture in which neither he nor his co-founder had any background or skill set that was really useful, and decided to enter a tremendously challenging sector — healthcare. This is where curiosity and persistence paid off. Because he had no prior experience in entrepreneurship, he started with the very basics: What is dialysis and why was it that out of the two million patients who needed dialysis in India, only 50,000 received this life saving therapy? Saurav and his team realised this gap was due to the inaccessibility of dialysis and not, as was widely believed, because it was unaffordable. This was the key, in his view, to unlocking the problem, and he went on to set up a dialysis chain to make the treatment accessible to people across the country.

SeemantJauhari

PGP , Class of 2005

THROWING TRADITION TO THE WINDS, SEEMANT LEFT THE SECURITY OF A CAREER IN IT TO EXPLORE NEW HORIZONS. THIS QUEST HAS BROUGHT HIM TO WHERE HE IS TODAY — TRANSFORMING THE HEALTHCARE LANDSCAPE IN INDIA THROUGH DISRUPTIVE MEDICAL INNOVATIONS.

" COURAGE IS THE PRODUCT OF VISION AND PERSEVERANCE, AND LIES AT THE CONVERGENCE OF SKILLS, EXPERIENCE AND LEARNING "


In 2000, Seemant was on his way to becoming an IT engineer when he realised that it was not where he wanted to be for the rest of his career. At his first job at TCS, he chose to be part of an e-governance project instead of becoming a code writer. From that point onwards, he would make other surprising decisions that would take him off the beaten track. When he moved to Ernst & Young, India, he led the Vibrant Gujarat initiative for the state government, and then he took charge of research and innovations at Apollo Hospitals. Along the way, he honed his management skills, first at ISB and later in Executive Education programmes in Disruptive Innovation at the Haas School of Business, Berkeley and Recanati Business School, Tel Aviv University.

He believes that when one travels an unknown path, the picture is blurry at first, but it gradually clears up and a roadmap begins to take shape to take you to your goal. Staying on track takes energy and courage, which, according to Seemant, is made of two ingredients — vision emanating from passion and selfbelief, and the perseverance to follow through.

As the head of research and innovations at Apollo, Seemant knows he needs to be at least two steps ahead of everyone else. ‘Most healthcare providers are looking at scaling their business rather than looking for ways to disrupt the existing system and achieve a quantum leap in their business, ’he says. In line with global thinking, he introduced genetic testing at Apollo Hospitals in a preventive healthcare context — an innovation that was not available at any other hospital in India. Subsequently, he successfully incubated cutting-edge technologies and treatments, such as liquid biopsy and precision oncology across the chain. Precision oncology is a sophisticated, genetics-based approach to diagnosing and treating cancer, whose importance has been acknowledged by the White House through its precision oncology advancement initiative, Cancer Moonshot. For Seemant, success is ‘addressing challenges through solutions that create real measurable and visible impact,’ and this is what he strives to achieve by bringing healthcare innovations to India.

ShahnawazAli

PGP, Class of 2010

WHILE MOST PEOPLE DREAM OF A GOOD JOB WITH GREAT WORK-LIFE BALANCE, SHAHNAWAZ ALI DREAMS OF BECOMING A NOBEL LAUREATE SOME DAY. MEANWHILE, HE IS HAPPY TO CHASE HIS PASSION FOR IMPROVING THE LIVES AND LIVELIHOODS OF PEOPLE LIVING IN REMOTE PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.

" IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS IN LIFE, TRY TO MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY. EVEN A SMALL THING YOU DO TO HELP MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY STAYS WITH YOU FOR A LONG TIME "


Shahnawaz got bitten by the social sector ‘bug’ while working on an idea for a social enterprise for a business plan competition at ISB. Post-ISB, he spent four months working on pro-bono assignments in a remote village of Rajasthan. The realisation that life and family can’t be run on pro-bono jobs, and an email about a social entrepreneurship role from a fellow IIT and ISB alumnus brought him to Pan-IIT Alumni Reach For India (PARFI), an organisation dedicated to improving the lives and livelihoods of people in remote parts of India.

At PARFI, he is involved in creating the infrastructure for training blue collar workers and equipping them with the skills they need to enhance their paychecks. Most of PARFI’s work is in Naxal-affected areas, where the rebels do not allow development work to progress, with the result that the local people are poorly educated. He says, ‘The poverty they face is not by choice, but due to a lack of opportunity. We’re trying to bring them an opportunity and link them to the mainstream economy.’

A big challenge is that there is no market for such services; most people acquire whatever skills they have on the job — a waste of resources and productivity. Further, to have real impact, a training programme needs to be sustainable, scalable and not dependent on grants or funds from other sources. ‘Initially, we had to go for some stop-gap funding, but it has never been a philanthropic activity. It was always backed by a business case,’ he says. To counter these challenges, Shahnawaz and his team approached corporate houses and convinced them to deploy their corporate social responsibility funds into their training programme. In return, they realised their return on investment by being able to recruit trained workers.

With smart people on board, and the next round of fundraising on the anvil, Shahnawaz plans to do more in the field of tribal and vocational education, and also wants to set up agro-processing hubs in different parts of the country.

ShikhaBagai

PGPMAX, Founding Class

WIDELY KNOWN AS THE CALM AND TENACIOUS EX-CFO OF IL&FS SECURITIES, SHIKHA HAS NOW SET HER EYES ON THE HEALTH INSURANCE BUSINESS AND HOPES TO INFUSE IT WITH THE SAME KIND OF ‘OPTIMISM AND PASSION’ SHE PACKED INTO HER EARLIER ROLE.

" TRUST LIFE TO HOLD YOUR HAND, TOUCH THE MAGIC AS IT UNFOLDS; BECAUSE WHEN THE WORST WE FEAR ACTUALLY HAPPENS, WE REALISE LIVING IT WAS BETTER THAN FEARING IT "


‘Sibling love and joint family taught me the value of selflessness,’ says Shikha, when asked about her life philosophy, both professional and personal. Being big-hearted was part of the value system in a home where guests were welcome at all hours. She recalls the night before her Chartered Accountancy law exam and trying to study in a house filled with guests and the sound of laughter. When she confronted her parents, they replied, ‘Balance is the key to life.’ The 24-year-old CA who fell in love with accounting the minute she set eyes on a balance sheet, landed her first job at the Taj Hotel in Lucknow and went on to become one of Taj’s youngest chief accountants.

Passionate about finance, she decided to move to IL&FS despite a drop in designation. ‘I have never had a salary or designation negotiation during my performance appraisals; I always focused on the bigger picture, capacity building, the goals of the organisation and the role I could play in achieving them.’ Within months, she found herself working with a senior Executive Director whose office became the perfect training ground, and Shikha honed her skills even as she fought fires on the personal front – dealing with her husband’s health challenges and the resulting expenses, raising her daughter and even having to leave the three-month-old baby for a week to take her CPA exam in the US. She calls this a period of ‘building fortitude’; it was also a spiritually significant time for Shikha, a staunch devotee of Lord Siva. Her pursuit of professional excellence and managerial expertise led her to ISB after two years as CFO of IL&FS Securities. The highlight of her 16 years at IL&FS was running its capital markets business and incubating businesses and markets within that vertical – work that ultimately fuelled her desire to transition to another platform. She joined Aditya Birla Health as their CFO in 2016. She talks excitedly about ‘building capacity’ and being given the opportunity to undertake a journey from start to scale. And she hopes to do all this while seeing her daughter through her board exams and pursuing her love of classical dance.

SimranKhara

PGP, Class of 2006

TENACITY AND A QUESTIONING MIND HAVE SEEN SIMRAN THROUGH A VARIETY OF ROLES ACROSS MCKINSEY AND STAR INDIA AND NOW LANDED HER AT HOTSTAR, WHERE SHE IS FOCUSING ON BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE REVENUE MODEL WHILE SHE LOOKS FOR THE HOLY GRAIL — THAT PERFECT BALANCE BETWEEN MOTHERHOOD AND A CAREER.

" HANG AROUND TO SEE THINGS THROUGH. AT FIRST WHEN YOU CHIP AWAY, YOU WILL ONLY SEE FRAGMENTS, BUT THEN, ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU WILL SEE THE IMPACT UNRAVEL AND EXPERIENCE THE SWEET JOY OF EVERYTHING COMING TOGETHER "


Simran was always driven by glory and recognition and knew her strength lay in the execution of a job. So when she moved from McKinsey to a strategy role at Star, she asked herself if she had done the right thing. Having grown up as an Army kid, she was comfortable with change and ambiguity but was certain that she wanted to have a big impact in whatever role she took on. She had an MSc from London School of Economics, an MBA from ISB, almost four years at McKinsey and a successful stint handling the CEO’s office, but Simran wanted more. So when she was promoted and put in charge of revenues for the Hindi language business in 2013 – ‘the mothership of Star’ – she jumped at the chance to focus on operations. ‘The early months were exhausting; the internal and external friction in any organisational transformation is huge and humbling,’ she says. But she was blessed with a brilliant team and by July 2015, they had doubled pricing growth, nearly tripled HD channel revenues and partnered with advertisers on award-winning content. Simran credits these successes to questioning everything and having a nose for efficiency. ‘Any operations machine collapses without rigour and precision,’ she observes. At 32, she became the youngest ever Senior Vice-President and remembers that phase of her life with mixed emotions as she straddled a long-distance marriage and a challenging career. In 2016, after her daughter Mira was born, she jumped back into the game and is now working on Hotstar’s monetisation strategy. ‘I am focused on “re-tooling” my kit for the vast and poorly understood digital media monetisation landscape. I feel the need to shift my arc once again to have significant impact,’ she says. Simran admits the ride has been exhausting and not without tradeoffs. The key, she says, is to have clarity about your expectations and to look at a career as a marathon with intervals of high intensity and rest.

SubramaniRamachandrappa

PGP, Class of 2004

FOUNDER OF RICHCORE LIFESCIENCES, A COMPANY FOCUSED ON DEVELOPING INNOVATIVE ENZYME SOLUTIONS FOR CLEANTECH AND BIOPHARMA APPLICATIONS, SUBRAMANI ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTES TOWARDS ENTREPRENEURSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION.

" IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW YOURSELF AND WHAT REALLY MATTERS TO YOU; YOU WILL SOON REALISE EVERYTHING ELSE IS JUST A SHORT DISTRACTION "


Subramani’s turning point in life came very early. A pampered child, he woke up one day as a teenager to find the rug pulled out from under him; his father had passed away, leaving his family embroiled in debt and court cases. A basic need for money led him to join Biocon to sell enzymes for textile processing, despite having no background in biotechnology. A year into the job, the lack of office space got him a small desk in the lab, which exposed him to more applications. He began asking questions, and within months, he had more answers than the head of the lab. He was in a vantage position to pitch his ideas to Chairman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and witness the company’s phenomenal growth, but his family commitments were greater than the job was able to support. He eventually left and became a distributor for Biocon. As his business grew, so did his product base, and soon he cut away from Biocon and began Richcore, thus starting his entrepreneurial journey. ‘My strength comes from believing that no challenge is too high to scale, or obstacle too hard to overcome,’ he says. He soon realised that Richcore would require considerable funding to scale, and he joined ISB to understand how to grow his company. He undertook an independent study on venture capital and fund raising at ISB, which helped him raise the funding he needed. Today, Richcore has filed over 16 application patents in different countries in enzyme innovation.

Subramani, known as ‘Rich’ among his friends, enjoys a healthy work-life balance and says he likes being in a position where he only does what he feels like doing. ‘All I ask myself each day is if I am feeling and doing better than yesterday,’ he says. He believes his biggest achievement has been bringing a lot of good people together, ‘I make them feel like they are working with me rather than for me.’ His investor described him as a ‘polymath’ on hearing that his interests ranged from playing the trumpet, painting and motorbiking to solving problems in areas such as food processing and waste management.

SuhailAlam

PGP, Founding Class

DRIVEN BY A PASSION FOR SCIENCE AND HEALTHCARE, SUHAIL’S MISSION IS TO OPEN UP AND DELIVER NEW POSSIBILITIES THAT MAKE AN IMPACT ON SCIENCE AND HEALTHCARE, IMPROVE MILLIONS OF LIVES AND CREATE A BETTER WORLD OR OUR CHILDREN.

" MOVE TOWARDS A CAREER THAT WILL ALIGN WITH YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE AND MEANING, AND THEN PURSUE WITH A SENSE OF SERVICE AND LOVE. THE FULFILLMENT AND JOY YOU WILL GET FROM THIS WILL GIVE YOU THE ENDURANCE NOTHING ELSE CAN MATCH. NOT SURPRISINGLY, SUCCESS WILL FOLLOW "


For Suhail, an engineer from IIT working in oil and gas exploration, an MBA from ISB opened the door to a new world when he landed a position at the global pharmaceutical giant Novartis through campus recruitment. Not only did this job provide him the opportunity to chart a career of extraordinary growth, but it was also here that he discovered his love for life sciences and his personal mission.

The tragedy of unexpectedly losing his father to heart failure while Suhail was still a student was what nudged him to do something meaningful in his work that would enable others to lead healthier and happier lives. He believes that some of our greatest losses in life, paradoxically, give us the greatest inspiration to drive change. He says that when he looks at his children, he feels a strong desire to protect their generation from the pain and suffering that certain diseases bring to families.

Suhail is very passionate about building teams that can deliver exceptional work. For him, leadership is about service, responsibility, influence and inspiration, not about position and designation. It is about creating an environment where teams can thrive and people are inspired to bring their best to the table. Today, driven by a passion for science and healthcare, Suhail aims to do impossible things with people and teams to improve and extend people’s lives.

Suhail currently manages a global team of about 1,500 people in four continents to enable Novartis commercial operations. He has also led teams that launched multiple blockbuster medicines that are having a significant impact in treating certain debilitating diseases.

TarunDavda

PGP, Class of 2009

BE IT BUILDING BIGROCK AND STEPOUT, OR INVESTING AT MATRIX PARTNERS, TARUN CONSTANTLY LIVES AT THE INTERSECTION OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION AND WAS PIVOTAL IN TURNING MATRIX PARTNERS INDIA INTO THE TECHNOLOGY-FOCUSED VENTURE FUND IT IS TODAY.

" JUST LIKE NOT EVERYONE CAN BE AN ENTREPRENEUR, NOT EVERYONE CAN BE AN INVESTOR. IT’S AN INTENSE BUSINESS. IT’S NOT ABOUT SPREADSHEETS, IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE AND PERSISTENCE. MY TEAM AND I MEET 2,500+ COMPANIES EACH YEAR AND WE’LL PROBABLY INVEST IN 4-6 OF THEM "


When Tarun was 14, his father walked in and said, ‘I’ve had to shut the factory; you’re on your own.’ His board exams were looming, and though he had always been an average student, this time he did his best and scored just shy of 90%. ‘That day I understood the correlation between effort and outcome,’ he says. In 2000, he joined Infosys, where for the next eight years, he experienced the ‘Pygmalion effect’, the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to improved performance. Every boss at Infosys promoted him by handing him harder projects; he became the ‘crisis’ guy. But eventually, he says, he got bored and realised an MBA would break the status quo. He chose ISB, where he met Bhavin Turakia, one of two brothers he calls ‘the cowboys of Indian Internet.’ He started BigRock, a domain registration and web hosting company, and spearheaded its award-winning TV ad, which resulted in a five-fold increase in revenues. But he wanted more. ‘I learned that entrepreneurship, resulting in large-scale job creation, is the only viable mechanism for eradicating poverty and uplifting India.’ So he quit BigRock and co-founded an online dating site called StepOut – ‘Tinder on the web’ – and garnered five million users in two years. But Tarun was unable to convince venture capitalists that he could monetise the user base, and the company began flailing during the third round. The rest reads like a fairy tale. Avnish Bajaj, who he met when pitching StepOut, offered him a check and said, use this as seed money for your next venture or your joining bonus to come on board Matrix Partners. ‘His conviction in me shook me. That’s what it meant to bet on someone.’ Tarun’s first investment was Ola. ‘Nobody knew Ola; it was in one city but whenever I met the founder my heart started beating faster,’ he says. Ola went from 100 rides a day to doing more than a million daily rides and reached a valuation of $5 billion in three years. Tarun says he is inspired by his founders, ‘I just find them so special. Meeting people like that is what keeps me going.’

UmangKumar

PGP, Class of 2006

A PIONEER IN THE AUTO CLASSIFIEDS SPACE, UMANG RUNS THE LARGEST AUTO PORTAL IN THE COUNTRY, VALUED AT $400 MILLION AND WILL SPEND THE NEXT FEW YEARS TRANSFORMING THE CAR BUYING EXPERIENCE IN INDIA. HE ALSO DABBLES AS AN INVESTOR IN TECH STARTUPS.

" SUCCESS IS GOING FROM FAILURE TO FAILURE WITHOUT LOSS OF ENTHUSIASM’ - WINSTON CHURCHILL "


The teenage Umang was and allrounder, driven by his mother to excel at everything he put his mind to – sports, academics and even the tabla. Losing his mother at a formative age, however, drove him into a shell lined with books and technology. He recalls being inspired by Little Lord Fauntleroy, a rags-to-riches story of a boy who finds himself heir to an Earldom and wins over everyone’s heart by believing everyone is inherently good. ‘When people face someone who believes that they are good, people transform because they want to stand up to that ideal,’ he says. He had a self-awareness rarely found in a young adult. ‘I have always known my own mind and will do what I think is right for me. I am not a rebel. I respect my parents, but they know that every decision will be mine in the end,’ he says. Thus, instead of choosing investment banking or consulting after ISB, he opted to work in strategy with ex-ISB dean Pramath Sinha at Anandabazar Patrika, and then followed Pramath to his startup, 9.9 Media. But the potential of digital disruption gnawed at him, and along with Vivek Pahwa, he began Gaadi.com. ‘I am a computer nerd turned MBA who metamorphosed into a sales guy while in media. Starting with media/ sales strategy, I found my calling as a quintessential sales guy,’ he says. With Umang driving sales, the portal quickly turned profitable and Umang, then just 29, and his partner received a multi-million dollar payout a mere 19 months after launching Gaadi.com.‘In hindsight, we shouldn’t have sold out that early, but we didn’t have the foresight then to realise how big the Internet would become,’ says Umang. The deal with Naspers required him to stay on at Gaadi.com, and in 2014, the portal was sold again to CarDekho. com. Today, he runs the entire auto business of the combined entity serving over 33 million visitors every month, and his vision of building out the digital auto ecosystem in India is supported by funding from marquee investors like Sequoia, Hillhouse, Tybourne and Google Capital. Not bad for a 32-year-old who could have walked away a few times, but chose to battle on with an idea.

VarshaBhawnani

PGP, Class of 2004

VARSHA’S STORY IS AN ODE TO DETERMINATION AND PROOF THAT EVEN A SLIVER OF OPPORTUNITY IS ENOUGH WHEN RAZOR-SHARP FOCUS MEETS HARD WORK AND SHEER AUDACITY.

" WORK AT A PACE YOU CAN SUSTAIN. CREATE MILESTONES THAT ARE ACHIEVABLE. AND DON’T LOSE OUT ON FAMILY AND FRIENDS. THAT’S WHAT GIVES YOU ENERGY "


In 2012, I found myself off Mumbai’s Linking Road in a 5,000 square-foot store that could have belonged to Mango. It belonged to Varsha Bhawani. It all began post-ISB when she was living in Mumbai and working with The Chatterji Group. ‘Mumbai suited my personality, but I did not enjoy working for someone else. I was a leader, not a team player. I liked to do my own thing.’ One day, a few friends from Spain complimented her clothes and were amazed to find that she had made most of them herself. They asked her to put together a small line, which they would try and market in Spain. Varsha quickly created a collection using her own tailors, and Vinegar was born. It didn’t work out, but she had liked the process and decided to learn more. She visited the trade fair at Pragati Maidan in Delhi to understand the international market. She found the clothing uninspired but learned that scale was paramount in the clothing business. She came home, put all her savings into a few machines, made a few corsets, and went back, this time as a seller. She found her first client, and having negotiated an advance of 100%, she returned to Mumbai and quit her corporate job. Having no laptop, she visited the local cyber café 15 times a day to check her email, waiting for the order. She remembers having `18 in her pocket and eating Maggi on a Friday night when she finally received an email and €7,000 in her account. Six months later, she went back to the trade fair and came back with a larger order, and the rest, as they say, is history. A lot has happened since then, and today Varsha finds herself consolidating her business after shutting down her store in 2015. She is now focused on outsourcing and franchising. ‘I am so surprised I am being considered a success right now,’ she says sheepishly. The guts and glory is never in the end game, I tell her, but in the rollercoaster ride that is the journey.

Ved ManiTiwari

PGPMAX, Class of 2013

FOR VED, ALIGNING HIS CAREER PATH WITH HIS ASPIRED VALUE SYSTEM WAS PARAMOUNT. FROM HEADING PUBLIC TRANSIT PROJECTS TO DEVELOPING THE SOLAR ENERGY SEGMENT, VED HAS CHAMPIONED THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD.

" THE ONLY THING ONE CAN PLAN IS TO MAKE CHOICES IN TERMS OF VALUES THAT ONE WANTS TO PURSUE IN LIFE AND BECOME FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO CHOOSE THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT BEST ALIGN WITH ONE’S VALUE OBJECTIVES "


An avid reader since he was a child, Ved drew inspiration from stories of success in the face of extreme challenges. He wanted to make a difference — to make India the greatest in the comity of nations, for he was convinced that human beings are blessed with an amazing quality of will to change the status quo. This self-belief and the belief that 'anything is possible' has guided all his choices. For Ved, making career choices aimed at improving the well-being of the community assured success, which for him meant 'leveraging technology to realise social equity.'

Early on in life, he realised that technological changes caused the social, economic and political landscape to evolve at a fast pace. He was selected to the Indian Engineering Services (IES), opted to join the Indian Railways and started working towards the ultimate objective of raising its operations capabilities through technology. This led to an opportunity to be part of the founding team of the Delhi Metro where he collaborated with its iconic chief E. Sreedharan. Following this, Ved was selected by the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Railways to lead their initiatives to open up the railway sector for private investment. He was subsequently selected to head the effort to develop business models for the economic viability of public transit systems. As Executive Director of the Kochi Metro project, he leveraged IT in several business initiatives around the double-sided market concept of developing public transits as a social marketplace that involved transit cards, e-wallets, Wi-Fi in trains and stations and innovative digital marketing solutions.

Having played a number of exciting roles in government, Ved eventually decided it was time for a change and left the sector to pursue solar energy opportunities in the private sector, joining SunEdison as its Managing Director. In this role, he is guiding the company in developing techno-commercial solutions to bring the price of solar energy lower than coal-fired power.

His hope is to help 'reshape the power industry by developing new business models incentivising power for all at an affordable price.'

VijayDalmia

PGP, Class of 2003

VIJAY’S THINKING HAS OFTEN BEEN AHEAD OF THE CURVE. DEDICATED TO CARRYING ON THE LEGACY OF HIS FAMILY BUSINESS, HE HAS GIVEN THE COMPANY A NEW EDGE WHILE STAYING ROOTED IN THE FAMILY VALUES.

" MY SELF-BELIEF AND CONFIDENCE COME FROM THE FACT THAT IN ALL MY PAST EXPERIENCES, I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES "


As a child, Vijay used to accompany his grandfather to the family’s manufacturing units, and joined his family’s business immediately after school. From that point on, the business took priority over everything and he continued working while pursuing his education.

The ML Dalmia Group’s tea manufacturing business, was, like most tea businesses in India, traditionally run and governed. Post- ISB, Vijay, who is the fifth generation to carry forward the family legacy, was keen on exploring and bringing something new to the business. The first thing he wanted to do was to bring the best innovative practices from some of the largest tea producing countries in the world like Kenya, China and Sri Lanka, to India.

He implemented a new business model in the organised segment of India’s tea sector — the Bought-leaf model of manufacturing tea — which called for the commissioning of the Group’s state-of-the-art Toong and Teesta View facilities to process leaves sourced from more than 200 small farmers with relatively smaller plantations. Although the implementation was challenging, Vijay states, “When you bring in something new, it has its own risks and consequences, but we understood how it was adding value, and today, it is one of the best things we have done in terms of implementing a new idea.” Today, MLD Group’s tea estates and manufacturing units are the first in the country to be Trustea certified, which attests that the tea has been grown or sourced sustainably. Vijay believes that the way you approach things has to continuously evolve. He has done pioneering research work on the production of instant tea and the extraction of caffeine from tea waste and currently looks after the technical aspects of the business, including production and quality.

For Vijay, money is only one measure of success; it is just a number and what is important is how this number keeps growing through the contributions one makes. Often (wrongly) perceived as a workaholic, Vijay says that he draws a lot of inspiration and energy from his friends and family.

VikasChadda

PGP, Class of 2007

A SALESMAN AT HEART, VIKAS HOPES TO PROPEL HONEYWELL’S GROWTH IN INDIA NOT JUST BY FOCUSING ON THE YEAR-END NUMBERS, BUT BY CAPTURING MEGATRENDS WHICH HE HOPES WILL CREATE A LASTING IMPACT.

" THE ROAD TO SUCCESS IS PAVED WITH HARD WORK, AND THAT REQUIRES PEOPLE TO STRETCH. BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE BOUNDARIES AND ALLOW SPACE FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF PERSONAL PRIORITIES "


As with so many successful people, Vikas’s first turning point in his career came from some unexpected advice — his manager suggested he try sales rather than engineering. Having grown up as an Army kid, Vikas had gone with the flow and chosen to study engineering because that’s what everyone around him had done, and yet, ironically, it was his Army upbringing that made him an exceptional salesman. ‘I was excellent at follow up and extremely methodical. No one realises how many sales are lost because people don’t get back to customers.’ His sense of discipline ensured a work ethic characterised by attention to detail and sincerity while his upbringing fostered a transparency appreciated by both his customers and peers. One day, at the age of 35, Vikas looked at a P&L and realised that to move ahead in his career, he would have to go back to school. ‘It was a very scary and lonely experience when I first went to ISB.

I had not studied or appeared for an exam and here I was, competing with some of the best brains in the country.’ Despite his doubts, he forged ahead, leveraging his experience and making sense of the theory, and ultimately graduated in the top 10 percentile of his class and secured a placement on day zero. This is something he is extremely proud of to this day. Learning continued to be his main source of inspiration as he navigated his role as a consultant at McKinsey and the many leadership roles he took on at Honeywell before he became Country Head in Honeywell India. ‘I am still pursuing my CFA and I believe, at my core, that I am a seeker.’ With absolute clarity, he discusses his ambition to become a CEO of a company with a global footprint before moving on to life as an independent consultant and advisor. His immediate goals are to build a great team and revel in their success. If there is one thing he has learned from his journey so far, it is this: ‘Be humble, get the job done and have fun!

VirenRasquinha

PGP, Class of 2009

FORMER CAPTAIN OF THE INDIAN HOCKEY TEAM, WHO ALSO PLAYED AT THE ATHENS 2004 OLYMPICS, AND WINNER OF THE ARJUNA AWARD FOR HOCKEY, VIREN WORKS TO CREATE AN ECOSYSTEM THAT ENSURES THAT INDIAN ATHLETES LIKE MARY KOM AND P.V. SINDHU BRING HOME THE GOLD.

" LEARNING NEVER STOPS, EVEN IF IT IS JUST TO IMPROVE ON YOUR EXISTING SKILLS EVERY SINGLE DAY. ALWAYS TRY TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT OF EXCELLENCE WHEREVER YOU CAN "


'The greatest pleasure in life is to do something that people say you cannot do,' says Viren, talking about how he always bucked the trend. When he was younger, he chose to play hockey even though everyone else wanted him to become an engineer — he was 13th on the SSC Mumbai Merit List. When he was 27 and wanted to retire and go to ISB, everyone around him wanted him to keep playing hockey, and when he decided to forego his job post-placement and join an NGO with no money and no structure, he dismissed the murmurs around him once more and chose, as he had always done, he says, ‘to follow my heart.’

Professionally, Viren says, ISB has been a major turning point because until then, all he had done was train, travel and play. At ISB, he had the opportunity to hone his skills and learn from his peers — an entrepreneur, an IT programmer, and a marketing and sales professional. Choosing to join Olympic Gold Quest was a no-brainer as he had always wanted to fix the systemic issues in Indian sport. ‘It is not about individual brilliance. I knew what was wrong because all of it had happened to me, and I realised I was in the best position to do this.’ Success, he says, is about being happy. ‘I love what I do, whether as a player or now in my current job as CEO of Olympic Gold Quest, where I look after the training of some of India’s best athletes preparing for the Olympics.’ His greatest joy came from standing five metres behind P.V. Sidhu, whose training he has been involved with since she was 14, as she stood on the podium at Rio, the Indian flag flying high next to her. Today, OGQ is involved in the training of 50 junior players across eight disciplines. But the learnings, he says, have always come from defeat. ‘I have lost far more than I have won; it is self-belief and picking yourself up that makes you a stronger person.’

YashrajErande

PGP, Class of 2006

BCG’S INDIA LEAD FOR STRATEGY PRACTICE AND CORE MEMBER OF ITS FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS PRACTICE, YASHRAJ ENJOYS THE VISIBLE IMPACT OF HIS WORK WITH THE WORLD’S LEADING FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND FOCUSES ON DEVELOPING CLARITY FOR BOTH HIS CLIENTS AND HIMSELF.

" DO NOT ASSOCIATE BELIEF IN YOURSELF WITH THE OUTCOME. BELIEF IS AN INPUT VARIABLE. DON’T LEAVE ANY STONE UNTURNED; DON’T LOSE THE ENERGY "


As a 10-year-old growing up in Patna, Yashraj understood his choices; he could become a gangster, a ‘dada’ or a politician. Wanting something better, his family moved to Mumbai.

His mother took out a loan to get him his first computer and Yashraj was enamoured. Academically inclined, he secured a place at Ruparel College but found that what had come to him relatively easily until then, was now much harder.‘The only response to greater challenge is greater determination. So I became more intense in my thought and action — those two years changed me significantly.’

Later, while at engineering college, he started a small part-time business assembling computers. This gave him his first taste of ‘commercial success’ and set him up for his first job at Tata Consulting Services. ‘My wiring is such that for me, in any endeavour, both the result and process count. I was extremely keen to get a better life for myself and my dear ones, but also wanted to get there in a way that I could be really proud of.’

He calls his stint at TCS his second life-changing moment (the first was meeting his wife). Yashraj rose fast and, in one and a half years, was managing 200 people across three geographies and taking on responsibility far ahead of his tenure. He credits this confidence to ‘spectacular’ bosses who were selfless and secure enough not to restrain his ambition. However, he soon felt he would need to branch out to go further and ISB was the natural choice. His ISB experience taught him that anything was possible. He went on to found the ISB Consulting Club with his friend Rohit Kapoor, and consulting proved to be his next love and future career — he joined BCG out of campus. He attributes his success at BCG to clients and mentors who have given him an unlimited runway to go as fast and as far as he wants to.

His focus now is to spend the next 20 years building a platform for his daughters. He says, ‘I don’t believe in the idea of a compromise. If my priorities are clear and I get to spend time on what I believe I should be spending time on, then it always gives me energy. ’

ZahabiyaKhorakiwala

PGP, Class of 2009

THE FACT THAT ZAHABIYA WAS AT ISB TWO DAYS AFTER HER POST WEDDING HOLIDAY SAYS A LOT ABOUT HER SHARP FOCUS AND PROFESSIONAL DEDICATION. NOT ONE TO GIVE UP OR GIVE IN EASILY, SHE HAS CONQUERED HER SHARE OF CHALLENGES TO REACH THE POINT WHERE SHE IS SEEING HER VISION TURN INTO REALITY.

" IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT I ENJOY WHAT I DO, AND I AM THOROUGHLY ENJOYING WHAT I AM DOING RIGHT NOW "


When Zahabiya graduated from college in the United States and returned to India, she had intended to pursue an MBA at ISB. At that time Wockhardt, the family pharmaceutical and healthcare business built by her father, was facing a challenging financial situation. Yet, she went ahead and joined ISB. ‘It was all planned and I went about the plan,’ she recalls.

Post-ISB, she planned at being an entrepreneur, and starting her own business in the restaurant industry sector. ‘When I told my parents, their only condition was that I find a business partner, which I did,’ she says. The bubble tea venture that she started taught her some invaluable lessons that only prepared her better for the future, one that involved running a complex business with annual revenues of over `5 billion. Eventually, at the helm of Wockhardt Hospitals, she dealt with another difficult decision; to exit their Bhavnagar hospital after 7 years of attempting to make it a viable and self-sustaining hospital. In her words 'we attempted to create a secondary care hospital and run it as a feeder to our main hospital in Rajkot but we realized that in such a hub and spoke framework, the feeder hospital can never really be self-sustainable – a hub and spoke model doesn’t work'.

By the time New Age Wockhardt Hospitals in South Mumbai opened in 2014, Zahabiya had been there and done that — getting the permissions, planning and executing the project to start the 21-storey hospital, and hiring the staff and consultants. She had already spent close to four years learning the ropes, making key business decisions, bringing to reality the crown jewel of Wockhardt's hospital business and becoming the Managing Director of Wockhardt Hospitals. ‘I believe in developing my own perspective of things, and I think I have been given a fair chance by senior leadership at Wockhardt,’ she says.

Zahabiya believes in practicing a participative style of leadership, one that involves her at all critical moments of managing the business. Was she overwhelmed by the senior folks who were till then managing the business? ‘I think I fitted into my role fine,’ she says with a tinge of indifference.

She has a clear vision of the impact she wants the business to have on society — a vision that is shared by the family. ‘Our goal is to set clinical benchmarks in quality and contemporary treatments in the tertiary and quaternary care space' she says.

Reshma Krishnan, PGP Co ‘03 and Ester Martinez , PGP Co ’04 are the lead writers of ISB Portraits, who volunteered their time to the project and are themselves featured in it.

To book your copy of ISB Portraits, please write to pooja_prahlad@isb.edu