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Archive for May, 2011

Reflections from Dean Jain

Namrta Raghavendra, KSM 2012, sat down with Dipak Jain on a rainy winter day for a personal conversation about his memories from his childhood in India, experiences at Kellogg and the new professional chapter ahead.  Dr Jain served as Dean of the Kellogg School of Management from 2001-2009. He joined the Kellogg School of Management faculty in 1986 as an associate professor and became an associate dean in 1996. 

I was cold and drenched on my way to Dean Jain’s home, but the smile that he greeted me with suddenly made me feel very warm and comfortable. He helped me with my jacket and guided me to his make-shift office at home.

While I settled behind an ebony desk with a pile of freshly arrived letters, mostly invitations, and an impressive collection of books, Dean Jain himself returned with a cup of tea and cookies. I surely couldn’t have asked for more from a person of his stature and was struck by his modesty.

His office was tastefully done in beige tapestry and decorated with souvenirs gifted to him from across the world, including an honorary doctorate degree awarded by the Princess of Thailand, his erstwhile student. Amongst the others pictures, I couldn’t help but notice a very old photograph of a much younger him. “This picture was taken by a peer at UT Dallas after I had just arrived in the US”, explained Dean Jain. “I had seldom worn a tie in India, and I bought this one (pointing at the picture) for 50 cents from a garage sale in Dallas”, he chuckled with genuine humility.

The beginning

Dean Jain has very vivid memories of his youth and deep down, he still is the same person he was back then. He was brought-up in Tezpur in Assam, a disconnected Indian state with a “chicken neck connection”, as described by him, with the Indian mainland since it is squeezed between Bangladesh and Bhutan. He studied at a government school in Tezpur with Hindi as the medium of instruction, and chose mathematics as his major primarily because mathematics required only paper and pencil rather than fancy laboratories. He secured highest marks in the state for his undergrad and graduation, and was therefore appointed as a professor at Guwahati University in Assam on the condition that he completes his PhD within 5 years. In the meantime, he wrote a letter to a professor at Berkley for procuring the professor’s research paper, but through a series of events his letter landed-up with another professor at UT Dallas. Impressed with his academic credentials, he was offered a full funding to pursue his PhD at UT Dallas and thus he came to the US in 1983.

The Kellogg Story

Reflecting on his almost 25 years with Kellogg, he attributed his success to those who he worked with – his colleagues, students, staff, and most importantly, Dean Jacobs. “The school was like my home, and the affection of those around me made me look forward to each day I have spent here”.

He recounted the milestones in his career as the most memorable moments. In the winter quarter in1990, he was the first professor ever at Kellogg to receive a TCE of 6.8 (on a scale of 7) in the Marketing Research course and from then on, he was nominated for the Best Professor Award for five consecutive years. However, he could never win it because unlike other professors, he was never teaching the same sections and therefore, didn’t have a critical mass to vote for him. “I was always the bridesmaid, but never the bride”, he joked. He believes that his record-breaking TCE ratings caught Dean Jacobs’ eye, and eventually helped him become Dean Jacobs’s trusted confidant.

“The five years that I spent with Dean Jacobs in an administrative role were my best time at Kellogg”, he said. This also provided him with the training to carry forward the Dean’s baton. “I never asked what’s in it for me while taking-on any job”, Dean Jain said. He has never negotiated for his compensation or perks, and has considered every task as an opportunity to learn something new. He also believes that its better to be trusted than liked. Perhaps that was the reason, as aptly noticed by Henry Bienen, Northwestern’s President, why Dean Jacobs trusted Dean Jain immensely, and ended the typical two-year rolling term for an Associate Dean to appoint Dean Jain as the permanent Associate Dean and his permanent ally throughout his tenure.

But that wasn’t all. The other important landmarks in his career were – he became the (youngest) Full Professor at Kellogg in 1992, the Associate Dean in 1996 and finally the Dean in 2001.

As a Dean, he had a very disarming personality, and was always available, approachable and accessible for everyone. He neither believed in a ‘close door’ policy nor an ‘open door’ policy, instead he propagated a ‘NO DOOR’ policy and was very transparent in his dealings. At times, he was criticized for not being assertive or aggressive but he has always been a firm believer of “soft gestures create hard impressions”.

Yet he was able to leave an indelible impression on Kellogg! During his eight years in Dean’s office, he immensely enhanced the school’s global presence and reputation. Kellogg partnered with more than 30 premier institutions worldwide and was proclaimed as the best B-school by all notable publications for consecutive years. Dean Jain also strengthened the school’s alumni network by creating a full-fledged database and visiting alumni clubs all over the world. Miami campus is another big feather in his cap.

“My only regret is that I couldn’t complete the new campus”, he paused. “In 2007, I started the capital campaign for $250mn towards the school’s expansion and new building but as luck would have it, we found ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis by 2008”, he sighed with disappointment. To add to this, was his father’s demise and his surgery!

The new inning

I was curious to know how INSEAD happened, and he elaborated, “I visited INSEAD as a speaker in 1989 while I was on my way (to get married) in India”, he smiled. “Recently I felt I wasn’t making the best use of my time here at Kellogg. So when INSEAD contacted me I thought to myself that not everyone gets a chance to do it once, whereas I can now do it all over again. I had also been approached by the Marketing departments of top B-schools off-late but I found this most interesting”, he added.

Elaborating on the support that he received from his family with regard to the acceptance of this offer, he said, “I never like to start a story that I cannot complete, so I consulted my wife even before exploring it further. My wife was extremely supportive. My children are already taking French lessons”, he told.

The man behind the name

Dean Jain has managed to maintain a strictly vegetarian dietary habit, and he doesn’t consume alcohol. Wouldn’t it be tough in France, I enquired? “I believe in my principles, and am always myself. I never pretend, or succumb to the social pressure, as a result the others find it easy to accept me the way I am, and get attuned”, he explained.

He acknowledged that those who have known him since his early days in his home town wonder how all these years of “living abroad” and a successful career have had no impact on his simple ways. With an extraordinary gleam in his eyes, a melodious softness in his voice and a remarkable humbleness in all his ways, he still is an epitome of a young, modest sobriety only with grayer hair.

Equally surprising was the discovery that he doesn’t wear a watch, or own a laptop, and has never learnt to drive a car. Yet he has never missed a single class in his 25 years at Kellogg. He doesn’t even carry any notes, or paper to refer to while teaching a class. “For me teaching is worship, and every student is a manifestation of God”, he spoke from his heart. I asked him if he maintained a diary for his meetings, and he laughed, “I try to remember everything! Day, date, appointments, occasions, everything”. He could tell me about his schedule upto nine months from then as if reading from a mental calendar and could also recall ‘who said what in which class’. I was curious to learn the trick from him, so he confided “Interest and Involvement in my work”. He added, “My father was blind, and he taught me that if you do things in life as if you are completely blind, you can never go wrong.”

From “success” to “significance”

Despite the relocation and other professional commitments, he plans to ensure that his community service initiatives, that he is very passionate about, don’t receive a setback. Currently, he heads a team to build School of Entrepreneurship and Management’ at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh to provide education to women from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Iran, Palestine, among others. “My father was posted in Chittagong in the early 50’s”, he sighed and then continued, “Mothers can influence the child greatly so what better than educating the to-be mothers!” He is also involved with other non-profit organizations in India such as Asha that supports tuberculosis patients, and Pratham that provides education to the underprivileged children.

The last word

I was sure that the readers would like to benefit from Dean Jain’s experience and prudence, so I asked him for his parting advice. He encapsulated his wisdom in a few lines, “There is no substitute to hard-work. You must work selflessly, with passion, and without thinking about the credit. Always remember that the challenge ahead of you is never greater than the force behind you… and Dipak Jain is always behind each of you.”

Finally, I asked him to help me trace the origin of the popular saying that ‘the Kellogg experience is incomplete without Dean Jain’s hug.’ He explained, “It’s a way of expressing my affection, my respect, my gratitude; (pauses and rises-up) and you sure deserve one!” He hugged, and completed my Kellogg experience.

This article was adapted from an interview that originally appeared in The Merger.

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Shukla Bose spoke to the India@Kellogg team, about the driving forces behind her professional career to date. Emerging from a successful career in the corporate world and in the non-profit sector is a central idea of leading with compassion.

Shukla Bose is the Founder-CEO of the Parikrma Humanity Foundation, an NGO that runs four schools and one junior college that provides quality English medium education to 1200 orphaned, abandoned, slum and street children. Parikrma has also partnered with Bangaluru Municaipal Corporation to enhance the quality of education of 18 government schools.

Prior to Parikrma, Shukla gained extensive corporate experience in the hospitality industry.  She joined the Oberoi group and held various positions in Marketing before joining RCI, a multinational world leader in vacations, and was responsible for starting the new concept in the country, as the first MD. She was there for 10 years and was responsible for making it a profitable and a well-known hospitality brand. In 2000 she gave up her high profile corporate position and started the India operations of a multinational NGO working with children. Her experience with slum and street children greatly encouraged her to make the development of under-served children her mission in life and led her to create Parikrma.

Shukla is the recipient of many national and international awards.  She was awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1995, the Bharat Gaurav Award in 1996 and the Woman of the Year award in 2000. She has a Bachelors degree in English and Education, an MA in Comparative Literature and an MBA specializing in Marketing.

What were the driving forces behind the development of your corporate career at the Oberoi and RCI?

 I grew up in a middle-class family, not wealthy by most standards, but where I was encouraged and supported to get a good education. I attended good schools and my mother brought me up with the belief that I could do anything. This led me to work hard and perform extremely well academically, which in turn gave me exposure to interact with students from more privileged backgrounds and with different views of the world. The initial academic success I experienced paved the way initially to business school, where I was among very few women at the time, and ultimately to the business world. At this time, being a businesswoman in India was a somewhat novelty, which in part helped drive my career upwards.

At the peak of your career, as one of few female CEOs in the Indian business world and having received broad recognition as business leader, you decided to make a sharp professional turn. What caused this shift that eventually resulted in the creation on Parikrma?

While it may seem as a sudden shift, the decision to start Parikrma was triggered gradually over many years. For instance, when I was younger I volunteered for Mother Teresa over a period of 7 years, so I always had a desire to help others and I was comfortable working under difficult conditions in the Indian slums. Additionally, in 1999 I started doing something unusual – I started reading obituaries and the accounts of their contributions to society. I had already spent a good part of my life growing a career, but it made me ask myself what my contribution was going to be?

My daughter, then an undergraduate student at a US college, aware that, shifting my career to the non-profit sector would require her to support her own education, wholeheartedly supported me, as did my husband. I convinced an American non-profit to make an expansion in India and ran that division of the organization, gaining useful skills in financial planning and distribution for non-profits.

Please tell us about the early years of Parikrma

I felt strongly, that there was a strong need to look at human beings not as numbers or targets but as individuals and this is central to the idea behind Parikrma – we do not want to play a numbers game, but want to consider each child individually.

I then took the decision to start Parikrma while sitting at my kitchen table. I was naturally anxious of whether people would have faith in my aspirations. With my husband, we decided to empty our bank accounts, and take a deep personal risk by investing ourselves wholly in this project. I knew it was vital for us to make Parikrma a success, using our own financial assets, before asking for financial contributions from others.

I gathered a 5-member team in March 2003 and together we started walking through the slums of Bangalore to identify schools. We were ambitious, and insistent of creating English medium schools, based on the demanding ICSE curriculum. Throughout this difficult, early process it was important that we acted with clarity, conviction, commitment, and courage and most importantly with compassion. Our efforts paid off and only 3 months later, we had set up the schools and indentified the teachers and children.

How do the challenges and opportunities you faced in the corporate world relate to those you experienced at Parikrma?

The main challenge and opportunity, whatever your professional standpoint, is the ability to change people’s mindsets and influence outcomes. This is particularly important, when you are selling lifestyle products that are not essential consumption products – as was the case when I was head of RCI (a time share company). It still holds true today as I need to communicate why it is valuable to help educate children in Bangalore.

Parting advice for women in business schools about to embark on another chapter of their professional careers

I would encourage them to be uninhibited by doubts on what they are able to achieve and pursue a definition of success that goes beyond personal gratification. This does not mean that you need to quit business life, but simply that you display compassion towards the world around you and find your own way to make a meaningful contribution.

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Ranganath has about 19 years of experience in banking and IT services industries. In his current role as Chief Risk Officer of Infosys, a leading global IT services and consulting company, he is responsible for Enterprise Risk Management program. Prior to his current role, Ranganath has executed several senior leadership responsibilities in Infosys. Prior to Infosys, Ranganath was Senior Vice President at ICICI, a leading financial services player in India, where he held senior leadership roles in corporate finance and treasury area.

Ranganath is a regular speaker and a panelist in international fora on risk management. He is a member of World Economic Council’s global agenda council on risk.

Ranganath is an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and holds Master’s degree in Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai..

An increasing number of global companies appear to be engaging in risk management. Could you start by giving a brief description of what the term risk management means for Infosys?

The immediate objective of risk management is to essentially minimize negative surprises to the achievement of business objectives of a corporation, both from short term and long-term standpoint. The surprises could emanate from business environment, regulatory environment, strategic choices the corporation makes or from internal factors.

There are a couple of characteristics of good risk management.

First of all, risk management will not be effective if the corporation does not have sound corporate governance mechanisms and a truly independent board. Infosys is one of the very few non-financial global companies to have a board level risk committee in addition to having an audit committee. The risk committee was formed more than 5 years ago and comprises of entirely independent, non-executive directors.. This committee reviews top risks and effectiveness of mitigation actions on a quarterly basis.

Additionally, accountability is crucial – risk management should be integrated into decision-making and not simply become an esoteric or policing function. The role of the risk management team is to not only increase awareness of potential risk factors, but also to bring a sense of urgency in taking actions to mitigate the impact of those risks.

How can risk management improve company performance?

Financial markets have consistently rewarded corporations that demonstrate good corporate governance and transparency. Essentially, they reward companies in which there is minimum variance between “outsider view” and “insider view” of corporation’s performance and outlook. Risk management related disclosures bring in another degree of transparency by disclosing the potential risks and their impact. So one can argue that it increases the quality premium with respect to interpretation of the performance of the company.

Further, 95% of the job of the risk management can arguably be said to be around acting speedily to mitigate risks and leverage opportunities. In other words, to bring in a sense of urgency in mitigation actions and in leveraging opportunities, ahead of competition.

An increased focus on risk management, globally, is consistent with not just recent regulatory changes, but also with increasing shareholder activism to increase transparency.

Ultimately, I strongly believe that the “real test of risk management is in good times”, as in bad times, everyone focuses on risk management. Smart organizations do active risk management both in good and bad times.

Infosys has grown rapidly throughout this decade. Which are the key risk areas facing the company and how are you working to address them?

Among our key potential risk areas are the following:

  • Foreign currency fluctuations: Infosys generates more than 98% of its revenue from outside India, of which 65% is from the US, while bulk of the costs are in India. This exposes the company to foreign currency risk.
  • Talent: This is our greatest asset and we need to compete in order to maintain a rich talent pool for business growth
  • Volatility in global economic environment: As a global company, we are exposed to risks posed by volatility in global economy from time to time.
  • Information security: Data protection is integral element of our business and therefore another potential risk area that we need to monitor.

The nature of risk management will vary according to the type of risk – for instance, project risks are managed in a de-centralized manner, whereas foreign currency risks are managed centrally.

Which market developments do you foresee in Indian businesses’ approach to managing risk in the future?

Typically, Indian corporations with global aspirations consistently have posted higher return on equity (ROE), as compared to their peers in other countries. This is in part due to the fact that they are risk takers, for instance by launching into large acquisitions, at times far bigger than the size of the native company – e.g. Tata’s acquisition of Corus.

By undertaking these acquisitions, Indian companies are increasing their global footprint and hence in the process are exposed to risks such as foreign currency, commodity risks and regulatory risks. As a result of these developments, we are seeing an increased investment in nimble risk management – this is a development that I expect will accelerate.

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Tanveer Kapadia is the CEO of Trivium Education Services, a start up in the field of supplementary education services. The company currently serves the US market. Trivium Education Services started in March 2010 with a seed capital support of USD 1M. As the CEO of a start up, Tanveer is responsible for developing business strategy as well as managing daily operations. Starting with a revenue base of ~USD 250K, the company aims to grow to a turnover of USD 5-10Mn in the next 3-5 years.

Tanveer is an alumnus of Kellogg (Class of 2008).  Prior to co-founding Trivium, Tanveer worked with the Boston Consulting Group, at their Mumbai office. He is experienced in strategy, marketing, supply chain and organization projects.  Prior to Kellogg, Tanveer worked for more than 5 years with Motorola Inc., in several capacities including sales & business development, product and project management and software engineering.

His in-depth experience in operations outsourcing, offshore and captive center development and an education based in the US provides him with the right mix of experience to bring to bear in the growth of Trivium and the EPO industry.

How is this education opportunity helping bridge the gap between India and the US or other western developed countries?

If you follow the news in the education industry in India, you realize that it is going through a slow but sure revolution. India passed its version of no child left behind last year. The emphasis by the Indian government on education has increased significantly. Many private companies are diversifying into education. However providing effective education to over 200 million children, most of whom are in the rural areas is complicated. Upgrading the systems, processes, capabilities will take not only enormous resources but also innovative models for making the transition quickly and inexpensively. This is possible only through mutual learning. As India provides a base for outsourcing, it also learns from the western methodologies. Concepts such as experiential learning, psychometric based assessments, online learning and training are effective tools that India is adopting in order to make its dream of growth a reality.

Can you tell us more about the concept of Education Process Outsourcing (EPO)?

Like all other outsourcing services before it, EPO aims at sourcing talent globally for various services albeit in the education industry. In addition to providing a cost advantage, EPO also helps address any gaps in local supply of talented high quality teachers, assessment specialists and other key staff positions in any education system. It also helps bring to life education models that otherwise would be difficult to implement in a purely local set-up, for example with a global tutor base, students can now learn at any time of the day or night.

What are the key challenges you face as a KPO set-up and how do you tackle it at Trivium?

The biggest challenge is attracting and retaining key talent. It is counter intuitive to believe that would be the reality in a country with so much science and math talent. However to find people who understand not just the subject matter but also how to teach effectively and to train them to do so in a virtual environment takes significant effort and time. In addition the tough working hours (11pm to 11am) for some of the services make retaining staff difficult. We are going through a phase the BPO industry went through a decade ago however the existence of a large unorganized education industry and availability of raw talent provides us with a larger candidate population than they had in the past

Do you think that the Indian KPO segment is saturated? Are there other opportunities waiting to happen?

It is difficult to say if and when outsourcing will become saturated. The growth rates may decrease over time but it is far away from being a mature industry. Besides business process outsourcing, we now have legal process outsourcing which is growing very fast and services in the medical fields such as transcriptions and digital records management are just beginning. In addition, the internal off-shoring and setting up of captives is a phenomenon that would continue to see a lot of momentum. In EPO, our capabilities in western education system are already proving to be a competitive advantage for the India market as more Indian education boards and institutions look at various international systems to bring to India.

Do you think that the KPO industry has taken a hit during the recent recession?

Recession works in both ways and many companies have taken a hit during recession. Lesser dollars are spent on new systems, new content and new projects in general. However many mature organizations use these periods to bring their costs down by rebalancing their outsourcing portfolio. In general if public sentiments and sensitivities towards outsourcing are not an issue, recessions are good for KPO and BPO firms. Education as an industry is also more resilient than other purely discretionary spends based services.  If your service mix and quality is right, recession can be a growth opportunity.

What advice do you have for students considering non conventional career paths in new industries?

I would like to tell a story I was told when as a student I had participated in the Tech Trek. One of the people we met was Alex Vieux who was then the CEO of Red Herring Inc. He went around the room full of Kellogg students unsure about entrepreneurship and most of us wanted to do something slightly different or unconventional. He went around the room and asked us all what would be the worst job we could end up with. A consensus emerged that it would be a job paying $100K in one of the industries and functions of our choice. He then said that any investor would be glad to buy that option. Money is not everything but most Kellogg students have an opportunity to pursue their dreams if not immediately then maybe in 2 years. If you are passionate about something, I strongly recommend you to do it. It won’t be easy but it will definitely be very satisfying.

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