When Sangeet Chowfla took the GMAT exam in the mid-1970s, it opened up what he calls “life-changing” opportunities for him. The young man went to the University of Delhi, earning his MBA in 1979 and embarking on a career that would take him to Dubai, Greece, Germany, Singapore, and the United States.
Today (May 28), after a global search that attracted more than 100 candidates, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) named Chowfla, 55, president and future CEO. He will join GMAC as president in September and assume the CEO role on Jan. 1, 2014.
For the past six years, Chowfla has been chief strategy officer and an executive vice president of a privately held telecommunications software company based in India, Comviva Technologies. Tech Mahindra Ltd. acquired a controlling interest in Comviva last September. Indian by birth, Chowfla is a U.S. citizen currently residing in New Delhi, India. He will relocate to Northern Virginia as part of assuming this new role.
Chowfla succeeds David A. Wilson, who has served for the past 18 years as both president and CEO. Under Wilson, GMAC has experienced extraordinary growth. When he joined the organization 18 years ago, GMAC had fewer than 10 employees and largely worked with Educational Testing Service to administer the GMAT. Today, the organization employs more than 140 people with a significant emphasis on marketing, web strategy, and school service.
‘JUST THE KIND OF CHIEF EXECUTIVE THE GMAC BOARD HAD IN MIND’
At first glance, Chowfla seems an unlikely successor. He has never worked in academia, in the graduate business educational space, or in standardized testing. The last time he notably stepped on a college campus appears to be a decade ago when he attended the Venture Capital Institute at Emory University in 2003. His LinkedIn profile does not mention any volunteer work in education or any other non-profit activity.
However, in recent years, an increasing number of GMAT test takers have come from outside the U.S., particularly in India and China where business has exploded, and the use of technology to administer the test has assumed greater importance. The outgoing chairman of the board of GMAC and dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management said that Chowfla “is just the kind of chief executive the GMAC board had in mind” when it began a CEO search earlier this year.
“His global business experience, his understanding of technology and its impact on consumers, and his understanding of the way companies must anticipate, plan for and actively engage in the changing global marketplace, are all skills GMAC will need moving forward,” said outgoing Chairman James Bradford in a statement. “We couldn’t be happier with the appointment, with the prospects for GMAC’s future or with the person we have chosen to make those prospects a reality.”
Chowfla said he sought the job “because it has such great promise for leading a company with not only a great brand and a history of success, but also a company poised for greater success in the future.”
“I know for myself that taking the GMAT exam and the opportunities it opened up for me were life-changing,” he said in a statement. “GMAC is a great success story, and Dave and the management team have built a foundation any company would be proud of. My job will be to take that strong foundation — GMAC 2.0, if you will — build on it, shape it for the future and establish a new, even stronger GMAC: GMAC 3.0. I am excited by the challenge and gratified that the board has chosen to entrust me with this great company, its terrific management team and its world-class staff.”
BEGAN CAREER IN NEW DELHI WITH IBM AND SPENT 18 YEARS WITH HEWLETT-PACKARD
Beginning his career in New Delhi with IBM/IDM, Mr. Chowfla went on to spend 18 years with the Hewlett-Packard Co. in positions in Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and the U.S.. From 1995 to 2001, he was vice president and general manager of the Inkjet Media Division. Chowfla then moved to Timeline Ventures as a partner in the venture capital partnership, until taking the job at Comviva in 2007. GMAC said that Chowfla led multiple business units at the Indian telecom company, dramatically improved revenue performance, drove Comviva’s push into Mobile Financial Services, where it is now a top-three player, led the acquisition of an important Indian software developer, and expanded the company’s global reach and presence, with offices in 15 countries and customers in more than 100.
Chowfla took his BA in Economics from St. Stephen’s College at Delhi University in 1977, and his MBA, with a focus on marketing and finance, from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University, in 1979.
“Mr. Chowfla is joining GMAC at a time of great opportunity as well as change in the graduate management education marketplace,” said Dina Dommett, incoming chair of the GMAC Board (July 2013) and executive director of leadership programs at London Business School. “The globalization of management education has been a constant, yet today that globalization is occurring at a faster pace and with technology playing an ever greater role. Mr. Chowfla’s experience as a technology executive, his international experience as a manager and leader, coupled with his understanding of global markets, are perfectly suited to the challenges facing GMAC, and I look forward to working with him. The London Business School is committed to helping GMAC navigate the changing marketplace, and Mr. Chowfla is a terrific choice to lead that effort.”
SEARCH COMMITTEE RECEIVED INTEREST FROM MORE THAN 100 CANDIDATES FOR THE JOB
Patrick J. Shooltz, chair of the GMAC CEO search committee and senior vice president at New Boston Fund, Inc., said in a statement, “Mr. Chowfla’s selection to lead GMAC is the result of a search that was global from the minute it began. GMAC was very fortunate to have attracted a deep and diverse pool of extremely talented applicants. We received interest from more than 100 highly qualified potential candidates, and the search committee interviewed many of those in making this selection.”