2018 MBAs To Watch: Sudharsan Lakshmi Hayavathanan, ESMT Berlin

Sudharsan Lakshmi Hayavathanan

ESMT Berlin

“I am pragmatic, optimistic and self-driven by values, and a person who finds challenges as opportunities.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, India

Fun fact about yourself: I did couch surfing in Austria, where I cooked South Indian food for my German hosts. And they loved it.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.E Mechanical Engineering, Anna University

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked in B2B marketing for TVS Turbo Energy Limited (manufacturer of turbochargers for automobiles) for five years. I also have three years of extensive volunteering experience in non-profit sector, with an organisation called ‘Make A Difference’.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Non-applicable

Where will you be working after graduation? I will doing ESMT Responsible Leaders Fellowship at Capetown with a NGO called Oasis. I will be working as a volunteer on fundraising strategy, impact assessment and program development.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Being a part of ESMT Social Impact club, I was a virtual mentor for students from TSIBA Capetown. I also identified and led a team for a pro-bono consulting project with Streetfootballworld, an NGO based in Berlin.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My favourite academic reward was the recognition I received for my analytical report in business strategy. The topic was on disruptive innovation. For this exercise, I took the extra mile of conducting social experiments, and interviewing random people to analyse, in order to substantiate my idea. With a short amount of time, I explored new horizons and covered depth to the subject.

During our international field seminar, when 20 of us went to Singapore to understand business, I was the only Southeast Asian in my group. So I was the travel guide introducing the vast traditions and culture of India, to my friends. Though I do not get grades for it, it is my proud moment as I realised about the abundance of culture and diversity, and how it is intertwined with business.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? People say ’Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.’ My biggest achievement was when I identified the biggest root cause of all the delivery problems in the company I worked for during a priority product delivery for a customer. While the situation was sorted out, I, being a reflective and follow-through person, was curious about the cause. I took extra-time after work every day, for 2 months, to understand the glitches in the value chain, and established a communication channel to build a system.

Three years later, the system is still active and delivery issues have reduced by more than half. The whole experience taught me a greatest lesson, how understanding the issue is more important than finding solutions.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It has to be Francis de Véricourt, our professor for ‘Managerial Analysis and Decision Making’. I looked forward to every single session. Not only was his teaching dynamic and engaging, but also there was something to take away from the class for the rest of my life. That is the impact. He practiced what he preached. One of the case studies was a mere example of that. I am certain the entire class’ jaw dropped in the end. I was very inspired.

I wouldn’t have thought of ‘decision traps’ earlier, which now I am consciously aware of. Professor Francis made me realise how decision making can be an art, applicable for all aspects of life, be it professional or personal. He is not only my favorite professor, but the best teacher I’ve had in my life.

What was your favorite MBA Course? The course on ‘Sustainable Business’ was a real eye-opener for me. I regard social responsibility highly, making me curious about the dimensions of triple-bottom line. A simple fun exercise in the first session to demonstrate ‘Tragedy of the commons’ made the topic intriguing. It is my favorite, because I can still remember the stimulating conversations I had with my colleagues. In general the topic was controversial: whether corporates use it as a PR strategy or genuine value creation intention. The more we debated, the more interesting it became.

For the final presentation, I had to analyze how corporate social responsibility enables profit generation in the automobile sector. I was taken aback by how sustainability had to be enforced rather than being a way of living. The course made me realise there is no black or white in the corporate world. However, the importance of stakeholders – not just shareholders – and employee engagement is something that’s etched on to my brain.

Why did you choose this business school? I have three main reasons why I chose ESMT to pursue my MBA. One was because of the class diversity and size. I wanted to extend my spectrum of knowledge, and that’s possible only if you meet people from across the world. Every friend of mine had an extensive personality, in terms of age, industry and geography. Everyone brought with them rich cultural and intellectual perspectives.

The second reason I chose ESMT was Berlin. The city by itself has a personality and a character of its own. I didn’t want to spend the most important year of my life ‘studying’ business. I wanted to live, and not survive. I was certain, a historic city like Berlin will teach me a lot.

The Third reason to choose ESMT is the core values, which resonated my personality. ESMT focused on socially responsible leadership, which is how I saw myself in the future. Even before I started the program, I decided to do the ESMT fellowship program, to support a NGO.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

MBA is like a marriage. It’s not about finding the best school, but the right school for you and having the best experience. If you’re a person focused on sustainability, value diversity, and be an entrepreneur, ESMT Berlin is waiting for you.

Learn German. That’s the advice I would give to ESMT MBA aspirants, especially the non-native speakers. Although the entire MBA is held in English, knowing and communicating in German makes the entire difference during the course, your stay, and also for the future. The economy in Germany is booming, and the start-up scene is fresh. The time invested in learning the language will be worthy, and a crucial determinant to secure a career.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Before I started the program, I heard a lot about the networking opportunities. I thought it is part of every MBA. Moreover, being an introvert, I wasn’t keen to network with others. To meet so many strangers, and have a long conversation was never part of my personality.

But during the course of year, I was networking even without realising it. The opportunities to interact with extremely diverse people was insightful. I was only interested to meet people from NGO/Nonprofit mentality, which I thought was rare. However, I never expected to meet so many social entrepreneurs and leaders. Being a part of ESMT social impact club introduced me to so many wonderful people.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not being able to participate in MBAT (MBA Tournament) is one thing I would always feel bad about. I was interested and passionate about playing sports. In 2017, MBAT happened in Paris. To represent ESMT and meet many students from other schools would have been a fantastic experience.

I couldn’t go because of financial constraints. If I could go back in time, I’d make sure I go to MBAT and create a memorable time of my life.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?

This is a very tough question. I have been inspired by so many classmates, and everyone is unique and a genius. Being a part of small group, such as 65 people, made me know all.

If I have to pick only one, I would pick Carlos Isava. He is from Venezuela. We worked together in the beginning and have been friends since then. During a group assignment, all of us focused on an issue. Carlos did something which stunned me, and inspired me instantly. He suggested an alternative for the problem, which then he self-evaluated, admitted he was wrong, and motivated us to re-think from the beginning. It was just a simple assignment. He could have defended his point. But, he displayed critical thinking of the highest order. That personality of Carlos, was very special and rare gem. It is one of my greatest learnings during the MBA.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? To pursue business was self-motivated decision. Family and friends were very supportive after the decision. The hunger to step-forward in my dream and the opportunities happening at right place at right time, were the influences.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school…I would be married. Hahaha. I was 50% sure my parents would gotten me married to a stranger as that’s quite common in India.

However on a serious note, if I hadn’t done an MBA, I would have just changed jobs, work there for few more years, ended in a monotonous and boring career. I like to believe I changed my destiny.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?

 As a student, I realised it’s important for one to know his or her peers. My purpose would be to create a strong community. Someday, I will organise a treasure-hunt on a big scale. I would be interested to conduct it in the beginning of MBA. The essence of treasure hunt is to know the peers and also understand oneself.

  1. Every clue will be about a student and a crazy challenge, and cracking the clue will have a reward.
  2. Students will start the treasure hunt alone, but will find a partner after cracking the clue.
  3. By the end of hunt, the final treasure will be coming together as a class and watch a video of themselves, depicting how journey is beautiful than destination.

I, then, would want to address the class gathered together. It will be my responsibility to make every single student feel connected to the community.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Top two. It’s a toughie as I have a lot of to-dos in my bucket list.

  1. I want to create my own board game. It’s always been a fantasy since I played Monopoly as a kid.
  2. As much as it sounds funny, I want to spend a day with an elephant as a caretaker. Again, from my childhood I have been fond of elephants.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to be remembered as the person driven by values, who is considerate and warm to others, while also being responsible and innovative.

What is your favorite movie about business?

Undoubtedly it’s Moneyball for me. I, in general, have a thing for sports documentaries and movies. I have watched this movie more than 10 times over the period in the last five years. Every time, I notice something different and learn something new. Moneyball is a sports-drama film based on a baseball team Oakland Athletics.

Billy Beane, Oakland’s general manager, had way of controlling the situation and not vice-versa. This hit me hard to think. Even with limited money, short time and less people, fortunes can happen when the passion and drive to success is abundant. I was fascinated how a completely random sabermetric approach was used to sports, teaching me how interconnected can be topics if you can see through it. Moneyball was more of a lesson than a movie.

What would your theme song be? A song by A.R. Rahman titled “Vellai Pookal” (means ‘White Flowers’) will be my theme song. It’s sung in my mother tongue Tamil, a language considered to be mother of languages.

The song resonates with me, to say the least. It talks about humanity, mother’s warmth, bliss of silence, beauty of nature, realisation and above everything, Peace. Listening to Vellai pookal can put me in comfort zone any time.

Favorite vacation spot: Honestly, I do not have a distinct vacation spot. I love the mountains and the aura it breathes. Nothing comes to great holiday, walking up the hill and camping on the top of a mountain with friends.

Hobbies? I love soccer to bits and pieces. Following the game for more than half of my life, it’s impossible to have a day without soccer. I watch, talk, and play soccer.

Other than that, I enjoy cooking, travelling solo, writing blogs, trekking, and meditating. I also take time to think about my million-dollar board game idea once in a while.

What made Sudharsan such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

Sudharsan or ‘Soda’, as we all call him, demonstrated an extraordinary openness to new people, places, and experiences. In his blog “Sir Eats a Lot,” he posts about his world travel adventures. Remarkable is also his pride in his Tamil culture and his great willingness to share his culture with others. He researched, located, and gave a tour through Singapore’s Little India neighborhood during the International Field Seminar, giving his peers with a deeper understanding and cultural experience they would not have otherwise had.

Soda’s commitment to social justice issues was evidenced by his promotion and participation of Oasis Streetfootball South Africa and as a member of our Social Impact Club. He did not lose his sense of wonder, excitement, positivity and drive throughout the MBA program. While others fatigued, he continued to exude warmth, caring, empathy, and kindness towards all of his classmates. He was well liked by the entire class, and there are not many students one can state this about!”

Roselva Tunstall Lozano

Program Manager

Full-time MBA Program, ESMT Berlin





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