Meet The HEC Paris MBA Class Of 2020

Karthik Kannan

HEC Paris

Customer Success professional in the MarTech/AdTech space. Passionate about Teaching, Growth, Marketing and Hiking.”

Hometown: Bangalore, India

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I have always loved hiking, and the mountains are my go-to place for relaxation and to recharge. Having covered a few of the high-altitude hikes in the Himalayan foothills, I now look forward to hiking in Europe during my MBA

Undergraduate School and Major: IIM Indore (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) and BMS College of Engineering (Bachelors in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Customer Success Manager at TUNE (a Seattle based company focused on creating Enterprise SaaS platforms for mobile marketers) in the EMEA team

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I consider my forays into teaching, mentoring, and coaching people as my most significant life achievement. The challenge of understanding people and their situations, transforming their objectives into concrete goals, charting growth plans, training and helping them achieve their objectives truly inspires me. It helps me bring my empathetic, problem-solving and collaborative approach to all my tasks.

My love for teaching started when, at the age of 14, I began coaching my cousins. Twelve years on, I still work weekends and late-nights outside of my regular work schedules to coach students. At an academy in Gurgaon, where I conducted training for competitive exams and soft-skills, I was able to significantly impact the all-round development of several students and put them on a steep growth trajectory. My experience with online tutoring has empowered me to help people remotely as a freelancer. I’m currently working on creating free online video courses on specific topics to increase the reach.

At HEC Paris, I aim to meet and interact with like-minded people, interested in the field of education and learn and ideate on how I can convert this interest into a scalable business model to create a larger impact.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My MBA class is one of the brightest and most diverse groups of high achieving professionals who are always collaborative and supportive. They always go above-and-beyond to help each member of the class achieve their goals. The focus, not just on the individual but also on the collective, is a key factor in the HEC MBA class of 2020. I can’t wait to go on a life long journey of togetherness and success with this amazing bunch of people!

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? There are a few key factors like the location in the heart of France, optimum class size of around 250 participants across two intakes, optimum course duration of 16 months, and expertise and industry ties in the Marketing domain.

But one factor that has really stood out for me is the focus on Ethical and Purposeful Leadership. The thought that a leader’s obligation goes beyond just the bottom-line and the view that business KPIs can be achieved in a sustainable way are core pillars of this philosophy. The course curriculum has been designed keeping this in mind. The experiential learning during the leadership seminar at Saint Cyr, personal development opportunities through the ‘TEC On-Campus Program’, and the ‘Leadership Certificate’ are truly transformative experiences shaping the leadership styles of all HEC participants.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I look forward to being an active part of the Technology club at HEC Paris. France is fast emerging as one of the global hubs for Tech startups. Various initiatives like the launch of Station F, French Tech Visa are attracting global talent and policies focused on ease of doing business in France are contributing to this rise. As part of the Tech Club at HEC Paris, I aim to facilitate interactions and collaborations with Technology companies in the region, and I hope that these collaborations will enable me and my fellow participants to further fuel the tech growth.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Having completed my post-graduate diploma in management from IIM Indore, India in 2014 and having at least 4 years of work experience under my belt, I felt the need to get more international exposure. I wanted to grow my leadership skills, live and work in a different geography, and explore the business world and my personal life from a different angle. I chose Europe as my preferred destination, and hence HEC Paris made perfect sense with their diverse cohort and flexible curriculum. I hope the HEC MBA now serves as a Launchpad to my international career and helps me grow as an individual and as a professional.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? The HEC program has an optimal duration of 16 months and hence minimizes the opportunity cost of staying away from employment. At the same time, it is not too short a program which ensures that participants have adequate time for social interactions and networking. This fine balance was something that I loved about the school, and the tuition fee was reasonably priced compared to other global MBAs of similar caliber. HEC also offered me the Excellence Scholarship, which helped the decision-making process from a financial point of view.

I am more of left-brained person, and trying to judge the ROI of an MBA would have been an exciting opportunity to create even more excel sheets and evaluate short term pros and cons. But in this case, I realized that the MBA experience goes beyond just short term ROI and that it is an experience that helps shape our personalities which stay with us for the decades to come. That, according to me, makes the investment worth it.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Since I had identified France as my preferred location of study as France, I only applied to HEC Paris and INSEAD.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Firstly, geographical location was a factor for me.  Being part of the EMEA team at TUNE, my target location was Europe. Since I was learning French and I was particularly interested in becoming a fluent speaker, I decided to prioritize schools in France. I also wanted schools with medium-sized classes, since that would allow one to have quality interactions with classmates, and participate in social activities.

Secondly, I wanted to find a school that had a flexible curriculum, international cohort, focus on leadership, and expertise in the Marketing domain. I did my online research through forums and websites and HEC fit all my requirements.

Lastly, it is very important that an applicant understands the culture and ethos of a business school before taking the decision to apply. I ascertained this through a few steps. I submitted and received feedback on my profile. I also visited Paris for a few days, where I took a tour of the HEC campus, met and interacted with the admissions team, staff and participants on campus. The alumni interviews were also a key part of this decision-making process. These in-person interactions gave me more insight into the culture and ethos at the school that one cannot easily gain by only using information on websites and online forums.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Three months as a sales intern for Tata Motors in the sweltering summer heat of Chennai, India in 2013 is perhaps an experience that shaped my personality, because I had put myself out of my comfort zone, and completely transform as a person. Being a relatively asocial person at the time, I wanted to develop my social skills by taking on a position as a sales intern at Tata Motors, where I had to sell to people with decades of experience within the automotive industry. I remember having sleepless nights before the internship since I felt that I lacked the street-smarts, ability to hold a conversation and close a sale.

Thanks to my self-awareness and my manager’s encouragement, I realized it was not possible to turn into a flamboyant salesman in a month’s time and I decided to stick to my strengths of listening to the other person, showing empathy, and truly understanding and caring about their problems. I realized that it is more important to listen in sales than to talk. In the end, I was successful in executing the project and was offered a full-time job to join Tata Motors’ coveted management trainee program. I also received accolades from the leadership team. This experience has helped me succeed in client facing roles over the course of my career at Reliance Jio and at TUNE.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Immediately after I graduate, I intend to work in the MarTech/Edtech space in a fast-growing international startup or enterprise. I am keen on building my skills to be a growth marketer, a role that requires a combination of digital marketing, data analytics, and product management.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I hope to either manage a team within a technology startup, or I would have started my own venture related to the education sector.