Most people think of “Joka” as a place. Situated south of Kolkata, the area is lined with high-rises and greenery. Perennially under construction, Joka is a place where people want to be due to its prowess in healthcare and research. It is here where you’ll find India’s oldest IIM: the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.
Here, MBAs refer to themselves as “Jokars.” Not surprisingly, these students take after the spirit of Joka. Call it a growth mindset, that sense of possibilities where challenges, opportunities, and setbacks are lessons. That’s because Jokars are fighters who are used to being the underdogs who beat the odds. That gives Jokars a certain solidarity: They understand that they are in the MBA together and make the time to support each other.
“LEAVE NO JOKAR BEHIND”
Apoorva Patel is one member of IIM Calcutta’s one-year full-time residential MBA program for executives. For her, the IIM Calcutta spirit is embodied in one quote: “At Joka, you meet people and not profiles”. In Patel’s words, “The best part of studying business in Calcutta is that you do not build your network here, you build relations for a lifetime.” While her classmate, Jignesh Panchal, lauds the program’s diversity of backgrounds and star-studded speaker series, he too circles back to the program’s Joka foundation.
“The cherry on the cake is the Joka camaraderie and motto of “Leave no Jokar behind” – which is unique to this campus assuring that everyone looks after each other with empathy.”
Shrishti is equally bullish on the IIM Calcutta program, calling it the “opportunity of a lifetime.” Not only has the program proved rigorous, but she has been impressed by the caliber of her classmates and faculty. The same can be said for Ashwin GS, who has relished his time at IIM Calcutta and his identity as a Jokar.
“The pedigree and the brand name of the institute make you feel majestic. I feel like I am a celebrity all over again, but this time off camera. The 7 beautiful lakes on the campus, getting back to student life, the fun-filled moments with my peers, and the amazing professors who bind you to your seats in awe; every aspect of it has left a deep impression on my campus life at Calcutta.”
CAPITALIZING ON THE TIMES
Before business school, you could describe Ashwin GS as a man for all seasons. A former Mridangam percussionist who was a state-level table tennis player, he is also an actor who has performed in three television series in Southern India, including Minnale and Radha Kalyana. Most recently, he has moved to the other side of the camera, becoming head of operations and marketing for N M Entertainment. There, he has been involved in the release in over 100 movies across India, including Batman vs. Superman and Fast and Furious 8.
While that may seem like a dream career, Ashwin GS has been facing some of the day’s biggest business issues. For one, digitization has wreaked havoc on the film industry. In Ashwin’s case, his firm endured “huge losses” on the Rajnikanth film 2.0, which required him to move the satellite and non-theatrical distribution rights of several films to OTT (Over the Top) distribution (i.e. subscription-based or on-demand studio streaming). This disruption left a strong impression on Ashwin GS, who is using his MBA education to help transition from “conventional film distribution” to models closer to Netflix or Amazon Prime.
“Earlier, a star-led film, even if it turned out to be average, would garner a certain minimum level of revenue because of the star’s value. However, with OTTs coming into the picture and increasing the ease of availability of content, audiences prefer to watch only the most talked-about movies on cinema screens,” he tells P&Q. “In the post-pandemic world, the OTT market has boomed, bigger than ever. This is why I planned to make a transition to the OTT sector.”
LEAVING THE COMFORTS OF A GOVERNMENT JOB
Ankit Baid has built his reputation in the Indian Navy, where he serves at a Deputy Director in Information Technology under the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Operating out of Indian Naval Headquarters, he confronted one of the Navy’s biggest challenges: recruiting amidst a pandemic. A dip in recruits, he says, would’ve resulted in a long-term shortage of personnel in warships and frontline positions. To combat the issue, he developed a statistical model for selecting the best officer candidates for interviews – one that was corroborated by academics and industry data analysts alike.
“Apart from the satisfaction of successfully overcoming a challenge that had a nationwide impact, most importantly, the Navy’s officer selection process continued largely unhindered during the pandemic,” Baid writes.”
Most IIM Calcutta wouldn’t picture Tejaswi Abburi as a trained Indian classical musician. Boasting a Master’s in Chemical Engineering, Abburi has played concerts at city events and even considered turning his passion into a career. Instead, he became a safety analyst with India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Now, Abburi is following a different path as an MBA student.
“In a country where a government job is synonymous with being ‘settled’, the internal and external resistance to emerge from the status quo was immense,” he tells P&Q. “However, after much deliberation with alumni of the school who made extraordinary transitions, I was convinced that this is the ideal platform to help my transition into management roles. Now, I know that this is the best decision of my professional life.”
INNOVATORS IN THE AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR
Apoorva Patel, an aficionado of Indian mythology, has already enjoyed a legendary career herself. She spent five years as a senior manager at Tata Motors, where she involved in everything from SAP management to change management. In her last position, she built an assembly shop that was operated by 100% women.
“Digitization, increasing automation, and new business models have revolutionized all industries, and automotive is no exception. My biggest accomplishment is that I was a part of this revolutionization. Not only I worked on every vehicle of Tata Motors starting from the smallest vehicle (i.e., Tata Nano to hatchbacks, sedans, EVs, micro-SUVs, and premium SUVs such as Harrier and Safari), but I also witnessed major regulation changes such as ABS compulsion and BSIV-to-BSVI transformation…My stint at Tata motors gives me immense satisfaction of contributing to the development of the industry as well as women empowerment.”
Patel isn’t alone among the Class of 2023 is making their name in the automotive industry. Siddharth Thakur spent nearly a decade at Tata Technologies. Managing a team of engineers and analysts who designed and produced over 2,500 vehicle parts, he was instrumental in launching the Range Rover Evoque in 2019. And that’s not the only big accomplishment that Thakur can claim.
“At the age of 17, I won the sailing national championships in the lightning class, held in Mumbai in May 2005.”
BECOMING BETTER VERSIONS OF THEMSELVES
Indeed, you’ll find the Class of 2023 hailing from a wide range of industries and functions. Manojit Kumar Dalai’s background comes in marketing. At LG Electronics – home to 220,000 employees in 57 countries, Dalai’s performance ranked him among the firm’s Top 5 marketers. Not to be outdone, Rajiv Kumar Suman took on a competitor in an entirely new vertical at Practo – a digital platform connecting doctors and patients. The result? He produced 100% volume growth. Hitesh Batra spent six years as an entrepreneur, including developing a SaaS product used by one of India’s largest two wheel manufacturers. And if you’re looking for a tutorial on project management, you may want to tap into Jignesh Panchal.
“[My] biggest highlight has been completing Turnkey Construction of a 400,000 square foot school project in Dubai. I did this within a difficult deadline of 13 months while limiting it within the project budget assigned and making it profitable for my organization as the project head.”
Three months into the program, the Class of 2023 agrees: the IIM Calcutta MBA experience has been transformational. For Ankit Baid, business school has been a time to step out of his comfort zone, which has translated to competing in case competitions, running for student offices and even performing in a skit. At the same time, Aman Mohan Sharma – a senior manager in business intelligence – has experienced an equally profound change.
“I find myself as a much better version – a more resilient individual with a never-give-up attitude, hungry to be even better each passing day. Balancing between the rigorous curriculum, extra-curricular activities, and personal and professional relations has pushed me and challenged me. It has also has instilled a sense of ownership around my choices and decisions that are more well-thought and optimal now. As a result, I find myself to be more self-astute/self-aware.”
WORLD CLASS FACULTY
Apoorva Patel points out that IIM Calcutta has been an opportunity to “unlearn the past in order to learn new things.” Or, in the case of Ankit Baid, classes enabled him to view his expertise in a whole new light. After working in IT for a decade, he wondered how much he’d really learn from Professor Debashis Saha’s “famous” Information Technology course. Rather than absorb lectures, Baid was required to continuously ask those uncomfortable “why” questions that expose the collective fallacies that stifle innovation. And Baid wasn’t the only class member who cited Information Technology as their favorite class (thus far).
“The numerous case discussions of the digital transformation journey of some of the world’s top firms were enlightening,” writes Shrishti. “It really puts into perspective the digital disruption happening in multitudes of industries, the importance of continuous innovation, and really understanding the needs of your consumer and addressing those needs to stay relevant in the industry.”
Translating those elements comes down to great teaching and research. For the Class of 2023, the faculty has been one of the best parts of the IIM Calcutta experience. “The professors are the ‘coolest’ among the graduate schools I have seen,” observes Tejaswi Abburi. “The accessibility of professors and their energy is admirable, given the volume of course schedules they handle across the dozens of programs running in tandem. Both inside and outside the class, they demonstrate a keen interest in interacting with students and a particular interest in discussing industry experiences. How they maintain a constant learning flux is purely magical to experience. I’ve yet to walk out of a class disappointed.”
Next Page: Interview with Dr. Pragyan Rath
Page 3: Profiles of 12 IIM Calcutta MBA Candidates