Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Anurag Singal, founder of mymbastory.com
What prompted him to go for an MBA?
In the year 1969, Mr Hari Mundra had wanted for go for a Masters in Eco after his graduation from St Xaviers’ Mumbai with a view to appear for IAS & IFS – a profession that commanded respect and authority in society and captured his imagination. In those days, the other choices for a bright student would have been either medicine or engineering which he had ruled out from the school days. The existence of a MBA course was not even known to him. But destiny had something else in store for him.
A close friend (who later passed out of IIMC and worked in illustrious positions in TAS) intervened and pointed out the flipside of his decision to do MA- what if he didn’t crack IAS and landed up as a lecturer post MA. MBA,he pointed out, was a preferable post-graduate degree leading to IAS/IFS as he would have a better plan B if he does not come through in competition. Mr Mundra bought this logic and appeared for both IIMA and IIMC entrance exams. As he says, he was lucky that merely 5000 students applied for the 200 seats on offer at IIMA and IIMC. So he landed up getting offers from both the Institutes. He chose IIMA because of its proximity to Mumbai, his residence and its distance from the naxalite movement of the east. Soon the attractions of a corporate life reflected in the job offers he got from the then top rated firms namely, HLL and TAS, overcame his earlier fascination for IAS and he gave up the idea altogether, choosing to join HLL rather than TAS because he wanted to be a specialist first before becoming a generalist. In restrospect, he says that giving up his fascination for IAS was a wonderful decision, given the massive deterioration the IAS cadre suffered at the hand of its political bosses in the years ahead.
How was the MBA experience?
He says that PGP at IIMA was a transformative experience for him as he came from a day college in Mumbai; he says he realized that despite doing BA Hons in Economics, hitherto he had known so little about Economics and Business. So these 2 years were a deep dive into the world of academics as related to the world of industry and business. He fondly remembers his sessions with stalwarts such as Dr C Rangarajan (who later served as RBI governor), Prof VL Mote and Prof Mallya. The two years on campus enriched him with business and financial perspectives and served as the ideal platform for jumping into the corporate world.
In HLL , he chose to compete with the CAs as he decided to join their Accounts and Finance stream and was the first MBA to be experimented with in this space by the company. He worked for 24 years in HLL rising to become the youngest member of the top leadership (Management Committee).He went on to spend the next 13 years of his life across RPG ,Wockhardt and Essar before retiring from active service.
Coming to the current scenario, although choices have increased manifold, he feels that MBA still remains the best gateway to industry and imparts you with the ability to handle business issues far more effectively than any other academic platform. A lot of that is due to campus life and professional interactions. It is difficult to replicate this learning in a Day-school.
The dynamics of joining the 1 year vis a vis the 2 year MBA are, however, hugely different. Decision making w.r.t. whether or not to join the former after around 10 years of work ex is far more challenging than the decision to do 2 year MBA after 2-3 years of experience.
The most noticeable aspect about the 1 year MBA program is the fact that the students who have come here are aiming for a radical shift in their careers after the MBA. They are not the ones who would be satisfied with the incremental year on year delta that they were getting in their previous organizations, Since they want this program to be a ‘game changer’ for their careers and their trajectory, they are willing to pay the hefty price tag, both in terms of money/effort and sacrifices at the emotional level. The quest is for that ‘radical change’ or ‘discontinuity’ that would help them break the glass ceiling that they have reached in their careers.
His views on recruitment for the one year program
1 year programs such as PGPX are where industry comes to recruit at lateral positions. It is prepared to go ‘out of the box’ for meeting their requirements. He cited the example of one of his erstwhile students at PGPX-IIMA. The gentleman was from the army and had a rich experience not only in the field but also in strategic areas. So while the Army experience would not have fitted the ‘checklist approach’ to lateral hiring that is adopted by most Indian corporates, the RPG Group saw in him a perfect fit for a SBU leadership position.
1 year MBA student essentially seeks to signal his/her leadership capabilities to the market; he/she does not want to be a functional expert any more. That is why Mr Mundra emphasizes that the resumes of the students should take adequate care of this crucial aspect and they should position themselves accordingly in terms of leadership competencies. In some ways, in jettisoning the past and looking at more holistics skills such as people management, team management, leadership etc. that would establish a match with the desired CXO roles is what the 1 year MBAs aim at. The candidate has to establish a linkage between the specific skills that the company is looking for and match at least 65-70% of the lateral JD attributes by emphasizing the values that the MBA program has added to him. His is not a traditional matchmaking bio data that can be handled by the ‘run of the mill’ headhunter or a consultant.
Its akin to shooting with a rifle a la Arjun as compared to a machine gun where one can take multiple shots and play on the probability of hitting at least one management trainee job. The 1 year MBA should aim to be like “Horses for Courses”.
His experience with teaching PGPX@IIMA students?
He was full of praise for 1 year MBA participants given that they show cased their tenacity of purpose. By the time they come out of the course, they become full fledged leadership material. People want to learn in the best possible manner and give their 100 percent
The absorption rate of learning when theory meets industry knowledge acquired in the last 10 years is very high for PGPX students. To his mind, the PGPX student can absorb and assimilate 75% of the course content as compared to 25% for the 2 year program. The latter, however, are inducted as management trainees and learn significantly on the job. He compared his initial years at HLL way back in the 1970s, to a second MBA where the organization invested heavily in grooming him for the path ahead. The PGPX student, however, has to be more or less a finished product for the industry.
He wished one year MBAs across the country good luck in making a mark in the corporate world.
About Mr Hari L Mundra
Mr. Hari Lakshminarayan Mundra has been the Group Financial Advisor to the Chairman in the Wockhardt Group ,the Financial Advisor to Punj Loyd Group and Senior Advisor to Hospira ,USA post-retirement.He is also on the Boards of Tata Autocomp Systems, Allcargo and Ceat Ltd. and is the Chairman of Future Focus Infoteck Ltd.Since 2008-09, he has also been a visiting Professor at IIMA.
Mr. Mundra served as the Group CFO and the President and Chief Executive of Carbon Black Business at RPG Group. Mr. Mundra was associated with the RPG Group for 7 years. He joined the RPG Group in January 1995 as Member of the Group Management Board from HLL. He served in HLL for about 24 years, joining as management trainee, accounts in 1971 and serving in several positions, both in the Financial and General Management areas. In 1979, he was seconded to Unilever’s subsidiary in Indonesia for three years and in 1985 became the Treasurer in Charge of Corporate Finance and Taxation and later moved to the 2,000 crore Detergents Division as Group Commercial Controller in charge of its Buying / Purchasing, Planning / Logistics and Accounts Departments. In 1990, he joined the Managing Committee of HLL. In 1991, he took over as the Vice president/Executive director of HLL, in charge of its Exports business.
He served as Deputy Managing Director and Director of Finance at Essar Oil Ltd. from 2003 to 2007. He served as Executive Vice Chairman of Wockhardt Limited and Wockhardt hospitals during 2002 – 2003.
During his over 37 years of working career, Mr. Mundra has been associated with a number of professional bodies in Finance, Taxation & Export Fields and has been an active participant at the policy making level as member of CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry. After retirement from Essar, he joined the Managing Committee of Indian Cancer Society, a non profit NGO, as its Joint Managing Trustee and Honorary Treasurer. As from January 2009, he has become a visiting Professor at IIM, Ahmedabad in the Finance faculty for the M.B.A students. Mr. Mundra holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics Hons from Bombay University and MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad in 1971.