Not all lessons can be learnt in the classroom, and ‘Shadow a CEO’ initiative conducted by ISB for its MBA students is a proof of this adage. YourStory spoke to three participants who had a chance to be with the head honchos of three well-known organisations across manufacturing, travel and media for an entire day. While one day is too short a time to absorb everything that these leaders have to offer, their warmth and willingness to share made the experience a memorable one for the participants.
It is not surprising that each of them came back wiser and a tad more knowledgeable from this day-long exercise. Jeeten Desai spent a day at Godrej Industries, talking to Mr. Adi Godrej and senior members at the Godrej headquarters. Ritesh Chopra met Deep Kalra to understand how a venture is built ground up, and Suhas Sundar met Sunil Lulla to get an insight into the working of a media organisation.
Lessons from Mr. Godrej
Jeeten’s day at Godrej started with a meeting with Mr. Adi Godrej, who spoke at length with Jeeten about his life and career. Next Mr. Godrej explained the origins and genesis of Godrej since the time they started. “We had a detailed discussion around the current plans of the organisation and what their vision for 2020 was. He is very articulate and a man who prepares his meetings well before time. It lasted for over an hour and then I was to meet him again after lunch to sit on one of his R&D meetings,” says Jeeten.
Jeeten was shown around different divisions at Godrej – chemicals, marketing & imports, strategic marketing, R&D and innovation. One thing that Jeeten found in common across ranks and departments at Godrej was the humility everyone had. “People had been with the organisation for a very long time and have been working as a well-oiled machinery towards achieving the common goal set by the organization,” he says. In the last part of the day, Jeeten was invited by Mr. Godrej to be part of the launch of awareness campaigns and new research done by the company in the field of mosquito repellents. “The insights and strategy discussed in the meeting was an eye-opener,” says Jeeten. His last meeting for the day was with Ms. Nisaba Godrej, the younger daughter of Mr. Godrej, who heads innovation at Godrej Consumer Products. She is also involved with the cultural change at the organisation – a people management function. “Ms. Godrej still picks up the phone to speak with her professors from Harvard when she is unsure of something or a certain strategy or when she just wants someone to challenge her point of view. I saw a stark difference in the personalities of the father and daughter,” shares Jeeten.
Predictably, Jeeten was all happy with the experience and counts it among the highlights of his course.
Deep impacts of Deep Kalra
Ritesh Chopra who harbours the dream of becoming an entrepreneur one day was thrilled to meet Deep Kalra of MakeMyTrip(MMT) – one of the few successes of the dotcom era. Just like the team in Godrej, Ritesh was also floored by Deep’s warmth and humility. “In the beginning, I was a bit nervous especially because I was the only one suited up in the place. I was also sort of not sure on how the day would unfold. Deep made me feel really comfortable. He started by asking me about what I wanted to take away from the day. We discussed about my MBA journey and my own startup plans. He said he spends a lot of time mentoring as well, especially on weekends, and would be open to helping me structure, raise funding and connect to other people. I was very happy talking to him,” gushes Ritesh.
The day was packed with back-to-back meetings – first one was with investment bankers, and though a confidential meeting, Deep let Ritesh sit in on it. Other meetings through the day included meetings with VCs, directors of TiE, entrepreneurs and people from within the organisation like finance, operations, marketing and human resources. “I was awestruck by Deep’s energy and how he managed to stay on top of everything yet be his patient smiling self throughout the day,” observes Ritesh.
In the evening, Ritesh spent time discussing Deep’s entrepreneurial journey, the ups and downs, how they went about finding their first customers, his journey before MMT etc.
Guest appearance with Sunil Lulla
For Suhas Sundar, who spent the day with Sunil Lulla, CEO, Times Now, the experience was nothing less than witnessing a whirlwind. From meeting editors and executive producers of Zoom and ET Now, to a personal tour of the studios, Suhas was thrilled to get an inside view of the workings of a news channel. However, the highlight of the whole experience for Suhas was witnessing a live news segment being shot. “I saw how the live telecast happens and was even taken to the roof where they had dedicated satellites to broadcast their channels across the world,” shares Suhas.
One thing he found familiar about his trip to Times Now was the mad rush of deadlines, something he has been well-versed since starting his MBA course.