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Chairman's Message during Sixth Annual Convocation - 19 Nov 2022

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Mr. Suresh Narayanan, Chief Guest for the 2022 convocation. Unfortunately he was unable to join us today due to prior travel plans, but we will have the benefit of hearing his address. He also sends his best wishes to all of you who have gathered here.

Members of the Board of Governors of IIM Sirmaur, State Government and CPWD officials, Mr. Vivek Mahajan the project engineer. Prof Prafulla Agnihotri, Director IIM Sirmaur, Faculty and staff members of IIM Sirmaur, Family members of students, The Graduating Batch and Ladies and gentlemen connected.

Good Morning and a very welcome. It is indeed a pleasure to be physically here at the IIM Sirmaur campus after a gap of 3 years. The last two and half years has been a trying time for all of us, and this Institute was no exception. So while convocations were held with the use of technology, it was a poor a substitute for being together under the same roof. There was some debate on when and how the 2022 convocation should be held, but your enthusiasm prodded us to make it happen at Ponta Sahib. I am therefore delighted to have an opportunity to be amongst you. My heartiest congratulations to the graduating batch.

Before I share some of my own thoughts, as I mentioned, Mr Suresh Narayanan is not here at the venue, so first a few words about our Chief Guest. He is a seasoned professional in the Consumer Goods area who has handled a variety of challenging Functional and General Management roles across different countries. This includes about 20 years with Hindustan Unilever and 15 years with Nestle of which the last 7, he has been of Chairman of Nestle India. He was brought in as Chairman in 2015 when the company was going through a rough patch on account of regulatory pressures. A true test of a leader is when the chips are down, and it was during this period that he demonstrated his mettle by steering the company out of the crises. Teamwork, diligence and a passion to work with people has enabled him to have a strong track record of performance, credibility, and being a trusted leader. I have had the privilege of interacting with him, and I believe he represents the best combination of humility with professionalism. I look forward to hearing his thoughts.

I am well aware that the batch of 2022 undertook their MBA course under unprecedented circumstances and possibly missed out on some benefits of campus life and peer learning. Nonetheless, I am confident that you have gained a lot, and I would urge you that wherever gaps exists, they are filled with the help of on the job training.

As you have already stepped out into the real world, you would have noticed that the comfort zone of an academic institution is no longer there. More importantly, each one will undergo a wide range of experiences and challenges, often with no standard answers. That’s when a new phase of learnings begins. Some may have joined startups while others are with well- established organizations. Regardless; as the new journey begins, there are some principles that apply across businesses and across sectors. So let me share just a few that I have learnt with over 40 years of working.

1. People are at the core of an organisation: Wherever you are, success depends on the calibre and competency of the people who are with you, and most importantly the degree of team work and co-operation. As Ratan Tata said “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go with the team”. It is often said that to work with people, it is important to be a good listener. I would go a step further and say that it is important to be a good listener, but from the other person’s perspective.
Therefore some of the behaviours that one must internalise are:

  • Respect and dignity towards all,
  • Collaboration and team work;
  • Engage with people at a personal level.
  • Take interest in the development of ones’ team,

2. Building Relationships: I cannot but over emphasize on the importance of building relationships with stakeholders. While there is no unified construct of defining stakeholders, there are many important groups of people that you will engage with. The first and the most important one is, of course, your family. It nurtures you, and provides an anchor through the highs and lows of life. The others are shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers, bankers, government authorities and industry forums.

Building a relationship with each requires a different approach and a different set of skills. What is common however, is that all relationships must be built on trust and transparency. Building relationship with a selfish purpose is being short-term. Relationships must withstand the test of time, and survive ups and downs. It is not uncommon for some companies to have trade relationships that have outlived several generations; and both parties have gained. Do remember, companies do not collaborate, it is the people within the companies that collaborate. As Sir Shri Ram, who was the Founder of DCM Shriram would say, and I quote “Management in business is essentially a matter of human relations with employees.” Unquote.

3. The third relates to having an open mind: Be a student for life. If anyone feels that after reaching a senior position, they know it all, that is start of the down fall. Formal education is required as a basic foundation, and you have got that now; but learning on the job is a different learning which continues during one’s entire life. You have to take the initiative for learning on and off the job, as that will impact your career progression. And today the learning opportunities, with digital media etc, are unlimited, so go ahead and access them.

4. Value System and Transparency: I would like to emphasise that we must inculcate and follow a strong value system; and the time to begin is yesterday. This will reward you handsomely during your entire life. Value system means many things; high ethical standards, transparency, maintaining relationships, managing wealth with humility, etc. I do strongly believe that values are what drives all of us in the right direction.
So just to recap, what do the 4 principles of

  • People,
  • Building Relationship,
  • Have an open mind, and
  • Value system and Transparency

The final success in your career will be determined by the convergence and reinforcement of these 4 principles. Blending and orchestrating them is the very essence of leadership. In fact it is important to start practicing these traits early in your career, in order to enhance your credibility and reputation, and not wait for later years.

Coming back to IIM Sirmaur, I believe 2022 is a watershed year. Many of the teething troubles are now behind us. Most importantly we have a new Director, Prof Agnihotri, who brings enormous Administrative and Academic experience from the best IIM fraternity. He is also well networked with industry, and important criteria for a business school. The construction of the new campus after some initial hiccups is in full swing. The student strength has grown significantly with improvement in gender balance. Last, but most importantly we are rapidly adding to our strength of talented faculty and non-faculty staff. On behalf of the Board and myself, extent a very warm welcome to those who have joined recently. We are still a young institution, and in many ways you have an opportunity to make a mark. I would urge the faculty to explore new areas, conduct research, exchange ideas with the best in the field, innovate, stretch your selves as well as the students; so that everyone flourishes. The Director and the Board are here to support you and applaud your achievements.

Finally I whole heartedly congratulate the graduating batch, their parents and the families, and wish them all success in life. I am happy to share that the graduating students have been absorbed by top companies through campus placements. I would urge the passing out batch that they should remain in touch with the Institute, and give their constructive feedback. We hope that some of you will come back to this very Institute as faculty, or visiting faculty or as a board member.

On behalf of the entire Board of IIM Sirmaur, I extend support in building IIM Sirmaur as a world class Institution. We wish to see IIM Sirmaur operating from its permanent campus next year so that the ambience is more conducive for a vibrant campus life and learning experience.

Before I close, I would like to convey our sincere thanks to the local administration at Paonta Sahib, and the State Government in Shimla. The District authorities located at Nahan have gone the extra mile to resolve our difficulties that has enabled quick resolutions of teething troubles. A special thanks to them as well as CPWD. The Ministry of Education, Government of India has given us all the support and encouragement that we needed. A reflection of that is we now have regular follow up meetings to monitor progress of the new campus.

Once again, I wish each of you all the very best for the future, and congratulations to the 5th batch of IIM Sirmaur MBA students.

Keep the flag flying high!