Chairperson's Message

Diamond Jubilee Lecture and Distinguished Alumnus Award 2021 Address, IIM Calcutta, November 14th, 2021

Before I start, please allow me the privilege to offer my pranams to the Supreme Teacher:

Om Shri Guru Bhyo Namah:

I also offer my pranams to my father, Prof. Gajanan Kulkarni, who was one of the first few founding faculty members at IIM Ahmedabad and who taught me so much. He passed away on 13th Oct 2021.

Respected Chief Guest, Prof. Dipesh Chakrabarty; dear members of the IIM Calcutta Faculty and staff; distinguished alumni; distinguished guests and fellow students.

My namaskar to all of you.

IIM Calcutta has served the nation with distinction for 60 years. Today we celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and her immense contribution.

As is the practice, we felicitate our distinguished alumni on this day.

My heartfelt congratulations to the distinguished alumni, and the entire family and friends of IIM Calcutta.

It was four years ago on 14th November 2017 that I had the privilege to address my first annual day function.

Being the Diamond Jubilee foundation day – nothing can be more special than using this day to revisit fundamentals. What is good for us, must be repeated and revisited again and again.

  1. IIM Act 2017: It is important that we briefly review some major developments of the decade that passed. Two major developments have occurred which are impacting the Institute majorly.
    1. The first change is the setting up of thirteen newer IIMs (since 2010) as institutes of national importance. This explosion in the number of IIMs and the increasing impact of technology in business necessitates that IIMC take a fresh look at how we plan to retain and extend our leadership in the field of management education; conceptualization of management thought and management practice, in India and the world.
    2. The second change arises from the incorporation in the Act of a provision that the IIMs created by statute will enjoy autonomy.
      1. The range of subjects to which the nation expects IIMs to address themselves is wider than what IIMs are currently addressing. It includes management areas that are of concern not only to corporates but are also areas of social and public concern. These are now prescribed by law and must influence strategy formulation.
      2. Competition has taken a new form under this provision.
      3. Our ability to raise our own funds is now a necessity.
  2. Our identity: IIMC is not just another "Business School". We are an "Indian Institute of Management". We are a national asset. It is the responsibility of each of us, "the stakeholders", to consistently and systematically raise the value of this asset and expand our sphere of influence. One of the best ways to do so is to raise our intellectual capital. We must spare no efforts to remain relevant and valuable. This requires that we must regularly revisit our mandate and also review our performance. In these new circumstances:
    1. It is now our responsibility to prepare "managers", not just for industrial, financial and commercial enterprises, but also managers who will become pivots and enablers of "social change" and national development.
      1. For this IIM Calcutta will provide educational inputs to all sectors of the Indian economy and polity.
      2. As the nation seeks to achieve a new global status, IIMC will play an active role in contributing significantly to this journey of "Atmanirbhar Bharat".
      3. We will sustain our excellence. As a community we will reinforce a culture where every member is imbued with a "sense of duty", and a desire to graduate from having just a strong "sense of belonging".
    2. Competition is now global (online and hybrid delivery models for education are now available). In this scenario, Faculty who have high scholarship are the most important investment.
    3. We must reassess what we teach (curriculum) and how we teach (pedagogy);
      1. Should the present MBA curriculum and its overemphasis on analytics and models be reviewed and in its place efforts be made to buttress this foundation with the most important management skills – of humanity, judgement and critical innovative thinking? These are skills that add to the level of "human capital" of a leader.
      2. I ask, without this, how do we equip our students to work in the "gap" between what they know and what the environment expects.
      3. Technology will force and disrupt businesses. Management practices will have to shift from shareholder wealth maximization to "equitable distribution of wealth". Leaders will need to understand that "shareholder wealth maximization" has at its root "greed". It is violence – economic violence. As my great grandfather, Gandhiji repeatedly reminded us – "there is enough for our need, but not enough for our greed". Solving this problem is probably the most pressing economic need of our times.
      4. What role can our Management Center for Human Values play in helping IIMC further this critical thought? How can we use MCHV to differentiate our course offerings? Can IIMC play a defining role in shaping the "human capital" of business leadership? As it increases, so will the Gross Domestic Character of our economy.
      5. This Gross Domestic Character will be at the heart of leaders who will change the management paradigm from "shareholder wealth maximization", to "equitable distribution of wealth". This in my view is the only key that can unlock the problems of poverty and unemployment.
  3. Our students:
    1. In this new networked world, beyond the functions and domains of their specialization, our students will progressively need to equip themselves with some very important skills and attitudes:
      1. To be effective leaders they will need to have the ability to create new networks of partnerships for their organizations to be, sustainable, scalable and most importantly survive disruptions and failures;
      2. They will have to be comfortable comprehending the impact of data, artificial intelligence, cyber-security etc.;
      3. Culturally they will need to be able to accept multi-stakeholder networks and have a mindset for collaboration. This is the only way they can hope to overcome the complexity and interconnectedness across sectors;
      4. Ability to respect diversity and display empathy will be key to building personal credibility. Personal credibility will now be a non-negotiable attribute for leaders;
      5. In a nutshell – the networked world will force teams and organizations to "collaborate" and not "just compete".
  4. Our infrastructure: To achieve our vision, we will invest in upgrading our infrastructure.
    1. Physical infrastructure: We are committed to rebuild our infrastructure and make IIMC the choice destination for faculty, students and staff.
      1. Detailed master plan for the entire Joka campus;
    2. Digital infrastructure: Commensurate with the demands of online education and the networked world;
    3. Marketing infrastructure: Traditionally IIM Calcutta has not used marketing as a tool for our external connect. We realize the need to have a dedicated team for external relations focused on raising resources. To this end, a Section 8 company is in the process of being registered. Many talented alumni are already helping;
    4. Administrative infrastructure: We are reviewing and changing our governance structures and internal processes to be more transparent, efficient and nimble. These changes will equip us to meet competitive pressures and speed of response.
  5. My sincere request: Although I have the privilege of being the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of IIM Calcutta, it is my ardent belief that one of my most important roles is to also be a salesperson, who dedicates his time and energies for IIM Calcutta to bring opportunities that will increase her resources and her sphere of influence. But in this I cannot be alone. Every colleague on our Board, every faculty colleague, every staff colleague and every alumni and every student and all friends of IIM Calcutta are also salespersons and therefore we are team mates.
    1. When I think of IIM Calcutta, I see a mother, who has never disappointed a single student who came to her. She has consistently given each and every one of you wings for all your dreams. She launched you with a high velocity input into this world.
    2. In the name of the Divine and with folded hands I seek the support of each and every one among the IIMC alumni and friends of IIMC to help raise the funds for this Divine work to meet our needs.
    3. In your heart, there are the emotional chords of "generosity" and "gratitude". Please touch them when you think of helping "mother IIM Calcutta". Your offerings will be grateful accepted as "Dakshina".
    4. I wish to convey my gratitude to those alumni who have already connected with us and are contributing time, energy and resources.
    5. Please feel free to reach out to me or to anyone of us.

"Failure is not a crime, aiming low is".

Jai Hind

Fresher's Welcome address, IIM Calcutta
Jun 19th, 2021

Chairperson Shrikrishna Kulkarni, addressing the MBA 58th batch students during the Fresher's Welcome 2021.

Convocation Speech, IIM Calcutta
May 15th, 2021

All our teachers are here and it is appropriate that I start by invoking and prostrating before the Supreme teacher, the "teacher of teachers".

ब्रह्मानन्दं परमसुखदं केवलं ज्ञानमूर्तिं
द्वन्द्वातीतं गगनसदृशं तत्त्वमस्यादिलक्ष्यम्
एकं नित्यं विमलमचलं सव॔धीसाक्षिभूतं
भावातीतं त्रिगुणरहितं सद्गुरूं तं नमामि

In English the rough translation is:

  • The one who is Bliss of Brahman, the one who is supreme happiness and who is knowledge absolute;
  • The one who has no duality, who is expansive like the sky and is the goal indicated in great Mahavakyas of the Mandukya Upanishad like "Tat Twam Asi";
  • The only one – pure, unchanging who is the witness of all
  • The one who embodies the 3 gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas
  • To that Supreme entity, I prostrate myself and bow down;

Respected Chief Guest Shri Krishnamurthy Subramanian, distinguished and honourable guests, our dear graduating students, their families, Director in-charge, Professor Subir Bhattacharya, Deans, Program Chairs, our loved and respected Faculty colleagues, dear Staff members and the IIM Calcutta community.

My pranams to all of you.

My dear graduating class, today you graduate from IIM Calcutta and enter the world of professionals. All your hard-work and toil is being recognized and culminating in you becoming the newest members of the family of the IIM Calcutta alumni – an incredible distinction and a coveted privilege. Please accept my heartfelt congratulations and admiration for all of you.

You are the best of the best of this nation, and today is your day. Ideally, we all should have been at our beautiful campus in Joka celebrating your happiness together – in person.

This ongoing pandemic is unprecedented. This 2nd wave is testing our resolve even more fiercely. By now hopefully it should be clear to all of us that each one of us, you and me, is the frontline defense against this pandemic. It is "our", individual and collective responsibility to keep our community safe by exercising civic responsibility and social discipline through exercising self-discipline. It was in keeping with this spirit that this convocation is being held in the virtual non-physical format. I must convey my gratitude to all of you, for accepting this.

My thoughts and reflections that I wish to share with you today, are nothing new. These thoughts continue to add much needed perspective to my life. It is in the belief that these thoughts may also add perspective to your lives and that good things must be shared, and therefore can be repeated, that I allow myself the privilege to speak my heart.

This pandemic is having immense immediate implications for economies and businesses. And so I allowed myself to contemplate on the future?

  1. What is it doing to "economic inequality? Has it opened our heart? Do we feel it?"
  2. I wondered what kind of resources would be required if every human being in this world was to claim the average living standard of a citizen of the developed nations?
  3. Is this possible in a finite world?

Today we have with us, one of our own, an IIM Calcutta alumnus, Prof. Krishnamurthy Subramanian. He is presently at the helm of Economic Affairs of our nation as the Chief Economic Advisor.

Thank you Prof. Krishnamurthy for accepting my invitation to be our Chief Guest today.

It is his presence that encourages me to wonder:

  1. What role does "human greed", play in economic, financial and social problems?
  2. Is this focus and our need for perpetual growth of GDP driven by "human greed"?
  3. In the garb of globalization, has there been unbridled individualism – GDP of nations being fueled by consumerism to support a "lifestyle", as against "a life"?
  4. Can our demand be less greedy and the supply be more broad based with a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources over the entire supporting business ecosystem?
  5. With Technology and the networked world breaking down "silos" in society, will organizations be forced to "collaborate" and not just "compete"?
  6. And therefore closing the loop on my own thoughts by asking the fundamental question – "is competition driven by greed?"

These are difficult questions and in your lifetime they will probably take on critical dimensions.

I wondered if you would be happy by my just posing questions. But quickly reminded myself that as Chairperson of the Board I am traditionally expected to say something.

Therefore, it would be correct to admit, that at best I can share some of my own experience based learnings with you – which you may accept or discount at a discount rate of your choice:

  1. In this new networked world, beyond the functions and domains of my own specialization, I progressively felt the need to equip myself with some very important skills:
    1. To be effective I felt the need to have the ability to create new networks of partnerships for my organizations, so that they may be sustainable, scalable and most importantly survive disruptions and failures;
    2. I had to be comfortable in comprehending the impact of data, artificial intelligence, cyber-security etc.;
    3. Culturally I learnt to accept multi-stakeholder networks and have a mindset for collaboration. This is the only way I could hope to overcome the complexity and interconnectedness across sectors;
    4. Ability to respect diversity and display empathy were key to building personal credibility. Personal credibility is now a non-negotiable attribute to lead people;
  2. So, what can you do with what you have learnt?
    1. While knowing is important – all knowledge refers to what we have learnt, stored in our memory and can access it at our will. By definition knowledge is always of the past and hence it relies heavily on facts and theoretical frameworks. It is humanly impossible to know everything?
    2. Is therefore "Leadership" about successfully managing unfamiliar situations? I think it is.
    3. Ask yourself, why do different leaders see the same problem in different ways? Why do some succeed and some fail miserably?
  3. Let me share with you my observations and I should not claim that they are wholly correct. Please use them if you feel attracted and motivated to explore them:
    1. In your professional as also personal life, you will encounter many battles. They are all, in one way or the other, leadership battles – the most crucial will be those, which are the "unequal battles" – unequal assets, unequal power, unequal influence etc. In such battles, in my experience:
      - The two most important qualities that help me progress are: be brave, fearless (शौय॔) and be patient (धैय॔) Most such battles are lost due to impatience;
      - Your own strength (of character) and intelligence (विवेक) will give you the "Will power" that is needed to endure such battles;
      - And finally, you will need to have on your side, "Truth (सत्य), humility and modesty (शील, विनम्रता), selflessness (निःस्वार्थ). But here I will use the unusual meaning of selflessness which is "doing good for others" (पहि॔त).
  4. To make these qualities, your own, requires (साधना) – which can be loosely translated in English as – deep, introspective, disciplined, relentless long duration study. If you have these qualities, there is a very high probability that you will not lose these unequal battles. Battles which are between साधना versus साधन(assets, power, influence etc.).
  5. Remember this powerful Sanskrit shloka:
    • अमंगलम् अक्षरं नास्ति नास्ति मूलमनौषधम् ।
      अयोग्यः पुरुषो नास्ति योजकस्तत्र दुल॔भः॥
    • There is no letter which is not auspicious, there is no root which doesn’t have medicinal property;

There is no person who is thoroughly useless, but rare is the one who knows how to properly use/manage them.

If you are with me till now, then I am going to go ahead and take the risk of requesting you all that from this point on in life pay attention to the development of the most important management skills – of humanity, which I shared briefly. It is these skills that will equip you to work in the "gap" between what you know and what your environment will expect from you.

But for this to happen, you must have a vision for your life. Not just "goals for your life". What is the difference?

  • Your actions that do good "through you", and not "for you", would be what I would define as a vision for your life.
  • In the pursuit of such a vision – have the courage to make mistakes. A mistake that makes you humble is better than an achievement that makes you arrogant.

Let me change gears a little bit here. Very quickly, you all will be leaders of your own families. But today, I want to share with you my thoughts on our parents. A parent child relationship is Divine – at any age in your life it is Divine – they gave us life! They therefore deserve that stature throughout our lives.

Over the past few years, I have had the luxury to spend time with my aged parents (93+ and 91+). And so I probably tilt towards a wisdom that all elders uncannily exhibit – something unequivocally makes them realize how little we know – or putting it more bluntly, "that the universe doesn't need the sanction of our beliefs to function". It is as if they were acknowledging the limitations of human knowledge?

As my parents see the end of the runway coming closer, I notice their wisdom expand beyond the realms of logic and thought. As I serve them, the arrogance of my logical brain questions their approach. But astonishingly I am now acutely aware of how limiting are both human logic and thought. Both tend to narrow our existence down to "our individual self". But I also notice that as the physical body starts surrendering the (elders) operate more and more from their hearts. It is this "operating from the heart", that allows their existence to expand so far beyond the puny limits of their own physical selves.

This makes me wonder – are they being prepared to merge with the infinite, the awareness that permeates everything. This then makes me wonder – can the finite me, ever comprehend the infinite? Is it possible? After all I am a finite product severely limited by what I perceive through my 5 senses – which as I have come to realise from studying science – cannot be trusted. Example we "see" the sun set and rise – but it's not how the reality is. So, what is "real"? Is there such a thing as "reality? Therefore, does, anything that is unchanging deserve to be defined as real, as "the reality"? Such an unchanging reality is probably:

  • Not a "thing"
  • "Nothing"
  • "No thing"!!

We are the only species that has in its arrogance (of our logic and our knowledge), forgotten our place as just another inhabitant of nature. Please invest your time to be in closer connection with nature.

Finally, before I stop, the world will celebrate your razor sharp intelligence, your being global citizens, your being tech savvy etc etc etc.

The world may celebrate you by putting you on a list of the "most powerful persons", OR the "most influential persons", but, I would feel deep satisfaction, if you strive and expand your heart – and learn to operate also from your heart and as a result the world celebrates you by recognizing you among the "most loved and respected" persons.

Prayers for the good health and safety of your loved ones and you, always – every one of you.

Have a beautiful life – every one of you.

Jai Hind.