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BW Businessworld

B-School Brigade On Untrodden Paths

Of bestselling authors, movie stars, dancers and even politicians, who went to reputed Business Schools

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Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar once said of Harsha Bhogle, “I have realised that speaking to him sometimes opens up completely different perspectives in addition to the ones I already have.” It is well know that Bhogle is the desi version of Richie Benaud, but few know that the celebrated cricket commentator is an alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad.

“Once I was comparing Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar and I said, ‘as India’s economy changed, Tendulkar was the product of a new economy; Gavaskar was a product of a licensed, socialist economy. He batted like he had bank deposits, while Tendulkar bats like he is playing the equity markets.’ It was not a prepared statement. But people suddenly said this guy has more than cricket in him,” recalls Bhogle.

Even when Bhogle left his job at an advertising agency to pursue cricket commentary as a career, he accepted that it was his B-school training that had given him the confidence. “I was searching for acceptability. I gained a lot of confidence that I have done something in life. Also, it gave me a kind of aura. Even when I was doing commentaries, people would come up to me and ask whether I really was from an IIM — an institution many were aspiring to get into,” recalls Bhogle.
Other management graduates too have shunned the echelons of the corporate world to pursue careers in politics, writing, film-making, sports and the social sector — using their management and leadership skills to negotiate their way through their respective fields of interest and established themselves as leaders.

Politician Sachin Pilot, authors Amish Tripathi and Chetan Bhagat, actor Randeep Hooda, dancer and social activist Mallika Sarabhai, lyricist Prasoon Joshi and filmmaker and director of the Hindi film, Queen, Vikas Behl — are some prominent B-School graduates. And the list is really exhaustive.


“Studying in a B-school is a great learning curve. There was no contribution of it in the creative part of my writing, but it certainly helped in the business side of my writing,” says Amish Tripathi, bestselling author of the Shiva trilogy. A graduate of IIM-Calcutta, Tripathi had worked in the financial services industry for 14 years before he turned to full-time writing to emerge as a literary superstar.

“The training that I received in my B-school and my on-job training as a banker, helped me deal with the business part of my journey as an author. Many authors and artists are very good creatively, but they do not do well because they do not know how to deal with the business part. So they do not achieve what they should have achieved otherwise,” says Tripathi.

Tripathi has authored six books so far, beginning with The Immortals of Meluha (2010). Altogether four million copies of his books have been printed so far, grossing Rs 120 crore in sales. Tripathi’s books have been translated into 19 Indian languages and some foreign languages. “A good book alone does not sell. It needs good marketing and branding. That is where the management skill helps. Also, we are living in a world which is over communicated. So it is now all the more important to be heard and get noticed. I feel it is where my training from B-school and communication skills came handy,” admits Tripathi. Albeit, the fusion of creative genius and   managerial commonsense paid off.

Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy is among the fastest selling fiction series in India. The Scion of Ikshvaku was the highest selling book in 2015 and Sita – Warrior of Mithila and Immortal India – Young Country, Timeless Civilisation, have been on the bestselling charts since its launch in August 2017.  The Indian language translations of Tripathi’s books have sold five lakh copies, breaking records in this space.

Chetan Bhagat is another celebrated fiction writer, who also happens to be an alumnus of IIM, Ahmedabad. Bhagat too decided to bade goodbye to his corporate job to pursue a full-time career as a writer. B-schools in India have not just spun out authors, but actors, directors, social activists and even politicians. Prominent politicians with management degrees include P. Chidambaram, who has a degree in management from the Harvard Business School. Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School too.

Former Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Jyotiraditya Scindia is a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Sachin Pilot, former Union Minister of State for Corporate Affairs, did his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.“Leadership is not just about power. It is about responsibility. It’s about self-awareness and assessment, negotiation and building relationships,” says S. Ramnarayan, Clinical Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the Indian School of Business (ISB).

“Leaders are also agenda setters. They are able to set their goals and are also able to assess their core competence and their performance against goals. That helps them find out what they do well and what they do poorly. Leaders are also good at building relationships and they are good negotiators. They are able to connect with their team. These leadership skills that all good B-schools teach, help them not just in handling challenges inside the boardroom but also in dealing with the world outside,” believes Ramnarayan. B-schools also teach effective communication with the world.

According to Mallika Sarabhai, social activist, dancer and director of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, “Profit as a motivator is easy to understand. Running a not-for-profit and keeping people highly motivated and creative most of the time is hard. Keeping funds flowing in is also very hard. My management degrees help in that. But the most useful tool is in a subject I loathed and mostly flunked — Written Analysis and Communication — also called WAC. It taught me to be super succinct while communicating everything that is needed. That has been really useful,” says Sarabhai, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, with a doctoral degree in Organisational Behaviour.

There are others like Nila Madhab Panda, Odisha-born National Award winning film director, who has perfected the art of communicating well with his audience through the powerful medium of cinema. An alumnus of IIM Bangalore, he decided to pursue a career in filmmaking. Panda has produced and directed over 70 diverse and cutting edge films, documentaries and short films. These films are based on important social issues such as climate change, child labour, education, water issues, sanitation and many other developmental issues in India. His latest movie, Kadwi Hawa, has received rave reviews for its depiction of environmental issues.

Experts feel that more than anything, B-school training also inculcates the risk taking ability, which helps individuals experiment with their career and think independently. “One most important thing which is taught at the management school is handling challenges and crisis and the freedom to think. Unless you get situations and goals that get you out of your comfort zone, no real learning can happen. Most of these people challenged themselves to come out of their comfort zone, by setting goals,” says Ramnarayan, who feels that various in-campus activities are an excellent way to teach students to face real world challenges.

The risks are not reckless risks, though, points out Amish Tripathi. “I was already in my job when my first book was published. It was only when I got a royalty for my second book which was higher than my salary that I decided to quit my job and take up writing as a full time career. So the decision was not emotional. It was a pragmatic decision,” he says, to buttress his argument.