Thursday, May 12, 2011

A day out with CEOs: B-school students learn managerial skills from top leadership

Nikhil Uppal is elated. He is back after spending a day with Ajay Kaul, Chief Executive Officer, Jubilant Foodworks Limited and now he knows what it takes to be a leader. Uppal, along with his batchmate Ritu Agarawal — from the General Management Programme (GMP) at Xavier’s Labour Research Institute (XLRI) Jamshedpur — got lucky when a panel of faculty members from their institute selected them to train under Kaul for a day.

"In one word, it was exciting. Meeting him was different from any other meeting we have had with executives so far. We discussed Kaul's days from his B-school to an industry fresher; his early days in business and the success he has seen now. We found out about Kaul's journey in building the Dominos brand. About what it took him to reach where he is today," says Uppal. Jubilant Foodworks runs the Dominos brand pizza outlets.

However, XLRI students are not the only ones who are lucky. Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research (SIMSR) are also toying with the idea of providing one-day mentoring opportunities to students with top executives in companies. "Spending a day with a CEO helps students know their business philosophy their mindset and ethical views. Students also get to build a mentor-mentee relationship with the executives that can last longer," says Shashank Rastogi, Director-Operations at Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) of IIM-A.

B-schools say such mentoring programmes allow students a deeper exposure into the corporate world and also help better their decision making abilities. For instance, Uppal and Agarawal, saw how successful leaders combine seemingly unrelated information to take critical decisions. Kaul spoke about the strategies he and his team formulated and implemented to catapult Dominos to its current position. "Interacting with top executives helps students as well as start-ups on what choices to make. This also helps students avoid making professional compromises in future," adds Rastogi.

However, B-schools say it is a tough exercise for them to provide such opportunities to all students. "We match profiles of students with top executives and managers. We have restricted this programme to our HR and operations batches where students are less. We hope to provide such opportunities to as many students as possible," says Suresh Ghai, Director, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research (SIMSR). The institute has been conducting such one-day mentoring programmes for sometime now.

At IIM-A, the programme will take off this year. "We will seek a statement of purpose from each applicant, either a student or a start-up, on why they want to meet a CEO or COO. We will launch the venture during 'Joy of Giving' week in October where we plan to auction the mentoring opportunity and use the proceeds generated, for charitable purposes," says Rastogi.

CIIE will match profiles of CEOs with that of candidates and utilise its huge alumni network to bring such top executives on board for the programme. Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business also conducts this programme yearly.

Source: Business Standard, May 12, 2011

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