Vijayakumar, above and below. Dhanapal who was also a colleague at Harihar, and Gadgil, who I met later at IMT Nagpur.
 Some students of Batch 2, with my colleagues in front row-below.
 Nidhi from Batch 1, KIAMS,  at Indore recently with her Dad.

Celebrating 480,000 views of this blog with an excerpt from my autobiography. If you want to read more, you can download the free ebook version from the link at the end (though I cannot imagine why anyone would want to)-

Chapter 9:   Harihar: My Golfing Days

The Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management Studies was a small but high quality residential place for training executives. It was on the banks of river Tungabhadra, in a two-street town. There were two factories there, one owned by Aditya Birla group, and one by the Kirloskar group. These were on either side of the river. An arc-shaped building was the hostel for executives, overlooking a cricket field. Our boss, Prof. Korgaonker, was an ardent cricket fan, and we played a lot of tennis-ball cricket on this ground with our visitors. They were usually twenty-over games, precursors to today’s Twenty-twenty cricket.

A lot of executives came there for the 30-odd programmes we ran through the year. They were from different companies of the Kirloskar group, and from all functional areas like materials management, sales, marketing, international marketing, production, strategy and maintenance. Most were engineers, with no formal management degree. Their work experience ranged from 2 to 20 years. Initially, we got visiting faculty from IIM Ahmedabad (India’s top B school) to handle many of the teaching sessions. They flew to Bangalore from Ahmedabad, usually after a change of flight at Bombay, and then drove about five hours to Harihar. They went back the same way, after a day or two of teaching. This was a difficult way to do things, but it created tremendous brand equity for the programmes we ran. No expense was spared to get the best training materials including cases from Harvard Business School, and training films on diverse subjects like Globalisation, Benchmarking and Business Process Reengineering. The library, though small, was of a high quality, and I have rarely seen such a good collection of intellectual resources in one place since.

We designed training programmes, coordinated them and ran them. Since we (resident faculty) lived on campus, a small walk away, it gave us lots of time to do other things. One discovery I made was that there was an 18 hole golf course in the adjoining campus of Mysore Kirloskar Ltd. And there were not many players. Making use of my FIL’s (Father-in-law’s) old golf set (he had been a long time golfer in Pune), and with a couple of friends, I started playing. The caddies (guys who carry your bag of golf clubs) were my main teachers, and Gaur, a general manager of the company, my usual partner. We made it a point to play at least a few holes everyday, and sometimes the full 18 holes on a holiday.

I did not have this easy an access to golf ever again. But those few years, we played almost every day. Dhanapal and Vijayakumar, my colleagues at the institute, were regulars. Visiting friends and some students were also introduced to the game, and were quite fascinated. My friend Gaur was a smoker, and I usually smoked one cigarette with him at the end of the day’s play- on a regular golf course, the 19th hole is usually a bar! But the smoke and chat were a good substitute. I don’t know why, but socializing improves a lot when one drinks or smokes, at least for men. Maybe we need additional stimulants to awaken our non-existent social skills.

I re-read the P.G. Wodehouse golf stories after I started playing, and enjoyed them much more. “The Clicking of Cuthbert” was one of these. Golf is a serious addiction, but I must say that my wife and kids did not really complain. I played other games before and after this, but golf remains one of my favourites. It is fun to play, looks easy but is pretty tough, and teaches you that in life, you are really competing with yourself. It is also a great stress-buster, because it forces you to take a long walk in green surroundings. It cured the deficiencies in my eyesight as well, and I got rid of my glasses during that time. If you imagine the ball to be your boss’s head while hitting it with all your might, the game takes on a completely new dimension. This viewpoint is highly recommended, unless you are the boss, of course!

After some time, we decided to launch a regular residential MBA program there, as the training market in the group companies was getting saturated. We launched a program, interviewed students and started classes within a short time after the decision. Our headline was “World Class Management Program from the House of Kirloskar”. We did not find the need for AICTE approval, as the program was of high quality, and we were sure of acceptance from students and corporates.

We had a lot of new things to do, like hostel administration, solving student issues, placement promotions and so on, after the PGDM program started at Harihar. Separating boys’ and girls’ hostels became one of the major issues. Though opinion was divided, we finally bowed to convention in batch 2 and separated the two. Placements were a problem initially, and despite all the usual tricks of the trade being used, fell short of students’ expectations. Later, I learnt that they always fall short of expectations. Also, that a student rarely stays more than a year in his first job, even if he claims it is a dream job. In other words, I learnt to take everything with a pinch of salt!

Among the things we did for admission promotion, was making a film. Completely shot on VHS video, with the help of our resident Harihar videocameraman, and scripted by me and a colleague,  Dhanapal. We used interviews with students of batch 1 as our main theme. Many of them performed like pros, and we edited the material into a 15 minute movie. We rented a TV and VCP at each venue, and started admission interviews with a screening. The great location and infrastructure of the institute helped to attract the students, as did the Kirloskar brand name.

Some world class tourist places were within easy reach from Harihar, and we went there quite a few times. Goa was a 9 hour drive, and I spent three Diwali vacations there, with family. Jog falls, which were mesmerizing in the rainy months of June- August, Hampi, with its ruins of Vijaynagar empire, and Belur-Halebeedu, with the exquisite temple carvings, were all within 4-5 hours driving distance. Closer, there was a river bed in a village called Rajanahalli where we went for afternoon or evening picnics with our own food and drinks.

We also did onsite training programs for Kirloskar group executives, and I traveled to Pune, Nagpur and Jaipur for some of these. At Jaipur, among other things, we saw the movie Mission Kashmir in the palatial Rajmandir movie theater at Jaipur. Another program was done at a hotel next to the Osho ashram in Pune, and we heard the evening music and partying next door.

I got all round admin. experience as I coordinated almost every administrative activity, including admissions, placement, MDP and so on. One good decision we made was to align with CAT for our admissions. This gave us instant visibility in the ‘good students’ segment. SDM institute (at Mysore) started around the same time with their PGDM, and in one early survey of B schools, KIAMS and SDM were tied at rank 30. Later, with a proliferation of surveys, it was tough to keep track of ranks. Also, B schools started mushrooming everywhere, and of all kinds. KIAMS also never tried cashing in or scaling up, and it was both a plus and a minus. Minus because scale gives you visibility (like in the case of ICFAI), and plus because you can be selective about student intake. And, it is a pleasure to teach smaller classes.

Prof S.N. Chary was our director when we started the MBA, and stayed with us through the first year of the program. Then he went back to IIM Bangalore, where he had been our professor. The new director after him had no clue of how a great MBA programme is run, and the disillusionment forced most faculty to desert the institute. I think my first inspiration to head a B school came from him, because if he could do it, so could I, was my logic.

But the next move happened not as the head, but as a faculty member at IIM, Lucknow.
 The promised link to the ebook.


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