Thursday, July 30, 2009

At XLRI - We Also Teach Management

Mad Shuks posted this today on his facebook page and I'm reposting it here to a broader audience (just in case you haven't signed up to facebook yet)

[NOTE: I had written this about 3-4 years back, and discovered it today while doing some housekeeping on my laptop... have made some changes {in Italics}to "contemporise" it - but the gist remain the same... Considering that of the 767 in my FB contacts/friends, there would be at least about 700 XLers from different batches, I thought this may be worth sharing:)
... besides, of course, the FB interface allows one to link people one is talking about:0) ]

We Also Teach Management

1998-99 was the year, when I got – I realized in retrospect – “alumnized”… a term I coined to describe an experiential state of being which is perhaps as impossible to define, as giving a “definition” of “what is sweet” (or, perhaps more appropriately, a definition of “what is heady” :0)

It started as an innocuous co-administrative assignment to be the Alumni Coordinator. And unknowingly, I walked into the unchartered territories of a unique denizen, that will get me involved with a kaleidoscope of people and personalities… Over the years, both through official and unofficial interactions (realizing in the meanwhile, that there is nothing “official” about this species), I came to know many of this breed, and gathered a number of “anthropological” insights about XLRI as an institution, and about the community of alumni it nurtures.

The first learning was that, like most MBAs, this is a nomadic crowd. In the first few months, I hit upon an unsettling insight: with 5000+ alumn (at that time)i, if on an average, one XLer relocates once every three years, it worked out to about 4-5 xlers shifting every day!!!

This revelation sort of threw the spanner in the works, as far as the pursuit of the holy grail of a centralized alumni database was concerned. Over time, it led to creation of an online network of XLers worldwide… but, OK, that is a different story… some other time….

The second thing I observed was that, in living reality, there was nothing like year-wise batches of alumni. Rather, one was dealing with a pretty close-knit community, in which relationships cut across batches, hierarchies, geographies – and decades. It seemed mysterious, but perhaps the XLers can smell each other out. It must be due to some very strong “genetic code” – whether attitude, jargon, affiliations, body odor, mannerisms, some code-word or whatever – but they connected well – would reach out to each other - even if they had never met earlier. More so, if there was a “cause” to connect around. The cause could be anything: finding a PG accommodation for the daughter of an XLer one had never met, arranging for Fr McGrath’s residence permit, or pitching in to organize relief work for Tsunami victims.

But perhaps most important insight for me was about the diversity of fauna which XL produces. Like any B-school of stature and standing, XL has its own share of CEOs and senior level professionals in the corporate India and abroad who excel as managers & CEOs. There are also a reasonable number of XLers who are successful entrepreneurs, are in the civil services as secretaries, toppers, and political advisors, or hold senior level assignments in UN, World Bank, NYSE, etc.

But where else, except from XL, would one find this mixed assortment of B-School graduates, such as:

  • a mega TV/film star of tamil screen, who from the beginning, “positioned” himself in the “niche” role of the “father”, since that has a “longest product life”.

  • a management consultant, who mobilized the local communities to conserve the medicinal plants in Himalayas, and was awarded the prestigious Whitley Conservation Award by the Royal Geographical Society for her work.

  • An auto-journalist, who makes his living by test-riding two-wheelers, rode through Sahara on a scooter, and finally authored “The Penguin Guide to Two-Wheelers”...

  • the founder of the Glass and Ceramic Society of India, who is invited to conduct workshops on glass artwork in Europe and USA, restored the stain glass windows of St Michael’s Cathedral in Simla, and was invited by French government to restore the stained glass windows on the 12th century church in Troyes.

  • the activist who organized the 24,000 strong New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance (and the ’98 taxi strike in NYC), who besides teaching in a US university, fights for the rights of the immigrant community representing 80 ethnicities.

  • the finance graduate, who, after 12 years of corporate life, decided to move into composing jingles for ads, and then to composing and directing film music – and won the National Award for best music for his first film, Nammavar… sad that he had to leave so early…

  • the founder-CEO of an HR consulting company, who also got the Eisenhower Award for his continuing work with children of Sivakasi

  • the group of four, who chucked their jobs in blue-chip companies after a year, to do what they loved doing – out-door trekking… and created a profession around it… they diversified and followed their own paths... but did culminated in one XLer among 50 Leaders Re-Shaping Indian Education

  • the custom officer in the film “Saransh” who also wrote Filmfare Award winning screenplays, besides heading a Rs300cr television content company

  • an Ashoka Fellow, who left her lucrative job in financial services to create the “Pravah” of 200 like-minded volunteers, who sensitize youngsters to the societal issues through citizenship education

    … the list and tradition goes on… a current senior batch student explores her options to join an NGO, and a junior batch guy opts to do his summer internship with a not-for-profit organization…
    (more recently - since I wrote this, I find that even in the recent batches, there are XLers leaving their blue-chip jobs to venture into their dreams - education, healthcare and music!!.)

    Surely, I have (happily) realised - XL does not merely produce corporate clones… I am not sure, but my hunch is that in the founding document of the institute, there must have been a statement:

    We Also Teach Management.

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