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Monthly Archives: February 2013

“Marketing subjects are difficult if you simply teach them out of a textbook.” – Professor R. T. R. Varma, HOD Marketing Department

RTR VarmaSeven years ago, had an astrologer predicted to Mr. R. T. R. Varma that there would soon be a ‘Professor’ prefixed to his name, the fore teller would have had to go back empty-handed. An on-ground marketer for the better part of his life, Mr. Varma was sitting pretty high up the corporate ladder at that point in time, designing marketing communication strategies, as part of the senior management of a prominent business house with a global footprint. An MBA from the University of Oklahoma, USA, Mr. Varma had marketed everything from gold and diamond jewelry, to contraceptives, automobile tires, confectionary and liquor, during his 25 years in the corporate world. In all that time, he never worked for competitors in the same industry, and always hopped from one industry to a new one. Academia was hardly the place for a hard-core professional… or so he thought.

“After quitting my last corporate position, I was headed towards a consultancy practice.  At that time, an acquaintance of mine – an ex-Director of one of the IIMs – pointed out that B-schools in India were looking at experienced professionals as teachers. I began exploring the avenues and very quickly, advisory services and part-time teaching assignments began emerging as firm options. The realisation dawned upon me that for a person with a long innings in the industry, academics present a wonderful opportunity to revisit the bygone era and find more meaning to what one had experienced.”

The fact that today Professor R. T. R. Varma is the HoD of the Marketing Department at SCMS-Cochin speaks volume about his contributions. Interestingly, the Marketing department at SCMS-Cochin has the unique distinction of not having a single career academician; all have come from different business backgrounds.

“Subjects like Marketing Strategy, Communication, Corporate Governance and Entrepreneurship are difficult if you simply teach them out of a textbook. For a good Marketer, the focus is always on customers and products, and on building relationships. Win or lose, you have to remain rooted to the market place. This is where a marketer-turned-academician is of sterling value. He or she understands the value of direct instruction and mentoring, but lays stress on the importance of research-oriented, co-operative learning.”

Students of SCMS-Cochin vouchsafe for the fact that there is never a dull moment in Prof. R. T. R. Varma’s class.  Understandably so, since Prof. Varma has spent a lifetime actively gauging what appeals to the person in front and changing his marketing style accordingly.

“I’m incapable of sitting down in my classrooms at SCMS-Cochin,” confesses Prof. Varma. “It is as if in the class, my physical movement is an extension of my mind. I just have to move constantly.”

Not surprisingly therefore, his days at SCMS-Cochin are crammed with classes and encounters with students and faculty alike. “Trying hard to appear important and knowledgeable!” he offers, making light of it. Described as “friendly, forthright and chivalrous” by his fellow faculty members at SCMS-Cochin, Prof. Varma finds great satisfaction in imparting the “art of providing and communicating values” – as he describes Marketing – to the budding managers at SCMS-Cochin.

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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Faculty

 

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“Alumni meets give me a sense of how important the alumni have been in the phenomenal growth story of SCMS- Cochin.” says Manoj Sethi, Batch1996-98

IMG_1699For Manoj Sethi, alumni meets are all about going back to his circle of absolute comfort, where the shadow of growing older falls away from his countenance, and he laughs like he used to in the good old days at SCMS-Cochin. At the recent alumni meet of the Delhi Chapter of SCMS-Cochin, Manoj was all joviality, reliving the days of the 5th Batch (1996-98) at SCMS-Cochin, and sharing invaluable knowledge with other alumni about his sector.

“A lot has changed since we passed out of SCMS-Cochin,” Manoj elaborated, while emphasising the absolute importance of such alumni meets. “When I joined the Banking sector in 1998, the concept of Services in the private banking industry – which began in 1994 – was just about taking root. The private insurance industry did not exist. So in ‘98, the opportunities for a B-school grad were far fewer, as compared to the current times.The other interesting bit is the amazing appetite for entrepreneurship in the current generation. It is not necessarily because after 10 or 15 years of experience you are fed up of working for somebody else; it is also because there is so much to ideate about. Infact, the uncertain times have made business managers more confident about entrepreneurship, with less risk aversion.”

Having worked with HDFC for over nine years, Manoj has literally seen the sector grow, while being a part of it. As a part of the Senior Management at ICICI Lombard, Manoj currently works in the niche space of providing mass solutions for the BPL (Below Poverty Line) segment. While the work is very close to his heart, he feels that the real challenge lies in dealing with various departments of the Government of India.

“As the largest corporate in the general insurance sector, we need to deal with all government departments. For instance, we have mass health insurance schemes that cover people en masse. I have a team of 8-10 people travelling across the country working with various ministries, trying to evolve products which interest them. Dealing with the Government can get very difficult at times. You have to deliver things on time, which is quite a challenge in this space, since the decision-making process is often slow, leading to a longer turn-around period. We continuously need to wrack our brains over evolving good products with new to-do strategies.”

A regular at the alumni dos, Manoj explains that alumni meets are the best place to get a feel of how far SCMS-Cochin has come.

“I was part of one of the first few batches of SCMS-Cochin. Interestingly, our batch even then had representation from almost all parts of India. Back then, SCMS-Cochin was a budding institute, with just the Kerala campus; there are so many new campuses now. I remember how there was always regular faculty – and an exceptionally good one at that – right from the nascent stage, and the infrastructure of SCMS-Cochin was unparalleled even during those days. In those days, Marketing was a compulsory part of the curriculum, with the option of combining it with either Finance or HR. Yet, SCMS-Cochin had a fantastic set of visiting and guest faculty members even in those days.”

Manoj believes that the current status of SCMS-Cochin as one of the foremost B-schools of India springs from its sound fundamentals. These alumni meets help him get a sense of how well SCMS-Cochin has grown, instilling a deep sense of satisfaction about being a part of – and a reason for – is continuing growth story.

Manoj Sethi,
Alumnus, 5th Batch (1996-98)

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Alumni

 

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“Even after 15 years, almost our entire batch remains connected and we watch out for each other.” says Sandeep Kumar,Batch1997-99

sandeepSandeep Kumar seriously believes that time has wings. It seems to him like it was just yesterday when he entered SCMS-Cochin for the first time – a wide-eyed youngster transfixed by the most beautiful campus in the ‘God’s own land’.  Yet now he was doing the rounds of bustling get-togethers of Delhi Chapter of SCMS-Cochin alumni, as a ‘veteran’ of the 6th batch that passed out 15 years back; shaking hands with ‘youngsters’ who’d just passed out of SCMS-Cochin.

“Memories of SCMS-Cochin are very vivid in most of us. We were a class of 50, and we used to fight like anything,” recalls Sandeep with a smile. “And yet the moment we’d step out of the campus, it would be ‘one for all and all for one’. I even remember how we’d gone on a ‘pen-down strike’ in Dr. Radha Thevannoor’s class. It was for something so ridiculous, that I can’t even remember it! In the end we ended up making complete fools of ourselves! Whenever we remember those days, we just can’t stop laughing. Even after 15 years, almost our entire batch remains connected and we watch out for each other.”

After passing out of SCMS-Cochin in 1999, Sandeep joined Carrier Air Conditioning, and worked his way up in the organisation for the next 8 years.

“When you complete your MBA from a top B-school like SCMS-Cochin,your pay and designation make you feel that you are being inducted as an implementer – an expert in the organization. Fact of the matter is you got to start from the basics; you are an executioner at the middle of the managerial pyramid or maybe lower.Organizations work in pressure situations – especially in sales and marketing departments – and it’s tough for B-schools to emulate the real thing. Beyond facts, business decisions and transactions should be simulated more rigorously. Every day is a new day in the corporate world; and the world is changing so fast that you cannot predict what’s coming next.”

Sandeep made a switch in 2008, to the electronics giant – LG. Ever since, he has worked his way up, to the position of the Key Accounts Manager for AC’s.

“I have the tendency to get to my chair atleast half an hour before office time. This helps me get a rundown of my day ahead. Once office-hours start, I try to generate all kinds of MIS; taking down notes of the priorities for the day, before discussing and taking down concerns of my team members. Around 12 in the noon I report to my bosses. We have a weekly meeting with our MD. Coordinating efforts and resources is a tedious job, but I deal with it in a way, so that I have atleast 3 days a week to get a first-hand feel of the market. I make it a point to visit my costumers and interact with them as often as I can.”

Sandeep Kumar strongly believes that profits are the by-products of ethics. He advises the budding managers of SCMS  to “learn to be ready to face all kinds of situations boldly as in some cases you will be able to wriggle out of situations tactfully  but in some others you may really have to stand up and say “sorry boss, I am not for that “. He believes that when it comes to grooming ethical managers, SCMS-Cochin is second to none.

                                                                                                                                Sandeep Kumar,
Key Accounts Manager,LG
Batch 1997-99

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Alumni

 

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“The major part of my entrepreneurial support system – my friends and my mentors- comes from SCMS-Cochin.” says Praveen Premkumar,Batch 2005

praveen_prem_kumarSome of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. Nobody knows this better than Praveen Premkumar.

The year was 2003. Praveen had just completed his B.Com from the famed Mar Ivanios College, Trivandrum. He was 98 kgs, wore his hair long, and did not want to go to SCMS-Cochin. His logic? The other prominent B-school that he’d cracked had lesser number of students, and therefore lesser competition. His mother ofcourse would have none of it.

“A complete transformation happened to me at SCMS-Cochin -physically as well as mentally. I dropped 30 kgs, picked up discipline… and earned friends for life. You see, knowledge is something you can gain anytime you want; SCMS-Cochin helped me get my attitude.”

An attitude, that saw Praveen Premkumar awarded as the ‘Best Student – Allround’ of his batch.

When Praveen passed out of SCMS-Cochin in 2005, the Indian economy was seeing the beginning of the boom in Telecom sector. Praveen had cracked an on-campus placement at SCMS-Cochin with BPL mobile; taken over by Hutch within the first few months of his joining. After a short stint as Management Trainee – Marketing, Praveen made a big switchback to BPL, as Deputy Manager – Brand and Communications. Praveen was a part of the core team that launched Loop Mobile India. In 2009, he climbed a couple of rungs up the corporate ladder as Manager- Marketing with Virgin Mobile India. It was during this year-and-a-half long stint of launching Virgin Mobile that an opportunity seemed to beckon him from an altogether different field.

“We all know how dismal India is when it comes to our standings in Human Development Index. Last year we were 130, and this year we have slipped to 132 – below countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and numerous African nations as well. It is well known that matters are going to grow worse if the lack of basic Education persists. It is with this will to make a difference that I shifted to iDiscoveri, as Senior Manager- Marketing. I was entrusted with the responsibility of handling the brand XSEED. Having been in Telecom for a long time, handling an education brand was challenging as well as exciting. The target consumers were different, and the entire marketing strategy had to be more focussed to get more bang for every buck! Blind Marketing seldom works in Education.”

For the next year-and-a-half Praveen handled all aspects of marketing of XSEED – from planning to design to execution of ATL, BTL, Digital, Events and PR. The more he got into it, the more he realised that the problems of Basic Education needed to be addressed at the Parents’ level. Entrepreneurship had sown its seeds in Praveen.

“By June 2012, a few of us got together to launch Parentune.com, a Proparenting community empowering parents to do more for their child. You can’t upload ‘pics’ and expect ‘Likes’, but you can connect with other parents from across the country, interact with them as well as the onsite experts, and seek solutions on anything and everything under the sun with respect to child development. It seems to be picking up now, with parents themselves creating content.”

Praveen advises his youngsters to turn entrepreneur only once they have complete faith on their idea, and have a decent support system. On your own it is a bit more difficult to execute the idea. He acknowledges that the major part of his support system, in terms of friends and mentors, comes from SCMS-Cochin.

                                                                                                                Praveen Premkumar,
Partner and Head – Advocacy,
Parentune.com
                                                                                                                Alumni Batch 2005, SCMS-Cochin

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Alumni

 

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PANORAMA 2013 – THE ANNUAL MANAGEMENT MEET AT SCMS-COCHIN Gearing up for FDI in the retail sector – the industry that will create the ‘next million jobs’

DesignPanorama 2013, the hi-tech annual management meet held at SCMS-Cochin, witnessed the participation of prominent business leaders, entrepreneurs and top executives from various sectors. Held on the 8th and 9th of February this year, Panorama 2013 discussed the nuances of ‘The Retailing Surge – Redefining Indian Markets’.

The Speakers were carefully drawn from almost the entire spectrum of Public and Private enterprise. Day 1 of Panorama 2013 saw speakers as diverse as Mr. Biju Dominic (Consultant, Finalmile Consulting), Mr.Rulin Thomas (GM, Sales and Marketing, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces) and Mr. Harikrishna R. Nair (Chairman, The Cashew Export Promotion Council of India). Day 2 witnessed sessions by representatives of industries in which retailing plays a crucial role. Some of the speakers on this day were Mr. D. Sampath (General Manager & National Head, Retail Business, Federal Bank Limited), Mr. Shibu Philips (Business Head, Lulu shopping mall) and Mr. Alexy Ninan (GM – Business Excellence, ITC India Ltd.).

“With time, banks have become financial supermarkets,” observed Mr. Sampath (General Manager & National Head, Retail Business, Federal Bank Limited), while describing how changes in consumer patterns have forced banks to use innovative technology for retailing. “Online trading of stocks, wealth management security trading, etc., are all features of these supermarkets. Increasing consumerism has led to complete change – and immense growth – in retail banking. Banks that have failed to adopt new strategies in providing services are down and out.”

In his turn, Mr. Shibu Philips, the Business Head of one of Asia’s largest shopping Malls, spoke in great detail about how the mall culture has changed traditional retailing sectors, and in so doing has had to undergo major transformations. Right from the details of how a mall operates, to the problems the mall management faces – from employee retention to government pressures – Mr. Shibu left out nothing. Mr. Shibu’s speech was a study of the Indian consumer today, and how a master planner organises his business around this new-age consumer.

The concluding session of Panorama 2013 was an interaction with the charismatic young General Manager – Business Excellence at ITC, Mr.Alexy Ninan. Mr. Ninan, with the practised suavity of an impressive boardroom young gun, bombarded the budding managers of SCMS-Cochin with a series of top-notch ad campaigns from the stables of McDonalds, Chanel, Nike and Apple. Without going into long-drawn explanations, Mr. Ninan quickly turned his session into a two-way dialogue with the audience at SCMS-Cochin.

“What is the similarity in all these brands?” he asked them, ultimately drawing out the answer – the element of trust that their customers have in them.

“Brands are built to deliver customer value. At the end of the day, the customer needs a quarter- inch hole, and not the quarter-inch drill. As marketers, we should remember to provide solutions to our customers. Brands must have this quality and deliver it with honest consistency.”

Mr. Ninan enriched his interaction with cases ranging from Novelty to a Bose showroom, to ITC product launch strategies. He specifically dwelt on ITC’s strategy for the launch of Fiama Di Wills, 10 years ago; the idea was to provide a crystal clear solution for volume control and hair fall to its customers.

Panorama 2013 was a testament to the reason why SCMS-Cochin has such a deep connect with youth. The entire management of SCMS is geared to look at the industries that are likely to see maximum growth in the near future. With the FDI in Single Brand Retail opening up, a lot of new players will shortly be entering the Indian space. Clearly, the management of SCMS-Cochin sees this as an ‘Opportunity Sector’ and is therefore going the extra mile to expose its management students to Retail.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Events

 

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SCMS students urged to leap into entrepreneurship

IMG_8688Entrepreneurship was on the agenda at the SCMS Industry Interface Interaction session on the 30th of January, 2013. George Varghese, Knowledge Partner, Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), Kochi, addressed the gathering, speaking on entrepreneurship as an option to a normal management career.

Varghese cited examples from real life and pointed to famous leaders from various industries, outlining their success stories to inspire and motivate the students. An excellent and enthusiastic speaker, he captured the students’ attention as he outlined the pleasures and pitfalls of entrepreneurship. In the end, Varghese urged students to take the leap into entrepreneurship saying, “Despite the risks involved, there is no better satisfaction than a career you’ve created yourself.”

IMG_8696
IMG_8685After his presentation came the interaction, with students getting a chance to question him on various aspects of an entrepreneurial life. As student Chithra Eapen said, “He had our attention captured with the tiny tit-bits of information and stories, and time simply flew.” “I’m really glad I came,” remarked Chtira. “I know entrepreneurship can be risky, but after hearing Mr. Varghese speak, I’m beginning to think that the satisfaction you get will be worth the risk.”

“Someone once said that‘entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t’,” said another student after attending the talk.“After listening to Mr. Varghese, I think that’s true – you’ll work harder when you work for yourself and the rewards will be much greater when you succeed.”

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Events

 

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Taking road safety to families by Sadath K. Ali (PGDM- 21)

DSCN0502As an extension of Parivathana, we were asked to visit 10 houses in our locality to educate people about road safety.  After the Parivarthana experience we were all thrilled about yet another opportunity to associate with the motor vehicle department. Our main aim was to educate families about the importance of road safety and also to collect data for the motor vehicle department on the number of vehicles per household.  Another positive aspect of this exercise was that it was done at our home town, so it presented us with the unexpected opportunity to go home (which usually only happens once in a blue moon!).

On a fine Sunday morning, I set out with the goal of meeting people from10 different houses and getting information, like the number of members and vehicles in each household. My first house was one with two elderly people, both retired school principals. I told them the purpose of my visit straight away and since they were school teachers, they fired a barrage of questions at me, from how I got admission in SCMS to what my children will do when they grow up! But that was not the end of the story, for as soon I started talking about road safety, they interrupted with a diatribe on how careless people are on roads. They told me that it was youngsters like me who needed to be taught about road rulesand not the adults. Since I could hardly engage them in a lengthy debate, I agreed with whatever they said. It must be said, though, that they were kind enough to offer me soft drinks after making me sweat.

Now with this experience in mind, I reshaped my strategy and got into road safety lessons straight away, which worked very well in the other houses I visited. Everybody gave me a warm welcome and was ready to listen to my message; a few even assured me that they would follow the traffic rules stringently. Since many of them knew my family, it also became a socialising exercise. One common thing I found was that all the people I met were very impressed by the initiative (both this and Parivarthana) taken by the institute. I made it a point to explain Parivarthana also, since it made them understand the effort the motor vehicle department and SCMS are putting in for the betterment of society. At the end of the day, I felt contended that I had spent at least a day doing something for society and I am grateful to SCMS and the motor vehicle department for giving me such a wonderful opportunity.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Student Life

 

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