Category Archives: Alumni

“There is only one Harrods (London), and we’re very proud that our journey begins here”

For Anith Puthiyankath (SCMS Cochin, 1997) getting his products to the shelves of Harrods (London) has been as much about producing the very best, as it is about saying the story well.

anithA postgraduate in Business Management from SCMS Cochin, 1997, Anith Puthiyankath grew up in the world of business, as a 3rd generation member of the Ittiyera Group: a 100 –year- old family business,producing and trading edible oils, started by his grandfather in the year 1921. Anith, while being proud of this legacy, always wanted to have a startup of his own…a blank canvas to paint the picture he wished to. This led to the inception of World of Origins, in 2012.

“Kerala, my home state, is a top tourist destination… legendary for its rich spices. During my travels, I often noticed the presence of products from Kerala, in some of the grandest stores in the world. Even though they were perceived in the same light as the choicest red wines from Burgundy or the finest balsamic from Modena, not much was mentioned about the producers or the region. I was convinced that if consumers were interested to know more about the French and Italian estates, they would most definitely be interested in finding out more about the Keralian producers in this exotic land.”

Thus began the journey for both World of Origins and its first brand K BY TYNDIS. The ‘K’stands for ‘Kerala’ and ‘TYNDIS’ is the name of an ancient trading port in Kerala, which currently lies beneath the sea, destroyed by a massive flood in 13AD.

Within a few months of its launch,the K BY TYNDIS premium organic virgin coconut oil found itself on the exclusive shelves of Harrods, London. Following this promising start, the plan for K BY TYNDIS is to become a portfolio of the finest natural products that Kerala has to offer. K BY TYNDIS second product –the organic Wayanadan TGSEB Peppercorns –is poised to top the success story of the virgin coconut oil.

For Anith, these peppercorns – officially the highest grade of pepper in the world and native to Wayanad in Kerala – represent a lot more than just a product, it is also about the people, the place and the traditions.It has taken two years for the product to hit the shelves of some of the finest retailers in the UK and Germany. For this project, in 2013 World of Origins entered into a joint venture with Vanamoolika – a community of about 400 organic farmers in the mountainous region of Wayanad.

“With the Wayanadan project, we are working closely with Vanamoolikato revive the Wayanadan TGSEB peppercorns which have almost become extinct. Due to low yield and lack of commercial propositions, the farmers have been replacing it with higher yielding varieties. Unfortunately our farmers hadn’t realised that not only were they destroying something special, but they were also endangering their own identity.The reviews so far have been fantastic and we are now taking the Wayanadan to other European markets.”

Looking into the future Anith says, “There is of course only one Harrods and we are extremely proud that our journey begins here, but they are not alone when it comes to fine food retailing. They may not be of the same size or as iconic a name as Harrods, but there are a number of retailers across Europe and elsewhere who share the same passion and philosophy. It is this group that we are talking to, a group that looks beyond the product and its packaging”

Clearly, Anith’s business is a heady concoction of his business education; a free mixing of his roots (SCMS Cochin), with his connects from University of Leeds (MBA in Marketing).

On his 2nd MBA and his time at SCMS Cochin, “I decided to do a second MBA only because I went to SCMS Cochin straight after my graduation and I approached it pretty much the same way as my undergraduate degree. I felt I didn’t make the most of it. I was older when I attended Leeds. It also had a multicultural environment and the average age of the class at Leeds was much higher; meaning it was a much more experienced crowd. I enjoyed my time at SCMS Cochin and it instilled a strong discipline in me. There is one particular incident that I remember well, involving the late Mr. Pradeep Thevanoor; someone very dear to me. One day, he stopped me at the gates for turning up in a pair of jeans and a baseball T-shirt. He made sure I went back to the hostel and dressed appropriately, even at the expense of missing my morning lectures. I learnt my lesson as nowadays I almost always am dressed for the occasion.”

Anith is now taking his art of reviving, preserving and marketing the finest produce, beyond the realms of Kerala. World of Origins is currently working on new projects with local producers in Asia and Central America.

Though a startup, World of Origins now sits within the Ittiyera Group, which Anith co-manages with his brother Ajith. To celebrate the Ittiyera legacy, a new brand of coconut oil called Iis now in the pipeline, designed purely for the domestic market.“With I, we want to offer a different proposition to what is currently available – a brand that captures our heritage but at the same time is in tune with the future, as we recognise the importance to evolve with the times; otherwise we risk becoming a part of folklore.”

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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Alumni


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Alumnus Ms. Megha Vijay talks about the evolving field of HR and the opportunities it has for future professionals, especially women

MeghaIt was when she was doing her bachelor degree that Ms. Megha Vijay developed an interest in HR. To pursue her passion and future ambitions she came to SCMS Cochin School of Business, a place that groomed her into the professional that she has become today. Since graduating from the institute in 2008, Ms. Megha has worked as HR in different industries: from the hospitality industry to IT and engineering. She believes this invaluable experience has helped her understand the complete system that revolves around the domain. Naturally, talking to Ms. Megha and learning HR from her is fitting.

Giving a brief overview of the field, Ms. Megha says, “There are different kinds of HR activities that happen across industries, be it in the private or the public sector. It’s a vast subject and to understand it completely you need a lot of time. HR is particularly important in IT, a field where it is growing.” She then goes on to talk about probably one of the biggest challenges faced by HR professionals in the industry: retaining an employee for a long time with one company.

For someone who has seen all aspects of HR, it’s easy to see the difference between policies applied in India and internationally. Ms. Megha, who is currently workin with Mindteck, explains the differences: “India has a long way to go when compared to HR policies followed in the international market. There are some changes like flexi-work timing and work from home positions that have been introduced. The social and moral responsibility of a company has become a significant part of the HR industry. Most importantly, there is a sexual harassment policy that was not there about ten years ago.”

It’s something that Ms. Megha, being a woman professional in the industry, can relate to. She talks about her work toward strengthening these policies: “You have to understand that sexual harassment is not only physical but verbal as well. There is a need for sexual committees in companies. If you are a company with, say, over a 1000 employees and 40-45% of them are women, then you have to make sure you retain them as you need their support.”

She admits that it’s a male-dominated world but women will have their opportunities. According to Ms. Megha, most companies will have women at the senior HR level. “The good thing is that the industry doesn’t differentiate based on gender, and, your knowledge will be appreciated,” she says. “There is a lot you get to learn.” When it comes to hiring, she says that she looks for candidates who can communicate effectively. She advises freshers to give themselves a couple of years to grow before thinking about moving to the next level, or moving just for money.

Having made a place for herself in the industry, Ms. Megha is grateful for her time at SCMS Cochin School of Business where she had endless opportunities to learn and build her character.  She particularly remembers the management meets when she was a part of the hospitality sector, an activity that she considers to be a huge learning experience. With a hint of nostalgia, she concludes, “I have gotten tremendous support from SCMS Cochin. The theoretical knowledge I got helped me implement my knowledge practically in the industry. My time at the institute was fantastic and I go for the annual meets to relive it in some ways.”

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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Alumni


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How easy is it to survive in the Retail Industry?

Alumnus Mr. Hari Krishnan, Assistant Manager, Marketing, Landmark Group says- “Retail has its pros and cons; the most important thing is investing in the right location.”

hari-krishnanWith his background in hospitality industry, Mr. Hari Krishnan joined SCMS Cochin School of Business in a bid to boost his career prospects. The move paid off as he was recruited on campus by Spencer in the year 2007. He started off with the company as a Retail Management Trainee and worked his way up to be the Assistant Manager, Marketing, in just a few years’ time. But above all, he had gathered rich experience in the dynamic and extremely competitive retail industry, which has led him to bag the position of the Assistant Manager, Marketing with Landmark Group.

Mr. Krishnan has worked with the company for the past one year. Looking back on his journey filled with years of hard work and dedication he says, “Before joining SCMS Cochin I worked as a Banquet Manager in Kochi besides Dominos Pizza. I am happy I went to the institute because it got me placed with Spencer when the food and beverage industry was booming. Since then, there was no looking back.”

Today, Mr. Krishnan is a seasoned professional in the retail industry and has seen it evolve over the past few years. Sharing his insights on the industry he says, “Since I have worked in Food sector I can tell you that if you don’t show output, you won’t succeed. Retail has its pros and cons; the most important thing is investing in the right location because that’s something the customer pays attention too. Reaching people through public media remains the key to success as well.”

Mr. Krishnan believes that it is an industry where you can invest and grow. However today, many in the industry are not investing; trying to maintain what they have put in. That’s what makes him think that it could be the right time for Retail Banking. He also has useful advice for those who want to enter the industry. “Retail is not a white collar job because you have to get your hands dirty. But there are unlimited opportunities as you can take up any function from marketing to finance and operations,” he adds.

Ask Mr. Krishnan about the major benchmarks in his career so far, the avid learner is quick to mention, “Managing the 22,000 sq ft Spencer store in Chennai, which was doing Rs. 26 lakhs average selling per day was a big high. But more than that I appreciate the biggest learning I had there; I was taught to say NO. It is a learning you will need in every industry because at one point or another, you will have to say NO to clients or customers. If you keep saying yes and don’t deliver, then it’s a big sign of failure.”

He has definitely taken his learning on board, which he uses in his current job profile in merchandising, for the Dubai based MNC. Mr. Krishnan handles Kerala marketing operations from the office in Kochi. He remains as passionate about the retail industry as he was during his time at SCMS Cochin where he first realized his calling. He believes it was the time when he learned to be assertive and control his emotions. But he gets emotional talking about the institute where he has been a couple of times since and stays in touch with his batch mates.

So if Mr. Krishnan were to hire from his institute, what are the attributes he’d look for? Without batting an eyelid he says, “I will not look for the mark sheet but pay attention to their communication skills and body language.” That’s something present students at the institute could do well knowing. Mr. Krishnan concludes with further sound advice for students, “Be focussed on what’s good for your career. Take the good from wherever you might be. If you want to join the Retail Industry, make sure you are ready to start from the scratch and see yourself rise.”

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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Alumni


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Mr. Vishnu Suresh talks about his solid career in HR so far and sheds light on the functioning of the industry

14098909405231-1Mr. Vishnu Suresh was always interested in Advertising and Sales promotions, which is why he joined SCMS Cochin School of Business. And, during the course of his academic stint he was given opportunities to interact with experts in the field, as he was the part of the Industry Interaction Committee. He thrived on the challenge of making sure these professionals came to the institute’s campus for various interactive sessions. “That made me realize that I was more of a Human Resources person,” he admits. This self-realization has translated into a prolific 8-year career, which sees him as the Business Partner, Human Resources at Tata Elxsi.

The successful journey in HR began for Mr. Suresh during the campus placements in 2007. “It was there that I met people from Allianz and managed to impress them,” he says. “It was a campus placement and I joined the company as Senior Executive, HR. When I was working with them I figured out that HR as a domain was my strength and I should be working on it.” Mr. Suresh worked with the company for around 6 years, and was the Assistant Manager, HR when he decided to move on. Since then he has been HR Business Partner for the Automotive Business Unit at Tata Elxsi.

He believes that his time working at Allianz was a huge learning experience for him. “I started out handling a group of around 160 Software Engineers,” he recollects. “I was managing the key operations for around 3- 4 years and then I was handling the major operation, which was set up in UK and Germany.” Mr. Suresh also agrees that the job was filled with challenges, which made him innovate and come up with ideas that would adapt to individual situations. One example of his success is the Back to Homeland campaign (Boomerang club), which was employed by Allianz with great success.

Talking about that campaign, he says, “It was basically for those who had left the company and were working outside Kerela, who we thought should be working with us. We sent them mail and flyers inviting them to join us again with a 60% success rate.” Another tricky situation he had to handle was when Allianz KPO needed to hire around 60 veterinary doctors with only a small pool to pick from. He adds that most of them preferred to work in the medical field rather than KPO. That’s when they came up with the idea of a loyalty bonus for the doctors, which worked quite well.

There’s indeed a lot to learn from Mr. Suresh’s experiences since he has hands-on exposure in the field. He shares some of the pointers for the HR industry, saying that there are three parameters that acts as the pillars of employee retention: work, work life and compensation. “If any of the two parameters are missing then the person will not able to work. Well, that’s the first sign of employee Dissatisfaction. It is a triangle which has to be intact,” he adds. His understanding and efforts have not gone unnoticed, as can be seen from the Best Performer accolades he has won. It was again an innovation on his part that brought him the recognition.

Mr. Suresh sheds light on the achievement, saying, “It was a project where we put an end to HR process in the UK and outsourced it to India. The HR department is considered to be a support system and a non-billable department. But we were able to generate good revenue; so, based on this project and some others I was given the award.” It was on this high that he moved from a “flamboyant and warm” company like Allianz to a “seasoned company” like Tata. He agrees that it was tough to join a pure engineering company that deals with automobiles, but his passion for the field and expertise in HR has made the transition seamless.HR is an integral part of an organization and where hiring happens. So, Mr. Suresh is probably the best person answer the question: what do hiring professionals look for in a job candidate? He ponders before answering, “The first thing we look for  the style of  the candidate’s presentation and the style of communication, including how much the candidate knows about the topic, and how creatively he puts it in words.. Secondly, I like to ask a question to see if they have a different approach to varied situations. I also like to see presentable students who make an impression and have the capability of thinking out of the box.”

That’s something he says he was prepared for by SCMS Cochin where he was awarded the Best Outgoing Students award during his academic years. He remembers being part of every activity that he was interested in and learning immensely from them. “One of the important lessons I learned is to value relationships,” he says. “I even made a film on relationships during Panorama 2006, and it was quite appreciated. It’s something I pay importance to till date.” No wonder he keeps his relationship with the institute going and has visited the campus since his graduation. And, he hopes to return for hiring in the near future, and that’s more good news for the students.

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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Alumni


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Amit Goel, SCMS Cochin alumnus, “bags” his entrepreneurial dream

Amit goelAfter completing his PGDM from SCMS Cochin in 2002, Amit Goel had a flourishing career ahead of him. He made his mark with Kotak Securities Limited as a sales executive in their online trading division. Within a short span of time he climbed up the corporate ladder and joined India Infoline Finance Limited (IIFL) as Deputy Vice President. But this meteoric rise in the corporate world wasn’t enough for Mr. Goel, who harboured entrepreneurial ambitions. And that’s how Pawanputra Bags Ltd. was formed.

He is the first one to admit that walking away from a well-paid job and promising corporate career is not an easy task. “It’s not an easy decision to leave a job which pays you a handsome salary every month, and chase your dream. But being from a community traditionally known for entrepreneurial skills, I was destined to be the master of my own fate.” And his fate led to Pawanputra Bags Ltd., the first fully integrated manufacturing unit in Eastern India, which makes completely recyclable environment friendly paper bags.

The company began its operations in August 2013 and makes customized paper bags using 100% environment friendly raw materials. His father provided inspiration not only for the name of the business, but also for the risk Mr. Goel took at a crucial juncture in his career. “My late father is my inspiration. He always encouraged me to take risks in life to succeed. He would say, ‘Only when you chase your dreams can you be truly successful’,” remembers the proud son.

Mr. Goel is equally proud talking about his business ventures, because that is something very close to his heart. “I had this project in my mind for a long time. All the raw materials we use can either be completely recycled or do not cause any harm to nature. Even inks used for printing are natural dye based instead of regular chemical based. Handles used are natural cotton yarn handles or twisted paper handles, which cause no harm to the ecology,” he explains.

Being a creative and tech savvy person himself, Mr. Goel handles the design aspect of his business today and completely thrives on the challenge. But ask him about the best part about being an entrepreneur – besides chasing his dream – and pat comes the reply, “It feels good to provide employment and opportunity to people who become associated with you and your company.”

This belief, Mr. Goel admits, comes from the impact of the learning at SCMS Cochin. The institute tried to instil entrepreneurial skills in its students and make them leaders of tomorrow. And it has left an indelible mark on this new entrepreneur’s life. “We were lucky to have teachers who had vast industry experience. They would share their experience with us through case studies, etc., and we would listen to them intently. Today we come across those situations in real life and are forever grateful to our teachers,” he points out.

Mr. Goel talks about Late Prof. Krishnan, Prof. Paulose, Prof. P.V. Ignatius and Prof. Filomina from his institute and their immense contribution to his learning curve. He also makes a special mention of the curriculum at SCMS Cochin and the difference it made to his life. “The curriculum of SCMS is designed in a way that, no matter what career path you choose, it creates a strong foundation of knowledge for you.”

Mr. Goel has now built on this foundation and is raring to go with his business venture. Does he have any advice for young students who might harbour entrepreneurial dreams like him? Mr. Goel is quite encouraging as he says, “There is no right time to become an entrepreneur. You have to look at opportunities around you and have the courage to take a risk. As an entrepreneur, you not only follow your dream but feel good about the fact that you have made more people self-dependant.”

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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Alumni


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The entrepreneur of Jos Wood Arts talks about his journey towards establishing a profitable business house

Estes JosAt some point of time, you must have come across the famous proverb, ‘A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step’. Well, these words came true in the life of Estes Joes, an alumnus of SCMS Cochin School of Business and the entrepreneur of Jos Wood Arts. Today, Estes has achieved success and prosperity as a business professional.

Jos Wood Arts is an established business house that has been running for over four decades and has achieved global reputation in the field of furniture. It was started by Estes Joes’s father with the intention to manufacture high quality furniture at a reasonable price. Today, Estes has taken over the responsibility to look after it, and currently, they deal in furniture meant for hotels and apartments.

Estes Joes attributes a lot of his success to his education which he obtained from his business school- SCMS Cochin. Belonging to the very first batch of Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (PGDBA 1), Estes is of course attached to his school in a very special way.  He believes that among the many advantages he got while studying at SCMS Cochin, acquiring new ideas and suggestions from different people gave him the primary edge. In fact, Estes clearly states that his colleagues played a key role in making him identify diverse approaches to business.

Besides, Estes thinks that his management lessons helped him gain knowledge on what changes do modern-day customers want and what ways should customers be dealt with. “If you are in a college like SCMS, you get different views from different people because their way of thinking is different and of course, way of doing business varies from place to place.” Needless to say, SCMS Cochin’s classrooms have students coming from every corner of the country, making it a very endearing experience to study in the school.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Estes has a word or two to share. He thinks that it takes around 3 to 4 years for working business professionals to learn the business fundamentals while working with an organisation and thereafter they are ready to take the big leap- commence their own ventures. One prominent example is Estes himself who is now busy working for the hotel industry and has already managed to complete 60 to 80 hotel projects.

True is the fact that the correct combination of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experiences is crucial in making successful entrepreneurs. Estes is a clear example for it. As he puts it- “Exposure is essential because just learning the basics of management doesn’t mean you will do well. Students should have experience also in their hand before they put their step forward to get their dreams realised…”

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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Alumni


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“SCMS helped me compete with the best, nationally and internationally” says alumnus Avinash Singh Bhambra

AvinashHe has conducted training sessions in 21 states of India and he attributes this ability to deal with cultural diversity to his alma mater, SCMS Cochin School of Business. “The diversity in SCMS helped me a lot in developing and practicing good interpersonal behavioral skills. As a result, I have been able to train across the length and breadth of India”, says Avinash Singh Bhambra, who is working as Manager HR with Zuari Agro Chemicals, based at Goa. He belongs to one the earliest batches of SCMS and has made a successful, although challenging, journey working with several industries.

Avinash joined Pidilite Industries in the Sales division through Campus placement. He has also worked with an NGO in Andaman & Nicobar Islands post the devastating 2005 tsunami. He was in charge of the education improvement programme for the team. Then he moved to New Delhi and was heading the training wing of an organisation called Globarena Technologies. In 2007, he shifted base to Goa, heading an education project for the Government of Goa through the NGO, BJS. He was part of a five-member committee to improve education across Goa through quality training at all levels of the education machinery. Next, he joined Andrew Telecom (now CommScope), a fortune 1000 company, as theirTraining & Development manager for India and the APAC region. His next assignment was with Vodafone, based at Ranchi, as their Learning Lead, until he joined Zuari Agro Chemicals as Plant HR.

He credits SCMS for shaping his professional life and says, “I was blessed to have some great teachers, along with the visiting faculty, who played a very important role in helping us understand the practical situations in industries. Professor Balasubramaniam and Professor Ignatius, especially, were very inspiring.” Avinash believes that industry and academics should have cohesiveness to complement each other; industry should help institutes design the curriculum and also help with training. On their part, institutes should incorporate the changing trends in industry in their syllabus. This synergy, he thinks, always created the quality management education that SCMS stands for.

In the face of the volatile economic conditions today, Avinash advises the aspiring management students to build a strong skill base and not chase after money alone. He says, “Today, the most important thing to do is grow personally and professionally and keep learning new things. The 21st century is the era of Data and Information -the more you know, the stronger the professional edge you have.” Avinash has kept in touch with his batch-mates through social media as well as his college, and feels glad about his decision to join SCMS all those years ago.

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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Alumni


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SCMS Cochin Alumnus Mr. Sajith Nambiar can very well be called a dreamer and an achiever

ME (1)If there is a clean cut concept of smooth transition then alumnus Sajith Nambiar’s story clearly reflects it. Having tried and tested his mettles from the sales domain to the event management field, Sajith can very well be perceived as a seasoned professional with thorough knowledge of various domains and sectors. He began his career as a professional dealing in the sales of financial products and gradually turned towards a profession that wasn’t even remotely related to it. He is presently deployed as an Assistant Manager in Ernst and Young and is taking care of the Event Management for internal clients of EY GSS (Global Shared Services).

Nambiar had always been keen on getting into the Event Management field and though he couldn’t do so initially he finally made his dream turn into reality. Today, he is living the life he had always dreamt of and contributes his achievements largely to his learning at SCMS Cochin School of Business. “In today’s world one needs dynamic managers for the growth and development of the firm as well as the society as a whole. A manager must have knowledge about the basic facts, logics and strategies and I personally feel that quality education from a good institute always pays. I am fortunate to be a SCMS Cochin School of Business alumnus which, in true sense, gave me a good foundation for my career”, he states.

Nambiar’s passion for the event management domain and the knowledge he gained at SCMS Cochin School of Business has helped him excel wherever he went. Talking about the role the B-school played in shaping up his career, Nambiar says, “I did get a strong foundation for stepping in to the management world. I can say it was the way we were trained at SCMS Cochin that helped a great extent – the deadlines for project works and assignments, the disciplined life and the positive approach that we were asked to follow made us evolve gradually from students to professionals. I still remember that I was an average student when I joined the school but the kind of exposure that I got here instilled confidence in me and helped me reach where I am today”. Interestingly, he even found his soul-mate at SCMS Cochin School of Business. Thus the place holds even more significance for him.

Though Nambiar has had his share of professional ups and downs, he is content with the way his career has progressed. Besides, working at a good position in Ernst and Young, he is also working on a Big Budget Malyalam movie titled Dolphin Bar. He would be handling the marketing and promotional activities for the same.

Nambiar’s message to the student at SCMS Cochin School of Business: “Each dream begins with a dreamer; we all have within us the strength the patience and the passion to reach where we want to, so follow your heart and live your dreams… better late than never!”

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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Alumni


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Ms Benaazir Mukherjee, SCMS Cochin Alumnus’ MoodSwings Jewelry by Benaazir specializes in making one-of-a-kind handmade pieces

Profile 3The aim of B schools is not only to create corporate bigwigs of tomorrow but also to build the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst students. That’s something SCMS Cochin School of Business seems to have done for Ms Benaazir Mukherjee, who started her jewellery business in 2010, called MoodSwings Jewelry by Benaazir.

But modest Ms. Mukherjee quickly plays it down and gets talking about her entrepreneurial sojourn. “It was my passion to be involved in craft that I could convert into a sustainable business” she explains. That was the birth of the business idea for Benaazir but the road she took towards her goal deserves a special mention.

Benaazir doesn’t come from a business background, nor did she want to rely on anyone to finance her project. So she accumulated the funds for her venture before setting it up; definitely a commendable move for a woman entrepreneur. But she doesn’t see it that way. “I do not find any difference between a man and a woman entrepreneur.  What really matters is your risk appetite, confidence and your product,” she says.

You can see her independent and business-oriented mind at work here. Wonder how much of these beliefs and notions were built during Benaazir’s years at SCMS. “The theoretical knowledge learned at the institute was quite helpful. You do get some exposure to marketing when you work on somebody else’s business,” she admits but adds that setting up your business is a different ball game altogether.

Benazir was always inclined towards the idea of being an entrepreneur. The Computer graduate worked for a while after completing her PGDM. But in 2008 she quit her job to pursue her passion of travelling and jewellery. How did she decide that it was the right time for her to turn entrepreneur? “There is no right time, but when you have your finances fairly sorted out and have no pressures on them, it seems like the time to take the plunge,” she says practically.

Jewellery business is quite competitive at the best of times. How does a woman entrepreneur manage to stay motivated and deal with the rough tides that are a part of business? “Every business is competitive. Trying to excel in your chosen field; I do not see that as competition. It’s like running a marathon against your own willpower,” explains Benaazir. You can’t help but notice her refreshing perspective on business that makes her stand out.

The same attitude is probably reflected in the quirky brand name. “It’s fun and has several interpretations; women relate to it, husbands and boyfriends can relate to it. The name suggests jewellery for every mood one might have,” says Benaazir, who seems to be in a winning mood herself.

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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Alumni


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Turning obstacles into stepping stones A chat with Harshad Ali – serial entrepreneur and connoisseur of all things beautiful

MT6A3155 (1)As you get out from the benign Kochi sun and walk in, the first thing that strikes you is the air conditioning; it’s perfect. You look around and take in the ambience– the lights are just right, the walls seem to be custom-made for the expansive designs that adorn them, the seating is snug and comfortable. You lift your eyes to the stage and realise that this is a setting with a difference. You’ve come in early to hear one of your favourite artists unplugged, so there is no performer on the stage; and yet, you can barely take your eyes off it. The backdrop is an immaculate white, and the single black amplifier, the black cord running to the microphone, and the black mic on its black stand – all stand out like three mute characters of a pantomime act. As your eyes adjust to the wall in the background, a sparse, grey interpretation of a Bodhitree springs to life.

And you think to yourself that if Steve Jobs had designed a cafétucked away somewhere in Palo Alto,  it would’ve been just like Café Papaya.

However, this best-thing-to-have-happened-to-Cochin-in-recent-times, is the brainchild of a few homegrown geniuses of Kerala. One of them is Harshad Ali, a product of Kerala’s flagship B-school, SCMS-Cochin. With its unique setting, it is not the least surprising that Café Papaya is not the work of a hotelier, but the offspring of a bunch of “music, movie and mocha crazy” designers.

“Papaya Media Designs is a group of creative people who are passionate about movie-making and design,” says Harshad Ali, who passed out of SCMS-Cochin in 2001-2003. “When we started, we were planning to market ourselves in Europe for Online design projects. One of our friends suggested the name ‘Papaya’. We felt the name would be of some interest to our prospects, papaya being an exotic tropical fruit. Then we did some design projects for Malayalam movies – Big B, Daddy Cool, Salt n Pepper, 22 Female Kottayam, etc., which helped the Papaya brand gain popularity. When we ventured into setting up a cafe, we actually couldn’t find a better name than this. CafePapaya is a venture initiated with Mr. Aashiq Abu (filmmaker of Malayalam movies) and Jithu Livingstone (manager of the band Avial).”

Barely one month into its existence, Café Papaya has nearly ten thousand three hundred followers on Facebook, and is being hailed as the place with the best ambience, best music, and certainly the best coffee in town.

“The men behind the scenes are all childhood friends. We are all passionate about the music we listen to, the movies we watch and the food we eat. Some time ago we were on a trip to Coorg and while hanging out at Orange County resorts, we had a sip of their coffee. “Ssssuperb!” was the unanimous verdict. Without a second thought, we struck a deal to source our coffee beans for Café Papaya from them. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

As for the coffee, serious R&D has been put into the food served at Café Papaya. Thanks to Ayaz Salim, who takes care of the food department, the pastries and sandwiches are of an international standard. The olive, multi-grain and herb breads for the sandwiches are home-made and for pastries, unconventional recipes using ingredients of international standards have been developed. In true perfectionist tradition, Café Papayadoes not put a dish on its menu unless it has passed its very high standards. Owing to its connect with music and movies, the café is now as good as an open studio for budding and established musicians.

“SCMS helped me ride into the corporate world and when, after 7 years in B2B, Pharma, Banking, Insurance, etc., I felt a lethargy creeping into my life, what was taught at SCMS came back to me again. I quit and ventured into Papaya Media and started coordinating projects on movie designs, branding, social media, videos and photography.That is when I truly realized what I had gained from SCMS. Yes, my PGDM from SCMS-Cochin helped me be ‘liquid’. It helped me adapt to any situation, in any industry. After two years of design and media, we floated Café Papaya, which is a complete departure from everything I’ve done. I love the liquid life! Now, every day is a new day and I’m doing things I could not even have imagined three years back.”

Everything was a hurdle when Harshad Ali started, but he and his friends survived to prove that all these obstacles were actually stepping-stones to success. None of his colleagues has a background in hospitality and yet they managed to get things right at the café.

“The market is just an illusion,” says Harshad, echoing the ideas of Steve Jobs, who refused to do any sort of market surveys for any of the Apple products. “It’s the entrepreneur who creates or defines the market.”

Harshad signs off with a short message for his juniors at SCMS-Cochin – “Do what you love”. He reveals that the coming months will be jam-packed with performances and events, including those of Mili Nair of (Meethiboliyaan fame (from the film Kai Po Che), Yatra, BadriBadriya, A. R.Rahman tracks, and Jazz musician.) There’s also the launch of Manta Ray comics – a graphic novel publishing house – on the 1st of September, and some very interesting workshops on sound engineering for musicians.

Clearly, at Café Papaya you are likely to get your fill of exciting music, eclectic movies, books, sound recording studio and perfect more mocha… and, ofcourse, bump into the men behind it all, including SCMS-Cochin’s very own Harshad Ali.

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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Alumni


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