An Interview with CBS Alumnus Sandeep Batra
Q1. What was your prime motivation behind joining CBS and choosing a specialization in Finance?
I joined college in 1994, which was the time of the great stock market boom and crash following the Harshad Mehta scam, all of these events left me enamoured by the workings of the stock market. Further, I believed that growth in the future will be driven by the rise of corporate India and I wanted to be a part of it. To me, pursuing finance and management seemed like the direct thing to do as I couldn’t wait to jump into the corporate world and if it were up to me I would’ve tried to write the MBA exam immediately after school (laughs).
In the first year though, as there was nothing else to do, some people started quizzing and others took up new activities such as forming societies and taking part in stock market simulation games. Even though we hadn’t accomplished anything back then, our discussions in college were still quite idealistic and visionary.
What sets CBS apart is the fact that there is an ingrained peer-to-peer learning culture, which has persevered through time;I think all of my batchmates are doing outstanding work and that their performance in their careers is not too different from that of my IIM-B batchmates. I believe the fact that our students are bright and they often choose their own path, which leads to them performing well in their careers.
Q2. What was your fondest memory of college (everything from societies to general chilling with friends)?
In Spite of the college being in an extremely shoddy and dilapidated state, I witnessed a college that had people who were brave enough to make the decision to pursue business studies in the nascent stages of its development in India instead of going for the more traditional courses. Also, the fact that everyone knew everyone was extremely exciting. Apart from that, joining societies, looking for opportunities to get into LSR, participating in mock-stock competitions, coming up with startup ideas and the parties that we ended up having were things that I’ll always remember.
Q3. Why did you choose to go to IIM-B straight after graduation? Was that the norm back then?
There always was a dilemma about going to IIM-Bangalore straight after graduation as against gaining some work experience first. The norm of going for your MBA after some work experience existed back then as well but I think it depends upon the kind of companies that you are targeting as certain companies prefer recruiting people who are fresh out of college.
In the grander scheme of things, I feel that there is little correlation between the amount of education and success in your career once you reach a certain level. The focus is more on the values that you develop on the way. However, a major struggle in B-school was that many students had subject matter expertise which CBS students generally don’t have which makes it tough to cope up in a B-school environment.
For someone who wishes to get into a top B-school, there is no harm in making your academics a bit stronger. Whilst at CBS, you are rewarded not only for your academic competence but also for your co-curricular engagement.
Q4. Anything that you know now, that you wish you’d known while you were in college?
I think that in our quest to pursue excellence we often forget to develop ourselves outside of our field of work and I think we need to keenly develop hobbies outside of business.
Also, don’t hedge yourself, learn to go all-in and this multiple hedging of your own self in terms of doing what you truly enjoy might just take you further away from your dream.I finished B-school in 1999 and the financial markets were in a bad shape at that point of time and there were many sanctions on the Indian Economy after the Pokhran blast, still the willingness to work in the field that you want to join while sacrificing on brand is a decision that paid off because one/ two years of your life spent compromising on a brand will have absolutely no significance on the grander scheme of things.
The budding entrepreneurs need to realize that they will not become wiser in terms of enterprise and that corporate experience never truly prepares you to take the plunge of entrepreneurship and the extent of your enterprise doesn’t improve with age. Another thing one must never lose sight of is the fact that we need to realize the importance of our family and relationships and not just focusing on your career. I probably would’ve laid greater emphasis on health and fitness and not lose track of being good and holistic human beings.
Q5. Throughout your career, what were your guiding principles and how did they help shape your decision making and career decisions?
I think that above all, tenacity and resilience that you develop in the early stages of your development across your time at CBS go a long way in your career. That may also be due to the fact at CBS, you’re sort of on your own and have to learn how to adapt, be curious and learn about how the world works yourself.
I feel that the college teaches us about ‘self-learning’ and collaboration which helps us adapt to any pace of change that we may have to adjust ourselves to.
I see CBS as a place with a few individuals with a lot of dreams. When I came into college, it was a new college and allowed us to be extremely constructive in order to shape our own legacy. Over time, I think that the brand value of the college has improved yet there remains the need to ensure that the willingness to create continues.
These skills will enable you to survive all kinds of disruption in industry and will only lead to you generating a greater importance of self. The only advice that I’d like to give current students is to open your heart and mind at CBS and to get accustomed to a lot of change and adapt to such change. Another thing that CBS achieved for me was that it taught me a lot about dreaming and self exploration which helped me a lot in life.
Q6. What are some of the management principles that you stick to; and what will be your advice to budding entrepreneurs in college?
I feel that leadership is more about having the courage to define your own legacy, finding pertinent questions and taking the initiative to innovatively solve them. It is essential to have a sense of curiosity ingrained within you; which in our case, is fulfilled by the culture of self-learning that our college encourages and the boldness that has been built up in shaping that culture.
Q7. What do you feel is the importance of enterprise at the higher levels of management?
I think the notion that Innovation and enterprise exists only at higher levels of management is flawed and that the room for enterprising individuals exists at every run in the corporate ladder. Your enterprise is as important as a fresh joinee as it is for a leading member of the organization. It’s not about the position that the company views you in, it’s more about the position in which you see yourself as a part of the organization.