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Guest AuthorPavan Soni

Uday Kotak addressing IIMB graduates

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist 

What a thrill it was to be amidst the graduates of Indian Institute of Management Bangalore on its 42nd Annual Convocation. Securing a Ph.D. from IIM Bangalore was a long awaited dream. Equally thrilling was the personal interaction with two of the stalwarts of the Indian entrepreneurial journey- Uday Kotak and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. Uday was the Chief Guest for the event, and Kiran remains as the beloved Chairperson of the Board of Governors of IIM Bangalore. Here is an excerpt from the thoughtful address delivered by Uday Kotak to the graduating students.
Uday started by narrating his rise as an entrepreneur and living through the two institutional waves that had offered dramatic tailwinds to his ambitions and business. This first wave of the planned economy and socialism started right after India’s independence and continued till the early 80s and left massive avenues for follow-up entrepreneurs to introduce disruption. With the second wave of globalization and liberalization that picked further steam by early 90s took India to the global landscape, and Bangalore, as Uday quipped, is a testimony to the rise.
However, the third wave, of that of protectionism, starting 2016, as indicated by Brexit, and then Donald Trump’s policies, is expected to present newer challenges. With the graduates getting introduced to a far more complex and uncertain world studded by the sentiments of ‘my country first’, and general sense of distrust, there are far richer skills required than ever before.
Uday proposed five Cs, in the form of Character, Conviction, Commitment, Creativity, and Capability, that would help the graduates navigate these times. Starting with the Character, Uday narrated his early years in business and how letting go short term gains helped him secure trust of his employees and investors alike in a market full of opportunism. On the virtues of Conviction, Uday warned the students of observing the subtle difference between being confident about something and being foolhardy, and the imperative of reading the weak signals.
On Commitment, the Chief Guest impressed upon the significance of hard work and getting things done, while remaining on the course for the long haul. Starting with a singular focus on bill discounting, Kotak Mahindra has come a long way to be one of India’s leading banks, and that is owing to the commitment to a simple yet unaddressed opportunity.
Shifting gears, Uday impressed upon the ability of one to be Creative, for going forward, the opportunities may not be easy to come by, and one needs to create more avenues for growth. Being creative also resonates with me, and I was personally thrilled to see it being identified as an imperative by the veteran. Finally, the role of Capabilities, which the speaker deems that the campus has done a good job in imparting to the graduates. However, capabilities, as my research suggests, have to evolve with time, and this calls for taking half chances and learning by doing.
It was a succinct message delivered through several anecdotes and by a person who has done it all by himself. If I could only add the sixth C, that would be ‘Collaborate’. It’s that, increasingly, the trial and error by a group of people can often tip over the planning of the lone genius. I hope this note was of help and inspiration alike. Do write back.
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