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Monday, 2 March 2009

Madhukar Sabnavis remembers...

I was a student of Prof. Bhandari at IIM in 1984-85. I never got to know him personally (and i was just one more person in a large crowd for him) but have very fond memories of him as a teacher.

When I joined IIM in 1983, he was an icon - we heard so many good things about him from our seniors and he had been voted among the top 5 Professors of the previous year by our seniors. At that cynical age, one waited eagerly to see such a man in action and declare opinions passed down about him as hyperboles. But Prof. Bhandari surprised us. From the first class he more than lived up to his reputation- he was mersmeric!

Its amazing to see classrooms filled post lunch at 2 pm (thats when he took most of his sessions) even when he didnt insist on attendance. We attended only to listen to him and his case analysis. His case studies were often only two three pages (very different from many of the other cases which we got that were reams and reams of data) but the analysis he juiced out of them was loads and insightful.

I remember him as a soft spoken, kind professor; never rejecting any class participation as superficial or stupid; always encouraging students to voice their opinion; and one thing I learnt from him was that its not wrong to be silent - to pause and think before giving a response. I noticed this - he practised this in class - he didnt shy away from remaining silent for a few minutes before giving a response - and I found that interesting especially in our society where we think intelligence means immediate, spontaneous responses.

It was a sad day when I heard about his death in an air crash, I think in 1988...I had joined Ogilvy and Cadbury was a client of ours (though I wasnt working on it). It seemed so close home as on that last visit he had met people at Cadbury I think and yes, it was a professor who taught me and who all, including me, admired.

By the way, even my batch voted him among the top 5 professors of the year our year! A tribute to his brilliance and his consistency.

*Madhukar Sabnavis was a student of LRB in 1983-85 and is currently Country Head, Discovery and Planning at Ogilvy and Mather, India.

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