Wednesday 16 July 2008

Samar Das remembers...

I have very fond memories of Professor Bhandari and he was a guiding light and mentor to me. Here are some of my personal recollections:

As soon as I joined IIMA in the 1981 PGP program, I met him to ask him if he would be my faculty guide for a Course of Independent Study (CIS) on “Introduction of New Brands” in India. I also requested his permission to register for a Ph.D. level course he was teaching at the Institute. He asked me to get in touch with him later during my first year. I registered my CIS with him in the second year and also enrolled in his Ph.D. seminar on Behavioral Sciences Applications to Marketing.

Although he was very busy and one had to seek appointment with him well in advance, he always made time for me. It was fascinating for me to sit in his secretary’s office while his secretary would juggle appointments with several senior VPs of Marketing from well known Indian companies and multinationals while trying to find a time slot for me.

Once when he did not see me in his Product Management class, he found out that I was not well. He was concerned and visited me in the dorm. He also arranged for a consultation with Dr. Asopa’s wife, who was a doctor.

At the end of my second year, I had a little bit of a crisis. I was suppose to finish the thesis for my CIS project and submit it in time for him to forward the grades to the PGP office. I requested an extension since the project was huge and a lot of work was still left. He allowed me more time despite the fact that the entire batch's final results were held up due to my grades not having been submitted.

After graduating from IIM, I was in constant touch with him. I took up a job at Berger Paints and was transferred as Branch Manager of Gujarat based in Ahmedabad in 1985. Gujarat was suffering from severe drought and my sales were below target and I was getting constantly hounded by our VP Marketing from the corporate office. I met Professor Bhandari at his home and told him I was very unhappy with my existing job. He thought I was suited for much more senior marketing responsibilities and told me he would do something. Later that week, I got a call from the General Manager HR of a company in Ahmedabad who said Professor Bhandari recommended me for the position of Deputy General Manager Marketing and that they would like to interview me. Professor Bhandari was held in such high esteem that the General Manager insisted on meeting me at my home rather than me having to go over to their offices for discussions. I ended up not taking the offer since Berger gave me a corporate marketing assignment at their Head Office.

Professor Bhandari always thought I should go to the US for higher studies and do research in marketing. After working in India for 10 years, I did just that and got my Ph.D. in marketing at the University of Arizona,. My Ph.D. dissertation is dedicated to him and I am enclosing an extract from my Ph.D. dissertation.

"This research was two decades in the making! No, I did not spend 20 years in the Ph.D. program. My passion for brands and product management was instilled in a course I took with Late Professor Labdhi Bhandari at the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad, India during my MBA years. It was a sad day for me at Calcutta, India, when I heard on the national TV news that Professor Bhandari died in a plane crash, traveling from Bombay to Ahmedabad, at the young age of 42 years. If it wasn't for Professor Bhandari's inspiration and guidance - I wouldn't be here today, at the United States, pursuing a Ph.D. rather than working for a corporation in India. I dedicate this dissertation to the memory of a great professor, who touched my life and changed it forever."

Extract from 'A Consumer Based Theory of Strong Brands And Its Implications For Brand Equity and Brand Management', PhD Dissertation of Samar Das submitted to the University of Arizona, 1998.

After graduating from University of Arizona, I taught at a State University in the U.S. as a marketing faculty for 5 years. I left the University to start an advanced marketing research company in the U.S. specializing in brand research, customer value measurement, and marketing analytics. Our client portfolio today includes some of the best known consumer brands and Fortune 500 companies. At times I wonder if all this would have been possible without the inspiration and nurturing which I got from Professor Bhandari in my early years as a marketing student and as a young marketing professional in India.

* Dr. Samar Das was a student of LRB at IIMA and is currently the CEO of C3Research LLC

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