Friday 23 January 2009
Rajiv Gulati remembers...
Marketing was my passion, and I was fortunate to have Prof. Labdhi Bhandari as the professor for not one, not two, but three of the credits that I took. He is about the only prof. about whom there has been such unanimity of opinion. All of us probably had same words for him, like 'Brilliant'. I remember, when I was in final year, one of the Juniors asked me 'How are Prof labdhi's sessions?' My answer, which he quoted for several days, was 'Orgasmic'.
He was brief in his comments, and extremely sarcastic. The net reult was the most effective communication of marketing concepts I have ever seen in my life.
Once he was teaching us about short-term increases in sales of washing powder by adding deals such as a free 'bucket' .. and one of our brilliant batch-mates was bright enough to suggest that 'Surf' (the brand under threat) should give something bigger..
"Like? A 'bathroom' for instance?" was Prof. Bhandari's response ... how can one forget that Surf lost 'market share' but not sales ... since market was artificially high for a short period due to the 'deals' of the competitor.
And another time we had gone to him for a project and I was especially pleased about my research since I had actually read a lot and had referenced relevant papers. As we started talking and I mentioned one publication which I had found with great difficulty and was so relevant....in two sentences he summarised the whole paper which he totally remembered ...
Genius I tell you ...
When his plane crashed, one of my Juniors in the company - an MBA from FMS, Delhi University - was the one to tell me about it. It is unusual for an MBA of one university to know about the professors from another. However, his comment to me was that he has lots of friends from IIM-A and he was shocked at the depth of sadness among each and every one of them.
As I started my career in marketing, I would always think .. what would he have said ...for every difficult situation that I encountered.
I love teaching ... its a hobby. Fortunately wherever I worked (Ranbaxy/Lilly), I was allowed to teach. I have delivered guest lectures at IIM, IIFT, GSB-Chicago, Richard Ivey Business School, Canada, Kelley School of Business at IU and also Wharton.
However, the first time I really started teaching was at IMT, Ghaziabad ... the marketing professor asked me to teach a whole semester to final year MBA students. The first thing I realized was that they did not even have 'Brand Management' as a subject.
I created the curriculum, taught two semesters (many of my students are CEOs today) and than handed over the developed course to my successor.
Guess who taught me Brand Management at IIM-A - Prof Labdhi Bhandari.
Guess whose teachings I shared with my students - Prof Labdhi Bhandari
Guess who was I trying to emulate while teaching - Prof Labdhi Bhandari
Just an example to say that his influence, his legacy, his memory goes way beyond than the people he directly touched.
And then ... several years after he passed away ... I think it was in 1997 ,,. I was working in the US Us at that time too, and at a friend's house I met the professor's younger brother .. and as I learnt that he was Prof Bhandari's brother, it was impossible for me to stop talking about him. As I started, he turned to his wife and said,"I always told you how much his students respected him. Here's a living proof."
*Rajiv Gulati was a student of LRB in 1980-82 and is currently Director of Global counterfeiting operations at Eli Lilly and Co.