Tuesday, 27 January 2009
R. Raghavendra Ravi remembers...
I clearly and fondly remember a few incidents from the classroom. Prof Bhandari's class was one of the first classes for our batch at IIMA - I do not know whether it was the 'high standard' of IIMA or Prof Bhandari's sharpness which made his classes electric.
I remember my first brush with him - Case: Vora & Co.
Labdhi says - "So?"
One of my first classes at IIMA - I'm very eager to speak - I put up my hand.
I say: "The product does not have an identity."
Labdhi:"You mean it is not carrying an identity card?"
I'm stumped - did not know what to say - quickly withdrew. Many others were putting up their hands and were quickly making a fool of themselves. Slowly, after about 15 minutes it dawned on me that you have to be responsible for what you are saying and you have to defend it. LESSON 1 at IIMA.
One of the later classes - just a few days later - some students had gone and told Labdhi "we are not able to figure these cases out and how to study them" - Labdhi realised that some of us were panic stricken. He came to the class and spent 5 minutes telling us that we were not dumb. It requires some practice and the facility of looking at cases will improve.
What I remember him most for is a very sharp analytical mind (which I have seen in many people) but combined with a great ability to synthesize a solution or an approach by the time the class ended. The last 20 minutes of the class would be a Labdhi presentation on what he thought would be a possible solution (very carefully argued). I learnt that 'Analysis' is something very many people can do - but 'Synthesis' requires a wise and careful mind. LESSON 2 at IIMA.
His questioning was Socratic. It quickly led us to what he wanted us to learn. Some times the questions were sharp to the point of hurting - but the intent was clearly to focus the class on what had to be learnt.
I still remember my classmate Naseer Ahmed Usmani starting the class on Ahmedabad Textile Mills:
Naseer: "This company has too many products"
Labdhi: "How many??"
Labdhi: "Why is 300 too many?? Is anything above 299 too many??"
A minute of silence - then Labdhi asks:
"What is a product in a textile mill? How many colours do you know? How many types of cloth - cottons, synthetics, blends? How many designs do you know of? So how many "products" are possible?"
We came up with thousands of possible "products". Suddenly 300 products started looking too few!!
I thought - what a grand approach. But I thought too soon.
Labdhi asks: "By the way - how big was this company?"
None of us reacted. We were all on the defensive. So Labdhi continues:
"Has anybody studied the Annual report in the case?"
Then we suddenly realize that just because its a Marketing Case does not mean we should neglect the "Annual Report"!! We quickly check the figures.
"Rs. 16.70 crores" somebody says.
Labdhi: "Which year was it?"
"1967" the answer
Labdhi finally sums up:
"1967....about 17 crore company....300 varieties of cloth.. is it too many?"
Now we get the idea - look at the totality and do not jump from one piece of data.
On that fateful day when his plane crashed, I was watching a cricket match and TV channels broke the news - I lost Prof Labdi Bhandari and another friend of mine V Mukundan (who used to work for Alfa Laval) who was on the same flight. To this day, I quote Prof Labdi Bhandari on various occasions.
* R. Raghavendra Ravi was a student of LRB between 1980-1982.