Monday 26 November 2012

Kapil Kapoor remembers...

My memory of Professor Bhandari goes back to Oct 1986. He was the best known star in the marketing faculty of IIM-A and normally taught PPM (Product Policy Management) to PGP 1 students. The year we joined -1985 summer - Prof Bhandari had taken a year’s sabbatical from teaching PGP 1’s since he had commitments in the corporate world, etc. While we had been taught by Prof’MN Vora and Prof Abhinandan Jain, I felt our resume was incomplete since we had not been taught by Prof. LR Bhandari. Especially for folks graduating with a major in Marketing it was going to be a void we would have felt all our life.

It was with this motivation that I tried to approach your father to guide me on a project. It had to be new and innovative to get his attention since he was very busy and had very limited time. We prepared a proposal to explore the weaknesses in current methods of market research. We proposed a new method of market research wherein we observed what people did by simulating market conditions instead of asking people what they did. When you ask people what they would do in a particular situation, we got inaccurate answers – since they tend to posture, not really know what they would do or just show plain question fatigue. On the other hand, if we can integrate questions into a game situation people are disarmed and they tend to answer more accurately.

Prof. Bhandari liked the concept and the proposal – which we had to get to the top of his inbox through working with his research assistant – following which he called me for a review to his offices. He explained very quickly what he expected from us in this project to get his commitment to support it. Seeing our eagerness to work with him he agreed to supervise the project. In the short interactions I had with him during the course of the project, I got a glimpse of why he was such an icon and a legend at the IIMA campus. Prof. Bhandari was extremely lucid in his thinking and articulated his thoughts very clearly and concisely in a no nonsense style which was very refreshing.

Once we had completed the project, executing this concept as the 1st marketing Fair of IIMA was really challenging since we had a limited budget and little or no contacts with the powers that be in the corporate world to explain the thought. Prof. Bhandari gave us a letter of introduction as we rallied the whole batch behind executing the project. And it was then that we got to really value the standing of Prof. Bhandari as we went around to see the corporate honchos of the leading corporations of the day in Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta. Doors would open for us and very senior chieftains of marketing would make time to hear our proposals. We got  sponsors quickly enough and were able to implement the Marketing Fair in January 1987. Prof. Bhandari came around and gave a few press interviews and inaugurated the fair and gave the students all the credit. It was a real success and would not have been possible without his guidance and support. I personally got an A  for the project – a grade I am most proud of to this day.

I had always imagined I would consult Prof Bhandari on the next course of action in my life and after about 15 months with Nestle’, where I was a Management Trainee, in Oct 1988 I went to Ahmedabad to meet with him to consult with him on a possible academic career and future studies in the US. However that meeting was not to be – the same morning when I was to meet him, we got the shattering news that the plane from Mumbai had crashed and Prof. Bhandari was on it. We prayed and hoped that he would be one of the lucky ones, since we heard a few had survived. However, any hope we clung onto was very short-lived..His brother, had identified him in the wreckage. I went to your home and paid my respects to one of the finest professors I had the privilege to know and learn from.

*Mr. Kapil Kapoor was a student of LRB in the 1980s. He is currently the global COO of the Timex Group and is based in Hong Kong.

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