Sunday 22 December 2013

The LRB phenomenon....

In the IIMA classrooms, LRB deliberately cultivated a tough, no-nonsense image. He had an acerbic wit and did not tolerate looseness. A student commented, "On the whole, do we affectionately remember Labdhi? I doubt we had such emotional involvement. Some of us, who have been victims of his ruthless massacre hated to love him." In 1987, the PGP batch published, in jest, a case on the "Labdhi Bhandari phenomenon" in the weekly campus magazine. It was republished a year later, after his death. It makes amusing reading today. 

The need for deification - A case study of the Labdhi Bhandari phenomenon.

At the outset, the author would like to make the following points clear.

1. This paper is an academic exercise concerned with issues and concepts and not personalities. The author, therefore, analyses Labdhi Bhandari (henceforth called LRB) as a concept and not a mere personality.

2. The author has high regard for the professional abilities of LRB. Thus a discussion of the positive attributes (as perceived by the author) should noir be construed as sycophancy and a reference to the negative attributes (as perceived by the authors) as a criticism or LRB.

Some hypotheses and definitions:

1. There is an organic need for deification in every human being.

2. Idol is what people aspire to become but cannot become.

3. Leader is man of masses - with whom everybody can identify. Idol, in contrast, is not a part of the masses. People hope to ape him but realize that such is not possible.

4. For the idol to maintain its mysticism, a deliberate attempt to be enigmatic is essential.

5. The more the brilliance of X, higher would be his reverence for Y, provided he is convinced that Y is better than him.

IIMA ethos:
1. The bulk of the students at IIMA come here after a successful stint in academics. They are ambitious and believe themselves to be the 'chosen people'. Some of them might also think that the entire earth is somewhere near their navel.

2. Aggression of IIMA students reflects the desire to prove to themselves and to others that they are the best. Armed with modern techniques many have the following attitude - "We have the solution; where is the problem?"

LRB Phenomenon:

State 1 (1986-87)
PGP II : What? LRB is teaching you? Lucky guys!!

PGP I : Why?

PGP II : You don't what LRB is? You must be dumb (PGP I turns red). He is the highest paid consultant in India. He has launched......he is good! Second batch of PGDM! His thesis was the best in USA. Don't make arbit CP in his class - he will chew you.

Stage 2 (1986-87, Marketing I)
Enters LRB. Smartly attired - polished shoes, matching socks, neat appearance, pin drop silence. Devotees are having their first darshan. Agnostics and atheists are visibly impressed.

LRB sits on the table. The class begins.

CP (class participation) kings are quiet.

Arbit CP and you have had it. Perfect accent, modulated voice, rigorous logic.

Yes, what PGP IIs say is true. Nobody dare argue with him. He seldom smiles, and what a sense of humor!

Why the deification?
Answer is obvious. They would want to be like him - brilliant, respected, dreaded, a cut above the rest, successful and enigmatic.

We don't love him, we idolize him. He is the ultimate. He satisfies the inherent need for deification (Hypo 1). Societies feel secure when they have a beacon to guide them. Further the concept of omniscient and omnipotent god imparts stability to society for it keeps the egos of the constituents in check. LRB is very helpful on this count.

If LRB becomes accessible, this respect might turn into adoration. Familiarity breeds contempt. Elusiveness reinforces the halo (Hyop 4).

What he says is "Vedbakya". Nobody dares disagree with him. Given the cutthroat competition amongst the students anybody who can cross swords with him, becomes different from others. This is unacceptable to the mainstream. Iconoclasts are viewed with suspicion if not outright contempt. Hence is deification has an egalitarian influence on IIMA students.

Absolutism is inimical to development. Growth is a dialectic process, be it the Hegelian or Marxist way. Excellence has no limit - it is like our shadow. The more we try to reach it, the further it goes. LRB phenomenon should enthuse us to improve - continuously. It should not set a limit to our search for excellence.


  1. Rajesh Kakkar - PGP 19826 January 2015 at 10:40

    My sharpest memory of LRB is a one-page case which he took for us (in 1982). I am sorry to say I do not have the details of the case, but it made a mark in many respects.
    1. There is always so much information that is hidden in a case. It only requires us to shed our laziness and dig and dig.
    2. Life does not give data in neat complete tables, nor does one need it in that form. There is a lot that can be gleaned and assumed, provided one is systematic, logical and willing to unpeal the onion.
    3. Brilliance shines through and does not require flamboyance.
    LRB - we love you.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memory. The case may have been EPC vs MPC about a competitor playing price differentiation.


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