Thursday 9 October 2014

Dr. V. Krishnamurthy remembers...

I met Labdhi on various occasions at IIM Ahmedabad during my tenure as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the institute. He struck me as an extremely bright, highly knowledgeable and committed young Professor. He was a man of few words but when he spoke, everyone listened. I found that even the senior faculty members had a lot of respect for him. There were many internal issues facing IIMA during that period and when I asked the faculty for suggestions, Labdhi often had some refreshing ideas to offer. He was very committed to IIMA and had big dreams for the institute.

In 1988, he, along with another Professor from IIMA (Prof. Mohan Kaul), coordinated the Roundtable on Public Enterprises for the Commonwealth Secretariat. The participants were policy makers and senior representatives from PSUs of various Commonwealth countries. The public sector in India was itself poised for a transformation as we had been talking to the Government about autonomy and accountability for PSUs. We had a lot to learn from countries like UK; at the same time, other Commonwealth countries were keen on knowing how PSUs like BHEL and Maruti had succeeded. I was keen on the right message getting across to such an eclectic audience. I had always considered Labdhi to be a Professor of Marketing but I was very impressed by his ability to look at the big picture, understand all stakeholder interests and analyse complex issues facing the public sector in a short period of time. He and Prof Kaul coordinated the Commonwealth Industries Minister’s conference remarkably well.

Later, I had the opportunity of discussing with Labdhi some of the problems we were grappling with, in SAIL. He was surprised that, despite working in a controlled and regulated market environment, we were putting in place a number of initiatives to make SAIL a customer-oriented organisation. I remember he came up with a number of suggestions that re-affirmed some of my own thoughts on strategies that SAIL needed to adopt.

It is indeed unfortunate that we lost him so early. He had the potential to take on much higher responsibilities at IIMA, besides becoming one of the top marketing strategists in the world. During my period of Chairmanship we had to select a new Director for the institute. Labdhi’s name came up very prominently both from the faculty and alumni for the position of Director of IIM Ahmedabad. Had he been there, I am sure he would have been chosen for this position. 

*Dr. V. Krishnamurthy is ex-Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), and was the founding Managing Director of Maruti Udyog Ltd. He also served as Chairman of the IIM-A Board of Governors from 1985 to 1990.

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