Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) held its 56th annual convocation virtually on May 8, 2021. Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairperson, Board of Governors (BoGs), IIMA and Professor Errol D’Souza, Director, IIMA graced the occasion. On the occasion, a total of 605 graduating students were conferred titles and degrees.
Delivering the convocation address, Mr. Birla, congratulated the graduates and offered important advice to the graduating IIMA Class of 2021. MBAUniverse.com presents six key highlights from Mr Birla’s address.
#1. Class of 2021 is in a unique position
While students of Class of 2021 may have missed the campus life, and networking opportunities, Mr Birla reminded them that Class of 2021 is graduating in unique times, which makes them special.
“The class of 2021 will be like no other before it. The young people of the World War 2 generation were witness to the massive increases in industrial productivity that came with ramping up automobile, aerospace, and other production to meet the needs of the war years and the demand boom that came post that. Classes graduating in the dotcom bubble years of 2000-01 took away lessons about the husbanding of capital and the need to build more sustainable businesses that transformed what it meant to be an internet company. This pandemic has again stimulated innovation as a broad swathe of companies and consumers have embraced ‘digitization’.In the 4 months of 2021, the startup ecosystem in India added over 10 new unicorns whose mix represents everything from interest in financial services to business enablers and our need for human connectivity,” said Mr Birla.
He added, “This class is in a unique position. Having had the ability to take a student’s dispassionate look at a world in turmoil, you are now stepping into it, to leave your mark as a young leader whose intellectual appreciation of business problems is balanced by a compassionate understanding of the people involved.”
#2. Combine trinity of academics, skills, and attitude
Mr Birla reminded students to that combination of academic performance, skills and attitude produces winning business leaders. “The convocation ceremony today marks the culmination of a glorious chapter in your life. This glorious chapter has been defined by three hallmark traits, that I assume are common to all of you - strong academic record, all-round skills that go beyond the classroom, and of course the great hunger to succeed. I call this the trinity of records, skills, and attitude,” said Mr Birla.
#3. Define your North Star
Offering mantras for career success, Mr Birla asked students to first define their life’s purpose – the North Star.
“The pandemic and the last 12 months have again shone a spotlight on not just the role of governments but of societies, companies, and individuals in creating better outcomes for all of us. This is a period of short forecast horizons and amplified ups and downs. And therefore, a more important time than ever to define your principles and set your heading. Where do you fit in, and what do you want to be known for? Now is a good time to mull over and define the answer,” said Mr Birla.
#4.Experiment in your 20s
Having defined the purpose, Mr Birla urged MBA students to experiment and take calculated risks.
Mr Birla said, “While your North Star is clearly in your sights, in the short term, the 20s should be the discovery phase of your next chapter… When I say experiment, I don’t necessarily mean start your own business or company. Rather, work in a factory, work in a different country, work in diverse sectors, work across unfamiliar functions. The opportunity cost of experimenting rises sharply as you grow in your career. So, start early and experiment. Be impulsive. But temper your impulsiveness with creativity and positivity. Be thoughtful of what you want to focus on and what is the common thread that strings together your experiments and experiences.”
#5.Build your personal flywheel
Urging MBA students to make daily progress towards their goals, Mr Birla asked MBA students to build their own flywheels.
Mr Birla said, “Your personal flywheel is nothing but your own set of cumulating personal experiences. Think about experiences as units of learning. The more units you can accumulate in a year the more valuable you become. The sooner you start accumulating, the more you accumulate as you go along, as the power of compounding kicks in. Remember, your ability to learn is elastic by nature. Units of learning should guide your career choices. If you are ever wrestling with a career choice, the defining factor should be the units of learning. Always, make a choice that accelerates your own learning curve and improves your understanding of the world.
#6.Combine EQ to IQ
Finally, Mr Birla urged MBA students to combine Emotional Quotient with Intellectual Quotient to master the new work order.
“I know all of you have burnt the midnight oil over the last 2 years solving complicated business problems. The reality is that you can’t build businesses with spreadsheets. The most detailed business plans this year unraveled in the face of factory workers falling sick. Supply chains came unstuck as the migrant labour silently powering them retreated to their communities. Therefore,don’t get unidimensional in the way you think. You need to add other dimensions to your thinking, most importantly, of empathy and humility. I don’t see IQ and EQ as binary qualities, but rather as complementary traits that make a personality wholesome,” said Mr Birla.
Earlier, in his concluding address, Prof. Errol D’Souza, Director, IIMA, applauded the perseverance and hard work of the students and faculty in the face of the pandemic. Prof. D’Souza said, “Doing what is fair is often in conflict with showing loyalty and good citizenship behavior in organizations that the students will work in. However, in a VUCA world we require people who are just and fair.”
Traditionally, the convocation ceremony at IIMA is held at the lush green lawns of the Louis Kahn Plaza, where the convocation march is led by the Chairperson and Director of IIMA along with other Board member, faculty and students assemble. This year, to comply with the government regulations on Covid-19, IIMA switched to the digital mode to hold its 56th convocation.
With the passing out of the students today, IIMA will have around 39,600 alumni who include, business leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers, diplomats, academics, change makers in the social sector, artists, celebrated writers, among others.
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