Arnab Kumar Laha/Probability
A Head For Numbers And Humour
isn't the easiest of subjects to learn if you've never studied
it before your first year of MBA. Yet, Arnab Kumar Laha, a 38-year-old
Professor of Probability and Statistics at iim Ahmedabad, never
has trouble getting a full house. Why? He knows just how to put
the greenhorns at ease. He tells them jokes and spins funny stories
around statistics to make the subject less formidable. "He
comes down to the level of the students to explain concepts,"
says Anuja Trivedi, 23, one of his second-year students. Laha
is so good at keeping his students engaged that most of them actually
enjoy his 90-minute lectures. Not surprisingly, IIM-A's graduating
class of 2006 had no trouble voting him as the best professor.
Interestingly enough, Laha never set out to be an academic.
After getting his bachelors and masters degree in statistics from
the Indian Statistical Institute, he worked with a software company
for one year, before taking a break to do his PhD. That done,
he decided to turn to teaching and joined IIM-A in 2004. It is
"the ability to remain at the frontier of research that drew
me to academics," reveals Laha. Understandably, then, when
not teaching, Laha spends time on research. Currently, he is working
on 'change-point problems' relating to financial volatility in
stock prices. That's another reason why his new students may not
want to miss his classes.
Ajay Pandey/Finance and Accounting
year, the headcount at one of Ajay Pandey's courses, 'Philosophies
of Management', shot up from about 80 to 180, forcing IIM-A to
create a new section. "This is a course geared to questioning,
in a pragmatic way, all that one learns in the classroom,"
explains the 43-year-old. His students find him so good at it
that they have even given him a nickname: "God of All Things".
"Once he was explaining how stock markets behave and he ended
up correlating it to human behaviour and even philosophy,"
says Mayank Rawat, 25, a second-year student. Pandey's lectures
on finance too are sprinkled with titbits on philosophy, often
making a deep impression on his students.
Voted the 'all-rounder professor' of the year in 2005, Pandey
came to IIM-A five years ago from Engineers India Ltd. Before
that, he did a short stint at ONGC after finishing his fellowship
programme at IIM-A. All that apart, Pandey has done teaching stints
at IIM Lucknow, the Administrative Staff College of India, and
Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, and worked in the financial
services industry for three years. "Today, I enjoy what I
am doing, but I don't know what I want to do looking ahead or
what I have always wanted to do," declares Pandey, with a
touch of philosophy. "But my true sense of accomplishment
lies in the rapport I have been able to build with my students,"
he adds as an afterthought.
Ravichandran N./Strategy and
without ability is a sure recipe for casualty in business."
That's one of the many one-liners Ravichandran N. likes to keep
throwing at his students in between demystifying the intricacies
of strategy and operations. Do students appreciate his one-liners,
which sometimes tend to wound them as well? Let's just say that,
over the years, they have actually turned books out of such pithy
remarks. "They give me a copy once in a while," laughs
the 52-year-old popular professor. At least, in the case of the
first-year students, Ravichandran says, he likes to maintain a
tough veneer, but the sophomores end up becoming "his brothers
and sisters". He's even co-authored a book called Competitive
Strategy with his students, and he proudly points out that only
two chapters in the book were written by him and the other 10
by his students. The 'book' is, of course, a compilation of student
assignments, but made more rigorous under his guidance.
The IIT Madras engineer says that he doesn't believe in too
rigid a learning structure and, therefore, prefers spontaneous
lectures in the classroom. He feels that the student-teacher relationship
will sustain only when there is a clear value addition to the
students. Kindling curiosity, responding to them and adding value
are the three most important aspects of being a teacher, he says.
Quite clearly, the students think he does all three very well.
R. Vaidyanathan/Finance and Control
A Man For All Seasons
is one professor who not only influences the world views of his
students, but also those of the regulatory bodies of the country.
Professor of Finance and Control, R. Vaidyanathan sits on the
advisory boards of SEBI and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). But
here's the thing about the two-time Fulbright Scholar: He doesn't
hesitate professing his ignorance if he doesn't know something.
"Some of my students really get shocked when I tell them
that I don't know something," he quips. But, then, there
aren't too many things that this doctorate in management from
IIM Calcutta doesn't know about. "Not too many professors
can teach as well as entertain, but he strikes a perfect balance,"
says Sriwatsan K., 23, a second-year student at IIM-B.
Despite his vast experience, the 54-year-old Vaidyanathan spends
at least one hour preparing for a two-hour class. "Well prepared
and sincere faculty is any day appreciated (over ill-prepared
tutors) by the Gen-next students," he says. Meeting new,
vibrant young people every year is a renewing experience for Vaidyanathan
and he says that he finds the classroom diversity fascinating.
In a class, he says, there are students with no less than 16 different
mother tongues at any given time. Meanwhile, Vaidyanathan is gearing
up for the launch of his book "India Unincorporated".
Ramachandran/Business Strategy & Policy
The Strategy Don
On IIM Bangalore's Bannerghatta
road campus, Professor J. Ramachandran isn't just loved and respected,
but revered by his students. "I am passionate about what
I do and I think this draws them to me," he reckons. A chartered
accountant by education, it was his passion for teaching that
pulled him out of industry (he was the Vice President of Management
Services at Reliance Industries) into academia. "For me,
teaching is a calling, not a job. I wake up every morning with
a spring in my step and I work seven days a week," says the
48-year-old, who did a fellowship at the Indian Institute of Management
The fact that Ramachandran has extensive industry experience,
adds tremendously to his classroom discussions. "In a single
lecture, he once came up with 100 questions, all pertaining to
the case we were studying," recalls Abhishek Rana, 22, a
second-year student. Yet, Ramachandran isn't smug about his teaching
skills. "The greatest challenge I face every day is to battle
65 great minds (the average size of his classes)," says Ramachandran.
His ability to connect with his students ensures that many of
them stay in touch with him even after they have graduated. "A
lot of my buddies are my students," he says proudly. A much
sought-after consultant, Ramachandran is currently writing a book
on globalisation of companies from emerging markets.
R. Narayanaswamy/Finance and
To His Credit, Entirely
Narayanaswamy's first reaction last year on being told that he
had been selected by his students as one of the most popular professors,
was one of shock and disbelief. "I thought at first it was
another colleague of mine with a similar name, because usually
all his bills come to me and all my cheques go to him," he
says with a grin. Over the 20 years that he's been with IIM Bangalore,
Professor Narayanaswamy has honed his sense of humour and the
art of keeping his students engaged. He likes to think of the
classroom as a market place for ideas that must be kept constantly
stimulated. "The way I point out their mistakes, they are
doubly happy to point out mine," he says.
One of the things that the 49-year-old professor, who worked
with the Steel Authority of India before joining IIM-B, likes
to do is to use case studies from stories that appear in business
newspapers and magazines. That not only makes his discussions
more topical, but also relevant. "Coming from an engineering
background, I knew nothing about accountancy, but after the three-month
course, I am no less than a ca when it comes to reading a financial
statement," says Madhurjya Banerjee, 23, a sophomore. When
not teaching, Narayanaswamy spends time on research. He is currently
working on a paper (on adopting us GAAP in non-us markets) that
is to be presented in China in July. Here's wishing him all the
An Institution Builder
Professor Amitava Bose has been
teaching economics at IIM Calcutta longer than some of his students
have been around on planet Earth. But the 59-year-old professor,
despite his popularity, doesn't think he's perfect. "I haven't
been able to connect with my students the way my own teachers
at the Delhi School of Economics did. I wish I had more initiative,"
says Bose. As his students will tell you, Bose is being too self-critical.
Some of his old students still drop by routinely, and the current
batch thinks he's every bit the seasoned teacher. "He simplifies
concepts and never gets irritated, and (learning) is a journey
with him," says Joydeep Chakraborty, 22, a sophomore.
Bose was the director at IIM-C for five years until 2002, but
he turned down a second term. "I was desperate to get back
to research, since it gives me a lot of internal enrichment,"
says the PhD from the University of Rochester, who jumped at the
opportunity to join the institute way back in 1974, happy to have
found a job in his hometown. Since then, "my life has been
intertwined with the development of IIM-C, particularly during
my years as the director", says Bose. His research interests
revolve around employment issues in India, besides which he has
plans of writing a book on macro-economics. If the idea is to
leave a mark, then Bose needn't bother. He's already a legend
Joka's Jane Austen
or organisational behaviour, isn't something MBA students tend
to lose sleep over, simply because it is not considered 'hardcore'
like strategy, marketing or finance. But Leena Chatterjee gets
an eager class just the same. For, when Chatterjee is on the podium,
the class turns into a theatre. Students have to make presentations
based on various characters in novels and act out situations.
"I bring in examples to everything I teach and use a lot
of poetry and literature in my teachings," she says with
a smile. Not surprisingly, Chatterjee likes to write for journals.
She has two articles coming out in international journals later
Chatterjee, 50, studied psychology at Lady Shri Ram College
for Women (LSR) in Delhi and then did her doctorate from IIT Kanpur.
Given her specialisation, Chatterjee is not only a teacher, but
also a friend and mentor to many of her students. In fact, she
knows each of them (about 260 in each batch) by their names. What
inspired Chatterjee to join academia? Apparently, her "wonderful
teachers" at LSR. Rejecting offers from companies after her
graduation, Chatterjee came to IIM Calcutta 22 years ago to teach
ob and hasn't thought of doing anything else since. "I believe
in enjoying what I do," she says by way of explanation. "The
biggest perk of the job is, of course, the wonderful interactions
I have with young, intelligent people," she adds.
Of the nine professors profiled
in this story, Rahul Mukerjee was the only one who couldn't be
reached. Not at all surprising, as we discovered. Go to Mukerjee's
profile on IIM Calcutta's faculty page and you'll find the reason
listed under 'hobby': International travel with special interest
in western Europe and the Far East. Unfortunately for Mukerjee,
the trip this time around wasn't to Western Europe (they are playing
the soccer World Cup in Germany, after all), but merely Darjeeling.
And since he doesn't believe in carrying a mobile phone, there
was no way to reach him. But when he's on campus, Mukerjee maintains
an open line. Students are free to call him or drop by at this
office almost whenever they feel like. "He relates to us
like a friend," says Joydeep Chakraborty, 22, who graduates
Before joining IIM-C in 1989, Mukerjee taught at the Indian
Statistical Institute in the city. A passionate statistician (he
topped in both BSc and MSc, and has a PhD from the University
of Calcutta), Mukerjee has also been a visiting faculty at the
University of Michigan, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
(Berkeley), and Hiroshima University. Mukerjee, 50, has co-authored
five books and more than 200 papers. "He is a professor whom
students love a lot," quips Chakraborty. That's more than
what a tutor can ask for.