Motivation, Inspiration and some advise – Just another day at IMD

Entrepreneurship stream formally came to a close today but not without leaving us with some valuable learnings. Over the past many weeks we had the privilege to vicariously live and experience the lives of many entrepreneurs through the case studies. While “Eat me” introduced us to the trials and tribulations of Serena as she successfully persevered to realise her dream of starting a concept restaurant in Lausanne, narrated a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion as we witnessed Kaleil Isaza’s metoric rise to fame and eventual fall from grace.
From Tumi’s take over by Samsonite, to Venkatesh’s LBO of a division of his employer everything was on the menu.
We had the privilege to meet many of these entrepreneurs in flesh and blood as they recounted their journeys to us and patiently answered flurry of our hurried questions.
This morning Professor Benoit orchestrated perhaps the most appropriate conclusion to this stream by sharing with us the remarkable story of WIPHOLD (, an example of how Private Equity can be a force for good and not just a source of profits. These stories motivated us to dig deep into our own passions and unearth those great ideas that we have been holding back perhaps a tad bit too long.
After such a motivational start to our day, in the afternoon, we got a chance to talk to a panel of senior HR managers from several companies. In those 4 hours we received some valuable career advice. Engaging with these people helped us to see the world from their perspective. It helped us to understand how best to position ourselves so as to maximize our chances of landing our dream jobs.
The best however was left for the last. We were paid a visit by a friendly neighbour. One of Nestle’s best employees took time out of his busy schedule to come and speak to us. He was none other than Paul Bulcke, the CEO, himself.
There cannot be anything more inspiring for business students, like us, than to be able to meet and learn from the stalwarts of the industry. Paul has spent 8 years at the helm of one of the World’s largest corporations and tonight we had the opportunity to ask him all about the remarkable journey that he has been through. No wonder we were falling over each other in order to ask our questions. Paul took all questions – easy ones, difficult ones, personal ones and professional ones. He answered them with utmost conviction and authenticity.
Much of his advice around careers was simple but profound. He urged us to find happiness in our work and not to see it simply as a means of getting to some future position. Perhaps the most important piece of advise from my point of view was that we should not look to work for our boss rather we should work for our peers and subordinates.
Such advice is often not found in business books or literature but can only be garnered through talking to someone like Paul who has seen it all, made it to the top and has kept the perspective on what is important.
How do you summarize such a rich day at school?
All I can say is this: More motivation, more advise and more inspiration – just another day at IMD.

Reflections on my MBA admission journey

Blog posts are getting a bit irregular as some of you might have noticed- a sign of things to come. As mentioned in my previous post, the honeymoon period is over and now is the time to deliver. Deliver on projects, integrative, start-ups and shortly on exams too. We are fully embedded in IMD now and there has been no better reminder of this fact than all the queries I and my classmates are receiving from potential candidates on our MBA experience.

We are indeed, finally living those “plans” that once seemed eternally futuristic. All the apprehensions, hopes, concerns and expectations we had from an MBA program are unfolding in front of our eyes one after the other and therefore it is only natural that those who aspire to be on this campus next year look to us for counsel. So let me use this post to share some advise I received from my IMD seniors when I was doing my application.

1) Get clarity on why you want to do an MBA – it took me a while to polarize this question. I could always come up with alternative narratives for my career that included and excluded an MBA. There are many different models to think about one’s future career. We can think of our career as a “business venture” in which we make investments and hope to get back financial returns. We can think of it as a continuous learning journey where at each next step we seek new knowledge or as my senior suggested we can think of it as an athelete’s pursuit – where we will do all that it will take to make us perform at our full potential. None of these models are right or wrong but it is worth noting that you have to find the metaphor for your career which will be distinct from others and see how an MBA fits into it.

2) Know your MBA college – It is critical that once you have made your mind to do an MBA you must put in a lot of effort to fully understand which college works best for you. This is important not only because you have to spend 1 or 2 years of your life in that place but also because for the rest of your life that college remains a part of you – what do you want that part to stand for?  My senior advised me that an MBA admission is not a one way selection process. It is in fact a test for compatibility. Use every opportunity to know the school, just as the school is trying to use every opportunity to know you (oh yes!  those casual chats at the end of the assessment day were not so casual after all – be in your element always). Talk to current students, spend a lot of time on the website, talk to alumni and make your own decision. Find your inspiration to join that school.

3) Stop second guessing the admission officer’s mind – One question I seem to be getting quite often these days is “Kunal, I have a poor GPA but my GMAT is high, do you think the admission officer will overlook my grades?” or something similar. The honest answer to all such questions is – I dont know. And in fact I can bet you no one knows what is going through the admission officer’s mind and it shouldnt be your concern at all, simply because you cannot influence it. You can only spend your valuable energy worrying about it. What you can influence though is your application. You can put up for consideration your best self as reflected in the application and that is where you must focus your energy.

4) Take pride in yourself – This last piece of advise I received from my senior was quite critical. Often when we read sample essays etc. we tend to walk away with a feeling that we must put up a story that is completely ironed, spotless and smells of prodigious talent. We tend to find ways to hide our failures and amplify our successes. But in fact we must take pride in our failures and successes alike. We must spend time thinking what have we learnt from our experiences and showcase the learning journey. Taking pride in our journey does not mean being arrogant rather having a silent confidence that we are better off for “all” our experiences.

I hope some of this is useful and in passing on this advise, I have done justice to the message of my senior. It is worthwhile to highlight though that these were the things I personally found valuable in my journey and not all of this will be applicable to every future candidate. But the point is to know what really matters and focus your energies on that. Continue your quest that will hopefully guide you to your decisions. And lastly, dont forget to find your inspiration.



Time to deliver

The honeymoon period, if ever there was one, is over. It is now time to deliver.

We are no longer the incoming batch – we are the incumbent batch.

Our first major team task was due last week. In a semi-professional setting we presented our ideas on some critical challenges facing different industries – from packaging to alzeihmer’s, from insurance to energy – everything was on the menu.

We didn’t have much time to relax as the next task is upon us sooner than we realized. We go into the now-famous integrative exercise starting tomorrow. What it really means, we don’t know yet. What we do know is that it will be a first opportunity for us to apply all the principles learnt over the last 10 weeks to a business problem in a 48 hour marathon.

More on integrative when we come out of it on Saturday.

I also had the opportunity this week to meet some of the MBA applicants and it was a delightful experience. It is hard to believe that I am already on this side of the table. It feels like yesterday when I hit the submit button on my application and waited with bated breath for the outcome. Time does really fly.

To those of you applying this year, I wish all the best and hope to see some of you on campus soon.


All the world’s a stage

I am sure you recognize the title of this post as one of the most famous lines of Shakespeare. “But what does  this have to do with IMD MBA”, you might wonder. If anything, you might expect a business school to have very little to do with acting or theatre, let alone the Great Shakespeare. Up until today I thought the same, but everything changed when I entered the class this morning and was greeted by the presence of this unassuming gentleman. At first sight there wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about him. If anything he was calm, quiet and in no way tried to assert his presence. The class was titled “Communications” and so I settled in my chair waiting for him to introduce himself as a speaking skills coach or so.

“Hi, I am Richard and I am a theatre actor”. “A what?” I couldn’t help but exclaim. I wasnt sure if my ears were ringing and so I looked at Carlos my neighbour, and he confirmed what I had heard. Incredulous as I was, I kept waiting for Richard to give his real introduction but it didn’t take Richard long to demonstrate that not only was he a theatre actor but a fine one at that.

Yes this was happening – I was going to learn about communicating from a theatre actor here at IMD Business School. If ever I had run out of reasons to congratulate myself on joining IMD then here were 100 of those packaged nicely in one session.

As the day zipped by, it dawned on me that indeed who better to learn the art of communication from, than an actor. Actors are pursuasive, convincing, credible and moving- what else does great communication look like? Actors transfer us into a parallel reality and show us what they see and make us feel how they feel- how else should great leaders share their vision?

Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious and what should feel like a natural connection seems a bit misplaced in the beginning – like a theatre actor running an MBA class.

Richard conducted the class of 90 like a master conductor. His orchestra hit all the notes – in one moment he had us reflecting deeply on a thought and in the other he made us burst into peels of laughter. Here we were watching our classmates go from inhibited, shy speakers to confident, pursuasive communicators in a matter of minutes and there we were bustling with energy to go onto the stage ourselves. What he taught us were not merely tricks but deep rooted principles. For instance I learnt that in most communications a lot is being said but not a lot is being heard. I learnt how to make the stage my own but be there to serve the audience. I learnt how to capture people’s imagination before I pursue them with logic.

Like a master, he appealed to the best in us, helped us discover our confidence and elevated us to the next level. He made us feel like leaders and gave us a profound message – one that resonated with Shakespeare some 500 years ago – “All the world’s a stage”.

What an apt message from someone who loves the stage to those who aspire to make a difference on the world stage!


Thank you Richard!




Goli  commented on  Friday, February 26, 2016  7:35 AM 

This experience underlines and reflects IMD’s tag line – Real World, Real Learning.