Grand Alumni Meet 2021

Great Lakes Institute of Management held its 2021 Alumni connect virtually featuring a talk from Capt. Raghu Raman and centered around leadership during crisis.

A good business school education is not just pedantic instruction, it is about inculcating a sense of collective purpose. Great leaders are those that can spark action, collaborate, and inspire. Nobody succeeds in a vacuum and building a reliable network is key. While the pandemic had robbed most of the opportunity to connect in person, the format of a new virtual medium has trivialized the limitations of space and broadened our perspectives.

It is in this spirit that the Great Lakes Institute of Management organized its '2021 Great Lakes Grand Alumni Meet' on 27th March, the first to be conducted virtually. The institute marks a key milestone with alumni association chapters in 33 countries, surpassing the ten-thousand-member mark. Dr. Bala V Balachandran, Founder and Dean Emeritus inaugurated the event. Speaking about crisis management, Dr. Bala stressed the importance of agility in uncertain times. 'Uncertainty is inevitable but worrying is optional.', he remarks, emphasizing the need for lean thinking, contingency planning, and enterprising outlook to remain competitive. He also spoke about AIC – Great Lakes Balachandran Incubator (AGBI) supported by Atal Innovation Mission, the institute's startup incubator, which has an MoU with IIT-M and equips students to prototype and launch ventures under the guidance of faculty.

Dean Suresh Ramanathan then addressed the gathering and spoke of how alumni can be a source of information, ideas, and involvement. Giving back to your alma mater through collaboration and co-creation of value and ideas, he says, is a rewarding and mutually beneficially exercise. 'The future of business school education is knowledge creation. Imparting old knowledge well is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. It is equally important that faculty and students create new knowledge. Thus, we are reaffirming our commitment to impactful research that informs industry and public policy.'. He also highlighted the need for international collaboration: 'We have recently signed an MoU with Chicago Booth School of Business to impart executive education in India. This will help us leverage the expertise international schools offer and marry it with our ability to understand the Indian market intimately and customize solutions.'

Watch Capt. Raghu Raman’s keynote address to the Great Lakes Alumni:

Captain Raghu Raman was the keynote speaker for the event. After eleven years in the army, Mr. Raman delved into the corporate world. Former President of Reliance Industries and founding CEO of NATGRID, he is now a bestselling author and public speaker. The central theme of his talk was 'Leading in a ruptured world'. Following the framework of RUPT (Rapid, Uncertain, Paradoxical and Tangled) he says that the horizon of uncertainty for all of us has reduced dramatically. Especially in a pandemic, it has become virtually inconceivable to make concrete plans even a few days into the future. Also, the leaders of tomorrow will be facing increasingly paradoxical decision making. 'The choices won't be between a right and wrong decision but perhaps between two right or two wrong choices. For instance, many might wonder why the government relaxed lockdown restrictions during Diwali. It is a tough decision but ~60% of sales for SMEs happens during the festive season. After 9-10 months of downturn, any further restrictions could adversely affect businesses. So, leaders need to get comfortable with having a demography of dissatisfied stakeholders no matter what solution is proposed in a crisis.'. Complexities of a tangled world, he remarks, can have far-reaching implications. 'At the beginning of the lockdown, I was part of the committee set up to evaluate what constitute essential services. Communication was top of the list. As half of the cell towers are powered by generators, diesel now becomes an essential service. To transport the diesel you need working roadways, trucks and roadside dhabas where truckers eat, tower technicians the list goes on. Life is thus never restricted to silos but all interlinked.'.

Mr. Raman also spoke of key principles leaders must keep in mind during a crisis. 'A map is not the territory. A map of the London underground is perfect to plan a subway ride but not useful above ground. The map is an abstraction, similarly, processes and conventional frameworks must be adapted to fit the current landscape.'. He touched upon the need to build connections from the ground up: 'Virtual communication is simplex in nature, you can only communicate one person at a time. You cannot take an environment that previously had multiple lines of communication and perfectly port it to a digital platform, so build relationships from the ground up instead.'. He touched on the need to encourage communication no matter how redundant: 'In the army when a patrol returns to the garrison a call goes from the gate to the adjutant informing of the arrival. Ten minutes later the adjutant will get a call from the motor transport department followed by calls from the armory and platoon leader. We are trained to understand that every call has a specific purpose and never to be dismissive. In a crisis, leaders must make every person who informs them feel heard, even if you are already aware of the news. This will multiply the information channels you have access to. Information leaking to your competition may damage you a little but what is causing colossal damage is your own information not getting back to you.'. Lastly, he spoke about the need to relearn with humility: 'A friend of mine was an IAS officer posted in Ambalapuzha, Kerala. One year, using surplus funds, he organized the purchase of GPS trackers for the fishermen in the district envisioning they would use them to navigate the ocean. Instead, they sunk gunny bags filled with food scraps from the market and marked the locations using GPS. They would return the next day to shoals of fishes. With this, they were able to reduce their carbon footprint and increase productivity. Great ideas can come from anywhere we just need the humility to absorb them.'

The Alumni meet also featured panel discussions, moderated by Prof. D Sriram, about "Phygital" the emerging trend of fusing the physical and digital world to reinvent the customer experience lifecycle. The event closed with a showcase featuring lively music and dance performances by Alumni.


  • Cornell University
  • Chicago Booth
  • Skema Business School
  • Universite Bordeaux
  • Babson
  • Frankfurt School of Finance and Management
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