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Podium 2018

The Podium is the annual corporate interaction series of IIM Shillong. At The Podium, IIM Shillong invites speakers from the corporate world to share their industrial experiences with the students thus helping them to get corporate insights into the various industries that these leaders belong to. Speakers from diverse backgrounds like Marketing, Finance, Operations and HR Domain come every year to share their expertise. 

This year the Podium sessions were graced by the following industry stalwarts:

Session 1: Kaustubh Sonalkar, President HR, Essar Group Session 2: Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Former CMO, United Breweries Limited Session 3: Amit Kasliwal, India Head- Corporate Sales, Ford India

Session 1

Kaustubh Sonalkar, 

President HR, Essar Group

Mr. Kaustubh Sonalkar is a seasoned HR professional with about 25 years of experience of working with companies like PwC, Future Group India, and Essar Group. His versatile talent spans from being a state-level cricketer and a musician to having worked with the United Nations. Mr. Sonalkar is the perfect amalgamation of the qualities of a business leader and the creativity of an artist. His agenda focuses on going above and beyond as the disruptive thought designer that he is at heart. His talk further delved into the various facets of a new-age leader, from having the ability to say no to being able to take responsibility for the team's failure.

During the Podium session, Mr. Sonalkar’s energy reverberated through the audience as he took the students on an interactive journey about breaking the existing stereotypes about leadership. Using video clips from Bollywood movies like Lagaan, Guru and Chak De India and analogies from cricket, he distinguished great leaders from the good ones.

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Mr. Kaustubh Sonalkar addressing the students of IIM Shillong

Podium 2018

Mr. Kaustubh Sonalkar being facilitated by the Chairman, Placement and Public Relations

He asked the students for examples of great leadership and where they draw their inspiration from. Mr. Sonalkar then used the students’ answers, that ranged from Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler to Henry Ford, to highlight how great leaders motivate people around them to follow a common dream. He added that inspiration need not come from someone sitting in a distant corner of the world, it can come from someone sitting right beside us. The session ended on a gripping note as Mr. Sonalkar left students with the question, “Are you a leader?

Quote: “True leaders go with their gut and the available data, which might not always be correct.”

Session 2

Samar Singh Sheikhawat

Former CMO, United Breweries Limited

Mr Samar Singh Sheikhawat is a business management leader who has a career spanning 30 years, in companies like United Breweries Limited, Dabur India Ltd, Cadbury India Ltd, Pepsico, et al. He has an experience in running both steady state and start-up businesses and brands. His ideology of marketing focuses on building brands that mean something more than just a name.

His sports enthusiast side made the session very interesting for the students as he gave management lessons from the area of sports and his own life. The anecdotes which he shared were especially intriguing and kept the audience glued to every word he said with examples ranging from Rafael Nadal to Breaking Bad. The lessons he learnt about humility, showing grit, not giving up, from the famous personalities he met, he conveyed them beautifully to the students. His talk touched on some pertinent topics like the issue of fake news and lack of open-mindedness, among other things.

Mr Sheikhawat

Mr Sheikhawat addressing the students of IIM Shillong

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Mr Sheikhawat taking up questions during the Q & A session

In the Question & Answer session, he addressed doubts on how brands build their marketing strategies and things are not accidental with their campaign. He emphasized on the need to be grounded and humble in whatever you achieve and went on to say,

Quote: “Don’t be afraid to change you mind. Only a fool doesn’t change his mind”

Session 3

Amit Kasliwal

India Head- Corporate Sales, Ford India

Mr. Amit Kasliwal, INSEAD alumni- writer, speaker and host has 15 years of corporate experience in automotive and media. Prior to Ford, he worked with Hero Honda Motors Ltd. and Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd (Times Group). He is driven by his passion to empower fellow human beings. He conducts Transformational Leadership Program which teaches top leadership skills- building purpose in life, power of perspectives, creating possibilities and living in the moment.

His interaction at IIM Shillong revolved around the theme of thinking like a CEO where he pondered around the purpose behind each of our initiatives. He also helped the student realize the importance of the impact of any Business Leader. This session was very interactive where the students were involved in replicating the thoughts and aspirations they had in their mind on paper in the form of abstract sketches.


Mr. Amit Kasliwal engaging students in different activities helping them realize the leader within them.


Mr. Amit Kasliwal asking reflections from the students during the session on Leadership.

He also emphasized on the importance of being able to strategize one’s thoughts as a leader. This as he conveyed to the students, was one of the major difficulties any leader would face. He helped the students understand the steps that are most significant in shaping a person to be a leader. The session also proceeded further in involving students in various activities assisting them identify their mentors. He also engaged the students in multi-faceted activities reflecting various insights from spirituality and self- reflection in helping become a better leader.

Quote:“Leadership is about those who are power houses of energy empowering not only themselves but all the others around them.”