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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 4: Rajan Sethuraman, IndiaChief People Officer at LatentView Analytics Session 5: Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, Payment Card Professional Session 6: Ameya Dangi, Chief Operating Officer at Hygienic Research Institute (HRIPL) Session 7: Sameer Seth, Director, Marketing - India, Dolby Laboratories Session 8: Sunil Chainani, Former Director, Fabindia Session 9: Piyush Chowhan, Chief Information Officer, Arvind Brands Session 10: Unmesh Pawar, Partner, Head - People, Performance and Culture, KPMG

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.”

Session 4

Rajan Sethuraman

Chief People Officer at LatentView Analytics

Mr. Rajan Sethuraman, an alumnus of BITS Pilani and IIM Calcutta has over 20 years of experience in multiple sectors such as Oil & Gas, Health & Public Service Industry and Forensic services and has played different profiles such as management consultant, client service lead and talent acquisition head. Prior to joining Latent View, Mr. Sethuraman has worked in Department of Social Security at Accenture and Forensic practice at KPMG.

Mr. Sethuraman walked the students through his life journey and how his career has transformed after he graduated. Started as a Senior Systems associate, he was into Information Technology and predominantly spent his time coding in different programming languages. It was his stint at Accenture that opened up opportunities in the management consulting space.

mr. Rajan

Mr. Rajan Sethuraman addressing the students of IIM Shillong

Mr. Hemango

Mr. Hemango Kishore Dutta presenting the memento to Mr.

He spoke in detail about the mistakes that he did in his professional career that altered his life. He also highlighted that, as future managers, the outgoing students might not always get to do work that requires them to wear suits and coats all the time. He said that there would be times where one is expected to roll up the sleeve and get down into pit mines to get the work done.

He said that the highly coveted profiles such as management consultants originated in the recent past whose building blocks were made of accounting expertise. While he spoke of different domains and job opportunities, he stressed the importance of attitude which could be the differentiating factor in a world that always respects people who are committed to their work. Mr. Sethuraman also responded to a few queries that the students had and ended the session by saying:

Quote: “A ship in harbour is majestic; but that’s not where it is meant to be. Do not be afraid to take challenges in life”

Session 5

Jyotirmoy Mukherjee

Payment Card Professional

Mr. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee, a payments card industry professional and a veteran marketing manager, has nearly 15 years of experience working with financial services and FMCG companies. The SPJIMR alumnus has held leadership positions in the fields of portfolio management, merchant alliances and partnerships, merchant acquisition, and sales & distribution among others.

His interaction with the students of IIM Shillong pertained to the payments and lending industry, during which he spoke about the new India and the growing opportunities in the space of e-payments. The session began with Mr. Mukherjee discussing the evolution we’ve seen from the barter system to cash and now to digital payments, following which he detailed the types of payments in the economy starting right from government payments and remittances to pre-paid shopping cards.

Mr. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee receiving a memento from Professor Ms. Latha-1

Mr. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee enlightening the students on various intricacies of the Payment and Lending Sector

Mr. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee2

Mr. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee receiving a memento from Professor Ms. Latha

During the interactive session, Mr. Mukherjee highlighted the vast opportunity that digital payments had in India’s economy, given that there are 28-30 million retail outlets across organized and unorganized sectors, with only a tenth being terminalized through Point-of-Sales machines and the likes. Further, emphasizing on the need for greater security with the evolving payments ecosystem, he spoke about the importance of authentication and authorization. He then Mr. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee enlightening the students on various intricacies of the Payment and Lending Sector Mr. Jyotirmoy Mukherjee receiving a memento from Professor Ms. Latha dived deep into the lending scenario in India, sharing with students the stats about increased loan penetration across all mediums. Through the session, the PGDM participants of IIM Shillong gained keen insights on the current payments and lending landscape of India and the opportunities that the sector presents for future growth.

Quote: “Merchant payment system is like the railroad for digital payments in the economy, how else will the trains run?”

Session 6

Mr. Ameya Dangi,

Chief Operating Officer at Hygienic Research Institute (HRIPL)

Mr. Ameya Dangi, an alumnus of Columbia Business School and MDI Gurgaon, is an experienced business leader with a successful track record in the consumer goods industry. He carries around 20 years of experience working with the FMCG sector and has held various sales and marketing roles in firms like Dabur and Johnson & Johnson.

Mr. Dangi shared his marketing experience in the FMCG industry by conducting a session on "Digital vs. Traditional Marketing".

He emphasized the fact that more and more Indians are gaining access to the internet, and how can marketers leverage the use of the digital platform to reach out to and engage with the consumers.

While sharing his views on winning propositions, Mr. Dangi said, "You need to be very clear on what you’re chasing. Key measures are significant for evaluating your marketing decisions. A winning proposition doesn’t stay winning anymore if you get disrupted.”


Mr. Ameya Dangi enlightening the students on the latest marketing methods and channels


The students found the session very interactive and informative

Mr. Dangi highlighted the three moments of truth in consumer parlance - the first moment of truth being when the consumer picks up the product and decides to pay for it, the second moment of truth is when the consumer uses the product and finally the third moment of truth is when they talk well about your product.

He also spoke about how Accessibility, Engagement, Customization, Connection, and Collaboration can help us penetrate our target customer segment.

The students got an opportunity to interact with Mr. Dangi, and discuss the current marketing trends and look beyond the traditional marketing frameworks.

Quote: “Just being unique doesn’t get you your consumer; you have to market yourself in a meaningful manner.”


Mr. Sameer Seth

Director, Marketing - India, Dolby Laboratories

Mr. Sameer Seth is an experienced media professional who has worked with some of the biggest media houses such as CNN-IBN, Star India, and Network18. The IMI alumnus, with over 14 years of experience in the media industry, has led multiple roles like P&L Management, Business Planning, Revenue & Content Strategy, Brand Management, Marketing Communications & Sales.

Mr. Seth conveyed the session on the present trends in the media & communications sector and the science that goes behind marketing a technology brand like Dolby.

Mr. Seth, while sharing some of the vital statistics on the current market scenario in the television industry, touched upon topics like the rising number of Indian television viewership, differentiation factors of TV channels based on urban and rural population, contribution to the total viewership by different channels and content.

He discussed the revenue generation model of the media sector and drew a comparison between the American and Indian market. While American media houses generate most of the revenue through subscription, the Indian market still relies heavily on advertising. He emphasized how marketers can leverage this opportunity and target specific content for advertising to associate it with a particular type of product.

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Mr. Sameer Seth interacting with the students about the Science behind modern Marketing

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Professor Bidyut Gogoi presenting a memento to Mr. Seth

In the following part of the session, Mr. Seth outlined how the Dolby brand has been marketed in India. By sharing the example of 'Bahubali', he showcased how Dolby utilized their sound designers and sound engineers as storytellers to narrate the sound designing process of the film and enhance the overall cinematic experience through Dolby's cutting- edge technology. He even displayed some of their ads to explain the marketing strategies adopted by Dolby to reach out to the common Indian consumer.While interacting with the students, Mr. Seth addressed many of their queries related to media marketing and left them with some provoking thoughts.

Quote: "Even for a marketer, sales has to be the key focus, one needs to find ways of contributing to the top and bottom line of the business".

Session 8

Mr. Sunil Chainani

Former Director, Fabindia

Mr. Sunil Chainani, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, has been working as an individual management consultant for the past 25 years and has been involved with many startups and mid-size businesses as mentor & advisor in varied industries including retail, foods, wellness, digital publishing & IT in and outside India. He has previously worked in senior positions with the top food companies such as Britannia and Nabisco. He has been instrumental in the growth of Fabindia from a 30 cr company to a 1500 cr company by raising funds and in the investment/acquisition of East, Bandhej and Organic India. He has been a guest lecturer at several top business schools in India & Overseas including Harvard and London Business School, and has also been part of many top international forums like World Retail Congress.

Speaking on the topic ‘Inclusive Capitalism’, Mr Chainani opened the session by asking the participants whether they were capitalists. Sharing that he himself is hardcore capitalist, Mr Chainani said, “The only product that I’ve seen people buy regularly because it’s for a good cause is the Christmas cards people buy whose proceeds go to charity”. He also expounded upon the importance of NGOs being transparent in their dealings and for them to set their targets in measurable terms.


Mr. Chainani addressing the students on Inclusive Capitalism


Dr. Rajen Mehrotra presenting Mr. Chainani with a memento

He spoke about his tenure at FabIndia and how the company’s People Oriented Capitalism Model helped build a strong brand that also helped artisans in terms of microfinancing and fair labour wages.  Advocating the need for companies to imbibe the social impact activities as part of their very DNA, Mr Chainani said he didn’t believe in the concept of reserving a percent of the profits for CSR. “2% CSR is charity, not sustainable. What if instead of 2% of profits, 2% of management time could be spent on this? Imagine the impact it would make,” he said, igniting within the students a drive to do more starting now.

Quote: We cannot create a brand without having people down the line believe in it.

Session 9

Piyush Chowhan

Chief Information Officer, Arvind Brands

An experienced professional having worked in the US, UK and India in areas such as Retail Strategy, Business Analytics, and Supply Chain Management, Mr. Piyush Kumar Chowhan is currently the Chief Information Officer of Arvind Brands and is responsible for IT Strategy and Execution of Technology for the overall business. He has previously worked for global retailers such as Walmart, Target, Circuit City, and Tesco, and has strong domain knowledge in Retail, E-commerce & Supply Chain Management. An engineer from NIT Surat and an MBA from Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneshwar, Mr. Chowhan has also worked with Wipro and San Disk in the Supply Chain and Business Analytics domain.

Speaking on the topic, ‘Mindful leadership in the Digital Age’, Mr. Chowhan began the session by asking attendees how they believed technology was changing our lives. Sharing striking statistics from studies about the human mind, he spoke about how the ability of our external environment to influence us is increasing in the digital age, for example, that an average user picks up their phone more than 1,500 times every week. Our smartphones cause us to be distracted and our attempt at multitasking is akin to our brain having too many tabs open. This results in higher fatigue, decreased productivity, and ultimately, stress.


Mr. Chowhan enlightening the students on the importance of realizing oneself


The students engrossed in the interactive session raising various questions

Mr. Chowhan explained how low attention spans and wandering minds have been strongly linked with unhappiness in our lives. “Stress is not something that happens when you are 40 or 50 years old, it is happening to young children today,” he said. Stating the futility of India becoming a $10 trillion economy if the population is diseased by ailments such as depression, the speaker encouraged the participants to exercise every day and prioritize their sleep over their smartphones. He also explained how social connections are vital to a long life and that being able to utilize the power of the brain is an art and skill that cannot be taught.

Quote: “An Olympian only thinks about the race he or she is currently running in, peak performance requires full attention”

Session 10

Unmesh Pawar

Partner, Head - People, Performance and Culture, KPMG

Mr. Pawar is a proven HR Leader with expertise in Human Capital Strategy, Organizational Transformation, and Coaching. He has been successful in building, and leading high-performing internationally dispersed HR Leadership teams, to help meet business outcomes. Before this, Mr. Pawar was Global HR Head for Accenture’s Products Operating Group and Global Managing Director – Talent Acquisition. Therein, he led talent transformation while ensuring all time high employee engagement and retention, and has consistently been voted an employer of choice in the industry.

He has helped build various businesses, and differentiated capabilities in the market place, though designing and deploying complex talent and acquisition strategy, and talent management practices on a global scale. Mr. Pawar talked about Geopolitics and its impact on businesses globally, and highlighted that according to KPMG’s India CEO Outlook 2018, 62% CEOs see emerging markets as the biggest priority for geographical expansion. Additionally, he disucssed about how technology holds the potential to disrupt how businesses are run.


Mr. Pawar introducing the current macroeconomic trends to the students


Mr. Pawar interacting with the students about newer HR strategies

“It is an era of Personalisation; today we have the likes of Uber and Amazon, such is becoming the baseline expectation from the HR Department of an organization in terms of people experience”, said Mr. Pawar. The engaging and dynamic HR professional also shared that with the need to conform to the norms of grappling with mental health issues, organizations need to focus on creating places that give people a chance to be who they are.

Quote: “It is time that companies start promoting the 4R’s of the Personalization Agenda - Recognize, Remember, Recommend and check for Relevance”