Dr. Asim Talukdar draws the line between excellence and success while revealing how the passion for people shaped his career
Dr. Asim Talukdar, Associate Professor at JGBS, had a flourishing career in industry where he worked on challenging projects with brands like Maruti and Pepsi. But he asserts his passion lies in academia and teaching. In particular, Human Resources – a stream he took to after completing his PGDM from IIM Kolkata. After majoring in Marketing, he pursued his interest in HR with PhD research. He is considered an expert in the field. Here we talk to him about his love for HR, industry career, and JGBS initiatives which prepare students for lucrative industry placements.
Q: After majoring with Marketing during your PGDM, how did you venture into HR?
A: I would credit the transition to my prof. Anil Sen Gupta and Prof. Vinod Kumar from IIM Calcutta, who greatly influenced me. They belonged to Human Resources and OB, and they honed my interest in the subjects. After my PGDM, I started working with Indian Aluminium Company. There Mr. Ajit Mitra, General Manager of the company, became my Godfather. His love for people and transformational leadership style deeply influenced my thinking. I realized my passion for people is far superior to selling products.
Q: Talking about your industry career, you have worked with big names like Maruti and Pepsi. What were the biggest challenges you faced and achievements in your career?
A: I believe your career is not just about the brands you work with but the opportunities you get. For example, I was part of the core leadership team at Maruti when the impact of globalization set in. India was a great attraction for global car makers and Maruti was threatened. Employees were deeply concerned and managing that change was a challenge. In 1999–2000, Maruti had a loss of 173 in 1999-2000 crores but the next year we made a profit of 262 crores. That was a huge challenge. Similarly, with Pepsi, challenges in people issues to change management of transforming a major part of the company to COBO (Co. owned business operation) from franchised business operation was great learning and led to satisfying moments.
Q: How do you bring your industry experience to the classroom and make HR topics more relatable to students?
A: Today it’s a challenge because knowledge is easily available and even looking for people, rather than people looking for it. Through Internet and other means, it is quickly reaching out to people. The challenge for the faculty is to present knowledge and learning process in an interesting manner to students. I rely on storytelling, often selecting several examples from industry to discuss complex subjects and make them relatable to students’ daily live experiences. Whenever I have to do PPTs, I share them with students in advance so that we can engage in discussions in the class room and learn. This way I act as a facilitator enabling students’ learning.
Q: What would be your advice to students who want to make their career in Marketing?
The first thing I tell students is that excellence and success are not inter-dependent. Excellence is a function of intrinsic factors, while both intrinsic and extrinsic factors are involved in success. Outside factors can lead to success, but it’s your intrinsic abilities that can impact the extrinsic factors and make your success sustainable. When you are into selling, it has to be a passion and you have to work in your area of strength. You don’t have to try and do everything; focus on what you are good at and the rest will follow.
Q: Among your many responsibilities, you are also the Placement Head at JGBS. Can you tell us about the initiatives taken by the B-School to raise the bar with placements?
We are very clear about the fact that placements should be student driven, and not institute driven. That’s because today’s students know their dreams very well and are quite focused on realizing them. We also try and groom them so that they become assets to the organizations they would be working in. Their performance then works as a magnetic power drawing employers to the campus to recruit more students like them. Finally, we are working on placements through the internship route. From Pepsi and Maruti to Oberoi Group and L&T, our students have many exciting opportunities to impress big-name future employers.