Candid Interview with Dr. Sudhir Sharan
Edited by – Ganeshraj R
Dr. Sudhir Sharan
Ganeshraj : Good Morning Sir.
Sudhir Sir : Good Morning.
Ganeshraj : I would like to take an interview about your personal and academic life.
Sudhir Sir : Okay.
Ganeshraj : So let me go the questions right away. First, could you tell me something about yourself?.
Sudhir Sir : Ahh, okay. You know I am Sudhir Sharan and I had a big family, 4 brothers and 2 sisters. I’m fourth of the brothers. So, 1 of my brothers went to Canada for his PhD and he was back in ’69 when I was a teenager, so my father told my brother, now you take care of guiding him. So my brother said, “Alright, we’ll have a rule for him, As long as he keeps on getting a scholarship, we’ll let him study and not share the financial burdens of the family”. So that was the defining thing for me at the age of 16 and that is it. Rest of me is a product of what my brother shaped for me.
Ganeshraj : Okay, sir. So, Can you please share something about your academics and areas of interest?.
Sudhir Sir : Academically I had a diverse base because of what I said.. was different for me as a teenager than most other people of my time. So, I had a strong interest in life sciences so I did a honors in geology with a university rank. Then my brother said “You’re not doing so well in annual system as you will in American system of education”. So, I went to India’s best, perhaps Asia’s best university for Agricultural Sciences, Govind Ballabh Pant university in nainital, Uttar Pradesh. So, I was a merit student, I had a scholarship as I had said, I hadn’t paid for myself. Then I got an agricultural economics education because I realised that’s very important for my future. Which brought me to realizing the significance of studying management, so I went to the best the country has, IIM Ahmedabad for my MBA. Finished in 2 years, 78-80. Lovely teachers, very good. And then later on, I decided to complete my PhD so I had a ambitious topic for my Phd, International Strategic Management so that shaped me. After that I got a corporate job and I had a telecomm moment. I’m happy that I brought telephony.. mobile telephony to this country, in my own small way. Ahh.. then I taught. I’m very happy to tell you that some of my students, about.. lets say 4 out of a class of 40 every year from 1986 to ’96 when I was in BIT are in fortune 500 companies. For example, One of the students who passed in 1987 is a head of.. Global head of Strategic decisions in Cognizant next door, so that’s about it.
Ganeshraj : So sir, you have a very deep association with.. ahh.. Strategic management. So could you elaborate about Strategic Management.. a bit about its theories.
Sudhir Sir: Okay, you see management is all about making decisions. God has made us such that we have to keep on choosing every moment of our life, including whether to live or not. That’s a decision, some people take the adverse and end living. So michael porter in 1980’s , early 80’s .. you know.. realised a lot can be done in the World of Business. He rejuvenated Adam Smith. Adam Smith investigated what are the causes of Wealth of nations. So, he says, “What are the causes of competitive advantage?”. So that is the birth of Strategy, I loved it and I see its application. You see, we are going to breathe, for example, If I’m strategically oriented, I will invent pranayama and yogis have made so many lives so much better and have made millions for themselves as well, created wealth. So that’s how I see the power of strategy for everyone. That’s why I like it. That’s my passion.
Ganeshraj : And coming to your teaching life, So how has your teaching career gone about and tell us a bit about your teaching profession at SCIT.
Sudhir Sir: Okay. So, I came to teaching by a very strange reason. I went to JK Paper mills giving up a P&G position.. I had a sort of PPO from P&G because of my internship work which I had done.. they were very happy. It was a totally, thoroughly implementable.. you know.. report which I had given. So they wanted more. But one of my teachers said, “MNCs will find good managers. Why don’t you think of an Indian company to contribute”. So JK’s were thinking of professionalizing because they were fearing the family would break up, that was 1980. JK did break up, division of assets did happen 7 years down the line. It’s a recorded historic event. So.. you know.. I came very happy as a young man, inexperienced to the campus and told my teacher, “See, I’ve got three promotions, I’m in the balance sheet at a record time.” The dream for us MBAs in those days.. you know.. that my name should be on the balance sheet in schedule 6. So, there was 1 of 5 professors who built the brand of IIM Ahmedabad, Professor Ravi J. Matthai. So he said, “Sudhir, what is so great about it? We have trained you guys for these corporate achievements. Have you ever wondered, from where will the next generation of teachers come?”. And he got to brainwashing me, I was a PGP student trained for managing. Our fellow programme students FPM students, they are trained for teaching. I’m not a FPM student, IIM Ahmedabad. But I came to teaching. I came back, gave up my corporate job.. decided a life of trials and tribulations.. particularly financially, I would have been.. you know.. very different financially in a corporate life than I would be. So, thanks to him, I accepted and as I said, my students have done me really proud.. really proud.. these were worth years worth. I kept on teaching, my brother helped. He was teaching at IIT Kanpur, he helped a lot in keeping me in the cutting edge of management science, you know.. so that happened. I came to SCIT last year because I finished the hectic part of academic administration which I picked up in the second phase.. After my PhD and corporate job, I started to academic administration then I said now let the younger people lead be directors, deans. I wanted a pure teaching, research profile. Professor Raman was very adventurous, he got me here. And I find the students are really very good, in the sense that they let me teach.. so, I’m happy about my tenure here. I’m teaching the Strategic management for the second time here and I’m sure this time with my experience of so many years, my alumni from SCIT will do me far more glory than BIT students have done.
Ganeshraj : Very nice sir. So lets come over to your hobbies a bit. I heard you have lots of interest in botany and do a lot of planting, gardening.. so..
Sudhir Sir: hah.. ahh yes, traditionally speaking, what I do in my non work hours is hobby.. but its much bigger than that.. you see, the basic thesis is simply like this.. In the last 60 years, lots has changed. In my great great grandfather’s time, where were the farm? It was on the fringe of a forest or on a clearing inside a forest. So when monsoon came, the humus, the organic matter will be washed and deposited in my farm a centimetre.. 2 centimeter, 3 cenimeter thick layer of it and I will have desi seeds.. you know.. and they will grow in the natural cycle. That is what I eat. They got all the 16 essential plant nutrients in the ratio nature wanted it to have, with the help of all the micro-organisms. So physically, ideal grow medium, chemically.. ideal grow medium, biologically ideal grow medium.. they got in my great great grandfather’s time. Over time, we have deforested.. now the nearest forest is a few kilometres or a few hundreds of kilometers away, there is construction and you know the natural water paths have been blocked by construction.. floods are one punishment nature gives me, landslides is another 1 that it gives me.. forget that side. So.. now here land has been really abused due to what we call, in America, Industrial Farming.. and in India, Intensive farming. So, I do not give anything other than which do you mean by a profit motive.. to the soil. I provide nitrogen because it is good for the leaf, I provide phosphorus which is good for the root, I provide potassium which is good for the fruits.. depending upon what I am growing.. potato or spinach or tomato.. I’ll put these three things in abundant quantity, I lot of it will wash off.. go.. pollute the water.. things.. forget it, farmer doesn’t care, nobody else cares perhaps. So.. I wanted as an urbanite to set this right as the first thing you see the second thing which has changed.. allow me to say this.. the man is not so much the same today because of the modern civilization and IT’s impact on life. Today we are cave workers and I do 80 % of my work with neurons and my brain! Only 20 % of work with tissue and cell.. you know.. muscles. Whereas in my great grandfathers time, it was just the reverse.. 20 – 80 . So, all those thing that you call as my hobby.. is ahh you know.. the things which I’m inventing like we have found a super nutrient solution, super crops.. and I grow it which is ideal for people and maybe next year.. when I’m.. you know.. reaching a point where I have to decide how much teaching and how much this one.. So, I want to give this one a chance and get right food for cave workers.
Ganeshraj : That’s most certainly more than just a hobby sir! So, would you like to say something to your students of SCIT through this interview?.
Sudhir Sir : Yes.. ahh.. the students I’ll say this much is that .. ahh.. responsibility is too much! Challenges of the individual are far greater today! Your actions have been leveraged by the environment. When I made a good move, I got rewarded in tens and hundreds, when you make a good move, you’ll be rewarded in millions and billions. So please remember, the power of thought and .. self-control.
Ganeshraj : Well said sir! And for the final question. Please describe yourself in one word Sir.
Sudhir Sir : “Passionate about life”. A phrase, not a word
Ganeshraj : Thank you Sir. Thankyou, for your time. It was good having this conversation with you.
Sudhir Sir : Thank you .