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'Don't hold back, give it your all'

 

...says Anil Kumar Jagirdar, Principal Consultant at PwC and an alumnus of
IIM Shillong. In an interview with Kalyani Majumdar, Anil talks about his decision to pursue an MBA and what it takes to make a career in Operations.

 

Q. Tell us about your academic journey from Biotechnology to MBA.
During the time when I was studying B Tech. Biotechnology from CBIT, Osmania University, I always wondered what would be the business that this product could generate if it cleared the R & D.  Most of the engineering students throughout the graduation period focussed on the technical festivals, so whenever there was a technical fest in the college these students would participate and present their technical papers. But there were few students including me that always focussed on business papers. Throughout my engineering I think I have attended around ten business plan competitions and a significant portion of it was cooperating with MBA students on business plans and that was a great learning for me. Thus, I knew that I wanted to focus on the business of biotechnology and not so much on the technical aspect of it. So, by the end of third year, I wanted to explore how to commercialise a product. Thus, MBA was the next step for me.

Q. You did a PGDM in Operations Management from IIM Shillong. Tell us a bit about the interview procedure.
IIM Shillong gives substantial value to ethics and sustainability and it is one of their fundamental philosophies as one day you will take a top management role in a firm. So, the group discussion was based on ethical factors. It is their way of testing a candidate on certain aspects, such as, how do you balance out your company objective versus your employee welfare versus environmental sustainability. My personal interview was all around my business plan. I didn’t need to convince the panels that I am passionate about business. So, you have to provide substantial evidence to show why MBA is relevant for you. 

Q. You worked as a Manager- Operations with Apollo Hospitals. Was getting into the Healthcare sector part of your plan?
During the placement interviews at IIM Shillong, I was quite selective about my job role, as I wanted to join an organisation where I could run the business. Although, I got placed in couple of firms, what made me join Apollo Hospitals was because the job role that they were offering was to run the business unit. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity because at the end of the day speaking about business is one thing but running a business is a very different experience. Thus, healthcare was not my strategic choice, but running a business was. I got that particular role in healthcare sector and I took that opportunity. The more I got involved with healthcare, the more I found it as a very fulfilling sector to work in.

Q. Explain a little bit about your work in PwC?
At PwC, I have three primary duties. Firstly, due diligence, and this would entail assessing the health of the asset through operational and commercial due diligence. Secondly, I handle strategy, wherein I look at the feasibility of a health facility, what kind of capital infrastructure we need for it, when it would reach an operating breakeven point and so on. Thirdly, I look after operational transformation. What we do is either with private equity or with the hospital promoters we take up assets that are not performing well and we turn it around to make it more profitable in a given span of time. So, we go and take over the unit, roll out initiatives and ensure that it is implemented. Once all the initiatives are rolled out we come out.

Q. What kind of aptitude one must have to be successful in Operations?
Someone who is ready to roll up the sleeve and walk on the shop floor will be well suited in Operations, as it is not a desk job. If it is a factory you have to get on the floor and see what is working, speak to the employees understand what is going on, and take suggestions from them because most of the time the professional suggestions will come from an employee from the shop floor. Understand what went wrong and what worked well. Thus, it is very important to be people friendly as you will have to work with a lot of human resource. You must have a keen eye for quality. You must be passionate about understanding the needs of the customer and take regular feedbacks from them. And one must have a passion for innovation. If you continue to run the things the same way nothing is ever going to improve. You have to continuously innovate and upgrade. If you like spending days working on excel sheets and make PPTs then it might not be the job for you. It is a job that needs you to be on the ground and change things. It can go right or wrong and whenever something goes wrong you have to be brave and take decisions. Also, you have to be a good team leader and give credit to the team when things go well.

Q. Given that AI and Machine Learning are cutting across corporate India, how much of this is impacting Operations?
There is a huge impact. For instance, if I take healthcare, things that were manual are now automated. Our focus in operations is always to ensure that it is process oriented and not people oriented, because you can track a process but you cannot track people. Every person behaves in a different manner, so how much of it can be standardised? And, if we can’t standardise it, can we use digitisation to standardise the way people behave? For every process if there are ten steps 20 to 30 percent of the steps are getting automated. Things are getting more standardised. Now, there are robots to draw blood from a patient, however it is not that cost effective in India as human labour is still very cheap compared to a robot.  There are robots to dispense pharmacy. The medicine is analysed by the robot. Thus, we are eliminating a pharmacist and more importantly we are trying to eliminate a human error. These days, once your MRI is done, we have AI algorithms ready to give you a print of the report as soon as the scan is complete. So we are eliminating the need for radiologists and there has always been a scarcity of radiologists in India. Like healthcare, in all other sectors too, Operations is being impacted in similar manner.

Q. What do you think of management education in general?
Some of the good B Schools provide significant amount of learning to the students in terms of live projects. As far as theory is concerned most B Schools are fine. However, a good B School brings the real world to the students and helps them to solve real world problems, so that when they go out in the professional world they know what to expect. Some of the top Indian B Schools are able to bring in very good case studies. And, it is a fact that the quality of students coming out from a B School depends on the kind of exposure they had. The challenge is for those B Schools that are treating a management course as a professional degree. Management is all about the real world experience and it is very important for the students to get exposed to the idea of how to apply it in the industry. In Harvard and Stanford most of the professors that are teaching are also on the board of companies and therefore, they are bringing in their industry experiences to the students and that matters a lot. We need more of that in all the Indian B Schools.

Q. How has MBA changed you as a person?
MBA gives you a set of tools to manage every aspect of your life. From there, it is all about how you take it to the next level. MBA gave me clarity of thought that is needed for decision making. It helped me to focus effectively, for instance where do I start a project, what are the ways to attain success in that project, how do I define the contours of a problem and so on. You interact with so many people from different backgrounds while doing an MBA that your realm of knowledge regarding the world grows significantly. You do a lot of group case studies. You get to hear different approaches. So, you are exposed to so many perspectives. Then you can form your own perspectives based on the wealth of knowledge that you accumulate in the span of two years.