Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Prof Bala Balachandran

Brief Background
Prof Bala Balachandran was my Professor during the Executive MBA program at the Kellogg School of Management. He is based out of Chicago but travels around the world frequently. I have gotten to know him over the last 2 years. I also had a chance to catch up with him in Chennai last December on a business trip.

He is on the Boards of several Indian companies including Godrej and CRISIL. He is also Chairman of the Board of ALLSEC Technologies – a global consulting and call center company with over 2,400 professionals headquartered in Chennai and operating in New Jersey, India, and Jamaica. Prof Balachandran has been honored with the prestigious Padmashri Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by Government of India for Excellence in Education and Literature. He is also the founder of the Great Lakes Institute of Management, a global business school, in Chennai, India.

His first foray in Indian management schools first started in 1991 – when he created the management program at Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon. Then, around 1997 he played a major role in forming the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad along with Rajat Gupta (then CEO of McKinsey). Finally, he founded the Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai in 2004.

Dr Bala’s MBA School - Great Lakes Institute of Management
Great Lakes has several luminaries on its advisory board. Ratan Tata, Madhur Bajaj, Kumaramangalam Birla, G.P. Goenka, Indira Nooyi -CEO of Pepsi, Narayana Murthy of Infosys, Deepak Parekh - Chairman of HDFC, S Ramadorai - CEO of TCS, Ravi Venkatesan - Chairman of Microsoft India are on the advisory board of the school. He is also closely associated with President Jimmy Carter in the "Habitat for Humanity" program.

His students at Great Lakes call him “Uncle Bala”. Dr Bala states that the school is innovative in its approach to education
a) The curriculum requires students to work closely with NGO’s – thus nurturing corporate social responsibility
b) There are horizontal (marketing, finance, etc) and vertical (industry) specializations. Finance in a family run business is different than Finance in an investment bank
c) Emphasis on applied (empirical) research
d) Students learn Chinese as part of the course. Dr Bala recognizes that China is growing into a powerful force and is preparing students to be ready to take advantage of opportunities
e) He ensures that Professors have a good blend of teaching, consulting and research (publishing papers)

His views
Prof Bala is a fan of the partha system. Partha is a system of accounting that was developed in Marwari culture that permeated many Indian businesses, and its principles still influence the accounting and financial structure of Birla (mega Indian business house). Partha is a manual system to determine input costs and the daily cash flows. In 2001, Kumar Mangalam Birla (8th youngest billionaire outside of India with a net worth of $9 billion) hired the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to install its Cash flow Return on Investment (CFROI) metric, which functions as a kind of computer-spreadsheet era version of partha.

Prof Bala states that he likes the partha system since many times companies with excellent bottom line, great EPS fool experts because they fail to notice the horrible cash flow issues. Partha catches that right upfront.

He mentions that generally people measure costs, manage costs and execute process improvements. He states that they should go further and use cost as a weapon for supremacy or leadership. Cost has to be understood to find opportunities and uncover risks where one is vulnerable. Of course one needs to look to increase top line (revenues) as well – however, if one does not understand their cost structure and its allocations (fixed, variable, direct, indirect) across the various product lines – it would severely restrict growth or cause the company to fold. He says when it comes to strategic cost management, the need is to identify various business drivers like value drivers, revenue drivers and cost drivers.

His plans
At over 70 plus years, Dr Bala is a man in a hurry. He teaches at Kellogg and is also very involved with Great Lakes. He is always on the move. He is eager to move Great Lakes into the bigger 18 acre facility – that will be ready in 2008.

Finally, I have been invited by Dr Bala to give a talk at his business management school (Great Lakes). I am absolutely delighted and honored by this offer. I do plan to give a talk during my next visit to India – sometime in 2008.


manik1383 said...

Hi, Nice to see you being so excited abt visiting Great LAkes. Looking forward to seeing you at Campus.

manik1383 said...
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manik1383 said...
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rcvenkat said...

Great to hear from a US student of Prof.Bala.For us in Chennai he is a legendary figure.Based on his track record, we are very sure that Great Lakes will emerge as a trend setter in this century and will offer a trendy management education.

CA Venkat Narayanan

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