I Have An Insatiable Ambition That Never Goes To Sleep – Deepanjan Dutta – Best50 – Class Of 2017
I graduated with a B.Tech in electrical engineering from NIT Durgapur (2007-2011 batch). I worked for a little under 4 years (maybe too long a time by Indian MBA standards) and am now about to graduate with a PGDM (Sustainable Management) from IIM Lucknow. Pre-MBA, I worked for 3 companies, from a behemoth which is the official IT partner of the Olympic Games to a much smaller but terrifically fast growing one – I worked for one of India’s fastest growing Software as a Service, SaaS companies). I worked in a variety of roles as well – very early in my career I realised I truly enjoyed working with people and enjoyed it much more than working with technology. I moved from a software development to an enterprise IT sales role. Moving to a sales role, and also moving to a smaller but very successful company (it was a start-up when I joined and has grown bigger now) has been the single most professional decision I have taken in my life so far. I loved every minute of selling IT solutions to senior management level people in companies, and the company I worked for truly knows how to build a great team and keep the team happy (I am talking pay and perks here).
I got to contribute tangibly, face very senior level clients from very early on in my career and saw my work being reflected in the actual progress of the company. That for me is a far greater feeling than being a very, very small cog in an extremely large wheel.
Facing important clients from such an early stage of my career also rubbed off positively in other ways – I learnt how to sell and how to sell well. I believe at each stage of life, and indeed at every moment, we are either selling or being sold to; and such skills help a person tremendously professionally.
However, I soon realised that adding value through MBA was a great option and one that I was indeed looking forward to. While I think sustainable management is the management of the future (businesses will have to produce profits more and more responsibly as time goes on), at business school, I have taken to marketing like a fish to water. I have also developed a strong love for academia and intend to do something tangible about it (but more on that some other time). I have been part of teams that have been national top 10 in various marketing competitions, I have been chosen in the top 5 management students in India at an All India Management Association event, have been one of two students from Indian business schools to intern on the National Voluntary Guidelines (NVG) re-drawing committee of the Government of India and the Tata Group, been part of the team that won Wipro Earthian 2016 (one of India’s most prominent business sustainability titles) and have also gathered a lot of world experience during my time at business school.
I went to the US on a prestigious fellowship (even referred to as ‘Junior Davos’ by CNN) during the time between my first and second years. I was invited to an international conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina to present one of my co-authored papers. I also went to Copenhagen Business School and Aalborg University in Denmark and Linnaeus University in Sweden as part of the International Immersion program of IIM Lucknow for PGP SM. Right now, as we speak, I am attending an international summit in Bali, Indonesia as an invited delegate. International experiences are absolutely great, – you make very good friends from around the world, get to experience different cultures, learn a tremendous amount about business, management, technology as well as customs and beliefs of different countries. What such experiences do is open up your mind, make you much more aware of the world we live in and help you look at things in a way different from your peers.
I think the one thing that defines me the most is hunger – both literally as well as figuratively. I have an insatiable ambition that never goes to sleep, and I can also probably eat more food, more consistently than anyone else I know (just makes me very glad I have a very fast metabolism!)
I am supposed to join a Malaysian company in Kuala Lumpur in March 2017 as one of the Key Account Managers for APAC region and I am looking forward to the opportunity.
Give us an instance when you failed miserably and how did you overcome that downfall?
While I had a reasonably well paying job (having changed roles as well and moved into sales and business development) after my B.Tech, I wanted to add value to my profile and get into a top business school of the country. In spite of putting in a lot of effort, I did not get the desired percentile in CAT in my first attempt by a whisker. My work was very hectic, requiring me to put in 9-10 hours a day, with another 2-3 hours of travelling. However, rather than giving up, I decided to overcome this obstacle and began putting in even more effort. I remember studying every day from 10 in the night to 3 in the morning, then getting up at 8, travelling to the office, working the entire day, travelling back, again studying the entire night out and so on.
Another example would be when I had an outbreak of chicken pox on the day before my grade 12 exams. I remember choosing to go through the entire 1-month long examination schedule in quarantine rather than opting to lose precious months by giving the exam later, and I remember shivering into the quarantine exam centre with a high fever on the first morning of my exams. I came 2nd in my school in the exams overall, and I believe grit had a huge role to play in it.
What is the biggest risk that you have taken so far and why?
This would be my choice of graduate business program. Post-CAT 2014, I had PGP calls from a number of top b-schools (both IIMs as well as other top b-schools in the country). I converted all the calls I had and got admission offers from the schools. However, I chose PGP in Sustainable Management (PGP SM) at IIM Lucknow. This was the first year of the program and I would be the first batch. I took this risk based on a number of factors – vision, my personal ambitions in that direction and conviction that I will be able to make the most of the opportunity. I was completely confident of the fact that businesses are realising more and more that they not only have to generate profits but do so responsibly. I also wanted to be a driver of this change. I am a firm believer of the power of business to bring about far-reaching positive change. With this vision in place, and with my conviction that I would be able to make significant contributions in this regard, I took the risk of joining this new program that has the potential to shape my entire career. Like I mentioned before, I have fallen in love with marketing while at business school, and intend to combine sustainability and marketing for my future career.
If you had a magic wand, what is the one problem in India that you would magically wish away?
Inequality and uneven distribution of resources (the gap between the have and the have-nots) is the problem I would like to solve. In this regard, I would use business as my main instrument to bring about the change. I believe the corporate business entity is the biggest influence on the quality of life of people in a country. It is time businesses not only earn profits but do so responsibly – towards the environment (from which they are taking resources) and the people whose lives they are changing. I want to shape businesses to focus on a triple bottom line (people, planet and profit). I chose my major as sustainability for this very reason. However, this task will require a strong knowledge of both business and of incorporating sustainability into business. My training at business school is equipping me with both so as to be able to bring about this paradigm shift. India is not a country that doesn’t have resources; the major problem, as I mentioned, is disparity and inequity. I want to bridge this gap, and, as I also mentioned, my major tool is a responsible business. Towards this end, I am also associated (in an adjunct fashion) with an organisation that is putting in place a completely new business model – one that empowers the BoP segment (we work in villages in India to provide inputs and skills) and sells the socially responsible products so produced to higher income segments; changing lives across the value chain for the better. I believe completely in this power of business to do well by doing good and that is how I intend to solve what in my mind is India’s biggest problem and shape India’s future.