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IIPM Alumni & Placements

Standing tall - through the tides of time

Ashim Sanyal
COO, VOICE
Batch 1980-1982

The Greek legend- Plato, once said, “The soul of a man is immortal and imperishable”. It is not the cars, not the watches, not the other flashy accessories or gadgets of Gen-Y, that we will take with us when we depart from life. It is solely a memory that we leave behind for others and even that fades away with time. What actually remains is the respect you have earned and the changes you brought about that not only influenced your life, but also others. It is purely the reason that some birth and death anniversaries are celebrated or mourned respectively, worldwide.

Mr. Ashim Sanyal has lived a life that brings forth Plato’s thoughts into erstwhile limelight. He is surrounded by an intense nostalgia about IIPM as we begin our conversation. “It was really exciting to be part of IIPM as I was from the initial batches that graduated”. The IIPM campus was the only building in the surrounding and Mr. Sanyal commuted as a day scholar. Referring to the mammoth heroics of Dr. MK Chaudhuri, he adds, “I feel glad today that I was part of the great dreamer’s dream and Dr. MK Chaudhuri was the Midas touch for shaping up IIPM culture”. He states that the IIPM days taught him how to live as he also learned to become confident . “The reason we are successful as a whole group is because we learned it the hard way Professors used to travel all the way to teach us, weather conditions were tough, but what we learned will never be the same for other batches”, he says. This was a sort of life story that continued even after passing out from IIPM. Mr. Sanyal joined Agri India Ltd. as his first corporate stint where he was a Management Trainee. His next job was with Graphics India Ltd. which soon became Modi Xerox. “I was based in Lucknow and helped setting up the Xerox operations in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh”. After 3.5 years there, Mr. Sanyal moved to an automation firm known as PCL. “I joined them because I thought I am well groomed for office automation and my first mantra had always been to join not an elite set up for money but to join where I had the provision to grow”. He remembers how the Indian economy back then was closed but the automation sector was very much open. It was from here that the major change in Mr. Sanyal’s life unfolded as he got selected as the National Head of marketing for the glass manufacturing unit at Alembic Industries. “Their glassware range Yera became a household name in the country during the 9.5 years of my tenure”. He spearheaded all the brand building exercises which was not an easy task back then and further more tedious was to sustain brand loyalty. He proudly adds, “Yera, till date has been a success story”. Mr. Sanyal then moved to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to set up a glass manufacturing plant that made both consumer glassware and industrial glassware. Later, the sales sky rocketed as well and he went on to set up another plant in Dubai. Mr. Sanyal then managed their Milan and Paris offices for the company’s European holdings. “Overall, I spent 8.5 years in Europe and Middle East”. He then returned to India because of his ailing father suffering from cancer. He then traveled back to Bahrain, Jeddah, and also spent three years in New York.

“I FEEL GLAD TO BE PART OF GREAT DREAMER’S DREAM & dr . mk cHAUDHURI WAS THE MIDAS TOUCH”

After all these exclusive international stints, Mr. Sanyal joined Tata AIG in India in 2002 as a senior consultant. And, when most men would think they have done and achieved enough, Mr. Sanyal hardly stagnated, He opened his own marketing organisation named Diamond Enterprise that marketed glassware pan India. He is honest to confess, “I could not sustain the enterprise despite making huge amount of money”. Since he felt that insurance was never his cup of tea, and so he joined The Park Group as CEO and since the hospitality business was not a big market, it was quite a stiff challenge back then. He kept going from strength to strength, and like a river, just kept flowing with exuberance. And like he said before, elite groups and big names never motivated him and he was always looking at improvement scopes, he joined a small logistics company and shifted to Mumbai as their CEO. “I handled the complete transformation of the company in terms of turn over, and when I left the company, it had turned upside down in terms of computerisation and fleet management”, he adds. He also set up lots of other facilities for the company during his stay and also the turn around of the company from INR 7 billion to INR 11 billion is credited to him.

What was next was Teaching... He taught at Delhi University and Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan for almost a year, as teaching was always one of his many passions.

 
This was when the owners of Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) approached him. He opines, “I had grown well in my career thus far, so I decided to join the social sector as VOICE needed a professional takeover”. This shows how accurate Mr. Sanyal is in terms of analyzing his growth and it is wisdom like this that has taken him to the position he holds today. He adds how in advanced countries social sector plays a massive role in politics and regulations, and also impacts people and economy. So his new journey in the social sector began in 2007 with VOICE. Mr. Sanyal has held the office of CEO, CFO, and Secretary at VOICE ever since with his primary goal being transforming VOICE into a thorough professional organisation. “India had a huge scope in a social sector turn around and VOICE was not a foundation but an organisation”, he affirms. And all his valour has paid dividends because VOICE is the only organisation of our generation which is within the regulatory frameworks of the Indian government- ministries, international bodies like WHO, regulatory authorities like ISO, TRA I, and standardisation bodies as well. Mr. Sanyal believes that VOICE has experienced a complete turn around in the last three years or so. There are advocacy bodies for VOICE at different locations and he is pleased to share with us that VOICE magazine is now on the threshold of crossing one million mark. “It’s a one of a kind magazine and we do not feature any commercial print advertisements”, he remarks. He then tells us about the sister organisation of VOICE named National Consumer Helpline which launched the ‘jaago grahak jaago’ campaigns across India. The campaign has uplifted the awareness amongst consumers particularly in rural India. He adds, “It is based in Delhi School of Economics with a 24-hour helpline number to aid consumers”.

And after all these years of constant growth, Mr. Sanyal discloses that he is really proud of his roots as it is these roots that have given him the power to survive, think, act-react, struggle in difficult circumstances, and all these are essential for becoming an able manager. “To survive, grow and unleash the power of knowledge, you have to go through learning process which are bottomless, and hence my learning process has been ongoing and never ending”, he exults. We then move on to find out what leadership style and traits will a complete man like him possess. He is prompt to respond, “Theory X and Theory Y! Theory Y is successful and you should decentralise every part of your business operations. Theory X comes into the picture when you handle projects that are your brainchild”. Still he believes that openness always is a better option and that has been his leadership style from the word go. He warns that if a leader has an ideology that is rooted to any one particular theory survival of business is near impossible.
 


Coming on to how the corporate sector can co-operate with VOICE, Mr. Sanyal feels that the first and foremost thing is to enhance consumer education and empowerment. “It has nothing to do with CSR. It is all about sparing some money for social causes, as an amalgamation of philanthropy and CSR”, he asserts. He also believes that today there are only glimpses of CSR in certain MNCs and in India it is still a concept. Mr. Sanyal states that for a corporation to contribute towards consumer education, the only thing needed is a big heart. “You do not need big budgets or some board of directors. Only a solid agenda is enough which needs to be worked upon”. According to Mr. Sanyal, in India, we are still rooted at developing the under developed but the over all outlook of consumer education is a little higher than basic issues like poverty.

Elaborating more about VOICE, Mr. Sanyal adds that VOICE has recently convinced many institutes to join hands with their cause and they will impart training to them. “I think there is a huge scope for students to join the the social sector but at the same time it is important to understand the social sector”, he clarifies. Speaking ahead, Mr. Sanyal says that the social sector is a domain where the individual is there to contribute to a particular cause. The corporate sector functions are based on monetary gains whereas in the social sector you have to give, in order to gain. For people who are a little circumspect about the social sector, Mr. Sanyal points out that most social sector organisations offer reasonable amount of money. He urges, “My advice would be to get proper orientation on and about the sector, and believe that even if you earn less you will earn more respect and feel comfortable”. Coming back to some of the functional structures within VOICE, Mr. Sanyal says, “There are strong legal, editorial, and marketing teams along with a dedicated accounts department which is crucial as VOICE handles a lot of foreign funds. So in essence it is similar to the corporate sector”. But he is quick to bring to the fore the idea that in social sector the recognition value is manifold when one works hard and achieves the desired results.

“actions are generaly pla nned but it is the reactions that test the presence of mind”

Raising his thoughts about the role of the government, Mr. Sanyal admits that for a nation to survive, judiciary is necessary, hence VOICE is trying to refine the judiciary through movements and ideas. The entire consumer protection is dealing with judicial procedures. He opines, “The thumb rule is that the entire judiciary must be free from political clutches, and it is the politics that needs to be blamed for the ill effects of the judiciary”.

Mr. Sanyal then speaks on the ongoing furore with Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal Bill stating that VOICE has given full support to all anti-corruption initiatives. “There cannot be a single bill to curb corruption, but at least it is a first step forward in the right direction”. Speaking on the current level of loopholes in consumer education in India, he quips with a hint of humour, “There are no loopholes in consumer education because consumer education does not exist”. He feels that unless consumer education becomes a part of the education curriculum across the country, it will just remain a jargon. And it is important to keep in mind that consumer education is not merely about spreading awareness to the rural folks about products. The idea is that even the rich and educated residing in urban locales and enjoying high standard of living, are not fully aware. These sections may not be aware, but in reality spreading awareness about avoiding junk food from McDonald’s, KFC, etc and drinking Coca Cola or Pepsi that causes a lot of metabolic imbalances, is also part of consumer education.

Mr. Sanyal goes on to add that the vision and mission for social sectors is entirely different from the corporate sector. “The first mission is to survive, so that we can continue to fight and struggle on”, he says. And like that effervescent river that flows on without fanciful tantrums, Mr. Sanyal is crisp and clear about global exposure, “Any form of higher education requires exposure outside the campus to get new ideas, and it does not always have to be ‘global’, as the whole globe has now come to India itself ”. He also feels that at the same time it is crucial to
Speaking on the ideals of corporate grooming, Mr. Sanyal has some essential advice to share with the current generation. “Do everything confidently, as confidence can transform individuals from mediocre to top notch. Confidence has to be imbibed from within”. Next, he feels comes application, “It is about the application of mind and the learning, which when combined together, can work wonders”. Presence of mind comes next, “In today’s business world, you are supposed to act and react to situations. Actions are generally planned but it is the reactions that test the presence of mind. The faster you react, the better for your organisation”. The next vital thing is always taking people together. Then comes, motivation. “A good leader is someone who can motivate, and you can motivate only when you are motivated”. Up next is physical attributes, “It always contributes a great deal. When you carry yourself well, half of the battle is won”.

On the right career progression, Mr. Sanyal says that when you get into a job, it is imperative to remember that the initial five years will always be a struggle and one has to learn to weather that storm. “The first phase comprises grooming yourself and becoming more confident through learning”, he adds. Then the next five years are about consolidation of what one has learned. “If you did not do so in these ten years, then you might get messed up”. He thinks that one should look after his/her growth for the next five years, only after these first ten years are over. After 15 years, the next five years is again about consolidation but this is consolidation with changes. “Beyond 20 years, it is all God’s grace, and the idea is to carry on rather than pushing your way through”, he urges.

About the journey of life, Mr. Sanyal opines, “It may have something to do with being born in India which makes us believe that there is no end to this world. The Bhagwad Geeta, Quran, Guru Granth Sahib, Bible etc are not some spiritual or meta fictional writings and teachings, I think they are factual”. And this he feels is a fact irrespective of any acceptance or approval.

Talking about the fuel that drives life, passion, Mr. Sanyal tells us, “My passion was traveling but now it has changed to being at home and relaxing with my family. My other passion is the social sector”. And if passion is the fuel that drives life, dreams are something that fuel passion. On that, Mr. Sanyal points out, “There cannot be a limit of just one dream. I have achieved a little bit of everything in my life- position; recognition, but there is still a lot more to be achieved in the social sector. I want every individual customer to know about the available rights and their responsibilities. And, this is not a dream, I believe it is a possibility”.

Reliving the initial nostalgia which started this very conversation with Mr. Sanyal, he fondly remembers the exciting period of his life at IIPM. “We did many weird things in the campus, like, hunting down a bird, and then barbeque it, or, hijacking the college bus and forcing it to roam around other places”, he adds with a smile.

He then talks about his family in which his son is all set to go abroad after completion of his Aerospace Engineering course. His wife has been teaching since the last 20 years, and his mother also stays with them. “We are a typical small and happy family that loves being with each other along with a pet dog who is a part of our family in every sense”, he adds.

And in the end, there is such a strong sense of awe that he leaves behind as the conversation comes to a close. All in all, Mr. Sanyal comes across as someone who respects the very basics of life, which means that we use materials and love people, and never vice-versa, which means using people and loving materials. So if Socrates or Plato were intellectuals who were philosophical, there are still individuals like Mr. Sanyal who are intellectual but for whom, the right philosophies are facts of life, and not just spiritual teachings. Cult would like to give Mr. Sanyal, a whole hearted standing ovation, and look to draw inspiration from him.

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