15 Jun 2021 12:50 IST

Debapratim was an internationally renowned case writer

He has been the bestselling case author in the world for the last five years consecutively

Good friend and colleague, Dr Debapratim Purkayastha succumbed to Covid on May 7th 2021. Just a week before, his wife, Somali, contacted me for references to arrange for an oxygen concentrator at home. Only then I realised that he’s affected by Covid. I had insisted that hospitalisation is a must.

Two days later, after scrambling for hospital beds and cutting through the maze of confusion, he was hospitalised. Reportedly stabilised on a ventilator, O2 levels being ok, he was expected to be recovering fine as he was known to be a fighter. On the fifth day at hospital, Deb succumbed to a cardiac arrest. This news came like a rude shock to me, both personally and professionally.

An exemplary life taken away quite too early. It is an irreparable loss to his family and to ICFAI. Deb and I travelled together extensively in India and abroad. Gentle, accommodative and hard-working, he has been the bestselling case author in the world for the last five years consecutively. He secured top position for himself alongside the brightest in the world, competing with Harvard, INSEAD and the ilk. He won 11 Case Method ‘Oscars’ so far.

At ICFAI, Deb headed the most distinguished centre of excellence - ICFAI Case Research Centre, that stood second or third globally. His gentle nature endeared me to him and we became good friends. He was a real brother to me.

I have known his wife Somali and his young son Supratim very closely. As they say, journeys foster relationships; we had one too many. On work. And after work. Apart from the long haul flights to London, Los Angeles, Denver and other places to represent ICFAI on the world stage, we travelled to Udaipur and Puducherry also to write cases based on primary research.

Our stint at the prestigious Hidesign headquarters spawned a series of long drawn interactions with the founder and the team at their corporate office and the factory. What resulted from that visit is a set of seven cases on a variety of topics. One of these cases was featured in this digital resource, BL on Campus, for which Deb and his team produced a series of brilliantly crafted, deeply insightful and educative case studies that were published online over five years as part of the BLoC-Hidesign Case Study Contest. 

In cold winter we stayed at the King’s palace at Udaipur, to write a case on the Prince. Interesting conversations and abundant learnings. We co-authored two interesting Case Studies effected on field level primary research. Towards the hills of Denver we walked long, strolled in the city parks, discussed the public transport systems and their social security. Deb is a true explorer, whether it is cases of cities or their culture including food, music or commerce. I tagged along with his ready-made plans in any location. A reliable partner for exploring the unknown.

In Hyderabad, Pharma City is coming up in a special zone, so we thought we need to understand what’s happening on the ground. Somali also joined us in the drive during the lockdown in 2020. Such was the level of keenness especially on the matters that are not fully clear. I rejoiced when he stood in front of INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute or in front of Porter Centre for Management Education. More importantly when he stood in front of hundreds of aspiring case researchers, sharing some award winning tips with them.

From IIMs in India to the best B-schools in the world, he trained many teachers and carved a special niche for himself as a thought leader in the world of case research and business management education. Deb accomplished quite a bit in such a short span of time. He’s a brand owned not just by ICFAI, but by many in the fraternity of case research; many more in the classrooms of the world. He remains immortal in the text books prescribed by thousands of business schools around the globe. May he rest in peace!

(The writer is Director-Branding, ICFAI Group.)