30 Sep 2021 17:24 IST

‘Prof Bala believed there is no success without substance’

Great Lakes Dean talks about Uncle Bala’s invaluable contributions to the B-school and management field.

Great Lakes founder Prof Bala V Balachandran, or Uncle Bala as all his students fondly call him, passed away on Monday at the age of 84 in Chicago after a brief illness. He set up the B-school from scratch when he was in his mid-sixties. In this podcast interview, Suresh Ramanathan, Great Lakes, Dean, speaks about the value systems he put in place which is the fundamental driving force in the mission and vision of the B-school, his love for Chennai, and his contributions to the field of management studies.



“Prof Bala believed there is no success with substance,” says Ramanathan. He impressed on his students the importance of knowledge creation, original thought, and quality research. “At Great Lakes, we focus heavily on research as a core component because Prof Bala wanted to enable a conducive learning environment for exchange of ideas.”

With a reputation as a top professor of accounting at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, US, his expertise in the field of accounting and operational research changed the course of many businesses across sectors. Some of his pioneering ideas include activity-based costing and customer-centric profitability. Costing is based on basic accounting principles, but Prof Bala identified the many indirect costs which were attached to products and services and devised a methodology to assess costs based on activities that were performed. The idea of customer-centric profitability is based on this simple question: Which customers are worth it? “There are customers and ‘kashtam’ers, Prof Bala used to say, you need to know the difference,” says Ramanathan.