10 Nov 2020 18:23 IST

‘Focus on learning to think, rather than worry about learning concepts’

Jayant Kapre, Managing Director of Avon India, says his MBA at IIMA prepared him to work with people and teams

Jayant Kapre, Managing Director of Avon India, the global beauty company is yet another successful prodigy from the CEO Factory Hindustan Unilever, where he cut his career tooth. The economics graduate from Hindu College who went on to do his MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad, was employee number one at the India operations of United Biscuits, the makers of Mcvities biscuits, helping to scale it to nearly ₹150 crore before leaving. In his two-decade long career, the fast tracker with an impish humour, has had stints at Wrigley, PepsiCo and Britannia. It was IIMA that prepared him to work with people and teams, he says.

How has your MBA helped you in your corporate life?

It equipped me in several ways that I would otherwise have been unprepared for — commercial acumen, financial understanding, brands, but above all learning to work with people and learning to accept that success or failure is more often on account of group performance and not individual glory.

What have been the key learnings from your MBA for you?

Learning to work with people from all kinds of backgrounds, questioning norms, and critical thinking, which is often not taught in other mainstream courses. The ability to deliver to severe and stretched deadlines and switching from one task to the other without dropping the ball. And a big and rude reminder that time is our most precious asset and we should remember that and respect it always.

If you had to re-visit your MBA what would you have liked to see as part of your course?

Far more field visits — factories, marketplaces, interactions with people from all strata of society.

What have been the chief ingredients in your road to the top?

Do whatever it takes approach (ethically, of course!), stretch and enable and inspire and sometimes force stretch from others. Thinking deeply till I reach the crux of a business problem, simplicity, and direct communication.

What have been your best and worst moments?

Launching and taking a business to scale when I was the first employee (United Biscuits) was a high.

The worst was a failure of a big product launch — which taught me to never ignore my instincts and avoid following directions one doesn’t buy into, even if from a senior and powerful board.

What would be your advice to young MBAs who are joining the corporate sector?

Deep work — immerse completely into important tasks, and give it everything, focus on learning to think rather than worry about learning concepts which could be ephemeral and fleeting.

Are you happy with the way the MBA is structured/ taught today?

Depends greatly college to college. The more practical immersion the better the course.

What would you advise young MBAs to read/ watch?

Be focussed. Find your areas of interest and read and watch everything around it. The more one reads on the same subject, the more we absorb and achieve mastery of a narrow space. Remember, everyone can Google. Perspective and expertise come from going deep and reflecting and forming one’s own thoughts about a subject and, therefore, one has to make choices since time is always limited.