15 December 2015 14:18:43 IST

S Shriram has worked with marquee consumer companies such as RPG Retail, The Future Group, Café Coffee Day, and Royal Enfield (Eicher Motors). In 2006, he joined the start-up team of India’s first Private Greenfield Airport at Bangalore (BIAL) which commenced operations in 2008. As Senior Manager – Travel Retail, he was solely responsible for conceptualising and operationalising all the retail and commercial areas. In his subsequent pan-India roles, he set-up 140 cafes for Café Coffee Day and 160 Dealerships for Royal Enfield Motorcycles across the Country. Shriram joined Levista Coffee in January 2020 as Vice President – Sales and Marketing and led the brand to witness a whopping 42% growth in its sales during the pandemic year 2020-21. He has been a visiting faculty since 2005 at prominent educational institutions such as IFMR Chennai, BIM Trichy, DoMS - IIT Madras, SRM University, among others. He is active on LinkedIn as Shriram Sanjeevi and maintains a blog — www.MyRetailJourney.com. 

"MBA was my stepping stone to success"

Life would have been very different had I not done my PG

S Shriram has worked in retail with notable companies such as Royal Enfield and Café Coffee Day. More recently, he started a website called oyethere.com , that delivers products right from books and stationery to tender coconuts, in South Chennai.

Where and when did you get your basic degree from? Where did you complete your MBA from?

​I did my Bachelors in Commerce from Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College in 1999. I then pursued an MBA in Marketing from New Hampshire University in association with ITM Chennai in 2001. I further pursued my PG in International Business (Distance Education) from Pondicherry University in 2000, and finally did an Executive Course from IIM Bangalore in 2008.

How has the MBA helped you in your corporate life, if at all?

​The MBA was my stepping stone to success. I used to take life too casually until my UG. In fact, I would barely attend classes!

But right from the first day at my B-School, I was serious. For the first time, I was a first-bencher, and managed to be among the top five in my batch. I was also adjudged the Most Distinguished Outstanding student of my batch during my graduation.​ I am not sure how my life would have been without the PG.

What have been the key learnings from your MBA?

I would like to spell these out in points:

​Analyse things in detail; never take anything at face value.

Seek an opinion; be a team player but also focus on your leadership skills.

Written and verbal communication is as important as body language.

Read as much as you can about your subject. Seek solace in knowing more about your favourite domain​.

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

Retailing in India was nascent in those days. We had very few live examples and global examples were just subjects in textbooks. If I had a chance to go back, I would have liked to know more about global retailers who went about building their business.

What has been the chief ingredient in your success?

​Networking is the key. One must be open to meeting new people from all walks of life. To learn new things is as important as unlearning what we already know. You must also be prepared to take risks in life, if you want to succeed. Higher the risk, higher the reward. Remember, ships are safe at harbour, but that is not why they were built. ​

What have been your best and worst moments?

My best moment was when I saw an entire airport’s retail business, spread over thousands of square feet, spearheaded by me, being cherished by customers.

The worst moment was when I fell out with one of the founders at a previous place of employment. It was a bitter parting for both of us. But, then, one has to gain strength and move on.

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

​Come in with least expectations; have realistic targets, and work towards a goal. Apart from professional targets, have a personal target in your professional life. It could be quarterly, half-yearly, yearly or even biennially.

​B-School students must learn to adapt to the changing environment, especially if you are part of a start-up team. If you join a well established company, then don’t expect quick results. Good things take time.

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

​Not at all. In fact, at most B-schools where I am a visiting faculty, my methodology of teaching is very different from how full-time professors teach.

I personally think textbooks must not be discussed in classrooms. Students must be encouraged to read texts offline; only practical aspects must be discussed in the class. A lot of role play and activities should be undertaken within the classrooms to give a realistic view of what students can expect from corporates.​

What would you advise young MBAs to read?

​Read what you like. Choose a subject and learn about it. Sound knowledge about something could be a conversation-starter. If you meet a popular person at an airport or at a conference, you could pick up common interests and start talking about what you know and perhaps, impress them.​ They could be your potential employer as well.

To read more from the My MBA Lessons section, click here .