10 Jul 2017 19:13 IST

‘My MBA from ISB opened up roles that were previously shut off’

Knowing all those wonderful people, means that advice on any business problem is just an email away

Avanija Sundaramurti, an MBA from ISB, is Head, Marketing and Consumer Insight, Hachette Book Publishing India Pvt Ltd. She looks back on how her MBA helped shift her career path.


On my MBA from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.

I graduated from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, in 2012 after majoring in Marketing and Strategy. I was not a typical business school candidate. Having done a BA (Hons) in Journalism from Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi, for my under-graduate degree, and graduating from the Columbia Publishing Course at Columbia University, I was set on a career in publishing and on the editorial side. I joined Penguin Books India and worked there as a commissioning editor for over three years. As an editor it became apparent to me that I was far more interested in the business of books and the marketing of books and media in general than in editing. Coming from an arts background I felt that I needed to learn about business and about management to complement what I knew about content and media. I generally held ISB in very high regard because of the alumni, who were always impressive and who exhibited a lot more diversity in background compared to other institutes in India. As crazy as it may seem, I did not apply to any other institute in India. It was ISB or nothing. I am glad that gamble paid off!

Is my B-school experience helping me at all in work life?

ISB has helped me in many tangible and intangible ways. There is no doubt that my classes in aspects of business and management that I wasn’t familiar with, like statistics, or accounting or finance have helped me develop a holistic understanding of how companies work which has helped me grow. ISB has opened up roles to me that were previously shut off and has helped me fast track my career. This is the tangible bit. The intangibles have been far more intense in their impact. An MBA from a fiercely competitive Tier 1 school like ISB can be a transformative experience. ISB made me more confident and it gave me a very clear-eyed sense of my own abilities and weaknesses. It tested how I handled competition and pressure and helped prioritise better. Going to business school after a few years of working means you have a lot of different real world experiences to help you relate better to what you study. It also puts you into a ‘learning’ mode from just a working one. Believe me, it is difficult to sit in a classroom, study, give exams after clocking in a few years in an office. The intensive nature of the courses at ISB made me learn how to approach a difficult subject and gain a working understanding of it in a fairly compressed amount of time. This is invaluable in a work set-up. We live and work in a VUCA world. There are disruptions and changes all the time. Do you have the wherewithal to unlearn and relearn as required? Do you have the ability to get up to speed quickly and exhibit competence in a subject in a short period of time? This is one of the key skills I learned at ISB.

What skill/course would have been useful for me in corporate life had it been taught during my MBA?

With entrepreneurship becoming something more and more people are taking a plunge into, I wish there was more taught at business schools about the nitty-gritty of being an entrepreneur today. Classes that teach the granular issues that entrepreneurs grapple with – from structuring term sheets, to raising investments, debt vs equity, when to look for investments, personnel decisions, cost structures, models to better evaluate opportunities and so on. During my year at ISB there was a fabulous course on entrepreneurial decision making taught by Prof Arun Pereira. I wish there was more!

And, the best thing about my MBA.

The people I met. Apart from the usual ‘network’ that you end up with, I was also fortunate enough to make some amazing friends in the process. Knowing all those wonderful people from ISB, means that advice on any business problem is usually just an email or two away. That’s invaluable.