Hosted by the Madras Management Association, this is a live, reflective, non-commercial Conversation Series. AVIS' guests in this Series are Uncommon Leaders for a few special reasons: 1. They don't come from business/corporate backgrounds, but their journeys are inspirational because they have a teachable point of view. 2. The stories of these guests often demonstrate the power of Reflection, Resilience and Resourcefulness - key attributes of personal leadership and entrepreneurship. 3.Unfailingly, all guests have shown how their Happiness - coming from their doing what they truly believe in - has helped them make our world a better place! This Series is primarily focused at the business world/corporate sector which is continuously looking for uncommon perspectives on leadership and entrepreneurship to inspire its troops. It is also for any discerning student of management and leadership. AVIS brings his signature flourish to each Conversation, establishing how Happiness impacts living a Life of Purpose and helps deliver leadership, entrepreneurship and High-Performance in any context in Life.
The Series began in April 2016. Please scroll down to see pictures and videos from Editions in 2017.
The Uncommon Leader: November 7, 2017 featuring Shaswati SenGupta and Kaustav SenGupta, Founders, InkLink Charitable Trust
Is it possible to inspire behavioral change using art as a tool in an urban neighborhood that is ridden with crime, domestic violence and anti-social activities? That's exactly what Shaswati SenGupta and Kaustav Senputa have done with their #changekannaginagar initiative impacting children, their mothers and families of Kannagi Nagar on OMR, a suburb of Chennai. Kaustav is an associate professor and centre coordinator at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Taramani; additionally, he is an artist, design curator and color psychologist. Shaswati is a creative thinker and a key facilitator for ethnographic and qualitative research. Together the couple set up the InkLink Charitable Trust in 2011 to work on the four pillars of "education, empowerment, environment and empathy" on the people of Kannagi Nagar. The couple toiled against odds to teach children and women in the area art and spoken English. They empowered the women with ideas to recycle waste plastic - this also keeps Kannagi Nagar safer, preventing water-logging during heavy rains. The SenGuptas have proven that when a community is empowered, when art is made accessible to all, transformation happens; people are able to lead a Life of self-reliance and dignity. 6 years on, their social experiment has delivered: 1500 children have been touched by their now popular weekend art workshops and over 70,000 residents who were caught in the web of crime have found meaning and purpose in their lives. InkLink is now implementing its model in projects in Goa, Bengaluru and New Delhi. Bringing about social change in crime and poverty-affected neighborhoods undoubtedly requires courage. But it also needs a Vision, the willingness to own and lead and a doggedness to stay on the path - these are key entrepreneurial traits.
In this conversation, AVIS gets Shaswati and Kaustav to share learnings from their #changekannaginagar journey with him. Listen to this engaging session. You are sure to find relevant takeaways - whether you are a manager, entrepreneur or business leader!
The Uncommon Leader: September 6, 2017 featuring Rajasekharan P and Shashaank Awasthi
In the 13th Edition of the Series, we feature Rajasekharan P and Shashaank Awasthi, Founders of v-shesh.
For P.Rajasekharan and Shashaank Awasthi, the true definition of an enterprise is "one that creates value and makes a difference". So, while their venture v-shesh, set up in 2009, is a for-profit, it is also driven by a mission to bring learning and skill development services to those who are disabled and to those who are from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Thanks to Raja's and Shashaank's leadership, ably assisted by their dedicated 35-member diverse team at v-shesh, the employability potential of people with disabilities (PwD) has grown over the past decade. v-shesh so far has created an employer pool of 100 companies and has trained and placed over 2000 PwD candidates in them in various roles. This isn't as easy as it appears. First, they have to make disabled candidates, especially freshers, believe in themselves. Then they have had to train them to make them employment-ready. Third, they have had to influence key decision-makers in organizations to change their attitude and approach towards PwD candidates and make them instead look at their skills and at the value these individuals can create. Doing all this requires a vision backed by a missionary zeal to keep the focus and to stay on the path. Those are key entrepreneurial traits. In this conversation, AVIS will have Raja and Shashaank share learnings from their purposeful journey at v-shesh with him. Come, listen to this engaging session. You are sure to find relevant takeaways - whether you are a manager, entrepreneur or business leader!
The Uncommon Leader: July 4, 2017 featuring Shobha Viswanath and C.P.Viswanath
In the 13th Edition of the Series, we feature Shobha Viswanath & C.P.Viswanath, Founders, Karadi Tales and Karadi Path
They are driven by Purpose. That's what defines the entrepreneur-couple Shobha and Viswanath and sets them apart. Their Karadi Tales company, through its over 120 titles of audio books launched over the past 20 years, has helped generations of children stay connected with Indian culture and mythology, even while they have been encouraged to develop a habit of listening and reading. Their Karadi Path company has inspired over 5,00,000 children and 6000 teachers in 1500 schools to embrace English language learning through story-telling. Theirs is an exciting story of empowered entrepreneurship - the duo have literally pounded the pavement to grow awareness of their concepts, create a niche market and establish a business model where there were no precedents. And, all along, they have been led by their vision, their sense of Purpose and their creativity. In this conversation, AVIS understands from Shobha and Viswanath how they built Karadi as an institution that champions unconventional language learning and story-telling. Whether you are a manager, entrepreneur or business leader, you will surely find very relevant takeaways from what the couple has to share!
The Uncommon Leader: May 9, 2017 featuring Ramji Srinivasan
In the 12th Edition of the Series, we feature Ramji Srinivasan, Leading Sports "Strength & Conditioning" Coach.
Ramji's credentials can be summed up with just this data point. He is the first Indian strength and conditioning coach to have been part of the Indian cricket team for a full five years - a period during which the team won the ODI World Cup, the Champions League and the Champions Trophy! But getting to work with Team India took Ramji over two decades of leadership and innovation in the strength and conditioning space. In the sports arena he is seen as someone who has the ability to understand, appreciate and develop the champion's mindset. He's trained champions beyond cricket too - like F1 racer Narain Karthikeyan and scores of people in other disciplines. At his Quantum Leap Performance Centre he currently trains the next generation of India's sports talent - people who are being encouraged to demonstrate inner resilience as well as physical strength. In this conversation, we understand from Ramji how ownership, leadership and delivery are critical to developing and sustaining a champion mindset. This, as we know, is a key ingredient of empowering entrepreneurship. We will also explore the interplay between innovation and high-performance. Whether you are a manager, entrepreneur or business leader, you will surely find very relevant takeaways from what Ramji has to share!
The Uncommon Leader: March 7, 2017 featuring John Edathattil
In the 11th Edition of the Series, we have John Edathattil, Screen Writer and Film-Maker
John literally took his broken heart and made it into art. That's how the story and screenplay for Kamal Haasan's iconic Gunaa (1991) came about. A very intense and passionate story-teller, John has been a screen-writer, director, actor and executive producer in the Malayalam,Tamil and Hindi film industries for almost three decades now. That makes him a consummate all-rounder in the business - a rarity! Some of his other popular works have been Chanakyan (1989), Kuruthipunal (1996) and Sillunnu Oru Kadhal (2006). John's strength is that he is seamlessly able to visualize a story for the screen, complete in all respects, from characterization to casting, from screenplay to post-production. Over the last 10 years, John has been giving shape to an entrepreneurial venture ScreenWrite.in. At one level this initiative brings together film-makers and story writers. John believes that the industry lacks mutual trust. So while writers have stories to tell and film-makers are forever looking for good stories, the two never quite collaborate seamlessly because of a lurking fear that scripts may be hijacked. So, ScreenWrite.in offers a credible, reliable platform for writers and film-makers to co-create value. This is a first in India. At another level, this venture, through workshops in the corporate sector, is inviting managers to express themselves through stories - as personal Life lines, as a team's achievements, as a product's journey to market or as an organization witnessing history. John blends creativity with entrepreneurship handsomely. In this conversation, we learnt from John - what inspires him and why innovation and good project management/execution skills are key to film-making. Interestingly, these qualities are key to entrepreneurship as well. Everyone in the audience - whether a manager, entrepreneur or business leader, have found very relevant takeaways!
The Uncommon Leader: January 19, 2017 featuring T N Venkatesh
The New year for this popular series began with a bang and featured T N Venkatesh, IAS, Managing Director, Co-Optex. Venkatesh always knew that he wanted to be in the Civil Services and in the service of people. When he joined Co-Optex in 2014, he found that people in the organization were highly knowledgeable but working in silos. He started by having meetings and understanding the weaving process and various facets of the organization. He transformed a drab office into a colourful one that highlighted what Co-Optex produces. Being open to ideas, he received ideas from all levels of the organisation right from his driver to the salesperson and officials and implemented many of them.
In terms of galvanising the weavers, he encouraged them by providing them identity cards with photographs. For the first time in India, all products now carry a tag with the photo of the person who created it. This gave weavers immense pride. He persuaded weavers to produce organic cotton sarees. They were initially very hesitant and unsure. However on his assurance of 100% procurement, they went ahead with the production and Co-Optex has sold almost 10,000 organic sarees till date!
Venkatesh also introduced the concept of selling through Boutiques rather than the outdated, old showrooms and has now increased visibility through Facebook, online sales and other new concepts. Venkatesh also introduced a breakthrough idea of selling sarees on festive occasions in various other states through exhibitions rather than physical stores. This has led to a spike in the sales of Co-Optex in other states and they have completed 90 exhibitions during his tenure till December 2016 alone! Venkatesh's dynamism is not limited to Indian demography and he has spread his infectious energy to not just his team but to various diaspora living abroad too by holding exhibitions in various countries. Co-optex has the highest sales in India among all cooperatives - INR 316 crores as retail sales. To put this in perspective, Tantuja of West Bengal has sales of about 70 crores. Last year Co-optex has wiped out its accumulated loses and has turned profitable.
"The Uncommon Leader" Series, hosted by the Madras Management Association, is curated by AVIS Viswanathan and Vaani Anand. It looks at the Extraordinary Leadership and Entrepreneurship Lessons we can learn from Exceptional People!