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 2016.
The Uncommon Leader: December 14, 2016 featuring Shreya Gadepalli
The December Edition of this popular Event Series, hosted by Madras Management Association, and curated by AVIS Viswanathan and Vaani Anand, featured Shreya Gadepalli, South Asia Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). Shreya truly believes in the power of reinvention and collaboration. Over the last 18-odd years of her career, she has deployed these two qualities to change the way we live and move in urban environments in India. As the South Asia Director for the New York-headquartered Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), she is regarded today as one of the foremost experts in planning, design, and implementation of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and has led the planning of BRT systems in over half a dozen cities in India including Ahmedabad’s Janmarg — India’s first high-quality BRT system. Her other areas of interest and expertise are transit-oriented development, parking management and the design of non-motorised transport facilities.
In the various roles she has held over the past two decades at ITDP — a global non-profit that strives to implement sustainable transport solutions that reduce pollution, alleviate poverty and enhance quality of urban Life — she has had to bring together central and state administrations, city-based civic bodies, NGOs and other partners to execute transformational solutions across urban India. So, in essence, Shreya brings not only subject matter expertise but also great entrepreneurial skills to the table — a clear vision, a spirit of collaborative enterprise and focused leadership — with every single project that she conceives and executes.
Surely, her background in Industrial Design from IIT-Delhi helps. But at every stage of her career, Shreya has sought to reinvent herself to be the leader-preneur that she is today — someone who owns, leads and delivers whatever she takes up.
"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 - from folks like you and me!
Note: Owing to Cyclone Vardah, MMA's video partner was out of circulation and so we unfortunately could not record this meaningful conversation!
The Uncommon Leader: November 8, 2016 featuring Deborah Thiagarajan
There are just two words to describe Deborah 'Debbie' Thiagarajan: Visionary Doer! DakshinaChitra on East Coast Road, on the outskirts of Chennai, is her labor of love and is evidence of her Vision and execution excellence. Since it opened in 1996, DakshinaChitra (which gets over 200,000 visitors annually) has not just evolved as a museum of South-Indian heritage, it has become a Mecca of sorts for anyone wanting to soak in the brilliance of the region's architecture, culture and tradition. Starting in 1984 with literally nothing, not even a rupee in funds, Debbie has worked meticulously and painstakingly: she built and led a team, she encouraged government institutions to partner with her on the DakshinaChitra project, she stayed on the path doggedly despite the odds and she has built an institution that India and Indians can be proud of. All this comes from someone who was not even born in India. She migrated to Madras from the US in 1970, when she married the late K.M.Thiagarajan, got her doctorate in Indian History and Culture from Madras University and has been leading the Madras Craft Foundation, an NGO, purely out of her passion for preserving heritage. What can we learn from this amazing lady? Her's is a story of quiet servant leadership, of Purpose and Vision, of resilience and resourcefulness.
The Uncommon Leader: October 4, 2016 featuring Aysha Rau
An acclaimed theatre personality in Chennai, Aysha has scripted and produced, and even acted in, several plays presented by The Little Theatre, one of India's premier children's theatre companies. All of her company's 50+ productions have raised money to support the education of underprivileged children. Several of The Little Theatre's beneficiaries have gone on to graduate from colleges and take up mainstream, white-collared, jobs that makes Aysha's leadership of her cause of 'Theatre with Purpose' indeed remarkable. While this side of Aysha's and The Little Theatre's story is fairly well-known in Chennai's theatre and performing arts circles, there's an untold story about her too. She's led The Little Theatre through thick and thin - has she managed to get sponsors to support her various productions each season, has she been getting her creative partners to collaborate to deliver high-quality live performances every single time and has she engaged consistently with the cause of educating the less privileged children around us. This is her story - that will help you understand the value of being a responsible citizen, a resourceful manager, an inspiring leader and, most importantly, an institution builder.
The Uncommon Leader: September 15, 2016 featuring J.Chandrasekaran
Chandra loves to solve unsolved problems. A plastics engineer from CIPET, Chennai, Chandra held a regular corporate job with a glass manufacturer even as he nurtured twin passions - heritage conservation and crafting solutions for social issues. After quitting his full-time job in 2008, he set up custompartsonline.com to help fellow innovators like him seed new ideas, create prototypes and take their products to market. Chandra saw this as a validation of his mission to "create value" for society; even as his family and friends had virtually labelled him a "wandering maverick" who refused to "settle down". Chandra, meanwhile, had also set up an NGO called REACH Foundation. As part of the NGO's activities, he toured Tamil Nadu, covering 800 villages in 3 years, in search of temples that could be restored and whose heritage could be conserved. Chandra inspires us to look beyond ourselves, on how our education, expertise and experience can be employed for larger social good. His is a story of Purpose, Resourcefulness and Value Creation - qualities that we will do well to imbibe as managers, business people and corporate leaders.
The Uncommon Leader: August 9, 2016 featuring M K Chandrasekar
In the August edition, we featured M.K.Chandrasekar, MKC, at 55, who epitomizes the line - "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!". After working in marketing for over two decades and then moving on to run his own brand consultancy ThoughtWorks, he began investing time, energy and resources into an idea that he truly believed in. The idea was to democratize music by developing and launching a technology-based music learning tool which he has since branded as eSWAR. We learnt from MKC how we can develop the ability to take Life head-on, look it in the eye and deal with it with equanimity. Perhaps we too will learn to be resilient and resourceful - qualities that we surely need as managers and business leaders!
The Uncommon Leader: July 12, 2016 featuring Murthy Megavan
Murthy's is an amazing story of how a fisherman's son from Kovalam (Covelong) village on ECR became an international surfing champion and is part of the core team that now runs an international surfing school and festival. It is also a story of resourcefulness. The big, benevolent ocean, his unquenchable thirst for learning, a rare, can-do attitude and the ability to strike and build thriving relationships - these are the resources that Murthy has leveraged to carve out his immensely successful professional career. You will gain valuable insights on how you can make do - and win - with available resources, however limiting they may appear to be! Those surely are important traits that all managers and business leaders must possess in today's times!!
The Uncommon Leader: June 7, 2016 featuring Mathew Jose
Mathew Jose's sense of Purpose, conviction and Vision stood out as he shared Paperman's exciting journey with curator/moderator AVIS Viswanathan. Mathew believes his Purpose is to awaken people around him to see value in waste; this, he feels, is the key for more responsible waste management around us. His 6-year-old bootstrapped, social entrepreneurship venture, Paperman now connects 270 kabadiwalas to 3,500 households in Chennai to ensure that scrap is collected, electronically weighed and paid for in 60 minutes. Forbes India magazine recently featured Mathew in the '30 under 30' listing as one of the young people who is shaping our world differently, meaningfully. At an age when most people will want to focus on a career that gives them money, job security and perks, Mathew's chosen to be driven by a Higher Purpose. It was a conversation that helped us understand what being purposeful and innovative really means?
The Uncommon Leader: May 10, 2016 featuring K S Narendran
It was a very precious and beautiful conversation that curator/moderator AVIS Viswanathan had with Narendran KS, Principal Consultant, FLAME TAO Knoware, in the second edition of The Uncommon Leader Series. Naren's wife of 25 years, Chandrika, was on MH 370 that went missing on March 8, 2014. Naren shared how, over the last two years, he has had to come to terms with the enormous, new reality he is faced with; how he has picked up the threads of his own Life while helping their daughter Meghna cope, accept and move on. What do you do when you don't know what to do? Naren says he is neither an 'uncommon leader' nor has he any wisdom to share. But this conversation with him can perhaps help us understand how invaluable Reflection and Acceptance are in situations when we are dealing with Disruptive Change and when we must demonstrate Personal Leadership.
The Uncommon Leader: April 13, 2016 featuring Neerja Malik
The inaugural edition on April 13th featured AVIS in conversation with two-time cancer conqueror and author of 'I Inspire' Neerja Malik. It was wonderful hearing Neerja share her experiences and learnings; AVIS says he enjoyed gleaning nuggets of management and leadership wisdom from her story! The big takeaway - if you learn to face Life than fighting/resisting it, you will be resilient to what you are faced with!