Perspectives from ISB

“I found my job post ISB at a campus party!” – Dr Biju Mohandas, Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation, Sub-Saharan Africa, and PGP class of 2007

Joining ISB

Started off my career, 20 years ago in the Indian army as part of the Indian Army’s medical core, worked with them as a short commission officer for 5 years. Subsequent to that I joined the Indian School of Business and it was a serendipitous decision, once I completed my army tenure which ended up being more operational than clinical, I knew that I had to get into healthcare operations and leadership within the healthcare space as compared to being a clinician.  And to do that I thought that maybe doing a masters in health management may be the way to go. So applied to and got admission in various universities in the US, was all set to go when my visa got rejected. MBA was a plan B to be very honest. As luck would have it, it turned out better than plan A, because while doing my PGP at ISB, I got introduced to finance and gravitated towards investing and post ISB joined an organisation called Acumen which is an impact investor and subsequently IFC.

Expectations from ISB

I was expecting nothing more than a quick introduction into the business world considering my background. Unlike a lot of my peers who were already working in conventional industries, I was coming from a public sector and a healthcare operations background. So for me, it was very simply a glide path to the corporate sector. And I was expecting to secure gainful employment. What I hoped for beyond those expectations was a set of peers and faculty from a diverse background that ISB had built a reputation for.

The ISB Advantage

How it panned out is- it hit the ball out of the park in every regard. It more than delivered on me finding a glide path to the industry, not only from an academic perspective but also from deep industry interactions that I had. Before I joined, I had no networks in the industry, but by the time I left ISB, I pretty much knew all the CEOs in the pharmaceutical industries because I was the president of the healthcare club. We introduced an elective course, which in some ways laid the foundation for what became the entire health policy, the curriculum in Mohali. All of that gave me access to these leaders which otherwise there was no way I could have built a direct relationship with!

Job opportunities post ISB

With respect to finding gainful employment, I thought of joining and Apollo or a Fortis, all of which I had offers from – but I found a job, which I didn’t even know existed before coming into ISB. Diversity of the peer group, diversity of faculty, interactions with faculty and exchange students – it was incredible. And it was the combination of interactions with faculty and exchange students that gave me the job that I ended up taking out of ISB. It was not something I picked up during campus placements.

Networking effortlessly

My wife and I had invited a few exchange students over to our apartment at ISB for dinner to treat them to Indian cuisine. As they were leaving, they decided to call me over as reciprocation and I was not planning to go because it was a really stressful time in terms of the deliverables, it was also very late – easily past midnight for sure! But I went thinking – let me show my face at least. But it never turns out to be like that! The party went on and I ran into a professor there whom I had met before at campus but never in a teaching position. We ended up talking a lot about my experience in the army in the north-east part of India.

I was really affected at that time about the absolute lack of infrastructure, especially in healthcare and how I felt that apart from the Indian army, the only thing really working there was the private sector, such a Pepsi, Coca Cola, and cigarette companies. I wondered aloud if there was a way to tap into the power of capitalism to deliver critical goods and services to people. Prof. Rubin Abraham, who was an economics professor, said – there was a term for that – it’s called impact investing, and you know what? I know a guy who runs the India office of Acumen, an organisation which was into this area. He texted his friend, sitting there and as luck would have it, his friend texted back immediately, and it must have been 2 or 3 am, and he mentioned that they are looking for people – especially my second in command. But we are in a hurry, so I was asked to send in my resume immediately. I staggered back to my room, sent him my resume, and he replied immediately saying – we should meet tomorrow. So we met the next day and that was the job I ended up taking!

So if I had not gone for that party, my career trajectory would have been very different. I didn’t go to the party thinking that I may find employment or network. I went there thinking that I would never see these friends (exchange students), ever in my life again but what I gained, was unanticipated.

– Dr Biju Mohandas, Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation, Sub-Saharan Africa, and PGP class of 2007

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