21 Mar 2017 21:03 IST

Stay relevant in a high-speed world, Pepsico chairman tells IIM Trichy graduates

Dr Prafulla Agnihotri, Director, IIM Trichy; D Shivakumar, Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo, Shivendu Nadkarni, VP-Asia Pacific/Africa Snacks, Kellog's; and Dr R Karunamurthi, Chairman of the Convocation and Member Board of Governers, IIM-T

‘In the future, there is no one job, company, industry or capability to tie you down, says D Shivakumar

“It is important to remember that the MBA is a degree, not an entitlement. You will have to work hard to deliver results. Do not expect a free pass in this high-speed world,” said D Shivakumar, Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd., in his address to the graduating batch at IIM Trichy last week. Here are excerpts from his convocation speech:

Congratulations, graduating students , on achieving your dream of completing this coveted degree from this coveted institute. I was a little disappointed to learn that only 6 per cent of today’s graduating class is made up of women; that’s a very low number by any standard, and I am sure your board will do something to improve that in the coming years.

When you are a master’s programme graduate, you mostly take up a job. Let me go back in time and look at the most attractive jobs in India.

When India got Independence, there was no business school in India. Most graduating students in the country in almost every discipline sought a government job. The government job played to the nationalistic sentiment of that era and also provided job security. So, the prized jobs were the IAS, IPS, and other government jobs.

In the 1960s, the government started the IIMs in Calcutta and Ahmedabad. IIM Bangalore started in 1973. In the 1960s, a small clutch of foreign oil and chemical companies and many Indian companies were the dream employers.

By 2000, we had six IIMs, by 2010 we had 10, and today we have 20 IIMs. The prized jobs at the Institutes now are consulting, private equity, and start-ups.

A high-speed world

You are entering a high-speed world, a world that can be exhilarating and also exhausting. It is crucial that you don’t get exhausted in this high-speed world. Borrowing from athletics, a career in such a world is a combination of a sprint, marathon, decathlon and steeplechase.

The speed of information and the amount of information is staggering in the digital world. There are 5 billion videos uploaded that contribute to three hundred hours of video uploaded every minute. We have a trillion photographs taken every year now. And 20 per cent of the cars by 2025 will be electric, while the world’s first Robocop will join duty in Dubai this year. Each of these was still science fiction a few years ago. We do not have enough time to catch our breath in this high-speed world.

Hence, the theme of what I am going to talk about: There is “no one job, one company, one industry and one capability” that you will be wedded to in this kind of world. How does one prepare to deal with this high-speed world? I offer you five thoughts:

Five thoughts to help you cope

1. Thirty years ago, when I was graduating like you, there were very few business schools and the total number of MBA degrees offered every year were less than a 1,000. Today, India produces 400,000 MBAs every year. It is important to remember that the MBA is a degree, not an entitlement. You will have to work hard to deliver results. Do not expect a free pass in this fast-paced world. As you start your career, focus on the learning from the job and the company and not the title or the pay. Learning on the job is different from learning in the classroom. Your learning must encompass behaviour and skills. Each experience must contribute to your learning; else the experience will lack meaning. Learning is a sprint in a high-speed world and will result in the highest monetisation and is crucial for you to stay relevant.

2. Every business school graduate wants to be a CEO. Evidence shows that less than 3 per cent of every batch makes it to CEO. If you want success and you want to deliver results, you need the support of people around you. You cannot get anywhere alone. You need a community. A community is broader than a team for me. A team makes people think of a sports team or a small team at work. So, belong to a community. When we belong to a community, then the community automatically belongs to us. The community can be the broader workplace, can be your choice of vocation, and can be society. Building and committing to any community takes personal sacrifice, emotion, commitment and tough work. But the investment in the community always outweighs the results over the long term. Be a marathon man with the community.

3. You will face more ambiguity than any generation so far. At IIM, you are taught to think in a structured manner. Ambiguity is about being in the grey zone and not having clear choices of black or white to decide. And, you will have to find your own way to deal with it. There are no certainties in dealing with ambiguity. One trait that could help is having curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat goes the proverb, but curiosity will give your thinking an edge. This curiosity will set you apart in seeing things that others cannot see in ambiguity. Dealing with ambiguity should teach you to focus on what you control and not fret about what you don’t control. It should help you develop the larger picture in your mind, and help you be decisive yet flexible to advice. Dealing with ambiguity is like juggling a decathlon.

4. Your generation is a global, digital and highly articulate one. You will build more global networks than any generation before you. This will need an ability to work in multi-cultural environments. You are digital natives and not digital immigrants. Your mastery of the digital world will be a huge advantage when you start work. Communication is key in a digital world. No one can argue a point better than you at work. You will have more verbal duels at the workplace than any generation before you. I would advocate that adding listening skills will be an advantage in this articulate world. Listening gives respect to the community around you. Listening will help you ‘pause’ the situation in a high-speed environment and give you better control. So, be a great listener.

5. Life is more than a CV. I am sure each of you has a passion today. Be sure to have a real-life goal. A goal that touches more people than you can imagine. A typical CV is about progress in the corporate world. Have a CV that’s broader than the corporate world, a CV that has contribution to industry, society, alma mater. Have a CV that contributes, even in a small way, to the challenges that society faces — discrimination, education, employment, poverty. The primary role of a future leader is community building. Your life will have its ups and downs and, hence, will resemble a steeplechase, but you need to see it through.

Make them proud

Today there are many in this room who want you to do well in life and to be a good human being. There are your teachers, who have shaped your thinking and your outlook to life. My teachers were role models for me and even today I am in touch with many of them.

Next, are your classmates. You are a small sized batch; in fact, you remind me of my own batch of just 97 students. Your batch is 108, one of the smallest batches for an IIM. You have built relationships over the last two years. Look to your left, look to your right. These friends will stand by you through your life and career and will open windows and doors in your life like no one else can.

And last and the most important are your parents. Parents are special. They care for us, they cheer for us, and they think we can do no wrong in any situation. Your parents have sacrificed a lot to back you and to put you through this great institute.

So, you have to do your institute and the professors proud, your classmates proud and have to give your parents a lot to brag about.

I am certain that you do all of them proud.

All the best, graduating class, go and make a difference to society. Remember, in the future, there is no one job, one company, one industry and one capability that will tie you down.