Guru Mantra: Savita Mahajan, Associate Dean, ISB

Savita Mahajan
Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad

Associate Dean- Strategic Initiatives, Admissions, Career Services, and Alumni Relations
Chief Executive- Mohali Campus
Savita has been associated with the ISB since its inception in 2001. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Economics from Delhi University, Savita did her MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, in 1981. Since then, she has worked in several Indian organisations, including Maruti Udyog Limited, Bharat Technologies, Karvy Consultants, and Intergraph India, in diverse industry sectors, including automobiles, engineering, financial services and software. At Karvy and Intergraph, she was Head of Strategy and Organisation Development.
Savita has carried out consulting and training assignments for corporations and development organisations, including GE Capital, the Planning Commission, the World Bank, and the Tibetan Government in exile of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. She is a member of the GMAT School Advisory Group, which is responsible for providing practical insights into strategic decisions that the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) makes regarding the examination.
Savita is widely travelled, and spent a year at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs, at Princeton University, USA, as part of a mid career fellowship programme. Her professional interests include Strategic Management, Institutional Values, Leadership and Organisational Change.

Q. What do you find exciting about your role as Associate Dean- Strategic Initiatives, Admissions, Career Services, and Alumni Relations at the ISB?
SM-As part of the strategic initiatives we explored at ISB, the opportunity to start another campus in North India, at Mohali, Punjab, came up. I am now the Chief Executive for the project responsible for creating a world class facility and planning for the new academic programs to be introduced there. I find building something from scratch, very exciting and satisfying. I like the opportunity to influence outcomes, and shape the institutional agenda.
In handling the admissions and career services functions, I enjoy interacting with bright young professionals, and see them leap frog in their careers as a result of their overall experience and learning at the ISB.

Q. What advice do you have for Indian B-schools who are aspiring to build world class institutions?
SM-There are several ingredients that go into making a world class institution. A lofty vision, strong partnerships (academic and industry), an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset, high quality faculty and students, competent and committed staff. It’s important to think big, and have an inspiring vision that others would like to support. At ISB we wanted to create a research driven, top ranked school—to fill a gap not only in India but the entire Asian region. In 1997-98 when the idea of ISB was conceived there were only two Asian B-schools in the Financial Times annual ranking of the top 100 schools. Now there are many more, including the ISB, which was ranked 15 in 2009.

Q. In your experience, what do you believe are the top competencies required to be a successful educational leader?
SM-I think a good educational leader must have the ability to manage a diverse set of stakeholders with different objectives and expectations—the faculty, students, donors. This is possible only if the leader is able to articulate an agenda for the institution which serves these individual needs while building the institutional brand. The leader should be decisive while being a good and patient listener. The very nature of governance in educational institutions makes achieving consensus on any issue an impossible task. In such a situation the leader must decide in the best interests of the institution and not create a culture of excessive analysis and consequent paralysis!