The Envoys of Leadership and Vision: Alumni Speak
Animesh | Nov 07, 2017
Guest Lectures and Panel Discussions have always been a vital and popular aspect of Innovision every year. Reputed speakers, technocrats, entrepreneurs and distinguished alumni are invited during this time every year to talk and interact with the students on various aspects of academics as well as the digital and commercial issues. If last year it was Rakesh K. Sidana and Anil Kakodkar, this year’s edition matched the legacy with equally distinguished men of letters like Priyadarshi Mohapatra and Arvind Pani. Both are stalwarts in the world of entrepreneurial business and they shared their precious discourses and memoirs with the audience during the first two days of Innovision.
Day 1: Priyadarshi Mohapatra
Perhaps the first significant event this Innovision, the guest lecture of one of our own alumni from the 199 batch was held amidst a captive audience in Bhubaneshwar Behera Auditorium on the first day of Innovision 2k17.
Mr Priyadarshi Mohapatra who is a distinguished technocrat and Country General Manager of Consumer devices at Microsoft India, shared the dais as one of the eminent dignitaries and chief guest for the inaugural address.
Since the afternoon event was inadvertently delayed by a significant amount owing to several factors, the guest lecture followed immediately after the welcome addresses by the Dean SW, SAC President and VP Technical Society, among others. However, the rejuvenated talk by Mr Mohapatra clearly arrested the attention of all those who were present there the moment he came up to the mic. He began in a subtly unconventional way, with great vivacity and an aura of humility and friendliness to involve the audience. The lecture was quite interactive as he continuously asked everyday questions involving the youth and engineers of today, which received an equally warm response from the other side of the stage. He reminisced about his BTech days at the then REC Rourkela followed by an account of his illustrious record as an all-rounder student—
‘’I was an active quizzer, the Dumb-Charade champion, and more. We used to win most of the events around the country, whether they were the IITs or Pilani. Every fest we used to go we made REC the champion. Standing on this stage brings back all those proud memories’’
He fondly recounted spending the days spent in the campus, which according to him shaped his life in a lot of ways, personally and professionally. He went on to successfully crack GRE like a lot of students, and leaving top 3 universities he went on at Xavier Institute of Management to do his PGDM after completing Chemical Engineering at NITR.
He also grieved at his father’s untimely demise because of which he stayed back and supported his mother, who was a pioneering entrepreneur in Bhubaneswar, setting up her own hospital. It was perhaps here, he said, that he learnt practically, a lot more in entrepreneurship than anywhere else.
Mr Mohapatra went on to start what he terms a very ‘ínteresting’ venture—TANISHQ. He recounts how the risks he took almost wiped all of the profits in the watch division for this jewellery division. He practically played with the value propositions that were created to connect with the consumer, which was an insight into the marketing strategies of entrepreneurship. He described how his brand strived to shift trust on the basis of purity of the goods, not just advertisements and family connections. For instance, his brand used technology like an X-ray spectrometer, remodelled as a ‘caratmeter’ to give the customers a hands-on experience of purity. The role as marketing executive of Titan changed his life in a lot of ways.
He further described his journey to create one of the first-gen start-ups of the country, which received funding in India—Oyzterbay, inspite of not being a dot-com company. He states how the business grew manifold till 2006, after which he quit business due to certain FDI regulations which allowed a foreign corporate ‘Fossil’ to acquire the retail chain, which was then at its peak. He went on to discuss more of his stints in the corporate sector like with Sun Microsystems, which began his career as a technocrat from the consumer sector—
“On the brink of leaving the country for a sabbatical, I stumbled upon Bhaskar Pramanik, now the Chairman of Microsoft India who came up with this proposition… I couldn’t believe it, being a consumer based, watch and jewellery kind of guy then… then he told something which changed my perspective, made me stay back. I went on to several other positions thereafter.”
He also spoke at length of his work at SAP India, Avaya before finally joining Microsoft, regarding which he shared a lot of personal experiences. The talks revolved mostly about approaching consumers and investors with propositions to convince them, in the after-work hours, communicating with them and shaping their opinions etc. He also spoke highly of the networking and cognitive and scholarly learning opportunities in NITR, which led him to learn a lot.
‘Keeping having your dream, keep chasing your passion and you will come to a desirable position on your own’
He also complimented the organisers for amalgamating Innovation and vision in Innovision, both in name and thought. He praised the event for its Digitalization approach referring to publications from the World Economic Forum. He also alluded to several visionary concepts and sci-fi media in recent times while explaining the significance of Innovision among students, before ending his lecture.
The event did suffer a few hiccups, and Mr Mohapatra presumably began speaking during the inaugural address itself, which led many to believe that the two were merged for the delay. According to the Manager-in-charge of the event, Manohar, the first guest lecture was mostly delayed due to the lower than expected turnout. Although BBA got filled quite early, the crowd was missing till 4o’clock. In the meanwhile, many among the seated audience also grew restless and proceeded to leave in bulk, which led to a chaotic situation, requiring volunteers to act upon the situation. But once Mr Mohapatra began to speak, there was a lot of applause from the audience and everyone stayed back till the end. Speaking to a few among the audience Team MM found that they particularly liked the friendly banter and the highly interactive session, and found Mr Mohapatra’s story of his life highly intriguing and motivating. Many in fact welcomed the idea of more events along similar lines, which the students believe can go a long way in the alumni relations with the alma mater.
The event was concluded at around 6pm with a Gesture-Drone exhibition in the BBA Lawns.
Day 2: Arvind Pani
The second Guest lecture was held the following day at the same venue as the commencing part of one of the flagship events of this Innovision—the Startup-Meet or ‘’Arthayaan’’, and saw Mr Arvind Pani as the guest speaker on the event. Mr Pani is currently the co-founder and CEO of Reverie Language Technologies Pvt Ltd. This is his second start-up venture, after a brief stint with Intel and a standalone challenging startup that was way ahead of his time. He is also an alumnus of the 1996 batch. His talks primarily revolved around the culture and evolution of start-ups, visions and facts on aspects covering both the youth of the Institute and outside. This event too, like all the rest, was delayed due to some management problems and merged with the start-up talks that began soon after. He gave a concise but highly motivational and as he preferred to call it, an ’interactive’ speech encouraging the students on following their passion, without any fear. The event began at 4:15pm instead of 3pm (rescheduled from 2pm) due to lack of management personnel, stage setup and audience.
The event began with Mr Pani narrating a real-life story based on a typical meritorious and confused engineer’s life from an underprivileged and indigenous background, with no training in English. Through this he connected to the philosophy on which the foundation of his company was based, bringing the huge mass of native speakers with no access to English learning into the fold of technological progress—which is largely dominated by English today. He described how he strives to break the barrier between English fluency and literacy on the aspect of digital connectivity. He also exhorted the entrepreneurial mindset among the audience through various interesting anecdotes to keep the audience captivated. He particularly stressed on the personal lessons he learnt throughout his journey to remind the audience of the kind of negativities they should stay away from. He also talked about the motive behind pursuing a startup—
“The idea of applying engineering. Also I did not have a knack for engineering, I realised it after joining it for all the wrong reasons”
The lecture was followed by an interactive question and answer session mostly self-reflective in nature and aimed to shape the opinion of the youth. He also gave a pep-talk regarding placements and career opportunities of students based on passion and dreams rather than conventional beliefs and a monotonously corporate career option.
He concluded with the following message—
‘To like and decide what to do depends on experimenting with your interests and continuing to do what you like with an initiative, a dream, and a passion. It is important that you start doing more on your areas of interest.
There is only one advice I want to give. That is please do not take any advice. Just follow your gut, your instinct, your dreams, and be absolutely fearless. Do what you want to do and you will not die of hunger’
The event completed with a felicitation ceremony, and no major issues, and most of the audience left the venue soon after.