Thursday, July 30, 2009

IIM to Ganjdundwara - A Tale of two MBAs

How many of us have experienced the rural life? This was my question 5 years back and what we wanted to do was to experience that rural stint. I still remember the narrow muddy path towards the lake side that I and Hari walked in a remotest village called Surshettikoppa in Hubli district of Karnataka thinking of doing what is required for the underprivileged. What we did there during our visit was a different story all together. But now I am going to introduce you to the book “IIM to Ganjdundwara” - A must read book for all those who would like to create value for the Rural India. A must read for all the young leaders and a compulsory read for all MBAs. I was not even aware of this book even though it got released in January 2008. Well, better late than never; but in my case, it was much better than ever!

IIM to Ganjdundwara is an awe-inspiring journey of two IIMA students. We have been reading many books of IIM folks on their career and life stories. This book is also one among them which has got the kind of impact-oriented and gives a touchy feeling story. Author of the book Rohithari Rajan has put his life into this book to make it evolve inspiring for others.

The story looks very fascinating, but, I know how it is to experience the rural life. Having accustomed to the city-party-luxury-comfortable-life, experiencing the not-experienced life is always challenging. This story is about two Project Trainees from IIM travelling to a village called Rangpurgaon near Ganjdundwara, Etah district of Uttar Pradesh to experience the 2 months of rural life. At the end of the two months, they are required to submit their project report to their company HLL (now called HUL) on what is the value that they can create for that village.

Rohit and Shyam begin their rural stint staying at the village head - Martand Tiwari’s residence which becomes their guest house for the period of 2 months. Nothing-to-do kind of job; what-can-we-do-here? Kind of feeling; the only job is to roam around and get used to the muddy village without access to emails and mobile phones.

Shyam is an Engineer from IIT and Rohit’s background is Economics. The story beautifully draws attention of the reader on how they both get along well even though their background and intentions were different in life. Every character in the story is filled with life and it can exist in every other village of India. Rohit writing a book during his free time and creating imaginary characters out of nothing but relating it to the Da-Vinci Code or a harry potter, creating the character Tara who can exist in everyone’s life; Shyam’s capability of thinking differently to get a solution for the problem, trying to find a solution to the women SHG Group to create a value using his skills, struggling with his own love story challenged by caste differences; Anuj – Martand Tiwari’s younger brother trying to find the difference between the city and the village folks and getting fascinated over doing MBA, his crave for loving a girl and getting married, his protection for Lalu who loves a girl Manju of a different caste; Martand Tiwari the head of the village and his culturally enriched service to the guests at home, the way he handles the village panchayat meetings and his relationship with the villagers; Savithri Devi – the head of the women SHG (Self Help Group) and her struggle for betterment of the group and creating livelihood. These are the main characters of the story.

Rohit has a very good sense of humor which is very much evident in his writing. Simple incidents like - the whole village going behind Shyam and Rohit to get them a bicycle from the nearest village; villagers surrounding them when they switch on their laptop and ask them to repeat the same video song again and again; an idea of a villager buying this TV box (Laptop) from Shyam and fixing it to his tractor; Shyam and Rohit standing in front of the whole villagers and facing the rapid fire round of questions on why are they not married yet? – All these made me burst out of laugh during my interesting reading in the Volvo bus journey. The narration is very simple and it would appear as if we are reading someone’s dairy. You will not feel like closing the book once you start. You will definitely like it.

The best part of the story was the productive output in terms of a clear value creation. I had read a lot about IIMs and their talents although I do-not-like the brand IIM, both Rohit and Shyam are extraordinary people. The outcome of this rural-project life is what we all know and talk big about. It is the HLL Shakti Program – A business initiative that creates livelihood opportunities for the underprivileged rural women. Yes! They created many such Savithri Devis by giving them access to the resources and taught them how to sell products. They won villagers hearts!

But the story ends dramatically with the bloodshed that takes place because of the communal clashes. Killing of the girl Manju who used to love Lalu of the different caste and Shyam ending his life with one gun shot while fighting for Lalu and the Caste System of India. I do not know how many IIMs or how many MBAs or how many young leaders fight to get freedom from the same. But what we can do is things like what they tried doing as a life-project.

So IIM to Ganjdundwara has inspired me with the essence of value creation and bringing change to the economy. This has inspired me to take up a new project.
Go get a copy for yourself!


Vaishnavi said...

Sounds like an interesting read. But is this book entirely based on read life or is it partially fiction? It seems like a welcome change after all the drab on IITs and IIMs.

Srik said...

Yeah Vaish! Certainly a welcome change! It is very much a real life story. But i don’t know if the dramatic end is fictional or not!

Narasim said...

Very comprehensive and insightful review.

It is great to see the academically able people do a very brief rural stint and write about their experience. It would be even greater if the two of them dedicated their knowledge to improving the lives of millions. Maybe, they will. Who can tell.

The tragic story at the end is so common place because of the wretched jati system. Unless the current generation consciously repudiates the jati system we shall continue to learn about such tragedies. Jati system engenders a constant low intensity civil war that takes violent turns at the first opportunity. Is it any wonder that foreigners find it so easy to conquer and rule India.

Srikanth, you deserve praise for taking the time out to deploy your writing skills to do a book review. More power to you.

Raghu said...

Good review.

Books sounds interesting with a message, that factor fascinates me a lot. How many people will take such a risk in helping the needy?
When we refer to IIMs for various other things, let this also influence others to take up projects in the country side and help them.

manjunath said...

Hi Srik...

I'm sure that the book must be an interesting read.
It is also good to see you describing the book in the terms which matter most to the society.Good work, keep'em coming Srik!

Its good to see people, especially young people,in their formative years, going to the rural parts of India and spending some time with the people who need support the most.

During Internship immediately after MBBS we(medical students) have 3 months of Compulsory Rotatory Internship, when we will be posted to various rural places/hospitals which are linked to a particular medical college.Rural India requires physicians,and this being a very serious problem can be seen by every doctor during his initial days. Yet, it is very hard to find a doctor who is willig to work in rural areas!Worse still is that doctors do not want to stay in India itself as they feel that this country is one big village!

I would like to imagine that the whole purpose of the book, and also this blog is to highlight two imporant fields of interest which require utmost attention NOW
1.Rural underdevelopment and
2.Caste prejudice.

I would like to make a point that these two factors,as we all know, are very much inter-related and compliment each other.To tackle these problems, I believe Education is a very strong weapon.Providing education to the needy is everybodys responsibility,not just the governments, and education need not mean school/classroom education only.There are many other ways from which a person can learn and I think Compulsory Rotatory Internship was one of them.

Doc Manjunath

Sudhi said...

Hi Srik,

I have read many books you suggested in your earlier blogs which are informative as well as inspiring. But I think this book is something different where IIM graduates (who normally settle for cushy jobs with investment banks)went to rural place to do something different.

An inspiring blog!


Rohithari said...


I just saw the review you'd put up, and wanted to thank you for it - as well as for the great discussion you sparked off.

The book is largely fiction - the end particularly so. Should you be interested in knowing more about Shakti, HUL web site as well as a number of business school case studies provide a more factual account.

All the best!


Srik said...

Dear Rohit,

I am delighted to see your comment to my book review. Thank you for your valuable references on Project Shakti.

Thanks again for your time reading the review and giving the feedback on the same.

Looking forward to read more books of yours and get inspired.