Running one’s own organisation is riskier than the stability a corporate career provides. And Gurdip Singh Anand, founder, Universal Business School (UBS), knows this difference all too well. “You are accountable only for your purpose in life. You cannot give up and therefore cannot accept failure and quit,” he says of his ambition to establish UBS as a business school created “by the industry, for the industry.” Prior to establishing UBS in 2010 with co-founders, Tarundeep Singh Anand and Babulal Varma, Gurdip led the human resources divisions at multiple companies including Royal Dutch Shell’s Indian subsidiary, Ciba Giegy and Blue Star Ltd. Post these stints, he also led the Singapore-based Thakral Group in India as its CEO and thereafter, served as managing director of three ATCO Group companies. Of note, being a visiting faculty at Jamanalal Bajaj Institute of Management, Mumbai for 30 years, gave Gurdip the impetus he needed to translate his industry insights into a curriculum that business school students would benefit from.
For Tarundeep, turning entrepreneur meant giving back to society what he had the privilege to learn in his illustrious career. He began as a banker before joining Thomson Reuters, where he served as global head of Treasury. When he was 35, he became the youngest Indian to hold the position of managing director at Thomson Reuters, South Asia. However, once the seed of UBS was sown, Tarundeep left the ranks of Thomson Reuters to completely devote his time to the educational institute. “In an entrepreneurial setup, one needs to make quick decisions and take multiple risks every day. One has to be agile and trust their hunches,” says Tarundeep.
Based on this entrepreneurial intuition, the founders set out to build Mumbai-based UBS with an aim of imparting experiential learning. Gurdip and Tarundeep visited over 50 leading business schools in Europe, U.K., the U.S. and Asia, and based on observations made, developed their ideas on what a superior business school should be and modeled UBS’ education system. With the campus located in Karjat (close to Mumbai), the business school focuses on blending core research and experience in the real world in such a way that the learning environment will make students directly encounter real life situations that will test their skills, knowledge and emotions.
Getting it right
“A city like Pune has 150 business schools. And I felt the need to put up a business school of an international level at Mumbai,” recalls Gurdip. The founders put their personal equity into the venture that is on the outskirts of India’s financial capital, Mumbai. “We have also received funding from one of the nationalised banks,” shares Tarundeep. The location of the business school is significant as it allows students a greater placement opportunity in India’s leading organisations.
One of UBS’ strengths is its faculty that includes individuals from leading institutes such as Harvard Business School, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Stanford Business School and INSEAD. UBS’ faculty has the experience of having conducted business across all the five continents and can impart a truly global experience.
According to the founders, an important aspect that they learnt during their managerial careers was to heed the need to hire the best talent and more importantly, give them the space to achieve their maximum potential. This move has paid off for UBS as it is currently endorsed by 50 leading CEOs, 15 of whom have handled global businesses.
UBS also aims to arrange for annual symposia and conferences to hone its students’ leadership and management skills, as they listen to global thought leaders. Its association with Business Scorecard India, a management consulting and executive training firm, offers consulting and training service opportunities to interact with leading corporate companies in India.
UBS is also positioned as a green business school. It has planted 2,500 trees on campus and plans to plant another 3,000 trees in the next two years. It has used special construction methods which help in low consumption of energy on air conditioning. It employs rain water harvesting and also reduces waste, increases recycling, and produces green power via solar and wind power. In fact, UBS is building two lakes for harvesting rain water. “We have incorporated ecological modules in several subjects, so that students become sensitive to green issues,” shares Gurdip. It has also left 16 acres of green land completely untouched to foster green thinking and to provide for recreational purposes.
“We have strong connections with industry and will achieve 100 per cent placement for our students, when the first batch passes out in September 2012,” shares Gurdip. But placement is not the only motive for UBS. It has developed a special module on entrepreneurship and the founders hope that teaching the same will inspire students to take up the challenges of setting up their own entrepreneurial ventures. Going forward, UBS aims to commence PhD studies and is in the process of setting up a research, consulting and corporate training centre. With a 24/7 focus on their business, the founders are all set to churn out quality managers for corporate India.
Gurdip Singh Anand (GSA) and Tarundeep Singh Anand (TSA)
GSA: Managing director, ATCO Group of companies
TSA: Managing director of Thomson Reuters, South Asia
Currently: Founders at Universal Business School
Why they took to entrepreneurship?
GSA: To follow my dream of creating an Indian educational institution of global repute, which would allow me to give back what I have been privileged to receive in my career.
TSA: To fulfil a strong urge to do something meaningful and create something of everlasting value for societal good.
Entrepreneur vs. Professional
GSA: As an entrepreneur, you get to take multiple risks every day and make decisions based on hunches.
TSA: As an entrepreneur, you’re accountable only for your purpose in life.
Lessons from the past:
GSA: The need to hire the best talent and give them space to achieve their maximum potential as well as take swift action with the non-performers and weed them out before too much damage is done.
TSA: You cannot achieve too much on your own, you need to build an inspired and motivated team.