He is known to take risks and strike big deals, but is in unwind mode at the moment. Kunal Dasgupta, 54, one of the longest serving CEOs of any media company, called it quits from MSM (formerly Sony Entertainment Television), the broadcasting joint venture between Sony Pictures Television International and a clutch of Indian promoters, after 13 years. His exit comes three months before the expiry of his contract in June 2009. “I wanted a break for sometime,” is all that Dasgupta is willing to say. The grapevine? The top deck at Sony Pictures was getting restive over the lacklustre performance of the Indian broadcaster. That might just have resulted in Dasgupta’s unceremonious departure.
By the month of May, ICICI Bank will have a new young turk on its board. Narayanan Srinivasa Kannan, a bank veteran with more than 17 years of experience, will join the board as Executive Director. An alumnus of IIM-Bangalore and a Chartered Financial Analyst, he will also preside over the CFO hot seat—taking over from Chanda Kochhar, who has been named the CEO. Kannan, 43, is on familiar terrain as he had the same work profile before shifting base to the group’s life insurance subsidiary for almost four years. His homecoming has also pushed him up the succession ladder at the bank with other young leaders like V. Vaidyanathan and Sonjoy Chatterjee, also executive directors. For now, though, Kannan’s focus will be navigating the finances of a bank that is facing its biggest battle in the current slowdown and possible recession.
Turnaround men in public sector are hard to find. But Sudhir Kumar, 52, OSD to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, is just that. He is credited with turning around the Indian Railways financially in the last five years. Unassuming to a fault, Kumar, last fortnight, came out with a book on the story of that transformation— Bankruptcy to Billions. He says he had none of the options that Jack Welch talked of in his simple management strategy of “fix, sell or close”. Instead, Kumar had to respect his minister’s political mandate. Nevertheless, he did manage to rejig the behemoth. “Could we have done it better or differently? Yes. Could we have worked harder, or could our intentions have been more genuine? No,” he says. This year some of the shine off that turnaround may have worn off, but Kumar will surely leave Rail Bhavan a satisfied man.
Akula’s big buy
“No, it does not overlook Lake Michigan; IT just overlooks a pond,” says Vikram Akula, responding to a question on his new asset acquisition in the US. Not willing to share details of his “personal buy”, Akula, 40, Founder & Chairman, SKS Microfinance, confirms he has indeed bought a house—in suburban Chicago in October last year. He will not tell, but it is reported to be around $855,000 (Rs 4.2 crore approx.) for 4,100 sq. ft. Is he not deterred by the slowdown or by the fact that he leads a business that is involved in providing small loans to the poor? “I do not think you have to live in poverty to make an impact. A person in microfinance can do financially well and yet, make a tremendous impact,” he says. The over-riding factor for him was the need to get a place near his eight-year-old son Tejas, who stays with his former wife in Chicago. “I now want to be a dad first and a chairman later,” says Akula. He has taken to that role, having just become the assistant coach to his son’s football team called Chargers.
Batting for women
“Did you know the first world cup of cricket was held for women?” asks Anjum Chopra, 31. While even die-hard cricket buffs might not be acquainted with that, Chopra surely would. She is set to play her fourth successive world cup in March 2009. Yet, endorsements, a given for men’s cricket, have eluded this charming former captain of Indian women’s cricket team. “It only goes on to show the unpopularity of women’s cricket in India and it’s time something was done about that,” she says. Walking the talk, Chopra will launch a website on women’s cricket in late March after she returns from the ICC Women’s World Cup Down Under (March 7-22). What’s more, Chopra with co-author Sunil Kalra is working on a coffee table book, tentatively titled Women’s Cricket World, that traces the history of women’s cricket. An MBA, Chopra works for Air India and has often been compared with former England captain David Gower for her batting style. “It’s time we got our own idols (in women’s cricket),” says the Arjuna awardee.
— Contributed by Anusha Subramanian, Anand Adhikari, Shalini S. Dagar, E. Kumar Sharma and Saumya Bhattacharya