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Vedica team: Anuradha Das Mathur, Jesleen Lalmuanawmi, Shreyasi Singh, Ruchi Mahajan, Surbhi Kapur and Stuti Govil

Vedica’s MBA is smart, female and beyond profit

Kavita Charanji, New Delhi

Everything at Vedica is new and exciting, says bright young Ashmita Kannan, a graduate in computer science engineering from Kumaraguru College of Technology, Coimbatore. She started her career at Mu Sigma, a data analytics firm, and seemed to have made it — until she became very restless. “I realised that this was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to take time off to study, explore a variety of subjects to see where my interests lay. I wasn’t interested in an MBA programme at IIM or ISB. That idea just gave me jitters,” says Kannan.

Instead she opted for an 18-month residential, postgraduate management course specifically designed for young women called the Vedica Scholars Programme. This unique multidisciplinary MBA programme, probably the first of its kind, is being offered by the Vedica Foundation and the Shri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication in New Delhi.

“I went in for Vedica because it gave me a chance to look beyond the profit-centric corporate CEO mindset. There were a lot of qualities about myself which I didn’t know before, like my strengths. Now, I’ve learnt how to handle conflict better, accept feedback and my people management skills have become much better,” says Kannan.

The corporate sector is just one avenue for Vedica students. Development professional Tania Tauro is confident the Vedica qualification will sharpen her management skills in her line of work. She’s done her master’s in development from the Azim Premji University and has worked in the area of public health with two NGOs, Armman and Magic Bus Foundation. “I wanted to figure out what I really wanted to do, understand management better so I could be an effective manager in the development sector. This learning could be in the form of better impact assessment or accounting skills. But first I was taught to overcome my wariness of numbers.”

Anuradha Mathur, a media professional and entrepreneur, is Dean of the Vedica Programme. She is one of its founders. The other two founders are Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and first Dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB) and Daljeet Wadhwa, Founding Director of the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication.

There were several reasons why they started Vedica. They were primarily concerned that many academically bright young women were dropping out of the workforce a few years into promising careers. To create a pool of financially independent women with determination to stay the course in their careers was the starting point of Vedica. “We believe very strongly that dignity and dependence don’t go hand in hand. We are quite hard-headed about indoctrinating women by saying they must have an aspiration for careers as opposed to jobs as and when it is convenient for them,” says Mathur.

The other driving reason was that the traditional ‘vanilla MBA’, as Mathur terms it, is losing some of its sheen and there was a need to embellish the core of management practice by adding the liberal arts, communication and personal growth. So Vedica students learn a gamut of liberal arts like micro and macro-economics, women’s studies, development, public policy, history, philosophy, psychology and international relations.  “Businesses don’t operate in silo. They operate in a context and in future business, government and the community will have to work together to solve the complex problems we face,” emphasises Mathur.

Courses in communication and thinking help Vedica students develop their logical, analytical and critical thinking skills. These factor in written, oral and visual communication skills that extend to business writing, drafting reports and proposals, presentation skills, social media engagement and public speaking.

There is emphasis on personal growth, critical for women so that they can handle conflicts and dilemmas at their workplace. “The exposure we give the women enables them to see themselves as successful despite being demure, aggressive, assertive, loud or quiet, be it in the development or corporate sectors, the government or even in the creative arts,” says Mathur.

Art appreciation and theatre workshops are juxtaposed with courses in public policy, sustainable development, impact evaluation and other subjects.

Chandrika Bahadur is president of the SDSN Association, a non-profit that hosts the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. She takes classes in sustainable development for Vedica students. “It is important for future leaders of the corporate sector to understand the world they will live in and how their choices and decisions will have an impact outside their organisations. This course is meant to give them the understanding and tools to make better choices,” she explains.

The inaugural class of Vedica scholars is to graduate December-end with certificates from The Wharton School in Foundations of Business and Business Analytics.

Their instructor is Tushar Jaruhar. He brings to the table a combination of Acturial, Six Sigma, Lean, MBA, engineering and acute strategic skills to teach three Wharton Basic Foundation courses —operations, finance and accounting.

The best thing about Vedica, he says, is that the education is broad-based. So while some have their sights on careers in Silicon Valley and quantum mechanics, others are keen to better appreciate art. Broad-based learning, feels Jaruhar, is really the crucible of education.

“This class comes here because they want to go beyond the basic MBA. I am an MBA, I did a lot of accounting, finance, strategy, marketing and operations courses. What about the influencing skills? That is not being taught anywhere in the world,” he says.

As the first batch of Vedica scholars readies to go out into the world, the question is whether they are equipped for the challenges coming their way. The Vedica team certainly thinks so. While the placement process starts, an exciting one-month ‘Shadow a Woman CEO’ programme begins in the first week of August. The young women will spend a month getting hands-on experience of working with top-rung, professional women like Anu Acharya, CEO, Mapmygenome, Gunjan Soni, CMO of Myntra, Pratibha Advani, CFO, Tata Communications, Hitu Chawla,  India Head–Enterprise, Microsoft. Then there are others like Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India, and Roxanne Hakim, Social Development Cluster Leader at the World Bank.

Shreyasi Singh, Director, Careers & Programme Development, is optimistic about placements.  “Through the ‘Shadow a Woman CEO Programme’ we will encourage mentors to introduce scholars to concepts such as benchmark professionalism and code of conduct,” she says.

“If the scholars develop a great rapport with seniors in industry through our programme, they become mentors for life.” 

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