Padma Shri Srikant Datar
Dr. SRIKANT DATAR,C.A.,PGDBM, ICW, M.S.(Stat), M.A.(Econ),PhD(Business)
Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor at Harvard Business School
Senior Associate Dean, Harvard Business School
Faculty Chair, Harvard Innovation Labs
One Harvard Faculty Fellow
A Chartered Accountantwho holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D. from Stanford University
An author of more than 35 books.
Dr. Srikant M. Datar currently serves as the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University.
Dr. Srikant is a dedicated and innovative teacher who received the ‘George Leland Bach Award for Excellence in the Classroom’ at Carnegie Mellon University and the ‘Distinguished Teaching Award’ at Stanford University. He teaches MBA and executive education classes in design thinking, innovation, big data, and strategy implementation. He is a co-author of the leading cost accounting textbook published by Harvard Business Press,‘Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis’ published by Prentice-Hall, and
‘Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads’. Dr. Srikant also has served on the editorial board of several journals and published his research in prestigious journals, including The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, Journal of Accounting Research, Contemporary Accounting Research, and Management Science.
Born on 18th December 1953, Dr. Srikanthails from Mumbai. His parents and grandparents were highly educated.No wonder Dr. Srikant is such a great academician!Dr. Srikant’s Father, Captain MadhavGopalDatar, was a freedom fighter. After independence of India,he founded ‘The Nautical and Engineering College’, which prepares students for the Merchant Navy, and retired as its Principal. Dr. Srikant’s paternal grandfather was a doctor atMiraj. His maternal grandfather, Dr C. G. Pandit was a medical scientist and the first director of the Indian Council of Medical Research.He was the physician of India’s Prime Minister.He was bestowed with the ‘Padma-Vibhushan Award’. He also founded the Haffkine Institute in Bombay. पंडित-दातारांच्या कुटुंबावर सरस्वतीचा वरदहस्त होता
Dr. Srikant’s mother,ShrimatiSarlaDatar, was a social worker and an elected member of the Pune Municipal Corporation. She taught her sons to care for the poor and the needy and to give voice to those who did not have any. When she passed away in 2005, thousands of slum dwellers, including many women and children, came to pay their last respects because she had done so much for them including giving them a water connection in every home.
Dr. Srikant’s parents sacrificed a great deal so that their two sons could go to the best schools. Srikant and his brother were encouraged to study hard, play a lot of sports (tennis, cricket, hockey, and football) and participate in extra-curricular activities like debates and drama. His father taught Srikant and his brother discipline, the value of hard work, integrity, honesty, and what it means to live a life with high character. Dr. Srikant relates to an incidence when his father refused to give him any money to go for a birthday party at the race course (the Mahalaxmi race course is a horse-racing track at Mahalaxmi, Mumbai). Captain MadhavDatar gave explanation for his refusal. He said, “Srikant, it would not matter if you lose money, but if happen to win your bet, then it will be a wrong message telling you that there is an easy way of earning money. There is nothing for nothing in life.” Dr. Srikant says he learned that the only money that had any value was hard-earned money, and that he should do what he thought was right even if no one else did.
Srikant and his brother spent a lot of time with their grandparents which helped to form a very close-knit and loving family.
Srikant attended Cathedral and John Connon High School. He had fantastic teachers and mentors who really cared about their students and spent time helping them develop into good human beings. He loved school and the many friends he made there.
After his high school, Srikant’s next sixteen years were spent in a unique pursuit of learning and knowledge, acquiring educational degrees in various fields that constituted his steeply up-going graph of academic successes, each one greater than the previous one. Srikant attended St Xavier’s College Mumbai to obtain his B. Sc. (mathematics) with distinction in 1973. By 1976, he completed the course of Chartered Accountant and then attended IIM Ahmadabad for a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management which he completed in 1978 with a Gold Medal performance. Next two years he attended the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India and appeared for Cost Accountancy exam grabbing a Gold Medal again in 1980. He started working for Tata Group,and was given education leave to pursue further studies in US.
In US, he attended Stanford University for M.S. program in Statistics which he completed in 1983. In next one year, he completed M.A. in Economics from Stanford University. He enrolled for PhD in Stanford which he completed in 1985. At this point, Dr. Srikant decided to pursue his interest in teaching and research thereafter.He became faculty member at Stanford.
Work and Research:
Dr. Srikant says he is never afraid of failure and that is the secret of his success. He always drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela.
Dr. Srikant says he has often tried to take the road less travelled and to follow his interests. Many of his papers and courses were among the first written in the new fields he tried to explore. His early research was in Game Theory and Agency Theory related to the design of incentives to balance risks and rewards, the design of compensation plans, and the building of reputations. In the early 1990s, he became interested in manufacturing economics and the economics of productivity, quality and time-based competition. In the early 2000s, he started working on issues of corporate governance.
In the mid-2000s, he worked on a research project on the future of management education that resulted in the publication of the book, ‘Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads,’ that has led to many schools all over the world changing their curricula. In early 2010, he became interested in innovative problem solving and design thinking. This research led to the development of a course that teaches techniques to help students think more innovatively and creatively. In 2015, he developed a new course, ‘Managing with Data Science’ on the use of big data and critical thinking to make decisions.
Dr. Srikant has worked as an accountant and planner in industry, and as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and Harvard University, all in the US. Dr. Srikant’s research interests are in the cost management and management control areas. He has published his research on activity-based management, quality, productivity, time-based competition, new product development, bottleneck management, incentives and performance evaluation in several prestigious journals, including The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, Journal of Accounting Research, Contemporary Accounting Research, and Management Science. He has served on the editorial board of several journals and presented his research to corporate executives and academic audiences in North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Europe.
Dr. Srikantserves on the Board of Directors of ICF International, Novartis AG, Stryker Corporation, and T-Mobile US, and has worked with many corporations on consulting and field-based projects. He is a member of the American Accounting Association and the Institute of Management Accountants.
Rethinking of MBA:
Dr. SrikantDatar is credited for giving new insight and direction to how the MBA schools conduct their courses. Dr. Srikant had purported the theory and had noticed flaws in the MBA education and curriculums in B school much earlier; but there was resistance to accept the radically new approach. 2008 economic crises and slowdown compelled the business schools to study the new approach seriously, and over a short period after that, thousands of Business schools around the world adopted new approach with better flexibility and adaptability to contemporary economic scenarios.
In 2008, as the Harvard Business School celebrated its Centennial, Professors SrikantDatar and David Garvin and research associate Patrick Cullen began a comprehensive research study to explore the state of MBA education. Their findings comprise the book, ‘Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads’. In the book the authors make the case, that although much of conventional business education is still germane, much of it needs to be rethought. If business schools are going to be a crucible to help forge the next generation of leaders then much needs to be done.
The Rethinking of MBA mainly considers changing dynamics of MBA education, criticism of business education, historical evolution and importance of unaddressed issues thus far, initiative of business schools in the areas of globalization, leadership development and integration, and making MBA program global in flavor.
Dr. SrikantDatar enumerated flaws in the B education system. He stated that introduction of short duration management courses, flexible customized programs, and the concept of B-school ranking is devaluing 2 year regular fulltime management courses. Some of the top business schools have included creative thinking skills, experiential learning, inspirational leadership, etc. in the management program. This is done only to show them apart from other schools but this has not added any value to the courses. Quantitative techniques and case analysis have dominated the curriculum overlooking soft skills. A proper balance of the curriculum is essential. As a result, MBAs have a narrow outlook, are inadequately trained in communication and leadership skills. They lack multidisciplinary approach and are ignorant about the organizational realities faced by the practicing managers. The students' interest and requirements also must be taken into consideration, as is not a common consideration now. Rethinking the MBA promulgates Global perspective of business and management, cultural sensitivity, effective leadership, integrative thinking, experiential learning and critical thinking should be given topmost priority.
The top six Business schools were selected to study institutional response to ‘Rethinking the MBA:
University of Chicago Booth School of Business, INSEAD, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, Yale School of Management and The Centre for Creative Leadership.
Dr. Srikant’s views on ‘Economic growth and social justice and the qualities of humility, courage, and trust’:
On 30th March 2017, Dr. Srikant was invited as a chief guest to give the convocation address to the graduating students at IIM Indore.While addressing the Management Graduates, he spoke on various subjects casting light on several global issues and current trends. Dr. Srikant shared his perspective on the stunning international developments that we have witnessed in 2016-17---Brexit and the rise of nationalism and protectionism in many parts of the world.
Dr. Srikant said,“Many are startled by these developments and some saddened. Whatever your view of what is happening, it is important to understand why it is occurring, what one might learn from it, and what lessons it carries for you as managers and entrepreneurs. We certainly live in interesting times.”
“Let me start with the recent US Presidential elections and give you some context. Many towns in several parts of the United States are company towns. By that I mean, one or two companies, often in the same industry---for example, steel or automobiles---provide most of the employment. For a long time in the postwar period through the 1960s, individuals who worked at these companies earned good wages, enjoyed economic security, and did not experience significant differences in class structures---factory workers and executives sent their children to the same schools, had similar family structures and lived in relatively similar neighborhoods.”
“Then starting in the 1970s and through the end of the 20th century, things began to change. Many plants shut down as globalization brought cheaper products from overseas. This second phase of globalization, starting in the 1970s, was fueled by rapid developments in information and communication technology. These technologies allowed companies to develop global supply chains because it made it easier to coordinate complex activities and produce products in locations where labor was cheap. Developing countries like India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand benefited by making parts or components for products manufactured in the developed world.”
“The tremendous improvements in information and communication technologies and the digitization and automation that resulted from it had other unexpected effects. It did cause loss of jobs for many people. But that is only half truth. The other half is the potential benefits of advanced technology. The role of technology in transforming work and society has been a staple of human progress. Most people would not wish to go back to the days of toiling in fields or factories.”
“Earlier innovations fortunately led to the creation of new jobs in new industries for which many people were either prepared or trained reducing the tension between economic growth and social justice. What is new is the pace at which the more recent innovations have occurred leaving large numbers of people at risk of losing their jobs, together with dramatic increase in inequality and the skewing of income and wealth.”
“Of all the wealth created in the United States over the last 20 years, about a third has gone to the top 1% of the population. The bottom 50% has hardly benefited. This inequality is concerning to many Americans, but what is agitating Americans even more is a different kind of inequality---the lack of opportunity to move up the economic and social ladder for Americans who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These Americans believe that the elites who have the benefit of a good education and the technical and managerial skills that go with it are not only getting all the rewards, but taking away their jobs.”
“But even if more protectionist policies were implemented and immigration curbed, I do not believe it would have a significant effect on jobs. Protectionist policies do not address the biggest threat to sustainable livelihoods. The vast majority of jobs that have been lost in the last decade and will be lost in the future are due to automation, digitization, machine learning and artificial intelligence.”
“India too can benefit from the new artificial intelligence and sensing technologies, just as it did with software and computers. But it will also have to grapple with issues of economic growth and social justice, the impact of technology on jobs and lives, unemployment, and inequality of income and opportunity. At the same time, nationalist and protectionist policies in the US and other countries will have ripple effects all over the world including here in India.”
“Whether in India or in the US, the solutions to these problems are neither simple nor easy. At one level, the challenge is an old one ---only more severe because of the speed of change. Without going into details let me sketch out some of the ideas that have been proposed if only to emphasize the kind of innovative thinking that will be needed---shorter work weeks as in several Scandinavian countries, rewarding individuals for the data they share, a larger safety net and a living wage for individuals who lose their jobs, flexible and specific training programs to prepare workers for new economy jobs as opposed to broad general training, incentives to encourage hiring, for example, by reducing employer payroll taxes or giving subsidies, and decreasing the current bias in favor of capital investments.”
Dr. Srikant gave three-point advice to the management graduates; humility, courage and trust.
“Humility helps you keep perspective. It reminds you to be thankful and grateful for the privileges you have enjoyed. It helps build empathy, the root of all innovation. Humility will help guide you toward the economic and social innovations needed to achieve growth with social justice.
Developing empathy will cause you to be more reflective, introspective and self-aware. It will help you to understand better the impact your behavior has on others and why others see you the way they do. If we do things right, perhaps the new economy will help us achieve this lofty vision of inclusive growth. If we do not, the tensions and tribulations it will create will test the very fabric of our societies. I am optimist about the new generation. We have to strive to achieve what Mahatma Gandhi had said, “Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask if the steps you contemplate taking are going to be of any use in restoring to him control over his own life and destiny.”
Building trust: “Whether in India, the US, or Europe, technological innovation will threaten families and disrupt lives. You should become leaders capable of solving the problems of those affected. In the past decade, culminating in the recent global financial crisis, businesses have lost the trust of our societies. Today, average citizens do not see business as a force for good. They have almost forgotten the pivotal role business plays in bringing them products, services, and jobs, and improving the quality of their lives. Instead, society sees business as disrespecting laws and rules and using all possible means to gain wealth without creating long-term sustainable value. This is an untenable situation but getting back society’s trust will require behavior that exemplifies high standards of ethical and moral conduct.”
Courage: We frequently face the choice between taking the right action, acting honorably and ethically or simply taking the easy course, the one that is most convenient. It takes great courage to take the more ethical course. It is not always easy to take a stand, to do what is right. But for the best managers and leaders, ethics and integrity are just part of their identity, who they are and want to be. Ethical actions are an important priority that cannot be sacrificed for the expediency or profits because in the long run an organization without values cannot survive. History reminds us that this is also true of societies and nations.”
Dr. Srikant further says to the graduating MBAs,
“You have been endowed with critical and innovative thinking skills so crucial to making sound judgments and wise decisions. You are therefore uniquely positioned to act, to make things happen. If you do this right, the young generation will create the most wealth and the highest welfare of any generation.”
“We cannot afford to fail. Guided by the goals of economic growth and social justice and the qualities of humility, courage, and trust, the choice is ours, to dream and make.”
Dr. Srikant quoted Robert Kennedy expressing beautifully the importance of appreciating life beyond output and jobs:
“The Gross National Product does not allow for the health of the children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. “
Advice to youth:
Dr. Srikant says, “Have courage to do right, build empathy for people who have not been as lucky, stay humble, engender trust, make a difference.”
“When faced with a choice, have the courage to do what is right, not what is convenient. I am certain that during your careers you will be tested on this dimension many times. Each time, I hope you will persevere and not succumb to pressure and temptation. Have the courage to speak truth to power.”
He tells his students about the seven qualities of great leaders and asks them to try to work towards them in their careers:
1. Build a sense of purpose and a vision for the future; 2. Inspire others to make a difference; 3. Act boldly and wisely but with humility; 4. Develop empathy and trust; 5. Be open minded and have a constant desire to learn; 5. Be able to cope with failure and 7. Have the courage and discipline to do what is right.
Mahatma Gandhi’s seven deadly sins express what he thinks should be taught to students to avoid:
1. Wealth without work; 2. Worship without sacrifice; 3. Knowledge without character; 4. Commerce without morality; 5. Science without humanity; 6. Pleasure without conscience; and 7. Politics without principles.
Relation to Roots:
Dr. Srikantrealizes his responsibility towards his motherland, and tries to give back to India whenever he can. He serves as a Member of the Court of Shiv Nadar University, and on the Board of Governors of his alma mater, The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad and the Governing Council of the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. He has conducted several seminars and interacted with many management schools in India to help them reshape management education in India.
He has also served on the board of directors of Indian Companies---KPIT Infosystems (Pune) and HCL Technologies (Noida).
As an economist, he strongly believes what President Franklin Roosevelt had once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
• George Leland Bach teaching award at Carnegie Mellon University
• One of very few individuals to receive tenure and chaired professorships at both Stanford University and Harvard University, within 8 years of his Ph.D.
• The Distinguished Teaching Award at Stanford University.
• Served on the editorial board and as Associate editor of several leading academic journals.
• Co-author of leading Cost and Management Accounting textbook, “Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis currently in its 16th edition
• Co-author of major text books that have been studied by over 3 million students
• Co-author of ‘Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads’ that has had a major effect in reshaping MBA program curricula since it was first published in 2010.
• Published over 40 articles in leading academic business journals and served as an associate editor of several journals
• Chair of the Harvard Innovation Labs and Senior Associate Dean of Harvard Business School
• Distinguished Alumni Award, IIM Ahmedabad
• Member of the board of directors of Novartis AG (Switzerland), Stryker Corporation (US), T-Mobile Corporation (US) and ICF International (US
---Named among the top 50 Management thinkers in India
---On the cover of Outlook magazine under title, “The World’s Top Indian Gurus”
---Recipient of a Doctorate of Literature, HonorisCausa, from Symbiosis International University.
---Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads” (Datar, Garvin, Cullen, Harvard Business Press, 2010) recognized by Strategy + Business as one of the Best Business Books.
1989-1993 Tenured Professor of Business at Carnegie-Mellon University and Stanford University
1993-1996 W Littlefield Professor at Stanford University
1996 onwards Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor Harvard University
Dr. Srikant was introduced to his wife, Swati, by their parents who knew each other. They met a few times and decided to get married. Swati was trained as a commercial artist but is a homemaker after their marriage. Dr. Srikant says she is an amazing person and stood like a rock fortheir family. She has sacrificed her career for the family and is greatly responsible for their happiness and successes.
Dr. Srikant and Swati are blessed with three children, Radhika, Gayatri, and Sidharth.
Their both daughters are highly accomplished in their careers. Their eldest daughter Radhika is a medical doctor.
Younger daughter Gayatriis a graduate from Harvard University. She is currently an MBA student at Stanford University and doing a project in Rwanda as part of her MBA program. The project she is working on is called ‘Design for Extreme Affordability.’ In order to improve the lives of poor people in Rwanda, she has formulated a method to create smooth flooring. She uses simple soil with a coat of Linseed oil/flax seed oil which is imported from India. The result is amazingly smooth floor of their huts which even repels many insects from entering the huts. This project is not for profit, and is noticed and appreciated by Bill Gates via Tweet. Gayatri’s name has appeared in ‘Forbes Magazine- 30 under Thirty’. Gayatri wants to go to India to try implement this new innovation after she completes her project in Rwanda.
Their youngest son Siddharth is an undergraduate student.