Management guru Prof Bala is no more


A sea-facing bungalow or a cottage in the hills is what most people aspire for as they ride into sunset. But Bala V Balachandran was different. At 67, he decided to do something that would etch his name forever in the management education space in India.

Balachandran (84), who passed away on Tuesday at Chicago after a brief illness, started the Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM) in Chennai after teaching for four decades at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US.

His dream was to put Chennai on the international management education map.

‘A landmark contribution’

“Bala made Chennai and TN proud by establishing GLIM which, over the years, has become a temple of learning not only for management students but also for the future leadership development programme of leading corporates.

It will remain his landmark contribution to the city he loved the most,” said N Srinivasan, Vice- Chairman & MD, The India Cements.

In 2004, GLIM was started in Chennai with its flagship Post Graduate Program in Management (PGPM). Over a short span of 15 years, it has emerged as one of the premier B-schools in India bagging several prestigious national and international accreditations.

“Balachandran was an interesting combination of sharp analytical intelligence with entrepreneurship. He single-handedly created GLIM despite resource constraints and placed the institute on the global map,” said B Santhanam, CEO Asia Pacific and India region and Chairman, Saint – Gobain India.

Born in Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu, Balachandran completed his collegiate education at the Annamalai University and served the Indian Army briefly before departing to the US to pursue his doctoral studies.

He began his teaching career in 1960 while being a graduate student.

Prof Bala was involved in setting up several top-rated B-schools and management programs not just in India (IIM-Bangalore & ISB Hyderabad) but also in the US, the UK, Israel, Thailand, Germany and Malaysia.

‘Building customer-centricity’

“It’s a great loss for the corporate world. Perhaps even more than for the academic world,” said Lakshmi Narayanan, co-founder, Emeritus Vice-Chairman, Cognizant. He credited Prof Bala, for building customer-centricity at Cognizant.

Above all, his achievements and accolades both in the Indian and American education landscape, Balachandran or ‘Uncle Bala’, as he was also fondly called, is known for his warmth and affectionate nature. “He was really a people’s leader. He had the ability to take everyone along,” recalled Vidya Mahambare, Professor of Economics, Great Lakes Institute of Management.

Padma Shri Balachandran was also a strong believer of ‘Karma Yoga’. He would often tell the students that the best accomplishment in life is to fulfil one’s duties. He is survived by his wife, two sons and their families.

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