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Varenya Goes To Harvard

14 February 2011

Varenya Mohan-RamVarenya Mohan-Ram is SITAC's Deputy Chairman. He successfully completed the "Finance for Senior Executives" course at Harvard Business School & had this to say about his experience.

It is one of the most difficult yet interesting courses I have ever done.
Of the 60 participants that attended, the mix represented 21 countries, and 34 industries. The average age is 49. In my group there was  the Vice President of BAE systems, the guy who was part of the initial iphone design, the VP of America largest health provider, the director of America power corporation and the director of world bank. I was hassled by the older folk (just fun) for being the youngest in the course, until my group stuck up for me.

On average this week most of the students slept about 3-4 hours per night. There was much reading to do. Some of the topics covered were Cost of raising capital, Mergers and Acq., Using Valuation matrixes to determine the viability of companies plus 8 more topics...etc..Harvard Business School dedicated 10 professors to the class for the whole time we were there. It was a real room full of knowledge.
We applied these principles to real life companies in America (Goldman Sachs, Westinghouse Mergers, Merryl Lynch) and studied, the board's behaviour, shared holders behaviour, CEO behaviour etc  We had to make recommendations to each case by completing debt to eq ratios, Discount cash flows, valuation matrix's etc. This was to be completed prior to our arrival, then discussed as a group and present the group's view to the class, then present our own findings. one of the problems took up nine chalk boards. I took a pic!
On our last night, the President of Harvard School of Business Henry Reiling addressed us (a 40 year veteran of the school). He spoke of the number one thing required in Finance. He said it was character of an individual - whether it be applying for a loan or running a company. He spoke of the need to have an independent thought process - to always question. His view was America would not have been in the position it is if there was more questioning occurring. He spoke of never forgetting what the initial goal of your organisation was because all decisions flow from that. He said "too many individuals are renumerated on bottom line performance and sacrifice the character of the company"... he reminded me that the suit do not make the man. He told us how all the professors that mentored us don't receive remuneration for the work they do with us. "It is our dedication to change the world," he said to me "what is yours?". It is great to hear such an institution imparting such wisdom with such conviction.

On parting he said to me "never compromise who you are, too many are willing to do that to succeed, if only temporarily"
It was to say the least a life changing experience.
All the best