Alumni Stories · Leadership

Abhijat Chahal believes in the power of education to transform societies

“Learning from your classmates acquires tangible meaning at IMD.”
June 2017

When Abhijat Chahalgraduated from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, India with a BS in Marine Engineering, he was immediately employed by Maersk Group, the integrated transport and logistics company. For the next ten years, he worked in five countries and was exposed to 21 countries across four continents. He became experienced in leading multinational and multicultural teams and focussing on teamwork as a core value, a plus that he also finds at IMD.

Gaining from experience

Abhijat loved being a shipping man. He recalls his immense satisfaction when he succeeded as Project Manager of a ground-breaking vessel restructuring project with multiple stakeholders in China.

“The project included 8 departments in the company and 12 major suppliers. It was my first real experience being a part of an incredibly high performing team setting new benchmarks. For all its complexity, the project was delivered significantly below budget and ahead of time.”

Coming to IMD

Influenced by the leadership of two top Maersk executives, Soren Skou and Morten Engelstoft, both IMD alumni, Abhijat decided to complete his technical background with a business school education.

“After 10 years on the move in an international career, being focused on learning and having the time to reflect is quite enriching. “

What he liked about IMD was the prospect of being in a small class of experienced individuals. “It is one thing to be in a class of smart people and completely another to be in a group of smart and widely experienced individuals. The oft used cliché of learning from your classmates acquires tangible meaning at IMD.”

IMD’s reputation and links with industry were further incentives: “For me it was a no brainer – and so it became the only school I applied to.”

Learning from IMD

Leadership is the area in which he has learned the most. “This intense understanding of “who I am” and learning about spotting and responding to behavioral data is extremely powerful and it has been a visibly humbling experience for the class.” He mentions how the course impacted his understanding of people’s behaviour, as well as his own.

“Leadership in business isn’t just about profit or making deals. It is about knowing your own moral compass and ability to deal with dilemmas.”

Because teamwork is at the heart of the MBA program, IMD might not be the right school for everyone, he cautions.  Future candidates must value personal attention and interaction with classmates and faculty. “Don’t come with prepared scripts and practiced answers. Be open and genuine and think as well about what you have to offer your 89 fellow classmates.”

Next steps

Abhijat talks of his zest for life and says how keen he is to explore possibilities. He doesn’t yet know where he will go next, but says that his long-term professional goal is to run an organization driven by a sense of achievement and that is known for its culture and responsibility towards the community.

As a firm believer in the power of education and politics in transforming societies and countries, he might also explore involvement in education or politics in India.

“There are no right answers to many situations and those that demonstrate the willingness and ability to deal with dilemmas will make a real impact,” he says he learned at IMD.

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