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U.Va. Darden School Grad To Apply Best U.S. Business Practices To Family Company In Bombay

May 7, 2004 -- The last day of class was “bittersweet” for Prashant Prasad, 26, a native of Bombay, India, who is graduating with a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

“After two years here, I feel like I’m ready to take the next step,” Prasad said. “Will I be a better leader? The jury is still out. But Darden has gone way beyond the call of duty to provide me with the building blocks to be a better manager.”

Along with a formal academic education in the principles of business, Prasad appreciates the informal benefits of having worked on business cases as part of a team with students from around the world. Via cell phone and email, he hopes to keep in touch with at least half of the 300 students in his class that he came to know.

“So tomorrow, if I have a business idea, I can call two or three or four people: ‘Can I run some ideas by you?’” Prasad said. “I will know people in investment banking, marketing, entrepreneurship. Potential business partners.”

And Darden students and faculty likewise think highly of Prasad, not only for his business acumen, but also for his efforts on behalf of the school.

Prasad was named the recipient of the 2003-2004 Theo Herbert International Award, which honors Herbert, a member of the class of 1959 and the first international student to graduate from the school. The award recognizes contributions in promoting Darden abroad, while strengthening global awareness at home.

“Prashant has from the first year been involved in helping organize events for international applicants in their home countries,” said one graduating MBA student. “He was a key player in organizing events in India when first- and second-year students were traveling home for the Christmas holidays.”

“Prashant has always strived to recruit talented candidates to Darden who would not only excel in the academics and in their careers beyond Darden, but also work hard to improve the social fabric of their societies,” noted another student. “[He] focuses on the candidates’ characters, not only the extent of their accomplishments.”

“Darden forced me to think about critical issues,” Prasad said. “How are cultures changing with globalization? How is globalization affecting the traditional fabric of society? What is the relationship of the old to the new? Every day at Darden was an eye-opening experience.”

He said that several classes transformed the way in which he views the world. Among these was “Conversations and Debates on Globalization,” taught by associate professor Andrea Larson, and “Leadership and Ethics through Theater,” taught by R. Edward Freeman, professor and director of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at Darden.

Learning took place even in the hallways. Prasad said the highlight of his MBA program was an informal, two-hour conversation on globalization with Larson and several other Darden students. The conversation explored such big-picture questions as: “Is westernization good for India?” and “How is westernization different from globalization?”

“That was the cherry on the cake of my Darden experience,” he said.

When he returns to India this summer, Prasad will spend the month of July in Madras, studying music with R. Vedavalli, a renowned performer, musicologist and teacher of “Carnatic,” the traditional music of south India.

Then he will join Variety Private Ltd., a company founded by his grandfather, S. Vasudevan, in 1947, shortly after India won its independence from Great Britain. The company advises foreign companies interested in entering the Indian marketplace.

“Over the summer my challenge is to read, to analyze and reflect on what I’ve learned,” Prasad said. “Darden is so intense, there’s little time to reflect. But when I go back to India, I’ll be taking the reins of the family business. I’ll be in charge of the nitty-gritty, day-to-day operations.”

And as a relative youngster and a family member, he feels that he must earn the respect of the company’s older, experienced employees. But he believes that his Darden education has given him the tools he needs to manage the family business wisely.

“We have some financial reserves that we can use to diversify our asset portfolio,” Prasad said. “I want to look at acquisition candidates. Be a private equity investor. Take a stake in Indian companies that want to grow overseas. Diversify business that way. My grandfather was all about managing the business for stability. I’m about managing the business for growth. My challenge is to go back and move [the company] into different areas.

“I will take a greater awareness back with me and be a better businessperson,” Prasad said. “Our business will be global. I’ll be able to go beyond making money to think about how my family’s business can better society. How can we do something for our country? How can we make our employees’ lives better? Darden forced me to think about those issues and come up with answers. I’ve learned more here than just how to read spreadsheets.”

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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