Anil Sachdev is one of the tallest leaders in talent management in the country. He is the Founder, CEO and present dean of the School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL). At the age of 19, while most people are still figuring out what they want from life, he wrote his mission statement clearly. He decided that he wanted to contribute to India’s economic growth without spiritual impoverishment. 

After completing his MBA from Pune, Anil joined Tata Motors and then went on to join Eicher Group. He founded Eicher Consultancy Services and later founded Grow Talent. His trajectory has been remarkable and he now serves as the adjunct faculty to leading business schools such as Indian School of Business, Kelly School of Business, Indiana University and more. He is a trustee of Chinmaya Mission, an inspiring NPO. He has also held several public offices and is a member of the CEDEP Academic Committee.  

On how Grow Talent was created

I had told Mr. Lal at Eicher that after working with them for 10 years, I would start a consulting company of my own. When the time came, he asked me why don’t you make it a subsidiary of Eicher? So we created Eicher Consultancy. It’s vision statement was much like mine – India’s economic growth without spiritual impoverishment. And for every one of those words, we had practice areas. We had total employee involvement – not just physically, intellectually and emotionally but with their entire being. For spiritual development, people needed to do more with less for everyone’s benefit. And they needed to use the right means to make money.

After incorporating all these into Eicher Consultancy, which grew significantly, Anil stepped down as the founder and created Grow Talent in 2001. Grow Talent’s vision was helping people realize their full potential. Eicher Consultancy did everything from strategy to operations to HR, but Grow Talent chose to stick to only talent. 

The funny thing is that the funding for it came from all the clients of ECS. They contributed on their own.” 

The idea behind setting up SOIL

Anil had some very defining moments in his early life, incidents that made him decide that he wanted to serve the nation in some way and finally, he decided on education. 

I wanted to get into education, but education in a transformative way. Not just to make money.

In the early 90s, while Anil was setting up Eicher Consultancy, the board of IIM Ahmedabad approached him to take over as Director of the institute. Anil asked Mr. Kulkarni, Chairman of the Board, and one of his clients, why they wanted him there. 

He said, Anil, we have people who teach good management but we lack leadership here. He said we really want you to come here and help in building good leaders. The same year IIM Bangalore offered me the same opportunity. I turned it down because I was focused on building Eicher Consultancy, but the thought remained with me. Why were the top management schools not being able to create good leaders?

SOIL’s mission

Anil has tried to solve this problem at SOIL by segregating it into 5 aspects. First, right from the time of admission, one has to observe different types of intelligences. He says analytical intelligence is overrated and we must look at creative, design, emotional intelligence among others. 

The second aspect is that teachers are not great role models. Most students do not think of them as mentors. “I firmly believe that teachers teach who they are, regardless of what they teach.” At SOIL, they have tried to rope in faculty that can behave as leaders. 

Third, Anil believes that students need to have out of classroom experience. They created something called the ‘Social Innovation Program’, wherein one day in a week, students work in teams at a NPO and help in problem solving. “This also helps invoke compassion in their hearts for people who are not like them.” 

Fourthly, Anil decided to develop future-ready people by observing what industries were paying attention to. “We should be developing a whole systems thinking, so it is not limited to functional disciplines like marketing, finance, but develop a holistic thinking.” 

Lastly, he felt that everything in the school should be co-created. SOIL was co-created by 32 companies. “Everything from the curriculum design to the pedagogy to the learning outcomes has been co-designed with the industries.

How millennials are changing the industry

The one thing about millennials that I am truly impressed with is that they really want to make a difference. However complex a problem, they believe that it can be solved. I completely disagree with the view that they are selfish and only work for money. They are in fact, selfless. They want to work for society and make the country better. All they need is mentors like us to provide them with the space to grow and be better. If millennials don’t get that mentorship, it is the failure of us seniors. Young people, including Gen Z, are far more conscious and far more driven.

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