THORS Spotlight: Sampada Inamdar, Dean of Anand University

Meet Sampada Inamdar, a science graduate who found her true passion in studying human behavior. This interest got her into a long and successful career in organizational and leadership development. Growing up, she changed 13 schools, owing to her father’s job in the Indian Defence Services. She had been involved with FMCG, consulting and of course, manufacturing. Read on for the inspiring success story of the Dean of Anand University and learn her take on education and learning in the manufacturing industry.



Tell us how you started your career. Give us some background on your education.

Since my college days, I always dreamt of myself as a researcher in biochemistry. Over the years, I realized that deep down I was actually interested in human behavior. So that’s how I landed myself in HR. I started my career with a Swedish multinational called Sandvik Asia Limited in Pune. In the manufacturing industry back then, we didn’t have something called HR. We had Industrial Relation and Personnel Management. In Sandvik, I was dealing with militant unions on one side and on the other side I was dealing with developmental work and Business Process Re-engineering. With years of working experience in Manufacturing, FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) and Consulting sectors, I decided to re-skill myself into being a certified Organisation Development (OD) Practitioner.

So from there what was your next step?

From there I moved on to L&T in Mumbai. And in Mumbai my role was re-creating the HR function to have its strategic alignment to business. I spent more than seven years at L&T and from there I got into my own consulting work for about seven to eight years in Leadership Development and Organizational Development. Later I also worked for a FMCG company and then went back into engineering manufacturing. 

I joined Anand Group a few years ago, to lead Anand U into a breakthrough trajectory of a Corporate University. We were awarded the Gold Award for ‘Best Corporate University for embodying Culture, Brand and Identity of the Organization’ at the Global Council of Corporate Universities ceremony in Paris last year.

Tell us a little about Anand University and your day-to-day responsibilities as dean.

Anand University was started in 1991. It is a corporate university meant only for employees of Anand Group. It offers functional certifications, builds leadership pipelines, and helps build the technocrats of the future. Anand University is like a think tank for the organization, being a strategic partner for the conglomerate, supporting research for industry, as well as for the management and enabling the Learning Organization. My role largely is stakeholder management with business heads. While one of the approaches is playing a reactive role in understanding their needs, the second and most important role is influencing what could be the business needs going forward with respect to their growth strategies. We participate in various fora impacting talent and skill development because we feel we owe it to the auto industry at large. 

As an advisory member on Board of Global Council of Corporate University, Anand U also contributes to corporate learning entities of the emerging markets of the world, to strategically contribute to their businesses/society.

Were there any hurdles in your professional journey?

When you are in control, you don’t really think so much about hurdles as much as dealing with the situation and coming out strong. I believe that every situation offers an opportunity – its upto me to leverage it in my favor. One of the fundamental teachings of my upbringing was being able to think radially. You have to manage your way by not constraining yourself to linear thinking but being able to consider multiple perspectives in managing chaos. 

A woman, plays multiple roles of being a mother, a wife, a professional and much more. I am fortunate to be a woman who has naturally refined instincts and perceptiveness. Well, that said, one always wants to fight these battles and come out winning. But over a period, I have learnt that it is okay not to win certain battles. And it’s okay to not play all roles to the best all the time. It’s okay to also appreciate myself, pat my back, and live for myself as well. 

What was the scenario when you first started in manufacturing, and what is it like today?

When I started in the manufacturing industry, I started off in industrial relations (IR). IR way back in the early ’90s was very militant in Pune. There were murders, breakage and looting happening. That time I was probably the only woman in the industrial relations function in the Pune belt. IR was definitely not where women wanted to go, but now that has changed. Today I feel the level of knowledge, awareness, and unity among employees is much higher and as a result the kind of reforms undertaken are very progressive. 

Back then, powerbase of influencing was emotion-based, today it is more logical, expertise based. The image of manufacturing then was stereotypical in terms of uniforms and an overly disciplined regime. Systems approach, high velocity organization and learning agility are as much owned by manufacturing industry today and not just restricted to the service industry. Manufacturing today is not just labor-intensive production shop but also a knowledge-driven sector. GPTW, Innovation,Technology Automation, and Design thinking are a common phenomenon in the industry. 

Do you see the number of women working in manufacturing rising?

Yes, definitely. Gender diversity is very much evident. More enabling policies and practices are coming in. What I definitely see at Anand is more than 20% percent of woman are on the shop floor. At Anand, women leaders are active at leadership positions as well. In fact, at Anand, woman leadership is role-modelled right from the Chairperson’s office.In general, in manufacturing, women employability is on the rise in Himachal Pradesh and North-east is high. Presence of women in senior management is on the rise.

What is your advice for women in this field? Any words of wisdom?

There are three words I think of about women leaders – Will, Feel and Skill. Women have a strong will and are determined to manage work and home. They need to play multiple roles.However, women should not be shy of asking for help—just reach out to people.  Be in touch with the feminine side of you; the ability to express feelings comes very easily to us as compared to men. Women have a natural ability bestowed on them in showing vulnerability and yet being in control.This is what gets leaders to establish genuine relationships. Women should leverage on this inherent ability. Women also have a tendency to nurture, to give more and hence they automatically get more. However, skill is one thing that gets left out in the overall gamut of things in life. Invest on Self-Development. Self-skilling and honing up is extremely essential to appreciate diverse perspectives and expertise! 

How can women be best prepared if they are really passionate about this industry? What should their first step be?

Normally, I would say connect with people and connect with the business. That’s the key. I may be an expert but if I am not able to establish relationships or talk the manufacturing language then there is no point. Connect, and collaborate!

What kind of activities do you do to build technocrats and engage your personnel?

There are various interventions we organize within the organization to help an individual build his/her competence either in business management or in functional expertise. It operates on three levels: the individual level, the team level, and the organizational level. These interventions start from senior management level to workforce level.

How can learning at the workplace be more organized and productive?

With learning at the workplace, it is about “What’s in it for me?” So if all the learning is positioned in a way that the individual or the organization is able to see what’s in it for them, the ownership is then felt by the organization. Otherwise, if you are just trying to push and sell learning, it will never sail through. If learning is aligned to the business, readily accessible and user-friendly, it will be productive.

The thirst for knowledge differs from person to person. How do you think an organization can encourage learning?

The learning methodology must be aligned to today’s and futuristic needs of the organization and individual. If our employees are Gen Y or Gen Z and if I am still working with pedagogies of Gen X, then it’s not going to work. Awareness and connection with the diversity of the business and audience profile is very important. So being aware of the learning preferences is good. Also if the learning interventions are aligned to what the organizaton needs and what the individual’s hunger is, the PULL for learning will there.

How do you, at Anand University, organize your learning methods?

Our learning pedagogies are a mix of various methods. Depending upon the individual’s need or profile, he/she can pick and choose a learning method. If someone wants to do only digital or wants to have a mix and match of online and face-to-face workshops, they can do so. If the employee wants learning through outbound or experiential learning, so be it. Pedagogies are umpteen. There are music-based, theater-based, and MIT and Oxford-based pedagogies at Anand.

How did you accomplish employee engagement and what according to you are the best practices to increase employee engagement?

I think I would put my best practices in a formula called 3C: Create a relationship rapport, Connect with purpose, and Collaborate to create. Create interventions which matter to the audience where people are able to see what’s in it for them. Get their buy-in and collaborate; get them to own up to these interventions. All this works when people see the connect with the purpose and the big picture in a transparent way.

How have you aided in institutionalizing change in various ways?

I would put this into four buckets – Entrepreneurship, Collaborate, Calibrate & Controls. Identify entrepreneurs in the organization. There are many who have creative ideas who want to get out and achieve things. They may not be great at relationship building but they may have fantastic ideas. Identify these people. Connect with these people and collaborate with the influencers. And you will see that all your content excellence is in place. Set them up for success and they will fly on their own. Also, calibrate with the best in class. Then you will know where you stand as far as the world is concerned. This will get you a reality check. The next thing you need to do is to set up administrative processes across. Put customer-friendly checks and controls in place through policies and procedures and you will see that productivity of processes, people rises.


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