Master of the Reins
With an intense training schedule for international equestrian competitions, as well as demands from work and family life, Malhotra finds Kelley Direct’s flexibility invaluable. “Without it, I feel I would not have had the opportunity to earn an MBA from a world-class university.”
Kelley Direct MBA/MS Strategic Management
While most people are sleeping, Vanita Malhotra is working. She begins her day at 5:30 am preparing her upper-level dressage horse Pink Floyd for their next competition. And she stays up late completing coursework for her MBA through Kelley Direct, the Kelley School of Business’ online MBA program.
During the day, Malhotra is director for a Cummins diesel engine distributor in the northern Indian state of Haryana. The management skills and discipline that allow Malhotra to run her business are the same abilities that enable her to rank as India’s national champion in the sport of dressage since 2005 while pursuing dual masters degrees in business and strategic management.
Malhotra will complete her MBA from Kelley Direct in August 2010 and will spend another 6 months completing her degree in strategic management. Since beginning the program in the spring of 2008, she has taken two classes each semester and she has spent a week each year in Bloomington completing a required in-residence program. She spends two to three hours each day studying and completing assignments with classmates from Hong Kong, Singapore, China and the United States via private online discussion forums and teleconference.
Flexibility Is Invaluable
“The best thing about Kelley Direct is that you can alter the program to your needs,” Malhotra says. With an intense training schedule for international equestrian competitions, as well as demands from her work and family life, Kelley Direct’s flexibility is invaluable. “Without it, I feel I would not have had the opportunity to earn an MBA from a world-class university,” she observes.
Kelley Direct, celebrating its tenth anniversary this academic year, was one of the earliest developers of an online MBA program and remains the only such program associated with a top-20 MBA program. One of Kelley Direct’s more innovative aspects is the in-residence program required of all students.
During the in-residence, students from all over the world, who normally interact only virtually, converge in Bloomington for an intensive weeklong classroom experience accompanied by social events to allow the students to get to know each other. Malhotra explains, “We are given group assignments that we complete in teams.” The social events give students a chance to get to know colleagues from the military, manufacturing, finance, and other sectors. “The faculty as well as the administrative staff at Kelley Direct are so warm and helpful—we are made to feel like a part of the Kelley Direct family.”
Courses Directly Apply
Malhotra chose to attend Kelley through a corporate program offered by Cummins India. It was important to her that her coursework have a close relationship with her professional duties at SVAM Power Plants Pvt. Ltd., one of the largest Cummins distributors that provides after-service support to Cummins engines.
Because state-supplied power is unreliable in India, many private firms operate on generator sets to ensure a steady supply of power. It is not enough to sell engines, though, reliability is a key concern. Malhotra explains: “SVAM is a service-oriented company providing round-the-clock service support to all Cummins engines in the area. We provide parts, Valvoline oil, and sell low horse power diesel generator sets and all other products related to engines. We cater to approximately 3,700 customers and cover approximately 9,800 engines.”
In addition to providing support to Cummins engines, SVAM also provides some of its major customers with dedicated operators and supervisors who provide comprehensive annual maintenance contracts on site. With a workforce of more 260 employees, this emphasis on service support requires continuous training for staff. “Our job is people driven, so we invest a lot of time training our man power,” Malhotra says. She finds the lessons from her human resources class directly applicable to her responsibilities at SVAM. “Creating the feeling of oneness and involving people in bringing about any change positive in any organization is important.”
During her Kelley Direct experience, Malhotra’s coursework in management, operations, and law and ethics have proven useful. “Application of other management techniques has been useful,” she says. “Also, I find that I have started looking at my business from other angles. My vision is more widespread—I am looking for ways to improve how I do things, or sometimes follow existing practices, but trying to do them in a better and more efficient manner.”
Traits That Spell Success
Not unlike success in business, success in the sport of dressage requires fastidious attention to detail. Being successful against stiff international competition requires a carefully and patiently managed program that leaves no variable—discipline, training, equipment, nutrition—to chance. This attentiveness is what has allowed Malhotra to win at the highest levels of the sport—which she describes as “a ballet you perform on a horse.” In 2010 Malhotra hopes to be selected to represent India at the Asian Games, an international competition held every four years and that attracts more than 12,000 competitors. This would make her the first woman equestrian to represent India at this level.
In India, the sport of dressage is largely the province of men and men from the military. The power industry is also dominated by men—both in terms of customers and employees. Ask Malhotra how she has handled being a woman in these fields and she responds, “Initially I did find it difficult and felt out of place, but I feel one has to learn to adapt and make their place and feel confident.”
“When people around you see you making a positive change, know that what you are saying makes sense, and see things moving in the right direction, you earn respect from all and then gender does not play an important role.”