Mumbai. In an interesting development, it seems that a resident of Mumbai has become the world’s richest man, with a single source of income – B-School competition prizes. Sriram ‘Shortlisted’ Kamble, 43, whose personal fortune now exceeds 9 billion dollars, is miles ahead of his compatriot Mukesh Ambani, who heads some petrol company who now no one cares about.
Mr. Kamble has been participating in these contests ever since he himself was a student of the reputed business school, S.J. Pain Institute of Management Studies and Research (SJPIMR) in 1979. Apparently, Mr. Kamble was not ‘the brightest of the lot’ according to his classmates, but came to his own when there was a competition or a prize at stake.
“It all started when I was sitting in the Strategic Marketing Management class in my second trimester”, recalls Mr. Kamble. “Two friends on either side of me were discussing a plan they had put together for a brand-your-own-kirana-store competition. I perked up and asked whether they needed help, ‘cause I got a brilliant idea. They laughed at me, because, well, I was sort of a duffer in class. But when I heard of the prize money of 1000 rupees plus 200 rupees worth of gift coupons, I just HAD to participate. I took part alone and I won! I suppose that’s how it started!”
Indeed, Mr. Kamble won all the competitions he participated in – at the expense of his education. In 1988, after 7 attempts, the institute finally decided to kick him out. He took up a job as a waiter in a nearby restaurant so he could be a corporate participant. To date, “Shortlisted”, as his friends call him, has won 9879 competitions across the country, which span business plans, branding contests, mock stock market games, and even pencil-sketching.
“The secret is dedication, perseverance and recycling ideas which you already used for contests 18 years ago,” he said with a wink.
When asked whether any of his plans were converted into actual businesses, he just smiled and said, “Well, I don’t normally share my ideas, but I WILL tell you that one of the chaps I shared my first retail idea with has his first name as Kishore.”
Needless to say, this news has sparked off sudden interest in corporate participation in B-School events across the country. Last heard, the chairman of a multi-billion dollar automobile company skipped his AGM to attend the finals of a ‘Brand a new chaddi’ competition held at a B-School in Delhi, Robin Uthappa decided to retire on 297* in the 2nd Test against Bangladesh to attend a The Apprentice-style competition in Ahmedabad and if we’re to hear correctly, Steve Jobs’ visit to Guwahati might not be to inaugurate an Apple store as the newspapers lead us to believe.
The downside of course is the organizing committee of these B-Schools, who are inundated with entries. “We used to have to extend the deadline to get in 3 more entries before. Now we’ve got to close down 10 days before because we’ve got too many entries!” said the organizer of ‘Brants’, a competition for marketing insects in a B-School based in Chennai.
Kamble, in the meantime, remains nonchalant. “What? Wasn’t there a spurt in software engineering applicants when Bill Gates became the richest man?” he pointed out, quite logically.
(the writer blogs here)