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Prof. Kanupriya Katyal on learning from unexpected corners and unrelated Markets

The standard Indianfather, quite often, urges his child to ‘focus on one thing’. Therein, he emphasises, lies the secret to success. Such fathers would do well to meet Prof. Kanupriya Katyal to realise that, by nature or by evolution, humans can focus with equal fervour on multiple things with as much success. As a teacher at GIM, Prof. Katyal brings to her Marketing classes a deep-set passion for the Indian consumer, especially in areas like spousal decision making, Price (Un)fairness and inherent Indian traits of haggling. Her Management Development Programmes (MDPs) for senior executives of Orient Cement, LIC, PNB, Novartis, Balmer & Lawrie, KVB number more than twenty. As a rigorous researcher, she has been published extensively in journals, magazines and books. And to top it all, for more than a decade now, she has a part to play in helping push handicrafts in India, especially as a Consultant to the Nagaland and Andhra Pradesh governments.

“India has such rich diversity of handicrafts,” says Prof. Katyal on her pet subject. “Silver becomes Tarakasi in Cuttack (Odisha), Filigree in Karimnagar (Telengana) and Bidri in Bidar (Karnataka). Cities get defined for their handicrafts… like Moradabad is synonymous with Brass. But so few understand that for the makers of these, it is more than just handicrafts. It is art… it is life.”

It is easy to see that Prof. Kanupriya Katyal loves art, and she’s learnt quite a bit from artisans of both Andhra and Nagaland. She likes to collect artefacts from the wide range of places that she visits, and she believes that we need to respect our handicrafts and see their value before seeking the respect of the world.

“The Naga’s Kachin Dao; Andhra’s Nirmal Paintings… these and many others can be loved the world over. It’s a matter of positioning. Any clock can tell time but the Cuckoo Clock is a work of art. Building it as a ‘top-of-mind-recall’ when one visits the Black Forest takes time and effort. We have to create and tell compelling stories that elevate these artefacts from simple objects to objects of desire – a symbol of Indian traditional luxury.”

As the conversation flows, Prof. Katyal speaks of a grandfather – grandson Cheriyal Scroll Painters struggling to put together money for an 80-foot painting depicting the Mahabharatha. It is at this point that Prof. Katyal, seamlessly makes the shift… connecting the grassroots artisan with the grassroots salesman.

“It is why, at GIM, we stress so much on listening to the grass-root sales employees; they know customer requirements very well. Some of the best-selling and innovative product redesign ideas for the handicrafts are passed on to the craft makers by the sales staff of the handicraft emporia like Lepakshi. They created Zari and Zardozi bed covers which continue to be very popular.”

It is not long before you realise that Prof. Kanupriya Katyal not only commands a mastery over all her research areas and published works – she is also one of those rare researchers who sees the connection between all the areas, however diversified these might be. Her work has incorporated diverse research methods, from content analysis to Bayesian regression. This interdisciplinary weaving goes a long way in simplifying things for students in the GIM classrooms.

“Many new innovative courses are now a part of GIM,” says Prof. Katyal, when asked how different GIM is from her days as a student here. “New Centers of Excellence like Social Sensitivity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship are helping GIM grow. I feel we still have to go many steps to reach our full potential but the journey is amazing.”Prof. Kanupriya Katyal counts herself fortunate to be able to ‘give back’ to her alma mater.