Professor Atul Tandan, former director of Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) passed away on Sunday, March 1, in London from a cardiac arrest. He was 67. He is survived by his wife Priya (67), daughter Karishma (38) and son Samvit (36).
PAT (short for Prof. Atul Tandan), as he was lovingly known to his friends, colleagues and students, was associated with management education since 1984, and had taught at various institutes in India, UK, Sri Lanka and France.
"To me, Professor Atul Tandan is one of the key architects of MICA. During his tenure as the director, for eight glorious years from March 2001 to 2009, Atul truly built MICA, both in terms of size and stature and in respect and reputation. MICA flourished immensely under his leadership. Be it the wonderful campus that he lovingly curated and built upon, or the wide industry connect that he established. The foundation for the numerous accolades that MICA receives today was laid by him.
All those who interacted with him will miss his charm and endless energy. His students loved him and adored him. The rapport that he shared with them was admirable and wonderful to see. He was PAT to them. A friend to all. While the Mudra Foundation and the Governing Council express their gratitude, I will personally remain indebted to him for his dedication and contribution to MICA. I applaud his commitment and passion. Rest in Peace, Atul. You deserve it," says Madhukar Kamath, group CEO and managing director, DDB Mudra Group and chairperson, MICA Governing Council.
According to Professor Rajneesh Krishna, PAT had the competence not just to understand the future and make the brand relevant to it, but also to understand the potential of different team members and to fit them to the best capacities.
Tandan served as MICA director from March 2001 to June 2009. Under his leadership, he not only doubled the intake of the flagship PGDM programme, but started some of the other successful programmes and centres like PGP-CCC, EDC, CSDC, PGP-RCM, PGP-PREM, PGP-BM, PGDM-Ex and Online education. He is credited with the launch of MLS, Micanvas, MICAMAINDS, MCR, JOCC (Journal of Creative Communications published by Sage) and International Students Exchange.
He was the one who also put the infrastructure development on fast pace, to cope with the growing academic endeavours. Buildings and facilities like Palash, New Academic Block, Seminar Halls, Amphitheatre, Online Studio, Digital Communication Building, IMAC Lab, Video Conferencing Room, Silver Oak and Gymnasium etc, are his contribution to the beautiful campus.
Shubhra Gaur, professor, MICA, adds, "Once when PAT was travelling overseas, he had entrusted me with a very important assignment which I unfortunately messed up, and an urgent Sunday meeting was called as soon as he returned to campus. I was very anxious to face him but when we met, PAT, to my utter surprise, said 'Dr. Gaur, you've just made the Sunday very interesting'. He encouraged initiative by truly believing that mistakes lead to learning. His penchant for meticulous preparation before any meeting - big or small was truly remarkable and inspiring. His neatly written notes on every file that we sent to him spoke volumes about his attention to detail and respect for people's efforts."
Falguni Vasavada-Oza, Associate Professor, MICA, remembers PAT as a sensitive and yet charismatic leader - one who was equally popular with the professors, students and with the guards. She says, "PAT took MICA to where it is right now - from being just an institute in India to a global brand to be reckoned with. He believed in his people and was truly loved by students, faculty and staff. Whenever and wherever he used to get up to speak there was an audience who was in total awe! I will always fondly remember you PAT and you can't die! Whenever I will set my eyes on the MICA lawns, I will see you in a bright Fab India kurta with your coffee mug and Roxy by your side! You live on - in the hearts of all MICAns!"
Devendra Chawla, president - Food & FMCG, Future Group, had the opportunity to work under PAT just after leaving his MBA school. PAT was then MD of JL Morison.
"I remember meeting him two years back and still being in awe of him. He was up-to-date on the marketing front. And, even though his beard had long turned white, that piercing gaze was still there. The same one which looked the tiger in the eye long back," remembers Chavla.
Tandan, in his younger days, had also modeled for the famous Lipton Tea Tiger campaign. Few also knew of his interest in theatre, tennis and squash. A fitness enthusiast, PAT would often go for hour-long jogs around the MICA campus. Prof. Tandan had co-edited a book titled: Culture, Consumption and Branding. Earlier, he had also edited a book titled: Managing the Odds. He was also actively involved in community development & women's education.
"One of the great things about him was that he knew that to connect to the Indian audience, you need to speak in their language. At Unilever, he took several products to the rural areas through his deep understanding of brands and the Indian mentality," remembers Devidas Rao, chief operating officer, Film Farm.
"He was constantly in touch with most of his erstwhile colleagues at MICA. He had invited some of us as visiting faculty to the institute he was last associated with. I was yet to get back to him; today, I hear this terrible news and feel very bad that I didn't get back to him in time," says Sunjay Chandwani, head, Estate and Logistics, MICA.
"PAT gave me my first opportunity to take a session on 'Retail Communications' in a PGP Class, while I was still a very junior research assistant and kick-started my teaching career. I owe a lot many things in my life to PAT. If he would not have encouraged me to pursue academics, if he would have not given me the courage to get into teaching at MICA in 2001, if he would not have inspired me to look beyond, I would not have become even a bit of what I could. Whenever I did any new thing or shifted to a new place, PAT was the first one to know. Long after both of us were no longer associated with MICA, still the only thing we always talked about was MICA. In a sense, MICA defined him and he defined MICA for many of us," says Dwarika Prasad Uniyal, professor, LBSNAA, Mussoorie (former MICA faculty).