The Achal Bakeri Lecture @ MDI

On 17 November, Achal Bakeri, founder and CEO of Symphony Limited, delivered a fantastic talk to my students at MDI.


Achal Bakeri @ MDI

Many students later told me or wrote to me that they accumulated more wisdom in this lecture than any other lecture they had attended. For me too, it was a wonderful learning experience to meet Mr. Bakeri for the first time and learn from him.

As per my request, Mr. Bakeri covered the following topics:

  • Your journey as an entrepreneur;
  • The history of Symphony;
  • The struggles faced by you;
  • Early mistakes, and what was learnt from them;
  • Symphony’s M&A strategy;
  • Any ethical dilemma you faced and how you dealt with it; and
  • Key lessons to students from your life.

He also described in detail the business model innovation that he and his team have brought about at Symphony and the remarkable results that innovation resulted in excellent fundamental financial performance.

There is much to learn from Mr. Bakeri’s lecture. You can view the recording from here.

An earlier note sent to students from here.

My introductory comments are here.

And you can get the teaching notes I had sent to students before the lecture from here.

NOTE: This was an academic event focusing on a listed company’s financial performance over the years and the likely causes of that performance. The lecture video and any material referenced above should not be construed as a stock recommendation.


10 thoughts on “The Achal Bakeri Lecture @ MDI

  1. Kushal Kumar says:

    Hello Sir,

    It is a privilege that, we, who are not your current students or alumnus of MDI, also get to get your notes, presentations, and guest lecture videos firsthand.

    There is only one way it could get any better and that is if, sincerely hoping that you may agree, we could attend the guest lectures in person. Please share your views. Thanks

  2. Thanks a lot sir. I really do not know how you take out time to put up all these stuff. Its simply amazing and very helpful..

  3. Dear sir .. You rightly said Mr Achal ji A Learning machine and we are fortunate to know in detail the thought process of a man who created a world class company because he could not find a cooler of his choice . I also want to request you if we can get to listen to you or any other person who are not part of MBA Program. Regards .

  4. vsarda says:

    Amazing…straight from the heart. Thank you Sir for sharing this fabulous piece of interaction. Rarely one comes across such humble people who’re so willing to share there experiences.

  5. Thank you Professor. This was really very good. Mr Bakeri explained the business and his life philosophy so nicely, it was really captivating.

  6. Anand says:

    Appreciate both Mr. Bakeri and your time to share such a valuable learning lessons. Always we hear just the success stories in Media/Newspaper and reading that it feels it’s easy to be successful. But after listening to talks which you shared, we get to know the whole picture how much hard work & Perseverance went behind the scene.

    Thank you for all your effort in sharing.

  7. Rohit Chavan says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing this very insightful Article. I have couple of questions on this:
    Sir, in the series of lectures on floats you were considering Cash on balance sheet as Financial assets. whereas in this analysis you considered cash as an operating asset.How do you decide and segregate “Cash on the balance sheet” between financial assets vs operating assets.
    What are your thoughts on Outsourcing vs Completely Integrated (In-house) as a business model and how can we decide which model will be successful in any particular industry.what factors should we keep in mind when we think of this.

  8. Dear Prof Bakshi,

    That was a very insightful talk. If you could shed light on these 2 questions that would be great.

    1) How is Symphony using the SEZ route to save taxes? They outsource all the production. To take advantage of SEZ you have to produce.
    2) Is there any data or analysis on how symphony stacks up against competition? Bajaj, kenstar etc etc. Is there someone out there who could challenge them?

  9. Dear Sanjay
    I have to thank you for introducing me electronically to an inspiring human being who has enormous capacity for learning through his focus and simplicity!
    A Saturday morning well spent .. added quality to my life.
    Kindest regards
    Best Wishes!
    Hitesh D. Gajaria

  10. Dear Professor,

    Thank you for discussing the subject of the “Multiplication Rule in Investment Thinking”.

    I entirely agree that (1) one needs to spread the risk over somewhat uncorrelated (independent) events and that (2) “Independence” of events is a very important notion in probability but is also a deceptive one, specially in financial markets and that (3) a chain is stronger than its weakest link.

    However, applying the multiplication rule in Investment thinking is itself fraught with a twofold risk:

    (1) As explained in your example (Warren Buffet), the number of independent risk events that would result in ultimate decision of success or failure would in the real world be several and not just three as in your example. Higher the number of events, lower will be the overall success probability because for 3 events; with 90% success probability of each, results in 0.9*0.9*0.9 = 72.90% (success outcome); whereas for 7 events 0.9*0.9*0.9*0.9*0.9*0.9*0.9*=47.8% (failure outcome). In financial markets are several external variables, so one would invariably reject the investment decision going by the multiplication rule.

    (2) Choosing the exact numerical probability of success for each event becomes crucial and in reality is impossible. Let me explain with an example using 3 success factors for just 3 events:

    0.6*0.5*0.4= 12%

    Raising each probability of success factor by 10%; 0.66*0.55*0.44=15.972% but
    Lowering each probability of success factor by 10%: 0.54*0.45*0.36 = 8.75%.

    15.92% and 8.75% are not equi-distant from 12%. So, if one uses success probability from a range of +-10%, that itself distorts the final outcome. So using a range is distortive of the final outcome. And if the number of events determining final outcome increases, as in the first case above, the distortion in outcomes increases even further.

    To conclude, I would just stick to the logic, rather than using the Multiplication rule to make Investment decisions.


    Mohit Malkani

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