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Introducing Suds Tirumala

By Kate Beach-

Sudershan Tirumala, fondly referred to as Suds, leads Darden’s India initiatives and is based in Mumbai. Suds works collaboratively with departments across the Darden enterprise on strategic priorities in India and the region to advance Darden’s impact and engagement in this critical part of the world.

Prior to working with Darden, Suds led efforts in India and Southeast Asia for the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Before transitioning to the higher education industry, Suds was a private equity investor in a Swiss-based fund that focused on the emerging markets, specifically India. Suds holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Suds sat down with us and shared the following reflections about his new role and experiences:

What excites you about Darden?

Three main areas come to mind when I think about Darden:

  1. Leadership and the vision: I’m so impressed by Dean Scott Beardsley’s dynamic leadership of the school, the caring community that I have experienced in every conversation and the fact that everyone is on the same page and intent on making great things happen. The very high level of engagement and focused direction across the board really excites me. I also think that it drives the outstanding educational experience that Darden provides and is known for.
  2. The overall community: Irrespective of who I have communicated with – members of the leadership team, the staff, the faculty, the alumni, the students – there’s this sense of bonding and a sense of belonging (I’ve heard the phrase “Darden Family” so many times!) – that is unmistakable and truly unique. People in the community really care about one another and that caring mindset is present in all interactions. Faculty are incredibly accessible to students, everyone has an “open-door” policy and understands that the best way to proceed is together.
  3. The opportunity: When someone trusts you with a responsibility, you want to come through with flying colors. I feel empowered and am raring to go! I’m excited about the opportunity to make an impact across multiple areas of the school, and broadly for the University of Virginia – it’s at once, very humbling, and immensely motivating.

Any advice for individuals considering an MBA degree?

More often than not, prospective students focus primarily on business school rankings and career outcomes. I would advise them to peel the onion a little bit more and critically evaluate what the MBA means for them.

How about evaluating potential schools through conversations with students/alumni/faculty/staff/administrators to get a sense of if you’re a good fit for the school and whether the school is a good fit for you? How about diving fully into the MBA experience knowing that you’re gaining a set of skills that will set you up for success no matter where you are in the world?

Carefully consider the school where you can be an integral member of the community and not just another student. Plunge into the entire experience knowing very well that the journey is what makes the destination even more beautiful and worth the effort.

Could you share a few thoughts about how your experiences working in private equity influence how you approach your work in higher education today?

When you’re making venture capital or growth equity investments, you’re often gaining a minority stake in the company. For all practical purposes, you have to influence others and drive consensus towards a common goal, without necessarily having much control. You’re in the business of building relationships through communication and leadership, and being entrepreneurial. If anything, my PE experience has conditioned me to tolerate ambiguity, make decisions with imperfect and incomplete information, and operate successfully in unstructured situations.

In many ways, higher education, more specifically the MBA degree, is transforming. Online offerings, STEM extensions, Executive Education, experiential learning/global exposure, etc. are fundamentally altering how and where the program is being delivered. Influencing external and internal stakeholders, driving the transformation in a way that allows you to create the future and not simply follow the lead, enabling the applicants to make sense of the endless possibilities in front of them – in many ways, you’re building relationships, you’re communicating and leading, you’re being innovative. That sounds very familiar!

How do you like to spend your free time? What are your favorite hobbies?

I am an ardent student of physics, natural history and geology. Whenever I travel to a new place, I try to collect rock samples and fossils. My collection includes parts of a meteorite, fossils of prehistoric lifeforms and some interesting crystals and minerals. My wife, son and I love nature and wildlife, and take every opportunity to head into the jungle on treks looking for tigers, wild boars, bears and other animals. I also enjoy running, cycling, playing racquetball and try my hand at creative writing with a Wodehouse-esque approach to humor.