Interview: Bright Times Ahead For Management Education In India

Publicado: 8 enero 2022 a las 12:03 am

Categorías: Entrevistas

by Vasudha Mukherjee

«We thought we were finally coming out of the pandemic but that does not appear to be the case anymore. There was much optimism, but now there’s certainly some caution and hesitation with the news about the Omicron virus. Hospitality was badly affected when the sector was showing signs of revival. This too appears to have dampened now. The supply chains were adversely impacted,» said Krishnan.

There is a correlation and connection between the growth of the Indian economy and management education. Stating this in a conversation with BW Businessworld, Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore believes that as India heads for growth, the sector too is poised for a bright future. Edited Excerpts:

Now with Omicron creating concerns across several cities, how are you looking at the return to normalcy post the pandemic? 

We thought we were finally coming out of the pandemic but that does not appear to be the case anymore. There was much optimism, but now there’s certainly some caution and hesitation with the news about the Omicron virus. Hospitality was badly affected when the sector was showing signs of revival. This too appears to have dampened now. The supply chains were adversely impacted. They have not recovered fully as yet and all signs show that will take some time. Overall, only the completely digital companies have been sailing through but everyone else is just trying to figure out which way things will go. It’s still too early to talk about any specific pattern.

Does this raise concern for you, in context to the business education sector? 

Business education, not surprisingly, is largely driven by economic fundamentals. As long as the industry and the economy are growing fast, the prospects for business education also remain right because essentially its economic growth, which drives many management jobs. The long term view for management education continues to be quite bright. You can look at any of the current goals that India has, all of these are going to require significant managerial input. Therefore, the long-term prospects for managers and management education remain good. The short term blips and ups and downs you can expect and things like the pandemic don’t help obviously. However, I am quite optimistic about the long run of management education particularly in India.

Are any government initiatives or other programmes contributing to this optimism about the sector? 

The New Education Policy (NEP) focuses on multidisciplinary education. It also emphasises research and greater integration with industry. It highlights quality and better governance. We have focused on many of these things; they are part of our DNA, but some of these are areas where, as an industry, we need to make a few changes.

We at IIM Bangalore are committed to starting undergraduate programmes as well. Currently, we only offer postgraduate programmes. For the undergraduates, we plan to offer programmes in different disciplines. We have identified a few in these already such as economics, psychology, behavioural science, data science and environmental sustainability. We plan to offer these undergraduate programmes by 2023. The approach will be on lines of a liberal arts focus where we will try to emphasise critical thinking, communication, leadership, integrative thinking, holistic understanding and so on.

From our perspective, we are observing how we use the directions indicated by the NEP to initiate newer things in the future. We believe that to build the leaders of tomorrow, we need to interact more with students as they come out of school. We hope these new undergraduate programmes, which are well aligned with the government’s education policy, will make a larger impact on the creation of leaders for tomorrow.

We are involved in other initiatives of the government as well. For example, we are strongly engaged in entrepreneurship development. We have one of the best business school incubators in the country. We have scaled up in all our entrepreneurship programmes. For example, we worked with the National Commission for Women this year to offer an entrepreneurship course to about 2000 women entrepreneurs. This was all done online. We work closely with the government on the Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship, a certificate programme to develop young men and women who will be able to spread innovation and entrepreneurship across the districts of India.

Since you mentioned digital courses, do tell us more about how hybrid learning and education will change at IIMB? 

IIMB has had a presence in online and digital learning for quite some time. For the last 20 years, we have been experimenting with different forms of this online education. We started distant education programmes through VISTA two decades ago, where we used the classrooms of service providers across the country. We were one of the first institutes in India to enter Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) in 2014. We signed up with edX Online Learning as well, and we have more than 50 courses running on the platform at present. Two of our courses on edX are operations management and people management. We have been very proactive in exploring different formats of digital education.

When the pandemic first hit us, like everyone else, we had to move our classes online. It was relatively easier for us to do this because we already had significant experience in this area. We managed to upgrade our IT very quickly and trained our faculty on what’s the best way in conducting online classes. We were ready to go much ahead of many other institutions. As time progressed, we have now moved away from pure online.

Our students are all back on campus now for several months. We have been doing mixed formats, where half the students are in class and the rest are online. They alternate from week to week. This again required significant investment in technology. We improved the audio systems in our classroom so that the students online could hear the students in the classrooms and vice versa without interference. As of right now, we just went back to a 100 per cent classroom in the MBA programme, but we are always ready to go back to hybrid or online-only should the circumstances require us to do so.

How are you reskilling and upskilling your faculty in the face of these constant uncertainties? 

Our faculty comprises experts in their respective subject areas, very good in research and excellent educators. They are self-motivated enough to keep abreast of whatever is happening in their respective fields and we as an institute don’t have to do too much about that. Our role is to help them stay on level with the changes in technology.

Our faculty has become adept with all the changes and various modes that have become relevant today and that we know can successfully deliver different forms of learning. So, we are placed in a position to mix and match and use all these different tools we have in the most ideal way, going forward. However, for many of the things we teach, we still believe that classroom learning is the most effective. This is especially true in areas that merit discussion, where we need to do many exercises or where peer learning can take place. Faculty will use whatever format is the most appropriate going forward.

Are you looking to introduce any new management courses or perhaps changes in your current curriculum to reflect recent changes in the industry? 

This year we are doing a review of our two-year MBA programme. We do a very comprehensive review of all our academic programmes every few years. This year it’s the turn of the two-year MBA programme. As part of that process, we have been interacting closely with many industry leaders. I met about 15 to 20 CEOs and CXOs for this, and there are a few things that emerge very clearly from this interaction with them.

The first thing is the importance of digital. Students need to be digitally literate. This is no longer a good to have but a very critical must-have. They need to be aware of what are the latest digital technologies, and how these can be integrated with businesses. They also need to be aware of some of the ethical and legal issues such as privacy. This very clearly is one thing that needs to be a significant part of any management curriculum.

The second aspect, which industry leaders underlined, was the importance of data and analytics. In the case of most companies today, a lot of data is generated simply by the way they do business. This was not the case earlier. Therefore, companies need to be more upfront and proactive in how they go about using this data. The ability to identify how to use data, how to formulate problems appropriately and then intelligently use data to solve those problems, is the second most important attribute that managers need today.

The third thing that has become very valuable is the whole conversation on ESG (environment, social and governance). We have all seen the discussions at Glasgow and the COP26 Summit this year. India has made significant commitments going forward. For those commitments to be met, there are many changes that the industry will have to do. We need managers who truly understand the issues related to climate change and the environment. There are challenges in the areas of governance and we need leaders who are at the forefront of these challenges, who know how to steer the company legally and ethically while delivering good performance to all stakeholders.

What are your thoughts on campus hiring at the moment – any notable changes expected in this? 

In terms of both opportunities and stipends that students received, our summer internship recruitment this year was much better than last year. This year’s overall outlook in fact was much brighter in comparison to 2020. We had added our summer internship process in November and suddenly the Omicron news came in. However, at this time, the general impression we have from companies is that they are optimistic about the coming year, and usually summer internship is a precursor of what will happen in the final placement.

We have long-standing relationships with most of the major companies through executive education and our alumni hold prominent figures in those companies. Some of our faculty are also on the boards of several companies and we engage in many consulting projects as well. In all, there is an ongoing relationship with the industry, which we continue to strengthen in whatever way we can.

However, industries needs are changing. Management education needs to embrace this change and create internal capabilities in those areas so that we can work with the industry. We seem to be doing well on that. To cite another example, one of our faculty members wrote a book on platform business models which was released a few months ago that has been very well received. We have a data centre and analytics lab and the professor who chairs that lab is a leading authority, who has been rated among the top 10 data and analytics people in India. Similarly, in the ESG space also we have a strong centre for corporate governance which has industry leaders on the Advisory Council.

Where do you suggest more improvements can come in our education system? 

The IIMs are all strong islands of excellence in the Indian education system. We are regularly ranked among the top 50 in the world. We have international accreditation by some of the most demanding accreditation agencies. We have a good record of industry interface and research, and we also look to do better. However, as far as international standards are concerned, we are already up there.

In India, business education perhaps needs some more depth. The government has identified some of the right steps forward in the education policy. There is a greater emphasis on accreditation, better governance standards and more flexibility is given to institutions. Some of these have already been in place for some time. For example, there is a scheme called ‘graded autonomy’ that give more power to schools that have already demonstrated excellence and relatively less autonomy to those that have not done very well. We understand where the challenges are and we now have to get down to implementing the changes that we have been talking about.

What are your predictions for the future of management studies in India? 

If all our dreams for the Indian economy come true, management education will also do extremely well. There is a correlation and connection between both of these. On the infrastructure side, many investments are being made. Should all these ambitious plans take off, there will be a surge in demand for managerial talent. Management education in India will have to shape up to meet that demand. I see bright times ahead for management education in India.