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‘Management Education Imparted With The Right Focus Can Do Wonders: Hitesh V Bhatt, Director, IRMA

Hitesh V Bhatt, Director, IRMA during a conversation with BW Businessworld says that India should create more such institutes to support the under-served people of the country.

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The Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), the only standalone institute offering a Post-graduate programme in Rural Management is serving the community since 40 years. Hitesh V Bhatt, Director, IRMA during a conversation with BW Businessworld’s  Prerna Lamba says that India should create more such institutes to support the under-served people of the country. 

Excerpts:

What are your views on management education?

To excel in any domain people usually work for a few years in a company. However, to shorten this journey they go to a  management school where they would learn all the tactics to manage organisations, to lead them and various other managerial skills. Hence, management education taken with the right earnest given by the right school with no commercial bent of mind can do wonders. 

Where does IRMA stand as compared to IIMs?

There is no comparison because we are not in the race. We have tremendous respect for all IIMs and good B -schools in the country because all of them are doing a fantastic job. However, one should appreciate that every school has a mandate, an objective, some kind of the purpose of existing. 

Our existence came, primarily, because of our founder who felt the need to serve the rural community 40 years back when there was no school which was able to inspire its students to take up positions in rural areas.

How has IRMA re-invented itself to meet global standards of rural management studies?

When we started to develop our global standards, luckily we were the pioneers and there was no other player in the global market in the rural management stream. Today, also, I can say this with a conviction that no school of eminence offers MBA in the rural domain. However, we can say that top business schools like Harvard, Michigan etc. offering a postgraduate degree in public policy and rural management domain provide the course with this stature. However, we are happy because we find that our students after passing out from IRMA and some years of experience in India, get admissions in PhD programmes with scholarships. This itself is a testimony of our work. We are focused on getting better than yesterday. With changing times, we have to remain relevant and dynamic.

What is the difference between students getting admitted to IRMA and IIM?

The top IIMs have a cut-off score close to 100 per cent whereas the new IIMs have a cut-off score of about 90 to 95 per cent. IRMA’s recent 40th batch had a CAT score of about  91 to 92 per cent, while comparing to other business schools.

We also take candidates with a minimum of 80 per cent CAT score provided they have a veterinary science background or agricultural background or they are from Delhi University or some of the top graduate schools.

Our admission process is very unique which starts from inviting around 2,000 candidates to the campus followed by IRMA Social Aptitude Test (SAT). After SAT, a group activity takes place in which we evaluate the candidates based on their managing skills. And finally, the interview round of 45 minutes where we assess them. 

What are the applications of new-age technologies, like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, in rural management education?

We are just putting our feet in that area through some optional courses. The recent batch would probably be having a couple of courses offered in this term and the following term will have some idea about new-age technologies. However, we are in the process of learning.

Since we are not a granted school, we have to raise our funds and the fees collected is not enough to meet our expenses. In terms of new-age technology learning, it has not happened yet but I would love it to happen at the earliest. 

According to you, how important is social responsibility for an MBA graduate?

I will not say for any MBA graduate but for IRMA graduates it holds high importance. At IRMA, we are clear and firm believers of our processes. Firstly, our selection process is very critical that differentiates us from others. Secondly, our orientation process is different as compared to other business schools as we give them all the sense of what rural management is about. We also send the students to rural villages for five days that give a first-hand experience of life in a village. And this process of getting sensitised changes them permanently.

Do you think other B-Schools should ape IRMA’s curriculum?

People have done that but I wouldn’t say it aping. IRMA is not adequate to support the entire country’s needs today. We are just serving as a drop in the ocean. In India, 74 per cent of the population is not served because of the society we are living in for ages. However, IRMA’s contribution is towards supporting a few fractions of 74 per cent of the population 

 We will be happy to lead, if the government supports in building more IRMAs, like IIMs. We are also happy to design the entire curriculum of rural management programmes for other business schools. Recently, we have done that for Mahatma Gandhi National Cooperative Rural Education (MGNCRE) and a few others. 

According to you, how can India turn into a ‘Hub of Education’ as per the dream of government?

At IRMA, we hire faculty who already have functional knowledge. We believe that the students should have 100 per cent attendance instead of 80 per cent as per the regulator’s policy because the management education requires that. Due to this, our students are highly appreciated for being better than other business schools at the time of placements by the companies who come for hiring. If all schools start working in this direction and have the right set of teachers who teach the subjects appropriately while having the right kind of interactions, then this dream can be achieved.

What are your short term and long term goals for the institute?

Initially, I thought numbers and ranks are important but then I realised, over a while, that ranks cannot be earned through just teaching students. Ranks, also, come because of many other things which are beyond our control. For us, it is important to break more number of students inside our campus who are possibly going back in the development sector. Secondly, we are trying to improve upon our processes by which we can aspire more candidates. We want to aspire people to work for the social cause instead. 


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