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Alignment Of Curriculum With Industry Needs Is An Imperative: IMI Director Himadri Das

‘Indian B-schools hire faculty for permanent positions that are not tied to publications, so the incentive to publish has historically not existed’

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IMI New Delhi was the first corporate-sponsored business school to be launched in collaboration with IMI Geneva, which is now the world-famous IMD Lausanne. IMI offers a variety of postgraduate programmes including a doctoral programme. In addition, it offers a number of short-term programmes for working executives for competence building in a fast-changing business environment. IMI was among the first few business schools in the country to get the globally reputed AMBA accreditation. The school boasts a high-quality faculty who have built a name for themselves in quality teaching, high impact corporate training, and relevant research. IMI Director Himadri Das talks to BW’s Priya Saraf on a range of B-school issues in an interview.

Why should students choose your school?
IMI’s faculty is one of the best among B-schools in the country. They not only have a passion for teaching but are also active researchers as well as trainers and consultants for industry. This allows for an excellent blend of both academic and industry perspective that can add tremendous value to the students. Our location in the heart of south Delhi puts us in close proximity to a large number of companies in the National Capital Region and our strong engagement with these companies ensures that our students are regularly exposed to inputs from senior industry executives.

An AIMA vision document says that India should be the second best global hub after the US for B-school education by 2025. Is it doable?
It is doable provided our B-schools get their act together quickly. Curriculum revision is long overdue in most B-schools, which is a pressing necessity given the disruptions that have happened in business models thanks to emerging technologies such as analytics, AI, ML, IoT, blockchain, etc. Curriculum in most B-schools is very dated and does not incorporate these new areas that industry demands. Alignment of curriculum with industry requirements is an imperative to attract students from all over the world. Delivery has to shift from pure classroom-based to a blended mode using technology in order to reach out to a more global audience.

Why do top Indian B-schools not figure in the top global B-school lists?
Research output is an important criterion in global rankings, where it is measured in terms of the number of publications in academic refereed journals of a certain standard. Indian B-school faculty have traditionally not focused on research publications and whatever output that exists has been typically been in journals that do not meet the standards set by the global ranking agencies. The good news is that NIRF (the ranking instituted by MHRD) has put a big emphasis on the research component measured in terms of publications that feature in globally indexed databases. This has spurred Indian B-schools to focus on high-quality research publications. If this thrust continues and the quality and quantity of publications improve, the day is not far when Indian B-schools will feature in the top global lists.
 
How ready are Indian B-schools for Industrial Revolution 4.0?
As things stand today, most Indian B-schools are not ready for Industrial Revolution 4.0 where the underlying disruptive technologies are analytics, AI, ML, blockchain, etc. This is because the curriculum in most schools has not yet been restructured to account for these developments. The B-schools that have been early adopters in aligning their curriculum with these requirements will definitely have a first mover advantage.

With entry-level jobs shrinking due to AI and automation, what plans do Indian B-schools have to place their graduates?
AI and automation will replace routine and mundane activities, which will help B-school graduates rather than replace them. This will allow B-school graduates to focus on higher value-added activities that require problem structuring and problem solving skills. For Indian B-schools the key is to train their students to look at unstructured amorphous problems, to structure them and then come up with an approach to solve them. This will require training in out-of-the-box thinking, innovation, and creative problem-solving.

What measures are Indian B-schools taking to create entrepreneurs instead of just job-seekers? What percentage of B-school graduates turn to entrepreneurship at the outset?

Many B-schools have set up Entrepreneurship Cells (E-cells) to encourage students to experiment with entrepreneurship. Some B-schools have set up incubators to nurture young start-ups coming out of student projects. The angel investor ecosystem is also developing and many of the angel networks are partnering with B-schools to train students in entrepreneurship and then fund them if the idea has a compelling value proposition for a set of customers and can be scaled up quickly. Currently, a very small percentage of graduates turn to entrepreneurship at the outset but that number is likely to see an increase with an enabling environment as well as role models among young successful startup founders.

Why do top Indian B-schools restrict the class size to 60 or 120 when the global average is much larger? Also, why should India allow sub-par B-schools to exist?

This is because the regulator (AICTE) currently gives approval for sections of 60 students with an upper limit on the number of sections. This is usually to work around infrastructure constraints of many B-schools and also to support a large number of B-schools, each with smaller number of students, catering to a large population of students seeking to do an MBA. The downside of this is that the number of B-schools is huge with a large number of them being sub-par. The market usually forces these sub-par schools to close down as their students do not get jobs and, therefore, students do not seek admissions leaving the classes empty. It is important that as a country we move towards an ongoing quality measurement process based on processes and outcomes, rather than an approval process based simply on infrastructure. A move in this direction is happening with a national-level accreditation body (NBA) in place that measures process and outcomes. A way forward could be that B-schools that do not meet a minimum quality standard as measured by the accreditation body are asked to shut down even if they have the requisite infrastructure.

Who do Indian B-school faculty members not publish as frequently as their international peers?
Good B-schools internationally, especially in the US, have a tenure system where young faculty are hired not for a permanent position but made permanent (given tenure) later after they have published a certain number of papers in high quality journals. Further promotions are also typically tied to publications in high quality journals. Indian B-schools hire faculty for permanent positions that are not tied to publications, so the incentive to publish has historically not existed. Now a number of good Indian B-schools are providing financial incentives to their faculty to publish in high quality journals, so this has given a fillip to publications in Indian B-schools.
 
Why do Indian B-schools not tailor their curriculum to meet local needs? Why is there always a ‘one size fits all’ approach?

Indian B-schools have traditionally followed western models that include textbooks and case studies. This amounts to giving examples in the class that are from companies in the west. Consulting for local companies by faculty has been at a very low level and limited to some of the top B-schools in the country. As a result, faculty are not equipped with the Indian context. In the last few years, a number of Indian company case studies have been developed by B-school faculty in the country, which has resulted in a richer Indian context in the curriculum.

What more should Indian B-schools do to create leaders, and not just followers?
Inculcating an entrepreneurial culture is an enabling environment for creating leaders rather than followers. Indian B-schools need to not just incorporate entrepreneurship in the curriculum but also encourage students to start businesses while on campus and support them through access to mentoring by successful entrepreneurs as well as funding. Even if these students later do not become entrepreneurs but get a corporate job, their attitude will be that of leaders rather than followers.

The IIM Bill, deemed university status and so on -- what additional institutional support do B-schools need to create a robust framework?
The ultimate success of B-schools in this country depends on the demand for their graduates in the corporate world. Companies do not care about the IIM Bill, deemed university, etc. but care about graduates who have the required competencies to hit the ground running and add value to the organisation. The onus is on B-schools to align their curriculum with contemporary requirements of the industry and have enough rigour in their academic delivery to ensure high quality learning outcomes among their students.

How different are women B-school graduates from their male counterparts, as their numbers remain abysmally low?
The demand for women B-school graduates is high in industry as most companies have a gender diversity initiative. This aims to rectify the skewed gender ratio in the workforce that is very low on women. This is beginning to gradually reflect in an increase in Indian B-school enrollments by women as they realise that job opportunities will improve when they graduate.


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