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B-schools Should Assume The Role Of Creating Visionaries: Karuna Jain, NITIE

He answers a whole range of questions on his institute as well as on management education in an email interview

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NITIE is one of the leading Industrial Engineering schools in the country and is located in the heart of Mumbai at Powai. According to its director, Karuna Jain, the institution believes in exposing its students to real-time problems through rigorous internships as well as a curriculum that is designed to give students ample exposure to the quantitative aspects of business problems. Further, the institute supplements this with academia-industry interface. She informs. Her answers a whole range of questions on her institute as well as on management education in an email interview with BW Businessworld’s Priya Saraf.

Why should students choose your school?
NITIE, a premier industrial engineering school, is situated in the financial capital of India. A curriculum that exposes students to quantitative aspects of business problems and ample exposure to real-time problems of the industry through rigorous internships set apart NITIE as a school with a difference. NITIE faculty engage regularly with industry and provide innovative solutions to problems and stalwarts from many leading corporates routinely visit the campus for the various events hosted by NITIE. To sum up, top notch curriculum, industry focus and proximity to business are reasons why students choose NITIE.

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?
In the last decade or so, India has seen several ups, including digital revolution, increased infrastructure focus and investment in soft infrastructure namely, education and health care. The results are visible, though the pace at which progress is achieved may be less than desirable. The university rankings released by Times Higher Education saw India enhance its presence by claiming 49 places this year, up from 42 last year. According to Phil Baty, Editorial Director of Global Rankings for Times Higher Education, India is seen to be “bursting with innovation and ambition” and the nation has “serious potential to grow into a leading player in global higher education.” So focus on thrust areas and sustained efforts in this direction should help India achieve its ambitious growth target.

Why do top Indian B-schools not figure in the top global B-school lists?
While a handful of Indian B-schools do feature in the global B-school list, there is no doubt that business education in India has a long road to cover. The reasons could be many. There is a need for rigour in higher education, access to funding, capacity building initiatives for educators and improved knowledge management system in the Indian B-school environment. The linkages between primary, secondary and higher education continues to be weak and each of them function as silos. This limits the variety and richness of course offerings for the schools and causes a stagnation in the education ecosystem. Several systemic issues need to be overcome before India can rightly claim its place in the global education scene.

How ready are Indian B-schools for Industrial Revolution 4.0?
First, Industry 4.0 is a platform of technologies, a generation name. Industry 4.0 platform offers both cutting-edge technologies and mainstreaming of existing technologies.

Application of Industry 4.0 has implications for business competitiveness, some call it Business 4.0, and some call it Logistics 4.0 or Productivity 4.0. For business schools, it is high time that students relook their value chain analysis with technology as the primary role and not the support role that it was considered to be till recently. Industrial engineering provides the base platform for Industry 4.0 deployment. At NITIE, inputs are given to students via courses, labs and projects. Next-generation research focuses on technology analysis, smart factories, their applications and implications.

With entry-level jobs shrinking due to AI and automation, what plans do Indian B-schools have to place their graduates?
The entry-level jobs are not likely to disappear or significantly shrink. However, their nature will definitely change. Change management is not a skill that is taught in B-schools as a subject. Noted historian Yual Noah Harari in his latest book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century notes that technological innovation and artificial intelligence were going to accelerate at a pace we are “yet to comprehend”. The best defence that he suggests is not any course or advanced degree, but an emotional flexibility that allows for “constant reinvention”.B-schools could take the hint and help their students become resilient to change and better equipped to face a world of volatility by helping them fine tune their vision inward. The best tool for any aspiring professional today is developing unique and differentiated skill sets that sets them apart from the rest.

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?
B-schools have created programmes focused on entrepreneurship and management of family businesses to suit the special Indian context. B-schools have also started offering courses on new product development and immersion programmes, laboratories to tinker and create products for the market to help students understand the business from concept to market. At NITIE, we provide a deferred placement assistance for students who wish to launch their own ventures and then come back later for placement. Hence B-schools today offer not just a curriculum design, but also innovative assistance for students to realise their entrepreneurship dreams.

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?
Class size is a flexible concept and depending on the intensity of interaction and the possibility of technology interventions for interaction, a class size can vary. In fact, today broadcasting options using technology have rendered classrooms and, consequently, batch sizes, highly variable. Classes can be customised for a handful or delivered to a large audience with the same effort, thanks to effective classroom management applications.

As for the sub-par B-schools, regulation can be the only cure. The government must intervene with strong regulations and accreditation requirements. Such accreditations must be renewed periodically to maintain the quality of institutions.

Who do Indian B-school faculty members not publish as frequently as their international peers?
Indian B-schools have kept themselves away from research until recently unlike their foreign counterparts, where research always has been an integral part of academics. They were focusing more on the teaching aspects of academics than the research component. In the process, they have successfully developed case-based pedagogy, which provided a better learning experience for the students through practical examples

Lately however, research is increasingly getting integrated into the academic curriculum itself to embrace the current business trends of giving importance to research and analytics-based based decision making. This has made a very positive impact on the research output of the faculty and students (both fellow and PG), which includes publications in reputed journals.

Why do Indian B-schools not tailor their curriculum to meet local needs? Why is there always a ‘one size fits all’ approach?
This question deserves a lot of importance. As an academician and as head of an Institution I have always emphasised the need for education to be geared towards the country’s requirements. At NITIE, we have aligned to several programmes that have a strong focus on nation building. B-schools must not only focus on local needs, but also evolve localised solutions that can be scaled and globalised. In doing so, Indian B-schools will create solution templates for several global issues. A practical example that I can readily come up with is a project that NITIE is currently involved in — an ergonomically designed palanquin for Vaishnodevi pilgrims. In creating a prototype that takes care of the health and well-being of the palanquin bearer by designing an ergonomically superior palanquin, we demonstrated a localised solution and at the same time created a design prototype that embodies frugal innovation, customer focus and engineering excellence. The solution was for a specific need, but the applications are many.

What more should Indian B-schools do to create leaders, and not just followers?
B-schools should stop functioning like employment exchanges and assume the role of creating visionaries. Education must be purpose-oriented and students must be taught to be contributors and aligned to a higher purpose of nation building. This would ensure that they learn to set themselves apart instead of following the herd.

The IIM Bill, deemed university status and so on — what additional institutional support do B-schools need to create a robust framework?
Capacity-building measures, training infrastructure and funding for research.

How different are women B-school graduates from their male counterparts, as their numbers remain abysmally low?
Women in leadership have proved themselves to be capable of innovative thinking and providing a participatory style of management. However, their numbers remain abysmally low owing to high dropout rates from primary education onwards — an issue that needs to be addressed at policy level.  

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