Even The Good B-Schools Need To Reinvent Themselves: Himanshu Rai, Director, IIM Indore
In an exclusive interaction with BW Businessworld, Rai stresses the need for B-schools to constantly reinvent themselves, whether its pedagogy, curriculum or ever-evolving technological trends, as well as encouraging middling institutes to get their faculty trained by the top 10-15 B-schools on a regular basis so as to bring them on par.
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Prof Himanshu Rai
Himanshu Rai, Director, IIM Indore, is the first to be appointed to the post even though he had not been a professor for 10 years, a key criterion. He is also credited with taking CAT online in 2010 as its convenor. In an exclusive interaction with BW Businessworld, Rai stresses the need for B-schools to constantly reinvent themselves, whether its pedagogy, curriculum or ever-evolving technological trends, as well as encouraging middling institutes to get their faculty trained by the top 10-15 B-schools on a regular basis so as to bring them on par.
How do you look at the postgraduate management education / B-school ecosystem in the country today?
It is a mixed ecosystem with some excellent world-class B-schools while there are many sub-par business schools. Hopefully, with the government according to IoE (institutes of excellence) status to some institutes (and thereby greater autonomy) as well as data from rankings and accreditations, the wheat shall be separated from the chaff. However, even good management institutes need to reinvent themselves to meet the challenges and demands of the fourth industrial revolution.
Are we creating enough potential leaders or mere job seekers in this market?
We are certainly creating some leaders but the bigger question is: are we creating the right kind of leaders. The good business schools need to reflect on what kind of leaders this country and the world needs today and adapt their curriculum and pedagogy accordingly.
Even after reforms, why has the Indian B-schools failed to compete with the world’s best schools?
We haven’t really failed. There are five business schools from India in the FT-100 rankings this year. Given that we were till recently bounded by multiple government norms, and had limited autonomy, I think our institutes have done fairly well. Some of the parameters on which institutes are ranked globally go against us. For instance, the number of foreign students and foreign Ph.Ds we have. Given that we are not among the preferred destination for foreign students and academics, this drawback pulls us down. However, we can certainly do better and we are trying to offset these by coming up with innovative courses. When the issues regarding the infrastructure of the country are also addressed, our rankings will certainly improve.
Do we regularly update and overhaul the curriculum in keeping with the industry needs?
Good business schools regularly update the curriculum. Perhaps not at the pace at which industry is changing. What we need to do is to have formal mechanisms of seeking feedback from the industry and changing curriculum accordingly. For instance, IIM Indore has set up an International Advisory Board with academics and practitioners from outside India, put alumni in our own board as well as the board of studies of different management areas. Inputs from them will be sought regularly and used to streamline courses and programmes.
How do we make sure that the faculty is equally at home in theory and in practice?
By providing them with opportunities to excel in research as well as consultancy. Focus on top journal publications with aligned incentive systems, providing funds for attending meaningful international conferences and promoting joint collaborations with other institutions are some of the ways to promote research.
Technology is evolving so fast that it’s difficult to predict what happens one year down the line. How do B-schools cope with that?
By staying in touch with the latest technological trends and then using them as enablers to further management education. This needs an attitudinal shift. We need to be more adaptive, not afraid of changes and be willing to evolve both as an individual and as an institution.
In India, with the exception of the IIMs and a few other top management institutes, most B-schools churn out graduates who are hardly employable. What’s the way out?
The way out is to have stricter controls in terms of who can establish a B-school and what minimum parameters need to be followed to run a business school. For the business schools with no government recognition, if they don’t match up to the standards of quality, the market forces will shut them down. The other business schools should be encouraged to get their faculty trained by, say, the top 10-15 institutes of the country on a regular basis.
How often do you inspire your alumni to come back and teach in their alma mater? How often do you inspire them to contribute funds to the alma mater?
We encourage all our alumni to come back and teach. At IIM Indore, not only do we have guest sessions by our alumni but also full courses. Contributing funds is something that the IIMs have not done much in the past but now we are catching up. With our alumni (the relatively newer IIMs) now coming into senior positions, we need to accelerate this process.
What do you / what more do you expect from the regulator AICTE and the government?
Our expectation is that the autonomy given to the top IIMs is not merely in the letter but also in spirit. We also expect the government to include academics in policy formulation and implementation.
How has the role of B-school directors evolved and how crucial are they for shaping a B-school into a global institution?
The role of the director in a B-school (at least in IIMs) is to manage boundaries with the stakeholders. There is a greater external focus (with external stakeholders) like foreign institutions, accreditation agencies, MNCs, government, media, industry and the region. Earlier, the focus used to be inward and we were satisfied so long as the best brains in the country chose us. Now we have to make ourselves heard and seen on the world arena.