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Indian School of Business Sets Big Goals For Academic Excellence

Rajendra Srivastava, dean of ISB, talks about his priorities, programmes and policies to make the institution one of the best globally in business education

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Dr Rajendra Srivastava, Dean and Novartis Professor of Marketing Strategy and Innovation, ISB

Dr Rajendra Srivastava is the Dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB) and the Novartis Professor of Marketing strategy and Innovation. He comes with an experience of over 30 years as an academic and administrator. He has held several tenured faculty and administrative positions during his career. Before joining the ISB, he was Provost and Deputy President of Academic Affairs at Singapore Management University.

Prior to SMU he held distinguished research chairs and senior management positions at the University of Texas at Austin and Emory University in Atlanta. Professor Srivastava is an MBA and PhD (Business Administration) from the University of Pittsburgh, an MS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Rhode Island, and holds a BTech (Mechanical Engineering) degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

Dr Srivastava spoke to Divakar Prakash at the South Asian Diaspora Convention (SADC) 2016, Singapore - organised by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS).

What is your current Priority for ISB?
When ISB was started some 15 years back it was a disruptor in the market with its unique engagement model. Others followed with their own versions of this unique model. However, time has come for ISB to think ahead and once again disrupt the market with innovations in management education. Clearly, I am of the view that with the kind of support and engagement we have from the business community in India and the world over in general, as also with the attention we have from students, ISB has the opportunity not only to be a top business school in Asia but also to develop into a school from Asia that is among the best in the world.

For this to happen world class faculty is the key to drive this desired change. Therefore my priority is to revamp the senior faculty hiring by getting the best from across the world. There could be issues like comparative compensation but they can be addressed with the right approach and strategy to developing a world class faculty engagement model. ISB is a research oriented educational institution and that helps in this respect. And then the industry and government linkages that it has are added advantages towards this.

Why doesn't ISB participate in National rankings or lags behind in the National ranking?
The success or failure of any educational institution is predicated on the success of its students or alumni and the thought leadership it generates. I am proud to say on both counts ISB has an impeccable record. Many of the 7600 plus alumni are placed in institutions of international repute and over 400 of them are in CXO positions. And a similar number are entrepreneurs in their own right, creating both jobs and wealth for others. Finally, over a thousand alumni are working across 41 countries enhancing our global reach and impact. I would say these are better measures of success than many rankings in which we do not participate. By the way, we do participate in the FT rankings where we do very well. And our graduates do quite well in placements - obtaining the second highest ratio of outgoing versus incoming salaries in the world.

Finally, as I said thought leadership constitutes is the core of our strategy in evolving as an institution of repute with an emphasis on research - something that many domestic rankings do not consider. And, ISB is the clear leader in India on research published in leading journals - and the only Indian institution of higher learning (across management, engineering, medicine etc) to be ranked within the top 100 in the world.

What does your curriculum look like?
Given the profile and experience of the students who come to study here, the time they spend at ISB is designed to provide them a transformative experience. The curriculum is tailored to prepare students for a step change in their careers to emerge truly global leaders in whatever they take up. For instance the one-year Post Graduate Programme (PGP), in management is carefully-crafted to provide practical industry applications with a rigorous, cutting-edge, research-based curriculum. Once again our linkages with the industry, alumni and government come in handy to provide a well-rounded exposure to our students.

Can you describe ISB from point of differentiation as compared to IIMs in India?
There is no comparison between ISB and the IIMs which are modeled on a totally different construct. Apart from its relatively young lineage, ISB also has its own distinct segmentation and reputation as an institution for students who have multiple years of industry experience and aspiring for higher roles in their current jobs or are planning a career shift. IIM students tend to join right after undergraduate programs. Therefore there is a world of a difference in the profile of the students who join the two institutions. Class discussions and learning are better informed as experienced students ask harder, more relevant questions. And, their experiences contribute to the learning of others. And then as I have mentioned there is a concerted emphasis on learning based on current research at ISB which translates into societal impact apart from learnings in the classroom. Very few management education institutions in India can claim this today.

Why doesn't any Indian Institution feature in top 10 list?
The reasons are not far to seek. For starters some of the comparators in the global rankings have been in existence for decades. And then the emphasis at most Indian management education institutions is on campus placements and teaching insights that are Western in nature without a local context. And then, if you notice many of those figuring in the top 10 would have a heavy research focus. Research is synonymous with new ideas and a more challenging learning environment. Ideas emerging from research institution drive content discussed in other institutions. When India institutions contribute to global thinking, they will influence evolution of management practice. Clearly, Indian institutions will have to change by learning to work across boundaries and by being context driven in what they team to their students.

What is your view on role of Government in making education more efficient?
The Indian education system is highly regulated and there is a need for more flexibility. For example, the quality of a program is determined by the quality of faculty and students, the curriculum design, pedagogy, students' opportunity to challenge conventional thinking - and what they learn. Quality is NOT determined by the length of the program, although certain minimal time commitments have to be monitored. Currently the education sector is in flux in India. Unlike Western schools which are highly autonomous and enjoy a great degree of individuality in crafting their curriculum, Indian schools are less creative if they are dependent on state support.

Where do you see in 10 years' time as an institution?
ISB is a world class institution - a one-of-a-kind in India with global repute. Our board is full of ambitious people from Industry and academia who have carved out a niche for themselves in their respective fields. We have set ambitious goals in our sights. As I have said earlier in other forums, ISB aims to be not only the best business school in Asia but also a school from Asia that is among the best in the world.

Do you plan to get into more industry and academic collaboration?
Our founding partners were Wharton, Kellogg, LBS,MIT and Fletcher. While this is an impressive lineup of partners we are always expanding our horizons and forging new relationships be it other educational institutions or industry and public institutions. While on the one hand our academic partnerships are generally for faculty exchange and research, we are also pursuing corporate immersion programs for our faculty and encouraging senior managers to spend time on campus as executives in residence . Our faculty will spend a few months with large corporate houses for crosspollination of ideas, experiences and thought leadership.

Your views on managing talent and skills development in India?
It is a fact that good quality faculty is at a premium in India and movement of such faculty is imminent. To speak the truth there is an acute paucity of good faculty. Therefore attracting, retaining and nurturing good talent is on top of the agenda. And this is true of any other sector in India which is perhaps one of the very markets in the world where there are still opportunities.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Divakar Prakash

The author is a Strategy Consultant with experience of consulting CEO level executives and key stakeholders in Real Estate , Government, Not for Profit, FMCG and Chemical sectors. Educated at the School of Management ,University of St-Andrews consistently a top ranked institution in Europe at Master's level in business Strategy, Corporate Finance and General Management

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