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Only 1% Of Indian B-Schools Have A Credible Standing: Manoj Pant, Director, IIFT

Pant discusses the USP of IIFT and where Indian B-school education stands today compared to that in the advanced world

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Manoj Pant, Director, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade says IIFT, established in 1963, has been a pioneer in international business in India, and is one of the oldest and top B-schools in the country that offers an MBA in International Business. IIFT was initially set up by the government of India as an autonomous organisation to help professionalise the country’s foreign trade management and increase exports. In a wide ranging email interview with BW Businessworld’S PRIYA SARAF, Pant discusses the USP of IIFT and where Indian B-school education stands today compared to that in the advanced world.

Why should students choose your school?
All businesses are affected by global developments and it is important for a manager to have an international perspective which is the focus of IIFT programme. IIFT has been a pioneer in the field of international business in India. It is one of the oldest and premier B-schools and the first in the country that offers an MBA in International Business since 1963.

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 a country with over 3,000-plus B-schools, only about 1 per cent have a credible standing internationally. However, over a period of time it is a goal that Indian B-schools can strive for. With the increase in autonomy in the functioning of B-schools and the need to bring in more international faculty we may probably reach about 10 per cent by 2025.

Why do top Indian B-schools not figure in the top global B-school lists?
Placements have always been an important parameter in assessing the B-schools in India and many B-schools strive towards having a 100 per cent placement. However, international B-schools focus on research and publications as an important parameter. We are now focusing on these aspects.

How ready are Indian B-schools for Industrial Revolution 4.0?
Indian B-schools are partially ready to take on the challenges and opportunities that emerge out of IR 4.0. Many B-schools have introduced courses on Design Thinking, Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics that can help students prepare for opportunities offered by IR 4.0, and as this will evolve over a period of time. The vital objective would be for B-schools to keep aligning their curriculum to meet industry expectations.

Other constraints are shortage of faculty in these specialised areas and hence, with more faculty development programmes to train faculty and funding from AICTE/UGC, B-schools can become better prepared to meet the needs of IR 4.0.

With entry-level jobs shrinking due to AI and automation, what plans do Indian B schools have to place their graduates?
As managerial roles are not being replaced, opportunities still remain the same. As the service sector is growing, which is a people-driven sector, jobs will definitely remain. In addition, opportunities in the field of digital media is creating more jobs. IIFT does not foresee any problems here for its students.

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?
Courses on entrepreneurship, setting up incubation labs, conducting business plan competitions to communicate business ideas to angel investors and venture capitalists are some of the few steps in this direction. We are working on this and in the coming year some changes will be observed in IIFT.

The percentage who do so are very small. However, there are many who turn to entrepreneurship after a few years.

We expect this to increase in years to come. We are working towards trying to build an incubation centre in IIFT with help from our alumni. This should encourage our students to come forward for entrepreneurship.

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?
Lack of infrastructure, affordability to pursue a business education, to some extent government regulations. IIFT’s MBA (IB) is a fully residential programme and with limited availability of hostel rooms

Who do Indian B-school faculty members not publish as frequently as their international peers?

There are a whole range of reasons including the teaching load of faculty, lack of incentives to publish and absence of performance criteria to assess research contributions. At IIFT all these issues are now being addressed.

Why do Indian B-schools not tailor their curriculum to meet local needs? Why is there always a ‘one size fits all’ approach?
B-schools are to some extent compelled to follow a model curriculum issued by the regulatory agencies.

What more should Indian B-schools do to create leaders, and not just followers?
Increase industry-academia interaction and activities. Invite industry champions to their campus to deliver lectures and interact with students and faculty on a regular basis

The IIM Bill, deemed university status and so on — what additional institutional support do B-schools need to create a robust framework?

Funding/financial support. Greater support through autonomy/ flexibility in course design.

How different are women B-school graduates from their male counterparts, as their numbers remain abysmally low?
There is no difference. Women
B-school graduates fare equally well as compared to their male counterparts. At IIFT, the proportion of women students has doubled from 15 per cent to 30 per cent of the
class. Women students have also assumed bigger roles in student body organisations.


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