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BW Businessworld

Preparing Leaders Of Tomorrow

With the job scenario becoming more competitive than ever, organisations are looking to hire graduates who are problem solvers, solution providers and leaders

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The US-China trade war, the climate crisis, Brexit, global economic sluggishness, tensions in the Middle East and a host of similar global events are continuously affecting business decisions of companies in India, just as they shake global businesses. The need is for young B-School graduates, who are aware of these situations and are able to make decisions that would be beneficial to the organisations they work at, and for the economy as a whole. 

The trade war between the US and China has been witnessing its effects across the world. Similarly, the global climate crisis is affecting many companies. In fact, some of the companies estimated a business risk of $1 trillion over the next five years. With all these issues floating around, organisations are now looking for people, who are problem solvers or solution providers. 

So the big question arises, are Indian B-Schools producing graduates that can manoeuvre an ever-evolving global business landscape? To understand how B-Schools can produce future change agents, BW Businessworld spoke to leaders from the academic and corporate world.

Ready To Lead 

According to Fr. Antony Uvari, Vice-Chancellor, Xavier University, the global scenario will always affect all stakeholders and young graduates need to be in sync with the changes taking place in the corporate world to be able to face challenges. ‘Bloom Wherever You Are Planted’ should be the attitude to become a change agent.”

Would global experience be useful to students? In regard to this, Ramakrishnan Raman, Director & Professor, Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, stated: “It is true that organisations are affected by the global economic scenario and the strategic decisions that are taken at the CXO level always take the global business scenario into consideration.” He also agreed that premier Indian B-Schools are preparing graduates equipped with required skills and knowledge, to give valuable inputs for such decisions to be taken. Further, since aspects like culture cannot be taught in classrooms, he is of the opinion that global immersion experience can give immense value addition to management graduates. “Many B-Schools are providing graduates with global immersion by giving them opportunities to take credits from the universities abroad. Some premier B-Schools are also making experiential learning a mandatory component in the MBA curriculum so that they are not only ready to adapt and learn from the real-time scenario, but also enjoy learning by knowing, being and doing.”

On the other hand, Janat Shah, Director, IIM Udaipur, is of the view that the presence of few international students in B-Schools doesn’t allow graduates to get acquainted with a multicultural environment at the learning stage. “With that diversity component missing, cultural adaptability can become a barrier in the future.”

 However, he feels that general uncertainty and complexity have given an opportunity to Indian graduates to be agile in finding solutions. “Adaptability is high because of the environment students usually face. Students, who have undergone the whole competitive process and have found a place in premier institutes like IIMs and IITs, should be in a position to adapt to changes.”

Mahalakshmi R, Director- HR, Mondelez India, stated: “Today’s global business scenario is more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) than ever. We have seen most B-School graduates coming in with broad perspectives – coupled with agility, risk-taking appetite and a dream to make a difference. Some deeper campus industry partnerships can further enhance the degree to which graduates are equipped with practical and relevant perspectives to deliver higher impact in a changing context.”

Step Up

What emerged from these conversations was a need for a global experience for graduates by way of a partnership with universities abroad and also campus industry partnerships, in addition to having more integration with international students on our campuses. While these are valuable aspects of making graduates ready for the contemporary business scenario, there are a few key factors that need to be focused on in addition to the curriculum to make them truly ready to tackle this dynamic environment. 

Uvari believes the key factors that we need to pay attention to are ‘KSA’ - Knowledge, Skill and Attitude of the student. This would ensure an all-round development for a budding manager, who would be able to handle pressure and be able to perform efficiently. 

Similarly, Raman of Symbiosis Institute of Business Management is of the view that embracing technology and learning to manage ambiguity and uncertainty is an important aspect. “The application of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is making changes happen at a fast pace in every functional area. Hence ensuring that a platform is provided to MBA graduates, where they learn, apply and constantly update their knowledge related to current trends in technology, to grow in the dynamic and ever-changing global competitive landscape.” 

He pointed out that the ability to be a solution provider is essential. “Organisations are looking for problem solvers. Almost all industries, processes, and business models are reinvented by disruptive technologies, and therefore, managers of tomorrow must be able to shape the impact of these changes, rather than just reacting to them.”

Finally, for him, the ability to deal with chaos is paramount. “Agility is becoming the new normal and is impacting many business processes. The ability to accept and deal with chaos is one critical skill that future managers will need. In the future, people will have to work with people and machines and must have high levels of emotional intelligence to deal with chaos that might be an integral part of the change management process.”

 Shah pointed out that educational institutions need to put students in environments which bring them out of their comfort zone as that is where maximum learning happens. This experience needs to be paired with the process of reflection so students can deliberate on their actions and learn from them. “At IIM Udaipur, we have included courses like rural immersion and international immersion, where students have to face challenges they don’t encounter typically. They also reflect on and share their experiences as a part of the process. As a result, they are better prepared to handle the changing global business landscape. B-schools also need to focus on learning outside the classroom. Active participation of students in professional clubs and committees can be quite valuable in the changing international business scenario,” he added.

For Mahalakshmi, social and emotional intelligence, communication and business acumen are key leadership skills. Development of these skills, according to her, need more focus in the curriculum. She further stated that the tech skills and digital savviness are extremely relevant to ensure these young graduates remain ahead of the curve and enable organisations to embrace the future, ahead of the competition.   

 “As an endeavour to impact some of the above – most progressive organisations offer projects and internship opportunities. At Mondelez, we have partnered with campuses in unique ways. We have used live business challenges that are now a part of the retail marketing curriculum at IIM Lucknow, with our TANG case embedded as a graded element. We have also formed a partnership with SP Jain for developing a new channel to reach our consumers.”

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