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BW Businessworld

We Aim To Be A Leader In Management Research In India: Janat Shah, Director, IIM Udaipur

‘So far B-schools have been focusing their energies largely at the domestic level. It is important that we look at a way of reaching out to international faculty and students’

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Janat Shah, Director, IIM Udaipur says his B-school, which came up in 2011, is committed to nurturing leaders and entrepreneurs who will power their organisations in the emerging economies. He informs that to help the graduates pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures, IIM Udaipur provides a placement holiday of two years to its students. During the course of two years, students are also provided mentorship support from industry experts. Shah talks to BW Businessworld’s Priya Saraf talks about his institute in particular and B-school education in the country in general in an interview.

Why should students choose your school?
IIM Udaipur aspires to take its place as a management institute of global quality. We already offer our students an accomplished faculty who bring the highest academic standards to the classroom.

There are three main pillars of life on campus at IIMU – academics, the broader skills students acquire through involvement in clubs and committees, and preparation for their careers. All of these must be seen in the context of our underlying objective, as enunciated in our mission: to provide a transformational learning experience. The MBA experience per se is definitely transformational and full of personal and professional growth for students. Indeed, every graduate will leave as a different and more able person. We hope MBA aspirants will see IIM Udaipur as much more than a way to achieve material success.

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?
Given the existing status, 2025 is unlikely but 2030 seems doable. We should aim to be one of the best global hubs for B-school education and to do that we need to have a 10-15 year horizon. In terms of capability, the country has premier institutions like IIMs and a couple of private business schools which have the necessary infrastructure in place, even the third-generation IIMs would have necessary infrastructure in place in the next five years. Apart from infrastructure, other specific components that B-schools need to focus on are getting international students, finding global placements and working on international accreditations and recognition. By 2030, at least 50 B-schools from India should have international accreditations (like AACSB and EQUIS) in place and ten of these schools should aim to be in the top ten FT rankings by 2030.
Why do top Indian B-schools not figure in the top global B-school lists?
It is primarily because we are not doing exceptionally well in terms of research as a nation. Also, by and large, our student and faculty are majorly domestic. We need to have geographical diversity in terms of both these groups.

How ready are Indian B-schools for Industrial Revolution 4.0?
To answer this question we need to see if we have the relevant material dealing with Industrial Revolution 4.0. The answer is no and it is going to take some time to develop applicable educational material. However, at least the good schools ensure that they deal with all the fundamentals which will allow students to have the conceptual ability to apply their skills when the need arises. This ability would definitely get enhanced if the students are supported with the right material. At IIM Udaipur, we are setting up a Centre for Digital Enterprise to work on similar needs and help prepare our students for future developments.

With entry-level jobs shrinking due to AI and automation, what plans do Indian B schools have to place their graduates?
This development affects the lower tier schools more than the top ones. The top-tier schools focus on the broader skills like critical thinking, managing skills, managing cross-cultural dynamics and don’t just prepare students for specific jobs. Nobody can predict which jobs will be relevant five years from now. Skills like critical thinking and an aptitude to keep learning will allow students to adapt themselves to any change in the job market.

Looking at the future, one specific skill that we haven’t developed yet is how you look at work environment when humans and machine work together. How do you use a team of human and machine more effectively? That is one thing that we need to explore.

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?
Given the interest and investment in entrepreneurship over the last few years, management education has tried to create a more enabling environment for it. B-schools have spaces like Incubation centres which give the right ecosystem to entrepreneurs to learn and experiment. There are specific courses being incorporated for entrepreneurs.

At the IIMU Incubation Centre, we are working towards making the Incubation centre the primary focal point for students, faculty and the larger entrepreneurial community interested in innovation and finding a home for launching immersive experiences. Apart from that, IIM Udaipur also provides ‘placement holiday’ of two years to the graduates to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures. Students who opt for placement holiday are eligible to receive hardship allowance from the institute. They also receive mentorship support from industry experts during the duration of two years. Even for internships, IIMU offers Summer Entrepreneurship Programme (SEP) for those who want to test out their entrepreneurial ideas. Students are eligible to get Rs 1 lakh for developing and testing their prototype. We also get alumni who are entrepreneurs to come and talk to the students as they are great role models.

In terms of numbers, graduates pursuing entrepreneurship at the outset will remain very few. If 5 per cent pursue entrepreneurship then it is a good number. Over a period of time, after graduates gain more work experience, it can rise to somewhere between 10 per cent and 20 per cent.

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?
From education as well as research perspective, a batch size of 250-plus seems desirable. Indian B-schools should accept larger batch sizes. A larger class size allows students to do more activities. In the past, government regulations played a big role in restricting the class size in private institutions. However, in terms of recent developments, regulations are not likely to put any constraints on size.

Who do Indian B-school faculty members not publish as frequently as their international peers?
At the national level, we don’t have a research ecosystem in place which includes the necessary environment and the right incentives. Institutes will have to create an ecosystem where faculty is not pulled into excessive administrative roles. In terms of incentives, due weight should be given to the research done by faculty members. We need to develop opportunities (like conferences) at the national level where faculty can get feedback on the work that they have done. Also, there are very few good quality Indian journals. We need more outlets for faculty to highlight their work relevant to the Indian regime.

At IIM Udaipur, we are working hard to build the right ecosystem for research. IIM Udaipur’s objective is to establish itself as a leader in management research in India. Our efforts have already started to show impressive results. According to the methodology deployed by the UT Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management, IIMU is now rated third among Indian business schools based on research published in leading global journals.

Why do Indian B-schools not tailor their curriculum to meet local needs? Why is there always a ‘one size fits all’ approach?
There is nothing wrong in adopting a global approach since a lot of fundamental principles are global in nature. However, at the same time, some amount of local content also needs to be developed. For any education, there should be concepts which are global in nature complemented by some content which is local.

What more should Indian B-schools do to create leaders, and not just followers?
Schools need to focus on holistic development and create opportunities where students can develop and practice leadership. More opportunities outside the curriculum need to be explored. Most of the good schools are already doing it. However, there is scope to do more. At IIM Udaipur, students take ownership and responsibility for themselves and for key aspects of student affairs. All student activities on the campus are governed by the student community.

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

So far B-schools have been thinking small and focusing their energies largely at the domestic level. It is important that we look at a way of reaching out to international faculty and students. The government can plan a significant role in this regard by highlighting the work of Indian B-schools to the international community.

How different are women B-school graduates from their male counterparts, as their numbers remain abysmally low?

Good schools are working towards ensuring a gender balance. IIM Udaipur also awards additional diversity points to female applicants at the time of admissions. There are a good number of progressive corporates focusing on maintaining a good gender ratio. However, there are not enough such companies. The bulk of the companies are still not progressive. When female students graduate, their career challenges continue. Schools need to help them in the early part of their career. Schools should work with their alumni to manage these issues and create the right support system.