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BW Businessworld

We Have A Very Strong Connect With Our Alumni Base: Archana Shukla, Director of IIM Lucknow

Archana Shukla spoke to BW Businessworld on the state of management education in the country, its challenges, the changing needs of the industry, among other issues.

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An expert in the field of organisational behaviour, Archana Shukla, who took over as the Director of IIM Lucknow in April this year, has 28 years of experience in teaching, training and research including a stint as a professor of Organisational Behaviour at the institute. She spoke to BW Businessworld on the state of management education in the country,  its challenges,  the changing needs of the industry, among other issues. 

Excerpts from the interview

How do you look at the postgraduate management education / B-school ecosystem in the country today?
The management education/ B-school ecosystem in the country today is going through a churn. Gone are the days when the focus was on the quantity, today the focus is on quality; be it research, be it infrastructure or be it a curriculum. Another focus area is globalisation or internationalisation — research which has global appeal, curriculum that is suited to the global market and not just India. More and more Indian schools are focusing on global accreditation and also on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Are we creating enough potential leaders or mere job seekers in this market?
The focus at IIMs has always been on creating leaders and not just mere job seekers.

Even after all these reforms, why have Indian B-schools failed to compete with the world’s best schools?
Some Indian business schools already figure in top 50 of global rankings. As I mentioned earlier, we are going through a churn. There is a lot to be done and we all are pushing ourselves to do it. I am sure concerted efforts at all ends would help us compete with the world’s best B-schools. The first step is accreditations and publications in top-tier journals. IIM Lucknow will have major global accreditations in place within a year. And the faculty output in terms of publications is definitely showing an upward trend.

Why do we fail to regularly update and overhaul the curriculum, in keeping with the industry needs?
At IIM Lucknow we have regular interactions with our alumni and academia from best global business schools to understand the new cutting-edge global research and benchmark our curriculum to the best in the world and also the need of the industry and upgrade accordingly — keeping a balance between the academic and industry requirements is also necessary. Regular curriculum up-gradation is done.

How do we make sure that the faculty is equally at home in theory and in practice?
At IIM Lucknow we conduct several consultancy assignments, training programmes and sponsored research projects with both government and industry to make policy impacts and conduct action-oriented research. This keeps them abreast of the latest in the market. Our faculty members regularly chair important committees of the government and advisory boards of several organisations. Also, a lot of faculty members write and publish cases.

Technology is evolving so fast that it’s difficult to predict what happens one year down the line. How do B-schools prepare for such a scenario?
B-schools have to be always on their toes and keep a strong focus on technological up-gradation while also keeping costs in control. We are already doing that and enhancing our capabilities to disseminate knowledge on digital platforms. We have several tie-ups already.

 In India, with the exception of the IIMs and a few other top management institutes, majority of B-schools churn out graduates who are hardly employable. What’s the way out?
Focus should be on quality and not on quantity. Faculty development is also required.

How often do you inspire your pass-outs to come back and teach in their alma mater? How often do you inspire them to contribute funds to their alma mater?
We have a very strong connect with our alumni base. They are an integral part of IIM Lucknow. Even our board comprises of a few of our senior alumni. At IIM Lucknow from the moment a student inducted the feeling of being a family is inculcated.  A student even when he/she becomes an alumnus is not alone, IIM Lucknow is always there. This feeling is mutual. Many of our faculty members have passed out of IITs/IIMs.

What do you / what more do you expect from the regulator AICTE and the government?Progressive regulations benchmarked against global regulatory standards.

How has the role of B-school director evolved and how crucial it is for a B-school?
I believe that I have developed a modest approach to academic leadership. Through conscious observation, introspection, and active experimentation, I have evolved my own unique approach. Three basic tenets define my approach to academic leadership: providing space to individuals, institution building, and inclusive management.

I believe that providing space to individuals to experiment, tolerating modest failures (and learning from them), appropriate empowerment, along with sufficient encouragement enables people to act fast, respond innovatively to challenges, and take accountability for their actions.

Institution building is a process of evolving, articulating, and owning a shared vision, coupled with commitment for action from all stakeholders. I believe that a strong collegial culture with appreciative discourse will significantly contribute to the process of institution building. My approach to evolving stakeholder commitment is through enabling inclusive management. In an academic context, the primary stakeholders — faculty and students – hold the key in enabling the institution’s evolution of its own culture and discourse.

I believe that such an approach to academic leadership will ensure that the institution realizes its potential, serves its mission, and ensures all-round well-being for its stakeholders.  

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