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“We Have Embedded Liberal Arts Courses”
The BITS School of Management (BITSom) in Mumbai is part of BITS Pilani and its 270 students have access to the BITS incubation programme and alumni infrastructure. BITSom Dean Ranjan Banerjee talks to Vasudha Mukherjee of BW Businessworld about the institute’s unique courses that teach students to grapple with unforeseen challenges
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How has the focus of B-school education changed in the last five years? What new components have been added?
There are a few trends that we see in top schools:
Firstly, technology is moving from a vertical to a horizontal. It is no longer a vertical but a horizontal. This implies that there needs to be a lot of focus on emerging technologies and data analytics in every specialisation.
Digital transformation is another area of focus and leaders of tomorrow need to understand the transformative power of industry across industries, and understand the way business models are being transformed in different industries.
We are no longer just teaching students how to solve structured problems but are looking at the ability to solve unstructured and semi-structured problems. In many of these cases, problem definition is the most important and often difficult part of the problem. Courses in design thinking and systems thinking help to build this capability.
Students need to understand the linkages between business, society and technology. The ability to connect the dots is becoming more critical. We need courses and perspectives on sustainability. More importantly, we need to give students live experiences of actually solving problems in the social sector. These experiences give students hands-on experience of issues like hunger, education, waste and energy management etc. They also realise the universality of management, and benefit from experiencing the practice of management in ambiguous multi-stakeholder environments.
Finally, students will typically have multiple distinct careers in their lifetime. This implies the ability to reflect, learn and adapt in a variety of circumstances. Self-awareness and learning agility are imperatives for tomorrow’s leaders, and progressive campuses will build a stronger emphasis on soft skills, self-awareness and learnability. Often this will imply individualised coaching and mentoring, and enabling students to personalise their MBA learning.
*There is a growing trend for Indian students to seek master's degrees across disciplines from overseas campuses, but for management education, students still think Indian campuses are good enough. Why is this so?
I think one reason is that for the top schools, job markets in India are very strong, and there is a fair amount of industry integration. The high-quality job prospects imply that Indian students can, not only find top jobs within India, but can work with many international companies and leverage their careers to global roles. You do not always need a global MBA to have a global career. Given this, and the relatively lower fee structure (as compared to western business schools) the return on investment of top Indian schools is very strong.
*The country is going through a paradigm shift in education with NEP, online classrooms, an emphasis on skilling and entrepreneurship. How is Your B-school aligning with these changing realities?
Firstly, we have strongly embedded liberal arts courses in the curriculum. Secondly, through a unique set of courses titled, ‘Winning in the Workplace’, we bring a deep focus on skilling. Thirdly, we are one of the few reputed business schools to offer new venture creation and entrepreneurship as a separate specialisation. We are a part of BITS Pilani, an institute of eminence recognised by the Government of India, and our students have access to BITS Pilani’s incubation programme and alumni infrastructure. Finally, we offer a lot of flexibility to students to craft combinations of courses and personalise their MBA journey.
* What do B-Schools have to offer for the empowerment of tier-2 to tier - 4 cities and towns, and rural areas, the aspirations of which now reflect on social media and even in films?
I think that an admissions process that values diversity and tries to explore the students’ overall profile, as well as a well-designed scholarship programme for deserving candidates, helps in this regard. Our outreach to colleges must go beyond the usual suspects in metro cities. This is already beginning to happen but can be accelerated further
*What kind of faculty upgradation and exchange programmes have you undertaken?
We are drawing our faculty from the best institutes in the world. Faculty from NUY, Kellogg, Wharton, Cornell, Oxford, SMU, have all taught at BITSoM. In the second year of the programme, our students are offered an opportunity to do a proprietary, tailored two-week immersion at the London Business School (LBS) on Global Leadership Perspectives. They not only learn from top LBS faculty, but also serve as consultants to LBS alumni entrepreneurs, who offer them current business challenges to tackle.
*How is BITSoM sensitising students to the environment and sustainability and what work is being done in this regard on the campus?
All our students undertake a set of live projects in the social sector, where they work with NGOs to tackle strategic and managerial issues facing the NGO. These projects give them hands on exposure to social issues, and sensitise them to SDGs and the real challenge of implementation. We also have multiple courses that tackle the linkage between business and society, and incorporate courses like design thinking and systems thinking into the curriculum.
Many aspects of energy management and sustainability are embedded in the design of our upcoming main campus at Kalyan, and in that sense, we are walking the talk.