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‘We Thrive To Create Thought Leadership'

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A modest library, two well maintained classrooms, a notorious mess and an efficient admin staff is what IIM Ranchi is composed of at the moment. The residential hostel is across the road and gives a feel of any normal dorm with beaming faces lurking around the TV in the make-shift canteen. Despite a limited infrastructure and faculty, M. J. Xavier has managed to bring everything together to make the institute up and operational. An IIM Calcutta Fellow and a marketing professor, Xavier happens to be the founding director of IIM Ranchi, and he is excited about it. With 20 years of industry experience, Xavier comes with a vision and a mind bubbling with ideas. Author of `Marketing In The New Millennium' that won the DMA-Escorts Award for best management book of the year 1999, he is a strong promoter of holistic growth and thought leadership. Chetna Mehra of Businessworld Online spoke to Xavier about his ideologies and views pertaining to business education and more. Excerpts.

How are Indian B-schools similar or different from B-Schools abroad?
I have feeling that UK and European B-Schools are better than US B-Schools today because they are more in line with our kind of philosophy. Though the management education itself originated from US itself but they have stick to their own comfort zone. They need to get out of that. The European B-Schools on the other hand are changing much faster. Except Harvard Business School most other B-schools in US are very rigid, whereas, a lot of new ideas are coming from Europe.

If you see the rankings now many of the top B-Schools are in Europe. Unfortunately none of our business schools figure in top slot of world rankings. Of course there are others reasons for that, but my point is that we have also failed to make an impact. The rankings consider publications a major factor and we haven't published much. Publications are the knowledge that you have created. There is so much lying in our system but there is no common platform, so, IIM Ranchi will hopefully play a key role here.

Is IIM Ranchi another addition in the league of existing elite IIMs or you plan to do things differently? And how?
Most of the management books that we refer are written by westerners but the same content can be found in epics and vedas. Also, a lot of work is done by Indians such as The Fortune At The Bottom Of The Pyramid and The India Way. We want to develop a curriculum which will be more Indian in nature and then we want rest of the world to follow that. The idea is to develop thought leadership by blending both the analytical approaches of the West and the values and wisdom of the East.

We plan to launch a one-year-certificate programme on Indian management in 2012 for working executives. It will be a part-time executive programme, where these executives will come and spend one week every two months in the campus for one year. Gradually this will grow into a full-time programme. A holistic way of teaching will be applied to context like this where we can start the mornings with meditation and yoga. It will be a very different Gurukula kind of system. Whatever works in this programme we will shift to the flagship two-year PGPM. The new model will take around five years to absorb into the system.

Which other changes IIM Ranchi thrives to bring in the system of business education?
Our learning philosophy is experiential and active learning, leading to learning to learn, where students shall learn to learn on their own and become lifelong learners that's when they will become wiser. Rather than telling them from day 1 that you are the chosen few and great leaders, I am telling them, I am sorry you have to go a long way. So, the model is eventually to come up with leaders who are philosophers and not actually the aggressive types.

I think we have a moral responsibility to create leadership that is not looking at the money alone but at the society, sustainability, long-term growth and inclusivity. If I don't do this sensitisation, who will do it. All the existing IITs and IIMs have failed to do that. We have business leaders who will do anything to achieve the shareholder value and politicians who will lead with the business leaders, and bureaucrats who are always willing to work on this nexus and are looting the public money. Unless we change this, our 20:20 dream will never come true.

The logo of IIM Ranchi for instance is about holistic development. The bird here is crow, a crow believes in community living, it is also believed to be an intelligent bird because it can survive in any environment. It is looking down and not up, as a thoughtful business leader you need to look at the needs of poor and not just keep your eyes up. The logo makes an arrow as well, you have to have a purpose to make an impact on the society. In India crow is a symbol of shame but we want to make it a symbol of real great strength.

What is the agenda for coming years?
We are the first among IIMs to offer a major in Business Analytics from the first batch onwards and there is a huge demand for people with such skills. We are also the first to come-up with a neuro-management centre (in association with Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi) which is basically mapping the brain to understand people.

Because Ranchi has mines and manufacturing, we will be running a separate programme for management skill development in the sector for locals. In our centre for inclusive growth and rural development we want to run a course on rural development.

Right now our batch strength is 45 students, we will increase the intake to 60 students in the coming batch for our flagship programme. In the next five years we should be able to offer a specialised MBA in Business Analytics, Indian management, energy management and rural management each having 60/40 seats.

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I also want to start a part-time PhD programme for working executives. Working professionals with extensive industry experience who want to do their PhD can join such a programme. We will keep the fees high for the Fellowship Programme, as one will be getting IIM quality research facilities even when he or she is working.

B-Schools are now entering the public policy arena too, do you have any plans for the sector?
We have to play a key role in helping government with its major public policy initiatives and then e-governance will make transparent systems to weeds out corruption.

The government realises the need for good managers and business leaders but they don't have the right people to advice them. When these big time consultants come-up they take them (government) for a ride. They dump everything on government, half of the system suggested by these firms is never used. What we can offer is, we do the need study, sit with government and short list the vendor to do the needful and train them (government officials). There is a huge opportunity for both the parties in this sector.

Thus, education, e-governance and rural development - these three together can give us ample work for atleast 100 odd faculty members. There is a huge need for education planning and education management for which we may set-up a centre of excellence. There are seamless opportunities, we are looking at programme on health, media and education management for locals. These initiatives can fulfil the need of IIMs in underdeveloped places.

You talked about the need of IIMs in underdeveloped places, what is IIM Ranchi doing, or plan to do to fulfil that need?
IIMs were opened in areas such as Ranchi to instigate the overall growth in B and C class areas. We are in talks with the local government to develop a new model for Ranchi Schools. There are three things - hardware, software and brain ware. We have the brain ware intact for these schools, all we need is hardware and software. We want to start with the hardware, which means looking at what kind of classrooms, learning tools and benches etc. will be required. Then we move onto the software the computers and programmes for creative and multimedia learning. We are slowly looking at transforming the entire school education in Ranchi over the period of two years.

Apart, from that we will offer programmes for locals which we just talked about.

IIM Ranchi does not have its own faculty currently, are you already working out a solution?
So far the government has sanctioned only 12 full-time faculty positions. It is basically about the student faculty ratio i.e. 1:10. We are in process of recruiting faculty, most of which initially would be on invitation. They can teach as visiting faculty and if we like them, they like us we can put them on permanent pay-roll. Faculty members from IIM Calcutta come down to Ranchi to teach the students in existing batch currently.

With just one girl candidate and most of the student being engineers, do you think diversity is a concern in IIM Ranchi?
For our programme, because of the location we may continue to attract fewer girls and more engineers but as and when we will start adding more programmes, we can bring in more locals and students from diverse profiles. We will have diversity in the campus as a whole but we cannot expect it happening for a single programme currently.

The institute is currently operating from a government building, how much time will it take for the permanent campus to come-up?
IIM Ranchi will have a permanent campus in the next 4-5 years with a government grant of Rs 500 crore. Being a new IIM, the B-School enjoys greater flexibility in terms of programmes and infrastructure. For instance, the new campus will be equipped with smart classrooms having equipment worth Rs 50 lakh in each classroom.

What is your forecast for IIM Ranchi's placements?
With a small batch a good set of students, placements will not be an issue. We are no inferior than anybody and the range of companies that have hired interns from IIM Ranchi, I guess, no other new IIMs have received. We are new and doing things differently and it will take a while we get recognised in the market.

chetna(at)bworldmail(dot)com