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Industrial Revolution 4.0: Walk The Tech Talk

To be Industrial Revolution 4.0 ready, Indian B-schools need to address the elephant in the room – update curriculum and put together relevant subject material

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Industrial revolutions have all been disruptive as they have turned the tables of the prevailing industries during the periods before them. Currently, we are transitioning to a revolution that is more technological than industrial as it is the culmination of the Third Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), nanotechnology, biotechnology, virtual reality (VR), 3D printing, autonomous cars and quantum computing.

New markets have emerged because of this sudden escalation of new technologies, which certainly require a new set of skills for employment to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This raises a few questions: Are Indian B-schools are ready to cope with the challenges emerging from Industrial Revolution 4.0? Are they moving beyond just the adoption of using digital medium for classroom teaching, scheduling classes, taking faculty feedback and grading students online? While these changes are elementary, B-schools have to commit to training young talent to become future global leaders.

Obstacles Hindering Progress

Some like Manoj Pant, Director, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, believe that Indian B-schools are partially ready to take on the challenges emerging from Industrial Revolution 4.0. “Many B-schools have introduced courses on Design Thinking, Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics, which can help students prepare for opportunities offered by Industrial Revolution 4.0 and as this will evolve over a period of time. The vital objective is for the B-schools to keep aligning their curriculum to meet the industry’s expectations.”

Subjects such as Machine Learning and AI are relatively new and this requires specialised skills. Naturally then, a constraint in this specialised area is shortage of faculty. To solve this, B-schools are required to incorporate faculty development programmes to train teaching staff. Receiving funds from AICTE or the UGC could be one of the ways in which B-schools could run training programmes and, in turn, help the teaching staff acquire this specialised skill.

The academic system of both the public as well as the private colleges and universities needs to be revamped as per the industry requirements. The lack of updated curriculum, is in fact, is a direct reflection of the poor skilling of students – the underlying bugbear of both the student community as well as the organisations hiring them.

Pant, who was Dean, School of International Studies in JNU, is well aware of the situation on the ground. “There is an emergent need to provide additional funding for business schools in India. Moreover, there must be an increase in both access and innovation in our higher education system,” says Pant.

Funds and skill gap are not the only issues plaguing Indian B-schools. There is also the issue of creating relevant educational study material. Janat Shah, Director, IIM Udaipur says, “It is going to take some time to develop applicable educational material. However, the good schools ensure that they deal with all the fundamentals, which would allow students to have the conceptual ability to apply their skills. This ability would definitely get enhanced if the students receive the right material.” On its part, IIM Udaipur is setting up a Centre for Digital Enterprise to work on similar needs and help students prepare for future academic and industry requirements.

Leading The Way
IIM Raipur, whose curriculum includes elements of Industry 4.0 as building blocks of management education, has already turned the spotlight on Industry 4.0 and digital economy. Bharat Bhasker, Director IIM Raipur says, “We have launched Center for Digital Economy with twin objectives to understand and incorporate the digital economy and Industry 4.0 transformation challenges in our curriculum. This is to conduct innovative research in advancing the adoption of Industry 4.0 and accelerating the digital economy and its impact on HRM, finance, marketing, supply chains, strategic implications and emergence of new and disruptive business models.”

India is all set to become one of world’s largest MBA hubs. Truth be told, Indian B-schools are aware they need to be prepared for the Industrial Revolution 4.0. Considering technology adoption is one of the key strengths of young India, Indian B-schools, too, have responded to technology-led Industry 4.0 by offering programmes and courses that help B-school graduates find a firm footing in the emerging world of future business. In fact, many B-schools are in the process of revamping the curriculum to match with the new skills required. Indian B-schools are also introducing AI and machine learning courses to enhance the curriculum and bridge the gaps in classroom learning, thus helping the graduates be job ready.

“Indian B-schools are offering courses which can help graduates get jobs and ride on the Industry 4.0 wave. Courses in Data Science and Analytics are also being offered as electives in these B-schools. But with automation and DevOps becoming a reality, the number of jobs are shirking and therefore Indian B-schools must think of “out of the box” solutions to be able to face the Industry 4.0 revolution,” says Ramakrishnan Raman, Director, Symbiosis Institute of Business Management.

Even as new courses are being introduced in the top B-schools, and directors and deans are showing keen interest in updating the course material, a majority of B-schools in India are yet to update their curriculum. International Management Institute Director Himadri Das says that only early adopters will emerge winners. “Most Indian B-schools are not ready for Industrial Revolution 4.0 where the underlying disruptive technologies are analytics, AI, ML, blockchain among others. This is because the curriculum in most B-schools has not yet been restructured to account for these developments. The B-schools, which have been early adopters in aligning their curriculum with these requirements, will definitely have a first mover advantage,” says Das.

Robots Vs Human Employees
There is no doubt that technology is disrupting the way we conduct business. Due to technological advancements and globalisation, the future of business can already be imagined being extremely different than what it is like at the moment. The application and adoption of these new innovations require fitment with the local cultural narrative. Education is no exception. Although, additional opportunities in the field of digital media is creating more jobs, the rise of automation has also upset our society by making many jobs obsolete. In a future where machines seem to be taking the place of humans, specialised human skills are becoming increasingly important. This is exactly why business education needs to be aligned with the pace in which the world is changing.

IIM Udaipur’s Shah points out that this development affects only the lower tier schools more than the top ones. “The top-tier schools focus on the broader skills such as 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.” he adds.

The Era Of Robot Co-workers?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is set to disrupt many industries, may or may not kill jobs. But investing in skills that will still be relevant even after 5-10 years is a good move in securing your spot in the workforce of tomorrow. And, one specific skill that we are yet to develop is to create a work environment where humans and robots co-exist. It is yet to fully explore how we can use a team of humans and robots more effectively and simultaneously. However, creativity is one skill that even AI is struggling to replicate. That is why it will be one of the skills that will help human workers thrive and succeed in the future.

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India's Top B-school magazine 10 November 2018