The next challenge is Going Global
Being a Fulbright Fellow at Harvard University and MIT, Prof Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM Kozhikode has got vast teaching and administrative experience. With a research interest in Transformational Leadership, Learning Organization, Asia Culture, among others, he is the author of five internationally acclaimed books. He speaks to Nimesh Chandra of Careers360, on the present scenario, challenges and issues in management education.
Q. Do you feel that the value of an MBA is decreasing?
A. The value of MBA does not decrease. What happens is the market demonstrates its preferences for some set of skills, capabilities and all of that. On one hand the top-end MBAs continue to attract the kind of salaries, the growth in terms of salary and perks etc which indicate that there is an upward surge. On the other hand there is a bunch of MBA colleges that are closing down. So you can say that it’s a shake out there. The market has become slightly more discerning in unlocking or decoding what value an MBA provides. So it’s not a generic blanket MBA that will serve your purpose. People will ask what kind of MBA, what can an MBA do for us and all that stuff. See, as it often happens in an imperfect market, that in a supply-demand situation, supply is less than demand, obviously anybody who has an engineering degree gets a job but when the demand is more and the supply diminishes then the market becomes more discerning and they look for people who can really value add. So that is what is happening now.
Q. You mean to say there is asymmetry with respect to institutions ?
A. Definitely, very clear asymmetry. There is no doubt about it. You can see if you look at the 800-1000 MBA colleges there is a huge degree of difference with the top end colleges.
The IIMs will soon become degree granting institutions. So our nature will change to more like that of a university
Q. What is the biggest challenge that confronts you?
A. We are an established institution that will have a value for a long period of time. The question is - where is our constituency? Are we a global school or a national school with global ambition, or a school with specialisation in something? So our challenge is to now move to the next step, that is, go global; our intake will change, our faculty composition will change, our nature of administrative machinery will change. The biggest challenge will be to adapt to the opportunity that is coming our way.
Q. So, is the institute in a state of flux?
A. Definitely, because you know the liberalisation of the Indian education sector is just about happening. We’re on the cusp of it because we are a cutting-edge school. So whatever happens in policy stage of the Indian education, we will be affected because we’re at the top-end of the institutions. So we will have to embrace opportunities that come our way - our systems, architecture, salary structure and so on will have to change.
IIM KOZHIKODE campus
Q. What initiatives have you taken towards that?
A. We’ve collaborated with Ivy League schools such as Yale; we have collaborated with several business schools around the world. For student and faculty exchange, we’ve got our first international accreditation from AMBA. We are the first IIM to do so, others have followed. So the point is that in terms of benchmarking we have done our bit with the globe’s best schools. But more has to be done as we go forward. The IIMs will soon become degree granting institutions by an Act of Parliament. So our nature will change from just being a business school to more like a university where we would offer portfolio courses in terms of applying management in multiple sectors -Government, Non-government, Profit, Non-profit and all kinds of actors.
Q. Is there any new course launches?
A. Quite a few. There are courses in liberal arts and humanities and a course, for instance, based on museum of Indian business history. I’m launching a course on leadership based on the Bhagavad Gita, which will be taught informally. There is a course on China that will be offered by one of my faculty.
Q. What according to you should be the reform agenda for management education?
A. We should be talking about change in essence. What we’re saying is that management addresses a wide range of activities in social and economic space. So when you talk about a shift in essence what a business school should be, it will have less to do with nuances of business as usual like the response to stakeholders, increase your market presence etc, but they’ll be inadequate in dealing with the world which is largely becoming with the market itself become such a volatile concept. We’ll have to rethink the way our student will have to grasp broad patterns of the world. And how quickly these patterns will change and all those so called stability of structures will be challenged. They will have to engage in a lot more multiple and dynamic aspects. So in essence our orientation should be how do we enable students to learn to adapt, rather than teach them just one subject forever. That ‘forever’ kinds of concept is going to be challenged seriously. So the subject silos will have to sync with each other and it will not be silos – courses will be co-taught by many people. Lot of changes will happen; technology will enable lots of radical shift and I can see them coming in the next three years. Instead of people coming to the IIM, we’ll go to the people through the digital mode.
The market has become slightly more discerning in unlocking or decoding what value an MBA provides. The market looks for people who can really value add
Q. What is IIM K doing to nurture entrepreneurship?
A. First of all you can’t do anything about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship happens. Entrepreneurship is not by design, it is by temperament. So, we enable people with the temperament to be an entrepreneur. The advantage of the IIM system is that it gives you multiple exit options. Almost everybody gets a job option. Not to take that and to go there is a difficult choice - you could not impose this choice to somebody. So, we make entrepreneurship a way of thinking here. I have allowed my students to run a cafÃ© here. I’ve introduced my students to entrepreneurs in their domain of interest. I’ve dissuaded them from taking jobs that are below their expectation levels. We have done all those things informally but we have not created a school for entrepreneur because such a thing does not exist.
Q. Any good student project that you are proud of?
A. Lot’s of them. The students are building several models for increasing the output in agriculture so as to bring better quality of life for farmers. They are doing a great deal in palliative care for the elderly. The other project is that the Kerala Chief Minister has requested me to give twenty fellows from IIM as consultants and advisors to his ministers. This is the project we’re working on, so twenty of us will work with the Kerala cabinet to improve the quality of governance in the State.