To be a leader, one should have a larger goal and vision for life, to do something for the society, the nation and the humanity, at large
Business education in India needs such methodologies to bring about the right changes so it can serve its true purpose of grooming leaders
As he takes charge at IMI as Director General, Dr. Pritam Singh shares with People Matters the urgent need for all Indian business schools to take a fresh look at their education philosophy and teaching methodology to ensure they fulfil the need for future leaders
What is the product of a business school? Are business schools in India grooming leaders?
Unfortunately most business schools in India, whether it is the IIMs, MDI, XLRI, or IMI, they are basically grooming job seekers, job hoppers and careerists. The greatest disappointment is that management schools are not nurturing wealth creators and are not grooming leaders. This country needs more wealth creators, like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Sunil Bharti Mittal and Sajjan Jindal. This is important because if you do not groom wealth creators, this country cannot sustain the growth needs of its enormous population. We need more entrepreneurs and leaders with a business mind-set who can create companies and employment. Unfortunately business schools in India are not doing this.
What is the industry reaction on the present quality of management graduates?
Industry people are cynical about leaders, because they are cynical about employability. They are raising questions on the concept of employability because they need to spend a year training new hires from management schools and therefore need to invest more and re-prepare them. Business schools students are not considered finished products who can be put on the job within a month. So the training cost from their point of view is high.
Any new trends you see as a result of this?
Yes, many corporate houses are thinking of starting their own MBA programs. There is a great danger for management schools if corporate houses start hiring graduates from their own schools; it signals that these companies do not see the relevance of modern-day management education.
What do business schools need to undertake so they can effectively help in grooming leaders for tomorrow?
I think we need a very drastic change in management education. A few things we need to address are:
1. Just like we have hospitals for someone studying to be a doctor, or great workshops for an engineer, management schools neither have labs nor hospitals. Our lab is the corporate world but almost 99% of management schools in the country do not have a corporate connection. To groom leaders, business schools must have a corporate connection through industry interface. For example, Germany has the concept of apprenticeship where students spend time working in the industry. So people in a graduate program must spend at least a day a week in the industry. And when they start doing that, they would be not only flying at 40,000 feet but will also be walking along ground realities and ensure connection between the horizon and ground reality.
2. To be a leader, one should have a larger goal and vision for life to do something for society, for the nation and for humanity, at large. I am not very sure whether we are grooming students with a larger vision and dream. ‘Social sensitization’ is required where students can spend 2-3 weeks in the village to understand what their country is. MBAs from great schools do not have the right understanding of the country and its problems of poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. Business schools have to integrate with the world they operate in. Without that, they will not understand the social structure and systems, or know how to communicate with the common man.
3. The role of a professor is important and we have four kinds – Adhyapaka (those who lecture), Upadhyay (those who provide skills and coach), mentors and Acharya (guru). In our academic world, we have maximum lecturers and coaches, but no mentors. To groom leaders, we need mentors who can become role models for these future leaders. Teachers are no more considered role models, like the kind we saw in early days in management schools. I am not sure how much quality time teachers today spend with the students.
4. Academic institutions are meant for creation, dissemination and application of knowledge. But unfortunately business schools in India are teaching shops where the wisdom of knowledge creation is missing. The America management schools create knowledge but have you seen theories being made in India? Most of us are busy validating the American theories. So we need to become frontiers in terms of creating cutting-edge knowledge else we are bound to go down the spiral. In the coming times, the world will compete not through the power of natural resources but through the power of knowledge. Everyone is talking about making India becoming a knowledge hub but that is not possible if our business schools do not start emphasizing on knowledge creation. Even if there have been creation and dissemination of knowledge in few cases, there is no application of knowledge. Most schools are not holistic or integrated which is a major issue. Only borrowing from American theories will not teach us how to use it because theories are derived from applications and we are not aware of the applications. So whenever AICTE is awarding an approval, it must check whether the business school is a mere teaching shop or are they holistic.
5. In the West, business schools have tremendous patronage and backing of the corporate world. In India, though it was the case earlier when the Tatas and Birlas made many great institutions, this partnership between corporate players and business schools is missing in recent times. And it is a big loss to the corporate world.
6. Today, often when we talk about social responsibility, we are restricted to school education and hospital facilities, and no one talks about any investment in higher education. But ultimately, it is the investment in higher education that will reap direct results for corporate houses to compete effectively in technology and management.
How can business schools channelize their curriculum and teaching methodology to meet these changes?
I can explain with the example of what we are attempting at IMI. Firstly, we are trying to establish 7 centers where each center will have an academic council with 10 members from the corporate world and 7 members from the academic side each. Therefore, about 70 people from the corporate world will be involved in building this school as co-partner. Secondly, at the area level where courses are evolved, we are planning to have academic councils every year when the respective areas would interface with industry representatives to validate our courses. So we have 7 areas with is 35 corporate representative and 7 centers with 70 corporate representation, so a total of 105 people from the industry who will continuously work with us.
What are the other new initiatives taken to bring about this transformation?
We are increasing our focus on MDPs as it becomes the lab for faculty members and gives them the opportunity to talk to industry people, write cases together. Going forward, the MDPs will also be the cash churner for IMI which will help in doing many things we feel is required for a business school to provide the right ground to groom leaders.
We are also promoting consulting business at IMI. So we will create verticals which will include alumni interface, corporate communication, MDPs and placement, and together all four will make IMI a corporate school, and not just a business school. Our aim is to become a school which is facilitated and nurtured by the corporate world, which is what the need of the hour.
Why does industry interface not happen in the natural course of business schools in India?
It stems from the problem of lack of the right leadership in Indian business schools that can visualize such a need and make it happen. In fact, often leadership is a big issue in business schools because the Directors are great academicians, but not necessarily great business leaders. And you can imagine the repercussion of not having the head as the leader, for an institution that exists with the sole purpose of grooming leaders.
Our business schools teach finance, marketing, OB, etc but we do not groom leaders. But if we are in the business of grooming leaders, we have to do a backward integration and check our systems to ensure we are headed the right direction.
What can business schools do to address this problem?
We copy from the West where focus has been to heighten the ‘power of the mind’. While the East focuses on heightening the ‘power of the soul’ (that is emphasis on the heart and the software of human beings). Of course, now even the West has started talking about emotional intelligence. I personally believe leadership is an issue of the soul more than the mind. If you heighten the power of mind without heightening the power of soul, we will have a replay of what we saw during the meltdown where companies were going down while compensation packages of CEOS went up.
Power of soul means enabling and facilitating power, and lifting and empowering people. You cannot excite or motivate people with the power of mind alone, but need the power of soul as well. So there must be an integration of body, mind and soul. If this does not happen in the management world, history of meltdown and numerous scams will continue to be repeated.
How can one teach important aspects of communication, ethics, empathy etc which are important elements of heightening the power of soul while grooming leaders?
Of course these things cannot be taught in the classroom or through myriad case studies. We are using new method that will help us build the right leaders for the future. Tools we plan to use are theatre, films, dance and drama, and outbound, so we can provide a holistic perspective of life to students. The idea is to enable management students to assimilate and absorb the globe so they have a better understanding of both matters relating the mind and the soul.
Business education in India needs such methodologies to bring about the right changes so it can serve its true purpose of grooming leaders. And IMI is taking the initial step to become a benchmarking school by creating our own path and emerge a path finder for others to emulate.