Prof Shekhar Chaudhari
The Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIMC) has kicked-off a few radical moves in the last few months. From initiating ‘reservation’ for women applicants to aggressively going after alumni to keep its infrastructure plans ticking. IIMC director Professor Shekhar Chaudhuri, spoke to PaGaLGuY about these measures and also on his institute's contribution to homogenising higher education in India.
What, in your opinion is the contribution of older IIMs, in raising the bar of management education in India?
IIM Calcutta and IIM Ahmedabad – the first two IIMs to be established by the Govt. of India have played a pioneering role in introducing formal management education in the country and in making a major contribution in professionalising management in Indian organizations.
The IIMs have been successful in popularising management education to such an extent that it created a great interest amongst students in the country to opt for ‘management’ as an attractive career option. Over the years, some of the brightest students in the country have been opting to join the IIMs in the two year post graduate programmes. A large number of the alumni of the older IIMs are today occupying top leadership positions in different companies that straddle many industries including manufacturing, IT and ITES, agro business, management consultancy, investment banking and financial services, the NGO sector, micro finance, retail, etc. Many IIM alumni have been successful in establishing themselves as entrepreneurs and several alumni have established themselves as management gurus.
You have made a plea to your alumni to contribute funds for IIMC’s infrastructure projects, when the IIMs receive government grant.
The alumni of many US business schools have been making financial contributions to their alma maters. However, in India it is a new thing. So far the IIMs have not depended on alumni funding; however we believe that they can contribute in many other ways. Alumni funding can be very useful for undertaking many projects which may not be possible to fund through tuition fees alone. The older IIMs having reached a level of maturity and have become self-sufficient and are therefore not dependent upon the Government for funds.
In schools abroad, don't alumni play a bigger role in the school’s activities?
We see the role of alumni as being multi-faceted. Our alumni have been taking interest in organising workshops on strategic marketing and entrepreneurship. Many of our alumni have participated in conferences organised by us and several of them are currently playing very important roles as members of the Board of Governors. Specifically I would like to mention that Mr Ajit Balakrishnan an alumnus of the 1971 batch is currently the Chairman of the BOG of the Institute. Currently several of our alumni are involved in helping the institute design a programme to develop entrepreneurs.
You have recently established a research centre at IIMC, but are yet to get to a 100% case-study teaching method.
I am very confident that the case study method is very suitable for our student population. It only takes a few weeks for the students to understand the case method of teaching and learning. I sincerely believe that the case method helps the students to understand a managerial situation from multiple perspectives as in a case discussion class the faculty conducts the class in such a way that multiple viewpoints impinging on the situation are brought out. The problem that we are facing is the lack of enough cases of Indian origin. The IIMC Case Research Centre has been established with the objective of developing Indian cases for classroom use as well asoto promote case-based research.
So our approach to research is hampering our global reputation?
The older IIMs have already made a name for themselves. Their students are recognised all over the world, especially in the top institutions in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. IIMs are today recognised for their excellence in teaching but they have yet to make a mark in research and publications.
Selection criteria in the IIMs always attracts attention.
Each IIM has its own selection criteria; however in general, they look for various qualities that are essential to become business leaders. CAT measures different abilities including quantitative ability, data interpretation and verbal reasoning. A leader requires many other qualities which are attempted to be identified in the interview stage. Because of this, the weightage of CAT scores in the selection process has come down.
And diversity continues to be the buzz word.
In real life there is a lot of diversity but in the classroom in IIMs there is little diversity. Our intention is to mirror in the classroom the real diversity that is present outside. By giving additional marks to women and non- engineering applicants we would like to change the character of the applicant pool so that the selection of the final list of students to be admitted is from a larger pool.
Even after three years, the online CAT continues to be questioned.
The computer based CAT is very new. Over time my feeling is that this test would evolve into the adaptive type test.
Don't placements play the biggest role in b-school selection?
I agree that the applicants do give a lot of importance to ‘placements’ in deciding on which IIM to join. It is very natural for a candidate who has to shell out approximately Rs 10-15 lacs for the two year programme. However students need to realise that earning money cannot be the only factor that will bring happiness in life. The IIMs are trying to convey this message to the students through different courses and counselling sessions.