Being a leader is taking the positive with the negative, says Prof Keya Sengupta, IIM Shillong’s new acting director

Prof Keya Sengupta, Director in-charge, IIM Shillong (Photo Courtesy: Astha A)

Bidding farewell to its first director Prof Ashoke K Dutta on Monday, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong welcomed its new and the first ever lady director (in-charge), Prof Keya Sengupta. In her first interview, the acting director discussed her plans for the institute. Having been a part of IIM Shillong as dean, Research, Prof Sengupta has a fair idea of the institute’s operations, and is all set to take the legacy of the institute forward – in terms of sustainability, technological advancements and building new programs forward.

As the first woman to be director of an IIM, please share your thoughts?

Since the time the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) communicated to me that it would like me to take charge, the idea has still not sunk in. First and foremost, Prof Dutta left a strong legacy behind, wherein he has built IIM Shillong from scratch and has brought it to the stronghold today. I plan to take that legacy forward in the best possible manner. I will not say I don’t have apprehensions about being a woman in a top position, but being a leader means facing both, the positive and negative situations with the same mindset.

What are the immediate plans of action?

Sustainability is one of the institutes ideals. When we use the term we do not refer to only green sustainability but also sustainability as a whole. Our programs are a step in this direction anyway. If we cannot sustain the society, we cannot sustain ourselves. In addition, we have a foundation course which is mandatory for each student who enters the institute. The course essentially teaches them to expand their thought processes in a manner that gives them alternate and maybe better solutions to the problems around them.

For me, the immediate plan of action is to collect all the work in progress and build up on those factors. Also, one of the things our former Director held close to his heart was to make a deeper impact on the local community. So we want to add some programs that will provide formal training in this area. While we already have The Centre for Development of the North Easter Region (CEDNER) that works on various projects specific to this part of the country that would help the area to progress. In addition, we would also like to provide formal education that would help students understand the local requirements in a better manner.

We have already started a couple of new programs in the form of an Executive Post Graduate Program (PG-PEx) on International Business with special reference to China. Next, we are planning to launch a two-year PGP-Ex in judiciary sciences in collaboration with West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences and also a two-year program in Financial Sciences in collaboration with National Stock Exchange (NSE). These are the immediate points of concern for me.

What about the new campus?

The new campus is being built on a 120-acre land piece located around 15 kms from the present campus. The roots of IIM Shillong lie in the idea of sustainability and a green, clean environment. Keeping this in mind, the new campus is going to be a completely green campus. Although hill stations do create a slight problem in terms of adding costs of construction, however, building a green campus will be extremely profitable in the long run. Rain water harvesting, water drainage systems, horticultural activities, solar energy preservation, constructing the buildings in a manner which utilizes the daylight in the best possible manner and provides protection from cold winds, innovative technological usage, energy conservation and green buildings are some of the factors that are being kept in mind while building the campus.

We are also making good progress in terms of construction. One of the walls has been built and tenders for the construction of the buildings have also been prepared. The architecture will also have a slight ethnic touch that will add to the value of the structure. It will be more than just being a massive corporate structure.

What are your views about increasing diversity?

As far as female-male diversity is concerned, our institute has always maintained a comfortable 30-40 percent girl ratio in our batches. When we talk about discipline diversity, we have made it a point to focus more on constant performers as opposed to focussing on engineers who get a high percentile in their CAT exam. This has been apparent through the fact that we did not call a few 100 percentilers for admissions this year. We want to have a diverse background and through our admission criteria we have been able to achieve that objective.

There was a mention of shifting the institutes placement process to a nearby city for better access to companies. Any progress on the idea?

Our placement process is essentially a rolling one. While during last years process, most of the companies came on campus, a few were even open to the idea of holding interviews through video conferencing. However, it is obvious that a few companies are not open to either of the options. Although the location of the institute has not affected out placement process in any manner, we are still considering the option of changing our placement process strategy for next year to fill in the gap of attracting all companies for placements at the institute. We may shift to a new location but the concept is still in its formation stages.

Any final comments?

Since I have taken charge only recently, it will take me some time to consolidate all the present data. While in the very first month I will not take any initiative, since I have to settle down and understand the working of the institute in its totality, I will definitely think about the next step soon.

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