Director Speak: Interview of Prof C Gopinath from Jindal Global Business School

Very few universities in India have been able to establish strong MBA programs like the way, for instance, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has. What according to you are the probable reasons behind this?

There is a range of good to not-so-good MBA programs in India as also in the US. The top IIMs are comparable to the Wharton School that you mention. The difference is that the spread between the good and not-so-good is very wide in India as compared to the US. The very restrictive regulations that are imposed on Indian educational institutions do not allow for much innovation and flexibility to respond to market needs and perform better. Moreover, the enormous demand for MBA degrees has allowed for poor quality to survive at the lower end. It is a healthy sign that in the recent past, many poor quality programmes have shut down for it shows that students are becoming savvy and are able to seek and get the information about business schools that will enable them to make better decisions.

You have recently expressed your views about the advent of MOOCs. Do you believe that MOOCs have the potential to substitute the educational processes as they are today ? In the years ahead, do you find them to be significantly relevant inside your university ?

My columns on this subject may make me sound skeptical! I think MOOCs are an interesting trend to watch and are perhaps a leading edge of a change that will affect us all in the near future. At present, they are still at an experimental stage; for instance, although thousands sign-up, over 90% drop out. But we must recognize that they represent a demand for knowledge and continuous learning that exists without the need for a degree or even certification. They also represent how there are different learning styles that we must accommodate in our conventional programmes. Information Technology provides us a tremendous opportunity to reach a larger number of students, with uniquely designed tools to enhance individual learning. Those who take advantage of them will benefit. At JGBS, we plan to start on-line courses to take advantage of experts in other countries, and to reach people who may be traveling and cannot attend our classes.

How would you analyse an Indian student’s perspective about management education to be different from a student elsewhere? Have you observed any significant changes in the way students think about business in these two ecosystems?

A much larger percentage of students in the US and other developed countries come into the business programmes (undergrad and grad) with prior work experience as compared to India. This shows in their level of maturity and in their ability to appreciate the content of the business courses. Another difference I see is that Indian employers see the MBA programme as giving them ready employees who have been pre-selected by the university. With the economy achieving higher growth rates here, there is a great potential for our students to take advantage of the market and by really equipping themselves with skills while they are in an MBA programme.

Its no secret that in the current context of things, most aspirants choose b-schools based largely on placement, salary & ROI measures. What is your take on this? If you were to suggest the three most important things that an aspirant should consider while choosing a B-School, what would they be?

It is only appropriate that students are thinking about placement and ROI. After all, they need to do think about returns when they are working as managers! However, students should also realize that the two year programme and the MBA label they get after that is only one input in their placement and salary.

While choosing a business school, students should keep in mind:

  1. Are the faculty PhD or equivalent qualified? While I recognize the need to bring in experts from industry to teach some specialized courses where they have expertise, an institution should not completely rely on managers to teach courses. PhD qualified and research focused faculty provide students underlying theories that help understand the ‘why’, not just the ‘how’, and also bring current thinking into the classroom.
  2. How globally connected is the institution? Many institutes have collaborations that allow student exchanges. This is not enough. Does the course content include global material, do the faculty have international exposure and training, are academic conferences being held, etc. In today’s global environment, students need to develop a global perspective even if they do not travel abroad.
  3. What opportunities does the institution have that the student can take advantage of? For instance, can they take classes in other disciplines to broaden and deepen their perspectives? Can they do joint research with faculty? Are there clubs and connections with the local business community that will enable the students to develop meaningful networks and experiences?

What are the top-2 challenges you would like to solve for your Institution today?

Our vision is to be a small and excellent institution that makes a difference to the students and the community. Our challenge is to continue to be able to attract high achievers and to continuously innovate so that we keep striving to be the best.

According to you, what’s the ideal profile of a candidate whom you would accept into your program?

My ideal candidate is one who has demonstrated an eagerness to learn from the classroom and life outside, and has an interest in the business environment beyond wanting a degree. I am not looking only for toppers or high scorers but would like a well rounded person. The student has to be convinced that doing an MBA would add to her/ his knowledge and skills for what she/he plans to do in the future.

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