I do not believe in ‘Marks-sism’: Director, LIBA, describes the New Normal in this Exclusive Interview with PaGaLGuY

In this exclusive interview, Rev. Fr. C. Joe Arun, S.J, Director – Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) & Professor of Marketing and HR,  talks about a few burning questions about the new normal for the MBA space in the post COVID world, and LIBA’s philosophy to immune the upcoming graduates with its new learning system, with Allwin Agnel, the Founder, and CEO of PaGaLGuY.

To be competitive with other leading B-schools, and being a pioneer for more than 40 years in Education, what are your new experiential learning pedagogy that has been adopted? 

As an institute, we have moved from the knowledge transfer to knowledge creation phase, which I believe is a paradigm change. So far, institutes have been focusing on transferring knowledge, which is widely available in today’s time with the help of technological advancements in the global network.

We cannot have a competitive advantage if we continue to transfer knowledge. And hence, to overcome this challenge, we have implemented a new ‘Teaching, Learning, and Assessment’ (TLA) system.

In this system, we don’t have exams and rather focus on assessing each pillar every day and not only on one occasion during the exam. This new system has been adopted after learnings from the Oxford style of education system and after understanding the needs/challenges of today’s education system in India.

The focus of this system is to make our graduates industry-ready from day one of their jobs and to enable them to utilise their learning to the fullest. Hence, this system is competitively advantageous in the league of B-Schools. 

With regard to the TLA system, how do you deal with the AICTE rules and regulations? 

The TLA comprises of various evaluations in the entire academic cycle and we do not evaluate our students only through the conventional exams. Under the AICTE regulations, we are required to allot ‘Grades’ and evaluate a student through any form of exam and not necessarily the pen and paper type.

For example, I take 20 sessions of ‘Consumer Behaviour’ and at the end of every session, I allot 30 minutes to evaluate their understanding of the basic concepts, theories, models, frameworks, and practical application. 

Due to COVID-19, people are afraid of the reducing value of a PGDM program and prefer to choose IIMs, DOMS IIT. What are your thoughts?

When there’s a crisis, there’ll be anxiety. But understanding that this is temporary and a transient phase will help give a broader outlook.  

I believe where you are is not important but what you did where you are is far more important. Even an ordinary B-School can produce a fantastic employee. The IIM brand’s value today is mainly because of the heritage that they carry. Students these days are primarily considering programs more than the Institute. 

At the same time, it is unfair to compare a private B-School with IIMs. IIMs are an altogether different realm. A lot of money is pumped every year to upkeep the IIMs, which is not the case for Private B-Schools. 

Everybody has their own set of audience. Even a snake charmer has his own audience. So IIMs will have their own and the Private B-Schools will have theirs. 

What are the reasons a student should choose you vs any other competitive B-school that a student is considering?

Students know for a fact that LIBA is not in the money-making business. We form leaders who excel in the fields they choose to lead. That excellence is guided by values and ethics.

Especially during this time of the Pandemic, when the ‘Work from Home’ culture is booming, I know for a fact that LIBA Alumni will stand a better chance of recruitment. This is because of the discipline, integrity, values that have been enhanced in them during their stay at LIBA. 

In the recently released NIRF Ranking 2020, you have been ranked in Top 50. What are your plans to improve on it the next year? 

We’re majorly going to focus on two things this year. One is research and the other is International collaborations. 

I want the content of our teaching to be backed by my faculty’s research. Not just an abstract research but an actionable and applied one. COVID19 has also given us the opportunity to connect with B-Schools abroad and broaden our area of online transfer of knowledge.

This allows our students to interact with faculties abroad. We’ve already built a Learning Management System to assist online learning. Since this is going to be the future of education, I believe it will give us some leverage to improve our rankings. 

Apart from the infrastructure and the research what do you think are your USPs?

Placements are something every student evaluate before choosing an institute. And our institute mainly focuses on making students capable and employable. Placement is not an end product but a byproduct of the process.

We at LIBA are process-oriented and believe in competence building, for which placements will automatically be the byproducts. I am sure that students of LIBA will always fare a better chance of employability even during the adverse times. 

With the recent pandemic attack of COVID-19, what are your views on the preparedness of the Education System in India (especially MBA / PGDM)?

COVID19 has created a big change. That is going virtual. Creating digital competence is not just an option but a necessity in the post COVID world for the education system. Right from the technical aspects of creating a video to drawing attention throughout the lecture, are skills which will now have to be developed.

Hence, the use of technology in delivering education in B-Schools is going to be critical. Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Blockchain, Data Analytics are no more going to be used as a tool but as content.

Understanding the need of the situation, we have also created a ‘Center for Technology and Innovation’ with an aim to enhance the technological drive of the institute. We are also considering appointing a CTO. 

What are the pros and cons of being situated in Chennai?

Chennai is majorly surrounded by many manufacturing companies around it. Now, this can be a good thing. Chennai is not as densely populated as other cities which makes it a bit calming. This can particularly be a boon for students.

The southern part of India has predominantly seen as a separate country due to its heterogeneous culture and language. This sometimes causes difficulty for a faculty form other parts of the country to settle in Chennai. 

Do you feel that due to a potentially recessionary situation, there will be lesser demand for business school education over the next couple of years?

I don’t think so. Post-COVID there’s going to be a demand for a new set of skills and talent. Institutes will have to accommodate these skills in their curriculum. I foresee a demand for MBA graduates in the coming years, which will again increase the demand for MBA Courses. 

Traditionally MBA graduates have preferred doing jobs pertaining to Research, Creating Strategies,  Consultation, and not really go out and sell. During these times, Industries are hiring individuals who can generate revenue from day one. How do you deal with this industry need and your traditional curriculum?

I believe everyone has to be a salesperson. Whether you are a strategist, analyst, engineer, or doctor, you sell. You sell your idea. You sell your product. A student is not a business student unless he/she is able to sell an idea or a product. At LIBA, Sales is the core area of business education. 

What do you think is going to be the new normal in the Education space? 

We are going to witness a blended learning approach post the COVID crisis. The new normal will comprise a blend of Virtual learning and Traditional learning. We have built our LMS very well to compliment this new learning approach.

Every student at LIBA during his course will go through different cycles of learning namely; Online learning, Classroom education, Group learning, Application learning. This system of blended learning will assist LIBA in adapting to different situations.

Every crisis gives you an opportunity to grow. I have urged all my faculties to indulge in creating online content. I’ve also equipped them with the required tools. 

During an interview, what are the key things you are looking for in a candidate? 

Passion is something I look in a person during an Interview. I want a person who says, I want to do something. Because, this is a person who can leap into the unknown, and carve out the desired results. Marks are secondary.

If a candidate has lesser marks, don’t worry, we will adjust. Marks are not the indicator. We do not believe in ‘Marks-sism’. A passionate student never chases jobs, placements, rather chases a dream. That is something I look for in a candidate during an interview. 

Any message that you want to share with aspirants preparing for MBA entrance exams?

I suggest aspirants must uncover their inner purpose first, before preparing for any exam. Understand, what is the driving force behind that purpose. Once that is there, any goal is achievable.

If I could reach Oxford, then I believe every student can reach much greater heights, provided the inner purpose drives your journey. It is this reason why a rikshaw puller’s child is able to score high marks. One may get 100% marks, but if the inner purpose is not active, the student will not be able to sustain the momentum. 

You must have a reason to get up, a reason to go to bed, a reason to live, and a reason to die. 

A purpose-driven person will never find any entrance difficult.

I wish the aspirants all the best for their upcoming exams and for their future endeavours.

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    July 2020