“Operations management no more limited to manufacturing” – SIOM Director

What would be a brief overview of operations management?

Operations management as a stream nowadays has a specific focus. It has taken off very well this year, particularly so after 2005 because every company needs a manager who will understand the overall enterprise process. Operations management highlights the process, technology and people aspects. Whether the person works in the domain of retail, materials, supply chain logistics, IT or consulting, he will have a comprehensive view of the enterprise. He will have himself trained in particular skills and competencies in order to make the processes efficient. That is as far as operations are concerned. Operations management means optimizing your costs and making the process more and more efficient. These are the tools which are taught to students here.

When a person goes for a course in operations management, is he in a sense restricting his scope of work to operations?

No, no. In fact because he is an operations manager all the other domains are open to him. The only thing is that he does not go into is the core of marketing. He may not for instance straightaway be picked up in brand management, sales management or something on those lines. However, he will be picked up by a consultancy where they are improvising a marketing process. He has the domain knowledge and he can work there. As in the case of banks, most of the banks select students and so do most of the consultancies and insurance companies. It is not limited to the manufacturing setup now. The very traditional view that was there pre 1995 was that operations management meant production management or an enhanced version of it. It’s not like that.

Let us consider a general MBA and an MBA in operations management who are in the same job profile. What would be the principle difference between them?

Let us compare two people; MBA in marketing and MBA in operations from SIOM. The MBA in marketing learns a lot of subjects like sales and distribution. His department or domain is related to only the marketing function of the enterprise. An MBA in operations management from SIOM learns many things. He studies the total organization, in short; particularly the supply chain management and productivity techniques. We teach them productivity technology, not only in manufacturing department but also other departments. The cases through which they learn are across many issues such as productivity of safe people on job. When we teach them quality management it is quality management at services like banks, insurance and so on. Thus they get an overview of all the departments and in addition to this they also gain specialized knowledge in process improvement and systems improvement. This is why they are called operations specialists and they know the details of all operations within an enterprise. That is where they can contribute and with an MBA from SIOM they will pass out with a green belt certification in six sigma and an additional knowledge of CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management), certified professional in supply chain management and they will also have specialized instructions in logistics in the workshop. There is about 100 hours of actual training on SAP at a user level. In this way IT, supply chain and quality are integrated.

Some faculty at B-schools feel that students eventually opt for specialized course such as those of operations and retail management because of lack of options at the general MBA level. What are your thoughts about that?

No, I don’t think that is a fact. Students do not opt for these courses because there are no options available. They do so because the industry is responding to institutes with such courses in a very healthy manner. Retail is getting hampered because of the lack of manpower and people with a holistic view of the whole retail process. Forget about the fact that even counter boys with good skills are difficult to find these days! Operation specialists are welcomed very well in retail because they have a holistic view, the industry is responding very well and that is why students wish to opt for retail. These are what we call evolving fields and the industry has realized that there is space for specialists here.

The IIMs are currently not offering operations management as a course. They do have subjects related to operations as a part of their general MBA course. Considering there is a demand from the industry for operations management MBAs, why is that these institutes are not offering a specialized operations management course?

Probably their hands are full! (Laughs) I have interacted with good IIM faculty such as teachers who teach operations and they have come to SIOM for logistics, supply chain and operations related case studies. They have a fair amount of intellectual capital for these courses. I was under the assumption that they do have a specialized course. Generally any good B-school would have four-five specialized courses catering to marketing, finance, HR, IT and operations.

Let us consider a graduate from SIOM who wishes to make a switch and work in the marketing or finance sector. What are the opportunities for him or her?

There are opportunities for such a student. Normally freshers join as management trainees and after a gap of two-three years they go to a particular department. After doing so, they are open to go into any line. From the 2005 batch, people are now involved in the manufacturing sector, supply chain and consultancy where they are senior consultants and handling various clients.

How are operations specialists placed as far as the degree restricting their career choices is concerned?

The degree gives a very open view to them. Students here can be placed in marketing, supply chain or in retail. A simple comparison can be that probably a marketing MBA goes to retail in a frontend job and an operations specialist who wants to make it to retail as his domain would join because he knows the processes from the backend of the supply chain till the frontend and which quality initiatives will help make it more efficient. His track of growth is fast and his understanding about the overall functioning is quite vast and comprehensive.

What has been the average Symbiosis National Aptitude Test (SNAP) cut-off for SIOM?

A single number as a cutoff cannot be specified because in the past, a student with a SNAP score of 65-70 marks has been admitted as has a student with a SNAP score of 30. Consider that the weightage for the SNAP score is only 20 percent. In this case, a person having a very good academic record, work experience and extracurricular record but a low SNAP score would also be selected. It is not the case that the top 40 or all students above a SNAP score of say 50 will be selected. The marks are entered and the total out of 100 is calculated. Students are shortlisted on the basis of this total.

If there are not any specific weights allotted then the admissions process would be quite discretionary, wouldnat it?

Weights are allotted in the admissions process. Consider that the total marks are 100. A weight of 20 may be allotted for the SNAP score, work experience would probably be allotted 30 points, academic average which is career average (maybe 10th, 12th and B.E.) would have around 30 marks and the remaining 20 marks would be for the extracurricular record.

Is this breakup relatively fixed?

Yes, relatively fixed. But if it is seen that the year’s SNAP scores are on the higher side then it is reworked. This is done so that only people who have scored very well in SNAP are not admitted. The institute requires students to have a very balanced personality and the whole objective in the assessment process is to get a very confident person; someone who is aware of issues such as developments in the business community. Evidence of this may be in present in the studentas general awareness score in SNAP or work-experience. The person should be aware about business and the nature of industry sectors. The institute needs students with very good communication skills and an extremely confident personality.

In most schools, if a student doesn’t meet a certain cut-off then he is simply not considered. What would you like to say about that?

From my understanding of admission processes, in some cases people such as Chartered Accountants (CAs) do get additional weightage. Some people would accept all top scorers in SNAP. For example, maybe 20 percentage of the seats would be reserved for top scorers in SNAP similar to the way it is for AIEEE in engineering. So in this manner, every institute has different criteria.

Which institutes would you consider to be SIOMas peer institutes?

(Smiles) Thatas a nice word youare using a apeer institutesa. Actually if you compare the syllabi, I really feel that the instituteas course content is very different from that offered by other institutes. If you talk of MBA in operations as such, our sister institutes have many courses. Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM) has MBA in operations and so does Symbiosis Centre for Human Resources and Development (SCMHRD). National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE) is akin to a big brother for all the institutes offering MBA in operations management but it is looked at more from a perspective of industrial engineering or production management. The combination of IT, HR and the other domains such as retail and supply chain which is offered here is quite unique.

Why is it that only engineers are eligible for this course?

Umm, so that we can start at a higher platform. It is a skill building program and involves a lot of competencies where we give them a lot of specialized software. We can start at a higher platform as engineers have passed through the rigour of logical thinking, analysis and handling quantitative analysis.

Could you elaborate on the term atechno-business managersa which you use for students here?

There are reasons for us using this term of atechno-business managersa. Firstly, students here are people with a technical background. They have technical qualifications by virtue of being graduates in engineering disciplines such as computers, mechanical engineering and so on. They are provided with an MBA program which has a set of general management subjects. As a manager they must know the principles of management, leadership, corporate governance and business laws. In addition to this, there are a lot of subjects in finance, marketing and HR which helps give them a commercial outlook. Finance for instance is dealt quite in depth here. The course begins with debit-credit because they are non-commerce students and then they are taken up to the level of capital markets, investment banking, and wealth management and so on. By atechno-businessa we mean that they have the strategic view of making a commercial enterprise profitable and also the technical skills.

Of the students who write SNAP, what percentage applies to SIOM?

That’s quite less. The institute started in 2005 and it is also a very niche course. In addition to this, only engineers are eligible to apply. Of the 90,000 people who appeared for SNAP last year, there were 35,000 engineers and some 3,000 odd of them applied to SIOM.

Coming to student life, how would you describe a typical day in the life of a student at SIOM in brief?

Oh my, you should ask them! What I feel is and what we plan is that their days start at 6 AM with non-academic rigour in terms of yoga, workout, gym and aerobics. This is compulsory. Students have to engage in this for an hour and this is so for both the years. There are 15 day shifts in which they switch between yoga, workout and gym. The gym is open for students to visit any time. After this there is breakfast and the classroom session starts at 9:00 or 9:30 AM depending on the batch they belong to. In the afternoon the students are given a short break from 12:30 to 3:00 PM and after this there are three more hours of classes. In all we have six hours devoted to classroom sessions, one or one and half hours for non-academics and generally about four-five hours of assignments per day.

Has any student ever wished to opt out of the morning routine?

Err, they do grumble because they have to get up early. It’s very natural for them to do so but they cannot opt out of it. We don’t give them a choice because we call it a 360 degree approach towards delivering the curriculum. When I say 360 degrees, classroom sessions are just a part or slice of it. We have lot of thrust on on-the-job training and projects. Then we have a lot of soft skills and community development which is another part and non-academics is another part.

Is there a dress code for attending classroom sessions?

Yes, in the building which houses classrooms we have a formal dress code but I wouldnat call it a uniform. Uniform is restricted to formal functions like guest lectures, seminars and placements. Elsewhere, regular formals like those which are permitted in offices.

What kind of room occupancy is there in the hostels?

The hostels operate on the principle of triple occupancy. As a rule they are told that instead of two people, there should be three people in a room. There are separate hostels for boys and girls.

What would be the overall hostel and mess expenses?

These amount to approximately Rs 42,000 per annum.

What are the negatives of being located in Nashik?

I think generally speaking it is perceived to be small, cool place; in the sense that Nashik is not like a metropolitan city where there is great infrastructure in terms of the things that the youth looks for, such as great malls and discotheques. Nashik does not have those but of course, malls are there. Nashik is a very happening place nowadays because it in a sense serves as a satellite city to Bombay and Pune and they are all crowded now.

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