Preparedness for contingencies puts SP Jain School of Global Management in the driver’s seat : Exclusive Interview with Mr Nitish Jain, President – SPJSGM

Mr. Nitish Jain, President, SP Jain School of Global Management talks exclusively 

with Allwin Agnel, Founder and CEO of PaGaLGuY, about the former’s journey in the world of education, their technology that is revolutionizing online learning, and unlocking the post-COVID era, while he offers some valuable tips for the MBA aspirants.

  • How has your journey been so far in the education domain?

    We started back in 2004 when there were already 10,000 other B-Schools, so we already knew that we were getting into the lion’s den. All we had was the strong belief in our unique idea and the model that we had in hand. By 2004, with the advancement of the internet, almost all local companies had gone global. So, the customer base was now global and employees worked in increasingly global teams, but B-Schools were still continuing with a local model. Hence, we decided to establish a B-School that would have campuses across multiple countries, we knew this would help students get acquainted with a multicultural environment and have a global outlook.
  • How did you gauge the need to establish campuses in different countries?
    I discussed the idea of establishing a B-School with campuses in multiple countries and its advantages with many people from the business world. They all agreed on the fact that Indian students were bright and hardworking but they lacked the exposure of working in a global team. They said that they would love to recruit students from our institute, citing exposure to a global and multicultural environment. We have our campuses in Australia, Dubai, Singapore, and India. Studying in different countries  enables our students to get familiarised with the local nuances and various aspects of local businesses. The experience of studying in four campuses across three continents has nurtured our students and helped them live up to industry standards. 
  • Your Programs have been continually ranking at the top in various Global Rankings, especially your flagship Global MBA Program. What are the USPs of the programs at SP Jain School of Global Management?  
    Our USP has been to facilitate students with a razor-sharp approach that helps them get jobs. B-School rankings look at how well a student has done in the five years after graduation. The principal reason one enrolls into a MBA program is to get a good job and have a promising career. The global approach is a means to an end, but it is not the end. Recruiters look for graduates with a global edge, familiarity with a multicultural work environment, etc. Our students can bag the top-notch good jobs because they have been meeting these requirements, while many other B-School graduates lack them.
  • Many top universities have turned flexible with student intake and lowered criteria to increase the number of falling international students. How are you looking at this issue and a possible solution to this problem?
    Like other B-Schools, SPJSGM looks for students who can succeed and hence, we have not lowered the criteria for admissions. We emphasize on specific characteristics in a candidate and look beyond just an aptitude test; we look at a candidate’s will to win, motivation level, passion, etc. What we have done though is increased the number of scholarships. We understand that many aspirants might have been on pay-cuts or even lost their jobs during the pandemic. Hence, we made the conscious decision to increase scholarships without compromising on the quality of intake. By doing so, we have got better prospective candidates this year. 

Earlier, we only had our global program, and not many students wanted to travel abroad due to the pandemic.

Hence, we came up with flexible study options that give students the option to choose a campus which is convenient and safe for them. Therefore, we have not seen any reduction in the number of applicants.

COVID-19 has caused a great deal of uncertainty in higher education. Students do not know if campuses would open or if they would need to continue studying online. What is your new experiential learning pedagogy in addressing this uncertainty?
During this pandemic, most of the institutes have had to build and adapt to a digital infrastructure. While we have ramped up our online teaching mechanisms, SPJSGM has the unique advantage of four campuses around the world.

We will soon be operating our Dubai campus and students can start experiencing the on campus environment. Students have the option to start their academic year in our Dubai campus and subsequently choose amongst other campuses.

We have noticed that students find it tough to engage in online programs. What are your ideas on creating more engaging classes? 
We have been working on an online education model for the last two years to cater to MBA aspirants who are working professionals. We have developed the Engaged Learning Online (ELO). ELO is a high-end online learning system that replicates a live classroom down to its last detail.

The ELO studio is programmed with a robotic tracking camera for the faculty that allows them to maintain eye contact with students, respond to their visual cues, moderate discussions and more, all in real-time.

With ELO, faculty and students can engage in one-on-one conversations as if they were sitting in an on campus class. ELO also enables faculty to evaluate each student’s level of engagement, respond to them individually, and keep them motivated – as they would do in a conventional classroom. Our students who are taking their class online use this technology.

We even allow prospective students to participate in a demo class to overcome any skepticism that they might have about online classes. We also use this technology for our EMBA students who are mostly working professionals and have received encouraging feedback for this.

We ensure that the teaching faculty undergoes rigorous training for understanding the nuances involved in online teaching.

To attract international students, higher educational platforms and universities are now teaming up to conduct webinars, virtual tours. How are you reaching out to your prospects?
As a part of our information sessions, we have been organizing online sessions across various cities wherein our faculties and alumni take questions from prospective students regarding the institute. We also offer demo classes to them. 

Tell us about your institute’s efforts to be contextually relevant to the current needs of the industry?
The post-COVID word will see several fundamental changes but not just because of COVID. The pandemic may merely act as a catalyst. Advancement of technology is something that will impact our current business world more than COVID.

This calls for reskilling our existing workforce, newer MBA modules, and revamped education methods. We have a think tank at SPJSGM comprising entrepreneurs and industry leaders looking at the future of education.

They are working on innovative solutions for imparting better education with the use of technology. Education is a precursor to making a career in the business industry. We understand industry requirements and teach our students accordingly.

Traditionally MBA graduates have preferred doing jobs on Research, Creating Strategies, and Consultation, but not sales. Industries are now hiring individuals who can generate revenue from day one. How do you deal with this industry need and your traditional curriculum?
It is an educator’s job to convey to students the nature of jobs that are continuously evolving each day. Rather than getting hardwired for roles such as marketing manager and brand manager, students must now aim to be like programmable CPUs that can be adaptable to the need of the hour.

We should also tell our students that everything is variable. We should create a challenging atmosphere for them that would nurture an innovative mindset. Moving from hardwired solutions to malleable solutions is the need of the hour.  

According to a recent survey, nearly 50% of the students look to defer foreign university admission amidst this ongoing pandemic. What is your suggestion to students?
Students who want to defer are making a big mistake. Imagine driving a car and having reached a red light. All you see is a red light. But you have to understand that the red light does eventually turn green. And when it does, you are slamming the accelerator to the fastest level. This also happens with businesses.

A year from now, the world economy will be back up and running, and there will be a lot of recruitment, this is what happened in 2009 following the 2008 financial crisis. 

You have your campuses in four countries. Do you plan to establish new campuses in other countries too?
Yes. We are planning to establish a new campus.

Which additions in India’s NEP are you most excited about or feel are going to be a game-changer for Institutions both in India and abroad
There is both good and bad in the New Education Policy. The good part is that the Union Government has attempted to make education more flexible, has made liberal arts more inclusive, and has thus made education much broader.

The policy recognizes the need of the hour, and places increased focus on technology-based learning and application through virtual labs and divyang-friendly software, which if implemented effectively, will lead to equitable access to education while creating a more future-ready workforce.

On the flip side, there are a few unfavourable provisions that may prevent foreign institutions from operating in India and vice versa.

The Government should not regulate fees for educational institutions because institutions end up compromising on the quality of education in order to cut costs. Also, the reduction of High School years from 12 years to 11 years is not the best decision as 12 years is the generally accepted international norm. 

Any last-minute tips or suggestions for aspirants preparing to appear for MBA Entrance Exams this year?
Aspirants must take the exams very seriously as there is still a significant weightage attached to exam scores. Everyone must remember that the world has not come to an end, we have simply taken a pause.  

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