We want to provide a personalized learning experience to each of our student – Prof. Janat Shah, Director – IIM Udaipur

Q. 1. Being the Founding Director, your association with IIMU and the Institute will complete a decade in a few weeks from now. Please share some of the major achievements and milestones in the IIMU journey.

Yes, it has almost been nine years. Since the beginning, we have set lofty goals for ourselves as an Institute and planned accordingly. We have always had a long-term focus with the aim of innovating in niche areas.

Gaining AACSB accreditation; getting listed on QS and FT MIM rankings; consistently being featured among the top five B-schools for management research in India (according to the methodology employed by UT Dallas); and being first among the second-generation IIMs (source: NIRF) are some of IIMU’s significant achievements.

These milestones are results of the well-thought-out processes we have set in place from the outset. For instance, not employing faculty in administrative roles was one such decision. This decision has allowed us to build a rigorous research ecosystem at the Institute.

Q. 2. You’ve made an interesting and innovative move in ensuring faculty isn’t working in administrative roles. Please share your reasons and the pros and cons as you see them

There is some historical context to this question. When the IITs and IIMs were setup in the 1960s and 70s, the background was that no one from administration would try to control academics. A way of doing this was making sure the faculty were also in administrative roles.

In the mid-80s, the institutions decided quite rightly so that they have to focus on building research excellence. However here was the dichotomy, a lot of faculty were doing administrative tasks and so could not spend their time on research. Globally, faculties are given a lot of spare time to focus on their research and administrative tasks are kept at bay.

I feel that using our top-notch academic faculty to do admission interviews is also a massive waste of their time. I wanted to ensure that administrative tasks are removed from a faculty’s schedule so that we could free up their time for research.

I believe that if you can’t give time to research, you are affecting the core competency of the institution. At IIM Udaipur, we use retired faculty from the older IIMs to conduct interviews – this allows us to make the best use of available talent and allow our faculty to focus on conducting research.

Q. 3. Talking about research, can you tell us about what you’ve been able to achieve at IIM Udaipur?

Our goal is to be globally recognized and as we freed up faculty time and gave them the environment to focus purely on research, we have seen good results.

According to the methodology deployed by the UT Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management, IIMU is now rated 4th among Indian business schools based on research published in leading global journals. Only ISB, IIMA and IIMB, leading b-schools in India, are ranked higher.

We are distraction free and probably one of the finest environments for a young researcher in the country.

Q. 4. IIMU gained AACSB accreditation in November 2018 and has recently been listed on the prestigious QS 2020 Masters in Management Rankings as well as the Financial Times (FT) Master in Management Ranking 2019. With this, IIMU is now the youngest B-school in the world on both these rankings. Can you share what you had to do over the years to achieve this?

IIM Udaipur started its journey with a clear vision in place, which included a commitment to thought leadership in high-quality research and to developing managers and entrepreneurs amply prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders. Our accomplished faculty, outstanding alumni and talented students have enabled us to make rapid progress on our path of continuous growth and innovation.

As an Institute, we invest tremendous efforts to provide a transformational learning experience to our students. We created a detailed plan for each aspect of the Institute, ranging from curricula and pedagogy; recruitment and composition of faculty; research and publications; to extracurricular activities.

I would like the mention here that consistent support and guidance from first-generation IIMs have also helped us grow. These achievements motivated us to continue to dream bigger.

Also, I think management schools in other Asian countries like China, Hong Kong and Singapore have demonstrated that we can build a world-class management school in a considerably shorter duration. Indian schools can learn a lot from these global institutions.

Q. 5.What are your plans for IIMU for 2030?

Innovation and meaningful growth are in the DNA of IIM Udaipur. Our achievements and an involved board motivated us to revisit our vision, which has set the course for the next decade. Led by our board member Mr D Shivakumar (Group Executive President of Corporate Strategy & Business Development, Aditya Birla Management Corporation), the Institute did the elaborate visioning exercise involving all the stakeholders.

The group working on the vision identified 12 premier global schools, which will be our benchmark till 2030. Additionally, the group engaged with leaders in the management education domain from across the country.

In our new vision, we want to build on the great foundation we have laid in the past years. We have set ambitious goals for 2030 and the two core areas that have emerged are high-quality research and student transformation. In the future, we would focus on further enhancing our students’ individual transformational journeys.

Additionally, we would invest in building stronger bonds with our corporate partners. IIMU also wants to take a lead in the way digital is changing the business landscape, by equipping students with management concepts and leadership styles required in the emerging digital business enterprises. Last year, we launched the first-ever one-year MBA in digital enterprise management for experienced professionals.

The Institute has set up task forces that include board and faculty members to work on a detailed action plan for various aspects of the vision. I am pleased to share that now we have a vision that is owned by our outstanding board, faculty, alumni and staff equally.

My remaining two years with the Institute give me enough time to ensure that we are able to set all the elements in place to achieve this vision.

Q. 6. With the recent pandemic attack of COVID-19, what are your views on the preparedness of the Education System in India (especially MBA & IIMs)?

The reality is that across the world, education systems were not prepared to brace the impact of COVID-19. Even though this pandemic has caught us off-guard, institutions are trying their best to adapt to online learning. I think it would be imperative that as educational institutions, we learn from this experience.

Q. 7. What active steps have you taken during this pandemic situation for IIMU, and what do you foresee are the new normal in education delivery?

At IIMU, we are setting up infrastructure and processes to move to online learning temporarily. Our faculty members have also enthusiastically taken it up. For instance, to help students utilize their free time more productively, our faculty members are offering short courses on FINTECH, Block chain and Strategic Digital Transformation using online as the mode of education delivery.

The new normal would be to use online tools (like MOOC, e-learning platforms, etc.) to augment the overall classroom learning experience or develop a blended approach. I understand that the MBA education will not be purely online as campus experience is a vital part of the MBA journey.

Q. 8. 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?

Talking about the economy, yes, we would most likely see a temporary drop for about a year. Graduates may face short-term challenges; however, the economy will bounce back. Nonetheless, at IIM Udaipur, we aim to prepare students for a lifetime and not just for their first job.

In terms of MBA education, I don’t see the importance of high-quality residential MBA education taking a hit. Historical evidence suggests that during a recession, several professionals opt for pursuing higher education because job opportunities are limited. And, the skill sets they pick up during difficult times are more valuable. So, I don’t see premiere schools getting affected.

Q. 9. During an interview, what are the key things you are looking for in a candidate? Give us an example of a candidate that positively surprised you recently with humour or candour

In general, there is a Chinese wall between the admissions committee and the Institute administration, so I will not be able to comment on the interview processes. However, I am happy to see the diversity component in our recent batches.

For instance, our 2019-21 batch comprises students from more than 20 states across India, with 30% female students (highest since inception).

Q. 10. Please share your thoughts and suggestions for the lakhs of MBA aspirants in India who are currently in the process of shortlisting the right b-school which will help them fulfil their career ambitions

My advice to MBA aspirants in India would be to look at the MBA experience as a stepping stone to build their careers and not just an entry point for the next job.

They should do their homework in choosing the right school. They should not just focus on placement statistics but look for a school that aligns with their interests and goals.

Q. 11. What do you feel are IIM Udaipur’s USP that a student needs to know before he joins the institute?

I believe that ideally each individual student should have a customized journey in their education. We have a multitude of clubs, each of which allow a student to take additional responsibilities, learn and discover themselves.

We’ll help you in the process of choosing the mix for your personal journey. We have some outstanding faculties coming over to teach subjects from across the country. Professors like Achal Raghavan, PC Narayan, Rama Bijapurkar and various others teach at IIM Udaipur

Our combination of our own faculty, visiting faculty and professionals is our way of building a unique culture and a high-quality customized experience for our students.

Q. 12. Share with us something about a hobby or skill you have that you generally don’t talk about?

I am not a bad cook – though my wife may not agree on this.

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