Why Italian b-school SDA Bocconi is starting a double-campus programme in India

Prof Stefano Caselli of the SDA Bocconi School of Management, Italy (Photo: Astha A)

Italy’s SDA Bocconi School of Management, University of Bocconi at Milan is the latest foreign business school featuring in the Financial Times Top 100 to work around the absence of a foreign direct investment policy in higher education in India and start a collaboration programme with a local partner, just as Canada’s Schulich did with SP Jain, UK’s Stratyclyde is doing with SKIL Infrastructure and Lancaster with GD Goenka.

The school has joined forces with the Mumbai International School of Business (MISB) to offer a Post Graduate Programme in Business starting June 2012.

Calling India a ‘cultural and traditional duplicate’ of Italy, Prof Stefano Caselli, director, Executive Exchange Customs Program at SDA Bocconi School of Management and head of the India venture, in an interview with PaGaLGuY said that developing roots in Mumbai was one of the main reasons for SDA Bocconi to start up in India.

Why is SDA Bocconi opening an MBA programme in India?

There are two different aspects. On one side, Bocconi has great international exposure, which is the result of a large number of exchange programmes and double degree programmes. We have also been recruiting faculty from the international job market. Bocconi spends lot of its energy into becoming international. On the other hand, it is another matter to create a completely new venture outside Italy. In this sense, MISB Bocconi is something that is new, which is based on the institute’s past experiences.

MISB Bocconi is a new venture based on solid backgrounds and experience. We know the international market and India very well. Our intention to start this venture outside our comfort zone is the result of long-drawn, strategic thinking. India is a large country that offers a variety of experiences to all who come here. India and Italy have somewhat similar cultures, which is one of the major reasons we thought that MISB Bocconi might make sense.

Why did SDA Bocconi choose MISB over other more established b-schools in the country as its local partner?

There are two reasons. Bocconi has high international standards, has a high standing in international ratings, and has international faculty. Firstly, we want to create an atmosphere in the country that is compliant with Bocconis high international standards. MISB matches with Bocconis standards. Secondly, without any compromise, we want to create in Mumbai the same roots, traditions and guidance of the Boconni tradition and culture as we have back in Italy. We are not focussing so much on the brand name of the school.

Have you measured your school up with other Mumbai b-schools such as SP Jain or the one at the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay which are better ranked?

Competition is an important factor of growth. Competition for Bocconi would be the same as competition for MISB Bocconi. Competition essentially means improving oneself and getting to the highest level of rankings. Bocconi has a certain level of ranking. I feel MISB also has the same spirit.

Why did you choose Mumbai as the city for a campus in India?

Milan and Mumbai are very similar. Milan is the centre of business in Italy as Mumbai is in India. In addition, Milan is the international financial centre of Europe and Mumbai holds the same position in Asia. Thus, we feel comfortable to stay in Mumbai because even though the countries are of different sizes, we find many similarities between the two places. In order to provide the same values as those imparted in Bocconi, we need to be in the same kind of atmosphere that we find absolutely comfortable.

Not all international schools which are offering programmes with local partners in India have been successful at filling up their intakes. Your comments?

Our faculty is one of the core values that we are banking on along with our corporate connections that will also help in the student placements. Our strategy is to create a faculty, which is based on three different groups of people. The first is commuting faculty, or faculty coming from Bocconi. We have had many discussions with our faculty to identify a group who are willing to spend a part of their lives living in India. Their stay would be as long as one semester. The second group will be faculty recruited from the international markets. We believe that there are some senior faculty members in the United States, who are former Indian citizens, who would like a chance to come back to their country. The third group is comprised of the professors we would be recruiting directly from the Indian markets. Our wide base of excellent faculty should help ensure that we have a full batch when we begin our first session from this year onwards.

How different would the programmes offered at MISB Bocconi and SDA Bocconi be?

The programme is the same as well as different. It is same in the sense that some topics like finance are given an international treatment by nature. On the other hand, when we are teaching people who have specific expectations, we have to change our examples and case studies to appeal to the students mindsets. It is the case with Mumbai as well. There is a huge work of creating business cases.

How diverse if the SDA Bocconi student community? What kind of a batch are you aiming to gather at MISB Bocconi?

In Bocconi we have a very wide and diversified student base. In fact, 80% of our students are non-Italian. We have students from 36 countries, out of which almost 40% are Indians. For MISB Bocconi, I would like to say that every programme has a lifecycle. In the long run, even if India has a huge student audience, we would like to have a diversified student base at MISB Bocconi. In fact, I would not be surprised if someday soon we have Italian students who come to experience the Indian culture. But this is not our target for today or tomorrow.

What will be the programme structure at MISB Bocconi?

It will be a two-year long programme. Typically, in the first year, we will work on the basic pillars of management and entrepreneurship. The first eleven months will be in India. In the second year, there would be three parts. In the month of July, students will go for the campus abroad programme. Students will go to different universities located in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world and learn management at a different level. In the second part, students will go for a semester abroad to Bocconi. A change in culture and atmosphere will help open their minds up to create a different perspective. In the last month of the two-year programme, students will be sent for Career Commencement School (CCS). In this, we will use an executive-style approach. We will also invite people from the corporate world to run joint sessions with the professors. We believe that this blend will be very beneficial to the students.

Will SDA Bocconi students from Milan also be spending a semester at MISB Bocconi in Mumbai?

Yes, they most definitely will. However, we first need to build a solid foundation for MISB Bocconi. Only then will we think of expanding the course in Mumbai enough to invite Bocconi students here.

What will the fee structure at MISB Bocconi be?

At Bocconi, there is a strong sense of merit. We want to have a strong set of students at our institute. MISB Bocconi currently has a relatively high fee structure of Rs 19 lakh. However, we will be offering scholarships to meritorious students. In Bocconi, we give out loan facilities to students at a subsidised rate. The idea is to give students the chance to finance themselves. This way, students will be able to pay back the loan once they start working in the industry.

Why should students choose MISB Bocconi over the chance of attending the fulltime programme at SDA Bocconi?

It is important that students to have both opportunities. To decide whether to stay in Milan or India is a life project and not a Bocconi project. For those, whose life project is to stay in Europe and take up a job there would choose to take up the course in Italy. Similarly those who want to stay in India and want the benefits that Bocconi offers in a completely Indian background will choose the Mumbai campus.

At the end of the program, what degree would be awarded to the students?

Students will be awarded a certificate from MISB Bocconi. In addition, those students who will be spending one semester at SDA Bocconi will receive a certificate from Bocconi, Italy. In Milan, it is not important whether the student is getting a degree or a certificate but the reputation of the school that is handing it out.

How is the school planning job placements for MISB Bocconi graduates?

The net base of Bocconi placements is huge. We have a lot of job offers not only from Asian markets but also from Europe. Recruiters are looking for Asian managers. We have already started talking to corporations for our CCS program and have received positive feedback. I would not say that gaining corporate connections in India is easy but our huge base has been helping us a lot. We have touched base with international investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and they have all shown interest in MISB Bocconi.

When is the MISB Bocconi course starting?

The course will start on June 2, 2012. In addition, we are also planning to launch executive programmes in MISB Bocconi from June. To launch something new requires fresh research. In order to come to a foreign land and start a new programme, we need a solid structure that outlines the Indian mindset.

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