This month, IIM Kozhikode (IIMK) secured 100% summer placements for its largest batch ever—placing 541 students with 144 recruiters, beating the Covid-19 pandemic’s ripple effect on both the economy and knowledge dissemination. “It shows that the ability to secure a broad mandate of offers amidst a challenging business environment is the hallmark of a top B-school,” says Debashis Chatterjee, the director of IIMK. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that in order to become truly ‘global’ B-schools, IIMs need a greater degree of freedom in attracting foreign students. Excerpts:
While summer placements at IIMK have been 100%, are there apprehensions that not all students may be able to find jobs during final placements, especially as the economy is not doing well?
We believe the tremendous response to summer placements is an optimistic omen to final placements. As many as 144 companies picking up 541 students, from our three PGPs, for our largest batch ever, proves that the ability to secure a broad mandate of offers amidst a challenging business environment is the hallmark of a top B-school. We were delighted to have companies like Coca-Cola as one of the recruiters, who reposed faith in us after a few seasons. Also, the economy has started picking up, which is also a good sign as we move forward with healthy optimism for final placements.
How tough (or easy) was the transition to the online mode of teaching during the lockdown? Did the faculty require special training?
There were some problems initially. The assumption with which we moved forward was that this is a ‘golden crisis’ from the education sector’s point of view. The best possible use of resources to continue on the curve of learning came into play as the crisis unfolded. There is little doubt that technology is the immediate and mid-term future.
Faculty do come with different skill sets. Some freshly-recruited faculty quickly adapted to technology, whereas some with considerable exposure to human-to-human interface needed a helping hand. But as an institute with state-of-the-art infrastructure, we encouraged the setting up of formal and informal spaces where the faculty could embrace technology.
Did you have any students who lacked hardware (laptops, internet connectivity, etc)?
We faced some issues with the digital divide coming into play with regards to internet connectivity; we supported select students facing this difficulty, to bring them back to the campus—after exercising all necessary Covid-19 precautions—and allowed them to attend classes online with support from campus infrastructure.
How, in your opinion, will the NEP impact management education?
There will be long-term impacts of the NEP with respect to management education. The thrust on multidisciplinary approaches suggested by the NEP will make many top B-schools rethink their course curriculum. First-movers like IIMK that anticipated this future course will be able to draw in top faculty as well as students.
Some IITs are critical of certain global rankings (they say the component of ‘perception’ is too subjective). Has IIMK had any differences with any global ranking agency?
While perception is significant, the parameters and methodology in the ranking process adopted by global ranking agencies should be transparent to convince higher education institutes of their neutrality. We have cautiously forayed into the global ranking waters and made our global debut this year in QS World University, where both our EMBA (Executive) and PGP (MBA) have been ranked 101+ in the world. Globally, IIMK now stands with Kent Business School (UK) and Brunel Business School (UK) for the Masters in Management (PGP), scoring the highest in ‘Thought Leadership’ at rank 90 among the top 148 global MBA programmes. For EMBA, IIMK stands at par with HEC Lausanne (Switzerland) and Kent State University (US).
How will you rate the NIRF?
It can be seen as a welcome sign since the methodology draws from overall recommendations and understanding to identify the broad parameters for ranking. It also creates a healthy competitive environment within the national system.
IIMs, it is argued, are not truly ‘global’ B-schools because both the faculty and students are primarily Indians. What can be done to make IIMs more global?
IIMs should be allowed to participate in worldwide admission process. A greater degree of freedom in attracting foreign students as a lucrative and quality education hub will override the current systemic problems and lead us to a path of global recognition.
IIMK is possibly the only B-school to have such a high percentage (52% in the current batch) of female students. Has this been achieved due to a planned process?
We have a distinct legacy and a pioneering role in bringing about affirmative action towards gender parity in management. Along with close to 54% women in the flagship course, women in IIMK comprise 30% as part of faculty and 40% when it comes to the Board of Governors, the highest amongst IITs and IIMs. This has been at the core of IIMK’s efforts in the past decade and its conscious contribution towards women empowerment.
IIMK has organised many ‘women in leadership programmes’ since 2012-13 to encourage gender diversity. One of our popular programmes is the School Leaders Programme, which trained school principals for leadership roles as they play a stellar part in nurturing young minds. Our efforts have not just been limited to the institute, but have also been transcending barriers to reach out to large, previously-neglected constituencies of the society.
How strong has the IIMK alumni grown?
The IIMK Alumni Association has been instrumental in transforming both alumni engagement with the institute and the branding of IIMK as one of the top institutes. It consists of nearly 10,000 alumni spread across the globe in renowned positions. IIMK has formulated major ideas for celebrating the 25th anniversary of the institute in a befitting manner. Showcasing our alumni strength and their prowess is a part of these plans.
With so much focus on liberal arts nowadays, should management education curriculum also change?
Management education curriculum draws heavily from scientific methods of fact-finding in controlled environments. In reality, business is often done in environments in which judgements are made with muddled, incomplete and incoherent data. The scientific method of teaching and learning alone is not sufficient for preparing future managers. There is a need for an alternative form of management education. Liberal arts can fill that void. The need to create an emotionally-strong, creative and culture-sensitive workforce in this era of artificial intelligence has motivated us to delve into a PGP in Liberal Studies and Management. We are the first and only IIM to do so, and are sure others will follow suit. We had anticipated the thrust on multidisciplinary approach to the future of education much ahead of the mandate to the NEP.