‘Business education should be guided by the market’

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on January 11, 2018

PROF J PHILIP, Founder President, XIME

At the grand old age of 81, when most people his age have put up their feet and are living a retired life, Prof J. Philip, Founder-Director, Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship, is hands-on, running the Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship (XIME) in Bengaluru as well as the schools in Kochi and a new one just starting up in Chennai. Prof Philip has been 57 years in management education, having started at XLRI, where he co-founded the MBA programme. A former Director of IIM Bangalore, Prof Philip, after teaching stints earlier in XLRI, worked in industry, in the public sector with SAIL, and later with the Oberoi group where he was VP, HR. In this interview, Prof Philip talks about a life-time in education and how he came to be an entrepreneur himself.

How did you become an education entrepreneur, if I may call you that?

My five-year term as IIM Bangalore’s Director got over when I was 55. I was still quite young. When I got out, the only business I knew was management education. In 1960 I studied at XLRI and later joined the faculty. In 1965 XLRI decided to set up a management programme and I was sent to Harvard to train. I co-fathered the MBA programme in XLRI in 1968; till that time it was teaching HR. Then I went to work in industry, with SAIL and later with the Oberois. After that stint I was offered the directorship of IIM-B. So I had the experience of XLRI, Harvard, industry and IIM B, except that there was no money. In 1991, I decided that we should have an innovative B-school in the private sector, with not only quality but also empathy.

I wanted to build a good institution in the private sector. The public sector did not fascinate me. I was surprised to see the wastage; the return on investment is quite low in the public sector, including in education. I started a school with no capitation fee, no reservation and no donations. I knew that money would come from well-wishers and friends. In our school, every hall is named after somebody or the other. Our first auditorium is with support from my old employer, The Oberoi Group. Mr PRS Oberoi sponsored it. All the money came in bits and pieces and that’s how we built the corpus.

You have been 57 years in management education. What are the changes you have seen along the way?

What’s painful and disturbing is the quality of faculty today. Today, the attrition that B-schools and engineering colleges face in the cities is terrible. To get professionals is so difficult. The other trends I see are: there is a keen interest in the top 100 B- schools to globalise. In the last 12 years or so, we too are conscious about it. We have good partners in France (Audencia Business School), with whom we have an exchange programme. The second one is entrepreneurship. Today, the talk is all about start-ups and a number of B-schools push entrepreneurship. A great number of our students, after three-four years’ experience in corporate jobs, are becoming entrepreneurs.

The other change is in technology.

Tech is not yet well used in India, but is progressing slowly. For example, one lecture can be viewed across our three centres. The tech is available today, but the shift in mindset has to happen. We intend to push that shift.

What can be done to bridge the faculty gap?

If AICTE supports 20 private B-schools to start fellow programmes, it will be a distinctive contribution.

Our biggest shortage is faculty; university PhDs are of poor quality, IIT and IIMs PhDs are in very small numbers. So private schools should be allowed to start PhD programmes. But you don’t need a PhD to teach.

If you are from a good B-school and with 20 years in industry, you would be the ideal teacher. Many of the PhDs haven’t entered the gates of a factory.

Smart guys who ran industry as VPs, they cannot get in here, because of this archaic rule, which has to be changed. Many of the rules have been made by academicians who have never seen the inside of industry.

At least business education, which reflects the market, should be guided by the market. Education is the most regulated industry vertical, whereas that should be the most liberated one.

Published on May 01, 2017

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