On Campus

‘We want our young graduates to start their own companies’

Vinay Kamath | Updated on December 11, 2013

DEVANATH TIRUPATI, Director (In charge) and Dean(Academic), Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

Prof Devanath Tirupati is Director (In charge) and Dean (Academic), Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) and EADS-SMI Chair Professor of Sourcing and Supply Management, Centre for Supply Chain Management, at the Institute. Prof Tirupati has a B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, a PGDM from IIMC and a Ph.D from the Sloan School of Management, MIT. He spoke recently to Business Line on Campus on a range of issues confronting the institute and management education.

The business environment has changed dramatically. How has IIM-B adapted its business education to this?

To us it’s a process of continuous assessment of our courses both at the individual course level as well as at the programme level. I can give you an example of my own course. I teach operations management and technology. I would say that the model has changed because the assembly line, mass production model has changed; it’s not enough for success to do well in operations and manufacturing, you need to be flexible. I think this is something we are aware of and we do make dynamic changes.

The core courses are reviewed at the area level almost on an annual basis and we make some changes; the programmes are reviewed every five years.

To give you another example, in response to many of these concerns to developments that have happened globally, where people have seen to be greedy, and not thinking of ethics and so on, there is now a conscious effort to bring in those aspects in many ways. Not just have one course for ethics, but we are doing more than that.

Do you have good interface with industry?

Yes, we do have. For example, we have about 40-45 faculty from outside; a good number of them are from industry. Others are some who come from abroad and teach one course. May be ten would be from academics, but the remaining are people who are working full-time in industry. They have permission from their employers or some of them are self-employed. They come and teach one course or half a course. They bring in the industry perspective.

IIMB does not participate much in the rankings process. Why is that?

At one level, we should be seen to be doing good work and automatically it should be recognised. Some times it is not always constructive. It can distort the priorities in some ways; we have not really been too thrilled about that part of it. But, certainly there is some positive thing because we have outsiders who set benchmarks; I wouldn’t go to the extent of saying unbiased, but at least in a neutral way they do some evaluation; that’s the useful part.

But, reluctantly, we do participate even though we have mixed feelings about participating. It is becoming important actually when you want to attract foreign students or become known outside India. The ranking has become important. To that extent we recognise that.

So, why don’t you participate wholeheartedly?

They require lot of data and they require lot of time. Our systems in terms of these data collection are not quite up-to-date, I must confess. We are a little bit selective. We are not indiscriminately participating in all because we have to assess what it takes in terms of efforts from our side. And, sometimes, frankly we also have questions about the integrity of the serving agency. Or sometimes they are known to have, or at least rumoured to have their biases, their agendas, so we want to be really wary of that as well.

Does management education have to reinvent itself? Does it recognise the realities of today’s work place? Organisations have transformed, CEOs are younger; the workforce is younger. How are B schools coping, updating?

I think we have to change to this extent, but I don’t know whether re-invent is too strong a word. I don’t think we need to turn the programmes around completely. We do have mechanisms where we adapt as we go along. One of the things I see is there is a lot more today on entrepreneurship and leadership. In fact, actually what we would like is some of our young graduates start their own companies and not just become senior managers or CEOs of the existing companies. So we encourage that. We facilitate that also in some ways. For example, we give them placement holidays; they can go and start their company, come back if doesn’t work out. Then participate in the placement after 2-3 years. We have some people who have taken advantage of that and they are doing quite all right.

We also have the NSR (N.S.Raghavan) cell which provides help if they need with the start up or even before starting up if they want to do that. They have access to mentors and other things associated with start-ups.

Have you introduced new courses to meet contemporary demand from the newer and emerging sectors?

If you look at it year to year, you probably won’t notice the change that much. But you take a gap of 5-10 years then you will find it is quite different.

Another example is we used to have 50-55 per cent of our courses as core; everybody had to go through that, may be 10 years ago. IIM Ahmedabad still follows that model. In the first year 50 per cent core courses that everybody has to take. We have recognised this and said the core itself need not be that big, so reduce the core relative to the elective and then we can offer lot more electives. So they (students) can choose things which they want to do and accordingly it gives them more freedom and flexibility. Also we provide lot more global exposure to our students today than what we were doing even 5-10 years ago.

Do you have many international students on campus now?

Not really, because we had just got permission a year-and-a-half ago or may be two years ago when we could recruit international students. Otherwise, being a public institution and given the large demand from within the country we were implicitly not allowed to get foreign students. But, now, that has been relaxed but it will take time. Still people don’t just look at the institute and come because they look at the country.

But we provide this global exposure in three or four different ways. One is we have exchange programmes. Students go and spend one semester there (in universities abroad) and their students come and spend one semester here. So, today, for example on our campus we have 80-100 foreign students who are spending one term (September to December term) and then they go back. Our students are there, about 140-150 of them in Europe, and some in US. The US calendar is the problem. Their term and our term don’t synchronise very well so some restrictions are there.

We also have the summer internship opportunity. We have about 50-60 internships outside the country. So students get that opportunity. That is the second one.

The third one is that we get 10-15 faculty who come and teach courses here. They come once in a year, usually their winter term. And more recently we are experimenting … we are part of the global network for advance management. As part of that we are doing is thinking of courses which can be offered eventually once it evolves. The course could be offered here, it could be taken by students remotely by using some of the distance learning things and vice versa.

This term we are experimenting with one course in Yale University. I think 8-10 of our students are taking that course there. They take other courses on campus. They get full course credit. And, also, within the country we have an MoU with the Indian Institute of Science which allows our students access to their courses and vice versa.

Where does IIMB stand in terms of research?

If you look at the breakthroughs in management most of them have not come from academics. They have come from outside, in the sense, from practice and then into research. But, I think the emphasis on research has increased. This is where we are probably a little bit ahead of other IIMs today. Because we have put in place an environment with several mechanisms to encourage academic research and we are seeing some results.

So it’s a small step. For a long time nobody cared about research in this country, even in the top institutes. By and large the focus was on the PGPs and the B.Techs and not much on research.

We have revamped our doctoral programme to make it more research-oriented. That was about five years ago. Earlier it was more like the DBA-kind of research with focus on general management and not so much on in depth research. Now this is like a Ph.D. with emphasis on research. We start with the doctoral level courses right from the first year. They build their basics and then start researching, which was different from what it used to be when the fifth year was done along with the PGPs giving them exposure to general management and then it’s a little late and so on.

One evidence of this is that our Ph.D. students at least have 3-4 publications out of their thesis in the top journals in management which is, to my mind, unusual.

And, for faculty we provide a lot of enabling mechanisms to pursue research. We also give a reward when there is publication of research. But where we differ is we have mechanisms to support, where there are faculty research chairs we will give them some time off, it will give them additional supplement to their salary. So they don’t have to go and look for executive training to make additional money.

Are you worried that with the proliferation of IIMs, the IIM brand is getting diluted?

I have mixed feelings. I am not worried about that because we don’t offer one degree. Each institute offers its own degree. And I think where it matters, whether it is recruiters or whether it is people going for Ph.Ds under this, they don’t think of all IIMs as one … they think of IIM-A, B & C … so, in that sense I am not worried. Even the recruiters, they know the difference between IIMs A, B, C and K, J & L.

But, certainly, in some ways, yes there is a brand dilution because the quality problem will be there. We do have severe faculty shortage. That is something which is inescapable. I am not sure how we are really coping with that. The objective of providing access is good. I am in favour of that. But I am not sure this is the best way to do it.

We try to support out sister institutions in the ways we can. For example, if our faculty want to go and teach there we don’t stop them from doing that. Particularly one other way we can do (support) is have strong doctoral programmes so people can come and join these programmes.

We have expanded our doctoral programme. Today we have the largest such programme in the country in management. Once an institution becomes an IIM they have to start a doctoral programme and so on and so forth; what we do is we allow their students to come and do their course here if they want to.

For example, we have four students from IIM Raipur who have been spending the last six months here doing our doctoral courses. So in that sense we tried to support …

Published on December 11, 2013

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