Foreign universities looking to set up campuses in India are like a “new fruit” in the market, and pose no threat to top-rung B-schools in India, including the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A), says Director Bharat Bhasker, who recently completed a year at the helm of the prestigious institute.

In an interview with businessline, Bhasker — a professor of Information Systems — speaks about a range of issues including the future of management education and the changes being ushered on the IIM-A campus. Excerpts:


Foreign universities have started setting up their campuses in India. What kind of a challenge do they pose to institutes like IIM-A?

The bigger challenge is for second rung B-schools in India. Till now, only second rung B-schools from overseas have a presence here. Others are just testing the waters and trying to get a feel of the market. It is also an opportunity for these Indian B-schools to pull up their socks and raise their standards.

At IIM-A, we take it as an opportunity. They (foreign universities) are helping us raise our price. The challenge is that initially everyone would like to try out the new fruit in the market. But I am firmly of the belief that our faculty, curriculum, case methodology and design programmes are such that we will withstand any competition.


What will be challenges in hiring and retaining faculty at IIM-A? What is the student-faculty ratio at the institute?

On certain aspects, I can say that we are better than B-schools overseas, especially when liberal research funding and consultancy opportunities are factored in. The top rung institutes in India have provided the faculty members and students with a certain level of stability, research environment and comfort in working. This requires a huge amount of investment. But right now I do not see any foreign institution coming forward with that kind of an investment plan.

At some point of time, a big university will come with a big investment plan and create the same kind of infrastructure, environment and culture. Yes, then we will have a good competitor.

For institutes of national importance, a 1:10 is the ideal faculty-to-student ratio. But 1:15 is acceptable in India. We are well within the 1:10 ratio (at IIM-A). We may even have the highest number of faculty among all IIMs in India today. For our MBA programme we have about 1,000 students on campus while there are about 100 PhD students.


What is the status of the historic buildings in the old campus that are expected to be demolished?

Our chairman had held an town hall meeting where we reached out to the maximum possible number of alumnus. IIT Rourkee in its presentation explained why the old buildings in the IIM-A campus cannot be repaired. Any repair will require a further repair every three years. They said that the inner core is rusted. To pull out the core, one has to unravel the bricks. So there is no easy solution. The grandeur of the old campus cannot be denied. We will maintain it. But things are progressing slowly. At some point of time we will have a modern campus with new amenities and technology. The design elements will remain the same. We may make use of the space and go a little more vertical, because now we have the smallest campus in the country, unlike other IIMs which are spread over 200 acres.


Is IIM-A looking at expanding its campus into other cities?

We have a committee for future directions which decides the path for the next 10 years. This committee, which also has a number of faculty members, will be coming up with a report this summer. It will answer where we should go and how we should go. 


What is the annual revenues of IIM-A? How has it grown?

Our annual revenue is between ₹350-400 crore and it has been growing every year. Of this we spend about ₹300-plus crore on grants, faculty education, course materials and so on. A significant amount of our revenue — about 35-40 percent — comes from executive education and consultancy. Post-Covid, we have come back with a much stronger growth.

In 2015-16, IIM-A set up a development office. A significant amount of donations came at that point of time. Endowment was formalised and today we have a commitment of more than ₹300 crore. We run 5-6 research centres on this money. It also provides a greater financial autonomy for the institute.


How has online education shaped up at IIM-A, post-Covid?

There is a major trend changing in the market space. Education may become online to a great extent. Recently, we launched a full-fledged two-year MBA programme online. It is nearly the same programme that we offer to those enrolled in a (physical) two-year course. There is a minor difference of about 10 per cent in curriculum between the two programmes. The same faculty that handles our full-time programme will also handle this online programme. We are not going to cut corners.