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B School
“Indian Management Education has to Make an Ideological Shift”
In an Interaction with B&E’s Ashutosh Harbola, Dr. Pranabesh Ray, Dean of XLRI, talks about problems afflicting The Indian Management Education System, The Need for India-Centric Management research, Corporate Governance, and The Importance of Industry Interface in B-Schools.
Issue Date - 17/03/2011
After gaining more than a decade of experience in the world of business – both in the private as well as the public sector – Dr. Pranabesh Ray began teaching at XLRI. That was 15 years back. Today, he has become an integral part of the faculty bench at the B-school. He has been involved in various teaching, consulting and research assignments in specialised areas of Human Resource Management; and his thoughts have been published through numerous papers in reputed journals. In an exclusive conversation with B&E, Dr. Ray talks about his efforts to contribute to the next evolutionary phase of management education in the country, and why it is high time that research takes centre stage in the Indian management context.

B&E: India so far, has been a home to some quality B-schools. That’s so far as general opinion goes. Only so far. Don’t you feel there are loopholes and objections to the system that deserve a pause and some careful corrections?
Dr. Pranabesh Ray (DPR): Yes. It is time for Indian management education to make an ideological shift – from lessons of slicing and dicing balance sheets to going back and contributing to society. If we can achieve this, it will be a great leap forward for Indian management education. The system has evolved, but there still is a marked dearth of high-quality faculty and high-quality institutes in the country. World-class management education is still not available to enough number of aspirants. This has to change.

B&E: Though considered to be one of the key ingredients of quality B-school education, many institutes in the country still treat “industry interface” as secondary. Is this right?
DPR: Surely not! India having become a truly globalised economy, the need for exposure and industry interface has never been more pressing. I think industry interface should be made a much more integrated part of the entire programme than it currently is. It can be done by bringing in more experts for classroom sessions initiating interactions with students, as well as ensuring that students not only go for industry visits but also work for some days as part of this program – whether global or local. What you need is at least that kind of training. This will ensure that industry interface is reinforced by default.

B&E: One of the most important factor that makes management education in the West so authoritative and practical is the fact that they rely on homegrown, cutting-edge research. Almost all the top global management schools have an in-house university press. India has failed on this front. Your views...
DPR: If one were to undertake a comparative study of how Western management theories have been applied by Indian businesses, it would easily lead to the conclusion that most of them do not apply to businesses here. It is something that needs to gather momentum collectively, if not change completely. We at XLRI emphasise on research orientation amongst our faculty and we have our own journal on management and labour studies. The journal comprises of research papers and articles from various parts of the world and India as well. I believe all B-schools should have such a policy in place which encourages serious in-house research. It is high time that we talk about India centric research which can serve the Indian business environment.

B&E: B-schools for long, have been talking about theories of inclusive growth. Is it really worth the resources spent to teach such concepts?
PR: Yes, B-schools definitely do talk about this from time to time. And it is important. In fact, many B-schools have compulsory courses on ethics, sustainable development and social entrepreneurship. We do. The idea is not just to talk about profit maximisation but to teach the broader aspects and implications of the management discipline. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is taught in almost all management institutes but the fact remains that concepts with such deep rooted significance cannot be taught inside the classroom. In order to sensitise the students, B-schools must facilitate an environment, wherein they can actually experience it. Students enrolling for any of our programs are required to compulsorily spend 2-3 days in villages earmarked by us.

B&E: There are two categories of students who enroll in a B-school. One with prior industry experience and the other without. What value-addition occurs when each of these go through internship programs?
DPR: Firstly, internship is not the only platform where students get exposed to the industry. Secondly, yes, there are two categories. There are many students who enroll after 2-3 years of experience in the open. So for them, internship is a time to try out more in the same industry, try out something different if desired, or try out something same, more or different in another industry. There is that positive touch to it. As far as freshers are concerned, we have planned out the course curriculum in such a fashion so that they undergo huge exposure (students are required to execute various projects which involves visiting industry and retrieving data), well before undertaking their internship assignments. During the summer break, all students have to successfully complete their internships. Post the internships, the course structure facilitates projects wherein students constantly need to implement the resources that they had acquired during their internships.

B&E: India has of late witnessed some of the most embarrassing financial scams ever. What contribution should management institutes make in order to ensure a more ethical politico-business environment in the country?
PR: When we talk about corporate governance policies and accountability, one simple principle should be kept in mind – walk the talk. We have been talking about scams for ages, but then the reason behind the reoccurence of such scams is because we only talk and hardly act. XLRI has been emphasising on ethics ever since scams broke-out in the 1990s. We are perhaps the only institute in the country which boasts of professorship (JRD Professors) known for ethical leadership. Ethics and corporate governance are issues which are often taken for granted. They should not be.

B&E: If you were to pin-point three secrets to success for current and aspiring management students in our country, what would they be?
DPR: First, you have to be excellent in your area and the world will invite you. That is why it is extremely important to do what you are passionate about. Second, always remain grounded. There are ways to look at situations even in a cut throat environment. But the one who doesn’t lose touch with reality wins in the end. Finally, there is no substitute for hard work. Sustained sincerity is the bottomline.

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