What IIM Indore does to remain a pioneer among B-schools in India

Pragati Ratti Sharma
Pragati Ratti Sharma Sep 29 2017 - 12 min read
What IIM Indore does to remain a pioneer among B-schools in India
Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM-Indore, tells us what needs to be done to get the B-schools of India in the global rankings.

When it comes to Management education, the one brand that immediately gets attention is the Indian Institute of Management. The IIMs have managed to dominate the list of India’s top 10 institutes for years and look to continue the run. From grand infrastructure, to excellent faculty and brilliant placements, the IIMs are the most preferred institutions among aspiring management students.

According to the IBEF data, the education market was worth about US$ 100 billion in 2015-16 and is expected to reach US$ 116.4 billion in 2016-17. Higher education contributes to 59.7 per cent of this market size. At present, higher education sector witnesses a spending of over Rs 46,200 crore (US$ 6.78 billion), and it is expected to grow at an average annual rate of over 18 per cent to reach Rs 232,500 crore (US$ 34.12 billion) in next 10 years.

A large pie of share of these numbers is with business schools. India has over 5,000 B-schools and the number continues to grow. However, not many can ensure the kind of brand and quality that the IIMs continue to maintain. What is it that these institutions can learn from the IIMs. In an interview with Education Biz, Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM-Indore, said that B-schools in India need to focus more on quality. Here’s more from the exclusive interview:

IIM Indore’s infrastructure

If a B-school does not have the right infrastructure, it won’t impress students or even faculty. IIMs in a sense are known for the kind of facilities they provide to their students and faculty, and make for an example for developing B-schools to learn from.

IIM Indore has the largest student strength among the IIMs and a 200-acre campus to accommodate them. “We have a great hostel accommodation for all of them. We have excellent sports facilities, we have a sports complex that has swimming, tennis, squash, gymnasium. You name it, we have it,” says Professor Krishnan.

One of the standout points of the infrastructure of IIM-Indore is the 800-seater auditorium, “One of the largest in Indore and also among IIMs. We pretty much have everything that’s required for a world class institute to have,” says Professor Krishnan.

Another very important aspect of a B-schools infrastructure is its library. “Our library is a 3-storey building. We have a reading area on the ground floor and we have a study area in the basement and there’s electronic access to almost all the important journals. We subscribe to the best of databases. It’s equal to what you expect out of a top institution,” Prof Krishnan adds.

The infrastructure stays up to date if the institute keeps improving it, spending enough to get the best. Looking at it, how much does IIM-Indore spend on updating its infrastructure. “The infrastructure is usually built in phases. The latest phase which was the fifth phase of construction in our campus, we spent about Rs 100 crore on that. It included expansion of hostels, building a new block, etc. This project was completed a few months back. On an average, we are spending approximately Rs 20 crores per year on infrastructure,” Prof Krishnan tells Education Biz.

Room for innovation, edtech, quality

The education sector knows Prof Krishnan as a man of innovations. When we asked Dr Krishnan about what innovations has he been adding to the kitty of IIM Indore, he replied saying, “In any educational institution, you need a combination of multiple things. If I go back to our mission statement, we want to be an institute that produces contextually relevant and socially sensitive managers. We also want to make sure we have world class academic standards. The main thing that we are focusing on right now is quality.”

It is quality, that he feels, makes for the foundation of a world class business school. “In making quality, there is of course room for innovation, but a lot of activities needed for improving quality are just a lot of hard work. We are focused more on improving our curriculum, improving our pedagogy. We make students more engaged in the pitching process. We’ve brought in a lot of compulsory changes in the first year curriculum. We have a course on entrepreneurial orientation. This is an ongoing process, we keep seeing what kind of improvements we need to make to make sure our students are prepared for the world,” Dr Krishnan adds.

When we talk of innovation in education, EdTech takes the front seat in the current scenario. IIM Indore is not yet high on EdTech, but realizes its importance and is looking to soon get it on campus. As Prof Krishnan puts it, “We have been focusing more on bringing in games and simulations which are changing the way of teaching management. We are looking at may be doing some things on EdTech next year. Currently, we are just undergoing a major upgrade of our network infrastructure on campus. We are planning to have a lot of applications on top of that next year. The upgradation will be completed this year. We will take an approval on Edtech by the end of the year and then, we will work on that.”

The responsibility of being in India’s top 10 and entering world’s best

The IIMs have been ruling the list of India’s top 10 B-schools for a long time. But with more institutions like XLRI, MDI and IMI entering the competition, the responsibility on each of the IIMs of maintaining the brand has grown three-folds. “I think the big challenge is as to how you keep an unrelenting emphasis on quality. If you look at the whole field of management education, we have to keep on ensuring that we are doing the best in multiple research, which is very important for knowledge creation, in making sure our curriculum meets all management challenges and of course the pedagogy. It’s really this commitment to continuing excellence in everything that we do. That is really the key to maintaining the brand and that’s what we are really focused on,” says Prof Krishnan.

But while the numbers point towards a huge B-school sector in India, an Indian B-school’s name in the global top 20 is yet not a reality. But it will soon be, feels Prof Krishnan. “I personally feel it’s a bit misleading, because if you ask me, there are several of the IIMs which are very good, and they’ve been doing very well in the Asian rankings. There are certain reasons why we don’t figure in some of the global rankings. One of them has to do with the fact that our students get placed largely in the jobs which get them salaries in rupees. If you look at the placement data, our programs do not figure as high as US business schools. Historically, we were a little weak with our research, but even in that, many of the IIMs are catching up. We have lots of publications in top journals. I think overall, the direction is right and we are focusing on the right things. It’s only a matter of time before some of our institutes start figuring in global rankings. In some rankings, institutes like IIM Ahmedabad and Bangalore have already made their place. We‘ll see more IIMs in those rankings in the years to come,” he says confidently.

The idea of education ‘biz’ and brand

Is the idea of getting the terms ‘business’ and ‘profits’ in education wrong? Many industry experts have disagreed with this saying that where there are organizations, there has to be a focus on business too. Dr Krishnan, to this effect, says, “Any organisation needs to be a financially viable institution. I think that to that extent, having a financial viability is very important. The older IIMs, however, are appeased on the operational budget every year. We are all self-sufficient institutes. We get enough from our consulting, our executive education. The idea of making money for institution is not to enrich anybody but to make sure that we have enough resources to continuously pursue the resources. We have the right mix.”

“We definitely focus on making sure we earn enough money so that can manage all the costs as well as have some surplus money to invest back in the institute. We are not at the same time trying to make so much money that we make it unviable for the students. I think there’s a balance that requires to be maintained and we’re doing our best to maintain that balance,” he adds.

Where does the financial support, for building and ensuring quality for IIM Indore, comes from? “Generally we don’t take money from corporate. Of course, some of the older IIMs do request some of their personal alumni to donate. That would be quite a small part of the money that they invest. Our income is dependent on fee, on executive education and on consulting. As a public institution, we would not prefer having tie-ups with corporate except for things like doing executive education for a company or any other sort of research collaboration, but no commercial tie-ups,” says Prof Krishnan.

The IIM brand is also known for its collaborations with international B-schools. IIM Indore sends out about 70-80 students every year on exchange programs. It has relationships with about 30 institutions abroad, largely in Europe, but also some in the US and Asia. “The objective is definitely to expand the number of external partnerships that we have. We also have another partnership with the University of Texas at Boston. Our one-year executive PGP students go to McComb School of Business for 5 weeks. We also collaborate with McComb School of Business in terms of sending some of our faculty there for exchange programs. We also collaborate with a number of other institutions so that our faculty get exposure to the latest research methods. Every year, 3 of our faculty members spend 2 months at foreign institutions. That helps us get more international exposure for the faculty. These tie-ups are useful, though not unique,” explains Prof Krishnan.

From retaining faculty to getting new courses

The education sector largely sees rapid movement of faculty from one institution to another. What is it that India’s higher education institutions need to do to get the best faculty and retain them? Prof Krishnan advises, “The important thing is to provide the right environment where the faculty feel that they can double up their capability. They are highly qualified people, they usually come with significant expertise in their domain. They are looking for an institute that can provide them a conducive environment to do what they love to do, which is research and academic activity. I think the key to retaining faculty is to provide that environment.”

How does IIM Indore do that? “What we have done to provide that environment is that we have made sure we provide a very good climate for research. We offer a lot of research support in terms of funding. We have a scheme that faculty can go abroad for research support. We have grants for collaborations with top universities abroad. We also give faculty chairs to outstanding researchers. We have 5 different schemes which help us attract and keep them. Another thing that faculty want is they want to be appreciated, so we give awards to best faculty. The whole approach is to provide an environment where the faculty feel that this is the place where they can give their best,” he adds.

While retaining faculty is one factor, another factor is getting the right kind of courses considering the current demand. With the rise in startups, more B-schools are introducing courses around entrepreneurship. “You have to look at it in a context. The context is that today from top B-schools in India, the number of students directly going into entrepreneurship is very small, just about 3 per cent or so. I’m not expecting that we’ll see some kind of dramatic results tomorrow. What I’m expecting is that over time we’ll be able to raise the number to 10 per cent. That I think is feasible,” says Prof Krishnan.

The road ahead

Prof Krishnan feels that India’s top business schools are headed in the right direction. “We are seeing the right areas of focus, i.e., on quality, on good research, on good development, on faculty. I’m happy with the direction of the top B-Schools in India. We may not see immediate results in rankings, but I think if you take a slightly longer, say a 10-year time frame, you will see a significant outcome,” he says.

At the same time, he feels that entrepreneurs in the education sector must pay heed to quality. “With the education entrepreneurs, the big issue is as to how you are going to ensure quality. I visit a number of private institutions from time to time. What I see is that they are all able to create great infrastructure, they have beautiful campuses, but that’s not the case when it comes down to quality, which is largely a function of faculty they’ve hired, what they’ve invested in the pedagogy, what kind of environment they create to retain faculty,” he says.

He concludes with advising these entrepreneurs to pay attention to these issues to build world class institutions, saying, “These are very important issues. I honestly believe that our private entrepreneurs in higher education are not paying attention to these issues. Until they pay attention to these, they will find it very difficult to build world class institutions.” 

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