How to make IIM-Ahmedabad a global brand

Shamni Pande        Last Updated: October 10, 2014  | 11:57 IST
IIM-A Director Ashish Nanda
IIM-A Director Ashish Nanda

In an email interview with Shamni Pande of Business Today, IIM-A Director Ashish Nanda elaborates on his three-pronged strategy to make the institute a global brand.

Bringing in change takes time and requires a concentrated effort to follow an ever-evolving vision and strategy. A preformed template won't work and over the past few months (since I joined) my efforts have been to understand and learn from my colleagues.

Our vision at IIM-A is to educate leaders of enterprises; leaders, who not only have the administrative skills of managers, but also the vision and the drive to be agents of change. My learning at IIM-A has led me to develop a three-pronged strategy: nurture, connect and grow.

Nurture

For academic institutions to excel, it must have a culture with three elements: autonomy, stretch and community. Nurture refers to supporting and developing such a work environment. Professionals must feel a sense of autonomy and ownership over what they are doing.

They must also feel they should do their best, explore their limits and stretch them, if possible. A strong sense of community nourishes the sentiment of stretch, honours autonomy and encourages teamwork.

Connect

We need to strengthen the connections by reaching out proactively to four constituencies.

First is global thought leaders. We must take part in international conferences, talk with top academic institutions, build research initiatives, write papers for a global audience, and develop case studies that are seen externally, all of which place us in the flow of leading-edge conversations.

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Second, we need to connect actively with practice and policy. We should engage with people in businesses and government, carry out research in the field, bring it back to class, bring the practitioners back to class to share their experiences with us, and test our insights and thoughts with them; we have to re-energise that engagement.

Third, we need to connect better with our alumni. They are loyal to the institute, have had rich life experiences, and are in positions of responsibility in various walks of life all over the world. We should make it easy for them to contribute their experiences and insights to our students, engage with our goals and ambitions, and continue to feel life-long members of the IIM-A community. Fourth, we need to increase our connections with the local community. We can test our theories locally, contribute to our neighbours, and in the process learn from them and be treated as valued members of the community.

Grow

When I was a student of IIM-A, we had 400 students and 85 faculty. Today, we have 1,000 students and 91 faculty. It has not grown commensurate with students. We don't have the impact that we should have because we are sub-scale in some areas. Although the need is acute, we are extremely quality conscious in recruiting faculty. High-quality faculty are critical for a high-impact educational institution. But, as we scour for the best possible faculty, many potential faculty recruits are studying or working in foreign institutions. One of the biggest challenges of bringing them to IIM-A is compensation. Compared to faculty compensation in Western institutions, Indian faculty compensation is extremely low. We need to top up the base compensation to attract and retain the best faculty. If we want world-class institutes, we have to offer faculty world-class employment opportunities. To give you an example, management schools in the UK struggled with this problem for several years.

They have extraordinary universities, but they struggled with management schools, because till relatively recently they were unable to offer management faculty globally competitive compensation. A business school professor could go to Wharton or INSEAD at a high salary, whereas a language professor could only go to a similar kind of school elsewhere. It took them several years before they could sort out the issue of pay parity across schools within the university versus compensation packages that were competitive in the labour market.

Now that they have somewhat sorted this out, Said B-school at Oxford and Judge B-school at Cambridge have flourished. A similar challenge confronts IIM-A; we get top-notch students, our faculty has tremendous teaching experience. But schools in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and now mainland China are offering very competitive compensation. Many of them started much later than us, don't have a rich catchment area like we do or a tradition of world-class teaching. But because they are able to offer higher compensation, they are sometimes outcompeting us when it comes to recruiting faculty. Eventually, this will have an impact on institutional competitiveness.

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