Business Today

What IIM review panel should have said

The IIMs are on the cusp of some amazing opportunities, but are facing some serious threats that can marginalise them forever. They can collectively provide a bouquet of offerings that can make India a world-class management education hub and knowledge capital for the world.

Rama Bijapurkar        Print Edition: January 25, 2009

Opportunities & challenges ahead:
The IIMs are on the cusp of some amazing opportunities, but are facing some serious threats that can marginalise them forever. They can collectively provide a bouquet of offerings that can make India a world-class management education hub and knowledge capital for the world. This is because, firstly, the rest of the world is focussing on emerging markets, particularly India and China, and now recognises that these pose new challenges and need new solutions; secondly, there is no “from within” knowledge being created as yet on emerging markets and; thirdly, India, through the IIMs, may have a better shot at achieving this than China.

However, competition is about to explode. Top management schools of the world will soon be in India. In fact, many are already here in some form or other. Singapore, China and Dubai are aggressively attracting campuses of the world’s best management schools. The IIMs, with their current level of wide-ranging government control, interference into their operations and very limited degrees of strategic freedom, could end up being marginalised. Poor pay scales and continuous attempts to “regulate” faculty activities have led to difficulty in attracting highcalibre faculty. The poor quality of infrastructure relative to the newcomers, severe controls and constraints in internationalising their footprint of knowledge etc., need to be addressed. This Review Committee report focusses on each of these problems and suggests a way forward.

On autonomy and accountability:
The best way to enable the IIMs to survive and seize the opportunities is to empower their boards further, give the individual institutions freedom from “off-board” government control, and put in place stringent accountability measures. Boards must agree with “management” to targets and undertake a formal, documented evaluation each year, on the following dimensions: (1) Academic excellence, knowledge creation, thought leadership and impact on India and the world through teaching, research, consulting activity.(2) Institution development and growth in scale, scope and stature.(3) Social obligations and social contribution and good citizenry.(4) Quality of governance structures and processes including at the board level. (5) Performance in balancing financial health and accessibility and encouragement to economically weaker sections of society.

On research, consulting, teaching:
Research does not happen out of thin air. It requires active intellectual networks to be nurtured between academics around the world, between industry and academia, flexible administrative systems that assign travel budgets, infrastructure etc., where needed. Consulting is good, not bad—there cannot be good management school teachers who are out of tune with the fast changing world outside. Every faculty member must be made to log a minimum number of teaching, research and consulting hours. If courses are to be updated every year and new ones created, then we must be realistic about the nature of effort required to offer a single credit course.

On mentoring newer IIMs:
Mentoring is not a turnkey job where one IIM sets up another, transplants courses, transfers or loans faculty and clones itself! Mentoring must result in the creation of new, strong, independent thinking institutions in a market-focussed manner. The director and boards of new IIMs must be appointed through a search process from within the IIM group as well as outside. Resources and business plans must be identified and approved by them. All knowledge material, seminars and other faculty development activity is made available to them free of cost for a certain number of years from all other IIMs in the system.

(The author is an alumna, visiting faculty and a board member at IIM Ahmedabad. Views are personal.)

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