For the past two years, Professor Anil Vishnu Vaidya, Area Head - Information Management, at SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), has been teaching his students an elective called 'Reinventing Business With IoT, AI and ML'.
Starting this year, he will also teach an elective on 'Machine Learning With Neural Networks'. But what does a business manager have to do with these areas, which seem more within the realms of an engineer? "There is a big difference between what engineering schools do and what we do. In this entire process, we don't do coding or write any programme but without that, they get experience with some of these latest technologies," says Vaidya. He should know considering that he has been a Chief Information Officer (CIO) in three multinationals before his plunge into academics.
Students learn about what the new technologies are all about and how it can make a difference when taken to scale in the real world, explains Vaidya. For instance, they get to design and develop a small IoT (internet of things) device, send the data to cloud and bring it down and see how data can be collected and analysed. "We let them do it so they know where IoT comes into play in the real world," he says.
Similarly, for robotics process automation, the students get to see how a bot is developed. All of this is done without writing the programme because that is not their job. The purpose of the courses is to understand the impact a technology can have and to impart experiential learning.
How are such courses developed and designed? "There are tools and components available today and they (students) could use these or have it outsourced because we do not want to produce code writers or engineers but those who appreciate the sense of how these technologies can impact," says Vaidya. He narrates the case of one of his students from last year who, during the internship, built a blockchain with the help of an outsourced party as he was able to give the specifications.
That seems the way ahead for many other business schools as well. When Business Today asked IIM-Ahmedabad's director Errol D'Souza about a situation in which companies could be dividing their hiring kitty originally meant for business schools to now hire some specialists laterally, he said: "The only way to address it is to have more specialised elective courses. For instance, we have courses looking at design thinking, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI)... Take for instance, developments in blockchain or cryptocurrency. We have people who are looking at how the technology can be used." However, he adds that all of this is not going to be easy because what a corporate wants is someone to come in and immediately perform on the job. "That is going to be a challenge for us always."