26 Aug 2021 20:38 IST

Revamping B-school curricula to focus on disaster management

Make intentional efforts to impart lessons on disaster prevention and resilience building for students

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a paradigm shift to disaster preparedness. Though disasters were happening around the world in different pockets, but it took Covid to make this realisation that ‘we are in it together.’ Everyone has faced the brunt of coronavirus. Consequently, collectively the future needs to be made resilient. The losses that businesses have faced have made us realise that disaster prevention is not limited to the realm of the policymakers, governments, and NGOs, but every stakeholder has a role to play. The rhetoric of — ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country — has to be instilled deeply in the minds of all citizens.

Having faced the largest industrial disaster of Bhopal gas tragedy as a child, I categorically support disaster education. How, when, and where the disaster will happen is an interesting question for the mathematical modelling but for the policymakers, preparedness is key. Although there has been a commendable effort in including disaster management education for vulnerable groups such as children and women through school education and SFG, the engagement has to be at all levels and roles, professional and vocational, to enhance the level of preparedness. The academic circles in management education have to think beyond academia and play their due role. There has to be institutional, intentional and planned efforts to revamp B-school curricula with a special focus on disaster management.

Shared responsibility

Japan, which is most prone to disasters, is at the forefront of building resilient societies. Resilience is the capacity of a system to experience disturbance and maintain its functions and controls. It is also the capability of bouncing back in the shortest time to near-normalcy. This was exemplarily illustrated during 1945 by the Japanese when after the bombing in Hiroshima, electricity was resumed in 5 hours in some parts, part of the railway line operations was resumed in 1 day, and partial street car operations started in 2 days. It was thought that reconstruction of the city from the ruins would be nearly impossible, but the reconstruction plan pursued the highest ideals attainable at the time. This can be attributed to their three-pronged approach of self-help (jijo), mutual help (kyojo), and public help (kojo), in improving disaster prevention and resilience abilities in society. Harvard Business School is sending its students to Japan to learn about management through disaster management protocols and preparedness.

It is symbiotic for business schools to take up disaster education. Business schools have to include disaster management for two reasons. The first is from a business perspective and the second is from a societal perspective.Self-help followed by mutual help comes first. Public help by the government sector, implemented across the board at all levels.

Companies need to give importance to ‘Business continuity planning (BCP).’ We can learn a lot from Japan where resilient Japanese industries, both public and private firms, joined to contribute in ways to reduce losses and recover quickly.This benefited employees, supply chains, and the economy at large. Businesses need to take responsibility and this needs to be taught at the B-school. Furthermore, innovative, diverse, and comprehensive ways of disaster risk financing and insurance methods have to be devised to support it holistically.

Proactive steps

Businesses operate in society. The present world is so intertwined that no individual or organisation can exist in isolation, and we have to work towards a shared goal. The relevant stakeholders of the public and private sectors have to recognise their strength and proactively contribute depending on their expertise and implement various disaster countermeasures. It has been shown that 70 per cent of disaster management is logistics and management.

For business education, disasters are an extreme case of resource constraint and unpredictability. It also provides a simulated scenario for learnings in logistics, leadership and decision-making, and mobilisation of resources in a time constrained scenario.

In conclusion, we need to develop a sense of ‘Vasudevkutubmbkam’— the whole world is one family in peril or in pleasure. All members of the society have to contribute as business stakeholders to have disaster education woven into the B-school curricula to enhance the capability and competence of students, and to enhance the nation’s preparedness as a whole.

(The writer is Professor, Quantitative Techniques and Operations Management, FORE School of Management.)