Business school students who graduated this academic year are in the unenviable position of starting their work life in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this interview, Prof G. Raghuram, Director, IIM Bangalore, outlines what students should be prepared for and advises his students to stay safe as they begin their careers. And also to lower their compensation expectations as businesses take a severe hit.
What is your outlook on the business environment if and when this pandemic ceases or peters out?
Industry would be hungry to get back to normal. However, I believe that there may not be a clear definition of when the pandemic ‘ceases’ unless an inexpensive cure is found. In any case, the overall economy will be at a lower level of activity and thus recessionary for some time.
Your students will be entering their jobs (or those with experience, re-entering the job market) at a most challenging time. What would your advice be to them?
Stay safe and follow social distancing. Be prepared for reduced and/or online work hours, with an overall reduction in compensation expectations.
As one of the country's top B-schools would you say you have prepared your students adequately for such a challenging business environment?
The graduating batch had left campus after their placements before the outbreak of the pandemic. But I am confident the ability to learn and adapt to changing contexts has been imbued sufficiently in them that they will face the challenging business environment in a positive way. The same would hold for our alumni who are already part of the business environment.
Do you think that the nature of management skills and jobs will change? In what way and why?
The most visible change will be to learn to work online with team members. The next would be to try to improve productivity even with lesser staff availability at any given time in the office or in the factory. There will be need for greater attention to protocols and processes.
What qualities do you think a young manager will need for these trying times?
The most important would be that of keeping a positive spirit and staying in touch with team members.
Will this pandemic lead to a re-imagining of management education? What sort of fundamental changes do you foresee?
There will be an increased reliance on digital education. Concepts such as team building and team working may need a re-think in terms of approach, though some of it has already happened in organisations where teams were geographically spread. I really do not see a fundamental change. Transformational management education will still depend on in-class learning.