30 January 2022 17:35:18 IST

Digital will play an important role: IIM Udaipur Director

Janat Shah, Director, IIM Udaipur

Indian Institute of Management Udaipur (IIMU) was set up a decade ago. The past decade has undergone a major economic transformation; youth aspirations have gone up and digital too has a big part to play in how the youth function today. At the advent of the digital push, right from the policy level to the grassroots level, in the past 10 years, IIM-U successfully created a niche for itself in the area of digital enterprise management.

IIMU Director, Janat Shah, speaks to BL On Campus about what’s in store in the next decade and the institute’s ambitions and how he plans to play the role of a catalyst in shedding more light on consumer behaviour with a combination of big data and qualitative insights. Excerpts:

It’s been a decade since IIM Udaipur came into existence. What was your strategy in order to differentiate yourself from the senior and more high-profile IIMs and also the new emerging ones?
When we started, we were entering into a crowded space. We were the 13th IIM besides quite a few private B-schools which were adding to the competition. But, the Board took a call to chalk out a 20-year horizon to get parallel with the top IIMs. To do so, we looked at global data, which showed that of the 100 top higher education institutions in the world, there were only four schools that were less than 50 years old. These were from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
Like them, we too decided to have high-quality research apart from high-quality teaching. But, during this time, youth aspirations were changing and there was a rise of the gig economy, start-ups, digital, and ed-tech. So, in order to stay in demand even in these changing times, we realised that we had to build our reputation by making our courses richer with the deployment of technology.
What changes have you observed in the pre-pandemic and later in the management education space?
Even in the pandemic-stricken two years, we saw demand for a high-quality face-to-face course, i.e our two-year MBA degree. But, there is a major change in the nature of the industry. When we looked at the world’s top 10 companies by market capitalisation, seven of them were digital. The pandemic has shown that digital is going to play a very important role. So, we want that our curriculum should have a lot more in the digital space to make managers and entrepreneurs ready for the digital world.
We are seeing a new set of companies or existing companies transforming to digital. But, we anticipated this before the pandemic accelerated the need for it. Our idea of starting a one-year programme on Digital Enterprise Management pays off now. Because we were ready, we are able to establish leadership in digital enterprises.
In this dynamic digital world, how does IIMU plan to stay relevant?
When the world becomes digital, there is a lot of focus on big data. A lot of companies look for qualitative data to get insights into consumer behaviour and their digital footprint. Here our initiative of a consumer culture lab is coming in handy. We have still not figured it out, but if we can combine both of these, i.e. digital with a lot of big data and also a methodology through which you get deep insights about consumer behaviour, it will create some interesting and promising positioning for our students and our researchers.
What is the concept of a consumer culture lab and how do you look to integrate it with digital enterprises?
Our consumer culture lab has already completed more than a year. It is primarily driven by faculty in marketing. Especially in the consumer goods space, there are certain underlying cultural factors that affect behaviours. This will not be possible to see from the digital data. We need to combine big data and qualitative insights and come up with an observation that goes beyond just the big data. This will have to happen through qualitative observation and discussions.
Our researchers use the term “thick data” to describe it. For us, this is still a new journey, but if we are able to look into these aspects, and create certain actionable insights because of that, then we are a step ahead. But right now the consumer culture lab and centre for digital enterprise are still two independent initiatives at IIM Udaipur. Even though, it is at IIMU, it will be a resource for all India.
How has been the past decade in terms of student enrolment and faculty strength?
Student-wise our first batch had 57 students in a single section for our two-year MBA course (PGP then). Now we have moved to 325 students across five sections. Our course offering has increased from our flagship two-year MBA, global supply chain management, digital enterprise management and a PhD programme. We now have four degree programmes under our banner now. Our course on digital enterprise management had 15 students in the first batch, which graduated in April 2021.
The second batch would graduate in April 2022 with 35 students. We want to stabilise at around 50 students batch size. Everywhere digital will become a differentiating factor. In the next decade, we want to work as much as we did in the past decade and must become comparable to senior IIMs like Ahmedabad and Bangalore on education; but in research, we should be ahead.