13 May 2020 20:07 IST

Managers should think beyond ‘next quarter profit’ philosophy: IIM-U Director

Need to focus on core values to become socially responsible professionals, says Janat Shah

IIM Udaipur’s Director Janat Shah believes the B-school has prepared IIM-U students for the long haul and not just for the next job. “My advice to them would be to learn lessons from this pandemic and reflect on how governments and corporations are responding to it globally. Also, history has shown that in difficult situations, that organisations and individuals who are better prepared and trained to be adaptive will come out stronger. We believe we have provided our students with the right preparation and foundation,” he says. IIM-U is also the youngest B-school to receive the prestigious AACSB accreditation. Excerpts from an interview:

What is your outlook on the business environment if and when this pandemic peters out?

The economy and society will bounce back but we would need to make fundamental changes in how we do business. We will need to integrate sustainable practices into our business models. Companies should learn lessons from this pandemic on risk management and business continuity. We must look for ways to improve business outcomes as well as the quality of life of the employees. For instance, at IIM-U, going forward, we may look at the idea of conducting one session online for each course.

Additionally, public health should be considered an important area of investment and research if we don’t want the economy to get disrupted again.

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 to them be?

In our view, we have prepared IIM-U students for the long haul and not just for the next job. My advice to them would be to learn lessons from this pandemic and reflect on how governments and corporations are responding to it globally. Also, history has shown that in difficult situations, the organisations and individuals who are better prepared and trained to be adaptive will come out stronger. We believe we have provided our students with the right preparation and foundation.

Also, one thing this crisis has shown us is that we need ethical managers more than ever. Think beyond the ‘next quarter’s profit’ philosophy. Focus on the core values to become a management professional who is also socially responsible.

At IIM-U would you say you have prepared your students adequately for such a challenging business environment?

I am reasonably confident that IIM-U students are prepared for a challenging business environment. Our focus has been on providing a transformational journey to our students from day one. At IIM-U, the rigour and high standards inside the classroom are carried to all campus activities and community life outside the classroom. These experiences and the culture of ownership prepare our students for unprecedented situations. Covid-19 is an exceptional situation and has caught us by surprise but I am confident that the foundation we have given to our students is quite strong.

Do you think that the nature of management skills and jobs will change? In what way and why?

Even in the pre-Covid-19 world, we were all looking at the impact of digital on the way we do business. And now, it is even more critical. The emerging digital enterprises need specific skills and leadership styles. I think it would definitely affect the nature of jobs in the near future. Another skill that is going to play an important role is risk management to ensure business continuity, especially with regard to the supply chains. We need less vulnerable and more dispersed supply chains to be able to face any such crisis in the future.

Right now, to address the pandemic, businesses and governments are taking a number of short-term decisions. Once the impact of Covid-19 diminishes, we would need to bring our focus to sustainable and ethical management practices and make these practices an integral part of managerial roles. For example, data privacy is a critical issue given that a lot of information is being collected digitally during the pandemic to ensure physical distancing.

What qualities do you think a young manager will need for these trying times?

Given the uncertain times we are living in, future careers are going to be quite different than what we are seeing today. A few qualities a young manager would need are curiosity and adaptability. It is important for managers to be agile and have the ability to learn lifelong so that they are prepared for the change.

Additionally, I personally think, empathy would be a key quality going forward. Young managers need to reflect on the societal inequalities which have become even more apparent due to the pandemic.

Will this pandemic lead to a re-imagining of management education? What sort of fundamental changes do you foresee?

For high-quality management education, campus experience would continue to be the core part of the learning. In the future, we may see more institutes with the ability to conduct classes online if the need arises. Additionally, hybrid programmes, a blend of online and offline teaching, may become more popular. Nonetheless, the institutes are now more motivated to explore technology to enhance the learning experience.

How has IIM-U tried to differentiate itself from the other IIMs.. what courses and practices do you do differently? Rather, what is your USP?

IIM Udaipur started its journey with a focus on a long-term vision. We identified, early on, the areas that we wanted to focus on, then meticulously created the right processes and systems. Providing a transformational learning experience for our students is one such area. Another important area is research. IIM-U’s robust research ecosystem helped us be among the top five management schools in the country (according to the methodology used by UT Dallas) in just six to seven years.

Now, another area we want to focus on is preparing managers for emerging digital enterprises. It motivated us to launch the first-ever, one-year MBA in digital enterprise management for experienced professionals. The first batch would join the programme later this month.

At IIM-U, we have already started working towards our vision for 2030. We will continue to focus on student transformation and high-quality research. The Institute has set up task-forces that include board and faculty members to work on a detailed action plan for various aspects of the vision.

As a relatively younger IIM, you chose to go in for the AACSB accreditation. How has this helped the B-school in its recruitment of students as well in placement?

The rigorous process of gaining AACSB accreditation enhanced the experience of all the stakeholders. This accreditation is a validation that our practices are comparable to global standards as IIM-U joins the elite group of five per cent of the world's B-schools to gain this prestigious distinction.

Becoming the youngest school in India to earn the AACSB accreditation, demonstrates to the recruiters that IIM-U is one of the fastest-growing B-schools in the country and our students are going to be more entrepreneurial in terms of looking at initiatives. They will be better equipped to handle the challenges of the future.

How have placements been for the outgoing batch? Are all employers honouring their commitments?

Overall, placements for the outgoing batch have been better than last year. However, due to Covid-19, there have been a few deferments and the joining dates have been delayed.

How many have opted out of placements and are choosing to be entrepreneurs? In this challenging business atmosphere is it a good time to be an entrepreneur?

Three of our outgoing students opted out of placements to pursue entrepreneurship. When the placement market is down, the relative opportunity cost is lower so I believe graduates can still pursue entrepreneurship in the given atmosphere. Also, any major shock to the economy creates opportunities for new business ideas.

For IIM-U graduates, we have created mechanisms to ensure that students who opt for entrepreneurship have all the support from the Institute. IIM Udaipur provides a ‘Placement holiday’ of two years to the graduates to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures. They are also eligible to receive mentorship support from industry experts and a hardship allowance from the Institute during the duration of two years.

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