22 May 2015 14:28 IST

We are pioneers in executive education, says MDI Director

MDI is one of the few Indian B-schools to hold an accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA)

Consistently ranked among the top 10 Indian business schools in the country, the Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon was recently granted autonomy for providing executive management education. Founded in 1973, the institute has garnered a reputation, with its postgraduate diploma in management considered among the best in the country. MDI is one of the few Indian B-schools to hold an accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA).

CP Shrimali, who has been part of MDI since its inception, recently took charge as its Director. Armed with an MBA and Ph.D from the University of Udaipur, Shrimali has been actively involved in institution building efforts and has held various important positions. He spoke with BLoC on MDI’s new initiatives, placements, new IIMs, and more.

What makes MDI unique? What is your current focus for the institute?

MDI has nine different products and we need to revisit the entire range. For instance, MDI was foundedfor executive education and what we impart is not just classroom training. When you start generating surplus revenue, you also need to invest in research.

With 70 faculty members and more than 100 doctoral students, we are able to create knowledge, as well as a culture of research. We also have around 60 collaborationswith different business schools abroad. We have a dual degree programme and an AMBA accreditation, which means our degree is recognised anywhere in the world.

Are you planning more academic collaborations?

We train about 4,000 executives every year and our participants' satisfaction score is 4.4 on a 5 point scale. We deliver a process Public Policy Programme, for which we are planning to collaborate with a US based university. We are also exploring similar opportunities in Japan and Australia. These tie-ups will be essentially aimed at a common activity. It could be a conference, student and faculty exchange, or even joint research.

How do you select your students?

We normally have a review session with recruiters on what kind of individuals they want to hire. We discuss this feedback with the council of faculty members. When the admission process starts, the faculty are given guidelines based on the results of the faculty council and recruiters' feedback.

The faculty has to make decisions based on the set criteria and choose candidates for admissions accordingly. The CAT score, past academic performance, and work experience are also considered.

Are you making a conscious effort to encourage more women candidates to apply? Have you devised any special criteria (as some IIMs have) to make sure there are more women students?

We have not. However, women are competing for seats on their own, which means we don't have to ‘tweak’ criteria. One-third of the batch last year comprised women. We are hoping the number will increase this year.

Our criteria are totally merit-based and we have a fairly transparent system, with no quota or reservation. The interviews for the upcoming batch are happening as we speak. As far as gender diversity is concerned, it is very difficult to predict how many women are likely to enrol as of now.

There is often a disconnect between what industry wants from MBA graduates and what the students are taught in b-schools. How do you address this?

Our philosophy is very clear; ‘learning by doing’. Our MBA it is not just summer training. During the course, students take part in 15-20 live projects, some of which have industry mentoring too. Our focus is to build level–two competencies, which means when our student joins an organisation, he/she should be able to contribute directly without much training. It is a process; now we have to build such kind of opportunities into the curriculum design and evaluation processes.

Does this practice (of taking up industry projects) help in placements as well?

The trend now is that most companies are extending PPOs to summer interns. Such projects also help companies and students find a right fit for themselves.

This year some eight students have opted out of placements....

Internationally the trend is that the good business schools are those who create job creators rather than job-seekers. We also have an entrepreneurship cell, and an incubation and innovation centre. We encourage our students to create new organisations.

What kind of support is available for students who want to take up entrepreneurship?

We offer full support. We have courses on entrepreneurship, and our campus resources such as the library and research facilities are available to them. When they are incubating, we lend them complete infrastructure support, such as phone-lines, physical space, etc. Also, if they are looking for funding for their start-up, a network of faculty members and mentorship is available to them. The alumni network also helps them a lot.

You mentioned executive education and management development programmes (MDPs) for people from industry. Are these programmes a good source of funding for the institute?

I think MDPs are aimed at finding answers to industry problems. They are not meant for financial reasons alone. Corporates identify training needs at different levels and try to find answers to company specific problems through MDPs.

The problem could range from a leadership gap issue, to a logistics or operational efficiency problem. MDPs have been designed to find answers to such problems. They are more about building capacity, driving change, and adding value to organisations. Money is incidental. Yes, it is not a loss-making activity, but I don't think it generates much profit for an MDI.

Is the infrastructure expansion meant for any specific purpose?

For our ever-expanding executive programmes, we required more classrooms. Therefore, the new building will have classrooms dedicated to MDPs and executive education training. The entire new building is WiFi-enabled, with state-of-the-art equipment.

Will the opening of a new IIM affect the quality of students at MDI?

New IIMs are giving people more and more opportunities, and I think people should create more such opportunities for knowledge aspirants. More than two lakh students appear for the exam, and just 3,000 get admission into A-category b-schools. It will not affect the quality of students at MDI.

We are already among the top institutions, and students are aware of the learning process we adopt here. In fact, many students choose MDI over good IIMs, because ultimately if a new IIM doesn’t yet have top-notch resources — good faculty, library and other infrastructure — the student might just opt for a centre where great facilities are available.

What is the student-faculty ratio at MDI?

We have more than 70 faculty members, and any increase will not be too much for us because faculty members are not just teaching. They should not devote more than 30 per cent of their time to teaching. I would like my faculty to be engaged in world-class research and knowledge creation.

Ideally, we are looking at 33 per cent of the faculty time for research, 33 per cent in executive education and consulting, so that we have a connect with industry practices and we apply some of the learning there. If my faculty members don’t have the capabilities, how they will develop the students' capabilities?

Do you plan to hire more?

Yes, we are. If we are able to hire at least 20 more faculty members, we'll be lucky. We have a large pool of applications, but we are very selective while recruiting a faculty member.

Have you introduced any new courses?

Yes. Based on the industry demand, we have come up with a number of courses. For instance, courses on analytics have increased. We have already tied up with Bloomberg, and a lot of research is happening in the area of finance. The Government is also in touch with us for a programme on public policy.

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