12 Jun 2015 12:53 IST

We want to create world-class programmes at affordable cost: Bala Balachandran

We build good quality faculty who are amazing and productive, says GLIM Founder and Dean

It’s been a little over ten years since Bala Balachandran launched the Great Lakes Institute of Management. Till he was in his mid-sixties, Balachandran served as the JL Kellogg Distinguished Professor (Emeritus in service) of Accounting and Information Management, Northwestern University, Illinois, in the US. At a time when he could put up his feet and lead a retired life, Balachandran chose to become an ‘education entrepreneur’ and set up Great Lakes Institute of Management in 2004, first in makeshift premises in Chennai, and then moved to a sprawling 27-acre campus near the temple town of Mamallapuram, 50 km from the city. Having gained national and global recognition in 10 short years, Uncle Bala, as he’s known fondly by all his students, has even bigger plans for Great Lakes. Excerpts from an interview:

Great Lakes is planning to unveil a clutch of new programmes as it begins its second decade as a B-school. What areas will this cover?

We plan to have a one-year full-time international programme which will be devoted to ‘technoprenuership’ and the degree will be given by Illinois Institute of Technology and Great Lakes. Three schools, business, technology and design engineering from IIT will work with us and six months of teaching will be in Chennai and five months of teaching will be in Chicago. This is intended for entrepreneurs who will use the technology to accelerate profitable growth.

We are also launching soon an eMBA or an Executive MBA with everything online and available to people from second- and third-tier cities and even students from abroad. There won’t be any ‘brick and mortar’ courses but faculty of Great Lakes will teach using technology: webinars, e-chats and social media.

We are offering it at a small fraction of the full-time PGPM programme that we offer at Great Lakes. This way, knowledge will be available to any one in the world with a Great Lakes diploma certified by an international university. It will be like a MOOC, but we will call it CHOOCE: customised online open courses and evaluation. This will be scalable, as some other institutions have as of now.

We will also have a programme soon with Georgia State University — a one-year programme, with six months in Chennai and five months in Atlanta, with the degree granted by GSU and called Master of Science in Managing Information Technology. We will start this programme in August.

You have launched a programme in data analytics that is quite the flavour of the season…

The core of the course is essentially how you combine the current emerging technology of big data, cloud computing and business analytics, and then how you capture the data or data transaction and the transaction itself in a digital way rather than key-punching or entering and optical scanning. That data is now aggregated through business analytics.

The big data then becomes business analytics, which is useful information. So, data is transformed by aggregation, analysis, grouping and statistics into business information. But that business analytics is current and previous, and I am computing for tomorrow, not yesterday, so how can I forecast using this data? Now, business analytics turns into business intelligence that is useful for the future.

The whole thing is about how you convert the on-field actual transaction into digital media, into digitally encodable big data, followed by analytics and then intelligence. Intelligence gives you optimisation and optimisation gives you profit. That is the sequence.

Will you be using industry people extensively to teach these courses?

It will be about fifty per cent industry faculty. Some of them will be international faulty. Many people are doing big business analytics, not intelligence or optimisation. So, I combine them. Because what is the use of data if you cannot make money out of it.

The idea is, can we create a world-class product or service or education or a programme at an affordable cost which can capture the best value and even bring world-class faculty here, because of my connections, and also develop internal faculty and create a value for Indians which are second to none in the world but at a price which is about one-tenth. The new programmes will be like that.

Also, I don’t want to have too much full-time faculty. I want about 50-60 per cent of floating faculty, not necessarily from the US, but amazing faculty who are current, new and productive. If I add more full-time faculty, there may be a belief that full-time faculty will have devotion and loyalty. But that’s not always true. Full-time faculty, if they are smart, are wooed by everybody else. And they jump, even for a Rs 2-3 lakh hike. If somebody wants to go for money, let them go. Now I have a steady faculty. I continuously build good quality faculty and groom them knowing full well they may go. But that doesn’t matter.

What are the other new programmes Great Lakes will offer?

I want to create new programmes every 2-3 years. One such programme we have launched is on retail management. It is a two-year executive MBA, part-time, every three months executives come for nine days for on campus classes. No other B-school offers such a programme. We have collaborated with Manchester University to offer this programme. One of its faculty members, Nitin Sanghavi, runs the programme.

A lot of industry people also come to share their experiences. This is a unique programme which will satisfy the needs of Indian retailers. We are also offering an MBA in health-care management, where we have tied up with Sri Ramachandra University. The collaboration is for academic programmes that will also have exchange of faculty and students between SRU and Great Lakes to work together in the areas of research in the healthcare management domain.

What else will be new out of Great Lakes in the coming years?

In the next two-three years, we will launch a new programme, a one-year programme which has the same MBA flavour but it may be a diploma. The idea is to create a world-class programme at an affordable cost. This may be priced under Rs 5 lakh.

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