10 January 2022 16:50:54 IST

‘We want to develop IIMK as a futuristic space of global reckoning’

IIMK’s Chairman A Vellayan talks about the B-school's plans to make an impact on business and society

A Vellayan, former executive chairman of the Murugappa group, took over as Chairman of the Board of Governors of IIM Kozhikode in early 2018. In this interview, he talks about the growth of IIMK under his chairmanship and also the role the BoG plays to make the institute among the best in the business.

What would you say is IIMK’s USP or differentiator?

In my opinion, IIMK’s main differentiator is that its fundamental foundation is as a school of innovation. We have dared to go beyond traditional boundaries. Compared to other comparable business schools, the approach in IIMK is significantly more holistic and balanced with regard to different perspectives on management education.

Our conscious determination is to develop this Institute as a unique and futuristic space of global reckoning to nurture the finest management thinkers in the pursuit of developing innovative, socially responsible, and environmentally friendly practitioners, leaders and educators — abiding by our dictum of “globalising Indian thought”.

What has contributed to IIMK’s rapid growth in recent years?

Despite its geographical constraints and other challenges, IIMK has come a long way from an initial batch of around 35 students in the first batch of our flagship PGP Programme to a current strength of around 565-plus students for three of our full-time MBA programmes.

The Institute is currently on a high growth trajectory, offering the widest range of academic programmes in the field of management education and has consistently brought notable innovations to programmes design and delivery. The Institute has achieved this success only through academic rigour, research focus and education excellence, making IIMK a household name in India.

Our recent entry into the Top 4 in the NIRF India 2021 management Rankings; Top 2 Rank in the Atal ranking of institutions on innovation achievements for our respective category; Bagging EQUIS Accreditation in 2021; are only the latest testimony to our short but impactful journey.

 

To best capture it in the words of the current Director, Prof Debashis Chatterjee, it is IIMK’s commitment to the 3Ds — Diversification, Digitisation and Disruption that have been the hallmark of growth of IIM Kozhikode as the country’s leading management and thought school, more prominently in the decade gone by. To elaborate:

Diversification: IIMK has been the pioneer among Indian business schools to focus on academic and gender diversity. Starting from 2011, ensuring 30 per cent women candidates, the Institute has reached a level in 2020 of 50 per cent women students. Along with this the Institute has adopted a multidisciplinary approach with the introduction of an MBA in Liberal Arts and Management; MBA in Finance, one year MBA for experienced candidates. Our PhD (Practice track) was another game changer as it offered working executives to pursue academics along with their jobs.

Digitisation: As early as 2001-02, IIMK ushered in satellite-delivered distance learning and education in Asia, way back in the internet’s formative years. We launched the Centre for Digital Innovation and Transformation to promote and coordinate interdisciplinary research in emerging digital technologies. IIMK’s state-of-the-art Library and Information Centre (LIC) also holds the recognition of being the Greenstone Support for South Asia for building and distributing Digital Libraries.

Disruption: Collaborating with leading global edtech companies to expand IIMK’s reach beyond geographical boundaries of the country. IIMK undertakes customized MDPs in various management areas as per the specific requirements of organisations. Such tailor-made programmes involve extensive study of the client organisation, preparation of specific teaching materials, simulation exercises, which have seen the industry pivot towards these dynamic offerings.

What has been the the role of the Board of Governors in IIMK’s growth?

The BoG, while leading from the front, has given a lot of freedom to the Institute’s leadership while guiding them in the appropriate direction. The Director and the Deans are very competent and have many great ideas. The Board itself was one of the first among IIMs to have addressed gender diversity and currently has close to 50 per cent women representation.

We have also consciously brought down the average age of the Board and have tried to play a role on looking at the Institute’s needs futuristically. The BoG steps in only when individual or collective experience of the members are adding value to the plans and suggestions made by the faculty on how to execute them. The BoG is also a unique mix of backgrounds such as corporate, governance, entrepreneurs, industrialist and academia and this helps in formulating visionary policies going ahead.

What is your agenda for IIMK as its Chairman?

We at IIMK have a set a larger mission for ourselves. Both future and past are integral to the path taken by an institution on the journey of excellence. Having a wide, far-seeing vision is not an indulgence but an activity that is necessary to give meaning to our present, to give this Institution a sense of purpose, direction, and imagination. That is why we have chosen to think in terms of what IIMK will be able to contribute to India and the world some three decades from now with ‘Vision 2047: Globalising Indian Thought’.

The institute has set for itself a pre-eminent role with the above motto. The sheer scale, scope, and potential impact that India will have on 21st century business makes us believe that this is a legitimate aspiration. We truly believe IIMK’s mission is bigger than just disseminating academic or even professional courses. Our vision extends to those major challenges like infrastructure, healthcare, education, managing the aspirations of an ever-growing population with scarce resources. We truly wish to play our part in the creation of a new and resurgent India.

India in the coming decade will become the global study capital of the world and I wish to see IIMK leading the charge for this transition.

Do you see that IIMK is aligned with what industry requires?

At IIMK, we have always been at the forefront of anticipating changes in the environment and subsequently leading the response, be it in adopting technology or sensitising the business world to accommodate diversity.

The institute remains in continuous engagement with the industry throughout the year through various avenues. For example, in a given year, the institute hosts two placements processes, for the summer internship and for the final placements. Other events like leadership talks, industry conclaves, bootcamps, and academic workshops are organised by various IIMK student bodies at various points in the year. The institute also facilitates live projects for its students.

In addition, the students actively participate in numerous domestic and international competitions hosted by prominent organisations, which often result in pre-placements job offers for the students. IIMK is currently aligned and has adapted well to the requirements of industry. However, the goalpost is constantly moving ahead as new-age, born digital companies require a different kind of management education and orientation.

The past several years, the way industry operates has become so different, with the social media element in marketing, data and analytics playing a very important role, as is tech, accelerated more so due to the pandemic, how will IIMK ensure that what it is teaching is aligned with what industry needs?

The only way to ensure this is to constantly interact with corporates, not just the ones who hire from IIMK but upcoming companies in emerging areas whose requirements may not be visible or clear. The academia and various active student groups have constant and continuous interaction with industry to understand the dynamics of transition happening over the instant. Over the years the institute faculty members have engaged in consultancy projects and collaborated with industry on intellectual outputs such as industry reports and white papers, which has helped strengthen our industry connect and gain valuable teaching aids.

The strong support from the large and illustrious institute alumni base also helps us to know the pulse of the industry and to be one step ahead of the curve. Year on year we have successfully introduced electives which give the student the direction and encouragement to take industrial challenges head on, once he or she leaves IIMK.

IIMK’s curriculum which is in alignment with needs of the industries of the future also focus on ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ thereby encouraging our students to think beyond creative boundaries. Our own business incubator and entrepreneurship development centre, IIMK LIVE, was established in 2016 with the support of the Department of Science and Technology. The centre is envisioned to function as a business incubator with a purpose of creating a National Centre of Excellence that promotes innovation, new business venturing and entrepreneurship.

Has the time come to re-define management education or the way it is taught or what it teaches students?

It is very crucial to understand that business as usual does not work any more. Management education needs to be changed to be much more entrepreneurial and innovative than to serve as offering “human resources” to large corporations. The entire approach to imparting education has to move away from silo-based teaching and has to be re-designed taking into account the prevailing complexities and uncertainties.

Management education draws heavily from scientific methods of fact-finding in controlled environments. In reality, business is often done in environments in which judgements are made with incomplete and incoherent data. The scientific method of teaching and learning alone is not sufficient for preparing future managers. There is a dire need for an alternative form of management education. Initiatives like our MBA in Liberal Studies and Management is an attempt by IIMK to equip the future managers with the earnestness to deal with human beings with equal effectiveness.

There is a critical need to create an emotionally strong, creative, and culture-sensitive workforce in this era of artificial intelligence. The crisis is here because there are not enough “leaders” who know how to craft the future and too many “managers” who know how to run the current and milk it to the maximum.