09 Jan 2016 19:06 IST

“MICA should be in Top-5 institutes for strategic marketing by 2020”

Nagesh Rao

While it might be unrealistic, it’s important to have big dreams, says Nagesh Rao, MICA Director

The most interesting work and discoveries happen at intersection of fields, says Nagesh Rao, President and Director of MICA Institute of Strategic Marketing and Communication, Ahmedabad.

Ever since he joined MICA three years ago, he has been focussing intensely on research. Rao spoke to BLoC about the institute’s USP, its positioning, focus on research and more.

How is MICA different from other Indian business schools?

AG Krishnamurthy, chairman and managing director of Mudra Communications in the late 1980s, started MICA because he wanted to create an MBA programme for leaders in the advertising industry. So there was a very conscious focus, right from the beginning, on the need for a combination of logical and creative orientation.

Fast forward to today and one of the USPs of MICA is the admissions process — the curriculum and the campus experience is to make you adopt the left and right brain simultaneously. Almost like you should be able to crunch numbers as well as write poetry at the same time.

The reason I am saying this is because leaders today, especially in global leadership, need to have a combination of task and relational skills.

Earlier, students came through CAT. Now, we put greater focus on MICAT exam, which is about measuring one’s ability to look at issues and define problems by thinking out of the box. It also takes into account one’s perception of the world.

Though about 60 per cent of our students are engineers, we call them misplaced engineers who didn’t want to be in that field in the first place. They have the logical background but also have a creative side to them, which is our USP. Our graduates see the world, and look at issues differently.

Has there been enough emphasis on research at MICA?

We started our Fellow Programme in Management (FPM) five years ago with a clear indication that if MICA wants to be known internationally, the research has to be cutting edge.

But I am also aware, having lived in the US for quite sometime, that this is not possible overnight. We are looking at a 10-20 year plan, and one of the building blocks of this idea is the FPM programme. A PhD programme creates the climate with a different level of research.

We have created a corpus for the faculty and FPM students, to give them seed money for research, which then gets converted into conferences and publications. Our research is gradually improving, and to achieve top quality research standards, we are collaborating with top researchers and universities across the world.

We at MICA are moving in the right direction, and in about 5-10 years, should be competing at the international level fairly well.

You maintain that you are not a traditional B-school. Do you feel misplaced when you are ranked at B-School rankings conducted by different media houses?

We have not participated in the rankings for several years now, and it’s a very conscious decision. There are two reasons: one, the board feels rankings are a completely social process and there is a whole commercial angle to it. And two, for us, it really doesn’t reflect the value of an organisation or an institute.

I know institutes spend a lot of money and resources to participate in the ranking process because it has implications on students, faculty, and other things. But we believe our work should show our worth. We are not a traditional business school, we are not a traditional communication school — we are a mix of the two.

We are comfortable with our identity. We believe the most interesting work and discoveries happen at the intersection of fields; we are almost bicultural. And our goal is that through our work, publications, students, placements and policy, we will be known. In the process, if we miss out on a few things, let that be so.

How has students’ perception towards career changed over the years?

Earlier, they all wanted to go into advertising and branding domains. If you look at the last few years, we have a combination of marketing and brand management. And two years ago, we started a specialisation in the digital domain.

For the past couple of years, our placements have primarily been in the digital domain and the start-up space.

Also, maybe five years ago, getting into Amazon, Facebook, or Google was considered ‘cool’. Today, though, students want to be in Paytm, or a Roadrunner, or Ola or Uber. As you can see, the orientation has changed quite a bit.

You want to put MICA on the world map . How do you plan on achieving that ?

I made a very bold statement when I said if anyone in the world was looking for a programme in strategic marketing and communication (by 2020), MICA should be on the top-5 of their prospective institute list.

I am also very realistic that it may not happen by 2020. But I think it’s important to have big dreams.

For us to be able to achieve that, internally, our focus should be very clear and at the highest level. The recruitment, therefore, needs to be aligned to our goals.

Lastly, research and scholarship is the key. The other part is thought leadership in terms of policy issues in the areas of education.

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