MBA, B-School Fests, And Campus Life As Seen By An XLRI Professor – Prof Madhukar Shukla

As we head into Ensemble-Valhalla, the annual fest of XLRI, we spoke to Professor Madhukar Shukla, Ph. D. in psychology and an Organisational Behaviour specialist on campus, about what he was looking forward to during the fest and what it was that made XLRI special. He candidly narrated the history that makes XLRI such a magical community and why the faculty and the students both hold the institute and the campus in such high regard.


Over the years, we have heard a lot about XLRI Jamshedpur from the students. What is the one thing that you think that makes XLRI Jamshedpur special?

“Not one thing, but there are two things. One, of course, is the culture. Partly because it is a small city, partly because of the batch size and the way we grew, it is unique. Starting from a small room in Boulevard hotel, then moved to Loyola, and then to our current campus in ’61, it grew very organically. So it started with a very small batch size, a very small campus. That is our legacy. The other thing is because also it’s been a Jesuit institution. We are not a minority institute, but the Jesuit influence has definitely played a role. Many of the social initiatives you’re seeing taken at XL, they have full support from the admin. There may be hitches, there may be setbacks, but if somebody says this is what I want to do, they will always have full backing. For example, XL students played a major part in the literacy campaign implementation by the Government of India in the 80’s, 90’s. When there were riots during the 70’s, XL students along with others, they held sambhavna meetings between the 2 communities, facilitated them. The differential created is not just about academics, it’s also about other things which are somewhat extra-curricular. But it is not just driven by students, it is supported by the entire XL community. For example, the social projects we do during the course, the idea behind it is to keep the students socially engaged.”


In a management fest as big as Ensemble-Valhalla, what are the key resemblances to corporate life we can draw and other management learnings we can draw?

“It’s not just about what happens during the fest, but if you take a look at the activities that go on behind the scenes; the planning, the resource mobilization, the allocation of roles, the coordination, this provides you with an environment where you can practice your managerial skills. This is a huge affair, and a sort of platform where you can perform, practice, experiment, which is relevant to a corporate life. Even as a participant, there are two things happening here simultaneously. There is competition, and there is collaboration. And these two things have to be practised even in the corporate sphere where one does compete and one does work together. It definitely provides a behavioural learning that helps later on.”


What, according to you, is the one thing that an aspiring or a current MBA student should possess?

“See, currently there is almost like a pattern that is set. You do engineering, then you do management. Or you do engineering, work for a couple of years, and then do management. The focus is very narrow. Management has to be done within a context. If you don’t understand the context, not understanding the sociology, the politics, so many things happening within the society which impact the business and the business impacts it, then that is a missing aspect which makes it difficult to become a good manager.


You take a course on Social Entrepreneurship for the second year students which is quite popular. Could you elaborate on how you conduct the lectures for the same, and what do you cover for the same? Also, what is the future of Social Entrepreneurship in the current market scenario?

“The basic purpose, right now, is to sensitize people and also to clarify that a ‘social’ suffix doesn’t mean a scam. This is one sector that is growing extremely fast. You call it social entrepreneurship, but it’s basically entrepreneurship servicing the need for a segment which really requires help. For example, one of our recent pass outs Samriddhi Malhotra, has started something called ‘Kickstart Jobs’, to provide employment to school dropouts, semi-educated people, and the likes. So, it’s a business, but sensitive to the needs of the community. So the course looks to introduce this idea, to put into the minds of managers that something like this can also be done. Dhawal Shah, another XL alum, was very clear from the start that this was something he wanted to do. So that becomes the primary purpose, to expose future managers to this avenue.”

Summing up social entrepreneurship in a line, he says, “Using entrepreneurship or strategies to address certain social problems in a sustainable manner is what social entrepreneurship is all about.”


We know what the campus life is like for students at XLRI. What is the campus life like for professors on campus?

“See, when I was talking about the cultural legacy that applies to the faculty also. Unlike other institutions, there is no distinction based on the grading of the professors. The intermingling of people was present. Because the campus was really small, you would meet people, run into them all the time. Even the kids playing, you might’ve noticed, kids of people in the outhouse, staff member kids and faculty kids all play together. There is a community ethos among the faculty. Somehow, we create occasions to meet! It’s all about integrating.”

Professor Shukla also briefly spoke about Melange of Ideas, the theme for this year’s fest.

“If you look at one of the major events XLRI had hosted, it was XL-IIMC. A long time back, it used to be a sports cum cultural fest. But over the years, we felt a need to compete with more colleges and that’s when Valhalla was started. Valhalla, when it was formed, was one intervention where both batches come together. That’s the first time you come together to fight the common enemy. Those interactions automatically happened that built that culture. Seniors juniors when you play together, you created that culture. So, from the times of XL – IIMC we had sports events, cultural events, literary events and so on. That way, I guess, this fest has made it come a full circle. I look forward to it and wish it a great success.”