Prof. Dishan Kamdar has spent a considerable amount of time in the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, where he held the responsibility of transforming the growth of the school. And as part of his next career journey, he has chosen to do the same with FLAME University. We asked Prof. Kamdar about his vision and how he sees an opportunity to put FLAME University on the map of top B-schools across the country. Here are the excerpts of the same:
You have been part of one of the best B-schools in the country, ISB Hyderabad, overseeing the transformation it has undergone in the past. What were some of the major elements that you have brought along for creating a successful pedagogy for FLAME?
At the Indian School of Business (ISB), I served the role of Deputy Dean and Professor of Organizational Behaviour. Before that, I was designated as the Senior Associate Dean for around 5 years. I was associated for almost 14 years contributing to the transformative growth of the School over the years. As the Deputy Dean I was responsible for managing all the functions that provided a 360 degree support right from Admissions, to Academic Affairs, Student Engagement, Career Advancement Services and Alumni Engagement. These departments catered to all the long duration programmes at the School – the PGP, PGPMAX, PGPMFAB and then the PGPpro. As the Deputy Dean, I ensured that all these departments functioned cohesively and ensured a great quality output at every touch point between the students, alumni and external stakeholders. In addition, I was successful in launching an innovative programme offering, conducting a major curriculum revamp and enhanced quality of programme delivery during my leadership stint.
Over the last few years, our mission at FLAME University has been to fast track our growth in the areas of liberal education and management education. We have hired several high calibre faculty, some of them international, adding to the existing talent pool. We have launched the PGPEI and also set up infrastructure for facilitating incubation of start-ups.
Our focus has been to create more opportunities for our students to hone their skills and become truly “future-ready”. We have revamped our curriculum, in consultation with academicians from India and abroad, and industry folks to bring in the necessary rigor and relevance. Our teaching now has a real-world component wherein we invite industry practitioners to teach and introduce cutting-edge courses, and give our students a one-of-a-kind experiential learning. We have equal emphasis on beyond-the-classroom learning under which our students undergo experiential learning opportunities and sports.
We have embarked on a very aggressive agenda of pushing the pedal on our globalization efforts, hiring talented faculty, increasing our student intake, expanding our programme portfolio and getting into online learning / MOOCs among others.
You have had experience not only in teaching but in research, institutional governance, training senior executives to PSUs and government officials. With such a vast amount of experience, what are some of the key aspects/ideas in a manager that you think a B-school should germinate?
With businesses expanding across the globe and borders between workplaces getting blurred, organizations are looking for managers who have the ability to be at home, anywhere in the world.
Companies look for professionals who have an understanding of global business practices and also demonstrate leadership qualities and potential to go beyond the brief. Hence, it is imperative that B-Schools focus on imparting education and skills that will not only enhance their employability but also help them progress faster in their careers and enable their personal growth.
As institutions, it is important that we inculcate a sense of inquiry and curiosity in our students, so that they embrace lifelong learning. Skills like problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making allow professionals to carry out their work effectively and deliver desired results. On the other hand, teaching them soft skills is also very crucial as these allow them to become more people focused instead of task oriented in the future. Empathy, tolerance, ability to work collaboratively in teams, willingness to accept and respect differing views, etc. are key skills. B-schools must emphasize on learning modules to build on these skills among their students.
The world has changed drastically, more so in the last one year thanks to the global pandemic. In your opinion, what are some of the skills and qualities that B-schools of tomorrow should acquire?
‘Mentorship’ plays a very crucial role in the growth of a student. Faculty mentors, peers and alumni mentors have a ‘purposeful’ role to play in counselling and guiding students to choose their growth path. This aspect is a life-changing experience for students. Universities/B-Schools must invest in creating a strong pool of mentors and a mentorship network at their institutions.
We must also focus on newer forms of assessment that provide pre-indicators to students which direct them towards their areas of strengths and weaknesses that could be worked on before the final assessments. The teaching and learning should be towards laying a strong foundation and imparting skills that will enable them to face and manage uncertainties.
Universities must also bring in more beyond-the-classroom learning activities that will groom them to be real-world ready. Universities need to focus more on learning, and not just placements; there is a difference between being ‘job-ready’ and being ‘future-ready.
We also need to encourage students to be creative and innovative in every aspect of their student and professional life. I believe that a broad-based management education steeped in a liberal ethos will provide the next generation leaders the necessary skill sets to overcome these challenges.
Take us through some of the initiatives that you have taken at FLAME after joining here as a Vice Chancellor. What has been the response by the students and facilitators at the institute?
The learning experience at FLAME is now moving away from the traditional “pedagogy” and combines “andragogy” and “heutagogy” to develop skilled learners and leaders who are proactive, self-efficacious, creative and constantly adapting to change. The profile of students is constantly evolving. Keeping this in mind, many novel and innovative measures have been taken - both voluntary as well as mandatory - to make sure that we fulfil our commitment to deliver immersive and personalized education to our students. In this intensely difficult time amidst a pandemic, our faculty and staff have, individually and collectively, responded incredibly well - migrating to digital platforms in as little as three days' time. The efforts and diligence of the entire team at FLAME have helped our students navigate smoothly to the virtual learning environment, meeting all their academic requirements remotely, including examinations, in their entirety, and on time.
We even migrated the admission process online by facilitating the selection process through remote proctoring.
We have been expanding our faculty pool in a planned manner. Our aim is to continue to hire high calibre faculty and we have been successful in doing so with some of them being international faculty members. With their addition, we now have a large pool of faculty with great credentials from some of the best institutions in India and abroad. This multicultural and multidisciplinary faculty group makes teaching, research and learning at FLAME truly global.
We have also constantly encouraged our faculty to engage in high quality research. Our faculty have successfully published their works in marquee publications.
With a notable and key revamp in curriculum, better teaching-learning processes and a strong culture of mentorship, we are now commencing our path of FLAME 3.0. We aim to gain global affiliations, bring more diversity and quality in our student community and truly become an aspirational University.
Beyond academics, what are some of the major elements that students should focus on in order to align themselves with the changing times and market requirements?
Students must enhance their knowledge through outside-the-classroom learning, through activities and skills designed to hone their professional, social and personal growth. Peer learning is also an important component where students learn from their classmates who come from diverse backgrounds.
As companies grow and evolve into knowledge-led organizations, they look for professionals who demonstrate qualities that fit their organizational work culture. In this age of borderless and multicultural workplaces, companies also look for talented individuals who are go-getters and have the potential to think out of the box and at the same time, are great team players. Professionals who demonstrate skills such as agility, quick decision-making, ability to analyze, are digitally-savvy and have a multi-dimensional approach to problem-solving are highly sought after. Engaging in active sports that can help students develop all these crucial skills is extremely important. At FLAME University, it is mandatory for students to engage in 4 sports courses (minimum) to ensure holistic development of their minds and bodies. This allows them to explore options, be open to making mistakes and take much-needed risks along with the acceptance of possible failures. The more engaged students are in learning and discovering their individual capabilities, the next generation will be better equipped to take on responsibilities and become self-reliant and entrepreneurial in their chosen careers.
What is the importance of networking, especially at a time like this? How much emphasis is put into this aspect at FLAME currently and how are you making sure that the students get the best out of both the universes that you have had experience of working in?
Networking is the most important aspect of a B-school life, next only to their classroom learning. The diversity among students allows multiple opportunities for students to study and work closely on various activities and projects during their B-school days.
I would advise students to interact with fellow students and alumni, and build relationships that will last a lifetime. Do not focus just on academics. Your B-school stint should be a mix of learning, collaboration, networking, taking part in various projects, activities, developing social skills and continuing to expand your knowledge.
We are living in a small world. Social network researchers have proved to us that there is a maximum of six degrees of separation between any two people in this world. In short, we are living in an intertwined web where everyone is connected to one another directly or indirectly.
Against this background, the support of B-school networks is legendary. It is your lifeline when you need any kind of help. You never know your next job can come through an alumni reference and your future business partner could be a fellow student or an alumnus. You can reach out to your professors for their guidance, advice and mentorship in your start-up or fixing any issue at your workplace. The opportunities that your B-School network can provide are endless.
What does the future of B-school education look like? What are according to you some of the sectors that are going to flourish and how should B-schools align with the future thinking?
We do not know how long the pandemic is going to last, but the management education system has already started making changes in the way it functions and the changes will continue to be applicable even in the future. Business schools have adapted themselves and adopted several practices which would make them agile and futuristic in their outlook and functioning.
With the sudden onset of the pandemic and online learning becoming the only mode of teaching, learning, conducting work, B-Schools have realised the importance of upgrading their technology infrastructure and also investing substantially in adopting cutting-edge IT tools for various purposes. The last one and half years have also brought home the ease of doing business with the help of technology and how to leverage it for an improved way of operating and getting desired outcomes. With the blended format of teaching and learning becoming a reality of the future, technology will play an important role in making this happen.
The economy is witnessing changes across the world and in every sector. Each sector is focusing on innovations that will allow it to function better, reduce costs, deliver better services/products and keep their competitive advantage. Tomorrow’s business growth will be more dependent on how fast your adoption of change is and the innovation that you are able to bring about. Some of the future changes that are already taking shape are contactless payments, virtual reality, 3D printing, or telehealth, online retail, logistics, fintech, dutech, healthcare R&D, among others. Companies have no other alternative but to innovate. And this process will have to continue.
What is your message to all the aspirants unsure about their choice of B-school or programmes at the moment?
Every B-school aspirant has their personal reasons to join a management programme. Accordingly, I would recommend them to choose a programme that meets their requirements. Their friend’s/ colleague’s preference may not necessarily be the right choice for them. The other mistake that most aspirants seem to commit is to be guided by the placement results. While placements are definitely an important component in considering Schools, there are several other criteria that aspirants must study while making a choice.
Some of the things that one must keep in mind while shortlisting B-Schools are –
- Performance of the alumni of the School. Speak to alumni and get their views on how they managed their studies and how the School helped in their careers.
- Credentials of the faculty members in teaching and their research, as they bring a lot of real world learning into the classroom.
- Diversity in the student body as peer learning complements classroom learning.
- Engagement with the industry is important for B-school students to experience the real world and learn from business leaders through various experiential opportunities.
- Practice oriented learning for students, presence of international exchange programmes, internships, etc., which provide a real world understanding and experience before they step out of the School.
- Financial support available in the form of scholarships, loans, terms of repayments.
- It is always useful to visit the B-school, get a first-hand exposure of meeting faculty, students, and getting a glimpse of the culture, infrastructure and facilities on campus.
It’s not about what’s right or wrong in selection, but it is important to make an informed choice in line with our expectations and goals. Selecting a B-School is not an easy task, but aspirants must make serious efforts to understand their self-goals, introspect, collect information about every aspect of their proposed B-School life and then make their choice.
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