‘Today’s Educators Need To Act Like Entrepreneurs’ – An Interview With The Director, IMT Ghaziabad – Atish Chattopadhyay
Dr. Chattopadhyay holds a PhD degree from Aligarh Muslim University in the area of Marketing Strategy. Prior to being the director at IMT Ghaziabad, he has held leadership positions in two leading institutions of India as Dean, MICA, Ahmedabad and as Deputy Director at S P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR), Mumbai. Dr. Chattopadhyay believes in Internationalisation of Indian institutions and has presented across various International forums of AACSB and GMAC. At IMT-Ghaziabad, Dr Chattopadhyay dreams of creating a ‘Global Indian B-School’ under his dynamic leadership.
How is IMT Ghaziabad different from other B-schools in India?
IMT Ghaziabad was one of the first business schools if not ‘the’ first, which was the conceptualisation of a successful industrialist who wanted to create a practice based institution. When our founder Mahendra Nath ji wanted to bring about social upliftment, he conceptualised IMT Ghaziabad as an institution whose graduates will be more grounded in terms of the needs of the industry. Management professionals who can come out with innovations which have implementation feasibility and can create an impact on the society. He wanted to promote entrepreneurial thinking as he himself was an entrepreneur.
Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Execution and Social Responsibility are the key differentiators for IMT Ghaziabad. IMT Ghaziabad has these embedded in the way it functions and the way it will continue to function. We live by what we preach. IMT Ghaziabad is one of the few institutions that have created many successful CXOs and entrepreneurs.
Who is an ideal student for IMT Ghaziabad?
Someone who is entrepreneurial, who is a risk taker, who is ready to dirty her/his hands, can work at the ground level for successful execution and someone who is a good team worker. An individual who appreciates how an innovation can drive change through successful execution. Someone who is a responsible citizen and is sensitive to the needs of society. For a person who intends to operate out of an air-conditioned chamber, IMT Ghaziabad may not be the right place to be. We are looking for ordinary individuals who have got fire in the belly to produce extraordinary outcomes.
You are an entrepreneur and an educator, how do you think one impacts the other?
Today’s educators need to act like entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship essentially is about pursuing an opportunity with limited resources. Someone who can spot an opportunity and pursue that with limited resources is an entrepreneur.
If we look at the India growth story, it is about unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit. And if that needs to be sustained, we need to nurture entrepreneurial thinking in our educational institutions. Today, it is equally important for our educators, particularly those in institutional leadership, to act like entrepreneurs: spot opportunities or trends and leverage those using limited resources.
We in India, do not have access to the kind of resources that may be available in the more developed nations. As educators, we have a duty towards our country and society. It is unfortunate that in a lot of cases where educational institutions are provided with resources have not really delivered to the extent they should have. That is because the educators primarily did not act like entrepreneurs. We need our educators to be role models and work like entrepreneurs in order to drive entrepreneurial growth in the country.
How do you see the future of management programs in India and where does IMT Ghaziabad fit in that?
The management education and the overall education system is going through a transition. Earlier, a student used to go to an educational institution in the quest for knowledge and the institution and the teacher were the source of that knowledge. Today the knowledge is readily available through various sources. So, the first important point to understand is that which knowledge is relevant for which student or group of students. The role of a teacher has evolved to not just being the creator of knowledge but also to find the right knowledge for the right student.
As far as management education is concerned, it is an applied discipline. Management education has to evolve in a way in which the education remains both relevant and contextual to emerging practices. The learning process too has to evolve with time. Conventionally, the way institutions worked, was that one first learns (to ‘know’) and then applies (to ‘do’).
We want to flip this process where one first does an application exercise (to ‘do’) and in the process discovers knowledge (to ‘know’). So, our learning philosophy is ‘Doing Leads to Knowing’.
We are creating an apprenticeship model like medical schools. Through ‘doing’ the knowledge unfolds – a student discovers ‘knowledge’ in the course of ‘doing’. Earlier ‘knowledge’ used to be the main component in the program – if we look at the three components ‘knowing’, ‘doing’ and ‘being’, ‘knowing’ was at the centre. For us at IMTG, ‘doing’ will be at the centre and through ‘doing’, ‘knowledge’ will be discovered and the students will be impacted in terms of their ‘being’. So both personality development and knowledge acquisition will be though ‘doing’.
As far as IMT Ghaziabad is concerned, the good thing about our institute is that we have got a legacy of being practice oriented because of the founder and the vision of the founder. A founder who used to address ‘students’ as ‘student managers’ and not just as ‘students’. A founder who way back in the early 1980s decided not to have a warden in the hostel because he considered that the ‘student managers’ need to act responsibly and be accountable for their actions. This is how the practice or ‘doing’ is embedded in the DNA of the IMT. However, we need to reorient and reinvent ourselves at every point and at this juncture, we are again revisiting the way we would like to work and shape-up for the future.
The actions that we have initiated is to convert IMTG into a new age management institution. How do we make that happen?
We are trying to make the learning more lab based. I am happy to share with you that we are establishing a Real Time Contextual Marketing Lab (RTCML) within the institution. It will be a melting pot of digital, social, web, mobile, other new media and analytics. The lab is being headed by a very senior and successful practitioner who has held CXO level position in a company of high repute, Prof. Asit Burma.
We are going to have a diverse faculty group who have the experience of working with premier institutions like NUS, IIMs and organisations like BCG in areas like digital advertising, mobile marketing, new media and social analytics. Each of our faculty is drawn from the best institutions or best corporations across the globe. The idea is, that the faculty group actually undertakes real life projects from the industry on which our student groups can work and the learnings can then be discussed in a classroom to discover new insights and knowledge.
The way forward for IMT Ghaziabad is to create more such centres. In finance, we are going to have a Finance Lab and a Centre for Development Management again headed by someone like Dr. Swapan Chaudhari, who is one of those rare individuals who transitioned from academics to be successful in consultancy to become Executive Director of a large consulting organisation having a presence across the globe.
The way we look at our faculty is very different from the way it is conventionally looked at. At IMTG we want faculty who are essentially practitioners, who can also teach.
Which are the most cutting edge subjects being taught or introduced at IMT Ghaziabad right now?
This year IMT Ghaziabad has done a comprehensive review of the curriculum with the idea that the first year of the program is what is required to be successful in the long run as a leader. The second year is to do with what is required in the short run to get the first job and to get the first promotion. The 1st year of the program will have courses in the area of Design Thinking, Critical Thinking, Cross Cultural Communication, Negotiation, and Business Model Innovation, which are both cutting edge and contextual.
As far as the 2nd year is concerned, IMT Ghaziabad will be the only institution which will offer sector and role specific minor specialisations to address the needs of the recruiters. We will have minor specialisations in Digital Marketing, Marketing Research and Analytics, Media and Entertainment, Sales and Service Management, Banking, Development Management, Equity Research, Consulting, Analytics, and Supply Chain Management. In each of these areas, we will find courses which are cutting edge and relevant to the needs of our recruiters. Cutting edge courses, like Contextual Marketing, Shopper Marketing, and Social Media Analytics etc. are examples of the ones newly introduced.
We started this conversation with entrepreneurship, and the idea is to inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking amongst each of our students. We are creating an eco-system where we are close to start-ups and entrepreneurs. IMT Ghaziabad will probably be the first institution in India where students will be required to do a six-week internship with start-ups in the second year of their program.
One tip for all future entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea and have spotted an opportunity, get started. The earlier you start, the higher are the chances of success because there are so many others who have the same idea. So the speed with which you execute an idea into action determines whether it will be you who will exploit the window of opportunity or someone else will. ‘Doing is better than Waiting’ and ‘Done is better than Perfect’.
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