‘We are the first IIM to be present on foreign soil’

Prof. Ravichandran speaks to Team InsideIIM from Dubai in an exclusive chat on IIM Indore UAE and CAT 2013.

This is the part of the chat which deals with the IIM Indore UAE campus at Ras-Al-Khaimah. Dr.Ravichandran tries to allay fears about the programme and shares IIM Indore’s vision on going global. He talks about quality of the academic programme and the infrastructure. He tells us in detail about the institute’s placement strategy as well.

Transcript 

As you all know IIM Indore is in existence for 15 Years now and has gained the reputation of a very innovative and rapidly growing institution in the country. There are a number of things we are trying to do in the institute from a long term perspective.

First and the foremost change is to convert PGP Program with a rigour  and experience based learning. This is the first and foremost change IIM Indore will bring.

The second Change is to convert a standard MBA Program in the context of Social Science study. This would mean our MBA Program would be nurtured and supported by soft skills including personality development, all round development of the individual and issues related to leadership, social sensibility, etc. So it is no more an MBA Program on how to run organizations but it is an MBA Program which enables students to create, develop organization in a social context.

While this is important, the third mission of IIM Indore is to be a part of the global knowledge network. You cannot be a part of the global knowledge network, if you do not have symbiotic relationships with markets which are truly global. Obviously, North American environment will provide you with much needed global intellectual environment, South-east Asia, China, Middle-East have growth opportunities from the point of view of trade, commerce in terms of globalization and global networking.

It is the third objective which makes us go to UAE. UAE  has opportunities, where we can learn from the practices of this region. Culturally UAE is a very rich region and commercially fairly stable. It provides excellent connectivity to the world and provides the opportunity to cut through the African market eventually. It is good to be present in UAE even though it is very competitive and develop a frame by which our faculty members can learn from this experience and also create a talent pool out of this market. This fits in the overall globalization plan of the institute. We in India are a top globalizing institute, have strong student exchange to several Universities in Europe and USA. We thought a presence in UAE would compliment our global presence. This is the primary driver in starting up the UAE Operations of IIM Indore.

We are the first Institute to take our PG Program to this region. I think it is a very bold and innovative initiative. This is the third year this initiative is going on and we hope to stabilize it and sustain it as we go along.

Placements! Placements! Placements!

I am sensitive to the fact that at the end of the day the students should be meaningfully employed. The IIM Indore Team and Partners of IIM Indore in UAE are sensitized to this very important requirement of the program. As an educational institution, we are not able to underwrite somebody’s employment but what we must and we will ensure the employability of the student post the Program. There are two to three levels in this.

The First level makes sure that the program is good, the children learn and the input is based on enablility to operate in a global environment. This is the baseline which will ensure that our students are employed.

The Second part of the story is understand the nuances of markets. In India, placements happen in a particular way. There are specific time slots, companies come in, there is demand and supply dynamics, the decisions are made rapidly in a short span of time and that is how the placements market in India work. This may or may not be applicable in the UAE context.  The UAE context is like any other International context. Job applications are identified and it’s a very long drawn yet a decisive process. The employer and employee would like to meet as many times as possible, discuss, talk about whether there is an alignment and if they find there is an alignment, the employment opportunity will fructify. Dubai model is no exception to this. The Dubai campus placements will happen in this way. The role of the institute is to ensure you provide enough context to the students in terms of industrial environment in which we are operating in Dubai. Broadly we have 2-3 Categories of companies.

Category 1: Indian multinationals operating in Dubai

Category 2: Multinationals operating in Dubai

Category 3: Large family owned businesses which are based in Dubai or grown out of Dubai.

We will constantly build a relationship with these companies and work through our partners and students and bring as many companies to the campus as possible. This is the plan. We have recruited a Corporate relationship manager and if need be we will strengthen this team also. We will make the visibility of IIM Indore felt a little more in the context of India, UAE and that will bring the much needed catalyst in the whole process.

To summarize, we recognize placements as an important act, it has to be supported, it has to be enabled. This is the first part. The second part is the selection of students with appropriate mindset will make it easier. The next point we recognize is that the placements will be fundamentally different from those in India. The third part is, we have identified the categories of companies and we would like to work through these companies in a particular way. The fourth part is to build adequate infrastructure in UAE which will constantly seek out relationship between the institute and the corporates so that the employment seeking opportunity is made very routine and probably very satisfying.

What about fears on academic quality not maintained with so many Programmes and Campuses?

At first level I would like to say that this thing is quite reasonable for an outsider who does not understand our system, processes and it is a meaningful fear and needs to be addressed. First and the foremost is the Bombay expansion. We do not set up things which we cannot handle. This is very clear, we do things very rapidly and we are conscious about quality that we deliver and therefore we have enough backup mechanism to deal with what we are trying to do.

Now how do we ensure the quality of these programs and that these programs are at par?

The first and the foremost thing is the program Design, Delivery, Evaluation is as at par as that of Indore.

Whether it is Bombay campus or UAE campus, the program design, delivery and its evaluation is exactly same as what happens in Indore Campus.

In what way the program at Bombay will be different is that Bombay will evolve as we go along. A Program which is specialized in General management, Investment Banking and possibly marketing. It has special focus on FMCGs. This is how the Bombay MBA will evolve.

I think what we expect in the UAE campus is that it is a very fascinating and dynamic market. It will focus on general services, consulting in a big day. It will also focus on Health services, Service delivery i.e. service related operations, manufacturing and family businesses. The Dubai program will clearly focus on family businesses, service businesses, healthcare, infrastructure, manufacturing, financial services, retail. These are the areas the Dubai campus will focus as we go along. In our opinion, the GCC market is very rich in these areas. The talent acquired in these areas is very stable and we want to contribute to this in a very big way. So therefore to summarize, these programs are exactly the same as that of IIM Indore with a local flavor and local specialization for these markets.

Now how else do we ensure the program is of good quality? What makes an IIM Indore program of good quality?

There are three things that go into it. The first one is the very best selection of students. That is very important and we use CAT as the parameter to identify the feasible set.

Second is to try and bring the best faculty that’s possible under the program.

Third is the rigour in the design and delivery of the program.

These are the three things that makes the program worthwhile in terms of quality at IIM Indore. Exactly the same thing is happening at Bombay and also at Dubai. Therefore there should not be any fear in the mind of the candidate that this program is inferior. As a matter of fact these programs are designed and calibrated in exactly the same way. It’s the same mother product customized to some extent for local market explanations.

Can you throw some light on the Infrastructure at the UAE campus?

Surely, it can’t be as good as the campus at Indore.

What kind of infrastructure is available? Is it the best in class? Is it comparable to the infrastructure at IIM Indore?

Our strategy is to provide the best in class infrastructure, our strategy is to provide that the ecosystem is conducive for learning and the quality of education is quite acceptable. In different places we do it differently. At IIM Indore, we have the fortune of owning this infrastructure, develop it on our own and it is invested from our government money as well as our own money. We may or may not want to follow the same model in other locations. In UAE, we have developed partnerships with people who are essentially logistic partners or infrastructure support providers who look after our exacting  environment, whether it is classrooms, student homes, local transportation, we ensure that our sports facilities,  we ensure that our partner provides what exactly we need. And at any standard it is no less than what is available at IIM Indore. Of course is not Indian soil, it is foreign soil and therefore has an advantage. The advantages are that it is a shade better than the environment in which we are used to. So we ensure that we have selected a partner who has a different understanding of the markets here, who is well engrained in the environment here, who can provide what we need and what we aspire for and therefore by any stretch of imagination, this infrastructure is no less than the infrastructure that we have in India. It is not a residential campus in the real sense of world because the universities abroad do not necessarily operate on a residential campus model. The academic activities happen in a different place and the student’s homes are at a different place and the faculty homes in a different place. And there is enough community infrastructures that happen and that is a global model. So the Dubai model is exactly imitated by the global model without compromising the quality standards and infrastructure whether it is classroom, whether it is living room, library or any other academic facility. This is precisely our plan and will stabilize in a year or two and will be talked about as much as IIM Indore is being talked about.

Who should join PGP at IIM Indore UAE?

That’s an interesting question. I have seen as a faculty member at IIM Ahemdabad and as well as at IIM Indore that MBA education is seen as a high quality talent to an individual. So when you receive an MBA qualification or a PBP qualification from some of the top notch institutions in India, you are better endowed and more privileged to kick start your career in a better way. Now different people do it differently. Some believe they have received adequate education and now they want to start something on their own and the become entrepreneurs and create startups and go ahead and they have excellent combination of abilities and are smart, hardworking. That’s one group and this number is not very high but it also not very low. So these are one set of people who get this management education in India. The other set of people are they have this education, they want to launch their careers, continue their careers, spent their entire career time there and probably retire also there and then look at their career cycle and what they could have done with it.

There is a third category of people who use this education in generating a little bit of personal wealth in working in a place like UAE where the average compensation can be very high than they get in a corresponding position in India. And having created their own little personal wealth, they start up their own business.

So if you want to be an entrepreneur, UAE as an environment, will open up a large range of opportunities that are not necessarily available in the context of India. For those who are looking for an entrepreneurship career on their own after a good quality education, should seriously consider this program. The second set of people who aspire to work in multinational companies, there are opportunities in India. Some people like to work in a different environment because it excites them and they get a kick they need, then there can be an Indian company operating in Dubai, it is probably a different environment. So if that is a career aspiration you have, we would recommend this program to them.

There are people who want to work in a few multinationals companies on a very different scale, in large cities and in significantly complex projects. If they want to work in these kinds of organization, I think we recommend this program as a gateway to it. The last category of people that we are looking at who would like this program is those who value education, and invest on education, work for a well paying job for a short duration of time say 5 years and then design to come back to India and start something of their own. If your career aspiration belongs to any one of these, you must consider taking the UAE program of IIM Indore. But what it will require is that the program requires individual to make choices at every stage. First choice is that of joining the program, second is your ability to find if the ecosystem suits you, if you will be able to find housing, adequate infrastructure for you to integrate with the program. These are very innovative challenges that one has to face. The other important dimension to be successful in this program is to keep an open mind to look at different environment, open mind to look at different cultures, different nationalities and different operating environments. If you have these things , then that person is very ideally suited for this program.

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