“When I joined IMI, there were around 31 faculty members and now, we have 65 members. Our dream is to have around 80 members” says Padma Shri Dr Pritam Singh, Director General, International Management Institute in an exclusive interview with Ankush Kumar. We share his insight on government policies, pending Foreign University Bill and qualities that a good leader should possess
How has been your journey so far in the education sector?
After doing MBA and working for a company in Pittsburg, United States, I started my career as a Professor in the area of Organization Behaviour. Later on, I also became the chairman of Management Development programme. After fourand- a-half years, I joined Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, where I worked for about 13 years as Senior Professor and Dean. During my tenure, I organized programmes for the Ministry, bureaucrats, secretaries and joint secretaries. This was the most important period of my life. Then, I joined IIM, Bangalore as Senior Professor and Dean. In 1995, I joined the Management Development Institute (MDI) as Director. I worked for about three years. On the request of Ministry, I joined IIM Lucknow as Director for four-and-ahalf years (1998-2003). And then, I came back to MDI again as a Director. After this, I was distinguished professor for about three years till 2011. For last three years, I am Director General, International Management Institute, New Delhi looking after three campuses i.e. Delhi, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata. Before going to US, I began my career with Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi as a lecturer and then, University of Rajasthan as an assistant professor. I have been fortunte to have intimatly experienced different education sytems-be it the US; in the Indian context- the university system,IIM,MDI system among others. Academics has and will always be my passion-perhaps my being a topper in academics reflects this….This is my journey.
Craze for B-schools has diminished over the years. Where did it go wrong?
India is a very fascinating country. Most of the players in the education industry thought that management education is a good business. So, they came in this field to make money, which is very unfortunate. They did not make sufficient investment. The soul of any management institution is the quality of the faculty. Institutions are run by the faculty and not by the infrastructure and other things. But later on, they realized they were not making money and students were not coming. At one time, there was boom, but soon the growth started coming down from nine to five percent. Professional education is very much linked to the economy. So, 239 B-schools were closed. Today, if you ask my frank opinion, there are only 25 good B-schools in the country. If you take away these 25 schools, I would be very hesitant to recommend the students to go for management programmes because good quality faculty members are not available. Right now, there are 13 IIMs. If you take away, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Indore, Kozhikode and Lucknow, high quality faculty members are not available. When you want to establish a medical college, you must have hospitals, if you want engineering colleges, you must have workshops and if you want management institutes, you should have industry. Many of the colleges lack the market. Learning in the field of management is by doing and not reading as it is not philosophy and sociology. I am not sure whether these institutes will come up as good B-schools or not. Brand IIM is also a myth. Many IIMs cannot be compared to schools like XLRI Jamshedpur, etc. The schools which have invested money in faculty development will surely come on top. If you talk about top 100 global management schools, how many Indian institutions are on this list? It is amazing to see how China is coming up. We want to become a knowledge hub and say we will train future leaders. These are very nice slogans to listen to, but ground reality is very different. We have around 46,000 academic colleges in the country.
“Today, if you ask my frank opinion, there are only 25 good B-schools in the country. If you take away these 25 schools, I would be very hesitant to recommend the students to go for management programmes because good quality faculty members are not available”
Government of India’s education policy is very faulty. Are we following the existing systems? Do we have guts to bring performance management in the education system?
If you go to university system, you will find that people only speak about past. Any Vice Chancellor who talks about performance or semester system lands in trouble. Our country could face youth unrest. You have to provide reasonable opportunities for bread and butter along with education otherwise, people will revolt. If you want to be global power, it is going to be through education, as we don’t have other resources which other countries have got. Our only resource is population. If you say human beings are a great asset, we need to have right kind of human beings otherwise they will be a liability. We talk about the pending Foreign University Bill, where universities of other countries will come and reform our system. Do you think MIT or Stanford will be coming to India? If they come here, we will not be able to afford it. Ways of US can’t work in India; educationists should formulate an education policy. When the US was built, they decided they will do things differently and not follow Europe. We also have to be innovative and do things differently.
What changes have been brought by you in IMI?
Academic institutions are built around great faculty. When I joined MDI, we had about 12 faculty members, when I left MDI, we were 76. When I joined IMI, there were around 31 faculty members and now, we have 65 members. Our dream is to have around 80 members. Our faculty members have PhDs from good foreign universities or are from IIM. We don’t compromise on quality of faculty members. Our salary budget was around `10 crore when I joined IMI and now it is `18 crore. This is a very productive investment if you want to be a leader. Another thing which I did was to focus on Management Development Programmes (MDPs). We had a very low number of MDPs and training programmes. We must connect with the corporate world and in this endeavor, we should do something for it. You should do different programmes for companies across sector. Today, they are coming to us. You will be surprised to know that in three years, the figure has moved from `2.35 crore to `16 crore in the MDP area.
“If you go to university system, you will find that people only speak about past. Any Vice Chancellor who talks about performance or semester system lands in trouble.”
How important are corporate tieups for management institutes?
If you are not connected to corporate world, you will not know what is happening there. In last six years, we have hired some adjunct faculty members, who have great experience in corporate world. They are managers, general managers, HR president, etc in the corporate world. Eight to nine persons out of our 65 faculty members are adjunct faculty members. We are grooming leaders who can provide thought leadership. We are extremely liberal about faculty development. We have also started Phd programmes to attract scholars. We have pumped around `50 crore for infrastructure and will spend `10 crore more in future.
Given your expertise in the subject of Leadership in Management, what are the five qualities that make a good leader?
hoFirst, one should have humility. Forget mistakes as you can’t build tomorrow on the basis of yesterday. By serving people, you become more indispensable because people start feeling your absence if you are not around. This doesn’t happen with the king. People don’t miss a king for long. He must be capable of integrating the dots and creating a pattern. He should fly at 60,000 feet, but should also be able to walk on ground. He should be a steady thinker and action oriented. He should have a binocular vision with an eye for both the macro and micro detail. He must trust, empower and delegate. He should spend his time in some kind of value addition, not getting involved in files and nitty-grity work. In my view, he should monitor as well as deligate because delegation without monitoring is abdication. He should be liberal, supportive, but ruthless in demanding performance.
How do executive progammes help in overall development of the student who comes with corporate background?
Ideally, a good MBA programme is where students join after three years of experience. In US and UK, the moment people graduate, they get something to do, but in India, if we forget engineering, people who do BA or B Com, don’t get anything to do. This is why we have two-year MBA programme. MBA is for people, who want to move from technocratic role to managerial role. People are joining management education for money. First question they ask is how much salary I would be getting and not what is the quality of education here. So, we first puncture this approach. Most of the management schools are becoming employment exchanges, which is very dangerous. People should come for learning.
How important is accreditation for an institute?
Accreditation is very vital for survival of an institute. Around 67 percent of our population is the young generation. Can you place all of them? It is difficult with even 15 percent growth rate. India in future will supply manpower to China, Europe, Japan, US and Canada. But what kind of people are you going to supply? If you don’t supply the right kind of people, then what will happen? Do you want people to join as a plumber or an engineer? If you have got accreditation from good universities, you can proudly say that I am grooming students of international standards. Accreditation is compulsory for all management schools, but where are the people to do it? People are very cynical now, like the government as they only talk, but nothing happens. You go to the National Board of Accreditation and see how many people work there. What kind of linkages have they got with the industry? They should clarify how they will execute their plan. They say increase of seats will be linked to accreditation. When there is more demand and less supply, corruption begins. That used to happen once upon a time in AICTE also. People used to collect money for a lot of approvals. This is the reason why AICTE got into trouble, today, the fate of AICTE is bleak. Accreditation is enabling role and the regulators should follow it.