Be­yond the Ob­vi­ous

B- Schools are break­ing the age- old two- year pro­gramme tem­plate to meet the de­mand for niche skills.


B-Schools are break­ing the age-old two-year pro­gramme tem­plate to meet the de­mand for niche skills

After work­ing for 12 years, Lak­shmi Ravin­dran de­cided to take a break from work to look after her two chil­dren. Two years later, she de­cided to re­turn to the cor­po­rate world and started look­ing for work. But there was a prob­lem. While she was at home, the world had moved ahead, with the in­dus­try (her last job ti­tle was re­la­tion­ship man­ager, com­mer­cial bank­ing, HSBC) swear­ing by buzz­words — deep tech and blockchain, data an­a­lyt­ics, et all. She knew she would have to rein­vent her­self. At a loss, some­time around Au­gust last year, she learnt that S.P. Jain In­sti­tute for Man­age­ment Re­search, or SPJIMR, was start­ing a 12-month “Re­turn­ing Women Pro­gramme.” She de­cided to give what the school calls as the world’s only such pro­gramme a shot. She is find­ing it en­rich­ing, al­beit hec­tic, and says that only sup­port from hus­band and par­ents has made it pos­si­ble for her to pur­sue the course, which started this Jan­uary with 20 stu­dents. The aim is to help women who have taken a mid-ca­reer break get back to work. The women should have a min­i­mum work ex­pe­ri­ence of five years and taken a break of at

least two years. The rea­son can vary from child care to at­tend­ing to fam­ily or a med­i­cal emer­gency. The idea, she says, “is to help women up­skill them­selves and get back into the cor­po­rate world on a bet­ter foot­ing.” The pro­gramme teaches reg­u­lar man­age­ment sub­jects but with greater em­pha­sis on get­ting stu­dents up-to-speed on cur­rent trends with the help of an as­signed men­tor and a coach, she says. It is fol­lowed by an in­tern­ship and help in place­ment. “It has built my con­fi­dence and taught me to go be­yond my com­fort zone,” she says. She is now look­ing for­ward to a strate­gic role in the in­dus­try.

SPJIMR’s pro­gramme is a per­fect ex­am­ple of man­age­ment schools try­ing to break out of old pat­terns. The aim is to of­fer spe­cific skills and knowl­edge to thrive in to­day’s com­plex world. One-size-fits-all is passe. Cus­tomi­sa­tion and niche are in.

But what are the skill sets that in­dus­try is look­ing for in to­day's man­age­ment grad­u­ates? Speak­ing at In­dian School of Busi­ness, or ISB, in Hy­der­abad on Septem­ber 23, Vani Kola, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, Kalaari Cap­i­tal, an early stage, tech­nol­ogy-fo­cused ven­ture cap­i­tal firm, made an

PRA MATH RA J SIN HA Found­ing Dean, ISB “We must be more in­no­va­tive with the de­sign of our MBA pro­grammes.”

in­ter­est­ing ob­ser­va­tion. While see­ing merit in sin­gu­lar depth, she un­der­lined the need for multi-dis­ci­plinary learn­ing — lit­er­a­ture with man­age­ment for ex­am­ple. There are times, she said, when she finds that new MBA grad­u­ates strug­gle to write a proper email. “Ev­ery time, I have to sit with the copy and cor­rect it,” she says. “To be­come suc­cess­ful, a multi-dis­ci­plinary skill set is im­por­tant.”

“We must be more in­no­va­tive with the de­sign of our MBA pro­grammes,” says Pra­math Raj Sinha, found­ing dean of ISB, co­founder of Ashoka Univer­sity and co-founder of Ved­ica Schol­ars Pro­gramme for Women, a unique al­ter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional MBA pro­gramme, which will cre­ate a cadre of suc­cess­ful women pro­fes­sion­als for the 21st cen­tury. “I think the two-year MBA and pure one-year MBA have run their course. MBA mixed with other dis­ci­plines is the an­swer. I think there is a lot of room for in­no­va­tion and dif­fer­ent types of pro­grammes.”

So, what kind of in­no­va­tions is he talk­ing about? “To­day, many peo­ple need a crash course in MBA but can­not af­ford to take two years out.” For in­stance, Har­vard off­fers HBX CORe, a primer on the fun­da­men­tals of busi­ness think­ing. It can be taken up by peo­ple from all back­grounds. Re­fer­ring to the Ved­ica Schol­ars Pro­gramme that he is in­volved in, he says, “Get­ting women into a top-qual­ity MBA pro-

gramme is a big con­cern in In­dia. The fact that it is in­ter­twined with liberal arts is im­por­tant as a man­age­ment grad­u­ate needs to un­der­stand com­plex is­sues rang­ing from pol­icy, pol­i­tics and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions to sus­tain­abil­ity and in­clu­sion.”

“Re­cruiters say they want stu­dents who are not only log­i­cal and an­a­lyt­i­cal but are also able to con­nect the dots. So, this year, we have in­tro­duced a com­pul­sory course in man­age­ment and liberal arts; it gives stu­dents a per­spec­tive on phi­los­o­phy, lit­er­a­ture and his­tory. The idea is that the stu­dents need to see the larger con­nec­tions be­tween the phe­nom­e­non and the world. Man­age­ment is be­com­ing less nar­row and more in­ter­con­nected,” says SPJIMR Dean Ran­jan Ban­er­jee. The school, he says, has three com­pul­sory cour­ses “to take care of un­struc­tured prob­lem solv­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness. These are Man­age­ment and Liberal Arts (MaLa); Man­age­ment Yes­ter­day, To­day, To­mor­row; and De­sign Think­ing (in its third year now).” These cour­ses are part of its flag­ship two-year Post Grad­u­ate Diploma in Man­age­ment, while de­sign think­ing runs across all its five pro­grammes.

Then, there are schools that are tak­ing a deep dive into se­lect sec­tors. For in­stance, IIM- Ban­ga­lore has started a gen­eral man­age­ment pro­gramme for aero­space and avi­a­tion ex­ec­u­tives. It has signed an MOU with Toulouse Busi­ness School, France, for de­sign­ing, de­vel­op­ing and de­liv­er­ing this long du­ra­tion cer­tifi­cate pro­gramme. A to­tal of 67 stu­dents signed up for the first batch, of which 50 are pur­su­ing the aero­space MBA from Toulouse Busi­ness School. Or, con­sider IIM-B’s Gen­eral Man­age­ment Pro­gramme for Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives ( GMHE) in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Apollo Med­skills. The pro­gramme, says the school spokesper­son, “at­tracts ap­pli­ca­tions from var­i­ous sec­tions of the health­care in­dus­try. The av­er­age work ex­pe­ri­ence of the par­tic­i­pants is 10 years and they come from com­pa­nies and hospi­tal chains such as Narayana Health, Frost and Sul­li­van, In­de­gene Lifesys­tems, M.S. Ra­ma­iah Memo­rial Hospi­tal, Apollo Hos­pi­tals, K.G. Hos­pi­tals, Philips Health­care, KIMS, Cell­works Re­search In­dia.” Health­care is one area that is at­tract­ing other B-schools too. For in­stance, three years ago, IIM-C had started a health­care man­age­ment pro­gramme in part­ner­ship with the pri­vate sec­tor. This year, it has taken to­tal own­er­ship of the pro­gramme and rechris­tened it as PGCHM (Post Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate in Health­care Man­age­ment). It is a one-year, full-time pro­gramme. “It has 30-odd par­tic­i­pants. Of this, over 20 are doc­tors and the rest are health­care ad­min­is­tra­tors,” says Ut­tam K. Sarkar, Dean (New Ini­tia­tives & Ex­ter­nal Re­la­tions) at IIM-C. “Apart from a standard man­age­ment course, there is also em­pha­sis on ar­eas like busi­ness an­a­lyt­ics,” he says. ~

RAN­JAN BAN­ER­JEE Dean, SPJIMR “Re­cruiters say they want stu­dents who are not only log­i­cal and an­a­lyt­i­cal but are also able to con­nect the dots.”

IIM, Ban­ga­lore has started a gen­eral man­age­ment pro­gramme for aero­space and avi­a­tion ex­ec­u­tives

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