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Interview:Prof. Kamlesh Mishra, President & CEO, Cordia Group of Institutions

How do you look at your association with the University?

After completing my term as Vice Chancellor of Auro University, Surat, I joined as President of Cordia Group of Institutions and CEO of Lord Rana Education City at Sanghol near Chandigarh. This change has been a blessing in disguise. A large percentage of students in this institution come from rural background representing the marginalized segment of Indian society to a greater extent. These are the type of students who really need help since it is only good education that can help them break out of the cycle of poverty. Cordia Group of Institutions has given me the opportunity to work with students who need to be educated, transformed, and showed the path to making a better life for themselves and their families. The task is challenging as most of the students have not had a very good start in life but then they deserve to have the same quality of education as anyone else. I look at my association here as a way to make an impact on the life of those who are deprived and downtrodden.

Any of the significant challenges you faced as a Vice Chancellor?

Working as an administrator or a Vice Chancellor of a University in India is a challenge.At times it becomes very difficult to bring a balance between the needs of all the stake holders such as students, faculty, staff, and the ownership. The objectives of each stakeholder are many times in direct conflict with each other. When such a situation arises, the growth of the university takes a back seat and as an administrator you are more into firefighting than building a good university. The root cause of such events is that in India, private education is a family enterprise unlike in the West where the governance of the university vests with a strong board and the finances are controlled by a Board of Trustees. Today, we see a very large number of India's corporate sector entering in the business of education. This is another form of expansion of their business empire. Such rush does not exist in the western world where industry only provides funding in form of donations to the endowment funds of the universities. So in my view, looking at the current scenario building a great university in India will remain a mere dream unless significant change in thinking takes place.

How do you look to enhance the value of MBA program with the Institute?

It's good to start by asking a very straight question; should there be a difference between an MBA program, an M.Com Program and a MA program in terms of value addition to a student? They are all unique in their own areas but they should add value to students. So in today's world when we talk about value addition, we are perceived to be referring to the ability to be employable. Unfortunately except for a few MBA programs in the premier institutions, all of the above programs are the same in terms of value addition to students. This is one reason why the demand for MBA programs is on the decline. In my view, value addition to a student comes from the fact that they have been trained well in a rigorous program. They must be transformed into thinkers who have a creative bent of mind. They must have the confidence to excel in the world of business with good communication skills and above all, they should develop the ability to navigate in turbulent times. Many of these skills cannot be taught in a classroom environment but are acquired through interactions with faculty members and creating an institutional culture of including students in problem solving situations. Except for about 20% of the institutions in the country, the internship programs for MBA program is the biggest farce in higher education. There is absolutely no learning and neither is the industry interested in training the students. Summer immersion programs are a great idea only if they have the desired outcomes. Indian industry also needs to get emancipated to the realities that they will get the type of people the way they train them.

How do you stand against the IIMs/IITs/NITs in Management & Engineering?

Truly speaking it's a very unrealistic comparison. IIMs, IITs, and NITs are designed to be the centers of excellence in the country. These are the institutions that attract the best of the minds; students who have the desire to excel and make a difference. These are well funded institutions with the best teachers from around the country and abundance of resources. None of our institutions in the private sector can stand against them in terms of output produced and I don't see anything coming up in the next fifty years. Only great students and great teachers with great amount of resources make a great institution. Private institutions have a long way to go to achieve that status but at the same time government policies have been equally responsible for the decline in the quality of education in the private sector by freezing their ability to raise funds through fees.

What according to you are the top 2 things that the MBA program teaches and nobody else teaches?

The MBA programs all across the country more or less follow an identical curriculum with just a minor difference. So the success of an MBA program is dependent on how a given curriculum is delivered to the students and this is where all the difference comes between institutions. It's not all about what is taught but many times a more important element is how it is taught. In the MBA programs that I have been associated with, I ensure that the delivery is based on the principle of 20:30:50; which means that 20 percent of the learning should come from hearing, thirty percent should come from observing and 50 percent of the learning should come from doing things. Sometimes this is referred to experiential learning.The second and a more significant part is to be able to encourage students to ask questions. It is the art of questioning that leads to search of knowledge but somehow institutions tend to shy away from this practice. Students should be taught life skills, learning to learn, learning to love and most of all learning how to create a legacy during their life time. I focus very heavily on outside the class room teaching which includes; character building, national pride, respect for differences, managing ego and anger. These are the important elements in making an individual whole.

How your curriculum ensures best practices of Industry?

Curriculum design is an important aspect of educational planning process and it is very relevant that what happens in the industry should be accounted for in our teaching and learning formats. However, it is also important to note that educational institutions through research can feed the industry with facts and processes. All in all, it's a two way process that ensures good practices. In the curriculum that we follow, I ensure that there are no prescribed text books for the course. Instead, we use a reading list of text books that can be used as a reference by the students. The problem with using only text books is that they have a four year knowledge gap. What is current will come in the book two years from now and what is in the books is already two years old. Thus, to keep in tune with the current practices in Industry, we follow a method of using reading packs which includes current articles and some chapters of current books. This ensures that students have access to reading material which is up-to-date and relevant to the time we are in.

Your take on employability vs placements w.r.t MBA program?

It is a fact that the demand for MBA programs across the country is driven by the ability to land up with a job after completion of the degree. I feel that students should focus more on becoming employable by acquiring skills for the new economy. This will ensure that they will have a good career in the industry rather than having just a job. Unfortunately, many institutions do not focus on training their students for high level of employability but focus more on getting them a job. On the other hand, students also do not make efforts to improve their employability during their degree program. The mindset of students has always been that of dependence on the institution for getting a job but in most cases this does not lead to a successful career in the industry.

What is your message to the students who wish to join University?

Students who wish to join an MBA program should come with a clear understanding that there are four aspects that they need to develop by the time they complete the program. First, they must acquire as much knowledge as possible and use the institution/university as a launch pad to develop the curiosity to understand how the business world works. Second, they should develop the attitude for success and take responsibility for their own actions. Third, they need to acquire the skills that are necessary to succeed at the work place, and finally the students have to be ready for some hard work during the completion of the program. These are the necessary requirements that students have to meet to excel in any MBA program.

How do you look at enhancing student-industry interaction at University?

At Cordia Group of Institutions we place emphasis on real time interaction with the industry. This is done in various formats case in point industry based group projects, industry mentorship program for students, industry speakers, industry workshops for students, industrial visits, and above all topic based seminars presented by industry experts. In the time to come, we have plans to introduce new and innovative concepts to engage with industry such as the CEO Conclave.

Any advice to Young Students?

Over the last 25 years I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with students. The interactions I have had with them have left a lasting impact on my life and work. There have been great success stories and some failures as well. Despite all efforts from my end I could not turn around some of them and that is always going to be my biggest regret in life. But in this process of success and failures I have found that there are so many things in life that are not in your control and there is not much you can do about them. However, there are so many things that are in our control and we fail to take advantage of them at the right time.

We are today, faced with a major transition in our social structure and when you begin to speak the truth it somehow takes the shape of philosophy. This is more so because I don’t think truth has much value to most people. It sounds like preaching but the fact is that there will be no change in what constitutes” TRUTH”. It is for each of us to determine the degree of truth we can live with or without. I do find that sometimes many of my students have always felt that they are not responsible for any of their actions; and that others are responsible for everything that goes wrong. This is what keeps them away from success stories that are written in books of history.

The more I think about what determines success, the more I begin to feel that dependence on destiny is the biggest barrier to growth and success. We are, many a time too hung up on good luck and bad luck concepts. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this view, but I have always benefited from this ideology. We should also learn to enjoy the success of other people around us and give up envy so as to make life better for all.

So moving from philosophy to reality, what determines success is the million dollar question from a student's perspective. Well, the fact is there is no set formula for it that can be packaged and sold in the market. But I have always felt that our ability to see the future and fine tune our perspective does help prepare us for success. The second important aspect is our ability to act on an opportunity that is before us and to take action that will result in growth. Many a time we are unable to make use of the opportunities because we are so stuck with our per-conceived notions of growth and success and we become too short sighted. Let me give you an example, as a student you are so fixed on what you want, I want a job that gives me Rs. 10 lakhs, I want to be close to home, I don’t need job that has travel etc. The problem is that this type of thinking does not lead to growth in life. The important thing is to enter the door when it is open. Always remember, you will never get anything before time and never something that you don’t deserve. So sometimes it helps to reflect back on our own abilities and skill sets. Begin to make changes where required so that you can catch up later in life.

The next important area to think is how many sacrifices you can make today for a better tomorrow. The choice is with us and we are the only ones who are responsible for it. You can have a lot of fun today for a short time or you can have some amount of fun for a very long time. These are the choices that we all have to make in life. We can run away from everything in life but cannot run away from ourselves. So lead a balance life where everything you do has a purpose and is designed towards achieving that grand vision you have built for yourself. I am sure that we all will agree to this but it is very difficult for us to follow and probably that is what makes the difference between people who can design their success and those who cannot.

Always remember, you are the one who has to write your success story, if you don’t have passion for it then why should anyone else have an interest in it. So if you are looking to do well on your degree program. Reflect back and see what you have done so far, if you are looking for a job. Reflect back and see what attempts have you made for it on your own, if you are looking for a promotion then reflect back and see if you have done enough to deserve it.

These are the questions that will give you the answers to many of your frustrations and dislikes in life. Take charge of your life and change everything that you want to for a better life in the future.

 

Brief Bio:Prof. Kamlesh Mishra

Prof. Kamlesh Mishra was born in a small village of district Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh in a family of farmers. His early education was in Hindi medium in the village school. He started his convent education in the city of Mysore in 1965. After completing his Pre-University from Mysore he joined the Allahabad University from where he completed his B.Com and MA in Economics. Prof. Kamlesh Mishra after qualifying his IAS preliminary examination gave up a possible career and moved to United States of America in 1983 and completed his Ph.D. in Economics from Northeastern University, Boston and taught there as a lecturer until 1990. From 1991 to 1994 he served as an economist at the University Center Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh, USA.

In mid-1994 Prof. Mishra returned to India to join the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi as a consultant and then as an HDFC Associate Professor. As a member of the NIPFP team, he provided technical advice and support to the 1st Punjab Finance Commission. In 1996 he received a grant from USAID to undergo advance training in Financial Management of Local and Regional Governments from HIID, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA.

He served as the Director of IILM, New Delhi from 1996 to March 2000 and was the founding Director of IIMT from 2000 to 2008. He was the Director of G D Goenka World Institute, Gurgaon until September 2010. He served as the Founder Vice Chancellor and Provost at Auro University, Surat, Gujarat and completed his term in October 2014. Currently, Dr. Mishra holds the position of President & CEO of Cordia Group of Institutions.

Dr. Mishra is a renowned strategist and an innovative leader in conceiving, organizing and managing educational and research organizations. He combines in him qualities of vision; building, organizing, motivating and leading teams to perform at their peak level. He is well regarded as a thoughtful leader and speaker on the formulation and implementation of corporate strategies, knowledge and innovation management. He has a rich experience of creating and transforming institutions. He has a special interest in turnaround and Greenfield projects in the field of higher education.

 

Prof. Mishra has a rich and long term experience in institutions building and is known for his practical approach to quality in higher education. He is a team builder and has created institutions which are recognized for their work culture and free environment for academic pursuits.

Specialties: Project Development and Institution Building in the field of Higher Education. Core competence in conceptualization and setting up institutions of higher learning. Negotiations for overseas partnership in the field of education.

Last Updated - 02 Apr 2016

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