Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal
Currently working in Alliance School of Business as a Professor, Dr. K. S. Srinivasa Rao took training from Institutions like Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata on Statistical Methods and from Indian Institute of Management (IIM) – Ahmedabad, and IIM-Kozhikode on several aspects like Management Case Study and Decision Support Systems. He got a certification of Training on Data Analytics MSME Development Institute, Chennai (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, Govt. of India).
Dr. Rao has earlier worked with several Institutions like Acharya Bangalore B-School (ABBS) Bengaluru, Aditya Global Business School (AGBS, near Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh), Sankara Academy of Vision (Sankara Eye Hospitals, Coimbatore), Institute of Health Management Research (IHMR-Bangalore), Alliance Business School (Bangalore), Institute for Technology and Management (ITM B-School, Bangalore), Institute for Management Education and Research (IMER-Belgaum), NIRMA Institute of Management (NIM-Ahmedabad), T.A.Pai Management Institute (TAPMI-Manipal), and College of Management Studies (CMS-GITAM, Visakhapatnam) and gained 25 years of experience in Teaching, Research, Administration, Training and Consultancy. During July-Aug. 2017, Dr. Rao has completed his Modular Teaching in Quantitative Techniques at Woxsen Business School, Hyderabad for PGP XP.
Dr. Rao’s experience in the education sector
After 10+2, I had decided that I should become a teacher. I pursued graduation with B.Sc. (Mathematics, Statistics and Physics) and later joined for Masters in Statistics. Then I completed my M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Statistics from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, AP. Joining for Ph.D. gives me a channel to take-up teaching positions at Higher Education level.
Meanwhile, I started my career as a school teacher in Visakhapatnam and taught Mathematics from 7th to 12th standards on a part-time basis. Then I got an opportunity with degree colleges and taught Statistics to B.Sc. and B.Com. students. Immediately after completing Ph.D., I got an opportunity with College of Management Studies, GITAM, Visakhapatnam as a lecturer and taught Mathematics, Business Statistics, Research Methodology, MIS for BBA and MBA students. After working for 7 years at GITAM, I realized that working with autonomous B-Schools will be having more freedom to develop professionally and also our little contribution will be visible in the development of the organization. Then I moved to Nirma Institute of Management, Ahmedabad where I learned maximum about Management in terms of B-School Administration, Teaching with Case Methodology, Conducting Training Programs and Consultancy etc. When I joined at TA Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal, I worked on the Research front and published several articles and presented papers by attending the conferences during my two years’ time.
All this experience made me to take up the responsibility as Director at KLS-Institute of Management Research (IMER), Belgaum and used turn-around strategy brought the Institute to a better position in B-School ranking by focusing on Teaching, Research, Training, Academic Administration and Consultancy. This gave me further confidence to take the responsibility as Dean with Alliance Business School in Bangalore and developed it to better position during my stay in 2006-09. This is the place where I learned how to run programs with a foreign university tie-up and I developed systems in the Institute with the support of the promoters. Later, when I moved to ITM B-School, Bangalore, I tried to bring some reforms in Academics, Examinations and Assessment. The vision of mine in education sector was captured even by media as a cover story along with a selected academicians and industry experts.
This confidence made me accept the invitation as Director of Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR, Bangalore) for their ACTE Programs in Healthcare. The Team Management was instrumental for the success for my two-year contract at the Institute which was a record. Later, I got a similar opportunity as Dean in Sankara Eyecare Institutions, Coimbatore where we got huge grant from Sir Ratan Tata Trust and we worked on several Training Programs and developed SOPs. Data was captured from 13 hospitals periodically and analyzed. This gave me opportunity to understand application of Statistics in healthcare.
Even though I worked for a very short period with Aditya Global Business School, Andhra Pradesh, but I was successful in promoting the concept of PGDM in Andhra where there were some confusions in PGDM over MBA program developed a contemporary curriculum for PGDM with a different pedagogy. Then I came back to Bangalore and joined as Director (Planning & Development) and initiated the process demarking PGDM Program from MBA. Involved in several Road Shows, planned and conducted International Conference, initiated Training Programs, and also the Executive Education Program. Then I got an opportunity to serve at IFIM B-School, Bangalore as Dean – Academics and later worked with Alliance University.
Even though I am in this industry for the last three decades, the interesting point with Academics is that one can always feel young when we work with youngsters and need to abreast ourselves as a a batch of students progresses which is due to the change in Students’ aptitude. Every class gives us a new flight journey experience. Always some new learning will be there for the faculty whenever a new batch comes.
Dr. Rao’s philosophy of leadership and his leadership style
Alliance Business School is a student-centric institute which is slightly different from other premier B-Schools. I have maintained the basic principles which I learned from good B-Schools like insisting on pre-reading and classroom participation, involving students into field-based projects, meeting the timelines for assignment submissions, examining what students learnt in a course by innovative quizzes, error free assessment using normalization of grades. The student learning should be in teams for all academic activities and will be consolidated at an individual level during examinations. This makes the student self-sustained when he/she entered into the corporate world.
Significant challenges faced as the Professor of Alliance Business School
While working as Dean initially, and later as Area Chair, I faced lot of challenges in putting the systems in place. But once things were in place, and when I continued as a Professor, the job became very cool. I maintained my class requirements in terms of attendance, Assignments, Examinations, and Assessment update through Technology. Hence, things were in order despite of organizational changes. I used to conduct e-quizzes where students enjoy and at the same time learning happens.
Dr. Rao’s experience as Dean-Academics at IFIM Business School
Even though it was a short-assignment, I involved in several activities as Dean-Academics. We tried to streamline the Business Analytics Program, I was fortunate to have curriculum rehash during my tenure as Dean-Academics. We have BOS (Board of Studies) comprising of corporate practitioners, academicians and alumni. While designing new course architecture and curriculum, we involved all the stakeholders and made the contemporary curriculum. Also, we introduced choice-based credit system and this made the Institute at par with International Institutions. We conducted orientation cum Foundation Program which was a month-long program and exposed students to Curricular, Co-curricular and Extra-Curricular activities before they entered into the core PGDM program. Also, I got a good experience in involving in International Conference, Media Meetings, coordination of three PGDM programs and Executive and also Distance Learning programs. We streamlined the Examination Results in coordination with the Registrar’s Office.
Curriculum of Alliance School of Business
We tried to develop/revise curriculum in a 3-step procedure. Faculty members of the same area have developed the curriculum by comparing the peer and bench-marked Institutions. This was reviewed by Area Chairs and presented in Faculty workshops and then by the suggestions taken from full faculty and Dean, we released the final version. We introduced more technology-based Teaching to handle Gen-Y students.
Growth of students through placement opportunities available at Alliance School of Business
Students should come forward to take up field-based projects and learn practically. In all courses, faculty should use creativity to introduce such activities to make students learn practically. As a professor, I keep mini-projects in courses like Business Statistics, Operations Research and Research Methodology. This makes students to sell themselves at the time of campus interviews, as they get confidence in communicating on their own knowledge gained as experience from the field-based projects. Students should not look at companies on their brand value and pay package, but they should see how much experience they can get if they join a company, especially during campus interviews.
Important skills according to Dr. Rao that corporate looks in the student
Confidence, Communication, and Consolidation (3C) are important for a student to be in the good books of Corporate. These 3Cs depend on 3V proposed by Prof. Albert Mehrabian of University of California as Visual (our body language or facial expressions or gestures which can attract 55% of the audience), Vocal (includes tone/pitch which can attract 38% of the audience), and Verbal (includes words and content that can attract remaining 7% of the audience). As it was said, ‘first impression is the best impression and also the last impression’, students should follow 3V and through which they get 3C that are useful to them to enter into the Corporate world easily.
Dr. Rao’s relationship with the students being the Professor of Alliance School of Business
The main role of a faculty is to make the learning happen before the class, in the class and even after the class. I insist pre-reading and ask the students to send messages using mobile technology for their doubts. Also, when I divide the students into groups, I ask them to have tele-talks so that I can understand the level of learning happening within the group. During the class presentations, I give marks for the group presentation and also, I assess them individually and ask the peer to give their feedback and sometimes I invite my co-faculty to come and evaluate the student presentations as a neutral empire. This makes the students to have a 360-degree assessment and I am always available for them in campus during office hours and after that through technology.
Ideal school environment, according to Dr. Rao and how he encourages that kind of culture in Alliance School of Business
Punctuality, meeting timelines in all activities, dress code, inculcating newspaper/ book reading habit, participating in curricular activities in all courses altogether create an ideal school environment. This classroom participation requires pre-reading and during class it requires understanding the various views through questioning and discussions, and post class brainstorming with peer and meeting faculty for doubt clarification), participating in co-curricular programs like Quiz/Elocution/Conferences, participation in Extra-curricular activities like sports/games. When the faculty are comfortable with technology, we can reach the students easily. Faculty should not treat the students as children and they should respect them as matured adults and would be executives and make the student to understand the difference between homely and corporate environments.
Top qualities according to Dr. Rao that an aspiring PGDM/MBA student must possess
Aptitude, Inquisitive, Competitive Spirit, and USP (Unique Selling Proposition) are factors that differentiate you from others and their understanding between knowledge and practicality.
Goals in mind for Alliance School of Business for the next few years
To provide support in getting quality admissions, develop contemporary curriculum, train students through field-based projects, personality development, conduct training programs for executives and networking with corporate which in terms will help in students’ placements, inviting alumni to the campus for various activities and developing their belongingness towards their alma matter.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring managers
I always ask students whether they want to go for enjoyment of two years at campus, but struggling for 40 years of career, or two years of hard work at the campus and enjoying 40 years of career with proper learning.
Along with domain knowledge, the students should focus on personality development and even on maintaining proper health to keep themselves fit for the organizational activities once they join the corporate. A consistent academic record along with involvement in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities makes them all-rounders. Instead of ‘chalega’ attitude, they should develop “curiosity in learning” in any task which makes them future managers.