Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Dr. Malay Kumar Banerjee is currently working as the Executive Director and Dean of Annex Group of Institutions, Kolkata. He is a polyglot who knows 8 languages including Hindi, English, Bengali, Punjabi, German, French and Arabic. He holds an Honors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from B.I.T.S. Pilani, P.G.D.B.M. from XLRI, Jamshedpur and a Ph. D. in Management. He has an overwhelming experience of over 4 decades. He has gained experience in Industry as well as in the Education Sector. In the Education Sector, he has worked as the Dean, Principal, Faculty, Visiting Faculty, University Paper Setter and Examiner and Executive Director. He has a teaching experience of 15 years, teaching U.G. and P.G students. He is also a Guide to several PhD Research Scholars.
Throughout his career in the Industry, Prof. Banerjee has worked in different capacities like Assistant Engineer, Senior Executive, Expert, Project Manager, Regional Manager, Vice – President Marketing and Projects, General Manager Marketing, Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Director of various large organizations including MNCs and Foreign Companies in India as well as abroad. Overseas, he has worked in a number of countries like the Syrian Arab Republic, Tanzania, Singapore, Bangladesh, Spain,and Oman.
Dr. Banerjee is a Fellow Member of the Institution of Engineers (India), Indian Water Works Association, Indian Institute of Materials Management and the Indian Institute of Welding. He is also a Chartered Engineer. He is a Member of The Calcutta Club and Bidhannagar Swimming Association.
Prof. Banerjee’s interesting experience in the Education Industry
I was in the construction industry for four decades and I've been associated with the education sector for the last 15 years- albeit concurrently. The education industry is a very interesting industry in the sense that we transform students from boys and girls to Industry and Business ready professionals. Using my experience in Industry, I guide the process to transform the faculties and approach and mindset of students into Industry requirements because what industry needs is very different from what the colleges teach. This is what we try to do and this process makes the Education industry very dynamic, innovative and interesting.
A participative leadership philosophy
My leadership style is very participative in that I try to get information from the other industries, other colleges, other education institutions ,both in India and abroad, regarding the most effective pedagogy being adopted and to be adopted.
I map this pedagogy onto the industry requirements, based on the gaps between academia and industry. I discuss this process with my Team and, together, we try to fill this up and this is where my knowledge, experience and leadership style comes in. There are many things in the college curriculum which are not really used by the industry.
It is a pure theory disseminated by highly qualified Faculty with no Industry experience.
So, I try the reverse process, I try to formulate CaseStudies and map on these Case Studies to the Domain which is the Theoretical part of the program. That is what is leadership, that is leading from the front and thus transforming the students.
Tackling communication barriers at Annex College
Well, the first major challenge is communication, soft skills and Presentation Skills. We have around 90% students from the Eastern Region. They have a problem in communication, although they have a lot of knowledge. They cannot express themselves articulately, simply because either they have been trained in their mother tongue or they are used to talking in their mother tongue only and not in English. When they come to the professional arena, then they have to use only English. That is the challenge I have been facing since I entered the education field in this Region. Now to counter the challenge, what we do is we start Non-Credit Courses in these areas right from Day 1. They feel very frightened about giving presentations because they have to stand in front of an audience and talk. This is anticipated by us because most of them have never done it in their life. We also take steps to bridge the gap between introverts and extroverts in terms of communication, presentation skills and other soft skills.
A regularly updated curriculum
We update our curriculum regularly with very active support from the University. We take input from industry leaders with whom we interact during Seminars and Workshops and when they come to our Campus and every week we have a program which we call Institute industry interface where we call industry leaders to interact with the students. We take advantage of those experts’ presence there and we show them the curriculum, they go through it and we ask for their suggestions on how to improve the curriculum to make it as per the requirements of Industry. They give their inputs which we, in turn, transmit to the various Authorities, the Regulatory Bodies and we have been successful in introducing a number of courses and also modifying a number of courses through this means. The process is continuous.
100% Placements achieved through programs and workshops
we have an envious record of 100% placement of all our students.
We manage to do this by having an interaction with the industry as I referred to earlier and through our Industry-Institute Interface program, Induction /Orientation Programs, Seminars, Workshops, where we invite the industry professionals. Other than this, we have many programs where we go to the industry for conducting Executive Development programs or Management Development programs and this builds up our rapport with industry. We also attend a number of workshop seminars. We are members of ICC, that is Indian Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Indian Industry, that is CII, Merchant Chamber of Commerce, Calcutta Management Association. We attend the seminars and workshops regularly for updating our Knowledge Platform and Networking and networking leads to improvement in Placement. That's how we develop our linkages and maintain them.
We are planning International Seminars and National Seminars which we have not conducted earlier. We do have a National Convention where we invite and honour persons of repute but we need to have a structured program where we call particular industry professionals or academic professionals of repute. This will get a lot of delegates from the industry and will help us in networking further in a very large way. For example, if we can conduct such a program at Science City Kolkata with a huge audience if we are able to get Philip Kotler or someone of that stature. That gathering will be mainly of industry professionals who have heard of or have read the Works of Philip Kotler. In my experience, when I attended a Philip Kotler lecture in Mumbai, a few years back, there was a sea of a renowned industrialists who came just to see him and hear him. In that scenario, being from the industry, the networking we did among ourselves was very interesting and fruitful. I plan to do the same thing for Annex college in the near future.
Maintaining a friendly relation with the students
As you can see that I sit in a room that has a glass fronted door and doesn't have a lock, I have told the students that you can come to me anytime for anything, whether it's a personal problem, official problem, academic problem and I make it a point to interact with a different set of students every day. I choose them randomly but in a structured manner. I try to interact with all the students there in a phased manner. I don't do this in a large classroom, I call a set of 5 or 6 students to my room, ask them their problems and I listen to them carefully, understand and analyse the problems and offer solutions and also encourage students to meet me wherever and whenever they can. I keep on moving around the campus during lunch hours, I talk to them during their lunch hours or in the canteen. I try to build a one to one professional relationship.
Top qualities that an aspiring manager must possess
Well, I'll tell you from my personal experience that I have been a Manager at all levels. I held onto the topmost level for about 20 years. The basic qualities the students should have are team building, team playing, team leadership, communication. Communication is extremely important for a student. Lastly, Domain knowledge should be there. If you don't have Domain Knowledge then you are nowhere and domain knowledge without updation is nothing. So, I keep on telling my students that don't throw away your textbooks. Studying the latest Journals from the reputed Business School like Harvard Business is also important.
I have arranged for reading online magazines in the college. We also have a competition where I tell the students to read editions of the magazine or journals. Then, we get external judges so the students can develop a sense of competition among the themselves. Nowadays, when they go for placement interviews, these additional qualities differentiate them from other students, because domain knowledge differentiation is very difficult to do in five minutes. Once questions on these come up and then differentiating students is extremely simple. Basically, all these placement interviews are a process of elimination because vacancies are less in terms of the number of students who apply. So, what does one do? They go through the process of elimination.
I try to encourage my students to be aware of everything that is going on in their own domain so that whichever direction the ball is going, they’re able to catch it.
Goals to develop International Exchange Programs
We are currently working on International exchange programs. International exchange programs not only on pen and paper like many colleges, but we are trying to get real exchange programs for faculties and students, in that students would undergo a number of Credits abroad. Foreign professors would also come here and take up some courses. There will be credit transfer and that credit transfer will be accepted by other foreign universities. If my students want to continue a particular course at a University abroad, whatever credits they have earned will be transferred. This will also result in an upgradation and enrichment of the knowledge platform and also the visibility and Branding / Ranking of the college. In one word, I’m trying to take Annex overseas.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
I'm on the Interview Board of many companies for recruitment. I find that students do not have basic knowledge. You give them data for inputting into a software, then they get the results out. But if you tell them to answer questions on First Principles, particularly for Engineering Design, unfortunately, the current generation can't succeed because they rely on prepared software which saves time but once you come across non-conventional or out of the way inputs, then you appear to be lost. So, I tell them that concentrate on basic knowledge, concentrate on elementary knowledge, rest of the things would automatically fall in place. Don't forget what you have learnt . Continuously update, try to add on and try to upgrade. Ask questions, get the answers and improve your Knowledge Platform.