Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal
Dr. Saji Kuriakose is currently working as the Professor and Director of Farook Institute of Management Studies (FIMS), which is run by prestigious Farook college established in 1948. He is an MBA graduate with specialization in Marketing, PG diploma holder in International Trade, M.Phil. in Management and Ph.D. in the area of Marketing from Kannur University, Kerala. He has also received the status of “Accredited Management Teacher” (AMT) from the prestigious All India Management Association (AIMA) New Delhi. His earlier academic related assignments include 11 years of service as Professor and Head, Department of Management Studies at MES College of Engineering, Kuttipuram (the first self-financing Engineering college of Kerala). He commenced his career with one of the renowned corporates of India (Nirma Ltd.) at Ahmedabad, Gujarat and served this organization at its corporate office for about eight years at senior level managerial positions looking after Marketing and International Business Operations.
He had also worked with the team (NIM) in setting up the prestigious Nirma Institute of Management (NIM) (Now part of Nirma University, Ahmedabad) and served this institute both as a visiting faculty and a special officer during its inception period.
Dr. Saji has been involved in management education, training, research and consulting since 20 years. He has carried out several MDPs for public and private sector organizations in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. He has organized several FDPs for engineering, commerce and management teachers in the area of teacher and teaching effectiveness, Marketing, and International Business. He provides consultancy services in the area of Marketing and Export Management to several organizations in and around Kerala.
He has a strong passion for research, especially on consumer behavioral dimensions. He has so far published 32 papers and articles in leading Indian and International Management journals, Magazines, and dailies including “The Hindu’ and has presented 25 research papers in national and International conferences. He has developed two case studies in the area of women entrepreneurship and marketing. He also provides consultancy services in the area of Marketing and Export Management to several organizations in and around Kerala.
Dr. Saji’s experience in the education sector
I joined academics after working in the corporate world for about 10 years. Many of my friends considered it to be a foolish decision. However, I never felt it that way as I have always enjoyed spending time with youngsters. Being in the education sector or being with young minds keeps us and our mind always young. It helps us to be with the time and also to force us to learn the latest things.
Dr. Saji’s philosophy of leadership and his leadership style
As the Director of Farook Institute of Management Studies (FIMS), my philosophy of leadership is to ensure that each student of my college makes some meaningful contribution to the society. I always insist my mind the need for igniting the young minds to think beyond becoming just a Manager, to be a leader in any sphere of life and make meaningful contributions to the world. Be it in business, social life, politics, religion or any such area, doing something with a vision for the future is important. In our country, there is no dearth of managers but there is a huge dearth of leaders who can impact the life of common man.
Transformation of young minds towards making them the leader of tomorrow is not an easy task. Winning their hearts and developing trust is very important in this transformation process. Therefore, my leadership style has always remained to be the ‘transformational leadership’ style.
Significant challenges faced by Dr. Saji as the Director of Farook Institute of Management Studies
I was not very happy with the physical and academic aspects of Farook Institute of Management Studies (FIMS) when I took over charge as Director. I wanted to bring several changes at our B-school which needed the support of management, staff, and students. Winning their trust and making them believe in me was the major challenge. Changes were initiated and implemented without much resistance by developing trust in me by all stakeholders. The process was gradual but not slow.
The curriculum of Farook Institute of Management Studies
With respect to curriculum, we don’t have much of a control as we are affiliated with the University and suppose to follow the syllabus developed by them.
They do revise the syllabus in due intervals, but not as fast as an autonomous or deemed University. In order to address this issue and to educate our students on the latest trends, we have introduced a super specialization program in all functional areas of management. It’s a certificate course of a short duration taught along with the University syllabus. For example, “Digital Marketing” was the super specialization we offered last year to our marketing students.
The growth of students through placement opportunities available at Farook Institute of Management Studies
We have been able to improve the placement scenario at our campus in the last five years. We have been able to associate with more than fifty companies this year for the placement of our students and have also received seven international overseas placements offers last year. Our students are happy with the placement opportunities available. Our alumni are working in various corporate houses across the globe, which adds value to our campus by way of projects, summer placements, and final placements.
We are leveraging our alumni base, corporate relations with our faculty members and management committee members to improve our placement scenario in terms of percentage and package.
Goals in mind for Farook Institute of Management Studies for the next few years
I have several goals for my institute for the coming years with respect to academic results, placements, infrastructure etc. But my main concern is to see where my students are after 5 years of completing their course at our institute. Our aim is to see each one of them being successful in their careers and making some meaningful contributions to the world.
Dr. Saji’s relationship with the students being the Director of the Institute
Right from the first day of their admission interviews, I start spending time with the students. Understanding each student’s caliber, attitude, future plans, the purpose of doing MBA, and so on. We conduct bridge program, personality development workshops, outbound training conducted outside our state and several similar programs through which we get an opportunity to be with them and develop a close relationship with them. Traveling with them, having open communication with them, periodic one to one interaction, adopting participative management style to sort out student-related issues etc. make us build a relationship with our students. I respect them as I respect my faculty members. Even if it is a case where I happen to fire anybody, I try to convince them why I have done so and at the end of the day, talk to them in order to ensure that they don’t go to sleep with gut feeling.
The ideal environment of an institute according to Dr. Saji, and how does he encourage that kind of culture at FIMS
Our management always insists to keep a secular environment in the campus. We have a good mix of students from all the religions and all parts of our state. We celebrate all religious events. In due intervals, we invite people to our campus to remind our students the need for being a team player, a secular thinker, and develop great concern on social issues. We encourage our students to respond to social issues and needs and I am happy to share that our students have conducted more than 25 events in the last two years that received a very good media attention (both print and visual).
Top qualities according to Dr. Saji that an aspiring manager must possess
I always talk to my students about the success triangle of Managers. One side of the triangle talks about the need of having knowledge on your domain area as well as general areas. The second side speaks about the need of having skills (such as communication skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, people skills etc.), and the third side about one’s personality (attitude, values, commitment, sincerity, responsibility, hardworking, etc. If one takes care of all these aspects, one can definitely be a successful Manager.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
The youth of today has all the positive ecosystem to grow well and be successful with their own interest. Opportunities are tremendous. All they need is the burning desire to be the best and aspire for the best. Desire and dream without hard work will not bring any result. Hate mediocracy and strive for superiority. Make ‘passion for success’ as the mantra of your life.