Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Group Director, S.P. Mandali’s Prin. L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research is a known name in the precincts of education and beyond. He is a recipient of the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship, USA, which acknowledges and honors the contribution of thought leaders across the globe to their respective domains, bringing them together and empowering them for a greater impact.
An ‘Edupreneur’, ‘thought leader’ and a ‘turnaround specialist’, Dr. Salunkhe’s passion for leadership, design thinking and innovation has helped WeSchool carve itself a niche in the space of management education. He has to his credit many pioneering programs and initiatives.
Currently, he chairs the Assocham’s National Council on Education. Also drawing upon his expertise, is the CII’s Sub-committee on Education, which he co-chairs, besides being the part of FICCI Higher Education Committee. Also, he is affiliated with Advisory Committee of the Skill Development under Ministry of shipping.
Some of the achievements Dr. Salunkhe has been honored with include-The ‘Best Education Entrepreneur of the year’ award, The “Grand Davos Award” at the World Communication Forum, Davos 2014, Ravi J. Mathai National Fellow Award by AIMS.
“As one pushes oneself to achieve those milestones, however small they may seem, make a great impact on the personality as they build confidence and determination to take on challenges.”
- Prof. Dr. Uday Salunkhe
Kindly tell us about your experience in the education industry and what makes it the best industry to work in? You have an experience of more than 20 years in the field of academics. Share it with us.
I believe that education is the best way to empower an individual and through it, drive a positive social change. India, in the last few decades, has given the world a number of academicians, intellectuals, innovators, and technocrats that have made their presence felt in the academic as well as corporate corridors. And fired by their success, we have on hand a huge number of young men and women who are moving away from traditional educational programs in higher education, to other modes of education/training/learning to be equipped to take up their rightful places in society. However; their employability has been a big question mark. With my extensive corporate as well as academic experience, I see this as a challenge as well as an opportunity to bring about balance by offering contemporary industry friendly educational programs and pedagogy by combining it with modern technology as a friendly, scalable and affordable tool to offer employment oriented customized educational solutions to our youth.
Being the Group Director of WeSchool, what is your philosophy of leadership? How would you describe your leadership style?
Each one of us has the potential to become a leader. Leaders naturally possess certain qualities, such as compassion, a strong sense of responsibility, commitment, trustworthiness and integrity, and they can also hone their leadership skills through formal training and experience. According to me, leadership is more of an outcome of an experiential process rather than a skill that anyone can be born with. Teachers must step out of their comfort zones to become leaders and leaders whether corporate, spiritual, political and social; must be willing to take on the responsibility of teachers, trainers and mentors.
As the Group Director of a leading B school in India, I am always conscious of the fact that building a center of excellence like WeSchool needs vision as well as the innovative contribution of the intellectual pool within the organization. This consciousness comes from understanding of the ‘self’, through collaborative skills and with a passion to bring about a change in self, organization and society.
How do you ensure a particular skill set amongst the students through WeSchool’s curriculum?
As a leading B-School that looks beyond the routine academic frameworks, we believe that enhanced institute and industry cooperation is call of the day. The academic programs at WeSchool, whether the AICTE approved PGDM /University of Mumbai, affiliated degree programs like MMS/Part time programs like MMM/MFM/MHRM /MIM; are designed by advisory councils of comprising of industry standards and faculty, keeping the industry’s needs and future trends in mind.
WeSchool’s transformative and inventive curriculum guided by the ‘AAA -Acquisition, Application and Assimilation of knowledge’ learning approach, combined with T-Shaped leadership model creates general management professionals, that are well equipped with domain knowledge and functional skill sets. Additionally, the Integrative Manager program is specifically aimed at building analytical and decision-making capability to develop holistic approach towards business.
What are the qualities which, over the years, have helped you and the entire management to create a brand named WeSchool?
When I look back at my own childhood, I always pushed myself to excel whatever the circumstances be. I started my education in a municipal school, I used to attend coaching classes that were held in a private school that was quite far, which meant getting up early in the morning at 5.00a.m., go for the classes between 5.45 to 6.45 a.m. and then leave for the regular full day at the municipal school, while the other students remained in the private school. Walking through the slums of Mumbai, travelling by train, braving the annual torrential downpours and floods in the city all on my own at that young age. That’s when somewhere, the commitment to excel was being built up within. Growing up, I was a keen sportsman, chess player, and loved to trek and climb the Sahyadri hills. I believe that as one pushes oneself to achieve those milestones, however small they may seem, make a great impact on the personality as they build confidence and determination to take on challenges.
Earlier, WeSchool offered programs like MMS, PGDM, and MHRDM etc but during 1999-2000 as we realized the need to reinvent management education, WeSchool started the innovative PGDM programs in E-Biz, Retail and Business Design. Today WeSchool is an internationally reputed B-school that offers Full-time PGDM programs/University affiliated Degrees/Distance education programs / corporate training programs and has a full-fledged Research center. We have come a long way since the days when we were in a small space of 10,000 sq. ft. We moved to the new campus which has a total area of 1, 70,000 sq. ft. and state –of-the –art infrastructure. The year 2000 was the year as we took a giant leap as our vision and physical space changed tremendously, putting us on a different trajectory of growth. The Bengaluru campus of WeSchool was inaugurated in 2008 and soon became a bubbling center of student-academics-industry interaction. As we reinvented ourselves to become WeSchool, we took charge of our future to create new paradigms in management education.
How do you look at the growth of students through curriculum that ensures learning and understanding of best practices from industry and placement opportunities on offer at WeSchool?
As mentioned earlier, the academic programs at WeSchool are designed by advisory councils of respective courses comprising of industry stalwarts and expert faculty, keeping the industry’s needs and future trends in mind. In fact, the industry/corporate leaders are involved right from selection of the MBA aspirants for various programs, framing and updating the syllabi, as visiting faculty, offer internships and projects, industrial visits and training opportunities and off course in guiding our students towards successful placements and career growth. Our strong bonds with industry apex bodies like NHRDN, ASSOCHAM, CII, FICCI etc. and tie-ups with renowned foreign universities certainly support us in expanding our network and create better and bigger opportunities for our MBA graduates as managers as well as entrepreneurs willing to jump on the start-up wagon.
The Career Management Center (CMC) plays an important role right from selecting students for the MBA programs, their induction and orientation, summer internships, mid-term projects, right to their final placements. CMC also undertakes various academic and non-academic initiatives so that students are well equipped to meet varied industry requirements. The CMC also networks with the Institute's alumni for creating more career opportunities, manages Corporate - Institute interface and is involved in brand building activities for the Institute.
How do you prepare students to face challenges of modern organizations and global standards successfully?
Global Citizen Leader (GCL) is a transformational programme that equips our students of fulltime PGDM programs namely, Business Design, Retail, E-Biz, Healthcare and Rural Management (Emerging Economies) with tools to apply their talent and skills in the real-world context while providing them with leadership, innovation and inspiration to develop a deeper understanding and make a difference in self, organization and society. This unique program is designed by WeSchool in collaboration with Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), a top-ranked, global provider of executive education that cultivates creative and democratic leadership—the capacity to achieve more than imagined by thinking and acting beyond boundaries.
Your institute has students coming from different backgrounds as well as different states of the country. How do you build a positive culture or climate among the students?
Diversity in the classroom is always welcomed at WeSchool as the students coming from different states and backgrounds bring their academic expertise, skills, cultural and regional sensitivities and create a blend that helps them understand not only each other and build an atmosphere of camaraderie and trust, but also exposes them to a newer understanding of the variety of flavors in the Indian diaspora. It’s heartening to see engineers, accountants, healthcare professionals, hospitality graduates, technocrats getting together to solve a social pain-point during GCL and learning from each other in the process.
As WeSchool has always had a healthy Male: Female ratio, the ladies enrolled in our various programs bring in a sense of respect to the gender diversity, add to the creativity quotient and help develop a spirit of wonderful competition in curricular as well as extra-curricular activities in the campus.
Organizational policy framework like – ‘No Ragging’, ’No smoking’ in campus, attention to punctuality and attendance, formal dress code – is strictly adhered to at WeSchool. And the campus also becomes a space that they enjoy with a well-equipped gym, weekly Yoga sessions, well-stocked library that has umpteen number of academic and fictional books , databases and films (yes, Hollywood and Bollywood movies included!), film festivals like the ‘Chitrabharti’, freshers’ parties, alumni meets, retail stores during festival season and ‘IMPACT’ our annual cricket tournament among B-schools in Mumbai, likewise ‘Joga Bonito’ at Bengaluru and many more such extra-curricular activities that are organized and managed by the students to a large extent .
What message would you like to give to the youth and the aspiring students?
A large number of aspirants desire to enter a B-school with a repute in order to make their careers in corporate as well as entrepreneurial arena every year. Many students will do so with a lot of introspection as well as online research, actual visits to the campuses and meeting with faculty as well as counselors to arrive at an informed decision but there are always those that need to affirm their thoughts before taking the plunge and start studying and preparing for the competitive exams like CAT, XAT, ATMA etc. that are soon going be around the corner. There can never be a set of prefect guidelines about how to crack them and prepare to get into your dream institute but there are some pertinent pointers that you must consider and think about depending on your individual situation.
Look out for that institutions that offer – Good ranking and accreditations, academic program in sync with your aspirations, cutting-edge pedagogy, multi-disciplinary teaching, networking, global exposure, industry interface and alumni networks combined with mentoring from faculty and industry experts. Look beyond the placement and salary package, for that B-school that will transform you to have a great rewarding lifelong career as a future ready Global Citizen Leader that could be a corporate manager or an innovative entrepreneur with an eco-sensitive heart.