Interview by Yash Panchal
In his current stint, Mr. Sanjay Padode is working as Secretary, Center for Developmental Education (CDE) Society at IFIM Institutions. He is a 1989 pass out from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani with Honors in M.Sc. (Mathematics) and BE (Electrical and Electronics Engineering), Mr. Padode had the entrepreneurial spirit from the time of leaving college and founded Dataline and Research Technologies Ltd. (DaRT). The service was popularly referred to as "India Online" and "DaRT Mail". DaRT was the first real-time market data provider for the Indian Stock Exchanges. He also founded Asian CERC Information Technology Ltd. which developed India's first Order Routing and Risk Management System for real-time financial trading on the Internet.
During the 21 years of his entrepreneurial journey, Mr. Padode was quite surprised by the consistent responses that he received during interviews. The responses stopped at good salaries, houses, and cars. He hardly came across a situation wherein the answer was about building a world class product/service or an organization. This inspired him to quit his company and take the plunge into setting up educational institutions. He joined IFIM Business School in the year 2010 and in the next 7 years built a boutique school into one of the elite six schools which have been awarded the coveted AACSB accreditation. By making effective changes to the curriculum and more so to the attitude of faculty, staff and the students, he was able to demonstrate that Indian educations have the wherewithal to emerge as the best in the country.
He then chose to build an undergraduate program at IFIM College and IFIM Law School at Bangalore. This experiment brought him closer to his goal and fortified his belief that if the change is made in primary and secondary education.
Mr. Padode’s experience in the education industry and what makes it the best sector to work in
I must mention to you that why I moved out from corporate to the education sector. While running a successful IT company, I have recruited a lot of professionals. I must have taken interviews close to 20,000 people in my life to build that kind of a team. During this interaction with people, there was one question which I used to ask “what your aspiration in life is”, most commonly the answer I received was a cushy life with a good salary, good house, and a good wife. Because I started as an entrepreneur, for me it was never money, nor a house, my aspiration was to deliver a product or create a service or do something different. I used to wonder what is wrong, why do people just look at the means to an end as an end itself.
Therefore, after doing research I found out that the problem lies in our education system. What our education system does right from day one is they start education for you to become an employee to work for somebody else. You always depend on that somebody else and the only thing you are going to listen to orders is because he will pay you money. Therefore, our entire education system trains people to work for people and earn money. As a result, the culture is about working for 8 hours and take-home salary. I wanted to change this and this is the reason why I entered into this sector. I also love this sector primarily because I can create an impact in the society by transforming people’s mind.
Mr. Padode’s leadership style
My leadership style is not 100% democratic nor autocratic. It is a very liberal leadership style and it’s the same philosophy which I follow in education. I understand the limitations of people working for me. I tend to give them a lot of room. I am not a pure ‘hire and fire’ a guy. Secondly, I allow people to experiment, innovate, fail and learn. So, because I give them a longer rope, there are some who misuse it. Most of them who are good, they tend to use this room to develop themselves. So, they try new things, they fail, and due to this, they don’t the fear of failure. The first thing is if I am going to hire a human mind, I differentiate it with the robot. I want humans to take decisions to innovate and add value. That is the liberal side and my leadership style.
Changes that Mr. Padode noticed in the education industry over the past years
The challenge of education industry is right from the time India got liberalized. In 1993, we got liberalized only in business and industrial space. We never got liberalized in the education industry. Right from 1993 till now, our education has always been in clutches of regulation. Our regulation has been designed based on the 1960s and 1950s. therefore there is a clear disconnect between what is required by the business and the society and what our education pipeline produces. It does not mean that education system is bad. We do good things, that’s the reason why Indians are doing wonders overseas. We can still do much better things which can make Indians the next set of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. We basically have not yet hit that sweet spot.
Over the period of time, I think education is becoming more liberal. Instead of working by norms and clutches and what is defined by regulators, nowadays people are getting out and experimenting. For example, we have universities like Ashoka. At IFIM, we have a curriculum like PDGM. The best part about it is that at least in context of IFIM, our entire effort to move away from the traditional IIM Based management curriculum that exists in the country and create a completely new curriculum got ratified by accreditation agency like AACSB. Now it’s been acknowledged globally that what we are doing is correct. It also builds confidence in us that what we are doing is in a right direction and our experiment is being successful.
Optimum qualities that management student must possess
In any field of work, not only management, every student in our country or in the world has to have an opportunity to define his/her own purpose of existence just like we have unique fingerprints, unique retina scans, unique DNA. Every person is unique in his/her capability. So, the first thing any system must do is permit the person to the process of discovery, to find out that fingerprint of the person himself. The moment when he connects with his own fingerprint, two questions will get answered for him that what does he want to do that gives them happiness and what does what want to be in terms of status and society. If the desire to do is stronger to the desire to be, he will compromise on the “to be” without being frustrated. If the desire to be is stronger than a desire to do, he will compromise on the “to do” to become what he wants. But again, these are the choices that the individual has to make and nobody externally will make it for him. I think that these are the key things a student has to follow in any field.
Growth of students through placement opportunities available at IFIM B-school
First thing, Placement is the worst measurer of any B-School and therefore, my entire focus at least is to get rid of this thing that every B-School is meant to provide a placement platform. The key reason why a B-School exists is to make every student place-able. If a student feels that he is confident of delivering something and he has full knowledge to deliver and can do it well, I don’t find a reason why will he will not get a job. The idea is, the first thing is to establish the confidence in the student that he himself can get the placement because of his own capabilities and because of his own choices. The moment I get this confidence into the student, then the student becomes employable continuously forever. Because he knows the placement opportunity came to him not because of the B-School but because of himself. Going forward, even if he loses a job tomorrow but that confidence kicks in again, and he says that alright, I will do it again, then this cycle is what is going to make him a happy person. This is a key thing we focus in IFIM Bschool.
Mr. Padode on how IFIM Bangalore stands apart from other institutions?
We provide a platform for self-discovery. In our pedagogy, we don’t have an ‘a la carte’ system, it’s basically a system where a student chooses his own learning pathway and align his learning pathway to the desired aspiration. The key thing is, suppose if you want to achieve something, IFIM’s coursework pushes you to the path closer to what you wanted, but not exactly what you wanted. In our curriculum, what we have done is create learning pathway helping the student hit the bull's eye. He should be first happy and satisfied. What I learned was as per his liking, secondly confidence, that his learning was so high and fruitful.
If these two things are there, the only third factor left is the business environment, and this is subjective to change over the period of time and opportunity will come and when you get the opportunity, you will fly. Our differentiating factor is purposing, mentoring, bespoke curriculum and a lot of practice credits. If you look at the total curriculum, we have 86 credits and out of these, you effectively go to class for 60 credits and rest 26 credits are practice-based. These all practical credits give you the flavor of both social and academic worlds. All the four branches of career are available in our curriculum to offer. We give the students ample choices to pursue their pathway and they also have mentors to guide them along the way.
Qualities which helped Mr. Padode and the management of IFIM to achieve gratified recognitions like AACSB, NBA, SAQS & Association of Indian Universities
First is to believe in ourselves, for me the purpose was very clear for IFIM. I want IFIM to be globally ranked Institution. Even if that means I attempt my entire life to get there, I would rather die fighting than to give up this resolution. I had to translate this resolve to my team and faculty and all the other stakeholders. I think that is what helped us create a very robust process. One of the major recommendations we got was that IFIM is very process driven, our pedagogy is very healthy and some of the inventions like PEP, IIP, SIP are excellent. Finally, again it’s innovation, discovery and basically, it is the zeal, chorus and the will to do it.
Goals for IFIM
We want to go to the next level of accreditation, we want to be a triple crown accreditation school and enter into a global ranking.
Mr. Padode’s suggestions to the youth
We need a lot of youth to look at academia as a career. The reality is that a lot of parents in my generation would have never advocated or advise to become a teacher, I would like your generation to start telling people to become teachers. I can guarantee you in coming future and world ahead, teaching as a profession will become most respectable and paid for the profession in the world to come because we will need a lot of help to clear so much ambiguity, complexity and volatility today. Every person will need a mentor and guide in future. “Get your experience while working as professionals, and give back to society by sharing that experience down to the next generation so that we can build a stronger foundation in a sustainable way”