Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Dr. Rahul Gupta Choudhury is currently working as the Associate Professor & Area Chair-Marketing at IMI, Bhubaneswar. He has completed his schooling from St. Xavier’s and Chemical Engineering from NIT, Durgapur, India (1987). He is a postgraduate (MBA) from IIM, Lucknow, India (1989) and holds a doctorate degree from Alliance University, Bangalore, India. He has worked in the corporate sector for 14 years, rising to the general manager level. He has worked in multinationals and large corporate establishments gaining valuable experience. He was also a Fulbright scholar from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA.
After gaining experience in the corporate world, Dr. Choudhury shifted to academics, teaching in top private business schools in India. He has now been in academics for the last 14 years. He is quite active in research and has published many papers in reputed national and international journals. Some more papers are on the verge of getting published. He has participated in many national/international conferences so far and has written one book chapter on emotional branding. Moreover, he is the recipient of the Best Faculty Award.
The education sector is contributing significantly by taking the country forward
My induction in the education industry has been the result of a shift from corporate to education. After 14 years of corporate experience, the shift was the culmination of some very good advice backed by a high level of wisdom from different quarters of my acquaintances. I have never regretted my decision. In fact, I am glad that I made that decision. The education industry, over the last 15 years, has been very fulfilling and satisfying for me.
There are many rewards of working as a faculty. On the macro level, you obviously make an impact on the lives of numerous students – who, in turn, go on to contribute positively to the economic landscape of the country. Good higher education is something that the country needs now. Apart from being a part of an industry that is taking the country forward, there are personal rewards for doing this. The first and foremost is the satisfaction of doing a higher order job.
Teaching and research combined makes you think and makes good use of your intellect.
The return from the students and the faculty fraternity is quite fulfilling. Then one has the luxury of determining his or her own quality of life. You can work at your own pace and it does not matter whether you work at home or from the office. This flexibility of being able to work anywhere and any time of your choice is a great benefit of this profession. Somehow, I feel that the possibility of individual recognition and respect is more in this industry. Achievement of superordinate goals and respect of the individual are a core benefit of this profession. The icing on the cake is the respect which the society gives to this profession. It is still a noble profession and will continue to remain so in a long time to come.
A leadership style which teaches teamwork and spirituality to the students
I am totally democratic in attitude and . People change over a period of time and so have I. In my younger days, I had a streak of authoritarianism in me which has been substituted to a major extent by norms of democratic . While consensus building is important to me, being assertive sometimes helps in achieving results.
So, according to me guiding and facilitating people towards a broader goal within the confines of democratic norms is more effective in bringing about synergies within the organization.
In the education industry, inspiration is the key. Professors have to inspire students to achieve their goals. Simultaneously they have to set high standards for themselves. This will get reflected not only in their teaching or but also in the overall sense of their conduct in the institution, which includes their personal lives as well.
The world is passing through a stage where we need to inculcate the importance of a value system and high ethical in the lives of our students. and spiritual identity of the self as a guide for achieving our life goals is something our students need to believe in and practice. As my students are prospective MBAs, there is an even greater need to balance the materialistic goals of the self and the ‘other self’ with that of the requirements of a balanced life.
The disparity of level of intellect and maturity among the same set of students is a significant challenge faced by the professors
I joined IMI last year. I shifted to Bhubaneswar from Bangalore. Always the biggest challenge with a new beginning is to get accepted by your colleagues and other team members. My experience of almost 30 years helps me to appreciate the challenges and find an appropriate response to the circumstances. The situations are sometimes aggravated by my own introvert nature. However, the best solution provider is time. Postgraduate MBA students are also a major challenge sometimes.
Taking leadership of these young adults with a somewhat skewed perception of the world around them is sometimes difficult. The major challenge is the disparity of level of intellect and maturity among the same set of students. The outcome, however, of proper communication and leadership skills is always very encouraging and fulfilling. Overall, IMI is a great place to work with its underlying commitment to a democratic work culture and the flexibility of individual choices, coupled with a culture of camaraderie among colleagues.
IMI makes sure to match the level of its curriculum with global standards
We, at IMI, place a lot of importance on our curriculum. The pivotal role the curriculum is played by the faculty. Most of our faculty members have a rich industry experience backed by solid academic achievements. On top of this, our interaction with the industry is very intense. IMI, Bhubaneswar is a branch of IMI, Delhi which was set up in 1981 and is currently one of the best business schools in the country. These institutes are being promoted by a corporate house – namely, the RP – Sanjiv Goenka group, based out of Kolkata.
As you can infer, our credentials and understanding of business and its various domains are of a high degree. In spite of our own inherent strengths, we keep on studying the curricula of the best business schools not only in but also abroad. In fact, we are trying to put in place an academic structure which will be on par with the best business schools in the world. We always involve industry experts not only in the of course but also in individual course content based on their feedback. There is also a process in place to take feedback from our own alumni, which we take quite seriously.
The changing reality of education and the changes which are required for further
Over the past few years and possibly decades, the education industry in India has changed dramatically. We can say that we are waking up to a new reality – dictated by the ambition of the country to see itself on the top of the world, and that too, not only in education but in many other domains as well. In business and in economic terms, we have made rapid progress – and that has changed our .
A significant number of our own business school products have made their presence felt in the top echelons of business around the world. However, all of us hope that it is not a case of too little too late. The reality, however, is that our educational institutions have not been able to make a mark to that degree, especially when compared to that of our China. That is because of many reasons.
One of the major inabilities of the educational institutions has been the satisfaction of being just knowledge disseminators and not giving adequate importance to research or knowledge creation
While this being corrected now, although, a slow pace, the issue of adequate investments in the education sector remains unresolved. There is also a need to get proper guidance from and work in collaboration with the global leaders in their respective domains.
In the recent past, we have heard corporate chiefs talk about deteriorating standards of education and the vast number of unemployable graduates. While those comments were mostly directed at technical institutions, it is equally applicable to a major portion management educational institutions. The corporates our students to be ‘industry-ready’ (whatever that means) and be productive from day 1. While this is a very high expectation especially from average institutions, students need to have certain skill sets in order to progress and contribute to the organization.
While our students’ performance is somewhat satisfactory in the technical areas and the corresponding theories, they seem to lack proper soft skills. So, good communication and skills are very much required in order to work in a team or even build a team. This is an area where the corporates need to pitch in with their training programs as well. In some places, the domain knowledge imparted is not adequate and thus leads to a scenario.
Our traditional education system does not encourage the students to learn to think independently and this becomes a hindrance to high performance in the corporate world
What we observe is that students tend to continue to study in the traditional method with their objective of just garnering marks. That is one of the major impediment to learning and future failures and disappointments when faced with the corporate reality. Another area of concern is the students’ general reluctance to do and hence landing up in jobs which not provide adequate learning and value to their careers. This leads to further disappointments which aggravate their confusion regarding situations and expectations.
An ideal school environment teaches students the value of freedom of expression, teamwork, continuous learning and extra co-curricular activities
An academic institution thrives on freedom – freedom of expression, freedom to think on its own, and freedom & accountability of its own course of action. The ideal school environment should first encourage students to be an independent thinker and to be responsible for his own actions. Creativity and innovation are very important for students to thrive in the modern corporate culture. These qualities should be encouraged simultaneously, discouraging blind followership. Students should learn to question everything and not give up till their analytical and logical mind is satisfied. This ‘everything’ encompasses all aspects of our lives in society, and not be limited to the academic aspects only. Even in management institutes, the emphasis should be on the overall development of the student and not only on the proclivity of garnering marks. Participation in sports and games is important so is in other extra-curricular activities.
It is very important that students learn to work in teams from a very early stage. The submerging of ‘I’ in of the ‘WE’ is critical.
The belief that one individual alone cannot achieve what is expected by the organization or society is something that should always be present in the subliminal consciousness of the students. Achieving all this is not a major challenge. We have no other option but to move away from this practice of rote learning. It is just a matter of right thinking people determined to implement the right systems and processes with commitment. Continuous learning has to take place under the guidance of the teacher-mentor and this has to happen from the primary education stage only. In the management education method that we have borrowed from the West, there is ample scope of all these features. Unfortunately, the implementation in most cases is below par. The broader aspect of overhauling the primary and secondary education in this direction is fraught with a lot of challenges in our country. These may be addressed separately.
The top qualities that a management student
The current system assesses the analytical and logical abilities of a student before admitting him to the institute. The selection process in some institutions also tests the students on their communication skills – written as well as verbal. Domain knowledge and general knowledge is also tested. As I have mentioned earlier, communication skills and interpersonal skills are the major requirements to succeed in business management. In addition to that, of course, is the mastery of their domain; a fine intellect does go a long way in helping a student become a complete professional.
What an aspiring professional must keep in mind is that in order to succeed in business management, one has to be a doer as well as a thinker. The actions must flow out of a rigorous thought process which has been well honed over a period of time.
A person must have a high energy level and display initiative at all facets of his professional commitments
It will also definitely help if the person is realistically ambitious, both for himself as well as for the organization. This trait should continue to be displayed at all levels of his career path.
Future goals of the Institute to prepare the students for a fruitful corporate career
My institute is comparatively a new institute, established in 2011. As mentioned earlier, this institute in Bhubaneswar has been set up as an extension of IMI, Delhi which was set up in 1981. The credentials of the IMI brand as a management education system has already been established in the minds of its stakeholders, primarily tts and their parents.
However, we have not lost the appetite for growth and also realize that growth is the only way forward for a sustainable healthy future. So, we are considering various options right now and the final decision will depend on the expected higher education bill being contemplated by the central government. As of we have three branches – namely Delhi, Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. The infrastructure in all these campuses . We may decide to establish more branches in the country or even abroad. This will not only benefit more prospective students but will also be a good experiential learning for us.
Another before us is to set up a University in any of the branches in India. We will have to wait for a little more time before we make a decision on any of these initiatives. In the meantime, we are focusing on improving our curriculum further. All our efforts are directed towards becoming more innovative and creative so that our students are better prepared for a fruitful corporate career.
Advice for students
One important thing that students need to understand is that there is no substitute for preparation and practice (hard work). Business management is NOT rocket science. It is all about methodical and systematic preparation. Students with a varied range of intellectual capacity have become very successful in the corporate sector. Hence, the focus should be on maximizing the clarity of our thought processes and establish a clear path for the implementation of the same.
As long as we have clarity in our minds, the results will follow with proper implementation. This conceptual clarity starts right from the preparation stage and stays right up to the finish. Most of the times, the of an is dependent on the quality of the clinical precision required. At the end of the day, it is all about the mind and how we control it. For this reason, it is imperative that we maintain a positive frame of mind. At every step of our lives, there will be questions and doubts – some emanating from within and some from outside. Faced with a challenging situation, we can win and get over our circumstances only if we are in a positive frame of mind.