Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Prof. Shekhar Chaudhuri is currently working as the Director at CBS Kolkata. He is a B.Tech (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering from IIT, Kharagpur and a Fellow of IIM Ahmedabad with specialization in Business Policy. In September 2016 Prof. Chaudhuri was invited to take up the leadership role of Calcutta Business School (CBS) in the capacity of Director and Chair Professor in Strategic Management. Since then, he has been involved in a major transformational exercise to develop CBS into a vibrant, innovative and excellent academic institution.
Prof. Chaudhuri has been a Senior Fulbright Fellow at U. C. Berkeley, U.S.A.; Visiting Scholar at the Twente University of Technology, Enschede, Netherlands; Visiting Professor (Full Time) of Strategic Management in the College of Business and Administration, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois, USA (1989-1991); and Visiting Professor at ESCP, Paris, France. He was the President of the Association of Indian Management Schools (AIMS) during 2006 - 07 and has been a member of the Executive Board of the Association of Management Development Institutions in South Asia (AMDISA) and the boards of several reputed academic institutions like XIM, Bhubaneswar, ASCI, Hyderabad, WBUT (now called ), Kolkata. He has also been a director on the boards of Oil India Limited, TATA Ryerson Limited (now TATA Steel Processing and Distribution Company Limited) and Gujarat Venture Finance Limited. he sits on the boards of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and MDI Gurgaon and Gujarat Industries Power Corporation Limited (GIPCL) and West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation (WBEIDC).
Experience of working in the Education Industry after having worked in the Industry
I have been in the field of higher education since March 1981, the year I joined IIM, Ahmedabad as an Assistant Professor in the Business Policy Area. My experience in the field of education for the last 37 years has been exciting, meaningful and fulfilling. I enjoyed my short stint in the but the field of education has given me great joy as it gave me the opportunities to develop and teach new courses, develop new programmes for students at different levels, lead several well-known institutions and play a significant role in transforming them into vibrant and innovative organizations.
During the time I was at IIM, Ahmedabad, I was able to do original work in the area of technology management with a strategic focus which was a very pioneering work in this area. It provided me with various opportunities to work with leading academicians in different parts of the world and in the Government of India and agencies like The World Bank. The academic experience I gained at IIM Ahmedabad, Southern University, Carbondale, USA; ESCP, Paris and IIT Kharagpur was the base on which my work as Director, IIM Calcutta was founded. Academics given me opportunities not only to learn new subjects but also opportunities to manage organizations and play a crucial leadership role where I could apply what I had learnt and taught. Because of the tremendous diversity in the I found academic life very challenging and exciting.
My leadership should be a motivation to the Institute
My philosophy of leadership at CBS is to act as a facilitator and motivator and help my colleagues develop their capabilities in teaching, research, guiding students and in managerial activities. My personal vision is to be an instrument in the process of making CBS into an excellent institution that in times to come would be known for developing its students into well-rounded managers and organizational leaders, capable of making significant contributions to their organizations.
In the initial years, I foresee that I would have to play a more pro-active role in strategic and operational decision making, but this would have to change as the organization becomes more professional in its working. I would like to see CBS becoming a self-governing institution requiring only a little nudging from my side. It should be able to absorb and develop new practices and become very innovative as this will be more and more important as competition hots up in the field of management education.
Facing the challenge making the Institution pursue excellence
A major challenge that I faced and am facing is to lift the age of CBS from also ran” institution to an institution pursuing excellence
This challenge requires transforming the entire organization that would include the processes of admission, teaching-learning, research, career development and placement, general and academic administration, and curriculum development and innovation, etc.
We are ahead of the curve as far as the curriculum is concerned
We are constantly examining our curriculum to ensure that our students get the best management education possible in our country within the constraints that we have. Initially, our curriculum mimicked the curricula of leading institutions in India. We have also tried to learn from various top management schools abroad. However, we have realized that given our constraints we have to come up with our own innovative solutions.
For example, there is a great need for us to lay great emphasis on the development of communication and soft skills of our students. So we introduced three full courses to achieve this goal. It is increasingly becoming necessary to make our students as “industry-ready” as possible.
So, from this year our students will go for two industry internships, one of 6 weeks duration and another of 8 to 10 weeks duration. We have also introduced several experiential learning programmes with a focus on skill development. In fact, with all the new things introduced by us, I believe we are ahead of the curve as far as the curriculum is concerned.
We intend to continue making efforts in helping students to get final placements
In India, it is imperative for management schools to provide placement opportunities to its students. All management schools recognized by AICTE are required to arrange for a summer internship; however, most of the management schools in India also facilitate final placement. Though no management school guarantees final placement, many of them provide strong support for this activity. For the more reputed institutions or institutions that charge relatively higher fees, it is an accepted fact that they would have to walk the extra mile to ensure that their students get preferred job opportunities. Institutions which aspire to be leaders in the field also have to place considerable emphasis on career development and placement activities.
CBS’ vision is to be a centre of excellence in management education.
Therefore, we believe that it is necessary for us to lay great emphasis on providing our students several opportunities to secure jobs in companies and industries in which they are interested. Toward that end, over the last two years, we have built a department focusing only on career development and placement both for internship and final placement. This department is led by a senior faculty member having significant industry experience as well as officers who have a lot of experience in the industry across sectors.
We have started making exploratory visits to companies spanning different industries across the country and also have been organizing intensive personality development workshops and conducting practice interview sessions on a continuing basis. These efforts have already started bearing fruit. Several of our students got placed in companies in the southern, western and northern parts of the country where the CTC package is relatively higher. We intend to continue these efforts more vigorously.
Managing time for the students despite having considerable
Being the director of the school, I have considerable administrative responsibilities; however, CBS, being a relatively young and small school without adequate human resources in terms of quality and quantity compared to the larger and more established ones it is essential to have a direct link with the student body. Therefore, I make it a point to meet the students on a regular basis to get first-hand feedback about different matters that affect them. This helps us to take corrective actions quickly.
We also have regular meetings with the faculty members and academic officers to get a feel of the ground realities. Besides these activities, I also teach a compulsory course on Strategic Management in the first year. I will also be teaching a compulsory course in International Management in the second year. These teaching activities help me to connect with the students.
Ideas to change CBS’ culture into an environment
I would like CBS to be a vibrant and academically strong management school where faculty members and students grapple with concepts and industry practices on a continuing basis. I would like our students to develop their capabilities to play leadership roles in the organizations, they would be working for and would like to see my faculty colleagues continuously updating themselves with the latest developments in their fields and conducting applied research relevant to their fields of expertise. I would want them to disseminate their updated knowledge to the students in an engaging way.
I would like our students to be innovative in coming up with new ideas around which they can form clubs and use them to further their learning and develop their managerial and leadership skills. I would also like our students to play a developmental role in the community of which they are a part. I would also like CBS to become more self-governing in nature. With that in mind, we have established different committees and task forces that are geared to take our agenda further.
For example, to develop leadership and international management skills through experiential learning, we have introduced a compulsory International Study Tour and an Outbound Leadership Practicum in the Himalayas; similarly, several other committees have been formed that have been tasked to achieve specific goals. With these initiatives, we believe our culture would gradually change over the next few years.
The top qualities that a student must possess for being a manager
I believe students who aspire to become managers and organizational leaders must develop their analytical and communication skills. Instead of trying to memorise what is taught to them in school and undergraduate colleges they should put a lot of efforts into trying to understand the intricacies of various subjects through their own efforts.
Students should also take a lot of interest in developing their English writing and speaking skills.
Another piece of advice that I would like to give them is that they should take interest in sports, team games and others extracurricular activities which would help them to develop collaborative and leadership skills.
Experimenting with the curriculum is one of our goals for the next few years
Over the next few we would like to develop new academic programmes, develop and strengthen our International Student Exchange Programme, continue and strengthen various experiential learning programmes that have been launched and take steps to build a closer relationship with industry.
We would also continue to experiment with the curriculum keeping in mind our students’ learning goals and requirements. Overall, we would like our curriculum to have a healthy balance between the three pillars of excellent management education; knowledge, skills and right beliefs & attitudes.