Interview by Kritika Gupta

Jagran Lakecity Business School

Dr. Nilesh Khare is currently designated as the Director of Jagran Lakecity University Business School, Bhopal. Having more than 20 years of experience in consulting, social entrepreneurship, corporate life and academic in India, the USA and UAE, he has expertise in Advisory & Corporate Training. His qualification includes BE (Electronics & Communication), MBA / CFA in Finance and PhD (Strategy).

In an exclusive interview with, Dr. Khare shares his views about the education industry in India and talks about JLU Business School, Bhopal.

Experience in the education industry and reasons for its greatness

Please allow me to set the context for my response.  I graduated in engineering from MNIT, Jaipur in the early 90s, worked in manufacturing before my MBA and CFA. Post MBA I worked in consulting with PwC, KPMG and the Henley Center and then on my own. I then moved to Ohio State in the USA for my PhD in Strategy before moving to the UAE to teach and consult. I went back to the Ohio State, this time to teach, before coming back to India in June 2017. Thus, I have lived and worked primarily in three different countries—India, UAE, and USA where I worked with academia, consulted corporates, coached and mentored start-up and MSME CEOs.

I am equally excited about consulting, coaching and academia. I thrive on complex problem-solving in management, and institution building. However, I love academia the most. It is here; I get an opportunity to add to the growth of the young minds that would shape the future much after I would not be around. They will carry the legacy of ideas and values and pass them on. It is where I get to the edges of intellectual inquiry that exists way beyond immediate cost-benefit analysis. It is where one finds the freedom to think and engage in conversations beyond received wisdom. It is the intellectual freedom, creativity, young energy and an opportunity to shape present and future via them makes academia best to work in. It also offers flexibility to consult and continue to make a difference in the current environment.                        

Mr. Khare leadership philosophy and style at Jagran Lakecity Business School

I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to earn my PhD, and then teach at the Ohio State—almost a decade spent there. The Ohio State has been at the forefront of thoughts on leadership. We are transforming as a school to be internationally benchmarked in quality management education. This transformation entails ongoing culture, system, process, mindset and perception shifts involving all stakeholders— students, faculty, parents, management, employers, partners and market at large. Our environment is dynamically evolving in both context and stakeholders’ mindset.

I want to think of my leadership style as adaptive to the evolving nature and the needs of the context and stakeholders to ensure our goals—international benchmarked quality education in management. While my style is adaptive, it is firmly rooted in values such as transparency, fairness, respect, continuous improvement, hard work, commitment to quality, and care with accountability.

Challenges faced as the Director of Jagran Lakecity Business School

I think these are the challenge that most people in my role would face at a young university in tier II city. I would begin with the missing mindset that commits to earning education vs merely a piece of paper/certificate or a degree, treats a student as a customer rather than primarily as an active raw material and eventually a product. Then there are myths that classroom teaching/learning is not essential, and you are not good enough for good quality education if you are not in IIMs or other top notch schools. All of this leads to a lack of engagement in the education process despite potential. Human capital is a known issue in Indian academia. Resources are always limited to any organization.

Luckily in our case, we have very progressive, supportive and committed top management—the Chancellor, the Pro-Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor. Management commitment has helped us in creating intellectual context—cutting edge curriculum, world-leading content partnerships - Harvard, HSTalks and many more. It has also helped with regular faculty development and quality hiring. We may not spend as much as others do on marketing, but we offer very attractive scholarships to attract good students to our PG and UG programmes. Our efforts are showing results on the ground.

Curriculum at JLU Business school ensuring best practice of industry

We have a very distinguished board of advisors and board of study group. It comprises of leaders from industry and academia from India and the USA. They have worked, or are working with organizations such as PwC, KPMG, Tata Sons, Kornferry, IIM, XLRI, Arizona State, Clayton State, and have served as institution mentor on AACSB accreditation process. My own experience comes handy. Input to our programme, curriculum, and course design come from various sources; the process ensures faculty participation and global benchmarking.

Over the last two years, we have built our curriculum with courses that are aligned with Harvard Core Curriculum, HBSP online courses, Wadhwani Global Foundation, CMA, ACCA, and world-leading business simulation such as Cesim. It offers truly choice based credit system with options to earn minor, major, specialization or combination thereof in areas such as HR, Marketing, Finance, Entrepreneurship and Business Analytics.

Check Placements at JLU Bhopal

Our international student exchange programme and the fact that our 3 year UG degree and academic performance opens the door for direct admission into one year accelerated MBA or two year MBA programmes in the USA without GRE/GMAT right after 3 year UG with us serve as the testimony of what we have achieved in curriculum design.

Changes noticed in the education industry and skillset that a fresher should possess

I think there are two questions here. Let me talk about industry change first. Higher education, more so in management, is increasingly moving to digital delivery. And both Harvard and MIT, with their own push, have, in a way, acknowledged it. With time, I would imagine the force and power of digital would only intensify bringing better quality at affordable prices.

In India, I see new enthusiasm for accreditation and ranking. However, I think regulators need to be more transparent. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get away with poor quality of research, at the same time, even the best journals are being pressured to think about relevance. I think the fate of several engineering and management institutes is beginning to suggest that quality is the best long term policy.

In terms of corporate expectations, I think core remains—cognitive skills (reasoning, quantitative skills, communication) still form the base. Attitude—respect, collaboration, teamwork, willingness for hard work, ability to adapt matters too. Growth mindset, Creativity, Ability to Learn, and Grit are critical for top organizations. Organizations are increasingly looking for realism in millennials instead of the sense of entitlement, and focus instead of digital distractions.

Methods opted to establish a healthy relation with the students

I have an open door policy for all—students, faculty, staff, partner and parents. However, we are growing and my responsibilities at the University level, FDP, MDP etc also need my attention. Luckily we have been able to put a system and processes in place where faculty, programme leads and staff offer the first line of interaction on routine issues.

Guiding systems are in place that enables solutions that students may seek. This is freeing some of my time for my interaction with students in developmental matters. We also have class leaders whom I meet at least once a month. WhatsApp groups also allow me to stay in touch. I am also very proactive on email and answer within 24 hours. We even reach out via various surveys.

I strongly believe in the concept of system, team and quality time. Our system and the team takes care of routine and regular work, that allows me to spend quality time with students on understanding their challenges, concerns, learn about new opportunities, what is working, what is not, why so, new initiatives, and push them and stretch them to aspire more and work hard.

Goals for the B-School for the next few years

As I said, we are transitioning. Our international partnerships are in place with California Baptist University, ACCA, Konstanz University in Germany, and Management Development Institute Singapore, among others. These are opening the doors for students and faculty exchange, summer school or international immersion. As I mentioned before, our UG students can get into one year accelerated or two year PG programmes in the USA right after 3 years of UG with us without having to write GRE/GMAT.  

As we move forward, we would see more such initiatives and existing ones intensifying on the ground. Greater use of Harvard cases, simulation, flipped classroom on pedagogy side. More student success stories with placements, achievements with add on professional qualifications such as ACCA and CMA, and real work impacting society. Faculty success stories in terms of intellectual engagement in research, case or book writings, and MDPs. I believe we will have NAAC and NIRF in place soon, but we aim to go for AACSB in a few years. Over time, we aim to, at least, match top ranking B schools in India in quality, do better in rigour, and be far more affordable.

Suggestions to the current youth and the aspirants

Let me first address next 48% who are not among the top 2% at IIMs or tier I schools. Not getting into IIMs and top ranking very pricey B-schools is not the end of life. Good management education is not a competitive exam. If you are ready, you can gain as good a management education from a school that is ready to offer you an opportunity to learn the best. And good education does not have to be very costly too.

But there are no shortcuts to good education, and no substitute to your own engagement and hard work in your education. Be hungry to learn, have confidence in yourself, and work hard—world would be yours to create value and enjoy the rewards of your contributions. Be regular and disciplined—all fun most of the year and all study closer to the exam is not the best way for deeper learning. Learn every day, reflect on it, and have some fun.