Shape up your career so that you will be able to contribute to the growth of not only your own family and self but also to the country.”- Dr. Ravi Kumar Jain
Dr. Ravi Kumar Jain, Director, SIBM, Hyderabad, with an immense pool of talent and experience in the academic field has the agenda of seeing SIBM in one of the top B-Schools of India in the near future. He talks about his career experiences, goals, explains the curriculum, placement, and the student-centric approach.
Kindly throw some light on your experience of more than 19 years in the area of family business management, teaching and training, research and, in academic administration.
I started my life as a part of the family business in 1994 in jewelry and finance. I hail from a Baniya family from Rajasthan. I started off by commencing a new department of jewelry in our family business. It was a destiny's call that I went to Hyderabad to complete my MBA. I started teaching at Badruka College for IT and Badruka college PG center as a lecturer, and thereafter, I was teaching Finance and Information & Communication Technology Management in e-commerce at the same college for almost 4 years.
Later, I moved as a faculty member and consulting editor to IBS Research Centre (IRC) between 2005 and 2009. When I resigned from IRC, I was elevated to become the Head of Department (special projects) to take care of international research collaborations and internationalization initiatives. Then, I went on to become the Founding Director of Symbiosis Institute for Research and Innovation (SIRI), Pune where we started the Ph.D. program at Symbiosis International University under 2009 UGC guidelines.
Since last 4 years, we are pursuing a single-minded agenda of making SIBM Hyderabad a world class B-school. God has been kind to me as he provided me with various opportunities from time-to-time to initiate new things and start new departments, be it starting a new jewelry department in our family business, or at research center of ICFAI or research innovation center of Symbiosis International University Pune or setting up Symbiosis Institute of Business School in Hyderabad. This is how my long and exciting journey in the field of business and academics has been in the past 19 years.
Further, during my early day of academic career I was fortunate to get trained in case of method teaching, way back in 2003-04, and started training our own colleagues and teachers at Research Centre about research, editing etc. For the last 10 years, I have been teaching and coaching a lot of executives for various corporates and also our own academic colleagues around the country.
How does the curriculum of your institution aim at an all-round development of a student?
At the outset, let me tell you that we look at our management program as more of a ‘management training program’ rather than an ‘academic degree program’. This orientation guides us to design every aspect of the program with a clear focus on all round development of our students. Therefore, apart from a standard business school curriculum, we have introduced few components that take care of all-round development and also a kind of culture that we want to develop around the campus to facilitate this kind of development. The curriculum is inclusive with interwoven co-curricular and extracurricular activities from special workshops or field based training to self-learning module, where the students actually engage in activities by themselves. They plan everything, they conceptualize ideas and execute them. The culture that we have developed on the campus is totally student-centric, meaning students decide what they want to do, how they want to do and when they want to do. Being a fully residential campus, the student activities happen virtually 24X7. So, we see a lot of activities championed by students which help them in learning and applying management theories and models.
Apart from these, we have a concept called "shramdaan" where our students engage in a lot of outreach programs. Again, the students decide, design and execute all these programs where they connect with the nearby villages and rural area. Whether it is learning social marketing, community marketing or rural marketing by going into villages or helping the villagers to overcome certain challenges in their business, education or in terms of their overall well-being. For example, improvising sanitation facilities, work on conserving water resources and promote green initiatives. Students have engaged in a green initiative called ‘Haritha Haram’, a flagship program of Government of Telangana, by planting more than 5,000 saplings in and around our campus. They have also contributed in activities like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and recently they have done a ‘mega cancer screening and cancer awareness camp’ at our campus and have partnered with the Indo-American institute of cancer to carry out preventive tests and diagnosis for more than 95 villagers.
Likewise, there are so many activities that help the students to improve their skills, sharpen their abilities from conceptualization to execution of ideas. We give them facilities and resources and our faculty members act more as a guide/facilitator than just a teacher. We see this as our institutional and curricular strengths that help students in all round development in their life on our campus.
How do you look at the growth of B-schools in India?
In the last 7 years, my readings are that we have gone past the golden phase of expansion for the business of B-schools from 1995 to almost 2009-2010. We have seen the explosive growth in the number of business schools across the country during this period. Today, we stand with more than seven thousand B-schools including management departments at engineering colleges offering management programs with different nomenclature. As we see the situation today in management education space, there is, on one hand, a dire need for 100-200 premium B-schools, while on the other hand, the space for local B-schools is heavily crowded with an eminent shake out staring at them. We will see a large-scale closures or mergers or discontinuation of the programs which has already started happening in some pockets of the country. Recently, AICTE has announced that they will be forcefully closing all the institutions of higher education that recorded less than 30% admission against the sanctioned intake in the last 5 years. We are most likely to see a lot of business schools in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and NCR region closing down. According to me this is going to be healthy for the entire management education space. Therefore, I see the market for B-Schools in India as very healthy, which shall bring in a renewed focus on the quality of education, research and infrastructure.
How do you create a student centric environment in your institution?
The culture at SIBM Hyderabad is totally student-centric. This implies that it is entirely ‘by the students, for the students’ kind of an environment that we have created on our campus. From day one, after the admission and orientation program, students’ council decide what they want to do, how they want to do and when they want to do. Our role as administrators is to provide the necessary infrastructure, resources, and facilities to enable them to work and execute on their plans. As far as curriculum delivery is concerned, we have chosen learner centric activity based learning with a bouquet of world class pedagogical tools and techniques powered by business case studies from Harvard and Ivey league B-schools, movie based sessions, book reviews, survival games, role plays, simulations, live market labs, event management, etc. to name a few. ‘Learn as you Do and Do as you Learn’ is the central theme of imparting management education at SIBM-Hyderabad.
How do you look at the placement opportunities offered by SIBM Hyderabad and how do you plan to push the envelope further?
I am happy to answer this question because SIBM Hyderabad has a very excellent record of placements for its very first batch of MBAs. 93% of the eligible students were placed through campus selection and the remaining 7% were also given assistance post the placements season. Today, I see all my students well placed and doing very well in their jobs. The second batch, that has graduated this year in March, we see a 100% campus placement for all eligible students. I don't see placements as a record to talk about, what we at SIBM talk about, is the number of opportunities created and we proudly claim that we could create more than 120 opportunities for a cohort of 67 students in 2017. The student to opportunity ratio stands at a healthy 1:2. Further, in cases where students could not crack interviews, we assist them and support them for even a dozen interviews till they crack it. Further, I am happy to share that the prep for the ensuing placement season for the class of 2016-18, a cohort of 122 MBAs, looks very exciting with several companies already lined up confirming their dates for campus visits. I am sure, by the time your readers get to read this piece, several of our students would have already got placed.
My answer on how to push the envelope further is to work hard in this direction and by forging stronger relationships with the industry to demonstrate the capabilities of students with the help of active engagement of students and faculties with the industry. Towards this objective, we have started a new initiative called ‘Experiential Learning Program’ for our faculty members, whereby they spend 6 to 8 weeks working with senior executives at selected corporate studying emerging issues and challenges for the industries and design appropriate solutions. Such experiences of the faculty members get into our classrooms bringing students much closer to the realm of corporate reality.
Similarly, our 8-weeks summer internship program (SIP) is well designed and meticulously executed under the close supervision of faculty guide and an industry mentor. Our SIP program carries high academic credit (12 credits) to sustain greater and serious participation of the students.
Further, we are now working with a few corporate to design ‘continuous engagement program’ spanning across the duration of the MBA program. All these initiatives create a congenial environment for forging greater bonding with the corporate world. So far, the corporates have been very receptive and have appreciated the talent pool we have to offer on our campus.
How does your institution integrate extra-curricular activities with the academic process?
As I told you earlier, the extra-curricular activities are actually a part of the life on campus at SIBM-Hyderabad. Whether it is sports or cultural activities or music or social outreach activities, all these activities are a significant part of the campus life of our students. For instance, the students have developed their own music bands, sports club, photography club, Individual Social Responsibility center, women development center to name a few among 27 clubs through which they pursue their hobbies and engage in extra-curricular activities.
All the clubs are managed by student representatives (club heads) under the student council. Each club has an organizational structure through which they operate. In a manner of speaking, each club is a small company working on the specific focus area.
How do you prepare students to face challenges of modern corporate culture and global standards successfully?
We prepare students to face the challenges in various effective ways. For instance, we expose our students to corporates at every stage of the MBA program - from admission to SIP to final placements preparations and series of weekly guest lectures, industry visits, fieldworks, etc. Such activities enable frequent engagement of students with corporates, thereby resulting in better understanding of corporate expectations and realize skill gaps.
We also have some corporate mentorship program where senior corporate leaders adopt students as their mentees and engage with them on a regular basis. Such interactions guide the students on the skill sets and abilities that they need to develop or the attitude they need to nurture. We also have a talk series known as Corporate Connect whereby our students have created a brand called "Symbi Talks" which helps them to not only share experiences of senior corporate executives but also provides an opportunity to showcase their ability to organize events, managing teams, negotiation, conflict management, consensus building, decision making, etc.
The idea is to connect campus by inviting senior corporate leaders on a regular basis with more than 200 corporate leaders visiting us in a year. So, the average is almost four times a week where the students get exposure to corporates and get experiential learning and sharing. These are some of the mantras that we use to prepare students to face the challenges of the corporate world. Apart from that, the case method pedagogy also exposes them to the latest happening in the corporate world and they end up discussing these challenges and issues in the classroom where they get different perspectives as to what they should be doing or how they should look at the challenges in their corporate life. And as per Global standards are concerned, Symbiosis has been benchmarking its curriculum and campus activities with the best in the world.
As an expert trainer, in case of method teaching and as a resource person for several AICTE sponsored faculty training program, what advice would you like to give to the faculty in B Schools?
I would say I was lucky to have got trained on Case Method teaching by experts from Harvard and IIM Ahmedabad in my early academic career way back in 2003-04 and since then I have been practicing as well as training faculty members across the country. As far as my advice to management teachers is concerned, it’s simple ‘that if you want to build your career in the field of education and academics, then you have to be updated not only with your academic knowledge and corporate/business events but also should be well trained in innovative pedagogy’. This will enable us to bring the latest to the classroom and stay relevant to our profession.
Also, we have to engage in continuous learning keeping abreast with the latest tools and techniques to be able to power our sessions with application of such tools, techniques and innovations in the realm business management. Therefore, the faculty members should be constant learners to be able to sustain and survive in the business schools, especially the ever demanding top business schools. Of course, along with that, they have to be active researchers, whether it is by publishing technical papers or research papers in journals or by developing case studies on business issues and decision dilemmas. This is what I have been insisting in all faculty development programs I conduct.
What goals do you have in your mind for your institution for the next few years?
SIBM Hyderabad campus should be among the Top B-schools in India. From Hyderabad, we want to create National level footprints. We want to be among the Top B-schools in the country if not in the Asia Pacific region. Internationalisation is on high priority for the next 5 years at SIBM-Hyderabad. In the last few years, we have developed world-class infrastructures, both hard and soft infrastructure. The next 5 years would be the time marked for internationalization, industry connect and Entrepreneurship.
What message do you have for the students wishing to join your institution in the near future?
I keep saying to my students that while SIBM-H provides you with infrastructure, diversity, and opportunity on the campus, they have to bring in the ability to take the risk, a lot of passion and willingness to learn.
I would say in simple terms, to quote our beloved founder Dr. Prof. S B Muzumdar, that ‘you bring innovation in mind, compassion in heart, and fire in the belly and you will never be denied of success’. Shape up your personality and career such that you will be able to contribute to the growth of not only your own family and self but also to the country. This message is not just for students aspiring to join SIBM-H, but for all those aspiring to pursue a management programs anytime in future, anywhere in the world at any B-school. Always remember to Celebrate Life and bring Cheer around. Best of Luck to all MBA aspirants.