“Amity will be, for sure, amongst the top 50 universities in the next 5 years and I am quite committed to it.”
-Prof. (Dr.) Gurinder Singh
Prof. (Dr.) Gurinder Singh is currently the Group Vice Chancellor at Amity Universities, Director General at Amity International Business School, Director General at Amity University (Greater Noida), Director General-Amity Directorate of management and Allied Areas and the Vice Chairman-Global Foundation for Learning and Excellence. A renowned scholar & academician in the area of International Business, he holds a prestigious Doctorate in the area along with a Post Graduate degree from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade where he illustriously topped with 7 merits.
He has spoken at various international forums which includes prestigious Million Dollar Round Table Conference, at Haward Business School, Thunderbird Business School, NYU, University of Leeds, Loughbrough Business School, Coventry Business School, Rennes Business School, Essex University, UK, University of Berkeley, California State University, USA, NUS, Singapore, and many more.
Dr. Gurinder Singh has received more than 25 International & National awards and has graced a host of talk shows on various TV channels. He is internationally recognized as a known Professor and is known in the field of academics as an institution builder, a writer, professor, International Business Expert and the Champion of the Hearts of Students.
Collegedunia takes immense pride in being a medium of sharing his teaching strategies and future plans of the University with the youth.
Kindly tell us about your experience in the education industry. What do you think makes it the best industry to work in?
I think I have done only two things in my life. Either I have studied, or I have taught. This is the only thing which I know. I think that education is not an industry, it is a passion. So, for me, it has never been a profession, but it has always been a religion. I joined teaching as a passion. I was doing considerably well in a government job which I got when I passed out from my management institute. But, teaching has always been a passion, even at that time. When I was new in the industry, I used to go to seminars and conferences. I am lucky that Amity found me at very young age. At the age of not even 28, I was responsible to have found a business school. I started Amity International Business School and my journey started from there. I was privileged to help Dr. Chauhan, the founder of this university, to establish various institutions, not only in India, but also worldwide. So, I was thankful to the stars that I got an opportunity in various countries and my journey was very exciting.
You went on a sabbatical for one and half years. How did that period help you apprehend the industry dynamics?
Well, I think that it is always important that you gain some industry experience. In between, I did some projects, and took a very brief sabbatical for 2 years and went to industry to understand how it works. It really helped me as I learned whatever was taught to me in the classroom, how you are able to relate to the industry, how it works, how they actually launch their products, how good or bad the industry practices are, what are corporate goods, the ethical issues, how a business should look like, how you actually makeup capex models, how you implement them, how can you become a part of the board meetings, how the decisions are taken, how the appraisals are actually done at the top, and so on. So, overall it was a good experience.
How is the experience to be a part of talk shows on various TV channels?
Well, as a part of academics, this has been a passion because I have been speaking and writing for 30 years now. So, I love going to TV channels and talking about the latest topics such as what is happening, where is India going, where are we internationally, etc. It is always educative that you sit on the talk shows and understand the perceptions of people. So, it was a very good experience to do shows that too with Smriti Irani ji. I did 8-10 shows with her. It was good to be on NDTV, Star, NDTV Profit, Aaj Tak, Zee TV. All the channels have been very kind.
With an extensive experience of over 21 years, how satisfying has your journey been while being a part of multiple professions like teaching, consultancy, research, and industry?
I think if today God comes up and asks me to choose a profession, I will again say that I would like to be in academics. This is because it gives you the opportunity to interact with the young minds. It has been my passion, as I mentioned earlier. I like sitting with youngsters and talking to them. There is not even a day when I don't interact with them, when I don't think about them. If I am able to contribute to the growth of youngsters, to get them a good job, to mentor them, to help them to understand that how they can be most successful, then my job is done. So, in every child and every student whom I meet, I see my own son and daughter. Sometimes, my wife says “You are so busy with your work. From morning till evening, you are always surrounded by students and even when you come back home, the students keep on coming to home to ask questions”. But I love them and expect the faculty at Amity to do the same. It should be a passion for the people who are in the industry and only those who are passionate about this, should be a part of the profession.
Being the youngest Founding Pro Vice-Chancellor, how motivating is it to add such a beautiful feather in your cap?
I think positions do motivate you. I was not even 34 when the first time I was given this opportunity by the Founder. I was really privileged. It was for three terms. When I joined back, I was offered this position. This gave me an insight because my job is actually to travel across the globe, look at the systems in the world and then help Amity to grow worldwide. Wherever I have been, whether it was in the U.S, or anywhere else, it was a challenge to open up a new campus. We feel so proud that we are the only education group of Asia which has around 172 acres campus in the US. It was a challenge to start the first campus in the UK as it is very challenging to have a university status in the UK. To open a campus in Singapore was also very challenging. We are opening one in Australia as well. So, every day is a new challenge. Working in different time zones, working with different cultures, meeting people, understanding them, and then doing something for your country.
Amity University has students coming from almost all states and all backgrounds. So, how do you establish a healthy culture and climate among the diverse family?
I think that we have been very choosy in picking up the students. Out of 27 students who apply, we pick up only 1. We always look at the program. For instance, international business is quite diversified. Even from India, if we have to pick 70% of the students from India and 30% students from outside India, then we pick these students from different states. If you go in a class, you will find some students from South, some from North, some from East and some from central states. They interact more meaningfully, are able to understand the culture, and analyze the problem from their own perspective.
Similarly, we have got many studies abroad programs which is a unique thing. All the students come from different parts of the country and become a part of the culture. So, when you interact with different cultures, you are able to look at the problems from your own perspective. I think that is very helpful. We try, here, to take this diversity as an advantage. Another thing which we do at Amity is that we offer Study Abroad Programs. We have just launched a program called Internship Abroad Program. All the students who are studying with us, they must do some part of their program abroad and all the students who are studying with us, they must do an internship abroad. So, this is a unique opportunity.
For example, let us say that if we say some of the top companies to pick our students, they might not. But if the students are doing an internship with such companies abroad, be it in Australia, Japan, Korea, or in U.S, chances are that they start liking these students. So, 70-80% of these students are absorbed. The placement rate in this university is really very good. And one thing that we are trying to bridge is that if you look at the salary structure, which Dr. Chauhan-the Founder, discusses with us, is that if we are able to bridge the gap between what we are offering to the students in India and what students get abroad, people will start coming to India. For Example, if a youngster is graduating from a U.S. university, then the starting salary will be 80,000 U.S. dollars and if the same student is studying in India, then the starting salary is INR 30,000. So, there is a wide gap. So, I am trying whatever I can do for this. I talk to the students that how I can meaningfully put them into the various projects globally. And once these students go, it is very satisfying that after 4 years they come back, they hug you, touch your feet and tell you that Sir, we are really thankful, and similar things. So, it is a very satisfying feeling.
So, this is what I think India needs to work on. Like in the West, they do internships in the industry. We need to create that culture. Every semester we must send students abroad, we must relate them to the global jobs abroad. And that is how we are developing this university. We are having an internship abroad programs, we are having CEO’s forum. We are sending the students to various experiential learning projects, we are putting them into hardcore research, calling the students from abroad here in the program. So, the idea is that when they start talking to each other, even if they don’t know anyone, they will learn from each other. You will try to know why I am getting INR 30,000 salary and why the other person is getting INR 80,000. They will learn to stretch each other. That gives you not only experience, but confidence.
You are known to be the champion of the heart of students. How is your camaraderie among the students?
What I feel is that you need to be truthful in any relation and god has been kind, I have been very truthful with my students. So, I just love them. If you go through my Facebook page or LinkedIn profile, you will find very good comments. I really feel good when students keep in touch with me. It feels good when you write one line and there are 422 comments on the post. I think that if you are genuinely working for the students, the biggest thing one can do as a teacher is to always treat them as our own children and if you are able to shape them up, or if you are good to a student, he will always remember you. If you teach them the real meaning of life, they will never forget you because you are shaping his career. This is the philosophy of my life that if you really want to excel, you have to excel with humbleness. You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.
How do you look at the growth of students through placement and how do you wish to push the envelope further?
I think placement is not a one-sided affair. You need to see what kind of education you are giving and you need to make them globally competitive. So, I don’t teach. I always say that go out and search it out. I give space to my students. Whatever most of the teachers are teaching, that material is available online. You just need to make them experiential. How they should approach industry, how they should work with a company, how they should be communicating with the people, etc. are the things which are very important.
Unluckily, in India, our orientation is too rigid. And that is the reason why I sometimes feel that our universities are not in the top few. We need to create an environment for the students to learn, not to teach. There is a difference between examination and experimentation, and we experiment. An average Indian student does not want to take the risk, does not want to explore.
If you look at America that how it has become successful, people from across the globe and who were not very successful in their countries, in search of excellence they went to that country, they took the risk and created an environment and Indians are doing very well in America. So, if they can do so well in America, then why can’t they do well in India. So, that is a question mark.
At Amity, we want to create America in India by giving them an opportunity to excel by holding the hands of the students and letting them know that you can do it. Normally. People say that if you have got 90%, then only it is good. But I say that 90% marks or 98% marks are great, but even if you have got 60% marks, then also you are equally good. It may be the case that when you were young, a few things happened. Maybe, you were not in a good school, the teacher can be bad, family support could be missing. So, a role of a teacher is to understand the strength of the student and then give him confidence that this strength can give you a good profession. And if you are able to do that, then positions, money, satisfaction, will keep on coming to you.
What goals do you have for your university in the next few years?
Amity will be, for sure, amongst the top 50 universities in the next 5 years and I am quite committed to it. We were nowhere a few years back and I remember the first time I went to Harvard Business School. I was very young, probably 29 years old. And when the first time I went to the class, someone said that I was talking in a way that as if I belong to the best country and the best business school in the world. And, I said, “Yes I do” and they laughed. So, I was rational because our business school is just 5-year-old. So, the point is that if you can call a person to their class from an institute that is just 5 years old, imagine where we will be when we will be 20 years old and when we will be 100 years old. Last year they again called me up to give some award. I thought that it took 17 years for me to take this award but believe me, I won’t take another 17 years to come again.
India has got a good future and at Amity, we are trying to cultivate and attract best of them. Most of the people who work in my department, all of them are PhDs and all of them are deep into research work. You go to my table and you will find 20 proposals. We have done one of the largest research projects for the Govt of India. We are doing a lot of consulting. I have traveled the world. Almost every other week, I am abroad. And believe me, the time has come where the world has to realize that India has got the potential and Amity will surely be.
Today, we are among the top-rated universities in India. If you look at internationalization, we are the best in Asia today. No other university has the number of campuses we have. We have more than 950 patents. In management alone, we have 100 copyrights and patents. No one in Asia has done it. Our case study is there in among all top universities. A lot of commercialization has been done. When universities like NTU and NUS can come in top 20, I am sure in the next five years Amity will be in the top 50 and in next ten years, we want to be in the top 20. That is the goal we have for ourselves.
Any suggestion would you like to give to the current youth and the aspiring students.
One is that they need to understand where they need to improve on. Most of the youngsters, even when they know where they are weak, don’t want to improve. And this is not only about academics. For instance, one’s own health. There are many problems like drugs, etc. So, one is your physical appearance, you need to make yourself strong and inner self very strong. Second thing is that they need to be intellectually capable. I am not saying that intellectually they need to be Einstein, but intellectually they should be capable, eager to work, eager to learn and compatible. Not too much emotion is required, but they should have a professional attitude and an attitude to learn. So, I think if these things are there in a student and he/she is able to relate them to the skills which industry needs, then this is it.
If someone comes to me, I tell them to go out, explore and experiment. If they are able to experiment, explore, take risk, travel, that is going to make them globally competitive. India is not the only market. The entire world is the market. The world is so big. So why they are only here. If they feel that there are less opportunities in this country, then they must go out and search for it. There must be something good for them in Netherlands or America or anywhere else. So, they can work there, take risk. My request to everyone is that try to find ways. You should not restrict yourselves, but have courage to go out and find something good for them.