Interview by Yash Panchal
Mr. Anil Somani is the Chairman of Fostiima Business School. He is an Engineering graduate from IIT Bombay and a PGDBA from IIMA. He began his career in the corporate world with the Alok Udyog Group, an offshoot of the Sahu Jain Group. He had a distinguished academic career at the Scindia Public School, Gwalior and was the First son of the soil to attain the unique IIT-IIM distinction.
Mr. Somani promoted a pharmaceutical company and astutely guided it through the economic slowdown of the late nineties with a strategic alliance with drug major Ranbaxy. He was Vice-President of the MP Chambers of Commerce & Industries. He led several trade delegations to Central Ministries on critical economic issues and also held responsible positions in several social, charitable and business bodies.
Experience in the education industry
I started in education industry 11 years ago when we set up FOSTIIMA Business School in 2007. In 2007, when we started the institute especially in the field of Management, there was a very heavy demand, there was a shortage of institutes and the number of students wanting to get into management was much larger than the institutes could really handle. Over the years, the number of institutes gone up and the students who actually want to do management have also reduced, therefore, many of the institutes have closed down. Those who are not providing quality education, not keeping, honoring their commitments, such institutes have closed down and only the quality institutes are now running and doing well.
An inspiring leadership style
I consider that the most important quality of the leader is that he should inspire and trust, and he should be trustworthy. So, if the people around you trust you, they have faith and confidence in you, then they are surely going to listen to you and follow you. This is what I practice. I am truthful and I am honest. I automatically command the and trust of the people around me. This has helped me always in my life.
Significant challenges for the Chairman of Fostiima Business School to foster MBA graduates
The education scenario, especially higher education and management has gone for a change in the recent past. There has been a surplus capacity in the terms of a of institutes which have opened and the students have also got various other options like Law, Banking and several other avenues where they can do higher education. However, as I see MBA scenario – the higher education and management scenario is on an upbeat, it is bound to increase for the simple reason that there is an up swing in the economy and there is a lot of room for MBA graduates in the corporate world. Therefore, the scenario that I see, the challenges of the past now seem to be over. Therefore, I see the couple of years to be good.
Importance of time management
Time management is very important for each one of us and not only for the chairman. It is something that has to percolate right till the lowest part of the pyramid and the best way is to practice time management yourself and if you practice time management yourself, then it will go down well within your office, within your team and also amongst students.
An updated curriculum
We constantly keep updating our curriculum. The original design of our curriculum has been drawn from the best B-schools in the world like the IIMs, Harvard, etc. We constantly keep updating it. We are in touch with industry corporate leaders. We understand from them what the industry demands and we incorporate it. For example, the generation subjects like Six Sigma, TQM, Digital Marketing, Big Data Analytics, Business Analytics, Predictive Analytics. These are all the subjects that we have incorporated.
Giving students proper skill set to excel during placements
The students who join post graduation in management, whether they verbalize it or not, they definitely look for good placements. However, placement is not our real objective. Our objective during the 2 years in which the student is with us – is to see that we give them all the skill sets which are required by a student to excel in the corporate world. If we do that, then the placements become the natural corollary and I am glad to inform you that our students are performing very well in the corporate world. They are resilient, they outperform their peers from other B-Schools. The net result is that more and more companies are coming to FOSTIIMA with jobs at higher salaries.
Establishing a relationship with the students
The student is not a kid anymore. He is a full-fledged adult and therefore one has to have a mature relationship with the students. I have realized this from the beginning and therefore I don’t treat the student as a subordinate or somebody who has to be directed and instructed and ordered. I maintain a regular contact with my students. I maintain a healthy relationship with them and talk to them almost as an equal. I tell them, as you grow higher in your education, the gap between the teacher and the student keeps reducing.
Thoughts on an ideal school environment
The kind of relationship that is maintained with the students. I also ensure an updated corporate relevant curriculum. Also, the very good faculty we have collected together our faculty pool at IFBS is amongst the best in the B-schools, the teaching methodology the pedagogy that we deploy in our classrooms is also very current and updated. There is a method, live projects that we do. We expose students regularly to the corporate world.
Goals in mind for Fostiima Business School
We have a strength of 240 students and we are filling that up almost completely every year. I don’t think that we want to have higher numbers. My target is to improve the student quality. Almost every year, we strive to and manage to raise the cut-offs for the students who join. Therefore, we want to get good quality students whom we can train, whom we can groom and who are very serious and we place them at a pedestal in the corporate world so that they do very well. They bring name and fame to the college and to the where they are working.
Choose a career where the passion lies but within that chosen career, they must be practical about it. They should see that what is the room available. For instance, if they choose a career where there are thousands and students who are graduating out but there is not enough room at the top to absorb these graduates. So, I would certainly not advise them to go into that career. That is why I say PGDM and MBA are good because there is a of room available. However, once you decide to do PGDM or MBA, be very careful while you choose your college. See the faculty and placements and the curriculum. Talk to the students of the college those who have studied there in the past and those who are studying there, do your research completely before taking admission in the college.