Interview with Former Director-in-Charge of IIM-Calcutta, Prof. B.N. Srivastava

Prof. Bhartendu Nath Srivastava, Director-in-charge, IIM-Calcutta will talk about a few burning questions about the field of management and how IIM Calcutta is distinguished from the other IIMs. So let us hear some insights from him.
Parikshit Bhardwaj
MBA at IIMs: Interview with Former Director-in-Charge of IIM-Calcutta, Prof. B.N. Srivastava

Prof. Bhartendu Nath Srivastava, Former Director-in-charge, IIM-Calcutta in conversation with, shares his views on some burning questions about management education. He also highlights the initiatives through which IIM Calcutta addresses these challenges as one of the top B-schools in India.

Factors that differentiate IIM Calcutta from other B-schools

Historically, IIM Calcutta has enjoyed superior position when it comes to management education in India. The B-school has a rich legacy spanning across 57 years during which it has been part of and led the evolution of management education domain in the country. Right from the start, IIM Calcutta has had tie ups with globally renowned B-schools i.e. Sloan School of Management and MIT. Today, back these efforts, IIM-C enjoys the status of being among the top 30 management colleges in the world, when other B-schools in the country are struggling to earn credibility at the global level. IIM Calcutta is also the first B-school in India to be awarded the 'Triple Crown' i.e. to be accredited by AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS. It is also the only B-school in India to be part of CEMS (the Global Alliance in Management Education, formerly known as “The Community of European Management Schools) - an elite club of 30 premier business schools from across the world.

These are the few factors that differentiate IIM Calcutta from other B-schools, from not only India but even the Asia-Pacific Region.

Ability to function optimally in the face of Uncertainty – The most important leadership skill

At IIM-Calcutta, it is believed that uncertainty is the hallmark of our teaching in all courses. The institute offers an Advanced Course, where they teach students about probabilistic understanding. The students at IIM-C also undergo thorough training on behavioural science and organizational behaviour right at the beginning of the programme. Students are taught to predict future events with sufficient reliability using tools such as data analysis, analytics and other advanced tools. The training also encompasses emotional intelligence, emotional control, and emotional stability for students so that they are able to manage highly stressful situations efficiently. To top this, the B-school also helps students develop the necessary skills to manage uncertainly through various students’ initiatives and activities that they undergo throughout the year.

Simply put, students at IIM Calcutta undergo thorough training, both theoretical as well as practical and are routinely put in uncertain situations that allow them to develop the right skills to manage high responsibility jobs effectively.

Keeping Management Education Curriculum Relevant in the Digitized World

The on-going digital revolution is having a deep impact on the life and well-being of the organizations. This has also led to the challenge wherein organizations and managers have to develop innovative techniques to adapt to the changes as part of the new digitized world. From a management education point of view, this translates to special emphasis on factors like MIS, Data Analytics and Statistical Operations and techniques in the course curriculum, in both the PGP as well as the Executive Management Programmes.

The institute regularly engage in the exercise of curriculum change, and curriculum review. In this exercise, all the faculty members are involved and their inputs for the respective subjects are taken into account. Thereafter, the detailed course structure is designed and the final evaluation process takes place and in few months. Once accepted by the review board, recommendations would be implemented in the curriculum.


Work experience before MBA – Is it a must?

Globally, having work experience prior to joining a management programme is a norm. So, it is in the western world view that work experience is considered a must for getting an MBA degree. In India, students who are fresh graduates can also join an MBA programme. So, having work-experience might give an edge to a management student over someone who is fresh out of college, but it surely isn’t a pre-requisite in India.

Generally, in the western world, students have a number of options to pursue after completing their middle school; be it entry-level jobs or starting their own business. And graduation being an expensive preposition, not many look at it as a must have. Secondly, students in the western countries also have a relatively secure environment in which all their major basic needs, right from elementary education to healthcare to insurance; are all provided by the government. All of this adds up to higher risk-taking potential among students in the western countries.

Compared to this, Indian students have the support of only education to fulfil their aspirations and move ahead in life. Add to this, the socio-economic scenario wherein management education is deemed to be the shortcut to success among the students makes MBA, with or without work experience a very lucrative career option for students. Secondly, the high competition that is prevalent in the management education domain, especially in national level entrance tests such as CAT; ensures that the students admitted to the top MBA colleges in India have better skills, abilities, determination and motivation to prove themselves, be it with or without work experience.

So, when it comes to the flagship PGP programme at IIM Calcutta, the B-school receives abundant applications from college freshers as well as from professionals who have had work experience of 2 to 4 years. To create a level playing field between students who have work experience and those who don’t, the B-school has adopted case method as a pedagogical tool. In addition, IIM Calcutta has made internship a compulsory part of the full-time programme to expose students to the challenges of a professional life. For working professionals with experience more than 5 years, students prefer our executive programme that has been tailored to meet the requirements of people who have been in the professional setup for a while. Such executive programmes help working professionals not only refresh their knowledge of the management domain but also understand and update their skillset with the new techniques and skills that have become part of the industry from the time they have graduated.

Popular Myths related to Management Education

There are many myths that have perpetrated the management education domain over the years. The key among them include:

Myth 1 - Top leaders base all their decisions on data: It is often believed that business managers, especially those who occupy the leadership positions, only work on the basis of data and its analysis. This might not be completely true. Many a times, mangers also depend upon intuition or their ‘gut-feel’, as it is termed in the common parlance. Managers, who have had significant experience in a particular industry often depend upon their ‘sixth sense’ to take important decision, despite having tools like data analytics and Big Data within their reach.

Myth 2 - Everything is well-planned at higher levels of management: Another popular myth is that at higher level, everything is very well planned and that is what aids the decision making process. This is another myth. Many a times, the decision making process at the higher level of an organization happens in a very chaotic manner. It may be because of the difficulty circumstances or due to lack of time; but not everything is always well-planned in the management domain.

Myth 3 - In a team, everybody should have the same approach to problem-solving: Another popular belief about management education is that everyone works as a team and that because we have all the data and its analysis before us, it would mean that everyone will have the same approach to solve a problem. But, more often than not, there are a lot of differences among the people who occupy the leadership positions in the organizations. They interpret data in different manner and have different world-views which often translate into difference of opinion among the leaders.

Myth 4 - B-schools are dominated by male students from affluent backgrounds: This is another myth that B-schools are often dominated by male students, especially by those who are from well-to-do economic background. This is completely untrue when it comes to IIMs and other top B-schools in India. Top management colleges in India follow standard guidelines and process issued by the MHRD to admit students. The transparent admission process at IIMs, grant additional points to female candidates during the selection process. Similarly, students from socially and economically weaker backgrounds are also offered the advantage of the reservations as per the government norms. Therefore, the student diversity on campus is not as skewed as believed by many students.

Myth 5 - Qualifying CAT and joining a good B-school is the ultimate victory: Many students believe that they have won the battle by qualifying in the CAT exam or by being selected for admission to IIMs. However, joining a B-school is only the start of a very long and arduous journey for a student. Now, being among the best brains of the country, the competition for success is even stiffer as compared to CAT or any other MBA entrance exam. So, students who are coming to a B-school must overcome this myth before they join an MBA programme.

Key Parameters for Selection of a B-school

MBA aspirants must keep the following factors in mind while selecting the right B-school suited to their needs:

Peer Reviews: The reviews that are given by fellow aspirants and current students who are studying at a B-school will give you the most accurate picture about the academic culture of the management college. Therefore, try and connect with a few peers or the current students of the B-school that you want to join and understand if you are the right fit for the college that you have picked.

Alumni Feedback: Similar to the peer reviews, alumni feedback must also be a critical component of the selection process for a B-school. Alumni have been through not only the academic journey at the B-school but also understand the challenges that they faced in their professional life after completing their MBA from a particular B-school. Their feedback and reviews will help you understand the long-term growth trajectory of your career after completing MBA.

Faculty Members: B-schools today market everything, right from their infrastructure to their placement records; but rarely will you come across a B-school that puts its faculty at the forefront. For any student, faculty members and their knowledge and skills must be the most important aspect while picking a B-school. Going through the profiles of the current faculty members and understanding their experience, research portfolio and professional experience will help you decide how helpful they are going to be you after you join the B-school.

Placements: MBA Placements are also very important and must be considered by every MBA student before they finalize a B-school. Placement records and the kind of recruiters that trust a B-school and the talent it churns out can reveal a lot about the quality of management education on offer. However, candidates must look beyond the immediate placement numbers and also try to understand where do the alumni of the B-school stand after 5 to 7 years of completion of their MBA programme.

Infrastructure: Infrastructure is another factor that students must closely evaluate before joining a b-school. If a B-school has a certain infrastructural facility on offer, students must look if it’s going to be enough for the entire batch or not.

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About the Expert:

Prof. Bhartendu Nath Srivastava is the Former Director-in-charge of IIM-Calcutta. He is part of the Organizational Behaviour Group at IIM Calcutta and teaches courses on Behavioral Science, Conflict and Negotiation as well as Identity, Roles and Interpersonal Development. He has also been awarded the Escort Book Award in 1997 for co-authoring the book ‘International Management: Text and Cases’. On the professional front, he has over 40 years of experience as a teacher, researcher, trainer, consultant and institution builder during which he has consulted with a range of companies workong on top level confidential assignments for Govt, Public sector and Private sector firms.

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