Higher Education 2016-09-12

Coming together on a common platform key to effective synergy: Prof Balakrishnan, IIT Delhi

Brands across industries today are synergising with educational institutions. Professor M. Balakrishnan ,Deputy Director (Strategy & Planning), IIT- Delhi, tells us how this synergy must be executed correctly.

By Associate Editor
Coming together on a common platform key to effective synergy: Prof Balakrishnan, IIT Delhi

Synergy has become the buzzword today across industries. When it comes to education, the story is no different. The education sector has seen a positive trend towards growth, specifically driven by the concept of collaborations, be it between EdTech and Educational Institutions or leaders from different industries tying up with educational institutes. CSR, scholarships and entrepreneurship programmes have opened huge opportunities for brands to tie up with educational institutions.

This is seeing a lot of brands coming forward and synergising with educational institutions, giving a boost to India’s educational sector. One such synergy here lies between the Indian Institute of Technology and electronics leaders Panasonic. At a recent event where Panasonic flagged off the second edition of Ratti Chhatr Scholarship Program, which aims at providing financial aid to talented undergraduate students across different branches of the venerated IITs, Education Biz caught up with Guest of Honour Professor M. Balakrishnan, Deputy Director (Strategy & Planning), IIT- Delhi. Speaking to us, he vouched for the concept of synergy, adding how well executed partnerships reap positive results. He also spoke about branding and entrepreneurship.

CSR: New but encouraging synergy

A lot of brands have started looking at education as a potential sector when it comes to their corporate social responsibilities. However, some challenges still remain. “CSR is still new in India and I think that alignment of interests of corporate and alignment of interests of institutions like ours is still a challenge. We need to come together on a common platform and see what the other needs the most. We have to make sure we are able to make synergy between the two,” said Professor Balakrishnan.

Brands like Panasonic have more players like Paytm etc joining the bandwagon of synergizing with premium educational institutions for providing scholarships to students, thereby, foraying into the educational arena of India. Prof Balakrishnan said that these programmes help and such support is essential both for the students as well as the education sector of the country.

“Scholarship programmes help. Institutions like us become very heterogeneous. 20 years back, IITs typically had only middle class and upper middle class students, but today it actually gets students from all backgrounds, all economic statuses. To that extent it’s very important that students who have financial needs, they may be bright, but they need to be supported. That support is extremely critical,” he said.

However, he also feels that something new needs to be brought in viz-a-viz such collaborations. “This particular programme by Panasonic did really well last year. But with so many government policies, these are overlapping with what the government is providing. So Panasonic also needs to create a program that is more sensitive towards the needs of today,” he explained.

Synergy for CSR and all for brand building

It’s a given that CSR activities in the current scenario not only help the society but also the brands involved in it. The two names that come together from different industries for a CSR activity get equal visibility through the initiative. “CSR programs do help with brand building. Any company needs to survive for a long time and brand building is an important requirement for any corporate. So the question is as to how we do things synergistically. The challenge is to do things which help both the brand and the NGO/organisation it’s working with,” said Prof Balakrishnan.

At the same time he also stressed on the fact that brand building was not just about business but a lot more than that. “Brand building is not really business, it’s a long term investment. Corporates will do brand building CSR, there’s no problem with it. There are things which we are able to do. There are a lot of gap areas which we cannot use public funding for. So it’s important that these CSR activities help us do things which we are not able to do otherwise,” he said.

He also added that brand building is equally essential for educational institutions for getting the best of talent across different sectors. “Brand building is important today for educational institutions too. Globally, the universities which have built their brands are able to attract the best talent, whether it is in terms of faculty, research students or UG/PG students. So, IITs also need to build a global brand to be able to attract a global talent. This means brand building is important for corporates but also for educationists,” Prof Balakrishnan added.

Education for the youth and the idea of entrepreneurship

The higher education scenario has seen complete transformation in the past 15 years. The traditional ways of teaching have been replaced with interactive, technical and innovative ways and the idea now is to produce entrepreneurs rather than just job seeking youth.

“When we were doing our graduation, things like innovation and entrepreneurship were something very far off. Nobody thought of these things. Today, entrepreneurship education is part of this ecosystem. Young people understand it, they don’t have to be told. They have such successful entrepreneurs coming at young age,” Professor Balakrishnan said.

At the same time, he said, what’s important is the perfect synergy of the young energy with national needs. “The challenge is as to how we align this energy to the national needs. Institutions like these have to promote that synergy to happen so that they think on solving problems which actually have a social impact. That is the challenge from the institution’s point of view. I have a lot of hope from the younger generation,” he added.

Concluding with commenting on the Narendra Modi government’s initiatives to give a boost to budding entrepreneurs, Professor Balakrishnan added, “I think this is the right time. The country has the confidence. There is a certain education base. As you said, there is a transformation not only in the country, but globally. As you know, the challenges lie where it’s about starting off a business. But I see a hope that younger generations will take the challenge and turn it into a reality.”

(With additional inputs from Niharika Verma) 

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