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Higher Education 2016-08-16

Nuances of successfully running a B-school in India the MDI way

Professor CP Shrimali, Acting Director, MDI Gurgaon, explains why MBA colleges must move away from the obsession with teaching and focus on holistic education.

Nuances of successfully running a B-school in India the MDI way

The higher education system of India is the third largest in the world as the number of universities and institutes continues to grow by the day. The Business school market is also flourishing with more management institutes getting added to the list. India now has over 5,500 B-Schools. However, not every Business school is a brand one can boast. It’s still the IIMs ruling the top 2 slots. Catching up fast are institutes like Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon, which now stands among the top 5.

In fact, it’s not just pacing up, the B-school is expanding too. It now has another branch in Murshidabad in West Bengal, and is looking to spread out more towards South India and even overseas in the years to come. But what really goes into building a top ranking B-school like MDI and expanding it? The answer is a holistic approach, changing with time, getting more international collaborations and much more. Franchise India spoke to Professor CP Shrimali, Acting Director, MDI Gurgaon, to get an insight about how this B-school is managing to successfully grow in the ever dynamic and competitive B-school market of India.

The Infrastructure

Talking about the infrastructure that MDI provides to its MBA students, Professor Shrimali said, “We have a world class campus in the sense that we have some global linkages, so we know what world class B-schools really mean.” He added that it was the library that was of utmost importance when it comes to higher education. Telling us about the MDI library and how much the board really spends on it, he said, “I have a physical as well as a digital library. What matters is not just the building, but also the availability of the books and academic material to students round the clock. As for the budget for the library, we don’t really have a limit. But we spend more than Rs 5 crore every year only on the library itself, and that too, is not the limit. We are ready to spend more if the need be.”

“Then quite a lot of money is also spent on the digitisation of the campus through wi-fi services. More than a crore is spent on 24x7 round the campus wi-fi,” he added.

Talking about the hostel and the 24x7 hostel life, Professor Shrimali said, “The next thing important in my infrastructure is my hostel, because students should live here. My focus is 24 hours learning because our philosophy is not teaching, our philosophy is creating a learning environment for 24-hour learning. Since I talk about round the clock learning, round the clock eating facility is also made available to students as well as my faculty and staff who live on campus too. We have on campus catering services round the clock.”

Are MBA colleges obsessed with teaching? “We are not too obsessed only with teaching. We are also concerned about the quality of life. Health is as important. There’s a yoga class for everyone every morning. We have a doctor available on campus. And then, a large number of social and cultural activities are done by students. Our role is not restricted to just teaching, but adding value to the society. Our students have been creating toilets in villages, they have been cleaning those toilets, they have been organising blood donation camps and much more. For social activities at MDI, sky is the limit. Plus, we have all the musical instruments, we have a badminton court, a gym, even a golf course. So it’s not just academics, but also the mental and physical fitness and alertness,” he tells FI.

Increasing the intake - Does it help?

Prof Shrimali feels that the decision of increasing the intake of an institute as established as MDI depends totally on the infrastructure and the availability of funds with a college.

“In India, more than 2 lakh students apply for MBA each year. Almost all top institutions do not take more than 3,000 of those students. The dream remains a dream for a large number of students. This is quite unfortunate. MDI has not increased its seats nearly for a decade now. But I feel that if my infrastructure gets expanded even more, if I have the capacity to do that, I don’t think a number is an issue,” he says.

Responding to whether that can really affect the MDI brand, he says, “If with the existing infrastructure, an institute gets more intake, it is then that the quality goes down. But if we first focus on increasing the infrastructure and then the intake, the quality and the brand will be able to hold on to its position. MDI is thinking of expanding. But we will be very cautiously doing it. First we will ensure that the requisite faculty and infrastructure is available. I have 80 faculty members. Faculty development also needs to be taken care of – both national as well as international faculty.”

More campuses, expansion on the cards?

MDI, that has a strong hold in the northern region, has now spread out to the Eastern India too. It now has another 15-acre campus in Murshidabad, West Bengal, investing almost Rs 100 crore. The first batch of this campus will pass out this year.

When asked about plans of building more campuses in the future, Professor Shrimali says, “We now have one more campus in Murshidabad. We may also create something overseas for internationalisation purposes. We may be going towards the South. These things are being thought of and are possible.”

“My primary focus is to develop the Murshidabad campus as it’s at a remote location. After that, I’ll look at more campuses,” he adds.

He also explains how it’s difficult to expand especially when there’s no funding from the government. “I don’t get any kind of funding from any government anywhere. So whatever surplus is generated is spent on things like building infrastructure and more campuses. We have a growth plan, and we are growing,” he says.

International collaborations

With over 60 international collaborations, MDI is the B-school with the maximum number of collaborations in India. Talking to us about these collaborations, Prof Shrimali says, “We believe that being a top class B-school in the country when the economy has opened up, my education should be world class. In India, the quality of education is regulated by AICTE and UGC. But we want to be regulated, in addition to these two, by the global agencies, so we’ve gone for more accreditations.”

MDI currently has accreditations including National Board of Accreditations (NBA), South East Asia Quality Systems (SAQS) and Association of MBAs (AMBA). “You think of the country and we have collaborations there,” says Prof Shrimali. MDI has partners in Australia, USA, Europe, Middle East and many other nations and continents.

“We are now looking at getting AACSB, which is an American accreditation and we are at an advance stage of getting it. After a year or so, we may apply for EQUIS,” Prof Shrimali says. “Accreditations are basically inviting peer groups to look at your systems and processes and see whether your education is world class or not, knowing whether we are in the league of the Harvards and Stanfords,” he adds.

But what really goes into getting these accreditations? Professor MP Jaiswal, Dean, Research and Accreditation, MDI Gurgaon, tells us, “We are promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. For this, we have to make sure that our students and faculty are engaged in some action projects like consulting, research and entrepreneurship projects. Our next focus is on being socially inclusive. We want our students and faculty to engage in social activities so we are not just elite. Thirdly, we want our students and faculty to have a high level of ethical standards. We have a strict policy on plagiarism, cheating etc. These three parameters are required by us to finalise our AACSB accreditation and we are working hard to get it.”

Talking about the current situation in India, Professor Shrimali says, “In India, there are many mushrooming institutes, but MBA is becoming just a teaching activity. But globally, management education has to be supplemented with connect with the industry with a lot of research and consulting. This is a very costly affair in India as there are no endowments. But we are giving priority to this and that’s the reasons our rankings are going higher by every new list.”

But what purpose do these partnerships and collaborations serve. “Our students stay updated with industry trends in other countries. Our college is able to get workforce as also faculty from other countries. So, the first part is management education, the second is policy making, third is seeing the best practices and next is faculty exchange. Then comes, joint research,” Prof Shrimali explains. He adds that MDI may be joining the partnership called ‘One MBA Programme’ that includes drafting the MBA course by top B-schools of the world like the North Carolina University, Mexico University etc.

Corporate fundings/collaborations and the ease of business of B-schools in India

It is through several programmes that MDI generates its revenues. Telling us more about these, Professor Shrimali says, “I have three activities right now – education, research, executive training. The first and third generate revenue for me. Research consumes revenue. We are wanting to promote entrepreneurship through another activity, for which in October I’m launching an initiative with 30 aspiring entrepreneurs coming to the campus and we will become an accelerator, helping them become entrepreneurs. We are also looking at creating a separate company to promote this entrepreneurship in a bigger way where some sort of government or corporate funding should be available.”

Corporate Social Responsibility is another area that the institute is looking at. “Similarly, financial inclusion is another area. If that grows, I should be doing a lot of conferences, consulting and research work in that field, so that our policies get to the ground level. So, while the objective is not money, but if the initiative is good, money automatically comes in. We may be creating some more research chairs. If the government allows CSR funding to be invested in these kind of purposes, then we should be able to create a holdings company or something like that,” he adds.

What limits B-schools from generating more funds directly is controls by the Government. “In the present structure, I cannot receive grants straight away. I am taking project-based grants, but institutional grants are something I cannot directly take right now as it can affect my autonomy. But then, to work for a cause, I may create a separate vehicle and that process is on, where we are able to get the required resources without affecting our autonomy. Unfortunately, the Government of India has not been very pro-active at creating endowments at the institution level, coming from the industry. In almost all business schools in the world, whether it’s Harvard or Stanford, they get billions and trillions of dollars worth of endowment funds, which are donated by the industry or granted by the industry. That kind of culture has not yet been built in India,” he explains.

There is a silver lining, but is that really helping? “The government has taken a good initiative of starting CSR. But then there are no tax benefits really. If the government gives some tax benefits on these things to corporate and encourages these kinds of funds, I think that will help the evolution of growth of this institution,” he adds.

Professor Shrimali feels that such restrictions are restricting India’s B-schools from thinking big. “After 70 years of Independence, why not a single Indian B-School is among the top 100 in the world? Is it lack of capability? The reason is very simple. We are not able to think big. We are not able to build and promote these management schools. If you visit the Duke University, its library is bigger than the entire campus of MDI. Those overseas are able to think big. They are able to get the required resources, endowments and funding without too many controls. In India, when you go for fundings, controls come faster,” he says.

“But the silver lining is that the alumni of our country’s institutes are heading some of those institutes overseas. So, the issue is not capability, the issue is opportunity and controls,” Professor Shrimali adds.

When asked whether B-schools as a whole are doing their part on getting the rules changed, Professor Shrimali says, “It requires willingness on the other side. The question is whether the government is really willing. Currently all B-schools have gone to the court of law on the fee issue. The government has therefore, appointed a committee and there is a regulation on fee charged. If makers are in the court, this issue will be bilaterally settled. So, somebody has to take an initiative. So somebody needs to question whether the role of the government is to control or to facilitate.”

Endorsing free education, Professor Shrimali says, “I really feel education should be free in the country. But that education also costs – there’s the cost of land, the cost of building, the cost of facilities, etc. Is the government giving free land? Is it giving grants for infrastructure like it is the case in Singapore? I was reading that Justice Krishna committee report says we shouldn’t spend more than Rs 10,000 on the library. Will I be able to give that quality or that level in just 10,000?”

He also adds that the industry will be happy to give funds if it gets some sort of benefits and if that happens, he will not have to charge fee from the students.

But is the situation really going to improve? “Definitely,” says Professor Shrimali. “Whatever the environment, we will do our best to make it to the top colleges of the world. Our students and faculty have the capability to take us ahead,” he adds.

Special sessions for corporates

We also came across a special session on for the employees of JK Tyres when we visited the MDI campus. Telling us more about such sessions, Professor Shrimali says, “I have 150 programmes in a year for the industry. I do about 6 to 8 programmes simultaneously. We also have Brigadiers and Colonels also coming for these programmes. We do it for the private sector on a big scale.”

MDI in 2020?

While doubling the revenue is on the cards, there’s more that Professor Shrimali has in store for taking the MDI brand forward. “The size of the students will become 1500 from the current 900. The number of entrepreneurs I create each year should be more than 100. Large number of my alumni will become CMDs of huge corporates. Almost every IIM will have my student as their faculty member. We’ll definitely double our revenue, so if it’s Rs 100 crore now, it’s going to Rs 200 crore in 2020,” he says.

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