66-Himanshu-Rai Himanshu Rai

The Indian Institute of Management Indore is one of 100 institutions in the world to have the triple accreditation of AMBA (Association of MBAs), AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) and EQUIS (European Foundation for Management Development Quality Improvement System). It achieved this under the leadership of Professor Himanshu Rai. Prior to his current role, Rai was dean of SDA Bocconi (India campus) and also worked as a professor at SDA Bocconi, Milan. An alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, he had a corporate stint with Tata Steel and has also taught at IIM Lucknow and XLRI Jamshedpur. Rai is a consultant to the World Bank, apart from the Indian government and industry. He spoke to THE WEEK about the quality of management education in India and how it compares with the top b-schools in the world. Excerpts:

Q/ Where do India’s best b-schools stand in 2022 compared with the world’s best?

A/ In recent years, we have seen a significant number of Indian b-schools featuring in global business school rankings. For instance, in the 2022 Financial Times business school ranking for Master’s in Management (MBA or PGP equivalent), seven business schools from India are among the top 100. If we observe the historical data of the last three years, the number of business schools from India in the list shows an increasing trend. This is certainly a positive aspect. Similarly, in the QS Global MBA Rankings, released recently for the year 2023, there are nine and 10 Indian business schools in the rankings for one-year executive MBA and two-year MBA, respectively. So, going forward, too, we will observe significant improvement in rankings of Indian business schools.

Q/ Where do you see the difference? For example, has it got more to do with curriculum or pedagogy?

A/ As I mentioned, the rise of Indian business schools in the global rankings is a recent phenomenon. There is still a lot to be done. It is not just the curriculum, but several aspects that should be focused on strategically to achieve the objective. For instance, internationalisation of student mobility, pedagogical innovation in line with the emerging business environment, international partnership for curriculum enhancement, faculty research and training, technological and infrastructural upgradation, better career orientation and placement opportunity for candidates, and an overall ecosystem which consistently strives to achieve better.

This needs a systematic approach at the senior management level, and demands time, focus, engagement, resource commitment, stakeholder orientation, industry engagement, and mission driven strategic orientation. The business schools which are now making their mark in the global context are getting the benefit of such quality assurance parameters that they were practicing for a long time. Successful and impactful management is basically doing the right thing in the right way and not just waiting for the right thing to happen.

Q/ How do Indian b-schools, especially IIMs, compare with international b-schools such as the Harvard Business School?

A/ IIMs and international Ivy League business schools are not directly comparable. For example, Harvard Business School was founded in 1908 and the first IIM in India draws its origin in the year 1961. Therefore, the context in which both business schools operate are very different. During the last couple of years, the role of business schools, and management education itself, has undergone a total transformation. As developing countries’ economies went through unprecedented changes, shifting focus from manufacturing to services, management education and training also shifted focus from traditional knowledge areas to a new system where technology and business skills with practical application orientation are equally in demand. In developed countries, their long legacy and dominance in management education gives them an advantage. The academic institutions in our country are gradually learning the same.

Q/ How are Indian b-schools in terms of industry-academia collaboration?

A/ The industry-academia collaboration in developing countries is yet to mature. The world-class research culture in the emerging economies’ academic institutions is also developing gradually, which is much more established in developed countries.

Q/ What are the strengths of Indian b-schools?

A/ Management education seeks to prepare participants for working in diverse industries and societal institutions. The biggest strength of Indian business schools is the demographic dividend that this country offers in terms of potential human capital. Another important aspect is the phenomenal economic growth potential of India. These two perhaps are our biggest strengths.

Q/ How can Indian b-schools improve?

A/ There are certain challenges that are yet to be addressed in Indian b-schools. Internationalisation of Indian business schools in terms of recruitment of foreign faculty and enrolment of international students remains a significant concern. In recent years, the business schools in India have seen big changes in the curriculum design, content delivery, multidisciplinary approach, faculty resource mobilisation, industry-focused skill enhancement, participant-centric pedagogy, accessibility, customisation in programme design, and institutional-level research focus. These aspects of change in business education focus can mainly be attributed to the rapid changes that have been happening in the national and international business environment. Access, equity, and costs continue to remain major concerns of higher education. Offering quality education, with the potential for seamless delivery and in a cost-effective manner is going to be a continuous challenge for Indian business schools.

Q/ Why do many Indian students still aspire for a management degree from an international b-school? Is it because of better job opportunities or exposure abroad?

A/ The demand for a programme is a function of several determinants, for example affordability, exposure, academic brand recognition, growth opportunity, as well as the job dimension. So, job opportunity is not the sole criteria. In the context of job opportunity, probably Indian business schools offer a more structured system of career placement opportunity as compared to the European or the US business schools. If you look at the ratio of final enrolments to candidate applications for the IIMs, it is extremely competitive and even more competitive than the best of global business schools. Therefore, if Indian students are opting for the international business degrees, it is for other considerations. Nevertheless, in the next decade, the developed and emerging academic institutions will not compete, rather they will complement each other. As demand for skilled manpower will be more global in future, continuous collaboration among institutions in developed and emerging countries for student exchange, research collaboration, faculty exchange, collaborative course offerings and joint research collaboration will be the new future.