It is on a hot, dry day that we step into the 102-acre campus of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. The iconic old campus is closed for redevelopment. The new campus, which is right next to the old one, is neat and tidy. And, perhaps unexpectedly for India’s premier b-school, the sports facilities stand out. There is a well-furnished gymnasium, tennis and badminton courts, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a football ground, to name a few. But, then again, the body has to achieve what the mind can dream up. And, in the case of IIMA students, that is quite a lot.
Our leisurely stroll around the campus comes to an end when we bump into Vinoj. He is a first-year student from Coimbatore. We ask him about his lessons and quickly get an education on Toyota’s efficiency―he had learned about the company in operations management. Aditi Sharma from Delhi, another first-year student, excitedly explains how the pedagogy helps students become better decision makers. “Every day, one has to make decisions,” she says. “And that helps you make better decisions later, in your professional life.”
She is, of course, referring to the case method, where students dissect scenarios faced by businesses. They discuss the problems and potential solutions. This broadens their perspective and prepares them to be reliable troubleshooters when they are faced with challenges in their own managerial careers. Prof Sunil Sharma, who teaches strategy at IIMA, says that the problems posed by the case studies do not declare that they are HR problems or operations problems. “Hence, students must have a holistic approach to problem-solving,” he says. “I feel that management education, at least at IIMA, has not changed much except for new themes, such as leveraging emerging technology to create solutions for society at scale.”
The continuity in the approach to management education at IIMA is complemented by the continuation of best practices. Among them is the training of faculty. When IIMA was established in 1961, there was significant investment in hiring the best faculty and training them at Harvard and Stanford. “We continue to train our faculty in the same tradition,” says Prof Bharat Bhasker, director, IIMA. “Although we generally do not train them abroad [now]. Instead, the older faculty trains the new faculty here. Faculty is the key differentiation for IIMA. Our policies encourage them to stay and provide them the platform to scale up.”
Sharma says that the idea is to prepare students not only to be good managers, but also future CEOs. “If you are taking the best students, they should become leaders in any organisation that they join,” he says. “This has been our belief system. Business leaders should not just satisfy the aspirations of shareholders, but also the aspirations of multiple stakeholders, including the employees and society.” He adds that this has gained importance in the post-Covid world.
Terms like sensitive and inclusive are being widely used by business leaders, he says. “This has been our learning approach,” says Sharma. “Also, we have never seen a course as a solution to everything, as there are multiple aspects in different courses which help a person lead an organisation.” He adds that the focus on being sensitive and inclusive means leaders should possess multidimensional intelligence, including emotional intelligence. “There is also an understanding that India is a very bright spot and there is a need to create local solutions,” he says. “The spurt in entrepreneurship has also created an interesting spillover. Earlier, a management graduate’s destination was a large organisation, but it can now be starting something on their own.”
The growing startup ecosystem and the general reliance of startups on innovation and creativity has also had an impact on management education. “It is about new business models and expanding your worldview,” says Sharma. “[Understanding] how exactly societies operate.”
The perception of management education is also changing. “Earlier, an MBA was for fast career growth, but today it is required to be a successful manager and fast career growth is a byproduct of an MBA,” says Sharma. “It is now not just for students. We do programmes for IPS officers and bureaucrats. There is a broader appreciation for management education and its relevance in effectively leading an organisation.” He adds that IIMA today trains more than 5,000 managers a year.
A key aspect that IIMs and other top b-schools continue to focus on is experiential learning. Prof Chandrima Sikdar, associate dean, NMIMS School of Business Management, Mumbai, says that focus creates a simulated dynamic business world for the students in which they can get used to functioning. “We also focus on integrating the learning experiences for our students,” she says. “In their third trimester, they engage in a capstone simulation project. This project is divided into two phases, with the first part completed before their summer internships. During this phase, they work within a simulated environment, gaining practical experience. After internships, they return with real-world experience and complete the project. This allows us to assess their progress in terms of perceiving and interpreting concepts.”
At the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, we find the dean, Prof Vivek Suneja, sitting with a group of senior faculty members. He takes us through the challenges faced by today’s business leaders and how b-schools are preparing students for both current and future challenges.
A major part of the responsibility for the economic prosperity of any country falls on businesses and business leaders, he says. As the world becomes more interconnected and complexity of information increases, the challenges for businesses are becoming greater. In this context, a business leader should be a jack of all trades and a master of one, says Suneja. “A leader has to synchronise across domains and cannot be the one who just knows marketing or finance,” he says. “A good business leader specialises in being a generalist. It is like a general doctor who knows enough of different things and can make sense of it [and can bring in specialists when required].” This is why at b-schools students are initially taught all domains, before they choose electives.
Suneja adds that the biggest challenge that business leaders have to deal with now is climate change. He also says that students need to be taught to be intelligent about AI and other technologies.
Prof Venkat Raman of FMS, Delhi, who focuses on HR and health policy, says there is more scrutiny on business leaders nowadays owing to the increased societal expectations for responsible business and good governance. “Besides, the aspirations of the new generation workforce―Gen Z―and their work-related values pose a challenge [for their managers],” he says. “Many of today’s challenges are unprecedented. Hence, the management curriculum tries to provide an analytical framework and tools [to use in different scenarios]. He adds that management education may, to a great extent, help entrepreneurs to avoid uninformed decisions and judgmental mistakes in areas like finance, sales, market analysis, supply chain linkage and pricing strategy. However, it may also constrain out-of-box or creative thinking. “Those who go beyond confines of definitive frameworks would be ideal entrepreneurs,” he says.
Nishant Verma is pursuing an executive MBA from FMS while working as an assistant general manager (corporate affairs) with a Maharatna PSU. He attends classes from 6pm to 9pm. He feels that the programe will help him gain a broader perspective on holistic aspects of business operations and hone his decision-making skills. “I have already applied strategic frameworks learned in class to solve real-time challenges in my organisation,” he says. “Having an MBA can enhance my credibility and open doors to higher leadership roles and diverse career opportunities.”
Prof Vishal Talwar, director, Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad, says there is a lot more pressure for a business to perform from a shareholder perspective. “As a business leader, one needs to understand that consumers today expect much more quality and the companies have to operate in a sensitive manner to meet their expectations,” he says. “This puts more pressure on and adds much more cost to the company. Brands have to be very careful as to how they are projected in the market and how they are able to relate to the market, and whether their processes are intact. All these things become a part of the arsenal for a b-school. We have to teach our students the realities of the business environment and governance issues.”
Meeta Dasgupta, associate professor and area lead (strategic management) at Management Development Institute, Gurugram, says that the geopolitical environment has become extremely fluid and that was having an impact on the functioning and decisions of business leaders. While dealing with changes and challenges, businesses should also be sensitive to the needs of their employees and the impact their decisions are having on the environment, she says. She adds that Gen Z is clear on what they want to do in life. “Businesses have to deal with this generation not only as employees but as customers, too,” she says. “This generation has been born in the digital world and they do not shy away from experimenting. Management schools can build in the harder and the softer skills in the Gen Z students to help them to build teams and work in teams.” She says that b-schools have also realised that Gen Z work better when they have ownership of the sessions in the classroom.
Prof Jeevan J. Arakal, who teaches marketing and is chairman (executive education, branding and PR) at T.A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal, says there is an increased focus on embedding liberal arts and humanities in the MBA curriculum. “This can create grounded and aware managers,” he says. “Management curriculum is evolving to understand big trends like the impact of a pandemic, the role of giants like China and the effect of geopolitical tensions. There is also an increased focus on cross-cultural communication and learning foreign languages.”
Ranjan Banerjee, dean and professor (marketing), BITSoM, Mumbai, too, highlights the focus on creating potential global leaders. “We do much more in terms of learning to lead in cross-cultural contexts,” he says. As the problems that business leaders are facing are increasingly unstructured and multidisciplinary, conventional tools may be inadequate and this is where management education can help, he adds. “[Through] the use of simulations which move from static case studies to multiple situations where students take decisions under pressure, they are able to understand the consequences of decisions,” he says. “There is also much greater emphasis on learnability. We must prepare leaders for multiple distinct careers in a lifetime, and learnability is a critical building block.”
director, Symbiosis Institute of Operations Management, Nashik
Businesses are in a transition phase given the disruptions caused by market dynamics, technology and the trailing effects of the pandemic. AI and ML are increasingly incorporated in every aspect of the industry, be it strategic decision-making or marketing. It is overtly clear that future business leaders at management institutes must have a working knowledge of AI-infused transformation.
K.M. SHARATH KUMAR
professor and head, Faculty of Management and Commerce, Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences
There is a huge requirement of business/data analysts to support leadership to make optimal, effective and evidence-based decisions. [Therefore], students pursuing management programmes enriched by AI/ML modules along with digital transformation could be ready for senior positions and the scope for becoming future CEOs will be higher.
senior director, corporate relations and human resource, Shobhit University
Management education equips aspiring entrepreneurs and startup CEOs with the essential knowledge, skills and resources needed to establish and grow their businesses. This strong foundation and the support they receive from management education programmes can indeed increase the chances of success for startups, making it easier for them to overcome obstacles and sustain their growth over time.
director, Institute of Management, Nirma University
The shape of the workplace, unpredictable disruptions, demand for environmental, social, and corporate governance goals, the evolving role of AI, and post-pandemic customer expectations are some of the current challenges that business leaders face. Management education plays a catalytic role in bringing young minds face-to-face with such challenges.
founder principal, AIMS Institutes, Bengaluru
AI could take into account the cognitive abilities of students, tailor personalised learning experiences and help in improving their skills on an ongoing basis. It can be used to analyse student performance and course effectiveness based on which educators can make data-driven decisions about curriculum design, teaching methods, and resource allocation.
president, IIHMR University Jaipur
[To help entrepreneurs] IIHMR University has established the IIHMR Foundation. The foundation will significantly contribute towards an inclusive and healthy India. Moving well beyond its business activities, the IIHMR Foundation will contribute to a positive societal impact through diverse community engagement initiatives.
chairman, New Delhi Institute of Management
In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, technology fundamentally transforms industries, work, and education. Leadership, beyond traditional management, now requires a deep understanding of technology, data analytics, and global navigation. Integrating AI and ML into management education is vital and institutions must adapt their curricula to harness technological advancements for transformation.
Y. LAKSHMAN KUMAR
director, Vishwa Vishwani Institute of Systems and Management
Management education prepares [aspiring] entrepreneurs to adapt to the rapidly changing business landscape through several key strategies. They include focus on critical thinking and problem solving, emphasising digital literacy, making students think globally, instilling a mindset of continuous learning and honing collaboration and communications skills.
chairman, Prestige Education Foundation, Indore; chancellor, Prestige University, Indore
Business leaders today face a range of challenges, including rapid technological advancements, changing consumer behaviour, and global economic uncertainty. Management education plays a crucial role in addressing these issues by equipping leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge. Management education equips entrepreneurs with vital knowledge in finance, marketing, and operations.
CAPT A. NAGARAJ SUBBARAO
Dean, School of Commerce and Management Studies, Dayananda Sagar University
The primary aim of a business school is to craft leaders who can look to the future with confidence and forge new paths across myriad disciplines. Good business schools drive entrepreneurial spirit. Innovation is the specific discipline of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business or a new venture. It is how the entrepreneur creates new resources that generate wealth or embellishes existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.
SARDAR SIMARPREET SINGH
director, JIS Group
AI-powered learning platforms, tailored to individual needs, provide instant feedback, enabling students to gauge their progress and make necessary adjustments. Moreover, these platforms simulate real-world decision-making scenarios, allowing students to apply their knowledge in practical situations. This is a powerful way to nurture critical thinking and decision-making skills.
JOE ARUN SJ,
director, Loyola Institute of Business Administration
One of the fundamental philosophies of education at LIBA is that singers must be tested on singing and dancers must be tested on dancing. Each student has unique strengths and they must be tested on their strengths not on their weakness. LIBA provides a learner-friendly ecosystem and state-of-the-art infrastructure. Learning is not just acquiring skills or knowledge.
PERCEPTUAL OPINION COLLECTION
A primary survey was conducted in August-September 2023, where 198 academic experts, 605 current students and 30 recruiters from 17 Indian cities nominated the best b-schools in the country. The cities selected were major education hubs in the country.
A closed-ended questionnaire was given to stakeholders, asking them to nominate and rank the top 25 b-schools in India and the top b-schools in their zones.
Perceptual score: Calculated based on the number of nominations received and the actual ranks given to the b-school in the All India category and in its zone.
FACTUAL INFORMATION COLLECTION
A dedicated website was created as an interface and the link was sent to more than 1,400 b-schools, of which 162 responded on time.
Factual score: Information collected from the b-schools was combined by applying appropriate weights to each parameter as given below:
* Overall infrastructure 20% (Includes accreditations and safety measures like women's grievance redressal cell)
* Faculty 12.5% (Includes teacher-student ratio, and publications and consultancy by faculty)
* Teaching-learning and extracurricular 30% (Includes work experience and diversity of students, and alumni base)
* Placements 37.5% (Includes average salary and average internship stipends)
Ranking is based on a composite score, derived by combining the perceptual score and the factual score. For b-schools that could not respond within the deadline, the composite score was derived by combining perceptual score with an interpolated appropriate factual score. B-schools that shared their data in the past two years were included. Therefore, factual data was considered for 215 b-schools―162 of which responded this year and 53 which had responded in the past two years.