The IIM Kozhikode campus (Photo: Nidhish Krishnan)
MANAGEMENT IS INDIA’S MOST SUCCESSFUL soft power. Most people in our country do not realise that. We have sent our managers out into the world, and they are now in charge of companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Google and call the shots at leading multilateral agencies like the World Bank. What makes it possible for our managers to do so well globally? It is the deep orientation of values in India that makes wealth creation sacred and legitimate. One way to express India’s soft power is to provide management education that is deeply rooted in not just the symbolism, but the actuality of what it means for one to be an Indian. What we want to achieve at IIM Kozhikode (IIMK) is to help maximise India’s clout and impact in the world and reclaim our thought leadership. In the year 2047, independent India will be 100 years old, and IIM Kozhikode 50. We wanted to ask the right questions and come up with solutions which will set our path for the next three decades to come. Will transcendental changes mark India’s turning a century old in 2047? Will the new face of India be the world’s topic of discussion? Will the transformation of the nation from a liberated infant to a mature, independent world power happen in the next couple of decades?
Learning institutions, like seasoned travellers, need to master the art of harnessing the space of informality, especially in challenging times. It’s the ability to think outside the formal boxes and adapt to the unpredictable twists and turns that will lead them towards progress. Thinking of 2047, there is no guarantee that the certainties of today will hold then. We will need new ways of thinking, new skills and bold, positive imagination. IIMK set for itself a preeminent role in “Globalising Indian Thought” (the institute’s dictum). The potential impact that India could have on 21st-century businesses makes us believe that this is a legitimate aspiration. It is our earnest hope that our experiences and Vision 2047 will be of inspirational value to managers and institutions that wish to contribute to the future of India and the world. At IIMK, we wish to play our part in the creation of a novel and resurgent India and we have already set the ball rolling.
Our 28-year journey as the fifth IIM in India achieved a significant landmark this year. The institute outranked the oldest IIM of the country to break into the longstanding Top 3 order of the prestigious NIRF Rankings 2023 (Management) awarded by the Ministry of Education (Government of India). Globally, we debuted at the renowned Financial Times Ranking also this year. This was a vindication of us doing something right in the management education space in India. It is also a testament to Indian B-Schools not only knocking on the doors of global supremacy but rather bringing it down, with a fresh approach rooted in Eastern management education and the immense potential of Indian thought system. Our approach has been able to make marked contributions to the legacy of Indian business schools in the country only because we have dared to tread through unchartered territory. The three Ds— Digitisation, Diversification and Disruption, complimented by the two Is—Inclusion and Innovation, have been at the core of our success. We realised long back that the women representation is historically low in the IIMs and our affirmative action has changed the game in the past decade, giving a boost to the diversity quotient. This year, at IIMK Nostalgia (an annual summit where our alumni return to the campus), one of our former female students and now a C-suite leader, from the batch of 2015—first IIMK batch with more than 50 per cent women—recounted how IIMK’s actions in improving gender imbalance now resonates across corporate boardrooms. Among other firsts, we also overcame geographical challenges to offering education by going digital at the beginning of the century, untried in Asia until then. Realising the potential of a multidisciplinary approach in higher education, we became the first IIM to roll out a full-time MBA combining liberal studies and management. We realised that at the heart of management specialisation in rigid management disciplines, it is critical to disrupt the provincialism of single-discipline thinking by inspiring students to take a more humane approach. One where the emotional quotient (EQ) is valued more than IQ.
OUR RELENTLESS EXPERIMENTATION WITH pedagogy taught us that innovation serves as a driving force that propels the institution forward, enabling it to adapt, evolve, and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. The centres of excellence at IIMK thus started taking shape as a humble effort to help boost innovation at our institute. The journey started with the Centre for Governance, dedicated to doing rigorous and impactful research on governance. Next, the Centre of Excellence for Social Innovation (CESI) was instituted to evolve it into a rich repository of social innovation practices in India through its research and publications. The hope is to create an international network of researchers, policymakers and practitioners to use the knowledge base of this centre to impact areas of research, teaching, training and policymaking involving social innovation. IIMK also established the Centre for Digital Innovation and Transformation (C-DiIT) to develop expertise in the emerging areas of digital technologies and their applications in organisations, government and society. It was also our learning that climate as a probing area and sustainability as a life choice has not been emphasised enough. That was when IIMK launched the Centre for CLIMATE (Climate Leadership, Internationalisation, Management, Policy Advancement, Technology and Enterprise) Studies to make meaningful contributions towards India’s goal towards achieving carbon neutrality. LIVE, IIMK’s business incubator, recently completed six years. It has now emerged as a collaborative platform helping transform innovative ideas into business ventures that aim to have significant economic and social impact, with a high success rate of 40 per cent. India-Japan Study and Research Centre at IIMK in collaboration with Keio University, is our latest endeavour to bring forth the gems of the Eastern management system.
When you look at the complexity of problems that managers are going to be required to solve in the future, compounded by climate change, terrorism, and other foreseen and unforeseen calamities, management graduates will require a broad range of thinking skills and awareness of the world. They should be able to extract actionable insight from a sea of data in an uncertain environment. This will be the most important managerial skill required. “Flexpertise”, or teaching expertise that is flexible enough to adapt to the different learning styles of students, is the future of education. Schools of the future will look a lot less like police lock-ups and a lot more like conversation hubs where learning will happen through small group projects. Learning will move from painful rote-memorisation to the quest for creativity, problem-solving ability, higher-order thinking and the sheer joy of discovery. Capitalising on the human element will be the key to future success. In the future, digital education is likely to be fully integrated into mainstream education. Digital will be the nuts and bolts of learning. However, the romance of learning will still remain largely offline.
We have also realised that edtech companies have significantly contributed to making volumes of lessons fit right into your palm by making them accessible. They have revolutionised how one chooses to receive information. However, at the end of the day, technology cannot entirely dictate the quality of educational output; it is the humans involved in the process who will complete the holistic delivery cycle. Edtech companies have realised that partnering with leading educational institutes is the way ahead for education. Will Netflix marry Harvard, or will IITs and IIMs embrace Amazon or Google? That is a question for the future. Further, the unbundling of their programmes into stackable courses will help edtech promote management education by making the courses more flexible.
The future of management studies in India will be shown the right path by NEP 2020, which is a golden reset button for our education system. The next 10 years will thus be crucial, as the study of liberal arts will propel the next generation of managers who will rule with their brains but also listen with their hearts. With the government’s thrust on their internationalisation, the IIMs will also be attracting a large number of foreign candidates into their fold. Our institute’s mission of “Globalising Indian Thought” closely aligns with the government’s thrust towards the same through its “Study in India” programme. India as a global learning centre will flourish, and I hope to see IIM Kozhikode leading the charge. I also hope that the cause of gender diversity, which IIMK has been passionately promoting and propagating for the past decade, will lay the foundation for an equal and representative future for management education in our country.