Last week, Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research bagged two awards at Assocham’s 9th Higher Education Summit in New Delhi. While the institute won the ‘Best Innovative Institute’ award for its contribution towards management education, its director Prof Uday Salunkhe was honoured as ‘Best Education Entrepreneur’. In an interview with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express, Prof Salunkhe talks about his expectations from Union Budget FY17, the Start-up India initiative, and the role of universities in nation building. Excerpts:
What are your expectations from the upcoming Union Budget?
Education warrants a substantially bigger allocation of resources, funds and focus. Last year, the outlay was snipped by 2%. The outlay needs to be expanded for inclusion and quality, considering the growing demography. Schemes like Make-in-India, Smart Cities, renewables need behavioural and social transitions within a community, and these are more impactful and deliverable in younger classrooms. Teacher training is also paramount.
Speaking specifically about higher education, we have to spend more on infrastructure with intense focus on quality and expanse. R&D, incubation labs, innovation centres, science parks, technology, IT … all should be grown. Higher education creates professionals who, in turn, fuel the growth engine. If manufacturing is to be shored up, then focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has to be buoyed.
How do you look at ‘Start-up India’?
This initiative has brought start-ups into the mainstream. Start-ups create wealth, generate employment and, being rooted in realities, often offer sustainable growth solutions. We are sitting on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, with transformative technologies rendering the world more democratic and economies more convergent. During such times, the start-up culture is bound to grow, and must grow.
How can universities help scale up Start-up India and Skill India?
Innovation labs and incubation centres on campuses have a huge role to play. Incubation centres support fresh ventures till the time they are on their own. They attract consultants, bankers, legal experts who cater to different aspects of a venture. A few institutions, like IIT Bombay, are good role models. The Munktell Science Park of Malardalen University in Stockholm is another good example. Such set-ups streamline cooperation between academia, world of business and companies.
Platforms supporting student ventures, and curricula that are project-driven and encourage risk-taking, can contribute towards such schemes. Academia has to create an atmosphere that promotes entrepreneurial mindset, risk-taking and, most importantly, an attitude that is not averse to failures.
It is sometimes argued that entrepreneurship cannot be taught in just two years at a business school…
To an extent, the statement is true. Entrepreneurship is a culture, not a workshop. Entrepreneurial spirit has to be inculcated right from the primary and secondary school levels. A business school can impart some basic framework to help entrepreneurial decision-making, facilitating the development of the students’ entrepreneurial mindset. A business school also provides the platform for students to engage with entrepreneurs, entrepreneur networks, venture capitalists, etc. All this helps the potential entrepreneur, in the student, to take an informed call.
Having said that, training is pivotal. After all, two years of laser-focused intensive training, by the best minds in the right direction, is bound to produce results. These two years are brilliant concoctions of live projects, industry interface, EQ training, soft skills, internships and much more. So you cannot undercut the role of a good business school in creating entrepreneurs.
Recently, Welingkar students worked to make the Nashik Kumbh a better experience for visitors. What was the idea behind the initiative?
It was launched in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which has been using technological breakthroughs to resolve a variety of civic issues. Nashik Kumbh gave our students a platform to complement technological solutions with management innovation. It challenged and recognised their faculties of design thinking, innovation, project management and leadership. The students worked on projects designed on basic amenities like housing, food and traffic management, and health services. They were fairly successful too.
What kind of association do you have with MIT?
We have signed an MoU with MIT’s Venture Mentoring Services, by which we have access to the methodologies used by them for mentoring ventures on their campus.
Welingkar also has a Venture Mentoring Platform…
Yes, it is a mentor board comprising entrepreneurs, investors and attorneys who interact with our student ventures on a regular basis. They provide views on the concepts of ventures, the business model adopted, target groups identified, and create a set of deliverables to be achieved by the ventures before the next interaction. Thus, the venture’s plans get refined over a yearlong series of interactions and start-ups get spun off the campus. By a conservative estimate, we have over 33 successful ventures that have taken off from this platform in the past three years.
Do you also train corporates?
Our MDPs cater to over 70 corporate houses, training personnel at different levels of their career. A well-known corporate house has even institutionalised our training programme.
There was news about your efforts on assimilating youth from Northeast India into the mainstream…
We are working on enhanced interaction, representation and academic connectivity with the Northeast. The region has about 36 business schools. We plan to chalk out structured ways where we can work on faculty development, student exchange, training, mentoring and scholarships for the students from the region. Live projects relating to the region can also be encouraged. We will see how we can give them a bigger and meaningful exposure.