Are Indian business schools ready for the digital economy?

This rapid growth of the digital economy undoubtedly has key implications on the way the leaders and management professionals of the future should be trained in our institutions of higher education.

Diganta Chakrabarti, Associate Dean, School of Business, RVU
Diganta Chakrabarti, Associate Dean, School of Business, RVU.

By Diganta Chakrabarti

A Reserve Bank of India research bulletin published in December 2022 estimated that between 2014 and 2019, India’s digital economy grew 2.4 times faster than the national economy, with strong forward linkages to non-digital sectors. Some experts projected the size of India’s digital economy to reach US $800 billion by 2030. Post the Covid-19 pandemic, the process of digital adoption witnessed a high degree of acceleration in multiple sectors, like banking and financial service, e-commerce, healthcare, real estate and many more. With a predicted 900 million internet users by 2025, the anticipated rollout of 5G network and unceasing developments in the field of ICT, increased application of AI-ML, Internet of Things and blockchain technology, it is reasonable to assume that Indian economy’s growth story for the next decades would be spearheaded by the digital economy. 

This rapid growth of the digital economy undoubtedly has key implications on the way the leaders and management professionals of the future should be trained in our institutions of higher education. How does this trend influence nearly 4000 odd business schools (or similar institutions offering management programs)? Acknowledging the substantial difference in the standard among different tiers of business school, it is interesting to speculate about   how business schools are integrating the speed and dynamism of the digital transformation in the structure, delivery and evaluation of their courses.

In the absence of adequate findings from systematic research in this regard, it will be sensible to presume that the degree of integration largely varies depending on multiple factors like availability of resources, scale of operations, school image and repute, etc. An important factor, however, remains that we need an accepted framework to methodically assess the readiness of business schools for the digital economy. 

In 2016, an article published in SAP blog identified five characteristics (tracked, connected, shared, personalized, direct) that best represented digital economy. Professor Michael Davies of London Business School in 2019 acknowledged the following five as the defining features of the new digital economy: “empowered consumers”, “unleashed creativity”, “catalysed connections”, “accelerated innovation”, and “energised entrepreneurship”.

To develop and enhance the managerial, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills (for the predominantly digital economy) among their students, business schools must look beyond the conventional domains of teaching and learning. As envisioned by the National Education Policy (2020), the management curriculum must embrace the valuable outputs of interdisciplinary education.

Apart from training in advanced technologies, management students stand to gain immensely from calibrated exposure to the fields of environmental studies, humanities and social sciences, design thinking, public policy, law, and visual and performing arts. A cultivated ability to view and approach real-life problems from multiple perspectives will enable students for critical analysis, complex problem solving and generation of innovative ideas. 

We also recommend extensive use of all modern multimedia tools in the delivery and evaluation of courses in business schools. In the age of ChatGPT and similar other open AI technology packages, business schools need to find a way to incorporate emerging technologies within the learning process, rather than outlawing their application. Schools can craft project works, assignments, exercises, and even final evaluations for students where they can use their programming and social media skills. Interestingly, World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs” report in 2020 underscored the importance of interpersonal, behavioural, cognitive and social skills, apart from the obvious importance of technological skills.

We believe that the optimum outcome from the “learning by doing” approach is possible through immersive real-time projects, long-term internships, collaborative programs and research studies with industry, and meaningful collaborations with digital start-ups and social sector organizations. In the digital economy of today and tomorrow, business schools need to nurture professionals who not only have strong domain knowledge, but are also conscious global citizens, committed to emerge as change leaders. As Prod Davies pointed out, ambidexterity, acuity, agility, and audacity will be the critical leadership capabilities for digital economy. 

To conclude, let us try to visualize the future of business schools through Kevin Kelly’s predictions in his 2016 book “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future”. Can we assimilate the forces of becoming, cognifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, interacting, tracking, questioning, and beginning in business schools successfully? Let us work towards that future and do our part in achieving an equitable developed economy status by 2047. 

The author is  professor, associate Dean (School of Business), RV University, Bengaluru. Views are personal.

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First published on: 04-03-2023 at 11:00 IST
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