In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that similar is the case with B-schools, where the lockdown did bring with it a lot of challenges, but then the academia also created a unique learning set.
Prior to joining NMIMS, Bhat was professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
“Today, no enterprise can function without a robust digital infrastructure,” says Ramesh Bhat, dean of the School of Business Management (SBM) at NMIMS, Mumbai. Prior to joining NMIMS, Bhat was professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, where he served from 1986 to 2009 and then from 2014 to 2016.
“We have just witnessed how the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to adopt a ‘digital first’ approach when existing conventional business processes proved inadequate,” he says. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that similar is the case with B-schools, where the lockdown did bring with it a lot of challenges, but then the academia also created a unique learning set. Excerpts:
Was the transition to the online dissemination of learning difficult when the lockdown started?
The lockdown took the entire education sector—in fact, every sector in general—by surprise, and business schools were no exception. At NMIMS, during that time, we were in the final stages of completing our academic programmes. Under the guidance of the chancellor, we started looking at how to ensure the continuity of academic activities. For any risk, there is usually a kind of textbook-approach, but for this (complete lockdown) there was no prior experience. We put our faculty under a capacity strengthening programme to handle the online situation and we discovered tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Hats off to the faculty, they were able to quickly transition to online classes. Particularly at a B-school we’ve found that it is easy to conduct exams online.
I think we were in the first in the industry to conduct the online exam for 25,000 students for admissions for the new academic programme.
Were placements for the batch that was then graduating impacted in any way?
While there were apprehensions (about placements), things went smoothly. In fact, most of our placements had happened in January itself (before the lockdown).
Of the 500-odd placements we did of the previous batch, 10 got cancelled (after the lockdown started), perhaps due to complexities on the corporate side. We re-run the placement cycle for those 10 students and were able to place them eventually.
The corporate world has completely changed. How will this change the future of management programmes?
We constantly evaluate our programmes to keep them in sync with the demands of the industry. About two years ago we did a comprehensive review of our MBA programmes. Because of Covid-19, keeping in mind the kind of requirements that are coming up—for example, the ability to work from anywhere, the ability to manage teams remotely, the ability to use data analytics more effectively, and so on—we are putting more focus on such areas, and next year we might introduce new courses as well that try to address the upcoming needs of the industry.
Are current students worried that they may not be able to secure the right job in the next placement cycle, because the economy has still not picked up?
There is definitely some anxiety on how the entire situation will play out, but the positive news is that a lot of students who got summer placements have already got pre-placement offers (based on their summer placement work) from the same companies they had spent time with recently.
But how do you foresee the job scenario in the corporate world in general next year?
Certain industries will definitely require more people—for example, retail, e-commerce, companies that are heavily dependent on technology will require new kind of competencies and skill-sets. At the same time, those in the direct sales, for example, will face some challenges. But I don’t foresee a significant difference in the overall number of jobs next year.
Are online classes still a work in progress?
We are still trying to figure out how to effectively use technology to make students more engaged in the entire learning process; that is an area everyone, I think, is currently working on. As we continue online classes, there are certainly some constraints. There are some areas such as ‘simulation’ that are very effective in online education, but others such as ‘case discussion’ are relatively less effective; we are trying to develop mechanisms that make teaching of all areas as effective online as it is on-campus in a physical classroom.