B-schools need to focus on experiential learning: Rajesh Chakrabarti, director, MDI Gurgaon

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November 15, 2021 3:45 AM

Globalising our students means connecting them with those expats (within a few kilometres of the campus). The pandemic has, indeed, forced us educators to think differently.

In the NIRF ‘India Rankings 2021: Management’, management schools of some technology institutes have been ranked higher than established business schools. For example, management schools of IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur and IIT Bombay have been ranked higher than MDI Gurgaon. This, however, doesn’t imply that B-schools have been slipping down, says Rajesh Chakrabarti, director, MDI Gurgaon. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that, at the end of the day, all institutes work with each other to positively contribute towards student empowerment and the business community at large. Excerpts:

Why are some IITs ranked higher than certain B-schools even in management education? For example, according to the NIRF, IIT Delhi’s management school is the best in Delhi NCR.

My take (and I must confess I haven’t fully analysed these rankings) is that there is a very important element of research in these rankings. IITs have a large body of researchers in various departments (not just management), as opposed to standalone B-schools, and that may have worked to their advantage.
Of course, you cannot discount that fact that IIT Delhi’s management department is very good and deserves every honour and credit.

How important are rankings for MDI Gurgaon?

In higher education, no ranking is perfect. We have certain goals that we need to achieve, and getting a certain rank may be an outcome of the process of achieving those goals. At the same time, I respect the NIRF and believe it has a very transparent methodology. We may have slipped from 10th (in 2020) to 11th (in 2021), but we are still considered in the top cohort of B-schools.

We also know that we have something unique to offer to our students and the business community at large; at the end of the day, all of us top institutes work with each other and share the learning set to become stronger.

In which all ways has management education changed after the pandemic?

First is the rise of digital learning; both students and faculty were kind of thrown into the digital classroom with the lockdown, and both have learnt to swim there.

The second change is the changing definition of globalisation. While MDI Gurgaon (and almost every B-school) runs student exchange programmes, restricted travel during the lockdown impacted physical student exchange. So, we tried to figure out new ways of ‘being global’. We asked ourselves what ‘global education’ means? Does it mean travelling to foreign campuses or having a global mindset? Can globalisation of mindset be achieved through other means as well?

We found that globalisation of mindset is possible in a virtual environment as well. For instance, bringing foreign students to our classroom has become easier in the digital world, even though the fallout is that interactions in the digital world may not be as good as these are in the physical world.

The third change is that we all have realised management education is becoming increasingly experiential; you cannot simply lecture in a classroom and create effective managers. You need to turn them into better decision-makers, and that can happen only with experiential learning. There is this saying ‘I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand’, and that ‘understand’ part is crucial for managers, and it can only be learnt via experiential learning, which includes roleplaying, simulation, gaming, technology-based gaming, and so on.

How can Indian B-school campuses become more global in terms of student and faculty participation?

After coming to Gurgaon I have realised that Gurgaon is a surprisingly global city—in terms of nationalities working and living here. While there are a lot of Korean, Japanese, Chinese and people from Europe and North America in Gurgaon, you would be surprised to know there is a large community of Latin American expats also working here.

Many of them could be angel investors and VCs looking to fund Indian start-ups!
Globalising our students means connecting them with those expats (within a few kilometres of the campus). The pandemic has, indeed, forced us educators to think differently.

But why do Indian B-schools, in general, look West, instead of more actively interacting with B-schools in China, Japan, South Korea or Southeast Asia?

For one, we are more comfortable with English-speaking countries. Also, the focus has traditionally been towards North America and Western Europe; it’s easier to send your students to a partner school in North America and Western Europe than to other places.
At the same time, while there is a lot to learn from North America and Western Europe, there could be a lot more to learn from Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China and even Dubai.

Should Indian B-schools ‘look and act East’?

We need to understand China in a better way. Any Indian company will have a Chinese player, either in the supply chain or as a main rival, so unless you understand the business model and practices of China, you may not be fully successful in the business you do. We need to both cooperate and compete with China.

Overall, what all B-schools ought to be doing to create able future managers?

B-schools must enable students to take decisions in an alien environment, where they do not know the rules of the game. That is where skills like design thinking, high imaginative power, and communication become important.

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