The executive MBA programme of the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode (IIMK) was ranked third best in India by the QS Global Executive MBA ranking 2022. Its PGP was ranked 10th in Asia by the QS Masters in Management rankings 2022. Recently, IIMK was ranked the fifth best business school in India by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). “These are mere numbers. What we are really focusing on is creating managers who can solve the grand challenges the world faces,” Debashis Chatterjee, director, IIM Kozhikode, recently told FE. “These challenges include climate change, creating a diverse workforce, rethinking the classroom, and globalisation of mindset.”
IIMK recently set up the Centre for Climate Studies (CCS), dedicated to training and driving the next generation of climate leaders and ambassadors from the Global South. “The aim is to bring a critical mass of people in climate studies to start thinking how management can address climate issues,” Prof Chatterjee said. “Management education should be able to solve the big problems the world is facing.”
The CCS, however, isn’t creating ‘climate managers’ as of now, but that could be a possibility. “IIMK is famous for its foresight,” he said. “Doing things become they become fashionable or mandatory. For example, we worked on gender diversity before it became mainstream; similarly, we worked on liberal studies.”
Creating a diverse workforce
IIMK is the only B-school to have more than 50% female students on the campus. Also, about 33% of the faculty are women, and 40% when it comes to the Board of Governors (highest amongst IITs and IIMs).
“More than a decade ago we set out to solve the gender diversity challenge. Corporates were looking to hire more women at entry-level positions, but there weren’t many women students in B-schools. We took steps to increase their participation, including organising many ‘women in leadership programmes’ since 2012-13. In our last batch, we had about 53% female students,” he said. “Other schools also started their initiatives. The result is that from 8-10% female student participation a decade ago, today about 30% are graduating from the IIM system.”
Changes in the classroom
Prof Chatterjee said that the B-school classroom has permanently changed due to Covid-19, and for the better. “We will never go back to the way were teaching before Covid-19,” he said. “What can be done remotely, more efficiently and more effectively, should be done remotely.”
Today, routine work that doesn’t require in-depth attention is being done online. This includes even some Board meetings. Previously, physical attendance was compulsory, but now for routine stuff classroom presence isn’t mandatory.
Prof Chatterjee, however, is rethinking the classroom. He has designed a Gurukula, housed inside the library of IIMK. “It is for intense classroom engagement. It has a vertical garden, grass, trees, space with a lot of natural light, and it is absolutely quiet,” he said. “So quiet that you can talk to yourself, think and reflect.”
Changes outside the classroom
Like most B-schools and IIMs, IIMK also works outside the campus, and while it has taken numerous initiatives—including supporting entrepreneurship in the region—one of its popular programmes is the School Leaders Programme, which has trained school principals for leadership roles as they play a stellar part in nurturing young minds. “Our efforts have not just been limited to the institute, but have also been transcending barriers to reach out to large, previously-neglected constituencies of the society,” he said.
Globalisation of mindset
It is often argued that the campuses of Indian B-schools aren’t global in nature, i.e. there is very little foreign student and foreign faculty participation. “We are the first IIM to announce 50 supernumerary seats for international students to boost diversity on the campus. We are pushing to take the CAT (entrance exam for IIMs and many other B-schools) global, and it will be held in Kathmandu, Singapore and Sri Lanka,” he said. “But globalisation goes beyond that. Recently, the top boss of Suzuki from Japan was on our campus to sign a MoU, and interacted with our students and faculty. That is also globalisation.”
He added that Indians usually have a more globalised mindset than people from many other countries. “An average IIT or IIM professor would know more about Japan or USA than his or her counterpart in Japan or USA would know about India,” he said. “A food court in India will likely offer you food from more places in the world than a similar food court in Japan or USA would.”
He added that in addition to creating managers, IIMK is creating global ambassadors from India. “That’s why we teach them Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family),” he said. “It’s not a slogan; it’s a way of life.”
Back in 2012, when there was no NEP and little discussion on liberal arts education, IIMK started the liberal arts department, which later evolved into a PGP in Liberal Studies & Management. It’s a two-year full-time Masters-level programme designed to integrate and equip participants to pursue careers in managerial roles in marketing, HR, media, social enterprise, hospitality, healthcare or in other people-facing roles. “These are the roles that require a holistic perspective and ‘diversity of thought’, which the PGP-LSM aims to develop,” Prof Chatterjee said. “Now IIM Bangalore is replicating that model and we will soon see this across the country. Our PGP-LSM graduates have gotten a better salary package then average PGP students.”
Creating problem solvers
Over the years, IIMK isn’t creating graduates, but managers who can solve the most complex problems. “If we don’t make our students problem solvers, our relevance as a school would be in question. Why does a BCG or a McKinsey or a Bain come to us? Because they want to recruit people who will help them solve problems that a machine cannot,” Prof Chatterjee said.
Generalists are needed
While the world needs specialists, it also needs generalists with the broadness of vision who can connect history, geography, economy, politics and environment to create models that can solve the world’s biggest problems. “The business model of the past was that you had to satisfy the stakeholders and make profits. You didn’t think much about the environment,” he said. “Today, to start a business, it has to be economically feasible, technologically viable, politically acceptable, and environmentally global. We need more people who think in this direction.”