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IIM-A and C role models no more: IIM-K director

Last updated on: May 6, 2011 19:45 IST

IIM-A and C role models no more: IIM-K director

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Lajwanti Dsouza, Pagalguy.com

With an office that is almost about 1,000 sq feet in size, has glass walls and is perched on top of a hill with acres of coconut trees below, one would expect Prof Debashis Chatterjee, Director of Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIMK), to speak Wordsworth and Shelly. But Prof Chatterjee is far from being the dreamy academic, and has rather radical views on IIMs and the CAT.

Besides brandishing the CAT as a test that fails to assess one's managerial orientation and observing that the older IIMs in the country are caught in a time-warp, Prof Chatterjee sheds light on his future plans for IIM-K in an interview with PaGaLGuY.

Before taking over as the IIM-K Director, Prof Chatterjee taught for a decade at IIM Lucknow and IIM Calcutta and held leadership positions at SP Jain Center of Management, Singapore. He was a Fulbright fellow at Harvard University and MIT and has been a visiting faculty at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

He has also founded and led the Global Center for Leadership and Human Values at IIM Lucknow.

Click NEXT to read the interview


Image: Prof Debashis Chatterjee, Director of Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode
Photographs: Pagalguy.com
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'How many IIMs want to know what people think about them?'

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You are known to have radical views on the functioning of IIMs. You say they are archaic?

Yes, the IIMs are archaic. They work in a typically government fashion. There are layers of permissions for everything and the movement of files is slow. Today, if I wanted to procure an ambulance for my B-school, I will have to get permissions from various ministries and prove why I need it. Should that be the case? Things have been running in a particular way over the years.

Today, IIM Ahmedabad and Calcutta cannot be role models anymore. They are caught in a time-warp. Our governance structure has to change. Our instruction has to embrace global perceptions. We cannot function in a place where basic issues like feedback are not considered important.

How many IIMs want to know what people think about them and where changes can be brought about? But I want to.

Everyone who comes to IIM-K is asked to fill a feedback form, this is because I want to change and improve all the time.

NEXT: 'At IIM-K, I want my students to create jobs and not just get jobs'


Image: IIM Ahmedabad
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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'At IIM-K, I want my students to create jobs and not just get jobs'

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IIMs are perceived as 'employment exchanges' by students, for that matter even other B-schools. Do you agree that placements is the first criteria students keep in mind while choosing a B-schools?

Yes, thanks to a media perception which is not entirely false, IIMs are seen as employment exchanges. But the fact cannot be hidden that students look at the IIMs for exit options. If you study at an IIM, you are likely to get jobs at different types of places and more easily -- in the public sector to multinationals to a PhD course abroad or just being hired in companies abroad -- it happens better and faster with an IIM degree. But I am trying to change much of this.

At IIM-K, I want my  students to create jobs and not just get jobs. I am trying to inculcate a sense of creating multiple currencies of wealth in my students. For them the job should not be just the pay packet but also the quality of experience, the depth of learning at the job, the growth involved.

NEXT: 'We have to decide right now the kind of managers which India will have in 2050'


Image: IIM Kozhikode

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'We have to decide right now the kind of managers which India will have in 2050'

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Your latest book -- The other 99% -- You Can Dare To Lead has gone into its third edition. What is it about the book that can be connected to the ideas you have for IIM-K?

In the book, I have reflected on the basis that a job is not a role that you play -- a job is the magnitude of responsibilities that come with it. When you do your job beyond it just being a job and find your path in it, you create energy and this energy is positive. This positive energy always reflects back.

At IIM-K, I am trying to make everyone understand their responsibilities and not just their roles. Today, I want to build more buildings but for that I cannot just uproot thousands of trees, it is my duty to think of the environment.

The driver that drives the vehicles in our campus are taught that if ever they see an elderly or sick person on the road, they have to stop, take a detour, drop the person and resume their journey.

In my book, I have spoke about the 99% of people who are not toppers and yet can actually top what they are doing if they put their soul into it. We have to decide right now the kind of managers which India will have in 2050. We need managers who realise the importance of overall growth and not just number-crunching people.

NEXT: 'If Richard Branson was taking a CAT exam, he would do absolutely poorly'


Image: Management students attending a lecture at one of the IIMs in India

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'If Richard Branson was taking a CAT exam, he would do absolutely poorly'

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You are not too fond of the CAT exam...

What does CAT test? It only tests some verbal and analytical abilities. It does not test whether a person is fit enough to be a manager. There is absolutely no connection between a test score and a person's ability to lead well or be a good team member and that goes for most other exams too, especially admission ones.

There is no indication to show that a person with a good CAT score is bright and will be successful in life.

Everything in life does not end with numbers and analysis. CAT is good of course because it tests how appropriate the student can be but that does not tell me what (s)he is capable of doing in a real world.

Richard Branson does not know how to read a balance sheet but he is running a successful company. If he was taking a CAT exam, he would do absolutely poorly. CAT along with the GD and interview format of admission is fine to test if you can enroll the student but that's it. Though the CAT as an exam carries more integrity than many other exams.

In the research that I am carrying out in my B-school, we are drawing close to the conclusion that there is absolutely no relation between a CAT or any other exam's top scorer and a successful person in life.

NEXT: 'The majority of IIM students today are staying back in India'


Image: Virgin Atlantic Chairman and maverick businessman Richard Branson

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'The majority of IIM students today are staying back in India'

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Do you think that proposed autonomy for the IIMs will make a difference to their functioning and output?

Autonomy is needed. It will help us to draw our own faculty and directors and at the pay scale we want and we can choose who we want to have on board. Yes, we also need financial autonomy and it will help us tap talent abroad as well.

Autonomy will certainly help in the long run -- however the IIMs need society, government and the private sector to reflect on its policies.

Do IIMs need to be go global? They hardly have any international students, leave alone an international outlook?

Yes, IIMs definitely need to look at instruction more globally. To have 80 nationalities in a single class definitely gives the class a better perspective and understanding of things. It also helps you to see the world in a light you may have never known exists. In India, we have a different kind of a diversity.

For instance, a student from Chattisgarh is going to bring in different ideas than a student from Kerala but to compete in a global world, an international approach is required. Havard, Wharton have been around for years and create wealth in different geographies but in India our oldest IIMs have just been around for fifty years. We are already seeing a change in our students.

The majority of IIM students today are staying back in India and do not go abroad for a job, this means that we are also slowly beginning to look at jobs from a larger perspective.

NEXT: 'Our commitment is to gender diversity and not a quota for women'


Image: Management students attending a lecture at one of the IIMs

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'Our commitment is to gender diversity and not a quota for women'

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Last year, the IIM-K class had more than 30% women...

Yes, that is the biggest goal before us, an increase in the intake of women. We will not change criteria to accommodate women but we are just inviting more applications so that more women apply. CAT is only one of the many lenses with which we examine the potentiality of a candidate.

Our commitment is to gender diversity and not a quota for women. The emphasis is on excellence rather than exclusion. More than 25% of women take CAT but only 10% actually bag a seat. This is because somewhere the woman has to also understand and take over other responsibilities which men do not have to be too concerned about.

Marriage and social responsibilities weigh heavily on a lady's mind, not so much for the man.

We would like the ratio of women in IIM-K to go up to 40% and more. Women employees and bosses are more sensitive. From my experience they are better team people and can lead better and make better CEOs since they deal with stress better. The ability to nurture and guide comes instinctively to them. Women make about half our population so why aren't there more of them in our classrooms and board rooms?

NEXT: 'We are trying to tear apart the silos created in B-schools'


Image: A group of women in Bangalore

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'We are trying to tear apart the silos created in B-schools'

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Any other changes that the 2011-1013 batch can look forward to?

Yes, we are carrying out an experiment at IIM-K from this year. We are trying to tear apart the silos created in B-schools. Over the years, we have been having a specialised faculty each for operations, HR, marketing, etc. Now I want all these disciplines to merge.

As a small experiment, we have decided to change curriculum so that these subjects are not taught as very different subjects but integrated in some way. The final modalities are yet to be worked out and it will be a small experiment this year but the target is that when students get into a company, they have to learnt to integrate the different functions for one goal.

They have to understand the different sectors as one to achieve some amount of success for the company. So multiple faculties will teach multiple subjects. We will also push our 'social transformation of India' subject much more.

Only at IIM-K do we teach a subject that teaches about global India over the years post-liberalisation. I also take lectures not in the classroom but outside it. I encourage my students to go out and do what they love doing most with their life as projects and then discuss what the project has done to them.


Image: Students attending an oitdoor class at IIM-K

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