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'Management is as much a clinical art as science'

Last updated on: April 1, 2011 19:12 IST

'Management is as much a clinical art as science'

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Apurv Pandit

The Department Head of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur's MBA programme, Prof Jayanta Chatterjee, talks about what makes their MBA programme special, and what new things the incoming batch can expect.

What differentiates your programme?

Primarily, we believe that distinctiveness in this context does not relate to 'what', but to 'how'. Over two years of the MBA programme, we have about 1,000 contact hours with each student. Within this, the candidate can opt for up to 250 hours of specialisation in finance, operations, or marketing -- like it is in most other institutes. But we also offer vertical domain specialisation opportunities within infrastructure, service, and manufacturing, through 250 hours of project-based learning.

Our programme aims to create transformational leaders of tomorrow who are not only equipped with sound knowledge but also encouraged to step out of theoretical models into real-life scenarios. The high faculty to student ratio enables our students to gain deeper insight into the areas of their choice. This constant emphasis on 'hands on' learning through 'live' issues is what distinguishes us.

The student's entrepreneurial innovation spirit is also nurtured through multiple programmes and projects. Of particular interest is the unique location of IIT Kanpur, which allows an engagement in immersive socio-technical innovation projects.

Hence, students of the IIT Kanpur MBA programme can leverage the core strengths of the department along with the unique IIT Kanpur combination of academic rigour and intellectual freedom. We believe our programme nurtures and polishes engineers into techno-managers with a penchant for innovation.


Image: Professor Jayanta Chatterjee
Photographs: PagalGuy.com
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'It's not just analytical and cognitive learning, but also about business realities'

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What areas of management has IIT Kanpur consistently improved upon, either through faculty members, or through learning opportunities?

IME has consciously and consistently tried to inculcate among its students the realisation that management is as much a clinical art as a science. So we have always tried to go beyond mere analytical and cognitive skills, and the stylised treatment of complex issues, and have encouraged our students to engage with current business realities. So we strive to be consistently better at the multi-disciplinary understanding of team dynamics and systems approach.

Our alumni has also reinforced this trend. We have some of the best minds and most respected academia as faculty. Their diverse experience as well as their long standing commitment towards the management programme provides our students an enviable pool of knowledge to tap into. But more importantly, during the 3rd and 4th semester, they get the opportunity to take investigative projects and apply them to managerial and entrepreneurial models, cutting edge developments in behavioural economics, green energy, nano-chemistry, advanced materials, cloud computing, and social informatics.

This varied exposure to the various departments of IIT Kanpur, gives IME students a sand-box to develop techno-commercial strategies, see their impact, and analyse the interplay of desirability, feasibility, viability, and sustainability. They get used to systems' thinking.


Photographs: Rediff Archives
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'It's about how we teach, not what we teach'

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What does IIT Kanpur not teach that other IIT MBA schools do?

Distinctiveness is not in 'what we teach' or 'not teach' but in 'how' we facilitate 'learning' rather than 'teach through discourses'.

In short, the distinctiveness comes from intense use of andragogy rather than pedagogy. I would refrain from any comparison to other institutes. Our aim is to enable and enhance managerial talents to execute complex tasks efficiently while also seeing the big picture intensely.

What new things can prospective students look forward to at IIT Kanpur IME?

IIT Kanpur in general and the IME department in particular, continuously seek new avenues of improvements. In 2011, we have significantly enhanced our infrastructure and shifted to a new building with state of the art facilities. The students have round the clock access to management research labs and high power computational facilities.

As India Inc opens up to new market segments, our proximity to rural hinterlands becomes our strength and facilitates the understanding of the realities of business and how it could be bettered. Our new management research laboratories connects key industries and institutions. Some new facilities include: the financial inclusion and innovation lab, the green products and service design lab, the digital manufacturing lab, the enterprise integration lab, management science research lab, and the social innovation and case research lab.


Photographs: Rediff Archives
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'Students can take electives from different departments'

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Your website says your pedagogy is centered around case methods, projects, simulations, etc. Isn't such a method compromised due to a class comprised of people with largely similar backgrounds and experiences?

To answer this question, I would first like to discuss the options that students have in selecting their courses.

IIT Kanpur offers specialised courses in each department relevant to the corresponding stream of education (say, mechanical, aerospace engineering, design, or industrial engineering). While it is mandatory for all students to pursue compulsory courses from their own department, they have many elective subjects as well, for which they can opt for inter-departmental courses. The MBA programme opens up and embraces other departments of IIT Kanpur.

This is particularly helpful for our budding entrepreneurs: for instance, a student studying BTech (Chemical Engineering) might develop a new process to efficiently trap a harmful gas. Then, in order to learn how to efficiently market his/her idea to fruition, he/she can take our course on innovation and entrepreneurship in our department, or specialise in service management if he is developing a new service plan, and team up with our MBA students.

Thereafter, the student team can go to our in-house incubation centre SIIC for seed money. Our students can take up electives like product design or data mining and analytics in other departments. Students from diverse departments do our management of technology or international business courses. Such healthy cross-departmental education model provide good diversity of perspectives in our interactive classes.


Photographs: Rediff Archives
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'We've chosen the techno-managerial emphasis by choice'

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The better B Schools in India are experimenting with admission procedures to reduce the number of engineers and increase the diversity of students. Will IIT B Schools also open up to people with non-engineering and non-science backgrounds in order to stay relevant?

Having only engineers and technologies for management discourses is in synergy with our vision and original plan. We have adopted this emphasis on techno-managerial specialisation by choice. However, the academic senate of the IIT Kanpur is already working on new dual degree courses like BTech-MBA and MSc-MBA, which will be announced soon. We also envisage sectoral specialisation courses like construction management, power systems management and design and media management -- all in due course of time. So, our continual emphasis will be on inter-disciplinary approaches to innovate new models.


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