A Pune-based senior academic talks about the importance of liberal education for future managers, and more.
Let’s begin with the main course you offer at the Foundation for Liberal and Management Education (FLAME) in Pune. What has students’ and industry’s response to your PGDM and undergraduate course been like?
The two-year PGDM as well as the two-year programme in communication are slightly different. Several components are anchored in liberal art education which means having a broad understanding of life in general, an understanding of the environment and of various streams. Students will of course have courses in marketing, strategy, organisational behaviour, computer science, supply chain, written analysis and communication. With this they also take courses in social science, arts and performing arts. Sports are an integral part of campus life. Students take part in the FLAME investment lab. They get a certain amount of cash to play the stock market. There’s also REAP (Rural Entrepreneurship Appreciation Programme) where they actually stay with a rural entrepreneur for four-five days to understand socio-cultural realities. Students also go through a personal growth lab which is like a retreat — to introspect, talk about their growing-up experiences, the baggage they are carrying and often shedding it. They discover their spontaneity and enthusiasm.
How many applications do you receive?
We got more than 700 applications for the three courses – 60 seats in PGDM, 60 in communication, although we finally ended up with 20 students, and 92 for the undergraduate course (degree awarded by Bharati Vidyapeeth and diploma by FLAME) in 2010. But this time, I think it’s going to be a higher number. This is our fifth year. In the first, students were largely from Mumbai, Pune and Gujarat and one, two from Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata and the north east. Four years later, the distribution is about 70% from Mumbai, Pune and Gujarat and 30% from across the country. It’s becoming pan-India.
What are the salaries and who are the major employers during campus placements?
The first year was a difficult proposition because of the economic downturn, so we really had to go around and talk to people. Last year (May 2011), we had 100% placements. Right now (in mid-December), we have placed 14 students and I think we’ll manage 100% placements this year as well. For the PGDM, the lowest pay package was R4 lakh a year and the highest was above R9 lakh. In the first batch, the highest annual salary was R8.5 lakh and the lowest, around R3 lakh. Last year, the international offer was for R18 lakh from a food and agriculture in Dubai.
The recruiting companies are good — Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, HDFC, Camlin, Zee TV, Enam, Navneet Publishers, among others.
How’s your Green PGDM doing?
We are developing an environmental science centre which we wish to turn into a school. We have a professor from the University of Chicago. He promotes a lot of the courses. It’s not so popular or known but we are taking care that students are sensitised. There are three students taking it.
Which, entrance test including national and international ones, do you think tells you best a potential student’s suitability for a business education?
We are looking for students who are not necessarily maths-savvy. So far, we were conducting our own test and we do an interview as well. (Now the institute will accept scores of any of the six major tests, including the CAT, for entry to PGDM) There are institutes which have scrapped the group discussion. But in a GD, your social and inter-personal traits come to the fore, especially in a group of strangers which is so important because at b-school you’ll be among strangers.
Tests are essentially about mathematical ability and communication skills. We prepare students to be ready for class. We just need some benchmark to know where a student stands. Some of the students who get a 100% in the test still get a ‘D’ at the institute. That’s because the focus shifts – you have to apply it to management and management is not numbers. You have to help students transition. It’s an additional responsibility for us to make them interested in maths. We get bright students and we make them catch up in maths.
What’s going to be emphasised in business education in general?
There has to be a shift – a more broader-based learning and perspective of the world around us which is changing and more emphasis on entrepreneurship, on not making managers but future leaders, and more emphasis on international issues, especially values and ethics. Definitely, there’s more to a PGDM. Also, it’s not about work-life balance but a philosophical orientation to life and how do youngsters manage their lives.
Interviewed by Rahat Bano