Grainy, photocopied notes, and textbooks littered with doodles can move over. Students at Mumbai B-schools are trading in theorems for scuba lessons and formulae for mountaineering. With the changing times, teaching methods are evolving too.
To instil business skills such as leadership, presence of mind and problem-solving, colleges are swapping case studies for adventure sports and other on-ground activities that have adverse conditions.
For instance, Sonakshi Agarwal, 18, currently pursuing a business administration degree at SP Jain School of Global Management in Lower Parel, was asked to scale Mount Everest recently — albeit a virtual, simulated version.
As part of an activity to develop students’ ability to deal with hardships, the institute divided the class into groups of five, each with a team leader. The objective was to climb to the top of the mountain, while completing tasks along the way. Each student had to carry an oxygen tank, water and other basic necessities; as the altitude increased, they would have to strategise and decide which necessity to let go of, and which one will help them get to the top. At each stage, the temperature dropped, to give students a real feel of the mountain’s scale.
While some students had to click photos of the landscape and make a business plan to sell them to the locals, others had to play the role of an environmentalist. The idea was to focus on your goal irrespective of the changing conditions.
“It was increasingly difficult to operate, but a whole lot of fun,” adds Agarwal. “It taught us a lot about establishing relationships and strategy, and the importance of communication and decision-making. It was a 90-minute simulation.
Similarly, the Prahlad Kakkar School of Branding and Entrepreneurship, set to launch in July in Goregaon, includes modules on sky diving and scuba diving, worth a certain set of credits. WeSchool in Matunga takes its students on ‘outbounding’ experiences, where they are made to face hardships and try their hand at adventure sports, a means to assess their mental strength. The Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) in Vile Parle holds outbound training too, where students are taken to nearby villages and given tasks such as building towers from scrap wood.
“Now, multinational companies don’t look for candidates with a degree in a particular stream, but those who have real, practical experience in facing hardships, who display leadership qualities and who are ready to analyse situations and work towards solutions,” says MA Khan, registrar of the University of Mumbai. “In the big picture, such unconventional teaching methods are beneficial, and should be clubbed with traditional methods to achieve maximum productivity from the younger generation.”
“This new, interactive way of teaching has made learning much more fun, and helps us think on our feet,” says Agarwal.
Here’s a look at how Mumbai colleges are changing the game.
The Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research in Matunga, also known as WeSchool, trains its students using a method called outbounding. Started in 2014, students are taken into the forests and open spaces in Durshet, on the Khopoli-Pali Road, and divided into teams for activities such as mountaineering, rappelling and rock climbing. Uday Salunkhe, group director at WeSchool, says, “This method mainly tests the mental ability of students to work together, develop their sense of team spirit and problem-solving.”
In March 2015, after attending the World Communication Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ashwapurwa Kumari, 23, a retail management student who graduated in 2015, had to sledge down the Alps as part of her outbound training.
“We were a team of five. The mountain was 2,054 metres above sea level, and temperatures were as low as -10 degree Celsius,” she says. “The experience was highly daunting and it taught me a lot about working together in adverse conditions and how being a part of a team develops your qualities of leadership and co-operation.”
Salunkhe adds, “Outbounding allows students to develop persuasive and negotiating skills.”
Prahlad Kakkar School of branding and Entrepreneurship, Goregaon
The Prahlad Kakkar School of Branding and Entrepreneurship in Goregaon, in partnership with Whistling Woods International, opens doors in July and plans to introduce mountaineering and scuba diving as part of the course.
Meghna Ghai Puri, president of Whistling Woods International, says, “The idea of the course is to help students take risks and address your fears by testing their endurance. They will earn three credits for each activity, counting towards their total GPA.”
“Adventure sports allow students to face their fears and discover themselves. When the whole class is doing an activity, you are motivated to face your fears as well,” says Prahlad Kakkar, advertisement and film director, and founder-chairperson of the institute. “This also helps students become better entrepreneurs by thinking, feeling and experiencing different emotions in different situations.”
KC College Of Management, Churchgate
In January, KC College of Management in Churchgate divided its students into 60 groups of seven students each. These students are from the bachelor of accounting and finance (BAF), banking and insurance (BBI), management studies (BMS), and financial markets (BFM) courses. Each group had to come up with a product to retail, and a portion of the campus was turned into a mall for a day.
Some groups showcased products such as virtual reality headsets, nitrogen ice creams and homemade lip-balm among others. Other groups traded with them to stock their stalls, buying products in wholesale. Each stalls had to perform a 20-minute marketing show to attract students.
“It taught us how competitive the market is, and how difficult it is to manage your investments and resources,” says Vidhi Shah, 20, third-year BBI student, who put up a food stall. “We chose food out of passion, and knowing that our market may be attracted to it. We decided to be innovative, and had garlic doughnuts and pav bhaji sticks.”
Saeem Khan, 20, a third-year BMS student, ran an off-beat electronics stall, featuring virtual reality headsets with customised prints on them such as Star Wars graphics. “This experience taught me the importance of logistics and marketing, topics we often ignore when taught in class,” says Khan. “In fact, we have now devised a start-up plan for a night food delivery service, and will start working on it once our final exams are over.”
NMIMS, Vile Parle
Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Vile Parle, follows three main training variations, including outbound training, a civic community exchange programme called We Care and an integration module.
As part of the We Care programme, each student is allotted an NGO, and must work with them for 21 days, totalling at least 300 hours. During this period, they should come up with one initiative that is practical, helpful, and eventually implemented by the NGO. Their work is evaluated by a team of experts — social workers, NGO members and faculty.
As part of the integration module, companies visit campus, and students must solve a real problem that they face. For instance, last year, an FMCG product company visited and students had to help them rebrand their hair oil, which faced competition against new-age shampoos.
Students must undertake thorough research, visit the company office and factories if required, and formulate solutions in the form of a report. These solutions are evaluated by the company.
“I helped the company plan to rebrand their hair oil against new competitors. For this, I had to brainstorm with my
colleagues, and we suggested that the bottles use a spray technology instead of regular squeeze-technique,” says Prateek Mittal, a second-year MBA student. “It was an exciting project, and I learned a lot about the practicality of the theories we study.”