IIMs electives encourage out-of-the-box thinking

  • Apoorva Puranik, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 15, 2015 00:37 IST

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are breaking away from traditional management programmes, meant to produce general managers for the post-independence era, and foraying into more diverse fields of study.

Along with new courses, the institutes are now offering electives that focus on industry demands. Electives are optional courses offered in each term at the IIMs.

The first IIM in the country – IIM Calcutta – is pioneering such innovative programs. The institute launched a unique one-year ‘Healthcare Executive Management Programme’ from this academic year. The programme, designed with the help of Glocal Hospitals, a chain of hospitals that has its headquarters in Kolkata, is a unique blend of a five-month stint in the classroom, five months of on-the-job training and a month of international training in Singapore.

Targeted at people working in the health care industry, the programme has been designed in such a way that students get a mix of field experience and theoretical knowledge, said Anindya Sen, dean of academics, IIM Calcutta. “We should have introduced such a course 30 years ago. The health industry is booming and in dire need of quality managers and we are trying to bridge this gap,” Sen said. The programme started on February 3 and 30 candidates have enrolled.

Other IIMs are following the trend and introducing new programmes and courses that are distinct from general management. Some of these courses are quirky and out-of-the-box electives. For instance, at IIM Indore, Hindi movies are academically dissected by management students for an elective titled ‘Learning management though cinema’ where teachers and students find interesting ways of looking at management strategies in the movie plot. “A movie like ‘Lagaan’ or ‘Chak De India’ holds valuable management lessons of planning, recruitment and the role of emotions in business,” said Madhusri Shrivastava, who teaches the course.

IIM Bangalore (IIM-B), which has a public policy programme since 2010, is repackaging courses to fit industry needs. Two popular electives, ‘Management paradigms in Bhagavad Gita’ where teachings and specific chapters in the Gita are correlated to modern management techniques and ‘Going beyond jugaad’, the Indian way of getting things done ingeniously, are popular. “One of the challenges organisations in India face today is building a systematic innovation capability. The objective of ‘Going beyond jugaad’ is to identify the strategies, systems, processes and structures required to build a world-class innovation capability, beyond the deep-rooted ‘jugaad’ mentality’, said a member of the IIM-B faculty.

Devnath Tirupathi, dean of academics at IIM Bangalore said, “Such subjects take students beyond the classroom. They enable students to learn better as pedagogical methods are different. At IIM-B, we use a variety of learning methods — all designed and delivered to equip our students with the best tools and training,” he said.

An elective, ‘Marketing at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ offered by IIM Calcutta (IIM-C), looks at economies that thrive at the bottom of the economic pyramid. IIM-C has not limited the new courses to their campus alone. A one of its kind programme in business analytics will be on offer soon, which has been jointly designed by IIM-C, IIT Kharagpur and the Indian Statistical Institute.

According to Ashok Banerjee, dean, new initiatives and external relations at IIM-C, IIMs need to focus beyond general management and tap sectors where the industry demand is more.
“We have several academic groups in the institute that constantly look out for new programmes and courses,” said Banerjee.

Not just electives, IIM-B also launched India’s first ‘Executive General Management Programme’ in Aerospace and Aviation Management, collaborating teaching and research in December 2014.
Those who complete the GMAE programme are eligible to pursue the Aerospace MBA being offered by the Toulouse Business School, France.

While elite global programmes are being doled out by the premier institutes, IIM Ranchi, with an aim to teach entrepreneurship lessons to small traders and semi-literate businessmen, launched a ‘Barefoot Management Programme’. The 15-day programme is practical-based, with hardly any writing exercises. Participants are trained to develop themselves as small entrepreneurs, said Pradip Bala, dean of academics at IIM Ranchi.

Prafulla Agnihotri, director, IIM Trichy, said creating general managers is not the only thing IIMs should focus on. “Premier institutes like IIMs are funded by the government, which is actually the taxpayers’ money. Through socially productive programmes, IIMs want to give something back to society,” he said.

“With management education becoming globalised, IIMs are moving towards a structure, which is more inclusive, comprehensive and challenging all at the same time,” said P Rameshan, director, IIM Rohtak.

"At IIM Ahmedabad, a new school of public policy is set to be launched from this academic year while a host of new electives will also be introduced," a professor of Human Resource management said.

The innovative courses, however, have not always been successful. IIM Ahmedabad had to shut down its public policy course in 2009 because of bad response. “However, now things have changed and the collaboration of policy-making with the skills of management is the next best thing,” said Ujjal Kumar, head of external relations at the institute.

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