IIM Bill not a significant threat to premier private B schools; global accreditation, placements, student experience key: Dr Ranjan Banerjee, Dean SPJIMR

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Updated on January 31, 2018
Dr Ranjan Banerjee who joined the SPJIMR, Mumbai in June 2015 as its new dean shares with MBAUniverse.com, the three years of success journey with his future vision and emphasizes that IIM Bill poses no threat to top private B-schools
“For the top private schools, IIM Bill will not have much impact as students are concerned about two things: placements and marketability of the degree within and outside the country” Dr Ranjan Banerjee Dean SPJIMR

Almost three years after stepping into the shoes of a legend Dr ML Shrikant, Dr Rajan Banerjee, Dean, SPJIMR has a lot to talk about. On the back of multi-dimensional improvements, SPJIMR has cemented its place amongst India’s Top 5 B-schools along with IIMA, IIMC, IIMB and XLRI, while shrugging off competition from some IIMs, MDI and others. Renewed focus on the core strengths of SPJIMR like pedagogy and teacher-student engagement, and concerted efforts to fill up the gaps in areas like research, is resulting into a more holistic B-schools that is gaining global recognition, and adulation at home. However, it takes a long while to build or rebuild an institution, and it seems Dr Banerjee knows that.

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MBAUniverse.com spoke to Dr Banerjee to find out more about the milestones achieved, initiatives taken in last 3 years at SPJIMR and plans ahead. Enthused by the response, Dr Banerjee is confident that IIM Bill will not have a negative impact on top B-school like his. Edited excerpts from this MBAUniverse.com Interview follow:

Q: You took over as the Dean of SPJIMR in June, 2015. How do you look at the journey so far? You were stepping into the big shoes of late Dr ML Srikant...

A: I had the good fortune of walking in the footsteps of a giant. I think we have done really well in the last three years. Two global innovation awards from AACSB, Steady upward moves in all national rankings, and being selected by UNPRME to lead the India chapter are small indicators. Our placements are competitive with the top three IIMs and have improved significantly year on year. This has been possible due to the strong support I have received from faculty, staff, students and alumni. I believe our faculty student connect is the best among all institutes in India. 

There is a new enhanced focus on research and thought leadership. We have launched a fellow program in management which is modelled on the lines of the best global research PHDs. Faculty publication in popular newspapers and magazines has gone up by over 150%. Case output has gone up significantly. A number of collaborative research projects with top international researchers have been started. The full results will take another 3 years to be visible.

External and internal perception has improved. Our faculty strength has grown by more than 30% since 2015. There is a positive buzz around the institute. Applications for faculty positions have grown, and we get many more applications from faculty at top schools across the country.

We are creating new initiatives to enhance teaching effectiveness and pedagogical innovations, both within and outside the institute. Harvard Business Publications has selected us as their national partner on teaching with simulations, and faculty from top institutes across the country have been trained by our faculty, with extremely high feedback scores.

Q: Please share key milestones and achievements at SPJIMR?

A. I will list a few of them: 

  1. AACSB, the global accreditation authority , has a competition for global business schools, where the world's most innovative business schools are awarded. For two years in succession, we have been the only Indian b school to make it to the world's top 30 business schools.
  2. Harvard Business Publishing has drawn up a exclusive partnership with us for Teaching with Simulations for India. Faculty from institutions like ISB, IIMA, IIML, FMS, XLRI have attended our pedagogy workshops.
  3. We have been declared the India Chair for the India chapter of UNPRME and have been given the responsibility of leading the cause of sustainability within Indian management education.
  4. We have launched an innovative management program for returning women, which won a global innovation award in its very first year.
  5. We are one of 5 Indian institutions to feature in the QS global list of the world's top 230 institutions. This puts us in the same league as IIM A, B, C and ISB. In national rankings, we continue to rise and are among top 5 schools in both Business Today and Mint.
  6. We have been globally recognised for our innovations in non classroom education.
  7. Design thinking has been introduced as a core course in all programs, and or design thinking expertise has been valued by top b schools and corporates. Our design thinking course has been offered and very well received at international universities.

Q: Today, what is the distinctiveness of SPJIMR? What are the areas in which it’s amongst the Top B-schools in India, and in Asia?

A: Our mission is to influence practice and promote value based growth. In my view, here are some areas where we stand out:

  • In terms of innovations in bringing new programs to market, and pedagogical innovations in the classroom, we are among the best in India and even Asia, and this has been globally recognised.
  • Quality of teaching is definitely among the top 3 in the country.
  • Industry integration is among the top 3, and our curriculum is among the most current.
  • Faculty student connect, and diversity of the peer group are probably the best in the country.
  • Placements are on par with the top 3.
  • In our flagship 2 year program, there is a 3 week global fast track in top US schools, and we are the only school in India which offers significant global exposure to every student.
  • Non classroom experiential learning which helps in creating balanced, value based leaders is an area where we are seen as a benchmark institute at an Asia level

Q: Historically, SPJIMR has been reputed for strong industry connect, but low on research focus? How have you corrected this…

A: Our mission talks about influencing practice. A lot of research emphasis has been brought in. Top researchers from London Business School, London School of Economics, Cornell, Carlson, Oxford,, have conducted research workshops for our faculty. A fellow program in management has been started and is in its second year. A prestigious international research conference on operations (POMS) was led by SPJIMR last year, and 2 international research conferences will happen later in 2018. 

Our industry academia conclave SBAC has been upgraded and in the last 2 years Vijay Govindarajan and Mohanbir Sawhney have come in as keynote speakers. A number of research projects with top international faculty are in progress. A behavioural lab has been launched and a lab for action research is being put in place.

A popular magazine on the lines of an Indian HBR is on the anvil. Publications by our faculty in leading popular vehicles have grown by over 150%. Results in terms of influential publications will be visible in 2-3 years. Many research active faculty have joined our ranks recently.

Q: There is a lot of talk for need to relook at Curriculum and Pedagogy of MBA to align with Fourth Industrial Revolution, Millennials in classroom etc. How can/should MBA of the future be different.

A: We need to strike a better balance between left and right brained thinking. We have introduced a course on liberal arts as a compulsory part of the curriculum. Design thinking is a compulsory course in every program and embedded into projects.

Analytics needs to be embedded in every program. We have created an analytics minor.

Students need to be exposed to rural and urban India, as well as the global context. We have three elements embedded: an internship with rural NGOS, a corporate internship, and a global fast track which encompasses advanced course work in areas like analytics and an embedded project in an international environment.

A deeper way to teach values and sustainability-Our values course involves students doing depth interviews with 50 operating CEOs on their dilemmas and how they have overcome them.

Overall direction must include the degree of industry integration, currency of content, integration of courses like liberal arts and design thinking which build unstructured problem solving skills, embedding analytics in every specialization, and a move from a management education which is designed for the industrial world to an education designed for tomorrow's digital world.

Q: Government recently passed the IIM Bill 2017, and IIMs will be able to grant degrees soon. Does this put Private Independent B-schools like yours at a disadvantage? How should PGDM B-schools see this development and prepare.

A: For the top private schools, IIM Bill will not have much impact as students are concerned about two things: placements and marketability of the degree within and outside the country.

For established schools like SPJIMR and XLRI, their programs are already recognised within and outside India and have been accepted by top universities and corporations outside India. Placements are a function of industry integration, quality of curriculum and alumni base, and we are rapidly growing all three.

Among top schools, international accreditations like AASCB, AMBA and Equis matter. As an example ISB does not issue a degree, but has global accreditations and is consistently perceived very favourably globally. A ranking like QS Global which is an open ranking across the world will carry more weight, and the top schools in these rankings will be seen favourably globally.

My advice and suggestion for private schools are:

  • Focus on currency of curriculum and teaching quality, relevant research, industry integration and placement.
  • International accreditations and global rankings will drive recognition outside India.
  • Placements, intake quality and teaching quality and student experience will drive reputation within India.

I believe lower rung private schools may suffer relative to new IIMs. Established, top private schools should focus on becoming the best they can be, and consequently moving ahead of the top 3 IIMs.

Q: At an operational level, has SPJIMR expanded its application numbers, total seats, MDP revenues etc in last two years?  

A: Application numbers for our flagship program are up by 20% this year, which is faster than growth in CAT applications. We are keeping seats stable in flagship programs, but growing continuing education programs like the EMBA and introducing new programs like the management program for women. On flagship 2 year program, our focus is on curriculum innovation, faculty student connect, placement quality, and experiential learning. Reputation and contribution is the goal.

For executive MBA and MDP, we are growing number of seats as well as quality. We are also expanding continuing education through online. Executive MBA enrolments are up by over 20%. MDP revenues have seen 25% plus growth in the current year. 

An innovative Center for Financial Services is on the anvil, and will deepen our presence in senior level executive education for the financial sector.

Q: You recently opened a Center in Delhi. What is the idea behind this expansion and how is it working out?

A: The Delhi center will focus on executive education and will also expand our share of the government market. Early days but there is a lot of positive response. The campus is centrally located, at Kasturba Gandhi Marg. A two year longweekend program for working executives, and custom executive education have been well received. Many new partnerships are being curated, and we see our impact on the government sector growing.

Q: What are a few new initiatives for the coming year for Admission 2018?

A: Our admission processes are robust. We will continue to focus on versatility, values and consistent academics. Admitted students can look forward to an expanded, greener campus, a new hostel block, and a scenic lake in the midst of Mumbai. While admission process remains largely unchanged, the peer group quality will be as good or better, and the quality of living experience for the next batch of admitted students will be far superior.

Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for more updates on SPJIMR Mumbai

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