Dr Ranjan Banerjee, Dean, SPJIMR Mumbai: Visualizes deeper academia industry engagement

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Updated on September 5, 2015
In this interview with MBAUniverse.com, Dr Banerjee shares his vision and key initiatives lined up for SPJIMR
There is a need for far deeper academia industry engagement and collaborative research Dr Ranjan Banerjee, Dean SPJIMR

With a vision to make SPJIMR a globally recognized management institution, Dr Ranjan Banerjee has recently taken over as the new Dean of renowned S P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) Mumbai. Dr Banerjee brings with him a rare combination of extensive business, corporate training, academic and consulting experience. He took office on June 6, 2015 and moved quickly to announce a series of steps that would make himself approachable, create an environment of mutual trust and build a culture of working together with the faculty, staff, alumni, students and other stakeholders.

In this interview with MBAUniverse.com, Dr Banerjee shares his vision and key initiatives lined up for SPJIMR.

Dr. Banerjee holds a BTech from IIT Bombay, an MBA from IIM Calcutta and a PhD in Management from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, USA. He has worked for leading FMCG companies like Asian Paints, Vadilal and Hindustan Unilever. He has also taught courses on Marketing, Strategy, Behavioural Economics, Innovation at leading Indian and international institutes like IIM Calcutta, Great Lakes, Symbiosis, IIT-SOM, Singapore Management University and Carlson School of Management, USA.

Edited excerpts of the interview follow:

MBAUniverse.com: You took over as the Dean of SPJIMR in early June, 2015. You have a rich mix of industry/consulting & academic experience, but your profile is not a typical Dean's profile. What went behind the decision - both at SPJIMR and at your end.

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: From my point of view, I saw a B-school with a history of being innovative, value based, and the courage to carve its own path. I have always believed that academia and industry need to engage deeply and collaboratively, and have hence chosen to straddle between the two. This puts me in a unique position, because it enables me to earn the respect of both the corporates and academia. SPJIMR is an institute which has a strong culture of industry integration and academic excellence, and I believe this is the primary reason why it is a good fit both ways.

We also have a unique model of value based education strengthened by innovative non classroom based experiential learning, and this value based orientation aligns strongly with my personal values.

MBAUniverse.com: How will you describe the journey so far...

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: We have launched a campaign good 2 great which describes what we are trying to do. We have proactively reached out to all our stakeholders and sought their feedback. The nice thing about the experience is the high level of enthusiastic response I have received from faculty, staff, students and alumni. Our alumni are actively engaged with the institute. I have personally led alumni meets across the country, and the response from the community has been enthusiastic and open. It is an honour to lead this institute, and I have enjoyed every day.

MBAUniverse.com: What is your vision for SPJIMR? What will you like to School to be in next 5 years or so. Is there a model B-school (in India or outside) that inspires you

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: This question was asked in my first faculty meet and I refused to state a personal vision at that time. It is our vision, not my vision. We have co-created a vision with 45 core faculty, and are in the process of socialising it and seeking feedback from all key stakeholders. The key is that it is not a vision of one person. It is catalysed by one person, but co-created and owned by the team.

Some of the key aspects around which we will build will be
1. proactive industry engagement
2. A growth mindset- students who understand ambiguity, can persevere in the face  of failure, and are willing to go beyond their comfort zones
3. Two way exchange with some of  the best business schools in the world
4. A research culture focused around action research
5. Seeing ourselves as more than a business school- tapping new markets underserved by management education and being first to market
6. Extremely high faculty-student connect
7. Equipping students not only with high end placements, but with the skills and attitudes to succeed beyond placement.

We do not have a single model B-school in mind as that restricts us. Elements of Darden and Harvard may be useful as models to look at.

MBAUniverse.com: What are the key initiatives that you have conceptualized towards achieving your Vision?

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: There is an initiative towards proactive industry connect. There is a large alumni outreach initiative whereby alumni are becoming extended arms of the institute, and helping to take us to corporate India. All students of our two year program go for advanced specialisation courses at universities like Cornell, Darden, CMU, Texas-Austin, Purdue, MSU. We plan to deepen this into two way exchange relationships in the years to come. International researchers from top international schools will be visiting us to strengthen research culture and productivity.

There is a large infrastructure upgradation planned which will significantly enhance the quality of the student living experience.

MBAUniverse.com: Moving on to a broader question - how do you look at the current state of management education in India?

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: I think there is a need for far deeper academia industry engagement and collaborative research. Faculty need to be up to date with the issues that concern the CEOs of today. We need to move from being providers of high quality graduates to influencing practice at multiple levels.

There is also a need for building a research culture which is relevant to our local context, and to attract talented senior level corporate professionals to a 'second career' in academia.

MBAUniverse.com: In continuation with previous question, what are the key opportunities that Indian B-schools have...

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: Local relevance, global impact would be my short answer. Also, to realise that the student of tomorrow need not be at entry level, and we need have models to cater to students at different levels of their career. There are also many markets underserved by management education, and this is a societal need and opportunity.

Another dimension is the disruptive opportunity posed by technology for enhancing the scale and scope of education.

MBAUniverse.com: While SPJIMR has done well on industry-engagement and promoting social-sensitively, one of the criticism is low output of research here. Is that a fair criticism? How do you plan to rectify it?

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: This is no longer strictly true. We see case studies as an important element of practice oriented research. In the Ivey list of best selling cases in June 2015, 10 of the top twenty global cases have been written by our faculty. There is also a wave of faculty development activity on action research, and you will see us moving to new levels in research and consequently, thought leadership.

MBAUniverse.com: It's interesting to see that one of your first big projects is Alumni-connect. You are meeting Alumni in 10 centers all over the country and even outside India. What's the rationale...generally speaking are Alumni less engaged in India.

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: Alumni are less connected if we focus alumni engagement on socialisation and fund raising. If the plans of the institute are transparently shared with alumni, and alumni feel a part of building our future, then we truly have a large, extended community helping us build our future. Our alumni meets have broken all past attendance records, and created huge buzz.

MBAUniverse.com: Coming to academic batch 2016-18, what changes can prospective MBA community expect at SPJIMR? What can they expect at SPJIMR when they join you in June 2016.

Dr Ranjan Banerjee: Our current practice has been that students apply by specialization. We will significantly enhance the flexibility of changing specialization at the end of the first year and Dual specializations (a major and minor) are also planned.

Design thinking will be integrated , not only as a course, but as a mindset with design thinking projects with multiple courses. Our students will thus be equipped to solve structured problems (the traditional domain of business schools) and unstructured or ill structured problems (the need for tomorrow).

There will be cases of our internships being shared with students from foreign universities. Not only will each students spend a month doing advanced coursework at top US bschools, but there will also be opportunities for joint project work with students from top international schools.

All our non classroom based experiential activities will be integrated to help students acquire a growth mindset. The quality of the student living experience will be significantly better. All students, in small groups, will be assigned a faculty mentor who will engage meaningfully with them throughout the two years.

Our teaching pedagogy will strongly focus on two way learning- shifting the emphasis from one way delivery to an engaging, two way learning experience. The students of today are used to less hierarchical relationships, and this will be reflected in the way we run our classrooms.

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