In June 2015, Dr Ranjan Banerjee took over as the Dean of S P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) Mumbai. He had big shoes to fill as he was stepping into the role of Dr ML Shrikant, who had built SPJIMR’s legacy as pioneering, innovative B-school during his more than two-decade association.
Ready for the hot seat, the IIT Bombay, IIM Calcutta alumni and a PhD from Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, USA, Dr Banerjee brought with him a rare combination of industry, corporate training, and academic experience.
While the transition must not have been easy, Dr Banerjee has certainly lived up to the expectations. In last 4 years, SPJIMR has not only consolidated its position as a top B-school in India, it is increasingly getting global recognition.
In this in depth interview with MBAUniverse.com, Dr Banerjee shares his views on wide ranging topics including his journey at SPJIMR, key long term initiatives and his vision to make SPJIMR a global B-school, but in a unique Indian way.
Edited excerpts from the interview follow:
Q: You took over as the Dean of SPJIMR in June 2015. How has the journey been…
A: Yes, I am in the middle of my fifth year at SPJIMR. It has been an enriching journey, and I have learned a lot. We have made good progress; there is a lot more to come.
Q: What has been remarkable is the quality of support I have got from faculty, staff, students and alumni. We have taken a collaborative and inclusive approach to change, and that has enabled some early success.
A: A lot of the credit must go to the leadership and vision of my predecessor, Dr Manesh Shrikant. We are building on the foundations laid by him. I inherited a strong and dedicated faculty team, and we have together co-created the blend of 'continuity and change' that is taking the institute forward.
Q. What are the key achievements and success stories of last 4 years at SPJIMR?
A: SPJIMR has made good progress in almost all areas. I will like to highlight a few here that cover culture building, research, executive education, infrastructure development, amongst others:
- A) I believe we have made significant steps in internal culture-we are a young, dynamic, empowered institute and we have created heroes in multiple roles.
- B) We have introduced a Fellow program- and we have moved significantly in terms of research culture. This has enabled us to attract young researchers for faculty roles- the number and quality of applicants for faculty roles has gone up significantly. This augurs well for the future. We continue to attract many senior, accomplished leaders in faculty roles as well, and our hybrid faculty recruitment model gives us a unique edge.
- C) We have done this while strengthening traditional strengths of teaching excellence and industry integration. Executive education (both short and long term) has grown significantly.
- D) We have strengthened aspects of value based education, and experiential learning. Faculty student connect and student connect are among the highest within peer schools. We develop the whole human being, and this is being valued by prospective students.
- E) Infrastructure and student experience have been strengthened considerably. We have added a new hostel block, and an entire new academic block. A Design Thinking lab has been created; a Finance Lab is in the making.
- F) All of this has reflected in significant enhancement in external facing outcomes. We are steadily moving up in most national and international rankings. We entered the QS Global world rankings for the first time four years back, and are one of five Indian institutes to make it to this list. We have moved up in these rankings this year. We have won three global innovation awards in the last four years from AMBA and AACSB. We are now both AMBA and AACSB accredited.
Our placement outcomes continue to improve every year, and in tangible terms are competitive with the top three IIMs and superior to other institutes.
Last year, the Global Business Schools Network hosted its annual experiential learning summit at SPJIMR, and we were asked to showcase our innovations in experiential learning to institutes across the world.
- G) We have a lot more to do, but take pride in the fact that we have done this while staying true to our mission of 'influencing practice and promoting value based growth' while building new strengths in applied research. We have built a reputation as the 'go to ' institute for design thinking in India.
- H) We continue to be an institute that is first to market with pioneering programs for segments underexplored by management education. We were the first institute to launch a long-term program for women returning to work after a career break, and this program has been seen as a global pioneer. Our pioneering family business programs continue to be a benchmark within the segment.
Q. In your 2015 interview with MBAUniverse.com you had said that you were “co-creating” a Vision for SPJIMR with the Faculty. So, what is the “Positioning” of SPJIMR today in a highly cluttered MBA marketplace?
A: Positioning is consistent with our mission of 'influencing practice and promoting value-based growth'.
Our differentiators are:
- a) High degree of curriculum relevance and industry integration, resulting in high relevance and engagement in our classrooms.
- b) A strong embedding of values in everything we do, starting from admissions to unique and innovative experiential learning programs.
- c) Being first to market with programs for emerging segments, and curricular innovations.
- d) A strong exposure to the social sector - we nurture leaders who understand India and Bharat.
- e) Design thinking has emerged as a new and significant differentiator.
- f) A unique hybrid faculty recruitment model - blending senior practitioner-academic with some of the country's best young researchers.
Q: Recently, QS has ranked SPJIMR in Top 100-200 B-schools globally, and amongst Top 5 B-schools in India. Congratulations. What are the learning from participation in Global Rankings?
A: Global rankings are a way to benchmark yourself against the world's best. These rankings help to build international perception and partnership, attract international students, and build networks across the world. We should not run our institutes for rankings, but rankings (both international and national) provide a useful benchmark over time. We want to become world class, but in a unique Indian way, and use rankings to benchmark and learn selectively.
Q: SPJIMR has been lagging somewhat in the area of Research? Has there been a tangible progress made in this area?
A: We are building unique strengths in research- we are working together with corporate leaders and industry practitioners to research issues of special interest to Practice. Through a thought leadership industry council, we are partnering with top corporate leaders to create many interesting research studies. Many well published young PHD scholars from the leading IIMs have joined us in the last ten years. We are seeking to combine rigour and relevance and research issues that will impact practice.
Early results are already seen in terms of publications at top ranked journals, representation at global conferences, and national competitions won by our doctoral students. We have moved up in terms of research and thought leadership in the QS rankings. Distinguished research faculty positions have been created-where top global researchers spend 45 days working with our faculty and students on high quality research projects.
Our FPM program has been benchmarked against the best US programs. We are following a unique, non-imitative approach to applied research, and significant results will be seen in 4-5 years. The perception and culture has already shifted and we are now recognised as a good place for young researchers.
Q. Today, as we speak, how will you compare SPJIMR with top B-schools like top IIMs, ISB and XLRI? What sets you apart…
A: We have a lot to learn from our peers. Each is excellent in its own way. We are distinctive in terms of industry integration, teaching excellence, value education and experiential learning. We educate the whole human being, and social awareness and sensitivity are a deep part of our ethos.
We are entrepreneurial and non-bureaucratic and believe we can bring new innovations to the fore faster than many other institutes. Speed, innovation, the willingness to be non-imitative in everything we do, coupled with our location advantage will ensure that we improve faster than our peers.
Q. While SPJIMR Placements are at par with top IIMs today, not too many SPJIMR Alumni are at the top. Is that a correct observation?
A: Strictly speaking that is no longer true. There is often a fifteen-year lag between an institute moving to a high level of excellence and its alumni being well represented in top positions. We have seen a lot of movement on this front recently, with alumni like Deepak Iyer (Mondelez), Mahesh Madhavan (Global CEO, Bacardi), Mansi Tripathy (Shell), Debjani Ghosh (Intel and Nasscom) moving to leadership positions in recent years. There are many more.
We are investing in continuing education and strengthening across program networking. We have also created alumni councils across the world, and the councils will create their own charters and run their own events. We have strong alumni groups operating in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. Today, every new MBA student who goes to a company gets a list of SPJIMR alumni in the same company, and alumni mentoring is being strengthened.
Q. What long term initiatives were taken in the last few years that you think will yield results in coming years?
A: I can share following initiatives which will have a long-term impact:
- A deep focus on innovative applied research.
- A high quality FPM program.
- A position and capability in the area of developing women leaders for India.
- The launch of a new practitioner-oriented magazine on the lines of Harvard Business Review.
- The launch of a design thinking lab and creation of a mini design school within SPJIMR.
- The launch of Center for Financial services with a strong capability on policy-oriented research.
- Strengthening of our position in family business.
- The gradual emergence of many of our faculty as thought leaders in their domains.
- An inclusive and cohesive faculty body which blends talented young researchers and senior practitioner turned academics.
Q: Finally, please share benefits of SPJIMR’s wide program portfolio (1 year, 2 year, short-duration programs) and how can other B-schools replicate it?
A: There are many ways in which, having a well-diversified program portfolio helps. Firstly, our overall model is not overly dependent on any single program, and this creates a robust and lower risk financial model. Secondly, a history of innovation implies that over time, we have built the capability to understand trends, and create new programs for emerging segments. Thirdly, our faculty members teach across a variety of contexts and age groups, and this makes them versatile teachers who are able to transfer experience across programs.
To replicate this model, other schools need to engage with faculty in a non-hierarchical way and create an inclusive, collaborative model which allow new ideas to be discussed and prototyped. It is really like the application of design thinking to the way you run your institute.
The leader of an academic institution's role is to enable faculty to create value, and not to claim credit for himself/herself. Unfortunately, we see many institutes where leaders seek personal glory and do not put faculty first.
Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for more updates on SPJIMR Mumbai