BITSoM will be India’s most Industry Integrated B-school; First batch of 140 students at par with Top 10 B-schools: Dean Dr Ranjan Banerjee

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MBAUniverse.com News Desk |
July 3, 2021
After a very successful innings as Dean of SPJIMR Mumbai, Dr Banerjee decided to join BITSoM Mumbai as its Founding Dean. BITSoM is part of the top ranked BITS Pilani University with noted industrialist Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla as its Chairman. While BITSoM has many strengths, how does it position itself in a highly cluttered Indian MBA market? MBAUniverse.com spoke to Dr Banerjee to understand his Vision and Strategy. Continue reading for exclusive insights and highlights.
BITSOM Dean Ranjan Banerjee Interview

In June 2015, IIT Bombay, IIM Calcutta alumni Dr Ranjan Banerjee took over as the Dean of SPJIMR Mumbai. He had big shoes to fill as he stepped into the role of Late Dr ML Shrikant, who had built the SPJIMR’s legacy. It will be fair to say that Dr Banerjee not just lived up the high expectations, but also surpassed them. SPJIMR not only consolidated its position as a top B-school in India, it has also received its due global recognition. In recognition, he received appointment for the second term in 2020.

On April 1, 2021, Dr Banerjee decided to join BITSoM Mumbai as its Founding Dean. BITSoM is part of the top ranked BITS Pilani University with noted industrialist Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla as its Chairman.

While BITSoM has many strengths, how does it position itself in a highly cluttered Indian MBA market where there are at least 10-15 world-class institutions like ISB, Top IIMs, XLRI and a few more? MBAUniverse.com spoke to Dr Banerjee to understand his vision and strategy for BITSoM. To say the least, he has set ambitious goals and has created a definitive plan to achieve it. Dr Banerjee also share highlights of the founding batch, which looks impressive, especially given that the second wave of COVID 19 stalled the entire nation for a few months this summer.   

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Edited excerpts from the interview follow:

Q: Before we discuss BITSoM, let’s talk about your leadership journey at SPJIMR. How do you look back at your association...

A: I think I had something of a dream run at SPJIMR. I took over a strong institute, built by a revered leader, and I think we made it stronger during my tenure. More importantly, I think I have made friends for life- among faculty, staff, students and alumni of SPJIMR.

I have received enough gratitude at SPJIMR to last a lifetime. The credit for SPJIMR’s success goes to the SPJIMR family-they made my job very easy.

Q: SPJIMR achieved many milestones in last 5-6 years. Which ones do you cherish the most?

A: The ones which required the institute to come together-across boundaries of faculty, staff, students and alumni. The AACSB accreditation and the FT ranking come to my mind first. They required significant collaboration across the institute.

Q: What will you say is your lasting contribution to SPJIMR…

A: This is for my friends at SPJIMR to say. If I go by what people tell me, I think we made good progress on Culture and Research. We brought in new strengths without weakening what was core to the institute.

Q: You joined BITSoM as its Founding Dean in April. So, what pulled you in to lead a Start-up!

A: Firstly, BITSoM is a start up with a difference. It is backed by BITS Pilani, an institute of national eminence. I also think BITSoM has the right approach to building a World Class Business School out of India. Look at Stanford and Stanford GSB, Harvard and HBS. The B-School draws on the strengths of a great parent, but builds a far greater autonomy-in terms of governance, innovation etc. This is what BITSoM is trying to do.

It has always been a passion to play a role in building a World Class Institute out of India. I am, first, a servant of Indian education. India needs more world class institutions. There is a lot of room at the top. We produce far more potentially world-class graduates. Only a limited number get access to a world class education. There are only five Indian institutes in the FT MIM ranking. There should be many more. I would love to play a part in bridging this gap.

With the vision of our Chancellor, Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla, the backing of the leadership of BITS Pilani, the enthusiastic support of 55,000+ BITS alumni, the Mumbai location, we are well placed to create history.

Personally, I am half entrepreneur, half teacher and academic leader, and I believe BITSoM allows me to bring both aspects into play.

Q: While we know that BITSoM is backed by BITS Pilani, what will you say are the top strengths today.

A: I would put our strengths as follows:

  1. The world class, innovative and current curriculum which has been built in close consultation with top corporate leaders. A digital and analytics focus is embedded in every specialisation.
  2. Faculty drawn from the global best- the best teachers from institutes like Kellogg, NYU, Wharton, Texas Austin, SMU, IIM Cal and many more will be teaching at BITSoM.
  3. A unique set of courses called winning at the workplace helps students balance IQ and EQ, see the link between business and society (many of these courses have strong liberal arts foundations), build critical thinking and writing skills, and basic workplace skills. Our students will be far more industry ready because of this emphasis.
  4. We teach only two courses at a time, leaving lot of room for students to reflect. This also allows students to pursue live industry and social projects in every term.
  5. We will leverage the Mumbai location to become the country’s most industry integrated business school.
  6. There is a lot of focus on personalized development of every student. Dr Leena Chatterjee and I will help each student build personal development plans, and work on them through the two years. Based on their career interests, each student will also be matched with a personal industry mentor, early in their first year.
  7. A strong focus on career development and career services will ensure high quality market outcomes.
  8. We will build a very high focus on applied research, and down the line in 5+ years, build thought leadership out of India.
  9. The vision and personal engagement of our Chancellor, Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla.
  10. The backing of a world class parent in BITS Pilani, the support from its leadership team, and the enthusiastic engagement of 55000+ BITS alumni.
  11. We will be one of the first business schools with a distinct focus on entrepreneurship. BITS Pilani has already spawned many unicorns, and this will stand us in good stead.

Also, as a start up, we have had the opportunity to craft a digital ready curriculum from day one, and this will set us apart.

Q: What is your vision for BITSoM? Where do you see it 5 years hence…

A: Firstly, it is not my vision, but our vision. We will build balanced, self-aware leaders who have the ability and confidence to positively impact the environment. We will be India’s most industry integrated institute. Our curriculum will evolve every year, as we put industry input and global best practice, at the heart of everything we do. We will be seen in the league of the top schools in India. We will be seen as a dynamic, innovative, technologically savvy business school. Our infrastructure will be among the very best in the country, and will be globally benchmarked.

We aspire to enter the FT Rankings within 7 years.

Q: In coming years, how will BITSoM be different from Top well-established B-schools like ISB, Top IIMs, XLRI…?

A: Our curriculum will be innovative, and evolve rapidly. Our student body will be among the most diverse in the country. Our faculty will be world class. We will always have a pool of global thought leaders teaching at BITSoM, and will develop a pool of core faculty who will be world class teachers and leaders.

The deep attention we give to the personal development of every student, will mean that every BITSoMian will be self aware, with a deep self confidence and the ability to be ‘comfortable in his/her own skin.’

We already have a collaboration with London Business School, and collaborations with other top 20 B-schools are in the pipeline. This will further enable global exposure for our students, and the creation of a global mindset at BITSoM.

Q: Much like the ISB model, BITSoM has roped in top global faculty from Wharton, Kellogg... Is your model and approach closer to ISB than top IIMs?

A: We have our own model. Our initial faculty model draws from some of the strengths of ISB’s proven model. The emphasis on personalized development, deep industry integration, the winning at the workplace courses are all unique to BITSoM. We will learn from the best in every area, but carve our own path.

Our intake comprises both freshers and experienced people in a two-year program, and this is more like the IIM’s. However, our emphasis on live projects, block teaching, mentoring and personalized development is unique to us.

Q: Given the massive changes in business and society in last few years, what should a new MBA program conceived in 2020-21 look like…

A: Look at the BITSoM website. J. But let me give you a few simple things:

  1. Spend less time in the classroom. Build a strong focus on reflection and experiential learning.
  2. Do not restrict experiential learning to one internship, but build space and time for live projects throughout the two years.
  3. Allow and encourage students to discover their interests early, and personalize their development plans.
  4. Allow a lot of flexibility in picking electives, allowing students to tailor a portfolio of courses to personal passions.
  5. Balance hard and soft skills, IQ and EQ, and an understanding of linkages between business and society.
  6. Create a portfolio of courses which build digital readiness, and an orientation to analytics (irrespective of specialization)
  7. Benchmark content, faculty profiles, curriculum, partnerships with the best in the world.

Q: How will BITSoM MBA content be different from what is being taught at top Indian B-schools?

A: Our curriculum has been designed afresh by industry leaders and academicians with a focus on the latest developments in the management and the business landscape. Our students will be ready to hit the ground running from day one. New age themes like emerging technologies and data analytics are deeply embedded in the curriculum. It has a fresh approach to problem-solving with courses in design thinking principles and critical thinking. Most employers have identified ‘soft skills’ as a critical need, which is explicitly addressed in our curriculum with an extensive set of modules called Winning at the Workplace. This includes courses on building skills in leadership and teamwork for all round development. We have unconventional courses such as ‘Psychology’, ‘Government, Society, Business’ and ‘Culture and Business – A Mythology Toolkit’ which will broaden the perspectives of the students and help them become more aware and socially conscious leaders.

Being located in Mumbai – the business capital of India gives us a powerful advantage. Our students will have opportunities for deep industry exposure that few other b-schools would be able to match. It will also provide the students an opportunity to build their professional networks while pursuing their MBA programme. 

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Q: SPJIMR had a strong legacy of non-classroom pedagogical interventions. How are you looking at BITSoM Pedagogy?

A: The pedagogy is designed to make the learning experience an immersive one. Key here is the block teaching methodology which will enable our students to devote themselves to one subject from the core courses at a time for a duration of two weeks, before they move to the next course. This will help students to delve deep and give enough time for reflection to assimilate knowledge better. This will also give our students enough time to work on projects, assignments and research effectively.

Industry engagement is an integral part of our curriculum. Our students will work on live projects which will help them prepare better for the demands of the market in the dynamic business environment. Along with real world rigor, this will get the opportunity to interact with and learn from industry leaders who will share real world insights and perspectives from the lens of a leader and learnings from their experiences.

Key aspects are:

  1. Our faculty are drawn from the world’s best- interactivity and deep engagement will set our classes apart
  2. Dedicated teaching assistants for every course will ensure personalized assistance
  3. A personalized development and one on one mentoring plan for every student.
  4. The block teaching method provides focus and space for reflection, and allows us to embed live industry/social projects in every term.

Q: You earlier said that your B-school will be India’s most Industry Integrated B-school. Why is the so important, and what will be your strategy and approach to achieve this?

A: Working closely with Industry is an especially important aspect of the BITSoM experience. It will help our students stay grounded and real when they join their future workplaces. They will be able to hone their networking skills and start building their industry networks.

Our location in Mumbai is a huge advantage that we will leverage to achieve this, through field visits, guest lectures and other platforms that we will create for industry interaction. Students will individually or as groups, take up live projects in partnership with corporates to help solve real life business problems. Based on their career interests, we will also match each student with a mentor, from the BITS Alumni or broader industry. This will set us apart from many institutes. . .BITSoM already has the advantage of a curriculum designed afresh. Deep engagement with industry will help us keep it current and relevant in the future. It will also be crucial for faculty research – by ensuring that research addresses issues that are important for industry, and that the ideas and solutions proposed are practical and useful. In the aggregate, we will take a relationship view of industry partnership, and embed industry centric experiential learning through the program through internships, live projects, guest lectures, one on one industry mentorship programs, custom executive education and applied research. We will regularly allow industry leaders to critique our curriculum and make suggestions, ensuring that our curriculum is not only current for today, but stays current through the years to come

Q: When does BITSoM formally start its first academic year? Please tell us about the campus location and infrastructure…

A: The first academic session of BITSoM has commenced with an engaging digital orientation during the week starting 5th of July. While the classes will commence online, our interim campus at Hiranandani Knowledge Park, Powai is ready and we will start regular classes as soon as government regulations permit. Spread over 50,000 square feet it is designed for hands-on and inclusive learning, with the digital infrastructure to support it. It accommodates spacious digitally enabled classrooms, the library, meeting rooms and breakout spaces, a multipurpose hall, a cafeteria and a wellness centre.

Q: What are the highlights that your first year students can look for…

A: We have recently announced our collaboration with London Business School (LBS). With this, our students will get the opportunity to spend two weeks in London for an immersion programme at the beginning of the second year. Students will learn from the stellar LBS faculty, gain global exposure and have a multi-cultural experience.

Each student of the founding class will receive individualised attention from our world-class faculty. Our students will co-create a self-development plan with the guidance from our faculty which will help them discover their strengths, passions and develop a habit of continuous learning. They will also receive mentorship by industry leaders aligned with their area of interest.

Being a part of the founding class, the students will also have the opportunity to create the culture, set the ethos and drive new initiatives on campus. And as they do so, they won’t just be transformed by the experience but will also shape the student life and experiences for the future BITSoMians.

Q: We understand that BITSoM has received good response for inaugural batch admissions. Can you share some numbers…

A: We received over 25,000 queries for the inaugural batch admissions. We are very happy with the number of applications to BITSoM, especially the maturity and understanding most applicants showed while applying to the programme. The number of candidates we interviewed was a function of the final class size we wanted. This year we interviewed around 500 candidates to get a final class size of 140 students.

Q: How many students have been admitted for 2021-23 batch. Please share their profile…

A: The founding class of BITSoM has a class size of 140 students. Our gender diversity is about 35% women and we are proud of this achievement in our first year. We have been able to attract students from diverse education, experience, and cultural background. Along with engineers, CAs, architects, BITSoM founding class also has doctors, an international level swimmer, an author of three books, a fashion blogger, a patent holder, a yoga teacher and professionals from sectors such as consulting, IT/ITES, BFSI, Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals.

Q: Specifically, what is the Avg/Median CAT and GMAT score for your first batch?

A: At BITSoM, each application is holistically evaluated. Test scores are one of several parameters and there is no cut-off. CAT, GMAT, or GRE scores are not a make-or-break part of our decision making. We value academic excellence and aptitude, but we also value exceptional extracurricular interests, and balance test scores and profile in our admission process-this is responsible for the diversity in our first batch. We look at class 12th scores, undergraduate scores in conjunction with the essays, letter of recommendations, and work experience, if any. All these parameters go into our decision making of releasing admission offers.

Having said that a higher score does help in strengthening the application. The median CAT score for admitted MBA students is above the 94th percentile. Similarly, median GMAT and GRE score is 680 and 316 respectively. Admission through GRE and GMAT has brought in many high quality profiles. Given our global faculty, there are many cases of candidates giving up US and UK schools to join BITSoM.

Q: How will you compare your class mix with top 10 B-schools in India?

A: BITSoM’s class mix is competitive with the top 10 B-schools in India. Our aim is to bring together a diverse group of students who will bring in varied perspectives and skills to contribute to a rich and vibrant environment of peer learning. This is reflected in our holistic approach to admissions with focus across parameters including academic excellence, co-curricular and extracurricular achievements, undergraduate course and work experience. This is what makes us different from the other B-schools.

Many students chose BITSOM over top Indian and International schools this year, and this is remarkable for an institute in its first year. IIT Madras, BITS Pilani, NIT Trichy, VJTI, St Xaviers College, Christ College, HR College, NYU Abu Dhabi, Purdue are some of the top colleges where our founding batch come from. Amazon, Deloitte, KPMG, EY, Morgan Stanley, Deloitte are among the companies where our founding batch has worked.

Q: Career and Placements have been given a lot of importance at BITSoM. How are you planning Internship and Placements for your first batch. We understand that McKinsey, Bain and BCG have already confirmed to visit for internship and finals…

A: BITSoM is a B-school under the aegis of BITS Pilani, an institution with a legacy of over five decades. Most coveted brands and global organizations recruit year after year from BITS Pilani. We will leverage the existing relationships with these organizations to bring placement opportunities for our students. BITS Pilani also has an illustrious alumni network of over 55,000 of which 4200+ are founders and 3000+ are CEO’s. The plan is to tap into this influential and extensive alumni network of BITS Pilani. Many of them have already reached out to us, and some alumni actively mentor the institute through membership on our Governing Council.

BITSoM has a dedicated professional career advancement team who will not only bring in quality recruiters and facilitate campus recruitment but they will also help students with the pre-recruitment preparation to ensure that our students are well prepared to realise their potential in interviews, jobs, and careers.

We also understand that one shoe doesn’t fit all, which is why we have three career pathways – corporate, entrepreneurship, and social sector; which will enable our students to follow their passion and mould their career trajectory more effectively.

Yes, there has been a lot of corporate interest, and BCG, Bain, McKinsey, ABGLP, Swiggy and Unilever are a few of the companies who have already agreed to hire for internships/final placement.

Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for more updates on BITS School of Management, Mumbai