Classroom education will come back with a bang: Dr Rishikesha Krishnan, Director, IIM Bangalore – Interview

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August 4, 2020
Prof Rishikesha Krishnan, Director IIM Bangalore wears many hats. Soon after he assumed office of Director at IIM-B, interviewed Prof Krishnan and sought his views on many issues including his vision for IIMB, impact on COVID 19 on management education and a lot more. Read below the views of the renowned academician, administrator and alumnus of IIT Kanpur, Stanford University and IIM Ahmedabad
Dr Rishikesha Krishnan, Director, IIM Bangalore

Educated at IIT Kanpur, Stanford University and IIM Ahmedabad, Prof Rishikesha Krishnan wears many hats. He loves teaching Strategy, is an acclaimed author, and dons the hat of an able administrator and leader. On July 20, he took charge as the Director of IIM Bangalore, the institution that he joined in 1996.

From 1996-2013, Prof. Krishnan worked at IIM Bangalore, where he held the Jamuna Raghavan Chair in Entrepreneurship from 2007 to 2010. After serving a five-year stint from 2014 to 2018 as the Director of IIM Indore, a period that saw many successful initiatives at IIMI, he returned to IIM Bangalore as Professor of Strategy in early 2019.

Prof. Krishnan’s books on Innovation include 8 Steps to Innovation: Going from Jugaad to Excellence and From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation: The Challenge for India.

Soon after he assumed office of Director, interviewed Prof Krishnan and sought his views on many issues including his vision for IIMB, impact on COVID 19 on management education and a lot more. Edited excerpts from the interview follow. 

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Q: Congratulations on taking charge as the IIM Bangalore Director. How does it feel leading an institution that you have been associated for a long time…
A: I joined IIMB as a faculty member in May 1996. Over the last 24 years, it has been a privilege to be part of IIMB’s evolution on multiple dimensions. New programme offerings, research and support for entrepreneurship are three with which I have been closely involved. So, this is undoubtedly a proud moment for me. I hope I can help IIMB enhance its impact during my tenure as Director.

Q: As you take up the Leadership Role, what is your Vision for IIM Bangalore and how do you plan to achieve it?
IIMB’s vision is “to be a global, renowned academic institution fostering excellence in management, innovation and entrepreneurship for business, government and society.”

As we look ahead, an important priority for IIMB is to further enhance our impact. We have multiple platforms that can enable us to do this:

Engaged Digital learning by blending MOOCs with synchronous learning as a way of reaching out to thousands of new learners.

Our new campus near Anekal provides the opportunity to nurture innovative leaders and entrepreneurs through new academic programmes in the most picturesque surroundings in keeping with IIMB’s mission.

The outstanding research capabilities of our faculty and specialised research centres offer us a significant opportunity to do contextually-relevant rigorous research that can contribute to addressing India’s myriad managerial, economic, societal and environmental challenges.

Q:In last few years, IIM Bangalore has gained the reputation for being one of the Top 2 B-schools in India. What lead to this growth?
Management education has multiple components – learning from the classroom; from reading books and articles; from listening to and interacting with industry leaders; from project work; from peer interaction and teamwork etc. Ideally, all of these complement each other. At IIMB, as in other top schools, we seek to provide a judicious mix of these learning components.

We attract excellent students, some of the best in the country. But we also have some of the best faculty (see their profiles, research output, awards, etc.), a contemporary curriculum, excellent infrastructure, etc. Our good performance in both domestic and international rankings which take into account a host of parameters apart from input student quality shows clearly that all the different components matter.

The glue that holds all of this together is our collegial environment and a commitment to excellence.

Q: COVID 19 has disrupted virtually every sector including Higher Education. How is IIM Bangalore adapting to it?
As far as online learning is concerned, in the short-term, IIMB’s priority is to offer the best possible educational experience to all our students who are now attending classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Towards this, we have made special efforts to upgrade our digital education infrastructure and the digital teaching skills of our faculty. Our students have appreciated these efforts and classes are progressing smoothly.

In the medium-term, we need to blend the asynchronous courses designed for our highly successful MOOCs platform with synchronous learning on digital platforms to offer integrated digital learning experiences to supplement our classroom learning.

Q: While Online Delivery has become a norm globally,yet, is it the right format to deliver an experiential learning program like MBA. What are your views?
Both our faculty members and students derive considerable value from the classroom learning process. So, not surprisingly, there were apprehensions when classes moved online. However, thanks to the special efforts we made in technology upgradation and that faculty made in adapting to the new medium, the online learning experience has been appreciated by our students.

Notwithstanding the fact that we have made our online learning experiences as good as possible, we expect that students will still see value in face-to-face classes once the pandemic recedes. This will be particularly true for subjects which require intensive discussion and debate. So, the classroom is far from obsolete, it will come back with a bang once the pandemic is over.

We are making efforts to promote social connection and learning online. Of course, we would love to have our students back on campus. This will happen when the government announces that it is safe to do so.

Q: Post COVID 19, business practices are expected to change significantly. How should B-schools rethink the MBA?
Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about many aspects of business. Just last year when I was teaching my Strategy course, we discussed case studies on the airline industry and Airbnb. We never imagined that the airline and hospitality industries would be in such dire straits just 6 months later.

Issues related to supply chain management, contingency planning, employee health and safety, and business continuity management have come to the fore. I am sure these topics will figure more prominently in our curriculum in the days ahead.

Q: When will your second campus be ready and how will it be utilized?
The new campus near Anekal will be built in phases. The construction of the first phase (a new Management Development Centre for Executive Education) is expected to be completed in early 2021. Subsequent phases of campus development will create infrastructure for new academic programmes.

Q: IIMB has been an innovator in many respects. How do you plan to keep the innovations going…
 As I mentioned earlier, IIMB has built very powerful platforms. NSRCEL and IIMBx are two of them. We need to leverage these platforms for a higher level of outreach and impact.

Blending IIMBx MOOCs with synchronous learning to provide Engaged Digital learning is a way of reaching out to thousands of new learners.

NSRCEL provides one of the most effective platforms for first-time entrepreneurs and we intend to use this to power startups in emerging areas like fintech.

The focus of our innovation will be on how to creatively use these existing platforms.

Stay tuned to for more interviews from Top IIM Directors & Thought-leaders