Building a Management Career in the Digital Age of Industry

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Updated on February 20, 2024
Great Lakes Institute of Management is recognized among India’s leading Business Schools with campuses in Chennai and Gurugram, Delhi NCR. Dr Suresh Ramanathan, a leading academic expert on consumer emotions and motivations, is the Dean & Principal of Great Lakes. To understand how Great Lakes Institute of Management consistently innovates its curriculum and pedagogy for the technology-driven business world, interviewed Dr Ramanathan.
Dr Suresh Ramanathan Dean Principal Great Lakes Institute of Management Interview

Established in 2004 in Chennai by Padmashree awardee and Professor Emeritus at Kellogg School of Management late Dr Bala V Balachandran, Great Lakes Institute of Management is recognized among India’s leading Business Schools with campuses in Chennai and Gurugram, Delhi NCR.

Dr. Suresh Ramanathan is the Dean & Principal of Great Lakes Institute of Management. He is a leading academic expert on consumer emotions and motivations. Prior to joining Great Lakes, Dr Ramanathan was an Associate Professor of Marketing at the prestigious University of Chicago Booth School of Business between 2002-2011, and later, Professor of Marketing for close to 8 years at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. Dr Ramanathan joined the world of academia in 1997 after spending ten years in industry in India. He received his Ph.D. from NYU’s Stern School of Business in 2002. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Delhi and an MBA from IIM Calcutta. Prior to joining the Ph.D. program at Stern, Dr Ramanathan worked with Brooke Bond (now Unilever), JWT, Lintas, MTV, and McCann Erickson. Dr. Ramanathan has also played a leading role in introducing MTV in India in 1996.

To understand how Great Lakes Institute of Management consistently innovates its curriculum and pedagogy for the technology driven business world, decided to interview Dr. Suresh Ramanathan. Edited excepts from the interview follow:

Q: Great Lakes received AACSB Accreditation in November 2023. Congratulations! Could you share key insights and learning from this journey? What benefits do you anticipate for students?
A: The journey towards AACSB accreditation was enlightening for us. It provided a platform to reassess our long-term goals and reaffirm our commitment to enhancing the educational experience for our students. The accreditation process underscored the importance of various essential elements, many of which were already embedded in our institution's framework. Our strong industry connections, emphasis on research, effective governance structures, and active engagement with stakeholders have been pivotal in our success as a business school, showcasing our dedication to providing impactful and high-quality management education.

Furthermore, we prioritize continuous improvement through rigorous assessment processes and data-driven decision-making. Our focus on fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment not only enriches the educational experience but also opens up numerous opportunities for students. These opportunities include collaborations with schools worldwide, enabling semester-abroad programs, student exchanges, dual-degree programs, internships, and immersive learning experiences.

Q: Could you highlight the key features that distinguish Great Lakes Chennai from other B-schools today?
Our adaptability in tailoring the curriculum to meet industry demands is a standout feature. We were early pioneers in offering Analytics as a specialization for MBA students over 8 years ago. Our close industry ties enable us to anticipate business trends, informing how we reshape program offerings. Through our curriculum committee, we regularly update courses, integrating emerging topics and offering upskilling opportunities and certification guidance to students.

Our full-time residential programs—the one-year PGPM and two-year PGDM—are highly popular for their quality and affordability. Our global faculty pool comprises carefully selected scholars and practitioners who significantly enhance student learning. Rigorous admissions processes ensure graduates are in high demand by corporations. Additionally, we boast a vibrant research environment, with cutting-edge infrastructure, ample research budgets, and incentives for publishing in prestigious international journals.

Q: In the last decade, Technology has played a big role in changing the way business is done today. What are the broad implications of this on MBA education?
MBA education must evolve to embrace technology's transformative impact. This entails integrating data analytics, digital strategy, and innovation management into curricula. Emphasis on technology-driven problem-solving, AI applications, and cybersecurity awareness equips graduates to tackle modern business challenges effectively. Incorporating virtual collaboration platforms and industry partnerships for hands-on exposure to evolving technologies is crucial. Flexible program structures, including hybrid or online options, cater to diverse learning styles and global accessibility. MBA programs must cultivate a tech-savvy mindset, preparing students to lead in a rapidly evolving, technology-driven business landscape.

Q: How does Great Lakes Chennai incorporate these trends into Curriculum and Pedagogy?
At Great Lakes Chennai, we stay agile by anticipating and responding to student and industry needs. We introduced Analytics as an MBA specialization and expanded to AI, Machine Learning, and Blockchain. Our curriculum is updated annually for relevance. Students participate in clubs, committees, and interact with industry professionals and scholars. Our professors undergo Teaching Excellence programs to enhance their teaching methods.

We revamped our Executive programs PGXPM and PGPM Flex with online modules and specialized cohorts. Our upcoming online PGDM program reflects our commitment to innovation. This aligns with our ethos of blending Business Relevance with Academic Excellence.

Q: Product Management is a prestigious MBA role. How does Great Lakes support Student Learning for this role?
Great Lakes offers a specialized module in Product Management, developed with extensive input from industry practitioners. The curriculum covers market research methodologies, product roadmap creation, communication skills for collaboration, agile project management, and strategic thinking for product lifecycle management.

Students learn user-centric design thinking, financial analysis for product viability, and metrics-driven decision-making. Practical application is emphasized through case studies, simulations, internships, live projects, and guest lectures. We also emphasize ethical considerations, fostering awareness of the social impact of products. Ultimately, our graduates are equipped to lead product teams, drive innovation, and successfully bring products to market.

Q: What are your views on the transformation of general MBA into a Tech-MBA? How is Great Lakes approaching this opportunity?
The shift towards a Tech-MBA reflects the evolving business landscape, where technology is increasingly central. Integrating tech-focused modules into the traditional MBA curriculum equips students with vital digital skills, enhancing their adaptability in a tech-driven world. A Tech-MBA ensures graduates are proficient in areas like data analytics, artificial intelligence, and digital strategy, meeting contemporary industry demands.

However, it's essential to maintain a balance with foundational business principles. Traditional industries alongside newer sectors still require skilled professionals. Offering flexibility for specialization allows students to customize their education, blending managerial expertise with technological acumen. This ensures they can effectively navigate and lead in today's dynamic business environment.

At Great Lakes, we seamlessly integrate digital skills with traditional management expertise to ensure business relevance. Students appreciate the importance of technology in business management and choose a blend of electives that complement their aspirations in various fields, giving them a competitive technological edge in decision-making.

Q: What were the key Placement Highlights at Great Lakes Chennai for the last and current year?
For the PGPM Class of 2023, the placement season saw a significant rise in role and industry diversity, with 30 new recruiters such as McKinsey & Company, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Infosys Consulting. Established recruiters like Bain and Accenture also contributed, with an average CTC of INR 18.1 lakhs per annum and the highest reaching INR 34 lakhs per annum. Our PGPM students typically experience an average 200% increase in CTC compared to their pre-MBA income, securing diverse roles including Product Manager and Marketing Manager.

For the PGDM Class of 2023, the campus placement process concluded with 100% placements. Renowned recruiters like Bain and McKinsey & Company participated alongside over 30 new recruiters from sectors like Microsoft and Tata Motors. The average CTC increased to INR 14.5 Lakhs p.a., with the highest domestic CTC reaching INR 46 Lakhs p.a. Roles spanned BFSI, Consulting, FMCG, Technology, with positions like Business Analyst and Customer Success Manager among the offerings.

Q: These are strong placement numbers. So how does the institution prepare students for successful placements?
At Great Lakes, we believe in a holistic approach to preparing students for placements, encompassing both classroom and extracurricular activities. Classroom sessions provide theoretical and applied knowledge across various functional disciplines, supplemented by assignments, simulations, and role plays to develop problem-solving skills.

Soft skills development is equally emphasized, including communication, teamwork, and empathy, facilitated by our faculty and Corporate & Career Services (CCS) team. Furthermore, we prioritize hard skills and knowledge in emerging areas such as technology product management and data science. Through partnerships with leading companies, students have opportunities for certifications, enhancing their marketability.

Continuous feedback from industry partners underscores the importance of a diverse skill set. Therefore, alongside coursework, we offer additional interventions to equip students with a comprehensive skill set, ensuring they are ready for the demands of the job market upon graduation.

Q: Coming to Admissions 2024, what changes in Admission Policies and Processes are planned?
For Admissions 2024, our admission process continues to prioritize a “profile-based evaluation”, considering factors such as academic record, work experience, statement of purpose (SOP), and entrance exam scores (CAT, GMAT, XAT). In a move to diversify our applicant pool, we now accept NMAT scores for the one-year PGPM program.

Additionally, candidates undergo an Analytical Written Test and Personal Interview to assess them across multiple dimensions. The final admission decision is based on a comprehensive evaluation of all these components.

Q: Are there any recent or upcoming initiatives that you would like to highlight?
Absolutely! We've introduced our Fellow Program in Management (FPM) with a focus on Marketing, a pioneering endeavour in India. This program, aligned with global standards, aims to nurture top scholars through intensive research and teaching training. Each student will benefit from close mentorship by our faculty and renowned international experts from leading institutions in the US and Europe. Additionally, we're exploring academic collaborations with esteemed international schools to enrich the academic journey for our research scholars.

Furthermore, we're excited to announce the upcoming launch of our Online PGDM program. This initiative aims to democratize MBA education in India, offering accessibility and affordability to a wide range of individuals. Whether it’s experienced professionals seeking to upskill or young aspirants preferring the flexibility of online learning, this program provides quality education at a fraction of traditional costs.

Q: What is the vision for Great Lakes Chennai in the next two to three years?
Our vision for Great Lakes Institute of Management revolves around being a hub for knowledge creation and dissemination, benefiting students, industry, and society. Central to this vision is our commitment to providing affordable, world-class management education. Our focus will be on generating new knowledge that empowers future leaders and entrepreneurs, enabling them to drive innovation and impact within their organizations and society at large.

Q: To close this fascinating interview, what is your message for aspirants? How should they plan their MBA journey?
My advice to MBA aspirants is simple: Reflect deeply on your current position and future aspirations. Prioritize what matters most to you and select schools that align with those priorities. Understand the selection process, connect with alumni and peers, and thoroughly explore institute websites to grasp their value proposition.

Once enrolled, stay committed to your goals, be ambitious, and seize every opportunity to learn. Venture beyond the prescribed curriculum, stay curious, and engage actively. Build connections and aim to become an alum your institution would be proud of.

Remember, in today's competitive world, differentiation is key. As our Founder, Prof. Bala, often says, "Be Distinct or Be Extinct." So, go the extra mile to acquire skills and experiences that set you apart from your peers.

Great Lakes PGDM and PGPM Admission Open: Apply Now

With these final comments, closed the exhaustive interview with Dr Ramanathan. The interview offered many insights for both MBA educators and MBA Aspirants. We hope you liked reading it…!

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