MBAUniverse.com Interview: IIM Indore Director Dr Himanshu Rai reveals CAT 2020 Plans, shares COVID 19 Learnings & his Vision

Register Now for Latest Update - Don't miss it

MBAUniverse.com News Desk |
July 20, 2020
COVID 19 has disrupted the higher education landscape. All eyes are on IIM Indore that is conducting CAT 2020 exam. Aspirants are asking how does IIM Indore plan and run CAT 2020 -- Will they postpone the exam, make changes in format or some other changes? To seek answers to these questions, MBAUniverse.com reached out to Prof Himanshu Rai, Director of IIM Indore and a well-respected management educator and administrator. In this detailed MBAUniverse.com interview, Prof Rai shares key milestones at IIM Indore, COVID-19 learnings, and plans to conduct CAT 2020 on schedule.
IIM Indore Director Prof Himanshu Rai

COVID 19 has disrupted the higher education landscape – posing many challenges to education delivery and assessment. All eyes are on IIM Indore, one of the top six IIMs in India, that is conducting CAT 2020 exam. Aspirants and other MBA stakeholders are asking how will IIM Indore plan and run CAT 2020 -- Will they postpone the exam, make changes in format (like at-home GRE/GMAT tests) or make some other changes?

To answer these vital questions, MBAUniverse.com reached out to Prof Himanshu Rai, Director of IIM Indore. Very graciously, Prof  Rai responded to a battery of questions from MBAUniverse.com on CAT 2020, and also on a wide range of topics including MBA education in COVID 19 times, and his plans and vision for IIM Indore, which is one of the only 90 B-schools in the world that have earned the ‘triple-crown’ accreditation by AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA.

Dr. Himanshu Rai is a well-known management educator and administrator. Prior to his appointment as Director of IIMI in December 2018, he was a Professor at IIM Lucknow where he taught from 2006 to 2014 and then again joined back on 1 September 2016  after a leave of two years. At IIML, he held positions of Chairman HRM Group, Admissions, Corporate Communications & Media Relations, and Executive Programs at IIM Lucknow. Prof Rai also had a stint of over 8 years at Tata Steel where he played a pivotal role in developing Quality Systems. He also taught at XLRI Jamshedpur for a year. As the Convener of CAT 2010, Prof Rai successfully led the largest format change exceeding all global standards of testing.

In this detailed interview with MBAUniverse.com, Prof Rai shares key milestones at IIM Indore, Covid-19 learnings, and plans to conduct CAT 2020. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: You took over as IIM Indore Director on December 31, 2018. How has been the journey so far!
A: It has been very satisfying journey. IIM Indore got the triple crown accreditation and joined the premium league of 90 odd business schools in the world to have that distinction. We broke into the top 10 in the Indian rankings and in the top 100 in the world rankings. Our faculty led initiatives won international awards, and our students brought countless accolades for the institute. We started new programs in Dubai and partnered with several new business schools around the world. We initiated multiple programs in the area of business analytics.

The support that I received from my faculty, staff and students at IIM Indore has been immense and I am grateful.

Q: COVID 19 has disrupted every sector including Higher Education. How has IIM Indore adapted to it…?  
A: IIM Indore was among the first business schools in India to take a decision on continuing the academic term through an online platform. In March 2020, after lockdown was announced, the school rapidly established a strategy to continue the academic term in online mode and students experienced minimal disruption in their studies. Subsequently, a committee of senior academic administrators reviewed a slew of options for online teaching and examination and the institute managed to conduct the term end examinations in June 2020 with nearly the entire batch of students appearing for exams through the online platform. It is understood that other IIMs are also now following the same model for conducting their term end examinations.

IIM Indore has established smart classrooms that will allow the faculty members to deliver their classes in the online mode while replicating the impact of face-to-face teaching to the extent possible. The technology infrastructure allows group activities, case discussions, breakout rooms, in class polls and interactive sessions to be delivered. 

Alongside, a series of training programmes were conducted for programme office staff members, academic associates and even faculty members to familiarize them with the technology. IIM Indore has been sharing the knowledge gained through this experience with other institutes by conducting Faculty Development Programme (FDPs) and Management Development Programme (MDPs) on Online Education.     

Q: There are concern that Online Education may not produce the desired learning outcomes in an MBA program. What are your views?
A: This is a very valid concern given that the MBA programme largely depends on Participant Centered Learning (PCL) pedagogies including case discussions, project work, simulated exercises and in-class exercises in addition to significant amount of peer learning. 

However, research evidence (Pallof and Pratt, 2013, Garrisson et al 2000) suggests that teachers who are able to align their teaching methods to the online mode are able to successfully deliver the same outcomes in online mode as well. The first requirement for this is to customize the course design for the online mode. Often faculty members believe that the same course outline (designed for face-to-face interaction) can be delivered in the online mode. This leads to poor learning and unsatisfactory outcomes for the teacher and student. At IIM Indore, we have encouraged the faculty members to completely redesign their course outlines including choice or reading material, evaluation components, and schedules to suit the online environment. We believe that this will enable them to deliver equally effectively in the online mode.

Technology platforms today allow class discussions, breakout groups, online polls and all similar facilities. Hence, technology is not expected to be a hindrance in the learning process. The challenge would be to accommodate students who do not have access to uninterrupted internet. In this scenario, IIM Indore plans to offer asynchronous modes of accessing the classes and reading material including sharing of recorded classes through the learning management system. Overall, delivering high quality inputs for MBA participants in the online mode is expected to be challenging, however, we at IIM Indore also believe that we are ready for the same.

Moreover, at IIM Indore, we are looking forward to welcoming our students back into the campus. It is not just the learning; even the teaching experience is not the same as it is in the in-class mode. Our primary concern, however, is the well-being of the participants while maintaining the academic rigor and experience.  

Q: You led CAT 2010 as its convener at IIML. This year, IIM Indore is Convenor of CAT 2020. Given COVID 19 challenges, what are your plans for CAT 2020?
A: A decade later, it is my colleague at IIMI, Prof. Harshal Lowalekar, who will spearhead this initiative. Under his stewardship in these testing times, I am sure we will conduct CAT smoothly, while ensuring the safety of all the candidates. We have a brilliant team out here which is working tirelessly under his leadership, we are getting amazing support from all other IIMs, and we have a great testing partner. We also have wonderful media partners, such as you, and together, I am certain, we will conduct CAT-2020 successfully despite all the challenges.

So far as the mode is concerned, as of now the CAT 2020 is being planned similar to previous years. The plans will be reviewed and modified, if required, at a later stage.

Q. What are the proposed dates for CAT 2020 exam? Will CAT testing mode remain same as last year?
A: CAT 2020 is currently being planned in the last week of November 2020. The testing mode is planned to remain the same as of now. The CAT website, which will go live sometime next month, will contain all the details.

Q: So, what makes IIM Indore a distinct B-school... Is it your innovations (like Himalayan Outbound Programme or pioneering of IPM programme), or something else? 
A: Our mission statement makes us different from all other business schools. We pride ourselves in being contextually relevant, world class, and socially conscious. We were the first institute to recognize the importance of proving world class education to undergraduate aspirants and hence launched the five-year IPM in 2011 which has subsequently become among the most attractive options for students of Class XII. Programmes like Himalayan Outbound Programme and Rural Engagement Programme help the participants learn implementation of the management skills they gained in the classroom to address the problem that we face as a nation. Marketing fests like Utsaha also help them understand the basics of running a business and marketing in rural areas—giving them experience in rural management as well.

Beyond its image of being an innovative business school, IIM Indore is also known for a strong emphasis on contextual relevance in all spheres of activities including teaching, research and consulting. The institute has led and supported several initiatives of governments in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh like providing specialized consulting to the traffic department of Indore, helping out villages in UP, among others.

IIM Indore is only the second business school in India (ISB was the third) and among ninety schools across the world to receive the prestigious triple accreditation from EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA. This is testimony to the world class standards that are benchmarked and achieved by IIM Indore in all its activities.

Q: What specific initiatives has IIM Indore taken to live up to your mission...  
A: The institute is known for the strong emphasis on social consciousness and one of the most important elements of the mission statement focuses on creating socially conscious leaders and managers. To fulfil this objective, the institute has established several innovative programmes including the Rural Engagement Programme, Himalayan Outbound Programme, and several initiatives undertaken through the Social Sensitivity cell including village adoption, school adoption programme, tree plantation drives etc. The Institute also has an Entrepreneurship Cell which plans to provide support and mentoring to the start-ups in the coming years. We do a lot of work for the MSME sector in MP, and apart from running a General Management Programme for them, we also suggested the COVID-19 lockdown exit policy for them in partnership with FICCI and Apollo Hospitals. We have made our campus plastic free, and we are shifting to renewable energy sources in a phased manner. We also run a dog shelter in the campus and we take pride in staying connected to environment.

IIM Indore is the only IIM to have a chapter of Roots and Shoots, an initiative by Jane Goodall, the world-renowned primatologist and environmentalist.

Q: What is your vision for IIM Indore? Where do you see it in next 5 years?
A: My vision is to help everybody at IIM Indore to realise their true potential. I see IIMI as contributing immensely to nation building in the next 5 years. When people think of higher education in India, they should think of IIM Indore.

Q. Finally, what is your message to CAT 2020 & IIM aspirants, who are concerned about exam dates, mode etc?
A: We wish all the participants very best for CAT 2020. We will do our best to conduct CAT 2020 in a way that ensures your safety and wellbeing while allowing you the opportunity to perform at your best.

Work hard. Stay safe. Follow your dreams. Always remember, that life is full of opportunities provided we have the patience to wait, and the diligence to keep giving our best.

Stay tuned to MBAUniverse.com for more updates on CAT 2020