No donation, or exorbitant fees needed to run a good B-School: Prof J Philip, Founder & Chairman, XIME reflects on 60 years journey – Interview

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Updated on July 23, 2020
One of the very few true Institution Builders in Indian Management Education is Prof J Philip. In his career spanning more than 60 years, he helped turnaround IIM Bangalore in 1980s, conceptualized and launched B-school association AIMS, and set up XIME group of institutions from scratch in early 1990s. XIME Bangalore has successfully expanded into Chennai and Cochin and now has plans to expand overseas
Prof J Philip, Founder & Chairman, XIME

There are few Leaders and even fewer Institution Builders in any sector or industry. So is the case with higher education and management education. One of the very few true Institution Builders in Indian Management Education is Prof J Philip. In his career spanning more than 60 years, he helped turnaround IIM Bangalore in 1980s, conceptualized and launched B-school association AIMS, and set up XIME group of institutions from scratch in early 1990s. While growth in management education has stagnated in last decade, XIME Bangalore successfully expanded into Chennai and Cochin. It now has plans to expand overseas! interviewed Prof J Philip to document his remarkable 60 year’s journey and contributions, XIME’s association with XLRI and plans ahead. Edited excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: Congratulations on completing 60 years of contributions to Indian Management Education in July 2020. What were the key milestones in your long, stellar journey?
A: Let me start with the very beginning of my career – joining XLRI as a Junior Faculty Member on July 3, 1960.A kind of life changing experience was my going for the Harvard B-Schools’ prestigious International Teachers’ Programme in Business Administration.Third was my becoming the Co-founder of the PGDM Programme of XLRI in 1968 July. The fourth is my becoming a full Professor and Dean at XLRI in 1970 March at the age of 34.

Since your question is on Management Education, I will skip my very valuable experiences at SAIL (8 years) and with the Oberoi Group for over 5 years. I would like to believe, however, that these experiences made me a better teacher. And so, when I reached the high point in my academic career as Director of IIM-B, I knew I had known ‘Management’ from multiple perspectives.

The next milestone is my IIM-B experience. On this, I will start with a Quote from my predecessor Prof. N.S. Ramaswamy,the first Director of the Institute, who hadgone on sabbatical leave in July 83, had this to say about IIM-B situation:“Throughout my tenure, there was tension within, and criticism in the Karnataka Assembly and a segment of the press, which dubbed the Institute as mismanaged. From 1981, a segment of the faculty and the staff union, with support from outside, created conditions where I could not discharge my responsibilities effectively. Therefore, in the interest of the institute, I relinquished charge as Director in July 1983, and took sabbatical leave for two years.(N.S. Ramaswamy, ‘IIM-B Contributions and Achievements’ reproduced from Management Perspectives, 1999, Macmillan, Edited by N. Balasubramaniam).

Once I realized how fraught the IIM situation was, I set out resolutely to correct it and to put it back on the rails. I am happy I could do this in about 4 years’ time. I look back on that outcome with great satisfaction since it was actually putting back IIM-B to its rightful destiny of ‘excellence’. It was quite a struggle – to reestablish a strong academic culture – as opposed to the prevailing confrontational culture between the management and the employees’ union.

While at IIM-B, I also made a few other important contributions:

  1. Founding of the Association of Indian Management Schools [AIMS] in 1988 – a distinct contribution to the B-Schools fraternity of India.
  2. Initiated regular coordination meetings of the four IIM Directors – A,B,C & L.
  3. Canvassed vigorously (and succeeded in bringing off) the EU / EFMD agreement to have Indian Professors going to 5 leading European Business Schools for teaching / research / studies and thus gaining meaningful European experiences. 
  4. Steered IIM-B, out of the premature entry into Public Systemsoriented PGDM Programme to the mainstream Business Administration education (although the name still continued to be PG Diploma in Management).
  5. Introduced a system of ‘workload norms’ for the faculty.
  6. Also put into action an yearly ‘work plan’ meeting with the faculty by which the faculty concerned comments his/her planned contribution for the year. This was reviewed then at the end of the year (a kind of MBO system).

The next phase was my tryst with destiny – Founding of XIME in 1991.

Q: Please tell us more about the launch of XIME, and its core beliefs…
A: When starting XIME, our initial capital was a glorious sum of Rs.10,000. But I knew we would build the Institution. XIME was built with the help and support of Industry and a number of philanthropic Institutions or individuals. In that way it is a partnered institution. 

Some basic beliefs form the core of XIME: 

  • No reservation of any kind for student admissions– only merit.
  • Fees must be kept moderate.
  • Gender Parity: It has now gone the other way at XIME with 58% women students.
  • Considerable emphasis on the ‘Doing’ part.
  • At least one-half of the faculty must be with substantial industry experience (at senior levels).
  • ‘E’ – Entrepreneurship was given a pride of place in the Mission of XIME (As you would note, 'E' is embedded in the name itself). 
  • Proved that no capitation fee, donation, or exorbitant fees are needed to run a good Business School as long as there is no hanky-panky. 

One special contribution during my 29 years at XIME was the founding of the BRICS-wide Business Schools Association called – Association of BRICS Business Schools [ABBS], in 2009 January.

This last piece which I mention here is strictly not my personal contribution, but something my esteemed colleagues at XIME have done in my name: to institute an annual Professional Achievement Award to a leading management scholar from the BRICS Region. The Award amount is US $ 10,000.

Q: From a modest start, you have successfully built XIME into a multi-location institution. What motivated you to build XIME?
A: A tragic incident turned out to be my true motivator – loss of my daughter in a fatal accident while she was a Master’s student at the Madras School of Social Work. As it happened, my last conversation with her (a week before her death on September 30, 1986) had been about her wish that she and I together should start a Business School after my IIM days. Alas, she did not live to see that happening! But for my part I began to believe that it was a message from ‘above’ that I should build a business school with a difference. Her accident was a freak accident – difficult to happen; but it happened. And she gave me the ‘message’ before she passed away. So XIME is a labour of love. I am totally and emotionally involved in it. Every waking hour of mine is spent on XIME. There is no compromise in that institution on quality or basic values. And ‘Quality’ speaks.

Q:What is the nature of association between XIME and XLRI…We understand that there is a formal agreement… 
A: Yes, there is some understanding with XLRI.  That is put in the MoA itself.  The provision reads:Clause 3.3: XIME Society will operate in close collaboration with XLRI, Jamshedpur and St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore.

Incidentally Fr. E. Abraham, SJ of XLRI and Fr. Percival Fernandes of St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore were co-founders of XIME along with myself and 5 others, which included a former senior professor from Indian Institute of Science [IISc].

Q: While Indian management education is one of the largest ecosystems in the world, it is criticized for lack of uniform quality and too many institutions. Do you agree?
A: Too many institutions? Yes; Lack of uniform quality? Yes, in this aspect too!  But please note that nowhere in the world you will see uniform quality.  As the society or economy is variegated, so also are its institutions.  Whether they are Schools, Colleges, Medical Colleges, Management Schools or whatever, we will always see A,B,C & D categories.  That is the way nature is. Is everybody equally handsome, or equally intelligent!!  No, men are not created equal! 

After having taken the above position, I would still like to see a major shakeout in management schools.  At least 1000 of the total 3600 should go.  Only one step is needed to get this outcome.  Implement the Kasturirangan Report on Education.  Do away with the affiliation system as his Committee has recommended, and the weaklings in the management education field will vanish.

Q: So, how has Indian Management Education changed over the years?
A: Not very much – truly a little more of the same thing. But Covid-19 came our way and threw up a challenge. We are now going to see a number of far-reaching changes taking place at every level and in every field of education.

Q: How will Covid-19 pandemic impact management education?
A: Student registrations are expected to take a beating! Consequently, students will be more choosy, resulting in a number of marginal schools closing down in the sweep of Covid-19.

Pedagogy will undergo a tectonic change. On-line teaching will demand much greater preparation on the part of faculty.  Some faculty will fall on the wayside due to their inability to cope with the stiff demands of on-line teaching.

Blended teaching will get both respectability and traction. In much the same way as IT industry is rejecting a good number of middle level managers for non-performance, B-School system will also ease out a number of non-performing faculty. It will be a good thing to happen since there are a number of so-called teachers who still survive in business education with their old notes or an irrelevant Ph.D Degree.

Q: Do you have plans for overseas expansion of XIME group of institutions?
A: Yes, such an idea has been under consideration for some time. 

Q: To conclude, what is your Vision for XIME? Where do you see it in coming 3-4 years…
A: XIME-Bangalore will stay with 180 admissions and about 30 students each in the Healthcare & Construction Management Programmes. I strongly believe small is beautiful! I would like to see XIME-B assuredly as one among the top 25 Business Schools of India.

I would like to build up our MSME Centre as a centre for research, development and advocacy.

XIME would stand solidly on four legs –Education; Executive education; Research and Consultancy. Research will get considerable attention.

It will continue to be a value driven institution bringing forth students imbued with a strong global perspective. It will stay strongly with its beliefs in Geographical diversity; Disciplinary diversity (and contemporaneity); Gender diversity and Faculty Diversity

Stay tuned to for more interviews from Institution Builders & Thought-leaders