IIMK to churn out socially sensitive executives

By Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS,

Chennai : If livelihood is for life, what is life for? A simple question but pregnant with a heavy message that would make anybody ponder. Curiously, the person who poses this question is not a philosopher or a religious guru, but the affable Debashis Chatterjee, director, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode, Kerala.

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Unlike other heads of business schools, who normally wax eloquent about their curriculum, campus placements and compensation package offered by corporations, Chatterjee talks about producing managers who are socially and environmentally sensitive.

“The primary mandate for me is to churn out management graduates. However, my own mandate is to provide the students a transformational experience inside the campus while honing their expertise into excellence,” Chatterjee told IANS here.

The youngest to head an IIM, Chatterjee chucked a lucrative job in Singapore to come to Kozhikode last year.

“Today the need is for managers who are socially and environmentally sensitive. Industry needs managers who are team players whereas business schools send out individualistic personalities. We will give what the industry wants,” he said.

Expecting about 10 students of the 2010 batch turning into entrepreneurs, he added: “We certainly do not want to produce ‘rowdy’ executives.”

Set up in a picturesque locale, IIMK seems like a modern day management ‘gurukul’, though Chatterjee does not agree with that description.

“Gurukul has much wider meaning. At IIMK we would like to be known as the dreamers of the seemingly impossible rather than competent mercenaries. IIMK is of recent history but isolated by its geography. The challenge is bridging both,” he said.

Chatterjee is confident that his institution will be known outside India for its differentiated approach and international executive training programmes.

Asked about faculty contribution to building IIMs’ brand equity by their research papers and industrial consultancy projects, Chatterjee said: “Five of our faculty members are active in the consulting space. We are looking at consulting projects in higher education domain in Kerala so as to make it the hub of higher education.”

“Further, the student-teacher ratio should change so that the latter can focus on research”.

Chatterjee said that retaining the faculty is indeed a challenge given the locational disadvantages faced by IIMK.

Faculty attrition is a major problem faced by IIMK since it started operation.

“In the last one year we have increased our faculty strength by 12 to 40. This is set to increase to 50. Attrition was there earlier but it is not a problem now,” Chatterjee said.

According to him, the ratio of visiting to own faculty is expected to change from the current 1:2.

“It is an old notion to say that faculty should be owned. With telecommunication network we can have experts in different fields located at various places to teach our students.”

Question him about IIMK not figuring among the top business schools in the country, he says: “We are just 12 years young. Many of our alumni are in the top management cadre. Once they occupy the CEO slots IIMK’s brand equity will go up.”