KOZHIKODE: During the conclave on ‘Globalising Indian Thoughts’ which was held recently at the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode (IIMK), TNIE spoke with Debashis Chatterjee, director of the institute. Excerpts:
Q. Why did the conclave lay emphasis on ancient thoughts when the world is advancing using science and technology?
A. The greater the nature of disruption and speed of change, the deeper people look for anchors. Given what the country is witnessing today -- the vitriolic political hate speeches and environmental destruction -- people are asking existential questions. Human beings are meaning-making animals. The human mind has created technological marvels, but that is no indicator of the advancement of the mind. Has it got over basic human tendencies like anger and jealousy? One has to look for solutions to these problems. The conclave was looking at the global ideas of this land -- of Buddha, Chanakya and Gandhiji who fostered timeless principles. A progressive business school like IIMK cannot close its eyes to this reality and has to fall back on principles that are perennial.
Q. Has this thought come out from a sense of urgency?
A. Look at the COVID-19 crisis. Had China been more transparent, we wouldn’t have had this kind of a disaster. The point is: Truth matters. Somehow, we are turning into a propagandist for technology and pioneers in packaging information. If politicians are busy packaging information on the lines of what they would like to hear, they would lose out on the core issue -- doing good work.
Q. What are the gaps in India’s higher education? Even in developing countries like China and South Korea, the higher education system seems so advanced?
A. Higher education shouldn’t become ‘hire education’. It gives the ability to rethink our universe. If higher education is assessed based on these yardsticks, India is not doing too badly.
In China and South Korea, there is a large-scale conformity to the structure created by Europe and the United States. I am not saying everything about it is useless. But, a large part is about fitting in. The essence of higher education should not be about compensation but about evolution. If I am researching Walmart while sitting in IIM Kozhikode, it is of no use to the soil I am connected to. So, there is a need to reorient higher education as a tool to solve current problems affecting local issues.
Q. By 2030, India is slated to become the largest workforce in the world. What role will IIMs plan to cater to the market needs?
A. IIMs are nurseries of new ideas. We cannot supply what the market wants. There are ‘basic’ institutions in the country that cater to the market. The market is only a mechanism. It cannot tell you what is good or bad. Algorithms too cannot detect the goodness of it. The market just senses the response. IIMs provide the direction for the market to move.
Q. The IIMK has announced a new PG course on Liberal Studies and Management, a first of its kind in the country. What do you envision?
A. Management as a discipline originated from the military. It was about logistics planning and management. Corresponding theories grew based on improving efficiency. Formula algorithm framework played their role in management. However, the world is dynamic and these theorems are not enough. We need to develop a skill set -- like how to think, how to understand societal forces and how to manage emotions. All these will be required to manage an enterprise.
The course aims to create thinkers for a broader world. Liberal studies help human beings think and see patterns in society. We plan to focus on health, hospitality and tourism, social enterprise and non-government entities and communication films and entertainment. Exams will be replaced by a thesis which also includes a compulsory rural immersion to solve the problems there. Our focus is on the process and not on placements. Industry will look up differently to a good person with marketable skills. With this course, we will create synthesisers rather than analysts.