August 30, 2009

Conversation with Dr. Bakul Dholakia, Ex-director, IIM-A

Filed under: Conversation,Education,Gujarat — loggers @ 12:45 am

We were fortunate to get an appointment with Dr. Bakul Dholakia, ex-director of IIM Ahmedabad, at his office in Adani House. He is currently a senior advisor on education to the Adani Group. We learned that during its inception, IIM-A entered a 5-year tie-up with Harvard Business School to formulate its case-oriented curriculum. It did not make a big deal out of this in order to invest in the longevity of its own brand, avoiding any short-term association with HBS.

Dholakia believes that the IIM model would be scalable if the institution had the autonomy it deserved. Since IIMs were first established as government-sponsored institutions, they face the shackles of governmental control till date. The government interferes in matters ranging from faculty pay-scales to admission criteria. As faculty must be PhDs with published research, industry expertise and international exposure, there is a miniscule population of capable professors in the country that fit the profile. Furthermore, consulting/corporate houses would stop at nothing to get their hands on these superstars – luring them with plush offices and packages. The only weapon an IIM has in the fight for faculty is money, and here the government places it in a chokehold. Since the institutions do not have control over how much faculty is paid, there is limited scope to expand to the size of top-tier business schools in the US.

Dholakia spent years fighting for IIM’s freedom from the government, but to no avail. He ultimately devised ways to expand under the conditions set by the authorities, i.e. by establishing foreign exchange programs and the exclusive 1-year course. However, this still does not allow IIM to achieve a fraction of its potential.

Our Solution: The government should provide assistance to educational institutes during their nascent stages, and then gradually provide autonomy as the institutions prove their success both economically and administratively. This would not only incentivize efficiency and independence on the part of these institutes, but it would also allow them to be competitive on a global scale.

In closing, we asked Dholakia to share his thoughts on the future of the Indian education sector. He stated that in management studies, the days of simple finance or marketing degrees are over, and that increased specialization will be the future of higher education in India.


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