By Cassandra Mascarenhas
The Indian School of Business, an internationally top-ranked institution, entered a partnership with the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing recently and held a soft launch of their collaborative efforts last week in Colombo.
Ranked amongst the top 20 business schools in the world in the Financial Times Global MBA ranking, the institution observed that there is a heavy requirement for such programmes in Sri Lanka and decided to widen their footprint by tying up with a Sri Lankan entity in order to cater to the local market.
“We get very good participation in our enrolment programmes from Sri Lanka. A lot of people want to come to India, sit with that diverse audience and benefit from it – every year, we get a decent number of participants from Sri Lanka. We have also worked in the past with custom clients over here which is what we plan on doing even more,” explained the Indian School of Business Deputy Dean Deepak Chandra.
Working in Sri Lanka
Chandra explained that the Indian School of Business plans on establishing its Centre for Executive Education in Sri Lanka which consists of the institution’s non-degree continuing education programmes.
“We do work mostly for senior management; most of our work is classroom-led and there are two formats. One is what we call open enrolment where we put up a calendar and people come and participate and the other is custom-designed, where organisations come in and ask us to do work for their organisations.”
ISB proposes to run its custom-designed programmes here with the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing as their marketing partners while ISB itself will provide design skills and faculty. In the past, ISB has conducted programmes for several Sri Lankan organisations including Hemas Holdings and Hayleys and has identified a requirement here and recently, the institution has been receiving inquiries to do more.
“Another reason why we have come to Sri Lanka is because it is a part of emerging economies. We want to gain more exposure to developing economies and the way they operate,” he said. “It becomes an important tool for our faculty to gain that exposure by talking to participants from such economies and it also throws up areas that we can research as we are research oriented. It is through such research that we learn more about the emerging economies as well as contribute more to said economies.”
ISB has also signed up with Pakistan to commence a similar kind of programme over there and well as in the Middle East and it plans on initiating a few more which will allow its faculty to work in emerging economies, to have exposure to them and see how they can both learn and contribute to them.
“However, most of these programmes happen within India. What we now want to do is expand our footprint to learn more and therefore we are stepping out first into these closer by-markets before we go elsewhere,” Chandra added.
When questioned as to why they chose not to introduce the degree programme in Sri Lanka, the Deputy Dean explained that for the degree programme, the institution requires a certain size and quality. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan are markets very close to India and it makes more sense that people from these countries study in India because they will get diversity and is far more efficient than ISB opening up campuses in said countries.
The value propositions of the non-degree continuing education programme firstly include the fact that the institution brings in a faculty from all over the world. When an organisation is working for a particular client from a particular industry, ISB will have faculty members who would have worked with that industry already and have expertise in working with said industry which will bring in contextual content.
The second thing is some of the pedagogical innovations that the institution has come up with. “While you may give contextual content to participants, I think the important thing is that they need to take back that content and apply that content because otherwise a lot of people forget after the programme is over. We say no, we will work post-programme with the organisation to help participants apply that learning to their work,” Chandra explained.
Thirdly, the institution now works with some organisations on how to measure the level of learning and what benefits they get out of the programme. These are the three value propositions – contextual content and faculty, application of the learning and measurement of the benefits.
The Indian School of Business is a fairly young institution, having established itself in 2001 – largely the effort of Indian-American businessman Rajat Gupta and a few other people.
“They were seeing the gradual emergence of emerging economies, economy activity shifting a lot to what I would call a multi-polar world. It was getting distributed and therefore emerging economies and India were playing a very important in that scheme of things,” Chandra stated.
That sort of economic growth needs the support of institutions which can work with that growth and help and aid that growth and academic institutions are one, particularly business schools. Business schools evolved largely in America and they have been very important contributors to economic growth in that country. So business schools are an important part of any economic growth activities.
Looking at business schools in India at that point in time, there was a clear requirement for many more institutions to emerge and none of the institutes in India were among the globally ranked at the time as well. Chandra observed that one of the major reasons for that was the fact that a lot of them focused on teaching, but research which is an important part of any business school, was quite missing.
“I think that in that context, we were very clear about what our vision was. We wanted to be a globally ranked institution, be research-driven and wanted to be an independent institution because we found that if we wanted to work in India, independence, manoeuvrability and flexibility was very important and therefore industry support was important. Then we wanted to not only do research but produce leaders and entrepreneurs who could operate in that multi-polar world,” he added.
Not wanting to start from scratch, the institute first put together academic partnerships and commenced with three formal ones – two from the US, Wharton School and Kellogg School and one from Europe which was the London Business School – all three of which are in the top five ranked institutions globally.
ISB recently tied up with two more institutions: the MIT Sloane School and the Fletcher School at Tufts University, both in the US. With the help of the initial three schools, ISB was able to acquire the entire academic know-how required and these institutions are very close partners and still continue to be involved in the strategic direction that the institute continues to take and offer all kinds of operational support.
The institution also wanted the industry to support them in providing direction and in providing financial resources and so the institution is governed by two boards which includes the ISB advisory board composed of 40 leading industrialists and CEOs and an executive board composed of about 31 leading Indian industrialists and CEOs, top names from India.
The institution offers an MBA programme but unlike most, it’s a one year programme, as differentiated from a two year programme found elsewhere. “The other differentiation was that we wanted to bring in people with experience and we have maintained that two years is the minimum experience you need to have to enrol for our programme,” Chandra said.
“The average profile for a class was about four to five years and a one year programme made a lot of sense to people with four to five years worth of experience because they could get back to work in the second year and start earning. The programme has become very popular and has gone from a 120 students that we started with to 770 students as of now which puts us in the top five in terms of size all over the world.”
The other thing that they insist on are admissions through the GMAT process which is a globally recognised entry exam criteria and ISB gets an average score of about 710 which puts it amongst the top three in the world.
The other programme that the institution offers is the non-degree executive programme. It is very much in demand with people who work as they can complete it while they work and these are called non-degree programmes because they are short duration programmes.
“Usually sponsorship comes in from companies because companies want to build up their talent so they use the avenue of executive education to do that,” he elaborated. “We started the Centre for Executive Education and in the last 10 years, we have grown to be the largest in the country and I would assume we are in the top three in Asia as well.”
ISB has also amped its focus on business activities, following a research model very similar to those found globally in top-ranked institutions which lay heavy emphasis on both academic and applied research.
Furthermore, the institution has also adopted a model known as the visiting faculty model to acquire their faculty, which means that it gets faculty from all over the world to come and teach students. Right now, around 100 to 125 faculties come to ISB to teach every year. Over the last 10 years, ISB has also built up its own faculty pool and currently consists of around 45 members.
“Even now, 50 per cent of the MBA teaching is conducted by visiting faculty and 50 per cent our own faculty. In the executive education programme, almost 80 per cent of the teaching is done by visiting faculty and 20 per cent by our resident faculty,” Chandra noted.
“I think that it’s a good value proposition because you can get the best from around the world to teach the students. You can bring in people who have global perspectives and you have your own faculties who have a lot of emerging economy perspectives, so it’s becoming a very good value proposition and we are continuing to work with that.”