Director of IIM Ahmedabad: We are now more digitally oriented in our curriculum

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Errol D’Souza says the economy is changing, so is B-school.

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) has revamped its identity with a new logo and website, and appointed Zydus’ Pankaj Patel as the new Chairman of the Board of Governors. However, controversy over the revamped logo erupted again with several faculty members up in arms.

They also staged a protest sit-in at the iconic Louis Kahn Plaza demanding a redesign of the logo redesign. In this interview, Institute Director Errol D’Souza talks to blonCampus on the revamped identity and how IIMA plans to stay relevant in a globalized digital world. Edited excerpts:

How will the overhaul of the institute’s identity help strengthen its legacy?

The revamp is being done keeping in mind the vision that has led the institute for 60 years consistently. The institute has always thought of the three principles. First, to ensure that there is excellence in scholarship and teaching, second, to create leaders who will shape the businesses of the future, and third, to impact the world of politics in practice.

With this vision in mind, we seek to continue this journey with a renewed identity. We don’t see any disruption or major change of course in the journey because of this. This is the legacy we pass on because we want to further develop the institute.

The world has become more global. People interact more in the digital world. Our vision allows us to transform ourselves in this change that the world is undergoing and to participate in it effectively.

How is IIMA preparing for digital-first businesses?

The institute has already done this. And for the past five years, especially since the pandemic, around ten new courses have been launched each year, oriented towards digital technology. The institute has its growth plan in place. Fifteen years ago we were part of the old economy. But as the economy has transformed, so have we, and more so in recent years. This is the vision of growth that we want to follow.

With the revamped institute website which aims to have a global appeal, are you looking to attract students from all over the world?

Global exposure happens for us with the interaction we do with the companies on the board. This is what happens in PGPX and the advice we do with companies. We would actually like to have more international students. But, it is difficult for us to get them, because we cater to national students, with whom we get along well and are happy to do so.

We try to make the website an interface. They need to be able to see us and interact with us about our research, our cases, the pedagogy of teaching, and our life on campus. Hence the globally appealing design.

There is again a debate about the autonomy of IIMs as the government seems to want to have its say.

I think the government is sensible and sensitive to the issue of autonomy. Boards of directors are also sensitive to it. Autonomy is good for everyone. As it stands, we follow the IIM law, which the government has asked us to do. And the government also follows the law. So there is no conflict.

What is the strategy behind the establishment of more and more Centers of Excellence (CoE)?

We have done many CoEs at the institute. And these are mainly to help generate the future growth of the institute, thanks to the research and the consultancy that they do. They bring some of that back into the classroom. So that we have synergies with the practice of the outside world with the teaching that we do on campus. This will help students on their journey of growth as they move forward in life. Centers of Excellence will continue to emerge as the need arises.

The institute is undergoing restructuring and reconstruction of several blocks. How will you go about naming the building in exchange for funds?

So far, we have given no naming rights of any kind for the restructured buildings, even for the library we made, we mention supported by any corporate entity. For the reconstruction of the blocks, we will definitely seek financial support in the future.

We are very aware that we will never use fees as a funding mechanism for these kinds of measures. Growth will always occur in ways that place no burden on students. Whether these restructuring and reconstruction expenses are covered under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mandate remains to be seen.

After mentoring IIM Nagpur, are there any other ongoing mentoring engagements?

Anyone who contacts us, we are happy to help. We never turned away from it. We also mentored IIM Shillong. For many years, we have provided inexpensive faculty development programs for institutions across the country. Currently, there is no new IIMA. Now the vision is to do it from the IIMs that are closer. It makes sense.

What was your observation about the diverse group of students entering the institute and their choice of different fields?

I don’t think the student journey has changed much. Yes, we are seeing more gender representation and inclusion, which is a good change that has happened at the institute. But we’d like to be blind once they’re on campus. It’s the only way to treat them fairly.

Also on their choice of domains, there is no significant change. Almost the same composition of companies always hire them. But students are more inclined to enter digital start-ups and tech companies. These are the new areas where students are moving.

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