In a recent interaction with the CEO of IIT Bombay-Washington University in St Louis Joint venture, Gopal Shukla, we heard about how EMBA of IIT Bombay – WashU is trying to create change agents and how our education system should be outcome-based to produce more and more entrepreneurs and change agents. An Excerpt.
What is the rationale behind IIT Bombay and Washington University joint venture?
IIT Bombay and Washington University in St. Louis are two large and very established and prestigious universities.
Washington University and IITB have worked together since 2009. The institutions are members of the McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environment Partnership, a consortium of sustainability-minded universities and corporations; McDonnell International Scholars Academy; and IITB-WUSTL Corporate Alliance, an affiliation that develops the next generation of global leaders. Their rich partnership history facilitates the collaborative delivery of the joint Executive MBA program in Mumbai.
CEO of the Joint Venture, Gopal Shukla says, We are now running the7th cohort and we have produced successful leaders and start-up founders who joined this program from various industries and functional backgrounds.
My objective from the JV is to create world-class leaders and I call these leaders “change agents”. These leaders are expected to go out to their respective industries, markets, or the public sector enterprises, wherever they can contribute, they become ‘Change Agents’ as they change the society, re-design the business models, embark on changing the mindset and psychology contributing to the economic growth, social welfare, and social growth. Hence, I must tell you that at IIT Bombay- Washington University in St Louis, we are building a pool of ‘Change Agents’. While everybody is focused on building leaders, we are building the ‘Change Agents’ through our EMBA program.
What is your vision of creating academic reach deeper and widespread?
This programme is unique and as far as the reach is concerned, I see, two types of reach. One is reaching out to audiences in India and Other countries to educate them about the existence of this unique program. Another is the deep academic reach in the form of module delivery in the classroom. We have the ability and combined experience of both the Universities to deeply impact the participants with structured modules and delivery style.
So, IIT Bombay-WashU is able to create a unique place in India among the senior executives and leaders from corporates, large enterprises, family-owned businesses, defense, public sector, and so on. So, we have a diverse set of participants enrolling in the program.
My vision is to achieve a deeper reach to these segments to create more ‘Strategic Change Agents’ at the top level. These change agents will further influence and fuel economic growth and sustainability. In addition to where we are able to make an impact through this EMBA, my effort and desire are to invite more and more distinguished participants from Public Sector, Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, and Defence to foster rich learning and networking experience. Imagine such cohorts where we have participants from Indian Administrative Service, Public Service, police service, and the corporate world. When these two sets along with the entrepreneurs, who are building large enterprises and family-owned businesses, come together, they will be instrumental in shaping the future industries, and society, and fuel the economic growth. Let’s imagine the whole of India comes together to learn from each other as to how they do business, how they could empower people, empower the society and empower their businesses. The individuals from the public sector who are not fully exposed to the mechanisms of the private sector or enterprises, will now get connected, gain insights into strategic thinking, market dynamics, and will be well equipped with understanding and new perspectives to work together.
Imagine if, through our EMBA program, we are able to create this kind of a learning ecosystem and infrastructure, where everybody tries to understand the challenges of each other(Public/Private/Start-ups), what would be the level of learning and academic reach can be created in the classroom. So, that is where my vision is to reach out deeply in terms of making it geo widespread and learn from each other and shape the future of economies and society.
“We should have an ecosystem to support the next idea and make it an easy entry to present that billion-dollar idea.”
Is there any number you are looking at?
We are not looking at any number but yes, we are looking at contributing as much as possible and as fast as possible. We plan to enroll 200+ leaders to be trained as ‘Change Agents’ every year and go to their respective places and take the right decisions for the benefit of society and their respective businesses.
How do you see technology enabling the growth of education?
Education is one sector that has been a key beneficiary of technology. We are the fastest adaptors of technology. The classroom experience is a very different experience than online, but technology plays a very critical role. Ed-Tech industry is growing at 16-17 percent and I assume it would grow at 40% CAGR in the years to come just because of the technology influence. We have adopted a hybrid delivery model. This programme particularly is delivered in a restrictive classroom mode where the leaders come and get the back-to-school experience at the IIT Bombay campus. But during the pandemic, we opted for a hybrid technology model where some of the students were in the class and some of them were online. Lately, when the pandemic began to wane away, we started offline classroom sessions, but technology, otherwise, plays a very critical role. Technology is just not delivering the classes on zoom or a hybrid. We have a high-tech classroom, which is built a year or two ago. We have a fantastic classroom infused with high-end tools and technologies to deliver a unique learning experience. I am one of the Pro-technology CEOs, who is trying to make education delivered as efficiently, productively, and uniquely as possible.
What is your vision of creating an ecosystem of creating innovation and fostering entrepreneurship?
All the IITs are very well placed in building that kind of ecosystem. As far as IIT Bombay is concerned, our current director – Mr. Subhashis Chaudhary has a laser-sharp focus on building an innovative, agile, and problem-solving ecosystem combined with robust tools, technologies, and infrastructure where everybody can perform to the best. As far as the overall unicorn or start-up ecosystem is concerned, last year India replaced the UK in a pure number of unicorns perspective. While I know that we still need to speed up, academic institutions especially such as IITs and IIMs need to play a very important role. Schools need to play a very critical role in creating the mindset of entrepreneurship within the students starting from seventh and eighth grade. So, when they go to any IITs or IIMs or anywhere else, they can be supported through IIT/IIM incubation programs.
Speaking specifically about IIT Bombay, we have our incubator “Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE)”, which works aggressively in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem and all the IIT Bombay students, whoever want to create something unique or have an idea to pitch. SINE encourages that endeavor and whenever requires to pitch in and help, it does the needful to support the incubation of the particular start-up.
As far as IIT Bombay and Washington University JV is concerned, as you know 20-30% of the class comprises entrepreneurs. And the rest of the class participants come to learn the various aspects of the business. They get influenced by the entrepreneurs and co-participants and come up with a lot of unique ideas, which further pushes them to go to SINE in IIT Bombay and they end up creating unique products and services for the society and people. So, we have a complete ecosystem within IITB right from learning to knowledge to creating a company to running it further – and, of course, generating employment and contributing to the economy.
Can the IITs or Premium institutions in India create passion among the students to participate in the Make in India initiative?
The contribution of IITs in creating entrepreneurship is nothing but Make in India initiative. You learn through academia, and you have an ecosystem to implement your ideas to get success, which contributes to the vision of Make in India. In my view, not only IITs but all the institutions should draw a road map of governance in line with the best global practices.
Once you have your road map of governance ready in line with the global practices, more global companies get attracted and try to come to India for collaborations. And, then the Make in India initiative looks successful together.
Institutes must set up an industry Advisory Board with an objective to establish a strong industry connection – conduct multiple workshops, create a bond with each other, and develop a plan, along with objectives and outcomes.
I think academia should also focus on cross-functional learnings with the transformative developmental experience. Intellectual growth with the deep practical knowledge with sound judgment, institution should also focus on the mindset of change for its own students.
Higher education is just not getting a degree and landing to a great job, but you learn and develop as an overall person. Putting all the industry and academia together and having an industry body with academia as an advisory would benefit immensely the Make in India initiative. All those practices which we just mentioned are followed within IIT Bombay.
But can we ever make companies like Google, Microsoft, Tesla, Oracle, WhatsApp, Etc.?
Sanjay it is a very good point, but I would want to make a little correction. I think you forgot that India has also created reputed companies globally, for example, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, etc. TCS and Infosys and lot many Indian companies which have achieved global presence and global respect are born in India, but yes, how many numbers is my question.
Besides, you will be surprised to note that many founders of Indian startups that turned a unicorn in 2021 were an alumnus of IIT. It will be interesting to note that 65 of the 153 unicorn founders in India are from IITs.
This apart, I think India has created valuable global companies and we are certainly on the path to creating more, looking at the entrepreneurship or the number of unicorns produced in India every year. But the fact is that 73 to 74% of innovative start-ups/Unicorns are being incubated/produced and run in USA and China. However, to match the growth and build more and more valuable global companies, we must focus on skill-based learning and the New Education Policy (NEP) provisions that for us.
So, skill-based training is important. We need more investment into R&D from the government and companies. We also need to provide an ecosystem that could support the innovation. Today, we need to listen to young and innovative talent from rural India, ideas from there have to be heard. And we should have an ecosystem to support the next idea and make it an easy entry to present that idea. This can only help in creating the companies like Google, Microsoft, or Tesla-like companies in India but for the great start-up ecosystem to flourish, companies should put themselves in the market the way Tata Sons did with Big Basket and 1mg, etc. So, companies need to invest in unique start-ups, listen to them and allow them to grow.
As far as the education system in India is concerned, do you have any suggestions?
Our education policy, has been recently modified. It is very progressive and outcome-based. I am a big supporter of outcome-based learning. We need to develop our course plans with an objective of outcomes and the focus on developing conceptual skills to identify, formulate and solve problems innovatively. The students must undertake case studies and simulation exercises irrespective of which education Institute they are in so that it can help them succeed in a far better manner than today.