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The Vision and Mission of Dr. Subhash Datta, Director, IMT Nagpur

How IMT Nagpur will be transformed into a Business School which fosters Business Leaders

Everything about Dr. Subhash Datta is meticulously planned – right from his spic-and-span office in IMT Nagpur, to the chits where he jots down all the ‘things-to-do’ for the day. “It’s a system used in Production. I use it for Performance,” he says. He’s been doing this since his days as a Lecturer in BITS Pilani, 37 years ago.

The other thing which immediately strikes you about Dr. Datta is his high degree of concentration. He uses ‘patches of 10 minutes’ in his busy schedule as the Director, IMT Nagpur, to work on his Consulting and Project assignments. One such assignment is on ‘Energy Planning at the Block Level’ in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra; a project sponsored by DST.

It is these two attributes – meticulous planning and high degree of concentration – that allow Dr. Datta to plan things well in advance. “I work on 5-10 year plans. That is how I intend to transform IMT Nagpur and take it to a different level.” Outlining his vision and detailed plan, Dr. Datta says that he intends to make teaching more purposeful, for starters.

“My personal opinion is that we don’t need a plethora of courses in B-schools. In the US or UK they have far fewer courses. The real deal is how to make students work, how to excite them about their curriculum and make them understand the real value of education. As a teacher, I’m a facilitator who provides the necessary stimulus for students to work. The bottom line for me is that my students have to be ready for industry. They might blossom into entrepreneurs, or might already have an idea for entrepreneurship, or might ultimately join their family-business 3-4 years down the line; but at the starting point, almost all of them are looking for a job to get some exposure. The entire curriculum at IMT Nagpur has to be aligned to this one fact.”

Dr. Datta is passionate about IMT Nagpur creating entrepreneurs. In fact, one of the first things that he has put in place after taking over as the Director, IMT Nagpur, is to establish a Centre for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Development.

“We are looking to join hands with the Ministry of Science and Technology – or even Angel Brokers – to provide the right kind of seed capital for what is recognised as the best business idea in a particular batch.”

In fact, Dr. Datta has established four Centres of Excellence in all at IMT Nagpur; the other 3 are Centres for Excellence in Supply Chain Management, Corporate Governance and Sustainable Development. It is no wonder, therefore, that Dr. Subhash believes in a more enterprising and exploratory form of pedagogy and assessment.

“As humans, we love problem-solving; we enjoy it immensely. One likes to play a catalytic role; one likes to change lives of people. Most of us are good at problem solving; most of us are bad at formulating a problem. I believe that IMT Nagpur is ready for an open-book examination system, where students are encouraged to research and solve problems rather than memorise content or state facts. Go to the library, go to the net, find out the necessary material, talk to other people and find a solution. So why should examinations continue being a 3-hour affair? This system does not test for brilliance; we only create average brains.”

Dr. Datta believes that the global meltdown and current economic scenario are examples that even professionals are unable to find solutions to issues.

“It’s not just about the IIMs or IMT Nagpur or Harvard; it’s across the world. The likely sets of solutions are not discussed at the B-school level, when it is here that they need to be discussed the most. Moreover, we need to actively debate the current philosophy of providing domain-centric business education, like an MBA in Operations, HR, Finance or Marketing. It’s time we evolved to MBA in Banking, or Infrastructure, or Automobiles, etc., so that a manager is prepared to address an industry rather than a generic domain.”

Dr. Datta’s vision encompasses a paradigm shift in the Summer Internship Programme as well. He strongly believes that the 2-month internship concept needs to be revised and tuned once again understanding the need of the time.

“There is a reason for which the change is needed. There is less follow-up on the SIPs, and the same projects are probably being given to students over and over again. What we need to do is integrate all the SIP done so far for a particular Company, and, under a faculty member, compile and present it as a paper or case to that company. This can in turn also apply to integrating all the SIPs in a particular industry, for a thesis. If more information is needed to complete the paper, an SIP to fill the gaps can be discussed with the Company. Can I not write a book, or present a paper, or atleast write a case on a company where I have done 10 projects? We don’t need to go anywhere; all the SIPs are available in the library – open them and write a case.”

Dr. Subhash views SIPs as potent tools for industry-IMT Nagpur collaboration. He has a clear –cut plan chalked out for the purpose.

“Currently, 3-credit points are awarded for the SIP – which is one course. This can be quadrupled. Treat the Internship Project as 4 courses, or 12 credit points. The student will begin his SIP after the first year, on a relevant problem pertaining to quality improvement in a company. He will carry out his data collection, research and evaluation, and on the completion of 2 years, present his thesis. A representative of the company concerned should take the interview at the time of the presentation.  This way the quality of Internships will improve, and industry will know that IMT Nagpur solves real problems.”

Dr. Subhash hopes to convince students at IMT Nagpur to see their careers as a “25-lap race”, and life as “a marathon where, ultimately, you are going to win.”