Rendezvous with Dr. Atmanand

Creating Performance Oriented Managers and Transformational Leaders

It is always a pleasure to bring to you some of the learned practitioners from the academia and industry that are a perfect blend of knowledge, experience, and progressive outlook. MBA Rendezvous takes great pleasure in introducing Dr. Atmanand, Director (Additional charge) of MDI Gurgaon. He is also the Director of MDI Murshidabad. Under his aegis, the newly found campus at Murshidabad has flourished since its inauguration in 2014. In addition, he is the Independent Director on the Board of Central Bank of India. Prior to this he was the Independent Director on the Board of Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), Government of India.

A multi-faceted personality, Dr. Atmanand is an educationist, corporate leader, policy maker/influencer, and author. He is the recipient of the coveted Rashtriya Gaurav Award for his contribution in nation building, Indian Achievers Award for Corporate Leadership and Economic Development Award for Excellence in Higher Education. He is an avid researcher in the field of energy and power for the last 32 years. His association with the MDI family has been for more than 20 years now and is one of the key shapers of its intellectual policies and leadership functioning. His name has been associated with other prestigious organizations such as IMT Ghaziabad, Steel Authority of India Ltd, Ministry of Power, and Ministry of Ayush with the Government of India to name a few. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad.

We spoke at length with him about his views on the role and responsibilities of a B-school in shaping young minds of India. He shared the qualities to become a performance-oriented manager and a transformational leader.

3Fs – Fearlessness, Firmness, Friendliness 4Cs – Courage, Commitment, Coordination, and Communication Read on to find out more.

Team MBA Rendezvous : Since MBA domain is suffering in the absence of research, and fewer Indian case studies are compelling the industry to get shaky, therefore in such shaky scenario how would you transform present to vibrant tomorrow?

Dr. Atmanand : The young minds joining MBA for the regular business programs want to connect with corporate and society in their way. In today's time, they are guided by several types of ambitions and dreams which they want to fulfil by joining the business schools and completing their MBA. In light of this, I believe that – technology and innovation – are essential for young MBA students. The existing B-Schools need to create some diversification and differentiation in their traditional products like Marketing, Finance, IT, Operations, etc. The focus needs to shift on to the changes that are happening in the entire business ecosystem – both at the government policy level and at an international level. Also, emphasis should be on how the in-depth knowledge and learning in the classroom by the faculty can help them achieve their dream. B-schools can play a significant role in this. They should not only prepare the students to become able managers but business leaders of tomorrow. Above all, they should help their students to become the change agents and change masters which can bring transformation in the society with their great ideas.

I believe that a B-school must focus on three things – Connect, Nurture and Grow. They should help their students to connect with the outside world regarding technology and knowledge that exists in the corporate sector and the society. They should also connect them with industry practitioners and corporate leaders. After connecting them, it is their responsibility to nurture their minds. Techniques such as role plays, case studies, and group discussions should be conducted in the classrooms regarding industry best practices. Both connectivity and nurturing is a simultaneous process which will lead to growth regarding knowledge creation. Today a management school is distinguished by these three attributes. The MBA graduates who join the corporate sector can bring about changes with their ideas and learning's from their B-schools.

Talking about MDI Gurgaon, which established in 1973; today it has become a global business school well diversified in every domain and activity. Be it MBA Education, Executive Education or Public Policy Programme or Energy Management Education Programme or Consulting – in every area our Gurgaon campus is well placed, not only in India but across the world.

Regarding our new campus in Murshidabad, it is slightly different from the path of MDI Gurgaon. Although the policy guidelines are same, differentiation has been created by MDI Murshidabad for the course curriculum and various new initiatives. Our students are doing exemplary work there, and I would like to share some of it with you. MDI Murshidabad has set up three different CoEs – Centre of Agri-Business & Food Processing, Centre of Entrepreneurship & Start-Ups, and Centre for Artificial Intelligence Machine Learning.

Murshidabad is known for agricultural products, and farmers produce millions of tonnes of fruits. However, there is a lot of wastage that takes place. This wastage is because the farmers are naive and not well aware of the opportunities available to them. As part of the Centre of Agri-Business & Food Processing, our students take up the responsibility to connect these farmers with the outside world, i.e., various agencies and co-operatives that can market and export their produce. Such enterprises enable money to flow not only in the form of income and profit for the farmers but also boost the economy of the state of West Bengal. Our students have prepared business and rural marketing models to promote and export of food products for the benefit of the farmers. This initiative has helped in creating financial as well as social capital. It mobilizes the creation of meaningful jobs and employment opportunities in the state by connecting the farmers with the various value chains.

Secondly, in MDI-M we divide students into different groups. Different industries located in Murshidabad are assigned as a live project to each group. These could be rice mills, silk workshops, the beedi industry, etc. A designated Faculty member is assigned as a mentor to each group and everyone reports to me. Believe me; our students are doing some path-breaking work at the ground level with all the local entrepreneurs and small-scaled industry workers. Our students have the opportunity to share their work with industry experts from Kolkata, and this makes it a two-way learning and growing process.

Thirdly, our students get to connect with great entrepreneurs via the Centre of Entrepreneurship & Start-Ups. Some of our students are looking to patent their start-up ideas as well. Our students get to connect the local entrepreneurs with the corporate by conducting national level seminars and workshops. Our students not just look for white-collar corporate jobs, but they have a vision and dream to start their own company.

I can proudly say that students at MDI are wealth and capital generating minds which are indeed useful for our country and our society. I believe this is how we can work towards stabilizing our country's tomorrow.

Team MBA Rendezvous : How would you like to break the threshold of student's perception that institutes are job exploring platforms first than grooming them as professionals?

Dr. Atmanand :This is a significant and thought-provoking point you have made. All the leaders of the business schools should understand the essence of this question. It means whether institute continue with the same traditional role of preparing the young minds of being job seekers or should also help them become job creators. This question talks about the two-dimensional role of a business school. The B-Schools should bring a change in their curriculum, methodology, and the delivery of the course. They should prepare the students so that they become job creators rather than just job seekers; this is what we do in MDI. Today India needs more employment and jobs which can only happen if the young minds are trained in the B-schools to come up with capital generating ideas.

Great leaders like Swami Vivekananda, Steve Jobs, and Dhirubhai Ambani believed that through courage and conviction we could achieve this. To create something big, you will have to create vision first. If your idea is strong, your vision will automatically pull you. B-schools are the ideal place to groom students with such thoughts. They need to be continuously motivated and provided with a platform to help them realize their real potential. This approach will not only let them define their strategy but ultimately help them achieve their goal. Business ethics are nothing but simple values derived from the real world. We need to teach our students to be contributors rather than be receivers. Our students should not only be creators of financial capital but social and human capital as well. That is how we should groom our students into sound professionals


Team MBA Rendezvous : Present Geo-Political scenario and trade war is a challenge for industries. Thus what can be the role of institutes to bridge the gap of demand and supply in the area of quality and flamboyancy?

Dr. Atmanand : With the trade war going on in the international market scene, each country focuses on increasing their share in the global markets. They are doing this by focusing on their industries and giving huge competitive costs advantages regarding production and marketing. Time has come when India should also focus on those areas, services, and activities. It must transition from being a dependant to a self-reliant economy. Not only that, India should switch from an import-dependent economy to an export promotion economy. At such a critical juncture, students must understand and appreciate the role of governance and ethics. They must have a sound understanding of the various government and international policies. Also, they should be more tolerant and appreciative to the ‘other' party's point of view.

Today the focus is on innovation and openness of the economy. We see the economic transformation happening through the opening of Indian markets and industries which connects them with international markets and investors. Thus we need to prepare the young MBA minds so that they can understand the various aspects of international business, culture, and environment and make appropriate decisions.

The course curriculum must emphasize the fact as to how our students can not only become great managers and leaders in India but in international markets as well. We need to give appropriate emphasis on culture, governance, values and ethics.

Team MBA Rendezvous : How come social behaviour skills are being demanded by the industries and how institutes can fill this void?

Dr. Atmanand : In both our campuses at Gurgaon and Murshidabad, we have a group of students called Samaritans. These Samaritans are involved in various social activities and work with the underprivileged sections of society. Our students are working in the fields of education, health, and hygiene of the deprived sections. Such activities are not only part of the Corporate Social Responsibility but also enable them to work in teams.

Even our course learning perpetuates the idea of group learning, group behaviour, and group interactions. These are critical social skills which must be instilled and polished in the students. Our students are also involved in organizing various events. Delphique is a National Management Convention hosted by students at MDI Gurgaon. Students at MDI Murshidabad also conduct an Annual Corporate Talk Series. All these events enable students to work together in teams and connect with students from other B-schools as well.

Our motto is to make our students socially conscious human beings rather than be individualistic. We aid them to be more outward looking rather than inward looking. We make them appreciate social values, social contours and social context in which they are supposed to contribute or deliver in the society. With an equal focus on both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the behavioural research, our students will be in a better position to understand and connect with the consumers in the end.

Team MBA Rendezvous : How would you like to summarise the comparative future of two-year programme v/s one-year programme v/s the certification courses offered at MDI?

Dr. Atmanand : Every programme we offer has its own goal and course objectives. In two-year programme students from different academic backgrounds and work experience (one to two years) comes together. Professionals after completing their degree join as fresher into the industry.

In the 15-month programme that MDI Gurgaon offers like the National Management Programme, PGP-Energy Management Programme or PGP-Public Policy and Management, existing industry practitioners and managers come together. They come with a minimum five-year experience. The objective of such professionals is to enhance their current knowledge horizon and join industry at a lateral (mid-level) stage. Their roles and focus are different from a young MBA graduate. Regarding the course curriculum, the core courses are the same for all the programmes, but the specializations and the electives vary as per each programme. The reason being the kinds of professionals that join each type of course are different. For example, the PGP-Energy Management Programme, the elective courses focus on energy, power or oil economy. Similarly, for PGP-Public Policy and Management, the focus is more on public policy and public governance. These courses are mainly meant only for the bureaucrats and officers who are engaged with the implementation of government policies at the ministry or state level.

Coming to the certification programmes; we at MDI Gurgaon offer six months Executive Programme in Business Management for Armed Forces Officers (existing and retired). Different types of courses in the fields of Marketing, HR, and IT, etc. are offered. Such a short-term certificate course enriches the existing and retired officers. It gives them a new direction and perspective and helps them excel in either their current roles in the armed forces or new career opportunities.

MDI is a pioneer in conducting leadership and training programs. The duration varies from one-week, two-week to one-month for various practicing managers. The Management Development Programme we offer is of two types - open and in-company. As the name suggests, professionals from any background can apply for the open programme. The in-company programme is a customized capsule programme which is meant for a particular industry or organisation, like ONGC, IOCL etc.

We have created a lot of intellectual capital by way of mobilizing our managers working in different industries with these training programmes. Our training methodologies are widely accepted and appreciated. We aim to connect our students and managers with the real world.

I believe that be it any program; the course curriculum should focus on the following aspects – (a) Focus on creating differentiation in the existing course. (b)Use of technology and innovation is the second aspect. The student should be motivated to prepare a pragmatic business model for the industry which they want to join. We believe in shaping thinkers and doers in a single person. (c) The use of effective teaching methodologies. Smart classes should be introduced where these are a perfect blend of role plays, case discussion, an insight of the corporate sector professionals and group discussion at the end. I am confident that such an approach will boost the confidence of students and prepare them well. It is also another way to connect the industry with academia.

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