Indian MBA education needs to open up to new models: Dr Soumitra Dutta, Dean Designate, Cornell Univ.

In an interview with, prior to the 3rd Indian Management Conclave 2012, Dr. Dutta talks on the transformation of management education over last decade across the globe. He also speaks on the ‘way forward’ for management education in India.

Dr. Soumitra Dutta, Dean Designate, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, is a key speaker at 3rd Indian Management Conclave 2012 to be held in New Delhi on August 9-10. In an interview with, prior to the 3rd Indian Management Conclave, Dr. Dutta talks on the transformation of management education over last decade and its challenges in India and across the globe. He also speaks on the ‘way forward’ for management education in India.

Dr. Dutta is currently the Roland Berger Chaired Professor of Business and Technology and the founding academic director of elab@INSEAD, INSEAD’s initiative in building a center of excellence in teaching and research in the digital economy. Professor Dutta obtained his Ph.D. in computer science and his M.Sc. in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been a visiting Professor at several international universities including the University of California at Berkeley, Oxford and Cambridge. He has also authored and co-authored several books. His current research is on technology strategy and innovation at both corporate and national policy levels. His research has been showcased in the international media and he has taught in and consulted with international corporations across the world. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum and is on the boards of several business schools and corporations.

In this interview with, Dr. Soumitra Dutta says that a ‘research culture’ is very important to enhance academic quality in management education. He says that Indian B-schools need to open up to ‘new models’ of businesses and education.


Q: You have been associated with Top B-schools for over two decades now. How do you see the transformation in MBA education in last 10-15 years worldwide?

A: Business schools are very closely connected to not just private businesses but also governments and society at large. Hence it is only natural that their roles and missions have evolved as the environment around them has changed. For example, in light of the excesses of the recent financial crisis, business schools have started to focus more on elements of ethical leadership. Given the global challenges that society faces with respect to issues such as global warming and energy, business schools have started to reach out to other disciplines and schools as a multi-disciplinary approach is critical for addressing these important problems. As the role of the government and public-private partnerships have become more important for achieving action, business schools have also started increasing their emphasis on governments and public sector administration. Such evolutions in response to changing environments and needs will continue in the future.

Q: What are the key challenges facing Management Education globally today?

A: The key challenge facing management education is to make the move from management to leadership. In general, business schools have become very good at producing managers who are functionally competent in various management disciplines. Business schools have not been as good in producing leaders who are capable of leading both organizations and society at large. There are several reasons for this. For one, the world has become more global and many business schools still struggle with truly making their learning models and experiences global. Also, new business domains such as ethics are vital for effective leadership but they do not neatly fit within the various management disciplines. Business schools have generally excelled more at the IQ (analytical) aspects of business education as opposed to the EQ (social and emotional) aspects.

Q: How do you look at the level of global perspective in the MBA education in India? What are the similarities and differences in the MBA education in India and other western countries like US, UK?

A: India has a rich tradition of management education – especially within established players such as the IIMs and new emerging players such as ISB. While many graduates of these Indian business schools go on to build successful global careers, the global perspective within MBA education can be improved further. This is true not just for the curriculum of the programs which can benefit from more international cases but also for the composition of the student and faculty bodies at these institutions. Indian MBA education has been modelled after the successful institutions in the US and UK – but now there is a need to open up to new models. For example, Indian managers need to know much more about models of Chinese and ASEAN businesses and education.

Q: The Indian MBA education is going through a crisis where many B-schools are facing challenges on admission and placement. What are your observations on the state of MBA environment in the country?

A: The MBA environment in India is well developed and evolving – but, I do not see a major crisis. However, there are areas where improvements can be made. One important area is in encouraging more rigorous research within MBA schools. Often many of the smaller MBA schools do not have the right quality of faculty or the culture of research. Without the right culture of research, the quality of the MBA education and graduates suffers. Indian MBA schools need to admit more foreign students – this will only improve the quality of the MBA experience for all students. Placement has been a challenge for all business schools in recent years but this is a function of the global economic fragility as opposed to specific factors linked to Indian business schools.

Q: What would be your advice and suggestion to the Promoters & Directors on the way forward for the MBA Education in India? How should they develop a plan to survive & emerge stronger in next 2-3 years period?

A: We should not allow business schools to mushroom around the country when they do not have the right levels of faculty and infrastructure to provide quality learning experiences. Even though I understand that the needs of education are high in the country, I believe that we need to focus on certain minimum levels of quality. Not every MBA school can strive for the excellence of IIMs but at the same time, they do need to assure some minimum levels of quality in faculty and curriculum. If this is not followed, the MBA degree will get devalued in the market. For the top schools like the IIMs and ISB, the need for them is to focus more on research excellence and on creating a culture where research thrives and is rewarded for faculty.

Q: Many Indian Institutions such as Manipal Group are expanding globally. What role Indian Institutions can play in the global arena, especially in the emerging economies across the globe?  What would be your suggestion to Indian B-schools on becoming globally competitive?

A: It is in general a good thing when high quality Indian educational institutions expand abroad. This is one way to bring in the much needed global perspective into Indian education. Indian business schools have to focus on improving their research excellence in order to become globally competitive. If not, they will not be able to attract the best faculty worldwide and the quality of their MBA experience will suffer.

Q: You are going to take over as Dean, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University. What will be your priorities at Cornell?

A: My priority at Cornell will be to enhance the global impact of Johnson and Cornell University. Cornell and Johnson are great global brands and there is lot that can be done to both bring Johnson to the world & the world to Johnson. Cornell’s new tech campus in New York will also provide exciting new opportunities to create new programs and launch new global initiatives.

Dr. Soumitra Dutta will share international perspective and bring insights on how the learning from other countries like USA can be useful in the Indian context at the 3rd Indian Management Conclave 2012.

Deans and Directors from Top B-schools across the globe, academic thought leaders, distinguished corporate leaders, and policy makers including Dr. S S Mantha, Chairman, AICTE; Mr. R C Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Limited; and Dr. Elieen Peacock, Vice President of Asia and Director, AACSB International will address 3rd Indian Management Conclave 2012 on August 9-10 in New Delhi. The other eminent speakers from universities overseas include Dr. Zhu Lein, Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jaiotong University, Shanghai, China; Dr. Bhaskar Chakravorti, Sr Associate Dean, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA; and Professor Said Irandoust, President, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand amongst others.

The key thought leaders from Indian management education domain and the industry who will address the 3rd Indian Management Conclave include Dr. Pritam Singh, Director General, International Management Institute (IMI); Dr. Bala Balachandran, Founder, Great Lakes Institute of Management; Dr. Rajan Saxena, Vice-Chancellor, NMIMS Mumbai; Savita Mahajan, Deputy Dean & CEO, ISB-Mohali; and Dr. YV Verma, Director, LG Electronics – India.  The list of key speakers also includes Dr. MJ Xavier, Director, IIM Ranchi; Dr. PY Agnihotri, Director, IIM Tiruchirappalli; and Dr. C Raj Kumar, Vice Chancellor, OP Jindal Global University; Dr H Chaturvedi, Director, BIMTECH; Dr RC Natarajan, Director, TAPMI; amongst others.

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