Interview




About Himanshu Rai

Dr. Himanshu Rai is the Director of IIM Indore. Prior to this he was a Professor at IIM Lucknow where he taught from 2006 to 2014 and then again joined back on 1st September 2016. Before this he was the Dean of MISB Bocconi and Professor at SDA Bocconi, Milan, Italy from 2014 to 2016. Earlier, he had a stint of a little over a year at XLRI Jamshedpur. As the Convener of CAT 2010, he successfully led the largest format change in world’s testing history exceeding all global standards of testing. He has held the positions of Chairman HRM Group, Admissions, Corporate Communications & Media Relations, and Executive Programs at IIM Lucknow.
He obtained his doctorate from Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, making seminal contribution in the area of Conflict Resolution & Negotiation. His profile includes a stint of over 8 years at Tata Steel, India, where he played a pivotal role in developing Quality Systems for his Departments & Communication Policy for the Company. He teaches a variety of courses to PG & Doctoral students including Negotiation, Justice, Leadership & Business Research Methods. He has consulted with several organizations including World Bank,Planning Commission of India, International Finance Corporation, UP State Road Transport Corporation, Mahindra & Mahindra, Hero Honda and SEWA. His consultancies include Strategic Planning, HR Interventions, and Organizational Restructuring & Development.

He is a recipient of the coveted N.T.S.E. Scholarship and Infosys Fellowship. He has published in refereed journals and books, and his current areas of research include Negotiation, HRM Issues, Management and Religion, Spirituality, Gender, Influence Tactics & Proxemics.

"There are certain Universities that talk about Online Courses - but these courses are nothing but clippings of videos put together from untrusted sources- so we don’t want people to get degrees basis such courses that are poor in quality- We have to balance both- while allowing greater freedom to the Universities, we need to make sure- there are checks & balances", said Himanshu Rai, Director IIM Indore while speaking with Rana Jyoti, Associate Editor, India Education Forum.




Question: The pandemic has captured the strategic failure of majority of Indian educational institutions and regulatory bodies, where do you think the issues lie?
The biggest problem lies in the fact that none of our Indian Universities had a digital strategy. We did have some online courses, few online systems but no coherent strategy so as to how are we going to go digital- how much money or resources would be required. We were not fast enough- I would not say that we didn’t have infrastructure at all, we did have it, the government had taken steps – the Universities were also taking steps but not at the same pace as some of the better institutions were.
Question:Out of 993 universities only 7 of them are allowed to run their online courses- will this regulatory barrier not do harm to massification of education, particularly in these times? What do you think?
First we need to understand what they were allowed to do and what they weren’t allowed to do- it is not that Universities were not allowed to run online courses, they were not allowed to have online programs. But nonetheless, they were allowed to have online courses as a part of their program.

I think, going ahead, not just the Universities but all the institutions be it a management, an engineering or a commerce college- will have to look at blended programs. In times to come, three things will become very important- First, I am very categorically saying this that nothing can replace a classroom experience- so those people who think that classroom learning will come to an end are mistaken. The classroom education will stay not for any other reason but for a simple fact that a whole lot of learning especially in a University setup or higher education institutions such as ours happens within the peer group. With that caveat, however, institutions need to look and establish equi-balance between in class hours and online hours (dividing it rightly between synchronous and asynchronous mode) - Universities will have to make a collective and responsive decision here!
Third would be the problem of infrastructure, For example- At IIM Indore, we follow the case discussion method- and at the end of the discussion the protagonist has to make a decision- now this can be effectively done in a classroom kind of setup, performing it in an online setup might be difficult. So the challenge would be to create an infrastructure that can give us learning experience as close to that. Universities will have to massively upgrade their infrastructure and they will have to look at making their classrooms much smarter than what they are currently.
As far as the regulation is concerned, the solution to this would be a graded solution. What the government did was it categorized institutions into different categories such as- Institutions of national importance and other such categories. They also created the NIRF rankings! Now what these bodies can do is, basis the NIRF ranking, they can give out licenses to top institutions- and to rest of the institutions, it can assign those institutions as mentors. For example, IIM Indore can be mentor to Universities in Madhya Pradesh, and with our guidance, now these Universities can create online programs that meet certain quality standards- and subsequently the UGC or the governing bodies can make a decision and start allowing licenses!
It is an imperative, and I agree with you, but it can’t be done at the cost of quality. There are certain Universities that talk about Online Courses- but these courses are nothing but clippings of videos put together from untrusted sources- so we don’t want people to get degrees basis such courses that are poor in quality- We have to balance both- while allowing greater freedom to the Universities, we need to make sure- there are checks & balances!

Question:You said that IIM Indore didn't face much turbulence in terms of course continuity, what preparedness did come to rescue (for the institution)?
There was a couple of factors that worked in our favour. First was we took decision very quickly- be it the decision to postpone our convocation or to choose a platform through which we could conduct exams online, etc. Second, we already had a required infrastructure- however, we still don’t have our own LMS but we can always use external one. This made things simple for us. Third, there was an incredible speed in which my faculty shifted to online mode.

If you look at it, you will realize the biggest problem that one faces when shifting from in class to online is not of infrastructure alone, but of mindset- the willingness to change. At IIM Indore we were extremely fortunate to have staff members volunteering to find the best online tools available. Most of our faculty members were excited about going digital, and those that were not too comfortable-asked for help and joined the league- we worked collaboratively and that helped.


Question: How do you see the Indian Higher Education and Management Studies changing in post COVID times?
Pandemics have happened in the past also- they definitely brought some changes but not radical changes, same goes with this one. While we were going through the fourth industrial revolution, it had certain consequences- the dreams were becoming a reality! Who would have thought of – 3 D Printing, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence! Robots are going to take up the large number of jobs that are done currently by humans, AI is going to transform things in many ways- whether the Pandemic had hit or not.

The landscape of higher education was anyway changing, the only thing that the pandemic would do is that the interest of the focus area would perhaps become different. Currently we were focusing more on functional skills, but now we will have to shift our focus to teaching skills like- complex problem solving, coordination & co-operation, understanding of self, negotiation, deriving information out of data. Earlier we thought that in the future- these skills will be required by certain industry professionals- but with Pandemic, these skills have become a must for other industries as well. The future of jobs will be in areas of digitalization, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, hygiene etc. Therefore the industries that we predicted as sun risers would change because of the pandemic- but these are short term changes. In long term, the jobs done by human beings will be very different from what we do today.


Question:(UGC) has recently come out with a report – in the nature of a roadmap for institutions of higher education. This report only suggests guidelines. It does not offer tangible solutions to challenges that various institutions of higher education, how should Universities prepare themselves in this case?
Here , I am speaking from the space of very limited information- I am not a part of University System at IIMs things more rather quick because we have the autonomy to do so. I personally feel that many Universities under utilize their funds- the statutory body can make it mandatory for Universities to use their funds on time under the given heads- and if they fail to do so- no further funding should be given to these Universities. This will propel other Universities to raise their standards.

Other reason could be that these Universities don’t have intellect of that stature- so assigning a mentor to these Universities would make a huge difference. We have IIMs and IITs in every state, why can’t Universities take help by adding people from these Institutions on their board of management- Why can’t regulatory bodies make it mandatory?


Question:How can Universities create a blended learning program that is effective?
While creating a blended learning program, one must keep three elements in mind-knowledge, skill, and attitude. Knowledge can be imparted easily through online method. When it comes to skill, it could be effectively done through an apprenticeship kind of a set up. But when it comes to attitude, one requires a complete different set of intervention. So initially what Universities need to see is how can these three elements be delivered in the most efficient and efficacious way. Then, the Universities need to decide pedagogical tools for each of these elements. I believe that to come to a 30-70 ratio (30 online and 70 offline) doesn’t make sense- do the calculation and then make a judicial decision.

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