Earlier this year, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) was ranked 24 in the Financial Times’s Global MBA Ranking 2016. It was the highest for an Indian institution, and it did not come as a surprise to many as IIMA, for the most part of its existence, has been recognised as the nation’s premier management institution. “IIMA is an aspirational brand and attracts the best students from across the country,” says Parag Pande, the managing director for human resources at Accenture India. But its high perch is precisely why the institute’s director, Ashish Nanda, is not resting easy.
“Education is going through some dramatic changes,” Nanda tells Forbes India over the phone from the US. The past decade has seen the emergence of several private business schools that have sought to overturn the dominance of the IIMs. Some, like the Indian School of Business (ISB), bring with them prestigious global alliances and access. Moreover, as Nanda admits, the expectations of the select few who make it to the institute every year are also changing. “We have to make sure that we continue to address the aspirations of our students,” he says.
Nanda arrived at IIMA three years ago from Harvard Law School where he was the Robert Braucher Professor of Practice. He had previously served as an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School (HBS). But he wasn’t a stranger to the place, having studied at IIMA between 1981 and 1983. “He has roots there,” says IIMA alumnus Manish Pajan, who is a partner at global executive research firm DHR International. “He knew what it stood for, but he has worked and studied abroad, and brought that perspective with him.” And it has led Nanda to drive an extensive retooling strategy, with three fundamental components.
The first of these is building connections. “Historically, IIMA has been a well regarded institution with high quality, but it has functioned in an autarchic environment,” Nanda says. “However good we are, we have to be more proactive in reaching out to people.” This includes reaching out to “the world of research and the world of practice”. The institute is pushing for its faculty to collaborate with researchers around the world, attend conferences and improve the levels of engagement with the research community. With regard to practice, the focus will be on expanding the executive education programmes IIMA offers, which has over the years, been somewhat neglected.
(This story appears in the 28 October, 2016 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)