DTU Times interviewed Prof. Anu Singh Lather, Pro Vice Chancellor, DTU on the process and experience of setting up the USME, at DTU East Campus.
How has your initial experience helped you in the development and progress stride of DTU and its East campus?
Since I am a professor of management, I served two terms as the Dean at the University School of Management Studies (USMS), IPU. Also, even before I became the Dean, I was one of the founding members of the management school. It was founded in 1999 and I joined in 2000 and I was a part of the team which was instrumental in designing the new program, its curriculum, pedagogy and the treatment of these programs in the aspect of teaching particularly. We designed these curricula in consonance with industries. Hence, the industries contributed upto 90% in terms of the curriculum design, and they suggested that we develop some specialised program, namely ‘MBA in International Marketing’ and ‘MBA in Computer Aided Management’. That was the time of the IT boom and internationalisation of businesses in India and India as a country was beginning to contribute to the international landscape of business. So this was the concept they gave. We tried the new curriculum through these programs and gradually the students got placed but still, it was realised the concept was a bit early for the industry as well as for the students. When our students sat for the placements, we realised that the industry, at that time, was typically looking for generic specialisation such as specialisation in Finance, specialisation in Human Resource Management, specialisation in IT and so on; though the students of the new programs got placed, but a question mark remained on whether we were really focusing on the true curriculum of MBA. MBA in International Marketing had a focus on marketing and therefore, lacked a focus in finance and similarly MBA in Computer Aided Management too lacked in these aspects. During those days, we also started a new BBA program, in Computer Aided Management. The country’s market and business were growing and as a result, it so happened that, in order to ensure employability for students, the degree equivalence in the industry was perceived to be not equivalent to MBA, so we had to restructure everything and then we started offering an MBA General Program. In this program, we kept the focus on these two components, i.e., International Marketing and Computer Aided Management. These components were taken and put as a major thrust in our new curriculum, while overall going for a conventional MBA, consisting of all other necessary subjects. We found that through this exercise, our curriculum became updated and revised, and hence, its acceptability in the industry rose. I will proudly add that the revision and updating of the syllabus is very frequent, as in every 3-4 years.
"...the treatment of the curriculum content is very close to the industry’s requirement"
We tried another new program which was absolutely different, MBA (Financial Markets). This was started in collaboration with National Stock Exchange, Mumbai. We also had many other programs on a weekend basis there. I have the experience and background wherein we experimented with new curriculum designing and discarded the ones rejected by the industry and redesigned the programs. We were the risk-takers and the prime movers, and we had the natural advantage of revising the curriculum based purely on international standards. So with this experience, I came here and when I was asked to start an MBA program at East Campus, I thought we should go with an openness to experiment and designing programs which are updated, contemporary and compatible with industry’s requirements. Hence, East Campus’ curriculum is exactly based on this philosophy and meant to fulfil the industry’s requirements. By requirements, I mean the exact components wanted by them, for example, there is a heavy demand of data analytics now. We all know that Big Data Analysis is so crucial to every sector and the hence, the requirement is large. So we thought we should start a program in Business Analytics. In the first phase of East Campus, we started with MBA programs with conventional specialisation such as finance, HR, etc. But the treatment of the curriculum content is very close to the industry’s requirement and also in line with DTU’s own essence of technological input to the students, so that our own students can join the MBA programs. Namely, Knowledge Management is one of the areas which we have designed for the students coming from a technological background and specialised in this area. We kept these two objectives in mind, put everything together and revised the MBA syllabus for the students coming into East Campus. Then, a BBA program was conceived, consisting of the choice based credit system (CBCS), just like the MBA program. Right from day one, the school opened with CBCS included in every curriculum. Therefore, for the first time at BBA level, CBCS was introduced. If you look at the curriculum, you will find discipline-specific electives, which the student can choose second year onwards. We made it as open as possible for a CBCS system. The curriculum is so well designed that the students are as prepared as the first year students in an MBA program.
"The admitted students as well as the representatives of the industry give us very positive feedback about the curriculum."
The third program which we have introduced in the first phase is B.A. Hons. (Economics). You know that Economics is fetching considerable attention today as the subject has evolved to be more scientific and has proved instrumental in data manipulation. Thus, the role of Economics in businesses has become quite useful. Consequently, we introduced this program which will enhance the employability of the students. The curriculum is rigorous, with mathematics as a major part. The admitted students as well as the representatives of the industry give us very positive feedback about the curriculum. Even for first year students in MBA, there is an open-elective system in place to allow them to choose Yoga, NCC, NSS, etc. as a subject, which has become an integral part of the two-credits system. These electives are compulsory so that there is an all-round development of the students, being from the management stream. We then introduced MBA in Business Analytics, with an intake of 30 students to begin with, because we are still trying to assess the pulse of the acceptance of the industry.
The DSM has existed for a long time. So, essentially DTU now has two parallel MBA programs, being offered at different locations. What led to this, and how does the management cope with it now?
In the requirement for Delhi-NCR, specifically, East Delhi was often neglected. We found that the students in the Eastern part of Delhi did not have access to a university or a good educational program. They often travel all the way to the other part of the city in order to get into a BBA or any other entrepreneurial program. Also, the BBA program of the IPU has been well received. Therefore, to cater to these needs of the student population of East Delhi, the USME was set up. There was no government institution offering any such programs in that part of the city. In fact, the Delhi government welcomed this idea.
"I always tell the students at USME that the DSM is your elder brother."
Entrepreneurship is what we have focused on. We did not want simply a B-school creating employees, but we wanted a B-school which would create employers. Hence, the name of the school, University School of Management and Entrepreneurship, with Entrepreneurship as the major thrust there. The pedagogy and the exposure bestowed on the students is to enable them to create and run their own businesses. We already had major workshops and national business competitions last year. Lots of technical sessions were held at USME. Also, we have shifted few incubatees to the East Campus, from the main campus of DTU, so that the right environment is provided to them. A centre for entrepreneurship has been created for the same, at East Campus. Its objective is to guide and drive the incubatees towards idea generation, imparting all the required knowledge. This is an independent centre, which is working very closely with the industry. Thus, the thrust for the B-School at E.C. is not just an MBA program, rather, creating more number of entrepreneurs and consequently, more number of startups.
How has the reception of the school by the students and by the general public been?
I always tell the students at USME that the DSM is your elder brother. We have our first batch passing out from USME this year. We have already had the Pre-Placement Talks and the appointments happening. We have tried to position the MBA program at USME in line with the placements. In fact, we have found that when we presented the students from DSM and USME together for placements, a large number of students were getting placed from USME. That is one big motivating factor for us now. There is no difference in terms of perception by the employers. Also, we are happy to share that there are two companies which have exclusively interviewed our students at USME.
"We aim to make a special place for USME in the country..."
Is there a plan for USME to become one of the top management institutes of the country? Please share the future plans for USME.
Yes, it is the target for USME. In fact, the very inception of the school despite the existence of a B-school, DSM, was to provide another B-school with a flavour of nuances of business which are accepted by the industry and with more creative elements in the curricula, so that we can be differentiated as a highly enriched B-school and this part has come from the curriculum design and the delivery through pedagogy. Involving the industry, the corporate houses and the experts has already begun there. East Campus is humming with industrial input and by that I mean, every day you will find a trainer group present to train students for industry level confidence. Since the students have come into the institute through a qualifying examination, we assume that they have the necessary skill level in their inventories. We are enhancing their confidence, the ability to deliver efficiently and effectively and industry readiness. That’s how we believe that our B-school, USME, will be an example where the connect between the students and industry will be the driving force. We aim to make a special place for USME in the country, and hope that in the coming times we are able to meet our aim.
In the whole process of establishing USME and running it, for example, in designing the curriculum, has there been any constraint in the setting up the institution from the government’s side or the authorities’ side?
No, in fact the Delhi Government supported the idea of having one such B-school at DTU’s East Campus and also, internally there was a lot support generated for the same right from the start. Hon’ble Chief Minister and Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister went an extra mile, giving us all kind of support for the infrastructure needed. The building where the campus was supposed to take over from, was to be taken from Shaheed Sukhdev College, which was an already functioning college. So the campus started from the building which had already existed for many years, instead of renting a building or constructing a new one. Though the building required renovation and repairs, for making the classrooms new and presentable. In all, the whole process of acquiring the land, constructing a building, etc. which otherwise would have taken a long time, was bypassed and instead, a ready-to-move-in building was allotted. This was the biggest support for us, as within a short span of a month after the take-over, we were able to conduct classes in the new classrooms, which are state-of-the-art classrooms.
We are thankful and obliged to the Government of Delhi, for being a part of this journey and for standing by us. Also, the new building, which will be inaugurated in February will give a feel of a B-school infrastructure which is contemporary and designed for management education. We have got activity rooms, a Corporate Relations Cell (CRC) as well as an independent unit, an Interaction With Cell (IWC) and three more centres. Hence, we have created the infrastructure as per the requirement of delivering management education.
Part II will focus on International and Alumni Affairs.