20 Dec 2017 17:40 IST

‘We are a school that continuously innovates’

Committed to sending out 100% industry relevant and ready graduates, says TAPMI director

Madhu Veeraraghavan, who joined the Manipal-based TA Pai Management Institute (TAPMI) in 2013, assumed charge as its Director in April 2017. He holds an MBA in Finance and Investments, and a PhD (Finance — Asset Pricing) from Australia, and was instrumental in setting up the largest finance lab at the institute with 16 Bloomberg terminals.

  Prior to joining TAPMI, he held positions at the University of Auckland Business School and Monash University, Melbourne. Apart from presenting his work in top conferences in finance and accounting, he boasts of having over 50 papers published in international journals. His works have appeared in the likes of The Accounting Review, Contemporary Accounting Research, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Journal of Corporate Finance and Journal of Empirical Finance.

Speaking to BLoC, Veeraraghavan outlines his plans for the institute, the need for academic research and more. Excerpts:

Established in 1980, TAPMI is one of the oldest B-schools in the country. How has it adapted to the changing business environment over the years?

The school is more than 37 years old. We have around 5,500 alumni and our PGDM programme is quite popular. While we have got a lot of appreciation for that programme, we decided to branch out and offer specialised programmes.

We launched a BKFS (Banking and Financial Services) programme three years ago, which has been well accepted by industry, and we are about to launch a PGDM HRM programme. We want these specialised programmes to be linked to industry, otherwise there is no point in offering them. The institute is 100 per cent committed to sending out industry-ready graduates.

What is imperative for the institute?

The first non-negotiable code is that the faculty must publish works in top academic journals. It is not enough that we rank among the top 10 B-schools, or publish a huge number of articles in journals. We need to publish good quality work.

So we aim to be the number one in, say, the Australian Business Deans Council, Financial Times research rankings or the UT Dallas Business School research rankings.

In this regard, we give our faculty a lot of incentives. We create a fantastic, conducive environment for them to flourish by publishing more in top journals, because that is what will take TAPMI to greater heights.

Unfortunately, the ranking systems in India don’t really understand the value of academic research.

The second non-negotiable code is giving students top quality education. In two years, we want to be able to transform TAPMIans to be graduates with sound technical underpinnings and relevant practice. For a few second-year courses, we get industry practitioners to teach, so students get the right perspectives.

The third thing that is imperative for us is being cutting edge. We constantly look at the best practices around the world, be it in education, research, or in student-centred learning.

Community reach

We’ve just set up a centre for inclusive growth and competitiveness. The idea is to work with the local community; in our case, the State of Karnataka (and later, maybe at the national level with the Government of India) to see what we can do as a responsible business school.

We don’t want to be engaged with only corporate entities. That is, of course, very important, but we also have a social responsibility to the district we operate in.

At present, we work for the district commissioner’s office and do a lot projects under faculty engagement. We are also the advanced signatory to UN PRIME (Principles for Responsible Management Education), which means there are 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

With this, we are sending out a message to the UN global compact and the rest of the world that we are committed to building a better future, a better world for the next generation.

How soon can we see TAPMI in the top 10 business schools in the country?

We have a Vision 2022. I have given myself three years, but I am a man in a hurry, so I would say by the end of 2018 or very early 2019, when the rankings come out, we should be in the top 10.

We have applied to National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF), and are in the second round of the accreditation process of AMBA (Association of MBAs), which is the UK body. We have been accredited by AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) for the second time. We’re making sure that we are present in all the top ranking systems, be it the Government of India’s or global.

In these fast changing times, new industries are cropping up rapidly. How is the curriculum keeping pace with this speed of change? What new courses has TAPMI launched?

A lot of B-schools don’t do introspection. They think they have arrived, so they never innovate. TAPMI is a school that continuously innovates. This year, we rationalised the entire first-year programme. We deleted 13 credits — from 61, we made it 48.

In the second year, we run a course called SMIC (student managed investment course), where TAPMI gives ₹10 lakh real money to a hand-picked set of 30 students. These students invest money in the market. It cannot get more real than this. Our students also run BrandScan, a market research game.

Our idea is to keep launching new courses that are extremely important to industry and for the students to stay on top of their game. We don’t just rehash the same courses that we conducted 30 years ago. That’s not going to work for us.

Also read: TAPMI plans to launch HRM programme

How has the placement scenario at the institute been?

TAPMI has done well consistently. Every student has been placed, and we have not played around with the numbers.

What I would like to say to my students is that we give you enough opportunities. You make it happen. For example, this year, I said we will close down the placements by January 15. If somebody is not placed, then they are not placed. We will do what we can to help them, but as a school, we can only bring the best employers, the best profiles to the students. Students have to really fight for it.

But is 100 per cent placement the only thing we can boast of? No. There are 10 other things we can say, but why do we harp on about 100 per cent placements all the time? Why are you not asking me about the salaries of the 100 people, or the journals I have published in, or the infrastructure we have? Ranking agencies don’t seem to understand that placement is just one component of the overall B-school landscape. It is not the only mechanism by which to evaluate the institute.

We tell the students that we are not a recruitment agency. Placement is definitely important but we don’t want students to come to TAPMI because of 100 per cent placement. They should come here for the best finance lab in the country, for the faculty, for the programmes. They should say I love the way you engage with us, I love the way you articulate learning.

I have been telling the students to change their placement mindset. If you are really good enough, you will get the job, no matter what.

Our input processes will become far more stringent. We may look at 90-plus per cent tier cap; we may consider good work experience; we may look at well-rounded applicants with the right attitude. And then we will train these ladies and gentlemen really well so when the companies come in droves they will easily pick them because they have the required competence.