Moving beyond Covid-19: TAPMI, India

How have Business Schools been working to move past the pandemic, both in the short and longer term? Insights from Madhu Veeraraghavan, a Director and Professor of Finance at TAPMI, Manipal

Covid-19 has presented Business Schools with an opportunity to increase the skills of their faculty and staff. The pandemic has also created conditions in which there is a growing demand for executive education. These are just two topics touched on in the below interview with Madhu Veeraraghavan, a Director and Professor of Finance at TAPMI in Manipal, India.

This extended interview with Veeraraghavan took place in the summer of 2020, when Business Impact canvased the collected thoughts of Business Schools in the BGA global network to learn more about their experiences of the pandemic to date, and how they felt it would affect their outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future. You can read the original feature here.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

Yes, it does. There are certain cost and time efficiencies which cannot be ignored. Under normal circumstances, adoption of new technology would not have been smooth. In this instance, given that people have adapted and learnt to deal with technology, it would be unwise to let the system at large to ‘unlearn’. This will definitely be an excellent opportunity to further the market for online education and also increase the skills of the resource pool – faculty and staff.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have 2020’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

The current times have forced quicker adoption and use of online technology, less resistance and more acceptance. These positive changes will help redesign and position online programmes better. Faculty readiness and infrastructural improvement have happened faster than had been planned.

The global financial crisis of 2008 has been linked to an increase in applications to Business School, as people decided the time was right to reassess their career goals and pursue personal and professional development. Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar impact?

Yes, it will. Students’ willingness to spend on expensive higher education will fall in the short term. The priorities may also shift away from acquiring new skill sets in a new uncertain environment to honing existing skills to ensure survival. Furthermore, the acceptance of short-term programmes online with a specialised focus is likely to increase.

The global pandemic has also impacted lifestyle choices and spending patterns. Staying close to home might encourage an increase in family business interests and local, regional entrepreneurship. [In India] t government’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ self-reliance campaign may also encourage a rise in local entrepreneurial ambitions.

What changes do you anticipate to the number and profile of those applying to programmes at your Business School over the coming three years? Do you envisage greater interest in any individual programme(s) on offer?

We may see an increase in application from freshers as against candidates with work experience. In addition to our regular two-year programmes, we also run customised management programmes of up to 11 months in length. The demand for the latter is likely to increase. We might also see an increase in the number of courses/certifications that are specialised and of short duration.

What will be the core challenges for the business education sector in recruiting new students (at both undergraduate and postgraduate level) over the coming three years?

Since employability may take a hit in the short to immediate future, the premise of attracting new students will have to change from upskilling for greater opportunity to skilling to stay relevant and preparing for uncertainty. Courses offered with industry collaboration, in-company programmes and skills-based courses for fresh graduates may become a norm. The School’s ability to design and market such courses may be the cornerstone for its own success. When times do turn around, the students who have been part of such short-term programmes become an immediate market for the two-year programme.

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their local and regional communities. Has Covid-19 inspired any new events, activities or initiatives with this in mind?

Yes. The School has been considering more community-based projects, working with local governments to deal with employment issues, helping small and medium businesses with strategic and operational considerations and more community/social work by students.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

The focus on executive education. Specialised, short duration and turnaround courses, with a focus on quick problem solving, experimental models in marketing and operations and more consultancy-based courses; co-created with industry to help them handle immediate problems. The design and delivery of such courses will also open a new portfolio in the Business School’s armoury.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

Given the uncertain travel environment, international exchange and partnership programmes might become few and far between in the next two years. In this scenario, the Business Schools’ focus will also be regionally and nationally to address the immediate management needs of governments, local corporates and financial institutions. The international exchange programmes could still involve joint case study development and experiential learning and training at the faculty and student level.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School? (for example, new modules or new approaches within existing modules)

As a positive response to the situation, we are considering adding modules and courses to deal with examples of similar global crises in the past. Many ideas that are discussed as part of lean management, (reverse) supply chain, for example, need to revisit the practices followed by companies in these times of crisis. We have added additional courses in the areas of big data, AI and analytics.

There is already an argument that the economic challenges that Covid-19 will bring represent a huge and much-needed opportunity for Business Schools to reinvent their value proposition for the better. What would you most like to see change in the business education industry?

Post-WW2, the rise of industrial activities and, later, increasing globalisation along with outsourcing of activities led to higher demand in business education around the world. Now, the clamour for being ‘self-reliant’ across nations is increasing and reverse migrations are on the rise.

The aspect of sustainability, which was not very seriously looked into, will get a serious re-look. If there is one big change that will transform business education in the short term, it will be the industry’s ability to adapt its course offerings to deal with uncertainties and continue to be relevant to learners in these times.

Acquiring an expensive Business School education may not be a priority but being relevant and useful will be for students and young executives. [As such], short duration courses and certifications may see a rise in the immediate term.

Madhu Veeraraghavan is a Director and Professor of Finance at TAPMI, Manipal, India. Prior to joining TAPMI, he was a Professor of Finance and Head of the Finance Department at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He has also held teaching and research positions at the University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand.

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