Prof Indira Parikh retired in August 2005 from IIM A. She was one of the longest serving and most loved profs on campus. A professor in the OB area, she was best known for her involvement with the ERI program.
ERI - Exploring Roles and Identity - is a unique aspect of the curriculum at IIM A. An optional 'course' ERI takes you to an off-campus location (beach/ forest/ mountains) and all you do over 4 days is introspect. About who you are, what you wish to be, the things that hold you back, the regrets, hopes and fears you have.
I believe the program was originally conceived by Prof Pulin Garg, but for a whole generation of IIM A students Indira = ERI. Of course, there were other 'facilitators' - such as the wise and wonderful Sushanto.
The reason I am writing this, however, is not to recount days gone by. But to celebrate the future. Post retirement, Prof Parikh has set up FLAME - the Foundation for Liberal and Management Education. The initiative is funded by Parag and Nemish Shah and aims to impart 'holistic education'. Set up on a 75 acre campus on the outskirts of Pune, FLAME takes in students from this July.
FLAME has 3 programs:
- a 4 year undergrad course which promises 'the freedom to design your own education across science, humanities, management and creative arts'.
Students will graduate with a FLAME diploma in liberal education and a BA or a BBA (for which affiliation is being sought from Pune University). The course is fully residential.
- a 2 year MBA where students will take up liberal arts subjects along with the regular MBA course material. Emphasis will be given to personal growth, inter-personal skills and all round development.
- a 2 year 'MBA in Mass Media' which integrates creative and management skills for those interested in a career in the media.
FLAME also promises to revive the 'guru-shishya' parampara. Student teacher ratio will be 1: 14. There is an impressive roster of eminent visiting faculty, including specialist teachers from the UK to teach English literature!
Here's what I think:
The 4 year undergrad course which offers a more flexible curriculum is most welcome. As is the inclusion of liberal arts and emphasis on all round personal development. I think the undergrad course serves a real need - a gap in the market - and will find takers. But mainly with those thinking of studying abroad. Because it is expensive - Rs 3.62 lakhs per annum (which means Rs 14 lakhs for 4 years!).
The two year courses cost Rs 11 lakhs (Rs 5.52 lakhs per annum). That might deter many from the MBA, although I do think that the kind of spin FLAME is giving to the MBA is much needed.
The media course sounds a bit odd to me. In media you either join the creative side or the management side. Of course, exposure to both does not hurt... But the cost could be a turn-off. It's 5 times as expensive as Asian College of Journalism!
But then there aren't as many media schools as bschools. And yes, loans are available from Centurion Bank.
As a concept, FLAME sounds exciting. With Indira the helm, I am hopeful they can pull it off. My only concern is there has not been much publicity - and the pool of applicants may be small and not diverse enough.
FLAME should not turn into a cool school for rich kids!
Incidentally, the former director of SCMHRD, Prof M S Pillai, set up SCMLD (Sadhana Centre for Management and Leadership Development) in 2004. The institute offers a 2 year 'MBA with a difference'. For example, yoga and meditation form a compulsory part of the curriculum.
The support of former SCMHRD students has been crucial to the success of SCMLD. Although again, not enough people know about SCMLD and most would still prefer the conventional management institutes.
But it's good to see academics with vision and drive become, in a sense, 'educational entrepreneurs'.
Prof Bala Balachandran of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai is the other name that comes to mind in this context.
I believe institutions led by academic-entrepreneurs are a new trend. These institutes stand a better chance of becoming brand names than a school set up by regular Mr Moneybags, who sees education merely as a business opportunity.
Faculty, placement, quality of students - the reputation and network of the founder makes a perceptible difference to all these crucial aspects.
Of course, in the longer run it's systems, processes and overall philosophy which results in Institutions of Enduring Value... Which live on long after their founders.
But this is a good start!