In conversation with Prof. Suresh G. Lalwani, Chairperson of the Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) at SPJIMR.
Prof Lalwani talks to Aditya Prakash Iengar, Editor of IMS, about PGPM, the participants’ profile and what an aspirant can expect from the programme.
The Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) programme is an AICTE approved, one-Year full time residential programme for professionals with a minimum of 5 years of work experience. These profiles would generally have strong functional skills and are looking for a management programme that will strengthen their skills and broaden their breadth of scope of exposure. At the end of the day, when you progress in your career, issues don’t crop up in silos. After all, business is business. So what we give to our participants is the capability to look at issues in an integrated manner. We help them develop and integrate their cross functional skills. Our programme architecture is designed to achieve this objective, and our faculty are well versed and in constant engagement with industry, its best-practices and next-practices. Since many years now, SP Jain is, after all, famous for recruiting faculty who come in with (a) considerable industry experience and / or (b) very strong academic backgrounds.
These important student needs — strengthening of functional skills, developing of breadth of scope of understanding business and cross functional integration, and inculcating the capabilities to deal with them — differentiate SPJIMR’s PGPM programme from the regular two-year PGDM programme, which is for both experienced and fresh candidates.
In most business schools in India — and their corresponding PGDM programmes — candidates both with and without work experience are admitted and there is an element of mass customisation in the jobs that they are eventually offered. Moreover, the intake of the PGDM programmes is also high, almost always greater than 200. In many IIMs this is higher than 400. However, the PGPMhas relatively lesser capacity and the placement service for such lateral hires is a very different ballgame.
Yes. The programme is for working professionals with a minimum of 5 years of work experience. These professionals are at a stage where they understand their functional roles very well, and their organisation — or any future organisation that they join — will be looking at them as growth drivers. Typically, when one has completed around six to eight years of work experience, organisations like to cast greater responsibilities on them. This is because the individuals are mature, and understand both their roles and the organisation they’re in.
The problem when it comes to giving additional responsibilities and larger roles is that there isn’t enough managerial talent that can outgrow their comfort zones and develop breadth. This is where SPJIMR’s PGPM bridges the gap with its unique ‘business is business’ approach as mentioned above.
In the context of the student profile, naturally the PGPM is different since all participants of the programme have at least five years of work experience. If one has considerable work experience, one is likely to be more mature, can relate to class discussions more easily and therefore more participative and value additive during classes throughout the programme. Such a student usually tends to have a greater commitment and earnestness.
Even when our faculty, who are themselves, seasoned industry professionals and renowned academicians, engage with the batch, they find that all these attributes make it extremely satisfying from the point of view of a teacher. A vast number of my faculty will swear by the participation and commitment of our PGPM students.
We want to give our participants enough time to make an informed choice, rather than have a brief window of maybe a month or two to apply. We want them to figure out the essence of the programme and what they stand to gain from it. For instance, SPJIMR is famous for its placement capabilities and, of course, the advantage of being located in a business hub like Mumbai. Moreover, SPJIMR is one of the country’s most trusted and authentic brands in management education with a track record of over 34 years, acclaimed faculty, consistently top-ranked with strong industry connect and affiliations with global Ivy league business schools. All these factors come into play while the participants are making their choice.
We have a rolling admission process to the PGPM with a window of four to five months. What remains constant throughout is that we are very conscious about quality. We don’t play the numbers game of getting the most students just to maximise revenues. We invite applications over 4-5 months and over a period of time, screen them, call applicants for interviews and gradually build up a robust merit list. In fact, some of the applicants are so good that we even give them early offers for admission.
As far as the functional skills are concerned, SPJMIR is known to ask every candidate about their choice of specialisation when they sign up for the course. This forces them to think about what they want to do in their careers. Most of them want to build or reinforce their careers, which is a smart thing to do, and simultaneously develop general management skills, which we provide to them. But some of them do look for a complete departure. These are the students who go through extensive counselling. As I said before, we don’t discourage them, but we do make sure they do get a reality check and understand the risks and implications.
At the end of the day, the recruiter’s needs are supreme. No management institute can boast of transforming how a recruiter thinks insofar as their needs are concerned, and we realise that. So there is a lot of thought that goes into the selection process wherein students are expected to be strong functionally, and have the capacity to build their general management skills. Their interviews are taken by our faculty, who have a sizeable industry experience ranging from a decade to over two decades. So we have a very good understanding of what a recruiter requires and how we should be ‘processing’ our intake to deliver talent that is fit to be a strong backbone for the recruiters’ growth plans.
It is true, yes. In fact, this is why SPJIMR has always pursued a policy of hiring faculty with a healthy mix of those with a strong academic background with PhDs and applied-research papers to their credit, and those with varied and extensive industry experience who have a passion for teaching. I’m an example of the latter, and there are many like me. So what we try to bring to the classroom is whatever we’ve learnt in our industry exposure, and we don’t necessarily teach from the books. We have several industry-led courses that we run, and we invite industry practitioners to teach. So there are innovation, finance and banking modules, telecom modules, etc, and professionals from the respective industries come to teach these modules. They have the expertise to counsel on the academic aspect of a particular course, and they are supreme as far as the practical aspects are concerned, and this creates a perfect blend.
There are several advantages to this. If a telecom company or a bank has actively run a full-fledged course, they have had a chance to look at our students, judge their capabilities while enriching them. They are quite convinced about the credibility of our participants and their skills. So a recruiter is, in a way, engaging directly with us in terms of courses, guest lectures, case studies, etc, which is why our students understand industry needs and with our support, develop the skills to meet those needs and can therefore ‘hit the ground running’ if I may use a cliché.
These processes also transform SPJIMR students – it is well known in recruiter circles,that SP Jain students are team players and not individualistic. That’s how you build trust and credibility with recruiters, something that SPJIMR has been doing over the last 34 years and continues to do so, with continuous improvements & innovations.
One of the first points to note is that from the students’ perspective, we have one of the highest RoIs in the business. Our fees are far more cost effective vis-à-vis the comparable business schools like the IIMs, ISB, etc. This has some bearing to us being a part of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB) family. BVB has its roots in the Gandhian era and has an enduring heritage of being a socially responsive member of Indian society that is dedicated to its service by promoting quality education & Indian culture.
Secondly, SPJIMR has an edge in that there is a greater sense of commitment in PGPM students. This is because people who sign up for our programme leave behind good, well-paying jobs. For example, around 40 per cent of our class have been based out of offshore assignments when they sign up with us. They usually earn far more than what they would have in India, anything around `40 to 50 lakh a year. They give all that up to for an admission to the PGPM because they see immense potential in the investment.
The answer is simple. It is the market which ultimately dictates the offerings. I come from a background of financial markets, and to me the market is supreme, whether in the context of finance, employment or any other context. So when markets are supreme, what will drive the course is the potential for job creation in various verticals and this comes from business growth potential. Today there is certainly a trend of vertical oriented MBAs, and these courses are highly focused in their functional training.
The fact of the matter is that if you’re relatively younger with less work experience or even a fresher, it makes sense to target these kinds of specialisations. However, if you’re 7 to 10 years into your career, you are looking at the next stage of growth and breadth of scope, where you’ll have to go beyond your comfort zone many a time. So in that sense, such focused courses may not be very relevant to an experienced candidate.
Get real, look at real life issues, and be updated on them. Take that extra step to grapple with reading papers like the Economic Times, Business Standard, instead of focusing only on tabloids or entertainment oriented material. I would also recommend reading editorials, since it will help an aspirant gain a point of view. It is very important to have an opinion. Interviewers don’t really care if you’re right or wrong, they want to see if you actually have an opinion, a point of view, and have the courage to boldly express it, the rationale to defend it, or the agility to adapt to others’ views based on merit.
Sometimes, as is the case mostly with the younger lot and not necessarily with the older students, getting a top ranked institute that has a robust placement record can be counterproductive, since this can make you a little complacent. One must make sure to avoid this at all costs. Once you graduate, even as a fresher, the MBA qualification will only give you a key to a good organisation and a good role, but it won’t necessarily guarantee sustained growth in your career. It takes a great blend of knowledge, skills and attitude – the knowing, doing and being as we call it – to take you to the pinnacle of your career. Delivering that perfect blend is what SPJIMR, Andheri, Mumbai – is well known for over several decades.