Dr Rajagopal (RG), Distinguished Professor, is the recipient of the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in the field of education.
He is the Professor of Marketing at EGADE Business School of Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM), Mexico City and a visiting professor at Boston University, Massachusetts and the University of Fraser Valley.
Dr Rajagopal has authored “Sustainable Growth in Global Markets” and “Butterfly Effect in Competitive Markets: Driving Small Changes for Large Differences”, which provides a comprehensive introduction to the concept of market and business management outside the domestic market.
Indo Thai News Special Correspondent Abhimanshu caught up with him on the sidelines of PBD 2023 at Indore, India. Excerpts from the conversation:
ITN: How often do you visit India?
RG: I have been very comfortable visiting India. It is my country, and I love being here. I feel elated every time I come to India. Here, I teach in some prominent business schools and universities, which is one reason for my frequent visit.
ITN: What do you feel differentiates the education imparted in India compared to the education system in Mexico?
RG: The principal difference that I find is that the students, particularly in business schools, choose to take up management education with a guarantee of employment through campus placements.
In the western hemisphere, be it American or Latin American universities, the focus is more on studies, and you must educate yourself. The brand name of the university, along with your calibre, helps you seek out a good job.
They understand that there is no job guarantee even if they have joined any particular management school. So, everyone works hard to learn new things and keep them updated.
ITN: Do they (students in the western hemisphere) learn diversely?
RG: Yes, they focus more on ‘knowing, doing and being’. They intend to know as much. The students are naturally inclined toward entrepreneurship, and seeking employment comes secondary to them.
Many Boston university students, when I ask them what they want to do after their MBA, always say, first, they want to try out their start-up. If it is successful, then it is fine. If not, then they would seek employment.
This is what I mean by ‘knowing, doing and being’. There is a dedication. The students believe that if they have learnt management, entrepreneurship and innovation, they must show it.
They initially want to harness their energy towards entrepreneurship rather than immediately joining a corporate office. They are much more inclined towards innovation and exhibiting their knowledge.
ITN: The Indian government, with its New Education Policy 2020, has laid down special emphasis towards research and innovation. How do you feel about that?
RG: This is a very positive step, but it should not be limited to classrooms. It should not be limited to case studies. See, you have to put the students in entrepreneurial shoes, which will help them develop entrepreneurial skills.
In other countries, we have entrepreneurial labs, where we try to teach the students how to develop a bankable proposal, go to them and try to get a loan.
ITN: You believe in pushing the students towards practical experience?
RG: Yes, students should be given practical learning experiences. I discovered that there is one institution, the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India in Ahmedabad; they are more focused on developing practical knowledge. Their motive is that whoever joins the institute should come out as an entrepreneur.
ITN: You think an applied education system would be much more beneficial, right?
RG: Yes, of course. It should be more service oriented. You need to help the students exhibit their entrepreneurship skills.
‘Triple Bottom Line’ is a new concept that developed over a period after the United Nations came out with its Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on the three Ps.
The three Ps are— ‘People, Planet, and then Profit’. People are the stakeholders, so we must encourage them and develop an inclination towards sustainability and motivate them to gain profits—a win-win situation for everyone.
ITN: Should the research field in India have robust government and financial support?
RG: Absolutely. I have lived in India for several years and moved out around 22 years ago. I have seen that in an Indian research environment, there is a lot of sponsorship.
Take the example of good institutes like CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research), ICSSR (Indian Council of Social Science Research), and many other organisations that provide good financial support to research students through their fellowship programs.
But the only concern I have is students in the fields such as Biotechnology who end up as research professors upon completion or start teaching in some university.
Very few of them get the opportunity to demonstrate themselves in a laboratory environment, which can help them develop their problem-solving skills, which is a very big challenge.
ITN: How important is a systematic integration of the government and corporations for research development?
RG: In western countries, particularly in the USA, Mexico and Canada, the students are sponsored by Bio-tech companies. They are scholars sponsored by a particular institution, so they must demonstrate what they have learnt.
Most of the companies provide around 90% of scholarships. Just giving the research fellowships does not offer the students a good platform to showcase their learning. The big question is what the students will do after completing their PhDs.
Thus, systematic integration of the government, corporate and students is necessary for the growth and development of any particular research field. The term used to describe this type of integrated setting is ‘Challenge-Based Learning’.
ITN: What would you advise the young students aspiring to enter the research field?
RG: My suggestion is that they should be more focused on using their knowledge in a more applied way rather than just seeking employment.
If someone is a good innovator, then they will be recruited by good companies.
ITN: But, Sir, the monetary factor is also an important factor which can curtail someone’s innovative aspirations. How should one strike a balance between the two?
RG: Usually, in western countries, even after graduating from good institutes, the students need to prove themselves. Therefore, they learn to develop a bankable proposal and invest their time, knowledge and calibre in developing or displaying something.
See, there is always a risk in everything we do. Here the people may take less risk because the job is guaranteed. If someone gets admitted to top universities like IIM, they believe that after two years, they will definitely get a job and thus will not be open to voluntarily taking the risk.
I always tell the students to take risks and exhibit their knowledge. The more knowledge you acquire, the better future you build.
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