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Popular professors

Popular professors
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First Published: Thu, Sep 11 2008. 09 55 PM IST

Photo: Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Updated: Thu, Sep 11 2008. 09 55 PM IST
Setting example in excellence, FMS dean also teaches classes
Photo: Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Jay K Mitra
Subject: Strategy management
Institute: Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi
New Delhi: Jay K. Mitra does what professors at most business schools dread: Teach students in the final semester.
At the ebb of their management course, most students are either absent or not interested enough in lectures. But that is the time Mitra, also dean of the Faculty of Management Studies, or FMS, chooses to teach strategy management.
“That is also the time I require to coach them into keeping their morale high and prepare them for the world outside,” he says.
Not surprisingly then, Mitra is not just a favourite among final-year students but also freshers.
Priyanka Garg’s admiration for him took root right at the interview level, when Mitra was on the panel of judges. “The moment I entered the interview room, I was struck by his personality and warmth. Everything he does has a personal touch,” says the first-year student.
In a newly admitted batch of 109 freshers, Mitra remembers all the students’ names.
But this apart, he is a qualified teacher too. Mitra, a recipient of the first Young Scientist Award in psychology and educational science from the Indian Science Congress Association, has been in the teaching profession for 34 years.
“I began teaching in 1974 at FMS and after a brief stint at Kolkata university, where I was the youngest lecturer, I was back to FMS in early 1982,” reminisces Mitra, 57.
Mitra describes his teaching career as most stimulating. “Since the 1990s, challenges increased with the economy opening up. Suddenly, course modules that would last at least two seasons became outdated overnight. The challenge was, and remains, keeping abreast with the latest changes all over the world, and this is very stimulating too,” he says.
After having served as a visiting professor at SDA Bocconi Milan, and having conducted research and workshops in cross-border, post-acquisition management and team-building for companies, Mitra now finds himself in the midst of what he calls the “most fulfilling of vocations”—shaping young minds for excellence.
Photo: Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Satish K Kalra
Subject: Organizational behaviour
Institute: Management Development Institute, Gurgaon
Organization behaviour aside, he asks students to look at self too
Gurgaon: Satish K. Kalra teaches organizational behaviour— that is the fancy, human resources (HR) way of saying how people act within firms— but his speciality is unravelling students’ personalities.
Perhaps that’s why freshmen hear about him even as they enter campus, naming him as one of the reasons the Management Development Institute (MDI) faculty stands out.
The 64-year-old himself is modest, surprised that he makes the cut on students’ scorecards. “Maybe because I spend so much time with them,” says Kalra, who is not related to this writer.
He also teaches a self-development course that is essential for an MBA-HR (master’s in business administration with specialization in HR), but optional for other streams, named Journey to Self, where students are sensitized to others’ emotions as well as their own shortcomings. He explains that the course includes sensitivity training, to “look at your behaviour in a particular way…its impact”.
Kalra spends 2-3 hours sketching the profile of each student opting for this course. “This is when they come close to me,” says the teacher, who cannot imagine being in any other job that pays him Rs12 lakh a year and also lets him be his own boss.
Jasmine Kaur Reehal, 25, who is part of the students’ placement committee at MDI, and attended this course as a core subject, says: “This course is on how to understand others. But that can be clear when we understand what we are—it is part of the competencies of an HR manager... His (Kalra’s) strength is that he makes students very comfortable. Only then will they talk about their experiences.”
Kalra, who has a doctorate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, says he has learnt a thing or two from students,?too—how to chat on the Internet, for example. (Aparna Kalra)
Photo: Bharatha Sai / Mint
S Ramakrishna Velamuri
Subject: Entrepreneurship
Institute: Indian School of Business, Hyderabad
On campus a few weeks a year, this ISB professor leaves a mark
Hyderabad: Despite the infamous “cold calls”during his entrepreneurship class, when he would ask students questions based on the previous day’s reading material, S. Ramakrishna Velamuri is looked upon warmly by the class of 2009 at the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad.
According to his students, what makes Ramakrishna special is that he encourages them not just to think big as entrepreneurs but to make a difference as well.
“He does not just give you theories but gives you examples as well where the relevant theories have been applied to create value for customers and thus build a successful enterprise,” says Nirav Rawell, a student. He thinks the case studies Ramakrishna identifies for analysis help students gain useful insights into common strategies adopted by businesses to tackle challenging situations.
When dissecting the Spanish industrialist Felix Revuelta’s strategies to expand his Kiluva Group of companies, the sharp minds in Ramakrishna’s entrepreneurship class come alive with strong opinions and analyses. And nobody escapes Ramakrishna’s cross hairs without explaining the business logic behind their opinions.
“The class has given me a lot of clarity regarding generating competent business models that drive the growth in any successful enterprise. The class has helped me in understanding what venture capitalists look for in an enterprise,” says Rawell.
Besides competent business models, Ramakrishna drives home the point that uninformed risk aversion will stunt the growth in any kind of enterprise. Understanding the risk and planning a business model that addresses the risk is what makes a business truly resilient and dynamic.
“After each class, Prof shows us a video clip of the entrepreneur whose business strategies or models we were studying. While reading it on paper is interesting, what brings it all together is those videos—when you hear it from the entrepreneurs themselves about what clicked and what failed in their business strategies,” says Shilpa Shah, another student.
Danish Faruqui, who wants to start a rural education initiative when he graduates from ISB, says Ramakrishna’s course has helped him demystify the dynamics involved in developing a viable business model—even where the motive is making profit, but through a sustainable enterprise.
For his part, Ramakrishna, a visiting faculty member who is on campus for only two-and-a-half weeks per year, says managing 70-odd students in an interactive class of 2 hours and having two such sessions every day is quite a challenging task.
He also teaches at the China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, and says he has been impressed with his students at ISB. But he shares its management’s wish for students from more nations. “I wish there was a little more diversity among ISB students from a cultural/nationality perspective,” he says. “It is such an amazing experience to teach such a diverse class.” (Lison Joseph)
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First Published: Thu, Sep 11 2008. 09 55 PM IST