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IIM Calcutta’s Contribution to Thought Leadership 2010-211

by Abhijeet S on Tuesday 5 April 2011, 11:44 AM | Category: Press Releases| View: 3511 views

 IIM Calcutta's Contribution to Thought Leadership 2010-211


Convocation Address

Ajit Balakrishnan

Chairman Board of Governors, IIM Calcutta


This has been another year of outstanding intellectual output at IIM Calcutta and I am filled with pride as I stand before you to give you a sense of the high quality of work that is being done here.

Our faculty has enquired into a wide range of topics. Some of them have grappled public policy issues such as dealing with challenge of India's massive and growing informal sector, the dilemmas about land acquisition for industrial projects, evolution of India's family business groups, the changing nature of the Corporate-Society-State relationship, the challenge of stimulating R&D in diseases which are local only to India. Others have looked at classic management issues such as the nature of entrepreneurship, what determines good corporate governance,  how to manage manufacturing when demand fluctuates violently, what determines salespersons' effectiveness, how knowledge-management and expertise- accumulation happens in organizations, what makes some managers take charge and get things done while others act defeatist, how to determine optimum pack sizes for products and so on. Still others reach deep into ancient Indian heritage to find solutions for contemporary management challenges. As you will see, this work has been published in a wide variety of peer-reviewed international publications and presented in management conferences all over the world.

Prof. Jacob Vakkayil continues his exploration on knowledge in organizations. This year, he turns his mind to so-called ‘objects', artefacts such as  a Query Service or an Expert Locator or a Knowledge Repository, all of  which are used to mediate collective action in project-based organizations such as software development firms. He points out that these tools are supposed to enhance performance but may also have the unintended effect of foreclosing other ways in which the work could have been accomplished. His work was presented at the "European Group of Organization Studies" conference at Lisbon and later published in the International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

Prof Rajiv Kumar and Jacob co-operated in thinking through how best to teach students key concepts in compensation management, concepts such as the use of attraction and retention of talent, fairness in compensation and the effect of compensation on motivation and performance. Their paper has been accepted for publication in Organization Management Journal from Palgrave.

Prof Balram Avittathur continued his exploration of the supply chain implications of Short Life Cycle Products; his co-workers presented this work at 15th International Symposium on Logistics held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Today, Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, are everywhere mediating relations between the State and Society and have even been called, ‘the World's New Superpower' by former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, yet little is known about how an NGO comes to be, what geographical region they decide to focus on, how they prioritize problemsand the processes by which they work. Nimruji Jammulamakadaka and Rahul Varman contributed a piece to the prestigious Critical Review journal diving into these issue using an epistemological approach and data from Andhra Pradesh.

Professor Ramendra Singh working with his collaborator devised a multi-dimensional scale to measure a salesperson's customer-orientation for use in diagnosing training related needs. His paper was accepted for presentation at the American Management Association's Winter Marketing Educator's Conference at Austin, Texas, US. His paper on B2B sales value addition was published in Industrial Marketing Management. He also contributed a literature review of what determines a B2B Salesperson's effectiveness to the Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing.

The controversy at Singur in West Bengal which held all of India in thrall when the iconic Tata Nano project was pulled from there brought home the dilemma of conflicts over land acquisition for industrial development in an agricultural economy and may even have started the process of change of government in Bengal. Prof Kalyan Mandal reflects on the data from Singur and an equally poignant case, Gopalpur and proposes a framework to understand such conflicts that he calls The ‘Resettlers Income Curve' and presented it at the 17th World Congress of Sociology , Gothenburg, Sweden

What are the processes that manufacturing businesses adopt to cope with a sudden drop in demand as happened in the last quarter of 2008? Prof Debashish Bhattacharjee studies how India's auto industry coped with this in his paper presented at the 4th Annual Conference in Sociology, Athens, Greece

The informal sector in India now employs half or more of all workers in urban India and the stereotypical image of India as a country of simple peasants in villages is changing to that of informal sector workers in urban slums. Prof Annapurna Shaw of the Public Policy Group in her paper  presented at the 4th International Conference in Sociology, Athens, Greece examines the immense challenges of including these workers in local economic development considering that the formal sector has no place for such low-skilled people.

After the Satyam episode, corporate governance is back on the centre stage of concerns and people have stated looking beyond the boundary of the firm and look at the institutional context for answers. Principal-agency theory was one perspective on the problem. Apalak Khatua and Prof Amit Jyoti Sen added a new dimension to the principal-agent theory by looking at the effect of transaction frequency to explain the situations in which governance breaks down. Their paper was presented at the 12th Conference of the Association for Heterodox Economics at the University of Bordeaux, France. The same team presented another paper at the same conference, where they look at the increasing possibility that India's outsourcing sector will start getting what they call ‘residual intellectual property rights' and be not so dependent on favourable exchange rates or lower labour costs.

Prof Panduranga Bhatta from our Centre for Human Values continued his exploration of ancient India as a source of inspiration for contemporary ethical issues. He examines the notion of the ‘self-perfecting individual' in a paper accepted in the Journal of Oriental Research. In a second paper he points out the importance that ancient Indians accorded to the environment an issue which, for example, is reflected in the insistence on offering in ritual worship 21 varieties of leaves and 21 varieties of flowers to God.

I personally rejoice whenever I see new management theory that draws on techniques from what is normally considered as two separate disciplines. One such great example this year is the work by Sangamitra Sanyal and Prof Prodip Sett on using real options theory to Human Resource Management issues. Their extension of the concept of ‘HR Options' based on empirical work they did in 108 IT firms in India is , I am sure, destined for a great future in management thought. It has been published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management in January this year.

Prof BN Srivastava explores how Indian managers perceive and manage time. He says the five thousand old Indian tradition has a long-term value orientation and an approach of absorbing uncertainty, both of which may be at variance with the clock-time approach of industrialized societies. He presented this at a meeting of the International Association of Cross Cultural Psychology in Melbourne, Australia.

Why do some managers take initiatives, act resourceful and get things done while others take recourse make excuses and hide behind bureaucratic processes and blame ‘the system'? Prof BN Srivastava meditates on this paradox and finally attributes these differences to the basic assumptions managers have about the nature of Work, Organization and Man. His work was presented at the 27th International Conference on Applied Psychology at Melbourne, Australia.

Indian business groups with their extensive cross-company shareholdings are often seen as byzantine if not as dinosaurs. Prof Sushil Khanna takes us on a journey studying  how these groups have dealt with governance and control issues from the very start of the Companies Act 1850, through the days of the Managing Agency System, the dramatic changes which came with the 1936 amendments to the Companies Act, the disappearance of the Managing Agency system with the 1969 amendments to the  Companies Act, the increase of corporate and personal income tax that came with the development State in the 1960's, the advent of the draconian Foreign Exchange Regulation Act ( FERA) in 1973 and the divestment by British managing agents,  the era of MRTP in the 1980's and finally the post 1991 market oriented trade regime and the accompanying reforms of the Financial Services Sector. He concludes by wondering whether the cross-holdings that Indian business groups employ deserve all the criticism they have attracted of late. Do they, he wonders, serve the function of reducing agency costs by monitoring incentives that benefit all shareholders? His paper was presented at the International Academy of Business and Public Administration Disciplines at it conference in Dallas, Texas.

Chambers of Commerce of various stripes in India along with the financial services community has for some years now been talking up the size and market potential of the New Indian Middle Class. This middle class themselves are, according to some scholars, the advocates of a reduce role for the State. Prof Manish Thakur presented a critical review of the work in this area starting from the early political economy approach of scholars like Pranabh Bardhan and Atul Kohli to the more recent work of social anthropologists at the World Conference of Sociology at Gothenburg Sweden. The New Middle Class, he says, may be pushing for a new Corporate-Society-State relationship and a re-conceptualization of the Public Interest using consumption as the new organizing trope.

Much of the world and many in India have wondered what accounts for the Indian economy's shift from the 1950-1980 level of average annual  growth rate of 3.5% GDP, often referred to as the ‘Hindu rate of growth' to a level of 6% in the 1980 to 2008 period. Questions have been asked whether this step-up has been investment –driven as in the Harrod-Domar model or consumption led and whether a ‘structural break' happened in the early 1980's.  Prof Amitava Bose and Subhasankar Chattopadhyay writing in the Economic and Political Weekly ask whether it is possible that this growth rate change has not much to do with any change in the economic regime or economic structure but merely reflects the fact that growth rates are never constant but change endogenously with time. They make this as a general analytical argument and not just India-specifically.

Prof Sudip Chaudhri continues his interest in public policy concerning the pharmaceutical industry and addresses the question of how to stimulate R&D for development of new drugs for neglected diseases in India in a paper published in the International Journal of Technology and Globalisation. He points out that strengthening the patent system works as an incentive for R&D as a ‘pull mechanism' by magnifying incentives to innovate but this also assumes that companies have the capacity to undertake R&D. He postulates that ‘push incentives'  like government grants and direct public spending are necessary but will get best results if operated in a public-private partnership mode that includes organizations not just from India but also from innovative developing countries such as Brazil and China.

In an example of the kind of policy research I love and hope to see more of, Sudip partnered with co-researchers from the Open University UK and Muhimbili University in Tanzania makes a passionate case for a local production in Tanzania for essential medicines. He describes the policy interventions needed including industrial protection and government purchases drawing from the Indian historical example. His contribution was published in the European Journal of Development Research.

Sudip also contributed to a review for UNDP of 5 years of India's experience after joining the product-patent regime.

I was fascinated by Prof Biswatosh Saha's case of Financial Technologies Group, a rare example of a software product company from India. This company started by deploying financial trading software in brokerage houses and was an active participant in institutionalizing the new rules governing transactions that were being evolved in India by embedding these rules within the software the company deployed in brokerage houses. Biswatosh uses this case study to make his point that entrepreneurship is not merely an act of individual creativity where an entrepreneur snatches an opportunity by being ahead of the pack. In reality, he says, we should view entrepreneurship as creation and control over ‘novel' assets; the novelty that matters has to be seen in the context of the particular ecosystem within which the entrepreneurial play occurs. His work has been published as a chapter in a book titled, ‘Cases on Technology Innovation: Entrepreneurial Successes and Pitfalls, published Business Science Reference, New York.

Then, of course, our famed mathematically oriented faculty produced a wide range of output. Prof Rahul Mukherjee's work appeared in the Journal of Applied Statistics, in Statistica,  Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference and Statistics and Probability Letters; Manisha Chakrabarty's work on Engel's Law was accepted for publication in the Journal of Mathematical Economics; Saibal Chattopadhay and Uttam Sarkar's paper on k-Exponential populations was presented at 23rd Nordic Conference on Mathematical Statistics in Voss, Norway;  Siuli Roy, Somprakash Bandyopadhyay co-operating with others' paper on road traffic congestion management using GSM/RFID was presented at the 10th International Conference on Intelligent Transport Systems in Kyoto, Japan; Prof Asim Pal and co-workers' paper on resourced constrained project scheduling was published in the European Journal of Operational Research; Prof Sanjeet Singh's paper on a type of transportation problem was published in the International Journal on Optimization Theory; his paper on data envelopment analysis was published in the International Transactions in Operational Research; the work he did together with his collaborators in using dynamic programming to develop bidding strategies for the IPL cricket league was published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Engineering.

Other notable work came from Prof Krishanu Rakshit on optimal pack sizes, from Prof Rajesh Babu on defining transparent criteria for defining a special class of countries in WTO negotiations, from Prof Sougata Ray and Shekhar Chaudhuri on why some Indian IT firms are transforming themselves to multinational corporations,from Prof BN Srivastava on aspects of Work-Family Conflict and from Prof Ambuj Mahanti and others on Recommender Systems

In January this year, our Finance and Control group ran the second edition of its International Finance Conference. The conference five plenary sessions, twenty two technical sessions and as many as 150 delegates from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand , Taiwan and Italy. We are, of course proud that so many scholars from well-known universities in these countries travelled all the way to Calcutta to present their research papers. We are also proud that the Finance Minister of our country Pranab Mukherjee, himself inaugurated the conference and was so impressed by the quality of work done at IIM Calcutta's Finance Lab that as part of his Union Budget Speech, on TV and addressing millions of people in India he singled out IIM Calcutta's Finance Lab as a centre of excellence in India and announcing an endowment of Rs 200 million for the Lab. These are all great accomplishments and Prof Ashok Banerjee and Prof BB Chakrabarty deserve a hand for accomplishing so much in this lab in just two years.

But what really gladdened my heart is the extent and quality of papers presented from colleges and management schools in India that we don't normally think of as centres of research in Finance.  The list includes SJM School of Management at IIT Bombay; Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi; School of Business Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University Jammu & Kashmir; Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Gwalior, MP; School of Humanities and Social Sciences IIT Gandhinagar; Department of Economics South Calcutta Girls College; NSHM College of Management and Technology , Durgapur; Department of Management Galgotia's College of Engineering  Noida; Indian Business School Hyderabad, Department of Management Studies, Christ University, Bangalore; East West University, Dhaka; Institute of Social and Economic Change , Bangalore; Department of Business Management, Shri Shankaracharya Institute of Technology and Management, Bhilai, Chhatisgarh; GD Goenka World Institute, Gurgaon;  Wes Bengal University of Technology Kolkata;  Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Khargpur; Institute of International Managemnt and Technology, Gurgaon, Haryana; University of Petroleum Studies, Dehradun; Vidyasagar University, Midnapore.

The International Marketing Conference that our Marketing Group held in December 2010 also similarly attracted a large number of papers. Again, for me, while we are grateful and flattered by the ones from the established and well-known management schools in India and abroad, what was thrilling was that IIMC could catalyse and show-case innovation from a wide swath of institutions that we normally think of as centres of innovation- names like United Institute of Management, Allahabad; Alliance business Academy, Bangalore; DKTE's Textiles and Engineering Institute, Ichalkaranji, Maharashtra; Baba Kuma Singh Ji Engineering College, Amritsar; Krishna Institute of Engineering and Technology, Ghaziabad; Dept of Business Administartion , Utkal University, Bhubaneswar;  Haryana School of Business, Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, Hisar, Haryana; Faculty of Management Studies, Mody Institute of Technology and Science, Lakshmangarh, Rajasthan to name a few.

The reason I name these institutions in such detail is that their participation in out two research conferences reaffirms the dream that the founders of IIM Calcutta had 50 years ago. At the time of its founding India was going through  a period of great financial hardship  and the visionaries in our government  still went ahead and created this institution and continued supporting it through those early dark days, must have nurtured a hope that someday the investment in national institutions like ours would pay off by triggering innovative thinking and research in the whole system of management education in our country. The quality and number of papers from the list that I just read out to you must be making these founding visionaries, people like Jawaharlal Nehru, BC Roy and NR Sarkar smile in appreciation as they watch us in this Convocation from up high somewhere.

Thank You


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