Researchers in India have a Unique Opportunity to be at the Forefront of Knowledge Creation
In India, management education gained momentum after independence when public sector enterprises, newly established, faced challenges in finding employees for managerial positions. While XLRI was the first management institute to be established (1949), it was only after the Ford Foundation intervened in collaboration with US business schools such as Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan that the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) were established and management education began gaining prominence in the country.
Over the years, the Indian classroom, especially for higher education in management has acted more as a means for distributing existing ideas and approaches, typically based on research findings and cases in the Western context, to future workforce members than as a place for the creation of new ones. After the student leaves the classroom and enters the practice world, they realize that the ‘real-world’ examples taught in their classroom do not often apply to the unique Indian corporate context where they operate.
The lack of research focused on India, or any similar emerging markets leave the faculty no other option but to turn to examples from the Western world. This research-deficiency exists because a PhD has been seen primarily as a license to teach. Laws in India require individuals to obtain a PhD to become Assistant Professor under UGC guidelines. This has led to a tunnelled focus on teaching and a continued increase in India's chasm between research and application.
Unique Opportunity for India
Emerging markets contribute nearly 60 percent to the global GDP. As developed markets become more saturated, emerging markets become more critical with companies from these markets beginning to make a global impact. This growth of emerging markets has led to increased interest in understanding them by corporate executives and academicians alike. These researchers understand that tools and solutions applicable to developed markets might not work for emerging markets due to characteristics and phenomena unique to them. Researchers in emerging markets, especially in India, given its size and diversity, have a unique opportunity to lead this research and be at the forefront of knowledge creation.
Skills, Interest and Incentives for Management Research
The task of creating a research-focused environment in India is easier said than done. Publication in top journals that have high impact factors and the prospect of reaching most people requires rigorous and relevant research, which, in turn, requires collaborations, training and skill-building. Several management institutions with postgraduate and doctoral level programs in the country have ensured steady movement in this direction. While the focus on high-quality management research was brought in by the Indian School of Business in India in the last two decades, there is an increasing focus of IIMs and other top b-schools on providing research skills.
Premier B-schools do it through training, exposure and collaboration with foreign partner institutions and faculty. The Indian government also encourages knowledge creation and transfer for issues and areas relevant to India through SPARC programs. Furthermore, institutions are also offering incentives and grants that support and encourage publication to help motivate the faculty, especially keeping in view the low acceptance rates in reputed journals.
Relevance for Industry and Classroom
Implications for research in academia are not restricted to only furthering academia and learning. Academic research focuses on real-world problems and draws data to solve them. In doing so, the research also contributes heavily to advancing business practices and processes. Furthermore, research experience ensures that any consulting undertaken by management faculty is grounded in empirical evidence and so is of great relevance to the industry.
Apart from answering the present academic and business questions, and contributing to practice, when faculty members are research active, they also bring cutting edge research findings to the classroom, thus, contributing to the development of future business leaders of the country. A research-active teacher is not only seasoned in the foundations of their field but is also up to date with the latest research ensuring that the curriculum is current.
Future Looks Bright
The increased focus on research and knowledge creation by faculty of top management institutions in the country has been influenced by several factors including the inclusion of research as a criterion in the government NIRF ranking framework and several postgraduate institutions including IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and IIM Udaipur focusing on research as an essential component of the job role of faculty with promotions based on publications in top tier journals. There has been a greater emphasis on collaborations to ensure the institutions are competitive in academic research.
Faculty members from Indian schools are also uniquely positioned to leverage their teaching and consulting experience to identify real-world problems and find rigorously researched solutions. All this emphasis on building a research environment in the country is gradually making headway with Indian institutes finding themselves ranked globally in research rankings. The UT Dallas research rankings list currently has ISB among the top 100 research institutions globally. The next decade can see two to three more institutions joining from India, staking our claim as knowledge producers.