Regulations will become more facilitative, only quality would survive

Dr. Rajan Saxena, Vice Chancellor, NMIMS, Mumbai

Born in Delhi, Dr. Saxena’s childhood memories are that of a playful young boy who was active in debates, National Cadet Corps (NCC) and other extra curriculars. His greatest learning at the school, he recalls, were value of discipline, honesty and respect for the institution – the values that he has carried all through his life.  All along, his dream was to be at the top and not be just one among the many.

Author of one of the most popular Books on Marketing Management, Dr. Saxena was born & raised in the walled city of Delhi where his friends circle gave him the opportunity to appreciate diverse cultures that India has and the values of different religious and ethnic groups. “It taught me tolerance, respect for different cultures, nationalities and religious groups” he says.

A graduate from the prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce, he earned his Ph.D. from Delhi School of Economics. Currently the Vice Chancellor at NIMMS Deemed University since 2009, Dr Saxena was Director of IIM Indore, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s S. P. Jain Institute of  Management  & Research, Mumbai and ICFAI Business School, Gurgaon.

His passion was to be a leader and therefore, he took the initiative to organize many things in my life, both in school and college. When he started teaching at Delhi University, he realized that the only way, he can impact the lives of people is through education and that there was no other profession that played such a significant role in the lives of an individual. 

Team AsiaBizToday reached out to the passionate and scholarly leader in higher education in India, to know more about his interesting journey, captured in the interview below.

Who is your Role Model?
I grew up in Delhi at a time when India had just gained independence and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister. I had the opportunity to see him from a very close quarter and also the then President of India Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan at an inaugural function of Bal Bhavan. Their speeches were not only motivational but highly visionary.

Pandit Nehru while addressing us as children, talked of his idea of India. We did not quite understand, but he made it interesting by telling stories and how we can all contribute but from Dr. Radhakrishan’s speech that day, I learnt that education is the only way by which individual’s minds get opened and that how important is was for the nation to have open doors and window, which implied open minds, welcoming ideas from the world. I used to read Gandhi’s Tryst with Truth. Nehru’s Discovery of India and many other such stories. Little did I knew at that time, that theses speeches, readings and stories were going to make me what I am in my life.

During my stint at Delhi University, I was most influenced by one of my college teachers who also later became my mentor, Prof. Y. K. Bhushan a wonderful writer, human being and a highly effective teacher and trainer. While working with him, I learnt what it takes to make an institution and an outstanding Business School in India. 

Tell us about your life’s biggest learning experience
My mother was my biggest teacher who taught me never to nurture a feeling of defeat even in times worst adversity. She would often tell me to continue to try better because I am destined to be the best and at the top. But she also simultaneously taught me to be grateful to God as I was more fortunate than many others.

This was when, she herself had fought the worst adversity an individual could face in her life. Therefore, my childhood and early days are those of continuously making efforts, never succumbing to failure and success and humility must go together to make an individual successful. Only when one works for perfection, outstanding results are achieved.

What led you to a career in Education?
All along as a young student at Delhi University, I wanted to be an IAS, IFS or IPS Officer. I also admired some of our diplomats whom, I happen to meet personally during my student days. Despite my rank in the IAS/ IFS/ IPS examinations, I could not join IPS because my height was 2 cms short of the minimum standard. The episode did not dishearten me, but helped me affirm that I would be a guide – showing the path to others through my writings, teaching, consulting and intellect.

Even today, if I were to be at the point, in 1972 and 1973, I would still make the same choice of remaining in education and would do the same things because I have loved, what I do. Universities are the places where ideas take birth.  

What are the Key decisions that you make in your current role as Vice Chancellor?
As an institutional leader, I am required to take decisions that help institutions enhance its credibility and dominance in higher education. One such area relates to making processes transparent and policies which are fair and help institution emerge as an institution of high integrity. This is because, I firmly believe that institutions who value integrity, quality, transparency and fairness and respect individuals will always remain sustainable because the society would have higher degree of confidence in it. Only when society takes pride in an institution, it can grow.

Hence some of the key operational areas where I take decisions are students, admissions, academics and quality of delivery, acquisitions and retention of talent at faculty level and leaders for the system. Another key area relates to industry connect, external linkages and university governance. Matters of financial stability and growth are also ones that come under my purview. Also is the area of how one can shift the focus of learning to the student rather than the faculty by leveraging technology and using experiential pedagogy. I call myself as one whose primary role is to enable to a lifelong learning experience for the student.

Tell us about your most Cherished Milestone
One of the finest moment was the award of Ph.D. Degree from Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University in 1979 which opened up new avenues for me in Management Education. It also served as a first step of my journey in management schools.

The next mile stone was 1984 January when my first book on International Marketing got published by McGraw Hill. This marked my journey in writing a text book and therefore in 1999 my 2nd book on Marketing Management by McGraw Hill got published.

Amongst many other milestones, I cherish The Distinguished Alumnus Award from Shri Ram College of Commerce pushed me to reach to newer height in institutional building  in management education because my alma mater was proud of me and I need to live up to this pride.

Your views on Changing landscape of Education in India
Among the three Drivers of Change today is Technology. Technology today provides us an opportunity to make learning more global and effective. Internet today empowers individuals. It helps in reducing the knowledge gap between the creator and the receiver of knowledge. Hence, online education is here to stay. It will not replace the teacher and the physical classroom interaction, but it will make learning more meaningful and creative. The institution and the faculty has the opportunity to bring the faculty resources from the world through internet in their classrooms. The online education also serves the purpose of educating the faculty. And hence, it is a great tool to develop cognitive skills of students and improve quality of education.

Management Education in India has changed over a period of time. Reflecting the change in economy & technology research in different subjects which has influenced the management thought. New segments like working professionals, entrepreneurs and women are growing and demand for Management Education is continuously expanding. Management Schools have to consider developing more focussed programs. If India has to be recognized as a thought leader, then Education has to grow and it is professional education that will define the face of India. And hence, in future reaching out to the world is only path to grow. Future focus on Management Education will be on developing high performing leaders and managers in a tech environment. I also feel that Regulations will become more   facilitative, but it is only the quality institutions that will survive.

Life teaches all of us at every step. It also provides us an opportunity. It is for us to either learn and take the opportunity or walk the other way. Failure is an opportunity to learn and success to become more humble.

What you like to achieve in the coming years?
I have loved institution building and making difference to lives of individuals. There has never been one moment that I have regretted my decision and hence therefore, in the times to come, I will only continue to help institutions grow, as India needs many more good quality institutions and continue to teach and develop faculty. I will remain engaged in research and writing on institution building and Indian management thoughts that have influenced organizational leadership and strategy.

I would also like to spend time to discover myself.  As Robert Frost wrote in his famous poem “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep” and hence there are many more milestones to still achieve.