Culture & Society

Liberal Arts Lessons And Music Help Business Students Of Shillong Connect With Local Communities

It is impossible that schools and colleges in Shillong would not have a music club, a cultural club or an art club. It does not matter if it is a Science, Art or Business school. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, cannot be imagined without music and the best place to have a taste of the musical charm is to hop the old and new cafes of the city.

Business management students (Representative image)

As one steps into the ‘Rock Capital of India’, popularly known as Shillong, through the fickle yet amazingly pleasant weather at any time of the year, the loud rumbling of boomboxes from the music cafes, young crowd grooving to the music of rock and roll, and jazz, the sight of live shows and orchestras on streets become familiar. The city of Shillong, situated in a corner of India’s Northeast, with surprisingly enchanting beauty and cultural diversity shares a passion for music and arts. Le Syllong, (or Shillong) has everything on its platter to compete with any pro-urban city in the world. The quaint little hill destination moves with music and arts.

It is impossible that schools and colleges in Shillong would not have a music club, a cultural club or an art club. It does not matter if it is a Science, Art or Business school. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, cannot be imagined without music and the best place to have a taste of the musical charm is to hop the old and new cafes of the city.

Situated on the Tripura Castle Road, Dylan’s Cafe pays respect to singer Bob Dylan and Shilong’s most sought-after singer Lou Mazaw, whose adulation of Bob Dylan has popularized his music in a big way in India. Surprisingly, a huge part of the crowd consists of the students from the Indian Institute of Management --- Shillong (IIM), the seventh one in the country located in Nongthymmai in the city. IIM -Shillong has its own cultural clubs and societies that regularly host music and art events. Apart from on-campus students, local bands, and students from other IIMs of the country are invited to these events to perform.

Liberal Arts --- A need in B-Schools

For Prof D P Goyal, Director of IIM- Shillong, it is the only IIM in the country that focuses on sustainable development. It includes courses in the area of Sustainability and Liberal Arts as well as student activities that can build up future business managers with the objective to solve bigger issues that need the softer skills from Art.

Speaking to Outlook, Prof. Goyal said, “In IIM-Shillong, we are developing managers not only for tomorrow but for the future. So we are very careful about how we can cater to the overall development of the students. We are having various cultural clubs and societies of students in IIM-Shillong, where all the activities are driven by students. Through these clubs, we are having lots of events for music, art etc."

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He added that IIM-Shillong has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Institute of fashion technology (NIFT). “The idea behind the collaboration is so that the students can learn from each other. We are not only focusing on classroom learning but rather on holistic development based outside the classroom. Art helps business students to develop their overall personality because it refines their thinking. The designs they work on get refined.”

A cocktail of Business and Liberal Arts makes the finesse Management Gurus

Sustainability and Liberal Art is a full-fledged department at IIM Shillong. According to Dr Rohit Dwivedi, a faculty of Sustainability and Liberal Arts, IIM Shillong is the only IIM with a focus on sustainable development, thus the institution also takes up the subject matter on climate change, ecology, and local communities. And this led to the focus on Liberal Arts.

“Sustainability is very important for us. About three or four years ago, we realized that we were missing out on something. It was the focus on liberal arts. That’s why we have a separate area within the large Humanities that supports sustainability," he said.

According to Dwivedi, Shillong is home to tribal communities like Khasi, Jaintia and the Garos and Meghalaya is the only state to fall under the Sixth Schedule. Hence, having a community perspective is important for sustainable development and liberal arts become a helpful tool in that context. 

“In many programmes, our students go and work with these communities on a structural level. At the students' level, they have their own clubs and committees and through these, we bring back the lost meaning in the practices of management,” he added.

Different clubs on the campus organize photography competitions, making the beauty of the city, the communities and the culture their theme. Apart from photography, these clubs also hold events on music and star gazing.

“The fact that we have such a clear sky is unimaginable for people in other parts of India. So the students just have a club on star gazing. Now they are busy arranging the budget to buy binoculars and telescopes," said Dwivedi.

The music events organized by the cultural clubs ensure inclusivity --- from music across cultures to local music. 

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How do Liberal Arts help in Business Management?

According to Kunal Jain, who is pursuing an MBA from IIM-Shillong, music, especially playing the piano has helped him not only personally but also as a student of management. 

Speaking to Outlook, Jain, who is a part of the institute’s Cultural Committee, said, “I’ve been into music (primarily playing the piano) since I was 8 years old. I’ve come to realize that the hobby of playing the piano, which started off as a fun activity, has not only made me good at understanding expression and emotion well but also, in the world of management. Now that I see it, it has made multitasking and managing multiple things at a time a lot easier for me. From coordinating both the hands on the keyboard to finally being able to think laterally, even better, in an overall sense added to it!”


For another student, Aditi Singh, an MBA student and former student of English Literature and a debater, both literature and debating compiled together, helped her in bringing qualitative assessment to the table. It has made it easier for her to comprehend the macro factors affecting any business scenario. 

Aditi also maintains a blog regularly where she is found writing on a range of topics on human relationships, book reviews and international relations, to name a few.

“MBA is usually considered to be an analytics and "number-heavy" course to pursue. However, for multiple corporate case studies, my past academic experience has come in handy to analyze the human aspect of the issue. For marketing, consumer trends and behaviours can be established as a form of literature and content that is being produced and consumed by today's market. I find myself adept at studying and observing patterns in consumer decision-making because the qualitative study of society is what literature gifted me,” she said.


According to Jothisree, a student of IIM Shillong and a vocalist, leading a team in the orchestra in her school days and being the lead singer in her college band made her pick up a few key life skills.

“These experiences have helped me develop discipline and relationship management skills over the years, which has been very helpful to me in the corporate atmosphere,” she told Outlook.

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According to Rohit Dwivedi, through Liberal Arts and Sustainability, transformation can happen not only at a business level but also at a societal level. 


“Courses offered in these areas help the students broaden their horizons --- that business management is not about earning more profits, but being responsible, being able to understand the challenges the world out there is facing. Coming up with a good product and selling it to the market which is very good is only beneficial for the shareholders but not to the consumer if we don’t focus on designing products which are ecologically and culturally sensitive”, he said.