As one of India’s top B-Schools, XLRI sees research as not just an obligation to meet accreditation parameters, but as a responsibility of great importance. Towards that end, the institute works to foster a thriving research ecosystem, grounded in intellectual rigour.
Scholars at work
Scholarly work – as opposed to the MBA programme where practical application is the prime learning objective – is about theorizing, developing theories and extending existing theory. A community of individuals with the ability and disposition to think in a scholarly manner, XLRI stands for intellectual activity with tangible output – for research, measured in terms of publications in journals.
XLRI emphasises publishing in the top journals. A system of financial rewards for publication in prestigious journals has been established. The number of publications in A, A* category publications has gone up significantly – about 10 times over the last 10-12 years. This is a result of systemization with rewards. The institute is pushing forward towards XLRI publications in all the FT 50 journals, with an aim of 10-15 publications in the next five years.
An Environment of support
XLRI believes in enabling faculty members in their research efforts through financial support by way of grants and generous leave policies. For individual research studies, faculty can apply for internal grants, even multiple grants simultaneously. At the moment, each grant is of Rs. 3 lakh and the institute is working towards enhancing this amount. These grants enable faculty to manage their travel and accommodation, meet people, spend time at another educational institution, consult with an organization – essentially, do whatever they need to. This is coupled with a 90-day leave facility for research and consulting activities over and above casual leave, work leave and medical leave. This attracts research-oriented members of faculty and scholars to the institute.
Expanding the ecosystem
Concerted efforts to expand the research ecosystem – more scholars in the doctoral or FPM programmes - actually started from 2010. Though the number of doctoral scholars is significantly higher today, it requires further thrust. Efforts are on to recruit people with demonstrated research output. The institute acknowledges that its offerings must also be substantial to get scholars of quality and thus, the stipend has been enhanced to a respectable amount.
The scholar profile today is diverse - students from across the country, across a very wide range of disciplines, come to XLRI for their PhD. As an interdisciplinary field, management doctoral programmes can accept students from a wide range of streams.
The doctoral programme focusses on all the nine Areas taught at the institute – Economics, Finance, General Management, Marketing Management, Organizational Behaviour, Human Resource Management, Information Systems, Production, Operations & Decision Sciences, and Strategic Management. Scholars are selected on the basis of their ability to think in academic terms.
Dr. Ajith Kumar J, Associate Dean, FPM and Research, talks about the exacting standards of the XLRI doctoral programme when he says, “XLRI has been allotted 40 40 doctoral seats by the AICTE - 20 seats each in FPM and EFPM. We exercise caution in filling up this quota. We accept applicants based on their understanding and explanation of basic theoretical concepts, their intellectual rigour – the ability to go deep into a subject, look at the nuances, not gloss over the nuances, look at conflicting opinions, be able to reconcile competing perspectives. We look for scholars who can avoid becoming dogmatic about one particular viewpoint, are able to accommodate other viewpoints yet still managing to defend their own point.”
The supporting role
Given the programme’s rigorous nature, the stability of the support system available to scholars is an issue of importance. A recently established committee called Scholcom only for FPM and EFPM candidates facilitates academic socialization, academic support and academic collaboration. Scholcom acts as a body that supports them to support each other and build a cohort. Looking forward, this is hoped to contribute to a more collaborative faculty pool in the future in India.
Anand Jhawar, FPM scholar at XLRI, says, “I believe XLRI is the first to start a committee for scholars. While any PhD programme is self-driven, this gets us out of our ivory towers.” The other aspect of life at XLRI that adds to the environment of support is the pastoral care extended by professors. Continues Anand, “Professors invite us home for meals, counsel students going through a low. They give us the gift of their time and this has been of utmost importance in carrying forward the unique spirit of XLRI. Studies show that teaching is 30 per cent of a faculty member’s job. Research is another 10-20 per cent. Another 10 per cent is how we handle admin duties, The rest is how we counsel students, manage students outside the classrooms. This pastoral care is of utmost importance for quality work, for students to reach their potential as the pressurized environment of Indian education can be extremely difficult.”
Neha Bellamkonda, another FPM scholar adds, “The support given to us to truly explore our interests is incomparable. We are not held to strict timelines and this gives us the freedom to produce exceptional quality work. This is an important XLRI differentiator”.
Growing the faculty pool
The primary aim of the FPM programme is to contribute to the faculty pool. All doctoral students are mandated to attend a compulsory course - Pedagogy for Management Teachers – taught by Dr Sanjay Patro. Teaching internships in the third, fourth and fifth year requires scholars to work with a faculty member in one course. “this is perhaps the most useful course we do here”, says Charvi Hasmukh Shukla, another FPM student. FPM alumni from XLRI today teach at institutes such as IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Ranchi, Exeter University.
To support research endeavours, the institute encourages collaboration with international faculty. The calendar every week has three to four talks by visiting scholars. One faculty member is exclusively allocated to get distinguished faculty members to collaborate with students. This is an intense thrust area.
In its Platinum Jubilee year, XLRI has renewed its determined focus on research and publication, and in keeping with its stated mission, extend the frontiers of knowledge.