Ranjan Banerjee, the founding dean of the new BITS School of Management in Mumbai, India, says MBAs will have three to four careers in their lifetime. What many are missing as they begin the journey is self-awareness.
But “being able to reflect, have self-awareness, and know how — and when — to pivot,” he says, “is crucial.”
That’s the philosophy underpinning BITSoM, which this summer accepted its second intake of MBAs. Established in 2021, the school is powered by Birla Institute of Technology and Science-Pilani, one of India’s premier engineering colleges and an “Institute of Eminence,” which is a recognition scheme for higher education institutes in the country.
BITSoM takes a different approach to the traditional MBA: By offering a digital age-focused curriculum, integrating soft skills throughout the entire program, and providing each student with a personal development plan, this program is designed to bring out the best in the next generation of change-makers.
‘STUDENTS HAVE TO BE ABLE TO CONNECT THE DOTS’
But perhaps the biggest differentiator of BITSoM’s MBA program is the way in which it integrates liberal arts into its curriculum. Through experiential, immersive courses on out-of-the-box topics like theater, design thinking, and even the Indian Constitution, each class contributes to the program’s overarching goal: To develop self-aware leaders.
“Typically, MBAs are built using analytical thinking,” Banerjee says. “But students have to be able to connect dots. Technology has to be embedded. They have to see the link between business and society, therefore we need more of a liberal arts perspective.”
Banerjee, who holds a Ph.D. in marketing from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, is an internationally renowned teacher, speaker, researcher, and consultant. His areas of expertise include marketing channels and incentives, design thinking, change management, learnability, and innovation in education systems. He served as dean at the S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research and was the first person from Indian academia to be nominated to the board of directors of the Graduate Management Admission Council. .
But his dream was to shape an institution from the ground up. And in 2020, he got the chance when a colleague at BITS Pilani called asking for his help in setting up a new B-school. On April 1, 2021, Banerjee joined BITSoM as founding dean.
TAILORED TO THE DIGITAL AGE
By 2027, he says, he hopes to develop it into one of India’s top five schools, and one of Asia’s top ten. Although BITSoM is only 18 months old, it has admitted nearly 300 students and boasts some of the top faculty from around the world, Banerjee says.
“It’s in its early days,” he says. “But it’s an exciting new school with an interesting model.”
Currently, its faculty is made up of BITS alumni (there are over 55,000 graduated students), visiting faculty from schools such as Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, New York University Stern School of Business, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, as well as BITSoM’s own faculty, which is currently being built. “We’ve sourced contemporary, cutting edge teachers,” he says, “and we plan to have up to five of our own core faculty by April 2023. We’ll scale that to 20 over the course of the next two years.”
Alongside BITSoM’s liberal arts focus, the curriculum is tailored to the digital age.
“One of the biggest issues with institutes today is that their curriculums are designed for the industrial world,” he says. “Technology is seen as a vertical specialization, when it should be horizontal.”
BITSoM has compulsory digital courses on topics like data analytics, digital transformation, and artificial intelligence. “We’re not just teaching analytics as a set of tools and techniques, but rather we’re making the link between business decision-making and analytics,” Banerjee says.