Truly a man ahead of his time, Institute of Management Technology’s Prof. Suku Bhaskaran “went global” before it became the thing to do.
“Yes I believe I was ‘global’ before it became fashionable to be global,” he said in a recent interview. “My elective courses for my undergraduate economics degree in the early 1970s were ‘Elementary Mandarin’ and ‘Chinese Science and Civilization’.”
But wherever he’s been in his extensive travels, he’s fit right in.
“I cannot recall any serious difficulties in dealing with different cultures,” said Prof. Bhaskaran. “I was born in Malaya – a really multicultural place. I feel that people the world over are essentially the same. They have the same hopes and aspirations and the same sorrows and heartbreaks.”
After an extensive tour of duty in the world of business, Prof. Bhaskaran’s entry into the academic world came about due to what he terms “an accident of history or circumstances.”
“I was in a senior position in Malaysia and when I migrated to Australia I did not want to take on a less senior position,” he said. “I got a consulting appointment in a university, was offered a contract position and this changed to a tenured professorial position, which gave me a lot of leeway for consultancy, research and other engagements in Australia and many other exciting and, dare I say, exotic places in the world.”
While he is ensconced in academia now, he still maintains his business ties.
“I have never really left the business world,” he said, “as my consulting and research work continues to have a strong interface with business and, in fact, I believe that is my strength and value add in my research, teaching and learning activities.”
With IMT being the latest stop on his career path, Prof. Bhaskaran said his goal here is “to add to the great initiatives that are underway at IMT.”
“IMT is a fantastic institution in transition,” he said. “I propose to work with my colleagues in contributing to a range of major initiatives being pursued by IMT – curriculum change, AACSB accreditation, realigning teaching and research engagements so that we are recognized as a quality institution.”
Having worked and taught abroad and in India, he’s found teaching and learning methods “differ across target groups, not only across countries.”
“The vast majority of postgraduate management students in India are fresh out of school,” said Prof. Bhaskaran, “primarily from an engineering background, and there are no full-fee-paying overseas students in the class. I therefore had to work harder at creating a learning environment where I could foster greater peer-to-peer learning through drawing on work and life experiences in class discussions and draw on the diversity of the participants to illustrate how the same issues would be broached differently because of the cultural, discipline, experiential and other differences of the participants.”
He’s also noticed a “greater attention of Indian students to concerns about placement. I sometimes felt that there is less focus among some students in India to enjoy the learning experience. To me one enjoys the learning experience through inquiry, i.e. the finding out activities of why things are the way they are purported to be – critical discourse of concepts, frameworks etc. and not simply presenting the information in text books.”
To better prepare students for the ever-changing world of business, Prof. Bhaskaran said “I believe that we need to empower students to ‘think outside the box’ – look at issues objectively, look at the dynamics that confront the organization and also do some ‘blue sky’ gazing to think through how the operating environment could evolve. One person cannot do all this, therefore we have to train students to be able to work collegially in groups and think through these challenges.”
“We need to emphasize greater thinking and deductive learning rather than rote learning and the unquestioning application of theoretical concepts, frameworks and models from textbooks.”
Having served in many consulting roles, Prof. Bhaskaran also has some ideas on how the Indian government could help boost the country’s economy.
“I believe that Indians are highly entrepreneurial people and because of the huge social and cultural problems in the country, Indians have become a resilient lot,” he said. “I would strongly recommend that the foreign investment regulations in India be made more transparent and barriers in many sectors of the Indian economy (particularly sectors such as multi-brand retailing, education, health, housing, farming, power, infrastructure and manufacturing consumer and engineering goods) be removed. I believe that the common man will benefit from being able to get better quality and more competitively priced goods if the ‘best’ companies in the world are allowed to operate in India on their own rather than through the joint-venture mode.”