How A Distinguished Visionary Leader is Educating and Empowering Future Leaders and Entrepreneurs at Great Lakes, Chennai
A Walk of Words with Dr. Suresh Ramanathan
The Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, positioned as a frontrunner in the panorama of business management learning, has been operating under the aegis of a leading academic expert on consumer emotions and motivations, Dr Suresh Ramanathan.
One of the leading business schools in India, the Great Lakes, incorporated in the year 2004, is the brainchild of Prof. Bala V. Balachandran (J. L. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting and Information Management, Northwestern University, USA). Led by an excellent teaching team, steered by an outstanding advisory council, and buoyed by global alliances, the Great Lakes Institute boasts an innovative and exclusive learning approach to remain ahead of the needs of companies and the community.
THE MAN OF THE HOUR
Dr Suresh Ramanathan, the Dean and Principal of the Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, is an eminent education stalwart with over three decades of expertise across different verticals. After working in industry for ten years in India, he entered the world of academia in 1997. He is a well-known educator with experience in business schooling at all levels, including undergraduate, EMBA, and executive education.
In academics, Dr. Suresh graduated with a Ph.D. in 2002 from the esteemed NYU Stern School of Business. He received an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta after graduating with a degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.
Prior to enrolling in the PhD program at Stern, the inspirational leader spent three years working for Brooke Bond (now Unilever) in their tea and coffee business then transitioned to the media and advertising industry, where he spent seven years working with JWT, Lintas, MTV, and McCann Erickson. Before moving to the US, he served as the head of media research at McCann-Erickson India and was a key member of the core leadership team that launched MTV India in 1996
Dr Suresh Ramanathan’s most recent position before joining Great Lakes was as Associate Professor of Marketing at the esteemed University of Chicago Booth School of Business from 2002 to 2011. Later, he held the David R. Norcom’73 Endowed Professorship for nearly 8 years at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.
In a candid conversation with Business Connect Magazine, the visionary leader shared his insights on the latest industry trends in the business education domain, the revolutionary transformation of the education sector, and the inception of Great Lakes. Here is the edited excerpt.
MAKING A LASTING IMPRESSION: THE SKILL & LEADERSHIP OF AN EXCEPTIONAL LEADER
Back in the day, Prof. Bala along with Donald Jacobs, the Dean of Kellogg School of Management had developed a strategy that propelled the school to a top – 5 B-School Ranking in the US.
In response to India’s embrace of globalization and the rising demand for skilled workers, Prof. Bala envisioned a new form of MBA: a fast-track, one-year program designed for working professionals, which still runs as a flagship program at the ISB, Hyderabad, which he helped develop.
He underwent a bypass operation at the age of 68 to create his own business school, the Great Lakes Institute of Management, in Chennai in 2004 after receiving the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award, in 2001 for his contributions to education. With only two full-time faculty members and a modest, rented space, Great Lakes, Chennai managed to enroll 120 students in its one-year PGPM in its first batch, land 100% of placements, and break even within its first year of operation.
Once Great Lakes was established as a premier institute in the country as a knowledge provider, the next goal was to foster excellence in research and scholarship as a knowledge creator. The institution’s success has been continuously fueled by striving for excellence in everything. One continues to be in awe of the man whose vision was to find a business school that was not only a haven for professionals seeking top-notch business education in India, but which was also part of a much larger vision, was, to restore India’s historical pride as a renowned center for learning and knowledge.
THE REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATIONS IN THE EDUCATION INDUSTRY
The education sector, especially management education, has recently seen numerous substantial changes and difficulties. A few of them are mentioned below:
• Emphasis on Practical and Experiential Learning: Practical learning is becoming increasingly important to improve students’ capacity for decision-making, critical analysis, and problem-solving.
• Tech Integration: Online learning platforms, virtual classrooms, and interactive teaching tools have all been used in management education to integrate technology and provide students with more flexible, individualized, and accessible learning opportunities.
• Global Exposure: With the increasing interconnection of enterprises on a worldwide scale, offering exposure abroad has received more attention. Programs for studying abroad, global internships, and exchange opportunities can all support students in acquiring cross-cultural skills and a global mentality.
• Collaboration and Corporations: Many institutions are fostering partnerships with corporations to co-develop curriculum and certifications. Synergistic partnerships are also becoming more common, pushing the limits of innovation, and bringing university research to the marketplace.
• Ethical Leadership and Sustainability: B-schools are incorporating courses on business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability to prepare future leaders who can navigate ethical dilemmas and contribute to a more sustainable world.
• Learning for Professionals: Professionals are increasingly seeking opportunities to upskill and reskill throughout their careers. To meet the skill-building demands of working professionals, educational institutions are responding by providing executive education programs, short courses, and micro-credentials.
EXPERIENCING EXPONENTIAL GROWTH – BY EMBRACING THE LATEST TRENDS
Indian B-schools are increasingly forming alliances and working together with prominent foreign universities. These partnerships enable teacher-to-student exchanges, research collaborations, student-to-student exchanges, and the implementation of international best practices in management education. With their first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the IIT Stuart School of Business in 2003, Great Lakes, Chennai, took the lead on this initiative right away. Since then, they have signed academic alliances with a number of renowned B-schools in the US, such as Booth in Chicago, Bauer in Houston, Cornell in Ithaca, Europe (such as CUOA and Bourdeaux), and Asia (such as NTU and HKUST).
Indian business schools are changing their curricula to incorporate courses and modules that emphasize global management techniques, cross-cultural leadership, and international business. Great Lakes, Chennai, is adding AR/VR, the metaverse, and real-time simulations to offer a learning experience that is “as is”. This is especially pertinent for courses in financial trading, sales and marketing, supply chain management, and other related fields.
Many Indian business schools offer study abroad programs that let students spend a semester or a term at partner institutions abroad. These programs give students the chance to immerse themselves in a foreign culture, experience a curriculum that is relevant to the rest of the world. Great Lakes is a pioneering trend-setter, with their academic alliances dating back to the early 2000s with some of the best schools in the world, including Cornell, Chicago Booth, Bauer, Babson, NTU, HKUST, Bordeaux, CUOA, etc.
To provide courses, engage with students, and offer resources for distance learning, many B-schools are utilizing online platforms, learning management systems, and digital technologies. With several short courses in analytics and management, as well as the online MBA program, which is offered by their e-learning partner, Great Learning, Great Lakes, Chennai, has also entered the online education market.
Great Lakes, Chennai, is establishing incubation centers, entrepreneurship cells, and startup support programs to nurture entrepreneurial talent and provide resources for students interested in launching their own ventures. Since its establishment in 2018, the Atal-Great Lakes-Balachandran incubator has helped advance numerous profitable businesses in industries including IT, clean energy, smart manufacturing, healthcare, etc.
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