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Nitish Jain

Interview: Nitish Jain, President, SP Jain School of Global Management

January 4, 2022

Known for its tri-city model of education wherein students have the option to study at its three international locations – Dubai, Singapore and  Sydney, Australia, besides Mumbai, India, the SP Jain School of Global Management (estb. 2004) has partnered with the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, to offer a STEM-designated Masters in Marketing Analytics program. SP Jain is also repositioning its programmes to include disruptive technologies like data analytics, enterprise innovation, fin-tech, digital marketing and artificial intelligence (AI). Nitish Jain, president, SP Jain School of Global Management talks to Dipta Joshi about the need to craft global managers who can understand and leverage data for AI-driven digital transformation in their organisations.

Technology in education has already been the all-encompassing theme during the pandemic. What according to you are the key components for a disruptive education model?

Education is ripe for disruption and, as with many industries, technology will lead it. Digital tutors and EdTech chatbots are already popular. ‘Learning Analytics’ is an emerging area that uses learner-produced data for predicting student behaviour. Students could be segregated based on their learning styles and preferences or academics, work experience and even gender and race. ‘Personalised learning’ identifies learner preferences. For example, a student’s preference to learn through video, audio, or text can be used by educators to create a variety of learning materials for the students to choose from.

With AI technology being increasingly used in education and industry, will higher education institutions have to rethink curriculums?

As more organisations continue to adopt and invest significantly in AI, there is a growing demand for engineers with business expertise. The new global managers will have to translate the business requirement to a technical specification. Institutes whose objective is to equip students with the knowledge and tools to lead AI-driven digital transformation in their organisations will have to rework their curriculum accordingly.

We launched an interdisciplinary master’s program, ‘master of AI in business’ in 2021. The course is structured to enhance the student’s practical knowledge in AI and business disciplines such as marketing, finance, operations, and economics.

Tell us about some of the tech-based specialisations that you offer students.

In a world where technology is disrupting practically everything, technology has to move centre stage. We have repositioned our MBA to give more coverage to ‘tech’ subjects such as data analytics, enterprise innovation, FinTech, digital marketing, and other disruptive technologies. In the classroom, we have shifted the emphasis from decision-making to ‘data-driven decision-making’. With many successful organisations using data for making high-impact business decisions, there is an increasing demand for managers who can understand and leverage data.

We have also partnered with the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, to offer a Master’s in Marketing Analytics programme. A major part of the STEM-designated programme will be offered in IIT Chicago taught by faculty from the Stuart School of Business. On graduation, students will receive a globally recognised master’s degree from the Stuart School of Business, IIT Chicago, and a certificate of completion from SP Jain.

With the pandemic affecting physical classes, how have you made online learning more engaging?

We had the foresight to see the rapid growth in online education and develop our own proprietary technology, much before the pandemic struck. ‘Engaged Learning Online’, or ELO, is an award-winning virtual learning platform that is custom-designed to replicate a physical classroom and accommodates 70 students. While the faculty delivers the lecture from any of our seven ‘SP Jain ELO’ studios, the student could be in any corner of the world. We have also introduced 15-minute-long interactive multimedia ‘Engaged Pre-Class Videos’ that introduce students to the topic that will be covered in the forthcoming session.

As educational institutions are slowly opening up, how are you ensuring a safe and effective learning environment?

We have commenced in-person classes at most of our campuses in adherence to the regulations put forth by local governing bodies. We urge students to be vaccinated before they come to campus and insist on RT-PCR tests for those who aren’t vaccinated. All our campuses are equipped with high-tech thermal scanners with face recognition. We have enforced strict protocols to be followed in common areas like library, recreational areas, and lifts as well as within classrooms wherein every alternate seat will now be kept empty. While the classrooms are being disinfected after every lecture, students have the option to communicate with their faculty electronically while maintaining a physical distance.

Which skills and courses will play a major role in the coming years, especially in India? 

The year 2020 changed the face of business. The skills that are in demand today are quite different from what companies needed before the pandemic struck. At the pace at which technology is evolving, it is quite possible that students who graduate three to five years from now will need entirely new skills – ones we cannot yet imagine. But allow me to make some guesses.

In the coming years, I believe there will be a great demand for ‘durable skills’ or skills with a longer shelf life. Foundational skills like leadership, interpersonal communication, agility and adaptability, and global intelligence will continue to remain very much in demand.

Of equal importance will be the need for interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary skills. There is very little value in learning finance, economics, operations, or marketing separately. Similarly, you are setting yourself up for failure if you’re choosing to focus entirely on technology without understanding its practical application in businesses.

Students need a diversity of knowledge to address global challenges and courses that combine concepts from different academic disciplines will soar in demand. Intradisciplinary courses (courses focusing on a single discipline) will be seen as outdated and inter-disciplinary subjects like New Business Models, Value Creation, and Problem Solving can equip students with the skills to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Also read: SP Jain School of Global Management launches Masters of AI in Business program

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