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‘Lockdown has taught me never to underestimate the ingenuity of talented people’

Dr Ajit Parulekar, Director, Goa Institute of Management

Dr Ajit Parulekar, Director at Goa Institute of Management (GIM) lists to Bluepencil.news what the lockdown has taught him and his plans with GIM

How did GIM react to the lockdown and the status now?
​We were lucky in terms of timing. We completed the last exam on 19th of March and the last set of admissions interviews (for the 20-21 intake) on 18th March (at Guwahati – which was the last of our 15 centres across the country). However, the convocation that was scheduled on the 27th of March for students graduating in 2020 – had to be postponed. Also, we were skeptical of 3 things in the short run: summer internship programs, status of all the final year students placed (all the 420 graduating students), and classes being conducted on the weekend PGDM Part Time program which was in session at that point in time (in 3 weeks, we were able to start online delivery of classes on this program).

Were internships also online ?Any update on whether it impaired learning?
​All SIPs were online. We were concerned that most internships would be affected (delayed or cancelled) and hence we designed virtual desk research projects for students and also tied up with Coursera and edX for our students to enroll and complete at least one MOOC certification in identified areas. I was really amazed by the resilience and agility shown by Indian industry – only 18 out of 480 students had internships cancelled and within a week the GIM alumni network found alternate summer internship opportunities. All existing summer internship commitments were honored by industry partners – of course, all of these were virtual internships given the lockdowns. Also, we suspended all international exchange programs during the summer and organised for internships for these students too. While all students did their summer internships, learning was certainly compromised as these were virtual internships and hence students lost the opportunity of experiential learning, learning through networking in the company beyond the project, learning by serendipity and missing out on the opportunities on learning on the sidelines (unplanned discussions, meetings, bumping into new people etc.

How did faculty spend time during lockdown, besides teaching online? Did any faculty complete any relevant research on which I can write an exclusive article ?
​From 20th March till end June, all faculty were working from home. And from 1st July till 15th October, faculty were working from home 3 days a week and 2 days a week from campus including conducting classes from the state-of-the-art studios on campus (of course, you must understand that 90% of our faculty live on campus).
This period was extremely productive for research – both academic/ journal publications as well as sponsored research proposals. With no classes (or summer vacation to travel on) and with time available to work from home, faculty spent most of their time reading, writing, and completing research papers that were WIP. A total of 10 international collaborative research funding proposals were written (6 of these have been awarded to GIM with a total grant of about Rs 1.1 Crores).
About 5 different Covid related research projects were undertaken by GIM faculty. An early paper was published (one of the first in the country) by 2 faculty members and this paper was widely cited and covered by lay press. The paper examined the impact of covid on various aspects of well-being.

Do you expect more people to take CAT and XAT or fewer given the current circumstances
​CAT numbers are already known and are 6% lower than the previous year. XAT numbers were expected to be even lower. However, we do not expect to see a drop in total number of applications to GIM programs and so far the applications numbers seem to be confirming this – we are at par with last years application numbers.

Anything innovative that GIM has been engaged in last few months which I can write another article on?
​Our transition to online (like several other institutions) was quite remarkable. We are now clear that we will not revert to the ‘old normal’ and the new normal post covid would be different in terms of more online, higher AI proctored examinations, lesser unnecessary travel, interviews (at least some rounds) for student admissions as well as faculty recruitment will have a significant online modes used, etc.

Do you suggest that the MBA admission exams for the next academic year are subjected to some alterations given the lockdown
​Over the last 5 years at least, the entire MBA admissions process – from marketing to application process to conduct of national entrance tests; have all been online. All the organizations involved in these activities had already done fair bit of optimsation of these processes well before Covid. Of course, post the test, individual B schools were conducting their GD/PI (Selection) processes in face-2-face mode. This may be the only aspect that would be different if lockdowns continue.

Any change in admission process at GIM, criteria etc
​We are planning to conduct admissions interviews online for at least a sizeable number of shortlisted candidates. Of course, if covid related restrictions continue, this may extend to all aspirants.

Any new courses that GIM will be looking at?
​GIM introduced 2 new programs in this year – a fulltime 2 year PGDM in new age Banking, Insurance and Financial Services; and a PhD/ Fellow Program in Management. We intend consolidating all our 4 new programs, the incubation centre, research programs and internationalisation efforts and do not plan on a new program in the coming year ta least.

Personally, what has the lockdown taught you?
​The lockdown has taught me never to underestimate the resilience and ingenuity of talented people. It is really amazing how our people rose up to the occasion and adopted a completely different way of functioning – both in terms of technology (online) and more importantly, adapting to working in ‘pandemic’ conditions. The pandemic brought out a lot of experimentation with technology, coming together of people to work under these challenging conditions, and the ability to re-engineer the way we work.

Any plans on how to make do the loss that the lockdown has inflicted on students by way of learning.
​This is possibly the most difficult task and given the uncertainty, institutions are struggling with issues of when and therefore whether they can make do this loss of learning for students.

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