Theory classes and lectures at ISB help students understand underlying management concepts. Case discussions and simulations help them appreciate the business context, think through situations and make decisions. The third type of learning in the curriculum, the Practicum Course, has one main purpose: to get students to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, i.e. to apply their learning in the real world.
Practicum courses require students to take up projects with organisations, start their own businesses, or go deep into a particular subject by working on an academic project. These projects and assignments tend to last several months and require serious commitment of time and effort from the students. In return, they offer real world work experience with a strong emphasis on learning – a chance to apply their learning to real situations, as well as to identify from real situations what they still need to learn. Faculty personally guide each team taking up a practicum course. With a faculty-student ratio of 1:5, or even 1:1 in some cases, these courses allow for close interactions with them and greater learning. Practicum courses offer credits that count towards the PGP credit requirement. Practicum course details are available on the PGP website, so I will provide only a summary of them here.
The Experiential Learning Project (ELP) is the quintessential management strategy assignment. Just like in the real world, teams have to pitch for a consulting project, which multiple teams would be vying for. If their proposition is strong enough to win the assignment, they get to work with the client organisation and faculty guide to understand the client’s problem statement, gather data, analyse information, formulate strategy and present their solution. The client evaluates the students’ solution along with any other options they may be considering, and often use some or all of it in their final implementation. This is a great internship of sorts for those interested in consulting or leadership roles in industry.
Here is a small sample of ELP projects students have taken up in the recent past: “Sustainable exit strategy for a social enterprise working on girl child education in rural Rajasthan” (it was one of 8 such projects sponsored by IFC, which is part of World Bank), “Entry strategy for a large healthcare product company looking at expanding in South East Asian markets”, “Market assessment for launching e-services in India for a luxury retail brand”, “Understanding the competitive landscape of Upstream Hydrocarbon business in international market”, “Pricing and investment strategy – opportunities in affordable value housing sector”, “Growth, marketing and brand building strategy to drive usage of a new social networking platform”, “Expanding the ‘Business News’ genre by attracting new viewer segments for a leading media company”, etc.
For those who are excited by the above prospect but who also place strong emphasis on international exposure, the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum (WGCP) is the ideal avenue. In WGCP, students from ISB and Wharton work together, along with faculty guides from both schools, to help companies with assignments in the realm of international business. These could be foreign companies looking to enter or expand in India, or Indian companies foraying abroad. Some projects examples: “Developing Indian and Asian market growth strategy for the new wireless platform of a US-based client”, “Growth strategy for the US business of an India-based healthcare company”, “Creating an India entry strategy for the oncology treatment packages of a US-based client”, etc. WGCP is a highly sought-after course every year.
But given the start-up movement that is sweeping the world and the favourable economic environment for start-ups, a very popular course right now is Planning an Entrepreneurial Venture (PaEV). This course gives entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial students in the class the requisite knowledge and skills to start and run their own company. They come up with an idea, start implementing that idea and learn by doing (which, as any successful entrepreneur will tell you, happens to be the best way to learn about entrepreneurship). Over the duration of the course, students refine their ideas while working closely with Entrepreneurship faculty and peers. They can even complete a test run in a learning-oriented, failure-tolerant environment. The team behind Procialize, an innovative event management app, did exactly that, deploying it at two global conferences held at ISB and even getting praise and feedback from ISB Chairman Adi Godrej at the conference. Other areas that were explored by students via PaEV have been “Diabetes Management using Tele-medicine”, “Business to provide services for the elderly”, “Online portal for Puja needs”, etc. So if you have always yearned to become an entrepreneur but didn’t know how to start, PaEV will ensure that you take your first definitive steps towards that goal.
And finally, for those academically inclined and with a thirst for knowledge, the Faculty Initiated Research Project (FIRP) can be a very fulfilling applied learning course. Last week, I had blogged in detail about the importance of faculty research and the benefits of having faculty who are heavily involved in research. The FIRP gives students a chance to work one-on-one with faculty in subject areas of interest to them and learn from experts in those fields. Needless to say, FIRP builds an appreciation of rigour and excellence that few industry interactions can match.
The only bad news when it comes to practicum courses is that, given the amount of time and effort each of them demand, you cannot take up all four courses simultaneously. So you will have to learn about each, match them to your priorities, weigh the pros and cons, and choose only those that will be most beneficial to you. In short, you will have to learn to invest limited resources into a few selected options from among several attractive ones. That, in itself, is a practical learning experience!
Next week, I will blog about extracurricular learning opportunities that are available to you at ISB.
All the best!