Opportunities and challenges

Print edition : October 11, 2002

Xavier Labour Relations Institute has evolved as a premier institution in the field since its establishment in 1949. Director Fr.P.D. Thomas answers a set of questions on the institute's strengths and plans for the future. Excerpts:

What sets XLRI apart as a premier institute?

The qualities that make XLRI a premier institute are primarily its ability to attract the best students and teaching talent, and its ability to transform students into business leaders. At the core of XLRI's success as a premier B-school is its value system, which stresses on academic excellence, social and ethical responsibility, special concern for the weaker sections of society and dedication to work for the promotion of social justice. We have consistently been the best institute for teaching Human Resources (HR) and have consistently been rated among India's top five B-schools. Our selection procedure is such that students are selected from diverse educational and cultural backgrounds. We blend academic rigour with rich industrial experience. Above all, we help students harness their personal strengths and potentials to be effective managers of tomorrow.

BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

What are XLRI's strengths and which are the areas that need improvement?

XLRI is one of the oldest B-schools in the country, and counts amongst the very best B-schools Asia has to offer. We were awarded the best B-school award at the Asia-Pacific HRD Conclave. Very few institutes actually offer the kind of specialisation in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations that we do. The level of industry-academia interaction at XLRI is of the highest order, what with our own Management Development Programmes (MDP) for the corporate houses. And of course, the faculty at XLRI makes it a class apart from the rest of the B-schools. We have top-notch, internationally acclaimed faculty, most of whom reside on the campus, and can boast of an 8:1 student-teacher ratio.

Our library, the Jehangir Ghandy Library, is one of the largest of its kind in India. Its shelves are stacked with the best academic materials available from business periodicals to the latest international publications. The computer to student ratio of more than one speaks for itself. The campus is connected by a fibre optic backbone, with a 2 GB optical fibre backbone, a 512 kbps radio link to the Internet and a computer in each room.

It is also a matter of pride for us that for the first time the Planning Commission has asked a private institution (XLRI) to prepare a growth plan for a State government (Jharkhand).

XLRI attracts the best students from across the country and the number of applicants has been rising year after year. We select 130 students from a pool of more than 20,000 applicants. We are not just looking at educating a student. Equal emphasis is laid on moral values and the development of an integrated human personality. We have also launched our overseas education programme EXEC-PGP in Dubai, adding a new dimension to XLRI's quest to reach out globally. In this year's campus recruitment programme, the majority of the students at XLRI got placements within the first two days of the programme.

However, there are areas in which we can do with some improvement. Owing to the small batch size, the number of `Xlers' (XLRI students) in the industry is limited. But the quality of our students compensates for the small size. There is also the locational disadvantage of being in Jamshedpur as far as interface with industry is concerned. Our overseas presence is also very limited.

Which are some of the social projects that the institute is engaged in?

Jesuits have come to be particularly known in the public mind for their educational work and have acquired the reputation of being among the world's best educators. In every country a Jesuit school or college is synonymous with quality secular education given in an atmosphere conducive to character formation with emphasis laid on moral values and the development of an integrated human personality. This underlying factor has contributed enormously to the development of the society.

XLRI has contributed its best to the professional growth and management of innumerable institutions that serve the public, especially organised industry, labour, service agencies engaged in rural development, education, health and other public systems.

As I mentioned earlier, XLRI was mandated by the Planning Commission to prepare a growth plan for the newly formed State of Jharkhand, and we have carried out a study on 22 different sectors and submitted a report to the Jharkhand government. For the development of the State's tribal population, XLRI plans to introduce a three-year course for 100 boys and girls.

The Centre for Rural Management was established at XLRI during the academic year 1992-93. The activities of the centre are as follows:

* Conducting appropriate training sessions for persons involved in rural sector management aspects.

* Serving as a centre for research and publication.

* Forming an information/documentation centre on rural economy.

* Providing consultancy services to rural development agencies.

* Currently the centre is involved in training and consultancy for the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.

* The Centre for Small Business Management was set up in 1995 to serve as a nodal centre in the eastern region for the promotion of entrepreneurship and effective management of small business centres. Its activities are: Consultancy and training to help address issues in the management of small-scale industries, problems of closely held businesses, and opportunity identification for starting up small-scale industries. Through effective networking with banks and industry associations, the centre has conducted a number of courses in the area and is building a data bank that can provide case studies and information useful to small-scale business practitioners and researchers.

The XLRI Nature Club (XLNC) was formed with a mission to establish a link between the field of environment and management education. The major activities of XLNC include organising seminars, lectures and workshops in various environment-related fields in order to bring about better understanding of how humans may live in harmony with the environment. The XLNC also interacts with other environmental and social organisations such as the WWF and Cheshire Home (a non-governmental organisation working with mentally challenged children) and other organisations working with similar objectives.

There is a special emphasis on computer access. XLRI has a separate computer education classroom and a systems room.-

XLers remain active with activities such as organising blood donation camps, visits to Cheshire Home children and lifestyle workshops for budding business leaders of tomorrow. The institute has initiatives on campus in the form of informal committees. One such is the Social Initiative Group, which, during the last calendar year had taken on a CRY (Child Relief and You) project.

What is the success rate of students in finding jobs after the course?

At XLRI, the benchmark for placement success is not set by the number of students placed but by the number of days in which they are placed. After two years of hard work, the future of a student is charted out in just about three days. With companies vying with one another to reach the campus for recruitment, it becomes a challenge for the placement committee to schedule the process acceptable to the corporates and the students alike. It truly speaks about the quality of the students, faculty and the institute.

The marketing gurus have a chance to work for companies such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, SmithKline Beecham, Coke, Pepsi and so on. The finance scholars compete for careers in ICICI, GE Capital, SBI Capital, Citibank and a host of other leading banks and financial institutions. The consultants have a go at McKinsey, Andersen Consulting, Arthur Andersen among others to start careers in business and HR consulting. The systems specialists find their way into companies such as IBM, Wipro, Infosys and HCL. With XLRI being tops in Asia for Business Management and Industrial Relations and HR, over 60 MNCs and large Indian business houses provide an opportunity for a challenging step into the corporate world.

A unique feature of our placements is the consistent number of pre-placement offers given by companies to their summer trainees. With a number of students coming in with work experience, XLRI gives an opportunity for them to leverage their experience to get into lateral positions. In fact, students in this stream have landed careers that pay significantly higher than the entry-level jobs.

In the campus recruitment programme for 2002, there were 123 students and 45 recruiters. The average salary for an Indian posting was Rs.6.01 lakhs and the highest offer (for an Indian posting) was Rs.12 lakhs.

What are XLRI's goals and how does it plan to go about achieving them?

XLRI would like to maintain its high academic standards, highly appreciated culture of the campus, recruitment of highly competent faculty and admission of well-qualified students on a national level. It also intends to double the intake of students in the business management programme.

In October this year, a Post Graduate Certificate Programme in Business Management will be started for working managers in 12 cities. It would be for a period of 14 months.

The areas of emphasis include collaboration with foreign universities, strengthening the research and publication practice of the Institute, greater involvement in the social sector, various training programmes and consultancies for the Central and State governments, strengthening of the infrastructure and so on.

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