An institute with a difference

Print edition : October 11, 2002
The Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur has a unique curriculum fashioned with a view to make managers and business leaders who can specialise in more than one area.

THE Xavier Labour Relations Institute, known as XLRI, came into being in 1949 in the steel city of Jamshedpur, which is now part of the newly formed State of Jharkhand. The Institute was conceived by Father Quinn Enright, a member of the Jamshedpur Jesuit Society. Jamshedpur, with its concentration of heavy industries and strong labour unions, was thought to be ideal for providing an environment for students to learn management and labour relations.

An academic session in progress at XLRI. The institute has 12 state-of-the-art air-conditioned classrooms equipped with computers and overhead projectors. - BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Until 1969, XLRI was managed by the Jamshedpur Jesuit Society. Since then, a board of governors comprising representatives of academia, industry, government and civil society handle the administration of the institute. Over the years, people such as Sir Jehangir Ghandy, chairman and managing director (CMD) of Tata Engineering (TELCO); R.S. Pandey, CMD, Tata Steel (TISCO); Russi Modi, CMD, TISCO; Sarosh Ghandy, CMD, TELCO have served as chairmen of the board; currently J.J. Irani, CMD, TISCO, is the chairman.

Father Quinn sought to make XLRI an institute with a difference, emphasising right from the start the need to nurture the spirit of service and responsibility, which must define the spirit of economic enterprise. The present director, Fr.P.D. Thomas, said: ``XLRI is known for its academic rigour. Some of the academic activities at XLRI have been trendsetters.'' But apart from its focus on developing managerial competence and skill, the institute stresses the importance of ensuring social justice, developing the students' personality and instilling in them the values of honesty, loyalty, hard work and commitment.

The curriculum has a mix of lectures, group discussions, simulation exercises and case studies, all of which are oriented towards analysing real-life situations. Besides the core courses, there are a number of electives that cover a wide range of subjects. To complement classroom learning, students work on assignments and projects in teams, deliberate on ethical issues and enhance their communication skills.

XLRI believes in making managers who specialise in more than one area. Hence managing people and the organisation in general are in focus in all the areas of specialisation. ``We understand the importance of teamwork and give a lot of importance to students learning to adjust to different kinds of environment in their respective organisations. Group work is a compulsory component of almost all the subjects. Learning team skills is given very high weightage and students are encouraged to put the benefit of their team above their individual gains,'' Fr.Thomas said.

During the first seven years of its existence, the institute organised and developed courses for managements and trade unions. In 1953, the institute started a two-year day programme on Industrial Relations and Welfare. In 1985, the name of the programme was changed to Personnel Management and Industrial Relations. Other academic programmes include a three-year post graduate evening programme in Business Management (BME), started in 1966; a two-year post-graduate day programme in Business Management (BMD), started in 1968; and a doctoral level fellow programme in management (FPM), started in 1989; a doctoral-level fellow programme in human resource development, which was started in 1994, and is being offered in collaboration with the Academy of Human Resource Development, Hyderabad. Besides these programmes, every year XLRI conducts more than 70 management development programmes, and in-company training programmes in various areas of consultancy, management and research on management-related issues for various organisations in different sectors. These programmes cater to the training needs of over 2,000 executives, and the organisational requirements of over 500 public and private sector units, voluntary agencies, non-governmental organisations, and grassroots-level community development associations.

THE spacious campus of XLRI is ideally located, with the Dalma Hills to the north and TISCO to the south. The Tata Jubilee Park and the amusement parks situated adjacent to the campus lend scenic beauty and create an environment conducive to academic pursuits. The campus facilities include 59 flats for faculty and staff, residential facilities for 250 students, residential facilities for 110 executive participants in management development programmes, and an air-conditioned auditorium with seating for 1,500 persons.

The institute has 12 state-of-the-art, air-conditioned classrooms equipped with computers and overhead projectors. For lectures, seminars and other academic proceedings, the institute has modern audio-visual systems with slide and movie projectors. There is also a separate computer education classroom and a systems room. Closed-circuit television facility is available for recording and playback exercises.

The centrally air-conditioned Sir Jehangir Ghandy Library has a collection of 48,700 books and 18,500 bound volumes. - BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The centrally air-conditioned Sir Jehangir Ghandy library has a collection of 48,700 books and 18,500 bound volumes. It subscribes to 323 national and international periodicals, provides the ProQuest database covering 1,850 electronic journals and has a collection of 1,250 video cassettes besides a large number of annual reports and project reports. High-speed Internet and e-mail facilities are available to faculty, students, the administrative system and participants of management development programmes. Every student in the hostel has a computer terminal with Internet facilities at his or her disposal. The students' Terminal Centre operates round the clock, seven days a week. The institute provides students with facilities for indoor and outdoor games, and medical facilities for the treatment of common illnesses.

XLRI lays a lot of stress on research. It provides not only grants and other facilities for research work but also funds for members of the faculty to attend research conferences within the country and abroad. The institute hosts seminars periodically, in which faculty members and students share their ideas and the results of their research work. The faculty is active in providing consultancy services to organisations in various sectors.

Throughout the year, XLRI hosts a number of events _— the `Marketing Fair' is one such. The idea of this fair is to generate four-way interaction among the institute, industry, students and the local community through which patterns of consumer behaviour can be mapped. The fair tries to tap the perceptions of consumers about products and its attributes through a number of research questions put across by means of games and skits. The participating companies provide their briefs to the students, which become the basis for their research questions. The relevant variables are identified and a set of questions to be addressed is arrived at. These questions are then put across to a sample population of consumers and the students record their reactions or answers. These reactions are analysed and interpreted using various statistical tools, and inferences are drawn regarding the concepts that need to be tested. ``This form of research comes as a steal for the companies and is an ideal way to do a pilot test on the validity of their initial hypothesis,'' Fr.Thomas said.

Another landmark event on the XLRI calendar is `Ensemble', the Management Concourse, which provides a common forum for students from the best B-schools in Asia to apply the theoretical knowledge that they have gained on campus. This flagship event of XLRI is one of its kind, where academic and extra-curricular activities find a forum of convergence. Interactive sessions on areas ranging from Venture Capital Cycle, HR Practices, Employee Relations and Marketing have been conducted by eminent people from industry. Events in Ensemble include Consulting Games on Information Technology and Strategy, Valuation Games on Dotcoms, Simulation Games on Treasury Bourse, Investment Banking and Venture Capital Cycles and a Supply Chain Management Game. Case studies from the areas of Marketing and Strategy are used to test the depth of knowledge of the participating students. Paper presentations are made on a broad array of topics related to Strategy, Marketing, Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Finance and IT. Some of the main events that were organised in the past few years were HR showcase (an inter B-school case analysis competition), Xaries (an academic paper presentation competition), and an All India Labour Conference attended by leading lights from the labour movement, trade union leaders, labour historians, lawyers and practising HR and IR managers.

Other examples of activities that link academics to industry are the national IT seminar held every year as a brainstorming exercise on the contemporary issues in the field of IT, and the bi-annual national HR conference in which the HR issues in the corporate world are discussed on a common forum. The HR conference witnesses the biggest single congregation of HR professionals in India.

``Besides these events the academic focus is to expose students to practical situations and hence almost all the courses emphasise a `live' project in which the situation, the problem, the variables, the players and the constraints are all real. Students are thus encouraged to think out of the box and come out with innovative solutions to real-life problems. Many local industries and businesses have benefited through this exercise,'' Fr.Thomas said.

In order to groom its students into well-rounded individuals, XLRI encourages and promotes extra-curricular activities. The XLRI-IIM-C (Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta) sports meet is the only sports meet between two B- schools that is conducted on such a large scale.

For three days, almost the entire batch of one B-school lands up on the other's campus and competes to establish its superiority over the other in the field of sports.

Another indicator of XLRI's active encouragement of extra-curricular activities is the existence of a host of student committees that take up diverse activities such as adventure sports, yoga, music, dance and dramatics. In fact, XLRI has its own band, which performs during `Ensemble' and the various cultural events that are organised.

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