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“If u want to learn what business actually is, the best way is to “startup” and learn in the process,” says Dr. Abhishek Nirjar, Director, Jaipuria Lucknow

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“The standard general management or the MBA is all set to change.”

It is a privilege to find an academician as deeply immersed in business, as is Dr. Abhishek Nirjar. The incumbent Director of Jaipuria Institute of Management, Lucknow, Dr. Nirjar is well pedigreed – both as a student and a teacher. A doctorate in strategy and innovation management from Sheffield University (UK), Dr Nirjar has nurtured an entire generation of Management students from IIM Lucknow, MDI Gurgaon, and FORE School of Management, New Delhi, etc. Yet what fascinates him most, are startups. His direct association with startups is almost as old as his academic career itself.

“I’ve been with startups for 14-15 years now,” says Dr. Nirjar. “I started engaging with startups around 1999-2000. I saw it as a domain where novelty is always going to be created.”

Not surprisingly, he has witnessed ideas and projects by young entrepreneurs, much before they became regular in the world.

“There is this company called Octane Marketing in Delhi that has a technology product for generating mass mailers to the tune of lakhs.They sell it to the companies who have that kind of requirement. I am associated with them on the advisory board. Then there is a company called Fluid Axis based out of Kanpur, started by one of my IIM Lucknow students. They are into Marketing Research and Strategy Consultancy. They have been consultants to a number of small and medium enterprises that operate in very niche areas. They’ve been looking at scaling beyond Kanpur to Delhi and further in North India. That’s the reason I’m constantly in touch with them.”

Not just in the business world, Dr. Nirjar is well-known for incubating startups even in campuses where he teaches. As the Chairman of the Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship Group at IIM-L, he mentored students in launching Gossip and Byte – a snack bar. In time, GnB became a fierce competitor to the college canteen itself.

“If you want to learn what business actually is, the best way is to startup with something of your own and in the process learn . I remember, within 3 months of starting GnB, the participating students were able to see the practicality of each and every subject that they learnt in the very first year; right from Accounting, to Sourcing of funds, Inventory, Negotiating with vendors etc. and obviously – Selling.”
GnB is still a part of the IIM-L campus and has been doing fairly well.

“The best thing about being associated with startups is that on one day the idea is on paper and on the very next, you start seeing it take physical shape. And then you see it grow and of course, the pleasure you derive out of that is phenomenal. Yes there were a few ventures that didn’t work out that well, but that’s what is so great about ideas and execution.”

Incidentally, one of Mumbai’s 3 major online grocers – localbaniya.com – is a startup by Dr. Nirjar’s student, Amit Naik.

“I recall how Amit consciously opted to choose – and work on – his own concept. Everyone was working in groups. In a way, it helped him immensely.”

Dr. Nirjar has a clear plan for Jaipuria Institute of Management, Lucknow. He has taken on the responsibility knowing completely well that Brand ‘Jaipuria’ is a major contributor in management education, and holds a lot of promise.

“Jaipuria Institute of Management, Lucknow is easily one of the top B-Schools in UP. My mandate is to see it amongst the‘Top 10’ private business schools in the country. It may seem tough, but I’ve accepted the responsibility because Jaipuria, Lucknow has all that it takes to get there.The academic program, the research, the input of the faculty has to continue being contemporary. Placements are going to be my main focus. Our bonds with the corporate and our alumni, and our ability to leverage this, will be the key to the climb. In the long term, this alone will improve the quality of intake during admissions.”

Dr. Nirjar believes there’s plenty of action coming the startups way, as the economy is headed for a hike. He intends making all the facilities available to students of Jaipuria, Lucknow to help them take off.

“We are going to encourage startups in the virtual world. Digital Media and E-Commerce are not just strong, but are surpassing traditional forms of business.Ventures on these lines can take off from the campus on a sturdy e-platform; all you need is a laptop and you can look to build a business! Currently, 18-20% students at Jaipuria, Lucknow are interested in startups. I’d like to see that grow to 40-50%. I am planning on setting up an incubation entity that can help students develop a relationship with startups within the campus. More students need to think positively about starting something of their own; put in efforts and possibly get much better returns than one may get in a paid job.”

Internationally, there has been a remarkable change in the attitude towards MBA in the past decade or so. Engineers – especially from the IT background – who used to form the bulk of Management graduates are going back to their core. With bigshots in Fortune 50 companies like Google, Apple, IBM have gone on record saying they want core Engineers over any other education, Dr. Nirjar feels that students should view their options carefully before zeroing on the right MBA for themselves.

“I think we are at the cusp of a significant paradigm shift. Some part of it is happening already. The online availability of courses that one may pursue from different university and different set ups are largely available for people who want just a degree. However, as I see it, MBA degree is shifting towards specialist and offbeat courses, niche-sector courses, Analytics, Luxury brand management, and sector-specific courses. Sports marketing or sports management was never important in our country. In just a couple of years, this has changed dramatically. The standard general management or the MBA is all set to witness change in the light of emerging challenges being faced by organisations.”

A recipient of the ‘Career Award for Young Teachers’ – that comes with a Research grant – by the All India Council for Technical Education, New Delhi, Dr Nirjar has books on Entrepreneurship Development to his credit. He also has an invited chapter in the book titled ‘Advances in Information Resources Management Volume 6’ published by Idea group, Pennsylvania. He regularly publishes in Indian and International Journals, and is currently managing an AICTE-funded research project on innovation in large firms.

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