Convocation Speech by Ajit Balakrishnan, Chairman IIM Calcutta, CEO Rediff

 | April 07,2011 12:43 pm IST

This has been another year of outstanding intellectual output at IIM Calcutta and I am filled with pride as I stand before you to describe some of the high quality work that is being done here. Our faculty published around 40 research papers in peer reviewed journals and presented 25 years in international conferences during this past year.

They have enquired into a wide range of topics.

Some of them have grappled with public policy issues: how to deal with the challenge of India’s massive and growing informal sector, the dilemmas about land acquisition for industrial projects, the evolution of India’s family business groups, the changing nature of the Corporate-Society-State relationship, the challenge of stimulating R&D in diseases which are local only to India.


Others have looked at classic operating management issues: the nature of entrepreneurship, what determines good corporate governance, how to manage manufacturing when demand fluctuates violently, what determines salespersons’ effectiveness, how knowledge-management and expertise- accumulation happens in organizations, what makes some managers take charge and get things done while others act defeatist, how to determine optimum pack sizes for products and so on.


Still others reach deep into ancient Indian heritage to find solutions for contemporary management challenges. As you will see, this work has been published in a wide variety of peer-reviewed international publications and presented in management conferences all over the world.


To start things off, let us note the work of Prof. Jacob Vakkayil who continues his exploration on knowledge in organizations. This year, he turns his mind to so-called ‘objects’, artefacts such as a Query Service or a Knowledge Repository that are used to mediate collective action in project-based organizations such as software development firms. He points out that these tools are supposed to enhance performance but may also have the unintended effect of foreclosing other ways in which the work could have been accomplished. His work was presented at the "European Group of Organization Studies"conference at Lisbon and later published in the International Journal of Managing Projects in Business Today, Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs, are everywhere mediating relations between the State and Society and have even been called ‘the World’s New Superpower’ by former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan.


Yet little is known about how an NGO comes to be, how they decide which geographical region to focus on, how they prioritize problems and the processes by which they get work done. Nimruji Jammulamakadaka and Rahul Varman contributed a piece to the prestigious journal Critical Review diving into these issue using an epistemological approach and data from Andhra Pradesh.


The controversy at Singur in West Bengal which held all of India in thrall when the iconic Tata Nano project was pulled from there brought home the dilemma of conflicts over land acquisition for industrial development in an agricultural economy and may even have started the process of change of government in Bengal. Prof Kalyan Mandal reflects on the data from Singur and an equally poignant case, Gopalpur, and proposes a framework to understand such conflicts that he calls The ‘Resettlers Income Curve’ and presented it at the 17th World Congress of Sociology , Gothenburg, Sweden What are the processes that manufacturing businesses adopt to cope with a sudden drop in demand as happened in the last quarter of 2008? Prof Debashish Bhattacharjee studies how India’s auto industry coped with this and how their actions shaped union-management relationships in his paper presented at the 4th Annual Conference in Sociology, Athens, Greece The informal sector in India now employs half or more of all workers in urban India and the stereotypical image of India as a country of simple peasants in villages is changing to that of informal sector workers in urban slums. Prof Annapurna Shaw of the Public Policy Group in her paper presented at the 4th International Conference in Sociology, Athens, Greece examines the immense challenges of including these workers in local economic development considering that the formal sector has no place for such low-skilled people.


After the Satyam episode, corporate governance is back on the centre stage of concerns and people have stated looking beyond the boundary of the firm and look at the institutional context for answers. Principal-agency theory was one perspective on the problem. Apalak Khatua and Prof Amit Jyoti Sen added a new dimension to the principalagent theory by looking at the effect of transaction frequency to explain the situations in which governance breaks down. Their paper was presented at the 12th Conference of the Association for Heterodox Economics at the University Of Bordeaux, France.