Wish to see India become a research and knowledge hub for the world
Prof. Ramendra Singh
Associate Professor, Marketing, IIM Calcutta (View Full Profile)
I come from a middle-class family who have lived most of my early years in the lovely nestled town of Dehra Dun. After finishing my school from St. Joseph’s Academy in Dehradun, and moved to IIT-BHU to complete my B.Tech in Mechanical engineering. Then I worked for several years in organizations including Indian Oil, ExxonMobil among others, and then I decided to pursue MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur.
It was during by MBA that I decided to take a plunge into academics, enamoured by the world of academic research. The incidence goes like this. It was late evening when I decided to study for my consumer behaviour class which was to be taught by the faculty the next day. One of the preparations for the class was a research article on Harley Owners group. It was an excellent ethnographic study published in JCR. Initially, while browsing the article I decided I would spend only 30 minutes or so and keep it down. But when I started reading the article, I was unable to put it down….and by the time when I finished reading the article, I realised that it was already mid night! That was the Eureka moment for me, when I realised that I need to get enrolled in PhD program to learn how to write great articles like the one I just read.
Then on, the life became much easier to navigate. I applied for PhD program aboard but could not go the next year due to family constraints. The year after that I got married and so could not apply again. So, it took me two years after MBA to finally get into PhD program at IIM Ahmedabad. In 2010 I finished my PhD, and joined IIM Calcutta as a faculty in marketing group. So this is my 10th year as an academic. I still cherish my decision to move from industry into academics.
I entered into academics with lots of dreams and aspirations. One of these were to see my nation, India become a research and knowledge hub for the world. During my MBA and PhD days, I read so many research articles, from several top tier journals, which were published in US or Europe and authored by researchers based there. Most intriguing were those articles which researched topics which were embedded in the social and cultural context of India, and the authors has North American or other foreign affiliations.
I used to think how can someone sitting 10,000 miles from a research context really understand what’s going on in my neighbourhood. If they can produce knowledge from that distance, what prevents us to produce original knowledge as far as our own local context is concerned. It was also painful to realise in my PhD days that there weren’t any/many journals being published from India which could be labelled as ‘top-tier’ ones. So what was preventing academics based out of India to produce world class research and knowledge?
It took me some time to fathom that our research eco-systems are not strong enough to be as productive as those in North America or Europe, and also that management education in Business Schools in India focused too much on teaching rather than on management research. Fortunately, things are changing these days, and today we do have a critical mass of academics who publish in very good journals, and do very good research, and the B.K. Birla Awards are a testimony to that as well its celebration.
Vision for the Future
I will continue to pursue my aspirations and dreams of promoting, producing and disseminating management knowledge produced from India for consumption at the global level. I know it’s not an easy task, but now we have critical mass of researchers in IIMs (which are now 20 in number), IITs (again 20 in number), and several other business schools where faculty is really doing wonderful research in their respective domains.
I still remember that one day while sitting in a meeting in a reputed publishing house, I suggested the idea to the publishers to bring out a compendium of research papers published by researchers based out of India. The person on the other side, gave me a strange look, and said,” Can you name even one person who can claim to have done work that is worth writing a book on?” That was a comment that really hurt me.
However, the winds of change are blowing, and I have in the last 10 years seen lot of changes with young faculty in various management colleges extremely motivated in doing good research and publishing it as well. However, more impactful work can be done, if we shift our mind-set from being a mere consumer to knowledge to being a producer of knowledge. I will end with a note about one of my favourite teachers who taught me at XLRI Jamshedpur, Prof Sharad Sarin. Prof Sarin has spent more than 40 years working in the practise, teaching and doing research on Business to Business markets.
He has authored several books on the subject, consulted wisely for decades to disseminate his knowledge to students as well as managers, and also published in good journals. In Prof Sarin, I could see the dedication to pursue his dream of contributing to the body of knowledge in Business markets that is produced from India. I am sure there are several such academics among us, if only we can search for our motivations to drive knowledge production with all our passion.