Prof Biswajeet Pattanayak created history by introducing the blockbuster ‘Lagaan’- a commercial movie – in serious classroom teaching at the prestigious IIMs and corporate board rooms. He pursued his passion and founded ASBM University, a reputed educational institution in the country. There are many achievements and awards to his credit for his devotion to education. In an interaction with Orissa POST, Pattanayak, Founder & Group Director of ASBM, spoke about his journey as an educator. Excerpts…

How was the idea of ASBM born?

I started my career at SAIL working as an occupational management psychologist at Rourkela Steel Plant. Because of my love for and interest in teaching, I decided to switch over to academics. I was selected as assistant professor at National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE, Mumbai), Government of India. There, I was privileged to train more than 1,000 top executives from more than 200 reputed companies. Later, I moved to Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow and was the founding Chairperson of the Management Development Programme there. I also worked for ESSAR Group as its HR Head, then in IIM – Indore and thereafter I was the Director of Indian Institute of Bank Management, Guwahati, an RBI Institute.

I strongly believe that when somebody is in the prime of his/her career, he/she should look back to the origin and try to do something for his/her own state. Since I was in the field of management education, I thought of creating opportunity to provide such education to the students of Odisha. Because of this passion, I resigned from the director’s post and returned to Odisha to become an educational entrepreneur, or edupreneur. The news shocked my friends, acquaintances and well-wishers, because entrepreneurship was frowned upon in those days. But I came here precisely because of my thought process. Leaving the cozy positions that I held was a great challenge, by God’s grace and with the support of my friends, my vision became a reality in 2006 and ASBM was established.

How did you earn the name of ‘Lagaan Professor’?

It is a very interesting story. Once I went to a theatre to watch the movie ‘Lagaan’. I found that the entire gamut of organisational behaviour and human resource management was depicted nicely in that story. It is necessary for a leader to spot talent and then manage it effectively for organisational success, as Amir Khan did in the film. So, while watching it, suddenly an idea struck me that the story could be used to teach management education. I developed the case study and used it first in the classroom of IIM– Indore. My students liked it very much and the case study became internationally popular. I have conducted the ‘Lagaan Workshop’ for many corporate houses. I also conducted this workshop in an international conference in China at the invitation of the American Psychological Association. Because of this, my students and also my colleagues started calling me as the‘Lagaan Professor’.

It is very satisfying for me as a teacher, when I think out-of-the-box. This, in fact, has led to the International Teaching Excellence Award that has been bestowed on me by Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), USA.

Do you think Indian education system focuses on exams rather than learning?

Education enlightens you with knowledge; that knowledge has to be translated into skills, and skills into competence. I think examinations should be there to evaluate the competence. But learning shouldn’t be examination-centric. The students should not learn only to fetch marks in the examination. Apart from examination, the students should prioritise learning and knowledge acquisition. For this to happen, we all need to create an environment of learning.

Do we need a revised education system to boost employability?

Unfortunately, employability is pretty low now because of the present emphasis on theoretical perspective with bookish knowledge without understanding the practical implications. The New Education Policy is very much pragmatic and can give a boost to learning along with employability. What is important now is its proper execution. One more thing – coaching centres should be abolished, and the students should have a parallel integrated journey along with their academic curricula.

To give an example, we use an integrated ‘Finishing School’ model in ASBM. When new students enter the university, we map them for their language proficiency and conduct psychometric test to understand their attitude. Then we keep on imparting training along with classroom education. At the end, full dress rehearsal is held by inviting the recruiters to conduct mock interviews. This prepares the students to face the actual recruitment process with confidence. This is why our placement record is excellent from the inception.

How does ASBM handle stress on students?

The present generation is very ambitious. The students are knowledgeable and informative. The only thing that they lack is focus. We address this concern by appointing mentors. Each teacher works as a mentor to a small group of students. We also organise multiple activities for the students to engage them and reduce their stress. Even during this pandemic and lockdowns, ASBM has conducted the highest number of webinars in the country and also online certificate courses

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