What do students want? - TSCFM Director on the give & take of education today

Jayita Ekka updated on : 21 Mar 2016

With India's economy opening up, many more career options are available to students like social media manager, customer experience executive etc.

Mr. Akhil Shahani, Director of the Shahani Group and Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management (TSCFM), Mumbai is the third generation entrepreneur of the Thadomal Shahani Group and has 25 years of extensive experience across an array of business endeavours. He is spearheading the Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management (TSCFM) over last 7 years, which has helped TSCFM emerge as one of the most innovative management institutes in India. Under Akhil’s leadership, TSCFM features in the global network of 500 colleges and 75 leading universities.

While continuing his forefather’s insight, ‘Learn and Let Learn’, Akhil is at the forefront of supporting education through a myriad of initiatives. Currently Akhil also is pursuing his journey in learning, pursuing Doctorate in Education from University of Liverpool. An MBA from the Northwestern University - Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Chicago; he holds an engineering degree in Electronics from the Thadomal Shahani Engineering College.

HTCampus caught up with this dynamic entrepreneur, who shared his views on education in the present day, what students' expectations are from the education system and whether they are 'job-ready' are not. 

How is being the third generation entrepreneur of such an esteemed institution feel? 

I am very conscious of the 100 years of legacy my family has had serving in the field of education, so there is a great deal of responsibility to live up to that high ethical standard. I am also excited because the world is changing rapidly and India’s education system needs to also change to enable students to succeed in the fast moving global marketplace of the 21st century. I intend to have the Shahani Group of institutions lead at the forefront of this revolution in education so that our students have the tools to become successful leaders of tomorrow.

Amongst the lots of responsibilities on you, which are most challenging and delicate? And why?

Many of our students come from average family backgrounds and their parents are spending their hard earned money with the hope that we will help build their children’s careers. This is a great responsibility for us and we need to ensure that every member of our Shahani Group of institutions contributes to ensuring our students achieve their career aspirations.

In the last 7 years, what changes have you seen in the education industry?

As India’s economy has opened up, there are many more career options available to students like social media manager, customer experience executive etc. that didn’t exist a few years ago. Students are now more conscious of what they want to do and are looking for institutions that will help them achieve it. They are no longer willing to sit mute and be taught outdated information. Education institutions have had to start keeping up with student expectations. Those that are not able to do so, like many MBA and engineering colleges are closing down. Institutions that are able to keep up with industry needs are the ones that are succeeding today.

Has the way you provide education or how students consume education changed? If yes, in what way and what could be the reasons behind it?

We started the Thadomal Shahani Centre For Management (TSCFM) with the goal of creating employable management graduates for industry from the ground up. With this in mind, we understood what recruiters look for in job candidates and built our education system around getting our students job ready. This means that we needed to build their attitudes (like professional behavior and being self starters) and skills (like problem solving abilities and communication skills) along with imparting the latest industry domain knowledge. We also have one of the strongest industry connections among business schools in India, where corporate leaders interact with our students every week. These initiatives have enabled our students, who came to us with average academic performance, to build themselves into the sort of leadership oriented, employable graduates that recruiters prefer and to get jobs in the top companies of their dreams.

Akhil Sahani, Director - Shahani Group and Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management (TSCFM)

How do you project the growth of education industry to be, say, in the next 10 years or so?

India’s education sector is currently estimated to be at USD 105 Billion in size and growing at a CAGR of 17% every year. We have more than 50% of our 1.2 billion population is under the age of 25 years. I expect the education industry to explode in size as more young people get access to formal schooling & colleges.  

Core academics and soft skills training – do you think it is necessary to be adept in both to be successful? How does it help?

You need to be strong in skills AND domain knowledge to succeed in your career. In fact, the industry knowledge that you gain today will be obsolete in 3 years time. The most important skill you can develop is the ability to keep gaining new knowledge as you progress in your career. 

As an educationist, do you think that B-schools are cognizant of the industry demands in terms of curriculum and skill-set requirement? 

Unfortunately, there are very few B-Schools like ours that orient their curriculum & skill development towards industry needs. Those that cannot change and stick to being purely academic in nature are able to attract less students & may face closure over the longer term. The remaining will have to change to survive.   

Many B-schools have shut down in the last 2 - 3 years due to lack of students. Do you think the charm of B-school is depleting? Or what could be the reason behind it?

As mentioned above, B-Schools that have not changed as per industry needs and cannot give their students better career prospects will continue to close. The MBA still has value. However, students are now becoming more selective based on the sort of career prospects an institution can give them.  



You have a global network of 500 colleges and 75 leading universities. How do students benefit from that?

We are part of a global network that provides internationally recognized MBA’s, Post Graduate Diplomas and Professional Diplomas to more than 50,000 students in 56 countries around the world. This means that all our students get qualifications that are recognized by multinational companies and recruiters in these countries. Most PG Diplomas from Indian institutes are not recognized internationally, which limits their future career prospects. Our students are able to get high paying jobs anywhere in the world due to our global qualifications & connections. 

What are the USP’s of studying in TSCFM?

As mentioned above, getting an internationally recognized MBA along with strong industry interactions that build a student’s attitude, skills and knowledge to make them globally employable. 

What other education initiatives have you undertaken as part of the Shahani Trust &Shahani Academic & Global Empowerment (SAGE) Foundation?

The Shahani Trust & SAGE Foundation have served in the education space for more than six decades. We are on the board of 24 iconic colleges in Mumbai including Thadomal Shahani Engineering College, HR College, KC College & others. We have adopted 100 villages and are promoting their education via SAGE Foundation. 

What have been the key achievements of each of the above?

Our achievements in education have been widely recognized. We have received the Jamnalal Bajaj award for ethical practices, DNA award for industry institute connections & the Clinton Global Initiative certification for our work with villages. I have also personally received the Bharat Shiromani Award, PIMR Outstanding educationist award & Rex Karamveer Chakrafor my work in education. 

What are the reigning trends in the education industry?

Increased competition means that students expect their colleges to help them get better careers on graduation. Institutions need to gear up to be more focused on teaching real world skills and knowledge.

How important is research in management?

An institution should ensure it keeps upto date with new changes in the global markets. For example companies like Uber, Whatapp and Flipkart did not exist five years ago, but are now worth Billions. Management institutions need to be thought leaders in this area, need to study these new business models and share this research with their students and the wider corporate world. Additionally, the Indian market is different from the market in the US, we need to start creating management thought that applies to this environment rather than blindly aping research done in the west. 

Since Management is such a dynamic sector, on what basis are academic programmes assessed and developed? 

I believe that management institutions should have close ties with the corporate world and keep updating their curriculum based on corporate inputs. It is companies themselves that are aware of the latest changes in the market and what knowledge is needed by fresh graduates to succeed in this environment. Unfortunately, much of the curriculum offered by traditional Indian Universities and colleges is out of date and not relevant to industry. 

What should be the Top 5 things that one should keep in mind before getting into an entrepreneurial venture?

Any new entrepreneur should keep in mind these five things:
  • Do I have enough money to self-fund this business until I have a working prototype of my product or some paying customers for my service? Only once this is achieved can this be interesting to an angel investor.
  • Is my potential market large enough to grow my business to a multimillion dollar size, such that I can attract venture capital at a later stage?
  • Do I have other people in my team who have strengths that complement my weaknesses (e.g. tech skills, sales skills, product development skills)
  • If my business does not succeed, considering 80% new companies do not survive the first five years, will I have enough money to fall back on to sustain me until I find a new job?
  • How much am I willing to spend & how long am I willing to work until my business becomes profitable?

Please share you vision of MBA in India for the next 5 years. How will it change the dynamics of the market and therefore employment? 

There will always be a market for MBAs. However, B-Schools need to show that their graduates truly have the knowledge & skills needed by recruiters beyond those possessed by fresh BCom/BMS graduates that justify them getting better jobs with higher salaries. Unless they can show this value, they will not attract recruiters and will later not be able to attract students. 

Entrepreneurship is trending these days. Which fields in management do you think will reign in the next 5 – 10 years? 

Technology entrepreneurship is getting a lot of media coverage these days as it sounds glamorous. However, a student should never choose his or her career based on short term trends. There is a vast array of conventional and non-conventional career options available out there. It is important for students to know what they love to do & what they feel they can earn money doing before deciding on the right career path for themselves. 

Advice to our students for their education & career? How should they go about it?

Talk to as many people & research company/industry websites online to explore what career options are out there. Meet an educational counselor to find out how your strengths can be matched to specific careers. Try to get short internships in companies to try out different industries. Keep exploring until you find a job that you like while you are in your twenties. Settle down in a career path only once you reach 30. 


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