A close look into the institutions offering academic programs pertaining to the rural space has revealed that there are several programs that address the needs of development and social work as part of a Master's program. However, these programs were oriented more towards the social sciences and disregarded markets. Most students who graduated from such programs joined the nonprofit sector and in many cases took to activism. All the same, what the Rural India needs right now is empowerment. It needs managers with special skills with their heart in the right place and can understand the world of commerce. It needs people with specific skill sets and training for the rural sector as provided by Institutes such as the Institute of Rural Management Anand, founded by Verghese Kurien.
How it all began
Verghese Kurien, a renowned social entrepreneur, is best known as the "Father of the White Revolution", for his 'billion-litre idea' Operation Flood ï¿½ which made India the largest milk producer in the world, surpassing the USA in 1998. Kurien was made founder-chairman of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1965, to replicate Amul's "Anand model" nationwide. This is when he found that professionalizing the management of rural organizations calls for matching the unmet needs of the sector with the techniques and skills of management professionals. However, management professionals from traditional B-schools were not cut out for the job. Neither did they have the training or the expertise to deal with the rural scenario of our country that was when he founded Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) in 1979. Since it's inception, the rural management program has undergone a sea of change to adapt to the changing scenarios and it has faced its share of thwarts and retorts.
The Rural management program has received continued skepticism from students and the rest of the education community alike in the recent past. The dominant myth being that students graduate to train shepherds. IRMA has banished such fables with a 6 percent increase in maximum salary package at its campus from last year and by placing 100 percent of its students from the 2012 ï¿½ 2014 batch. While Mumbai-based IFTRA Foods India Pvt. Ltd made the highest salary offer of Rs. 19 lakhs, the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which owns and runs the Amul brand, emerged again this year as the largest recruiter with 15 offers. Last year, the highest package offered was that of Rs. 17.9 lakhs while the median salary package was around Rs. 7.09 lakhs. Even after delivering the figures, one may still ponder on how a rural management program can have such high demands?
A Unique Discipline Requires a Unique Pedagogy
The answer lies in the evolution of the program. IRMA's programs have been evolving ever since its inception. "These courses are very niche and they call for students with a different set of attitudes," says Prof. Jeemol Unni, Director, IRMA. The Program in Rural Management (PRM) was designed as a 12-month course to be followed by a year's apprenticeship in a rural producers' organization. The program evolved into the present two-year postgraduate diploma. Dr. Leela Dube, a sociologist, pioneered a course for the first batch in 1980, termed then "Rural Environment"; a foundation course which attempted to push a "business management techniques program design" towards asking questions about village society. It was also designed as a preparatory course to the "village field work segment"; which followed after the first semester. This pedagogy was an innovation for business schools in India: as the integration of a "fieldwork" segment, into a postgraduate business management curriculum, had never been attempted in the conventional IIMs, and in university sponsored MBA programs. The present structure of the field work segment, which follows after the first term, is a ten week exposure to "rural reality". Another innovation of IRMA, was the introduction of two internship segments - instead of the normal one - as in conventional Master of Business Administration programs. The validity of classroom theories and teaching, is sought to be put to actual test by PRM students- through applying these theories and learning, to shape managerial action in rural organizations. "The purpose of the programmes is to create professional managers to work with organizations and partner with people for equitable socio-economic development of rural India," she adds.
Such a unique discipline also requires a strong faculty. "An academically strong Faculty is the backbone of IRMA, the Faculty engages in teaching and training to create a generation of professional managers committed to IRMA's mission," says Unni. The faculty at the institute is engaged with the students, hands-on, at all the activities that they are involved in. They are constantly involved in consulting and conducting management development programmes and pursuing consulting assignments for member organizations; providing relentless support to the students as well as participants of various programs and events. "Visiting fellows are also an important part of the institute who stay for brief period contributing to specific needs of the institute in terms of consultancy, research and teaching," says Unni.
IRMA was founded with the belief that the key to effective rural development is professional management and it has been delivering on its promise since many years with many notable alumni in prominent positions. S. Sivakumar, CEO - Agri Businesses, ITC Limited, Sanjay Ghose, founder URMUL Rural Health Research and Development Trust and Charka Development Communication Network, Chittaroopa Palit (Silvy), Narmada Bachao Andolan, Apoorva Oza, CEO Aga Khan Rural Support Program to name a few. For a country of India's size and the number of problems we face, there is a need for lot more such institutions that can deliver rural exposure that IRMA is offering.
Programs that Prepare the Young Managers
Program in Rural Management
The program prepares young managers to undertake responsibilities in the rural sector and development organizations. It is a two-year residential program leading to a postgraduate Diploma in Rural Management (PGDRM).
Fellow Program in Rural Management
This doctoral-level residential program is for people who need specialized knowledge, skills and attitudes for positions in the co-operatives and development organizations. Each participant of the program receives a fellowship and contingency grant.
CRM is a one-year course for professionals working in cooperatives, development organizations and in other rural sector organizations.
Certificate Program in Dairy Management (CPDM)
A Certificate Program in Dairy Management (CPDM) of one-year duration is offered by the institute. IRMA and the sponsoring organization GCMMF selected the candidates jointly. The program is managed by a committee of five faculty members from IRMA, who are responsible for curriculum development, and engagement of faculty from external and internal sources.
The rural economy accounts for 50 percent of the country's gross domestic product. It also makes up 70 per cent of the country's population and 50 percent of the work force. - According to a study by Accenture.