PROFESSOR VL MOTE AND MY JOURNEY TO IIMA FACULTY
-Narrative by Prof.Jahar Saha, former Director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad (1997 – 2002), with profound memories of Prof. Vasant L Mote (1933-2019).
Prof. V L Mote had been an extraordinary academician of IIMA, leaving lasting impressions among a generation of participants in PGP, MDPs, and the executives in organizations that had taken his consulting assistance. The PGP participants still talk about his MSM classes, with many participants in MEP and 3TP recalling his sessions on strategic decisions using conceptual knowledge in concrete managerial situations.
He had M.Sc. degree in Mathematics from Bombay University and PhD in Statistics from University of North Carolina, USA. He began his academic career as Assistant Professor at the University of Florida, USA. In this period, he published scholarly papers in prestigious Professional Journals like Annals of Mathematical Statistics, Biometrika and JASA. Considering family reasons, he was driven to come back to India. He joined Calico Mills and worked there for several years. During this time, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai invited him to join IIMA. He was the second faculty member to be appointed in IIMA on 14th August 1962 and was sent to International Teachers’ Programme (ITP) at Harvard Business School. This was his formal induction to Management Education. He had an impressive tenure at IIMA from 1962 to 1993. As the first Chairman of PGP, he was involved in deciding on the thrust and design of PGP courses. He had been the Chairman of Management Development Programmes, the thrust in which was the understanding of training needs in organizations and designing innovative programmes to meet them. The Management Education Programme (MEP), someone called it as IIMA’s best programme, is an example of the approach on how Prof. Mote wanted to institutionalize at IIMA. Prof. Mote was also the Chairman of one of the committees on Future Directions and a faculty nominee on IIMA’s Board of Governors. As the Chairman for Research and Publications, P&QM Area, and Centre for Regional Management Studies, he had more than his share of academic administration at IIMA. In every assignment, he had contributed significantly.
After leaving the institute, he was instrumental in improving the living conditions of workers in Arvind Mills. The living area of the workers was redone, providing every house with the facility of drinking water and a toilet. A primary school was also established. In the project just mentioned, there was an equal contribution from Arvind Mills, Ahmedabad Municipality and the workers. Under Arvind Mills, Prof. Mote also established a facility for augmenting the knowledge of students from Municipal Schools in Mathematics, English and Computer.
Prof. Mote was former President of Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) and had a significant contribution to AMA, which is now an esteemed secondary channel of education. World Health Organization (WHO) selected him, from nominees of few thousand across the globe, as a management expert to help a Committee on Tuberculosis, which was also looking at privatization of TB treatment.
He left for the heavenly abode on July 23, 2019, leaving a legacy of reminiscences behind.
BACKGROUND Sometime in August 1966, I met Prof. Mote. I was introduced to him when I joined IIMA as a Research Assistant in Production & Quantitative Methods (P&QM) area. At that point, I had B. Stat degree, a 4-year professional degree and Postgraduate Diploma in SQC & OR (Statistical Quality Control and Operations Research) from Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. My task was to assist him in his work. Much beyond the mundane or obvious, he would involve me in all his research and consulting projects, including innovative teaching. I assisted him in teaching Mathematics and Statistics for Management (MSM – I, II, III), along with Advanced Probability and Statistics. My assistance as a Research Assistant to Prof. Mote lasted for five years. During these five years, I also completed my M. Stat thesis under his supervision. With the exposure and guidance, I considerably improved my knowledge in many spheres, especially in Decisions under Uncertainty.We had been associated, for more than four decades, in many activities and were a sounding board of each other’s ideas, including the offering of MSM I course. With time, I became convinced of using the simplest tools of Mathematics and Statistics in resolving concrete managerial issues at organizational and public policy level, which was his core concern. Just about a month before he died, he had sent me a write up for comments where Prof. Madhavan and he used the concept of set covering in providing healthcare services to a large population in our country. I did the needful. He had a few more queries. Before I could respond, I got the message that he was no more. He was my ‘Guru’ and over time a good friend. I write this narrative to share a few experiences of my induction into IIMA and teaching at IIMA as his Research Assistant, along with his supervision in my M. Stat. thesis.
INDUCTING ME INTO IIMA I vividly remember our first meeting where he told me that we were two different persons and might have different points of view on many issues. He expected that we discussed these differences and see whether or not these differences could be sorted out. He said that if through discussion we could not sort them out, I should take them as honest differences and not criticism.
I had my first lessons on management education on that day. He said that manager deals with concrete issues faced in any organization. Every issue has alternative choices and the manager decides which option should be chosen. He said that every managerial issue is associated with uncertainties and choices are to be made under uncertainties. He also mentioned that dealing with any real managerial issue would require basic understanding of Accounting, Finance, Marketing and HR. He suggested that I should acquire this knowledge over time. He assured me that with my educational background I would be able to acquire the skills of making decisions in any managerial situation.
Prof. Mote told me on the first day that IIMA was set up to prepare students for managerial positions and I should put all my efforts to contribute to the success of the educational purpose of the institute. He emphasized that I should focus on what the institute wanted me to do. In the process of dealing with concrete and complex managerial issues, I would get areas to add to existing body of knowledge.
MY FIRST INDUCTION INTO TEACHING In late sixties, one year, the institute was short of faculty members to teach MSM I. PGP faculty agreed that we two Research Assistants in the P&QM area could teach one section each under the supervision of two faculty members. Prof. Mote was to supervise me. In the first meeting, he outlined how I could look at this assignment. He said that I could help participants in learning concepts by using concepts in concrete situations rather than doing the traditional teaching of transferring conceptual knowledge to them. If I agreed on this, he said that I should prepare a plan for each session. He added that he would like me to write out exactly how I would conduct a class to achieve the objective. Before every class, on the previous night, we would sit in his house with my written document. He would read my document with a tooth comb, asking questions like, ‘Do you mean this?’‘Could there be a better way to ask the question?’, and ‘What possible answers do you expect?’This exercise, most of the days, would conclude much after midnight. I would get a feel of the possible class dynamics and I would be prepared to deal with it. I do not know what he got out of it. It certainly helped me to become a facilitator in the learning process of the participants.
WORKING ON MY M. STAT THESIS UNDER PROF. MOTE’S SUPERVISION This was an experience! Prof. Raghavachari and Prof. Mote were working on a problem of scheduling the buses for a given set of trips so that the number of buses required was minimized. They formulated the problem as a decomposition of an acyclic set into a minimum number of chains. They extended an existing decomposition algorithm for a partially ordered set to obtain a required minimal decomposition of an acyclic set. They published this result in Management Science. Prof. Mote suggested to me that I could use their results in scheduling the buses for Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation. Usually, the number of trips operated by the transport corporation was very large. It turned out that Raghavachari- Mote algorithm was very time consuming for a large set of trips. My task was to find a way to solve the problem with a large set of trips, within a reasonable computing time on a computer. Prof. Mote would think of the problem all the time. He would have many ideas. I would implement them in computer programs and thus considerable amount of work was done. We were, however, not yet close to finding a satisfactory solution to the large problem. Prof. Mote probably thought that the quality and volume of work done met what an M. Stat thesis required. One night he asked me whether or not I had been writing the thesis. I said, “No, because my own ideas in the work done so far, in my judgment, are not substantial.” I said to him that I would find it difficult to accept the work till now as my own thesis. He became very angry and said, “Then you get ideas to solve the problem and complete your thesis.” He walked out of my office and went back to his office. I got back into the problem. I discovered that the formulation that we were using had a structure; and I got an idea to exploit the structure to develop a simple algorithm. I went to Prof. Mote’s office and told him about it. He could see through it and agreed that it would work, though details needed to be worked out. He was very happy. Next morning, the whole institute knew that I had a brilliant idea the previous night! I went through an experience, which I was told much later by my professor in the US, “We have to live with a problem and sleep with it. Even if we have to get away from it, we must come back to it with new energy; success will come”.
WORKING AS A RESEARCH ASSISTANT FOR PROF. MOTE I was not just a pair of hands to be used. He made me feel that I was a member in all his academic work. A typical question he would ask me, ‘How should we offer this?’ To Professor Mote, a course was not just a list of topics to be covered. It began with the learning that we would like participants to have at the end of the course; next listing all the issues to be included in the course and then choosing materials to be used for each issue. Lastly, we would decide on the assignments for each session. He used to tell me that the design of a course must also specify how we would evaluate participants’ performance in the course.
Quizzes, mid-term and final examinations were different components of the evaluation process. To him, a quiz was to test whether or not participants learnt what was covered in five/six sessions. The mid-term and final examinations were not only to test the understanding of participants’ conceptual knowledge but also to test their ability to use them in concrete situations. The decision on giving timely feedback was also a part of course design. We could not give a test prior to giving the feedback on the immediately preceding test. The evaluation was not just giving a ‘letter grade’ on the answer script; it included listing of components that we examined and indicating how well students did in each component. He used to tell me that we would give all the help that participants might need in the course, the evaluation would be of what they wrote in the answer scripts. It was hard but it was satisfying.
NEEDED SUPPORT WHEN I WAS IN DEPRESSION I must mention here at least one occasion from many, where I had tremendous support form Prof. Mote. At one point, I had doubted my capability to pursue a PhD. It was devastating. I also thought of quitting the institute. Professor Mote did not say anything for a couple of weeks. When I cooled down a bit, he talked to me. He said, “Are you serious on doing a PhD?” He added, “There are people who get things easily. There are, however, people who had to work hard to achieve their objective. You may be one who really has to work hard to do a PhD.” This changed me. I came back to working harder.
TO END Professor Mote was concerned about the learning of participants in a course or a programme. For Professor Mote, they were not a passive audience but active participants in the education process. He was hard if participants were lacking in their efforts to learn. He would spend enormous time and effort to find the best to offer to them. He would give assistance when anyone needed help. He would even go to the dorms to help. The evaluation of performance in the course was, however, based on written scripts. To him, MDPs were as important as PGPs. In PGP, the focus was on preparing individuals and in designing MDPs, the thrust was on how the strength of organizations needed to be enhanced. Like in PGP, in an MDP, executives were also participants. Since they had worked for a while and got used to a little physical comfort, they were given better physical facility. The objective was the same, to help them learn. Probably a little more respect was shown to their real life experience and age! One batch of MEP participants had asked for Pears Soap and Basmati rice. As Chairman of MDP Programmes, Professor Mote had a very interesting observation. He said, “You could meet their expectations. I am, however, a little concerned that your programme is not challenging their intellect. Do look into it.” Prof. Mote always used to worry about the programme content and its delivery so that executives learnt.
I could continue. I have to, however, stop. Before I stop, I must write about how I understood Prof. Mote as a person. The commitment to work was a hallmark of Prof. Mote. He left a mark on whatever he undertook. He used to tell me that we would do whatever we undertook to the best of our ability. I have seen what it meant. I wrote my first case under Prof. Mote’s supervision. He read what I wrote four/five times; every time came up with comments. I had to make four revisions before he approved of it. To achieve excellence was the purpose. He was convinced about the education process that was implemented at IIMA.
He was keen that all of us worked to achieve what the institute wanted to achieve; that way, he believed, we would grow together.
REMEMBERING DR. V L MOTE
-By Mr. Madan Mohanka (PGP 1967)
I met Dr. V L Mote on July 1965, the day I joined the second batch of Post Graduate Programme (PGP) at IIM Ahmedabad. Dr. Mote was the Chairman of the PGP. He welcomed all of us to the programme and to the Institute.
For the three classes of the first day, we were assigned three cases for discussion, one of them being for the first class in Accounting. My room-mate, Melkote Prasad, a graduate in Statistics, and I, a Civil Engineer, could not comprehend much of the case study. Incidentally, we did not know anything about accounting. We did not even hear the terms Debit and Credit. We realized that we would have difficulty in the Accounting course. In a few days, Melkote and I, therefore, went to Dr. Mote with a request for arranging a tutor for us in Accounting.
Melkote went to meet Dr. Mote in his office and I was waiting outside. On hearing our request, Dr. Mote said, “Here at the institute we will throw you out into the sea without asking whether you knew how to swim. If you could learn swimming on your own, it would be good, otherwise, you will get drowned and die! Now you can leave my room.” After listening to Melkote, I did not have the courage to go to Dr. Mote’s office and speak to him. We came back and there began our struggle to learn Accounting. In fifteen days Melkote and I learnt accounting and we were above average in the class.
Dr. Mote was a great leader. He had the ability to get the best out of people and he kept on doing so throughout his life. He also helped me realize that nothing is impossible to achieve.
After graduation from IIMA, I wanted to go to US and pursue my career there, because the salary offered at US was much higher in comparison to that in India. I approached Dr. Mote, told him of my intention and requested him for recommendation. He out rightly declined to do so. He said, “If people like you leave India, who will build India? I did not prepare you to go abroad and work there.” After that I never thought of leaving the country. TEGA would not have been born in mid seventies if I had gone away to US. I could set up TEGA as an enterprise to take care of the interest of the share holder, investor, its employees and the government.
Setting up TEGA manufacturing, a product with a new technology had high risk and I was not aware of it. Soon the company got into financial trouble; at one point of time the company needed Rs.15 lakhs as capital subsidy which was to be routed through the state government. Every time I made the application, the state government officials rejected the same with different reasons and sent back my application seeking for new information. They were indirectly persuading me to take care of them.
The values Dr. Mote imbibed in me helped to withstand and not to succumb to any kind of pressure. At last the subsidy was given without my succumbing to any kind of pressure whatsoever. In one of my most difficult times, Dr. Mote visited me in Kolkata along with Dr. Saha, to give me courage and support. Their advise helped me to develop ways to come out of the difficult situation and TEGA survived.
I would like to share my experience in case writing with him. Dr. Mote and Dr. Saha spent almost a month at my residence in writing the TEGA India Ltd., a series of five cases. Two of them would go through volumes of paper, talk to me and my colleagues in the office and plants, sit with me late in the night, and question me to understand what had been happening in TEGA. On one occasion, they spent one whole night with my colleagues at the Kalyani plant. I understood, it required hard work to get into the shoes of the person at the helm. There was no computer or electronic typewriter. Everything was to be hand written first and then a typist would type them manually. I learnt how to achieve perfection through resilience and perseverance.
I hope, those who would like to write cases on concrete situations which some one faced in practice should read TEGA India Ltd (A), (B), (C), (D) and (E). They reflect Prof. Mote’s commitment and passion to how materials have to be developed for using in management education.