Turning Students To Rural Managers, IRMA Is Continuing Dr Verghese Kurien's Legacy
The rural economy has been a subject of research for many. Several economists have come up with ideas to develop the Indian rural sector but not as efficiently as Dr. Verghese Kurien. The father of the white revolution when started Amul, not only helped dairy farmers but also put forth a self-sustainable model in rural economy dominated by middle-men. Today Dr Kurien established, Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), is creating several managers, who are following the footsteps of Dr Kurien, making the rural economy more profitable for the deprived.
The Foundation Of IRMA
Established in 1979, IRMA is a brainchild of Dr. Verghese Kurien. Dr Kurien who has been attributed with multiple titles such as Father of the White Revolution, the Milk Man of India, and awardee of countless awards such as Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, and World Food Prize incepted the institute to professionalise the development of India’s rural sector.
Dr Kurien who renounced high paying jobs and a luxurious lifestyle at the early 60s had a vision to empower 74 per cent ( 70 per cent rural population + 4 per cent India’s urban poor) of India’s population who are deprived. This sector only contributes 17 per cent of national income as they are generally stripped off from the development story of the country.
From lack of opportunities, low incomes, joblessness and access to modern technology, the deprived battle every day to earn a decent livelihood. The Ramon Magsaysay awardee – Dr Kurien found a panacea to these challenges. He discovered the operation of institutions at the grassroots through professional management expertise will meteorically improve the livelihood of the rural population and uplift the country’s economy. The biggest example of such a successful institution that brought about significant change is the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, popularly known by its brand name, Amul, which has transformed the lives of over 6 million dairy farmers.
Shivansh Mishra, Manager Communication, IRMA while speaking to The Logical Indian said that in late 70’s Dr Kurien was one of the board of governors of IIM Ahmedabad. Mishra, who is also an alumnus of IRMA said that Dr Kurien at that point of time noticed that most of the graduates from the institute used to go abroad and settle there working either working for multinational companies or banks.
“One day during a board meeting, Dr Kurien proposed the idea that students should serve the country for at least three years before going abroad. To this, an industrialist who was in the meeting while lighting his cigar mockingly said to Dr Kurien that you want our students to milk cows?” To which Dr Kurien said, “No, you continue to teach them how to suck on cigars.” Dr Kurien later resigned from the board.
Ravi Matthai, then Director of IIM-A, and a close friend of Dr Kurien suggested him to start his own institution, and that’s how on December 14, 1979, IRMA was established.
The institute offers a Post-graduate Diploma in Rural Management and an Executive Post-graduate Diploma in Management (Rural). The highlight of the courses is an eight-week long village fieldwork segment which helps the students to understand how people in rural India lives, what they eat, how they meet days end. The institute has a 100 per cent attendance policy.
How Will Rural Managers Underpin Rural India’s Struggle?
To understand how fresh graduates from IRMA/ professional rural managers will serve the underserved, the writer had an interaction with Hitesh V Bhatt, Director, IRMA.
To explain the vital role an IRMA graduate plays, Mr Bhatt gave the example of a graduate who went to Kerala and solved the fishermen’s problem.
“One of our first graduates went to Kerala and noticed that fishermen were going into the sea at the break of dawn, risking their lives to catch as many fish possible. They return to the shore at 8 am,” he added. “The fishermen know they have to sell fish fast, or else they will rot. However, the problem is the consumption centre/market is pretty far from the shore,” continued Mr Bhatt.
Taking a sip of green tea, he said that at this point, a middle man would come and buy these fish at an unattractive rate to sell them at a high price in the market. “Understanding this, our student started a co-operative – South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS) where he brought all the fishermen together under one roof and started selling the product at a price which is good for them,” added Mr Bhatt. Mr Bhatt proudly said the graduate empowered the fishermen. He, however, said that all middlemen are not corrupt, but there is only a handful of them who would empower the community.
He further said that today IRMA’s graduates apart from empowering underserved, are also working for organisations which work for the people such as State Rural Livelihoods Mission (SRLM), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), UNICEF, World Bank, and ActionAid.
He said if a farmer is producing more, he will earn more, he will consume more, which will help the manufacturing sector to earn more profit, thus uplifting the country’s economy.
On asking what differentiates IRMA from other business schools, Mr Bhatt said, “Other B schools are not able to aspire students to serve people the way we do.” It will not be wrong to say that IRMA is continuing Dr Kurien’s legacy even after 40 years.