AG Talk| We would like to achieve 100% employment for our students:Kapur

ISDI WPP School of Communication, set up in Mumbai, seeks to educate and train media and advertising aspirants at undergrad level. The three year course would focus on Industry extensive infield training, experiential learning, workshops, eminent visiting faculty in addition to the regular classes and practical. had a freewheeling conversation with Ranjan Kapur, Country Head, WPP and the anchor of the institute on its setting up, curriculum, USP and future plans. Excerpts of the conversation:

Adgully (AG): Why did WPP decided to start the institute in relationship with ISDI?

Ranjan Kapur (RK): Dr. Sahani of ISDI always believed that if top management from the industry gets together with academia, far more meaningful courses can be created. We had an initial chat about five years back. Obviously it took time for them to find a place, an investment body etc. Interestingly, about two years ago, Dr. Sahani met Martin Sorrell on a flight and mentioned it briefly. Martin knew I too was keen on setting up an institute, and when he broached the subject with me, I was more than keen. In the meantime, they set up the ISDI School here, a clear indication that they were serious.

An MOU was done. Martin who came here and addressed students in the school, went back convinced that this is the school we should go with.

AG: Tell us about the core strengths of the institute?

RK: Our major core strength is that students are being taught by some of the senior members in the industry. Next, you get a chance to be a part of a work study program that no one else offers to the best of my knowledge. Third is creating a working environment for the students not just through internships but through workshops and other means of experiential learning.

AG: Can you give us a few basic details about workings of the school?

RK: Financials of the institute are managed by ISDI, while we manage the development of the course curriculum and the visiting faculty. This would be a three year undergrad course. Currently, we have about 35 volunteers, most of them from WPP group companies. They are specialists in media, advertising, public relations, activation, digital media and other such areas. Handpicked permanent faculty would be supplemented by industry experts from these fields as visiting faculty.

Among the WPP professionals who would visit are CVL Srinivas, Piyush Pandey, Madhukar Sabnavis, Sunil Lulla, Tushar Vyas and others such. You can imagine how informative and interesting workshops and discussions with them be for the students!

AG: How about the practical training? 

RK: Besides, teaching the course, visiting faculty would also manage workshops, field visits etc. It could be a visit to a client’s factory, A TV commercial shoot, an interaction with a media house – there are many such concepts. WPP would leverage its training programs and workshops too.

AG: How would ISDI WPP differ from MICA?

RK: There is no school in India at the undergrad level in this field. It is important to get people at the formative stages. Each of the students will be interning with various verticals, depending on their inclination. Our senior staff that will be mentoring the students, will get a fair idea on their mind bend, and steer them in the right direction.

AG: Where do they go for their specialisation after the course completion here?

RK: They are free to specialise wherever they want to. Hopefully, we will soon have advanced courses here as well. These would be 9 or 11 month courses that people can attend in their spare time; same as in Harvard Business School.

AG: What degree would the students get on completion of undergrad course?

RK: A degree in sociology. We have remote learning option available from Mumbai University.

AG:What kind of employability would the students have?

RK: This program is an embodiment of our commitment to make sure we create employable youth. There is a lot of excitement already because some of our faculties from the design school are looking into doing projects with the WPP School. Some of the students in the WPP School want to come into the design school. The creative ecosystem that we are creating here helps in cross pollination across the schools. In my view there will be wide opportunities not only for the communication students but also for the design students.

With the advent of social media and networking, we will see the students taking this program to another level and hopefully that will make a difference as well.

AG: How about the opportunities within WPP group itself?

RK: We have 63 companies, 240 offices and 15000 people working with us. We need placements of up to 3000 people a year of which 2000 are replacements and about a 1000 need to be hired. We said why not train our own recruits.  Therefore, it is not just a work study program, it is a training program.

AG: Are you looking at visiting faculty coming from beyond WPP too?

RK: A number of senior advertising professionals who have moved to the client side are keen to join in. I am really happy that so many people are ready to take the initiative. Having said that, majority of the visiting faculty initially would be from WPP.

I am sure that there would be many others coming from the industry in the future. If we take the example of MICA, initially it must have been Krishnamurthy’s effort to put it together. Every new venture takes time. Once it settles down, you plan the next step.

AG: Would international leadership of WPP to come on Board as visiting faculty?

RK: It is an interesting question. However, the visiting faculty compromises of people who are stationed here. Right now we cannot afford to pay for their travel to invite them especially as visiting faculty. However, if they are here on business, we can always request them to extend their stay and address the students or hold a workshop.

AG: A number of management institutes now have media and communication courses. Where do you find them lacking?

RK: It has all got to do with the fact that there is theory and then there is practice. There is a huge gap between the theory and practice, which creates employability issues.

Employability is the biggest issue to address in the country right now. Dr Sahani shared some numbers with us the other day that only 16% of people at the postgraduate level are employable as per a study by Rajiv Gandhi Institute published in Mumbai Mirror. The study states that at the undergraduate level only 4-5% are employable. That is shocking. We would like to achieve 100% employment for our students, but at the same time we do hope that at the least 90% are employed.

AG: Tell me a little bit on the training part of it. Will the training be at the WPP Agency?

RK: Training would be more like an internship. They would go in between semesters. For instance, before they go in their second year, they would do internship for a couple of months and would be assigned a project. They would be given credits for that project and if I am not mistaken, credits will actually count towards the end of the semester in their final marks. If you took at other PG course in communication, students are advised to do an internship but how many of them actually undergo the internship? How many of them are credited for doing this project within any firm?

AG: Will they get global exposure?

RK: Why not? I am hoping that at least a couple of our students could actually have internship in an overseas company. Besides the best performing students might be sent to countries like Singapore, Shanghai or any other post six months rigorous on-job training, if they fit the bill. However, I cannot guarantee anything at this point, it is far too early.

AG: Are you planning to expand it to other cities?

RK: I would like to expand it to Delhi as Delhi market is almost as large as Mumbai is. However, before we make any concrete decisions, let us evolve. We are going to crawl first few months and then let us see how we sort of stand-up start walking and run.

AG: And you will be the anchor of this entire institute?

RK: Yes, I am the anchor from WPP side, but I think we are all anchors. Having said that, I am representing the WPP side, I have initiated it and I am responsible and accountable for it.



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