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"Ever since it was set up in the early 1960s--a period of great anxiety about nation building, it has responded positively to the demands made on it by a changing environment."
IIMA has crossed 60. But it remains youthful and vibrant. Ever since it was set up in the early 1960s--a period of great anxiety about nation building, it has responded positively to the demands made on it by a changing environment. This issue of 'Brick by Brick', the first, introduces you to a few personalities who have made such a happy state possible, with their ability to envision an institute, and nurture it during the critical first decade of its existence. Our foremost debt is to Dr. Vikram A. Sarabhai (1919-71), the illustrious physicist and space research pioneer. He was also a great institution builder, and when an opportunity to set up an institute for the emerging and alien discipline of 'management education' arose, he quickly seized it and translated the idea into a brick-and-mortar institution. He served as the honorary, part-time director of IIMA for a little over three years (1962-65). Given his deep engagement with India's science and technology, space and nuclear power programmes, one wonders how he found time for the institute. Perhaps he realized the potential of management education long before others did. In this task of envisioning and building IIMA, he was assisted by two other key figures of Gujarat. Kasturbhai Lalbhai (1894-1980), another pioneer in public policy and institution building, was instrumental in enlisting the support of local industrialists for the idea of a management education institute. He served on the Board of Governors of IIMA for several years, playing a crucial role in developing the campus infrastructure. Dr. Jivraj N. Mehta (1887-1978), a renowned physician, freedom fighter, administrator and the first Chief Minister of Gujarat, was the first Chairperson of the Board of Governors, and ensured that IIMA received enough land for its campus.
Another international dimension was added to IIMA's development when the Estonia-born American architect Louis I. Kahn (1901-74), was chosen by Vikram Sarabhai and Kasturbhai Lalbhai as the campus architect. He began his work in November 1962, and actual construction on the iconic IIMA campus began on September 9, 1964. The first buildings built were some faculty houses and dormitories (student hostels). The main academic complex soon followed. Kahn was assisted by the well-known Indian architects, Balkrishna V. Doshi and Anant Raje.
Finally, we come to three people who established many of the internal processes that IIMA continues to follow to this day. These individuals ensured that the institute developed a culture of excellence. Dr. Kamla Chowdhry (1920-2006) was a pioneering management educationist, institution builder, researcher in the field of organizational behaviour, and the first faculty member of IIMA. During Vikram Sarabhai's tenure as honorary director, she handled the daily affairs of the institute-in a note to the Board of Governors dated April 30, 1964, Sarabhai wrote, "I have been the part time Honorary Director of the Indian Institute of Management since its creation almost two years ago. During this period, the full-time responsibility has mainly been carried by Dr. Kamla Chowdhry..." Dr. Chowdhry spent a year at the Harvard Business School (1961-62), working with Prof. Harry Hansen on the academic and faculty recruitment plans for IIMA, before formally joining IIMA in July 1962. She helped design IIMA's highly successful Three-tier Executive Education Programme. She left IIMA in 1972 and after working with the Ford Foundation India Office for some time, moved on to public policy consultancy revolving around institution building, environmentalism, women's rights and Gandhian philosophy. Mr. Prakash Tandon (1911-2004) was one of the leading business leaders of twentieth-century India, a pioneer in professional management and the first Indian Chairman of Hindustan Unilever Limited (then Hindustan Lever Limited). He was appointed to the IIMA Board of Governors in 1962 and was the Board's second Chairperson from 1964 to 1969. Ravi J. Matthai (1927-84) was the first fulltime director of IIMA (1965-72). He received his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Economics from the University of Oxford. After a stint in a private firm in Kolkata he became professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, before moving to IIMA as director in August 1965. Many observers have highlighted his strong faith in faculty governance, academic freedom and autonomy tempered with accountability, self-regulation, and self-renewal, best captured in this extract from a 1968 speech: "The establishment of an educational institute is an act of faith. The trust we need is the trust required of such an act of faith. This trust is translated into the freedom given us. The freedom to do what we think is appropriate; the freedom to do it the way we think it appropriate; the freedom to experiment and innovate; the freedom to plan and determine the rate and direction of our progress. This is the source of our motivation and creativity."
Many others-faculty members, staff members, students, alumni, and other well-wishers, contributed to strengthening IIMA during entered its early years. Their unselfish work, added to the contributions of those discussed earlier, set the foundations for an institute that would soon be called upon to respond to many influences, including internationalization of business, globalization and the information technology explosion, that changed management and management education significantly. How the institute managed to do this, however, is another story. Please visit the IIMA Archives website: archives.iima.ac.in, for more stories on the six decade-long journey of IIM Ahmedabad.
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