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FORSAW, SOMA and FII - Students Learning to Apply their Knowledge
"One way in which students have tried to live up to this motto is by reaching out to people who might benefit from their skills and knowledge."
The IIMA logo carries a one-line motto, 'vidyaviniyogadvikasah'. This imperative, added in 1967, exhorts IIMA to 'apply (or distribute) knowledge, for development'. One way in which students have tried to live up to this motto is by reaching out to people who might benefit from their skills and knowledge. The initial efforts, in the 1970s, coalesced around FORSAW, the FORum for Social AWareness. Students reached out to social action groups and tried to learn from them while also contributing to improving their practices. Even though the forum faded away, many students, as part of their project course work, have contributed to improving practice in social and development organizations. These projects number in the hundreds. Prof. Anil Gupta, who retired in 2016, recalls a significant project: a plan to rehabilitate people who had lost their handcarts in the 2001 earthquake; "Madhabi Puri Buch [the current SEBI Chairperson] worked on one such project--she worked on street children and their educational needs." Another student project in the early 1980s tied in with work on tribal development. Organizations that benefited from such projects included the large ones like SEWA as well as very small organizations. This kind of work was in evidence even during emergencies, During the 2001 earthquake, IIMACORE, a temporary organization set up by IIMA faculty and students, undertook relief work using CR 324 (the present Yoga Centre) as a godown and control centre. This group dealt with about 200 voluntary organizations, receiving donated material at night, and some students and faculty members getting the material ready for shipment by early morning. This went on for a month, up to March 1, 2001. Soon after the earthquake, some students visited the airport and saw the chaos there--relief material was piling up and no one seemed to have a clue about what to do with it. Within a day, they had prepared a computer-based program to track supplies; this was given to the Relief Commissioner. At his request, the students also made a simple website on how to respond to aftershocks. This included data on forecasts of aftershock waves--and had advice on how to respond to tremors; for example, by highlighting that the corners or the doorframes were relatively safe places.
Forum for Industry Interaction (formerly known as Students' Organization for Managerial Assistance, SOMA) propagates world class managerial practices to fledgling businesses, NGOs, and established business houses. FII has successfully carried out consultancy projects in finance, strategy, operations research, marketing strategy, start-up ventures, informational technology, and organizational design for clients as diverse as Bosch Rexroth, RPG, Symphony Air Coolers, Shoppers Stop, Ingersoll Rand, Blue Star Diamonds, CEON, CRY, SEWA, AMC, and Disaster Mitigation Institute. Students get a chance to apply their academic concepts to solve real life issues and clients get access to cutting edge solutions from future leaders of the corporate world.
FII coordinators were proactive in reaching out to potential clients. A 2009 mail sent out for a possible assignment on speed valves is reproduced here, courtesy Prof. Anil Gupta:
From: John Cherian (8johnc[at]iimahd[dot]ernet[dot]in)
Date: Fri, 3 Jul 2009 at 11:15
Subject: Student consulting expertise from the Forum for Industry Interaction, IIMA
Cc: Thahir N M Student (8thahirn[at]iimahd[dot]ernet[dot]in),
Prof. Anil Gupta (anilg[at]iimahd[dot]ernet[dot]in)
Dear Mr. Pathak,
Greetings from the Forum for Industry Interaction (FII), the student consulting body at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (Website: www.iimafii.org). We offer quality management consulting for SMEs, entrepreneurs and NGOs across areas such as Strategy, Finance, Operations, Marketing, Human Resources, and Information Technology. FII has been on campus for decades under the brand name SOMA (Student's Organization for Managerial Assistance) and has had several satisfied clients for projects in different areas of management.
We heard from Prof. Anil Gupta about your project on speed valves and the interest it is generating around the world. We would love to add some value to this project. We can provide a business plan for the project/ conduct marketing research studies for the same. We welcome you to our campus to start a project along with FII and gain access to our varied and diverse pool of talent.
Please use the following links to get more information about us.
1. The value proposition of FII
(if this link does not work, please paste http://iimafii.org/downloads/FII_2009_Value_Proposition.ppt in your browser and click Go).
2. Our detailed brochure
(if this link does not work, please paste http://iimafii.org/downloads/FII_Brochure_2009.pdf in your browser and click Go).
I would be very much obliged, if you could please go through the same and get back to us at 8johnc[at]iimahd[dot]ernet[dot]in on how we can build a relationship with you, going forward. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
The fees that FII charged was used to award prizes to students who performed well. FII involved faculty as mentors and judges of the work done. Faculty mentoring added to the students' learning and to the legitimacy of the work. FII has been featured in major newspapers like the Economic Times, Time of India and on various other channels through the years. For example, a June 2015 report in a newspaper highlighted the work done for an inter-governmental skill development agency, and for a French coalition of 1,000 small and medium enterprises that wanted to understand the SME sector in India. Other clients in 2014 included Amazon, GE, Saint Gobain, Adani, Infibeam, Onida, Glotera and CISCO. The report also noted that the fees organizations paid (2014-15) were INR 30,000 (NGOs and start-ups) and INR 55,000 (established businesses). The number of projects done during this period averaged 40 per annum.
The scope of FII, which became an ISO 9001:2008 certified organization, has increased from doing live projects to conducting national and international competitions in partnership with other similar consulting bodies. With virtual internships and projects becoming a possibility, students now get the opportunity to do national and global projects. Clients have paid to fly students out to their offices, just like they would do any professional consultant. International collaborations and partnerships have increased. With an increase in the number of start-ups being launched, especially by IIMA alums, FII has become the go-to consulting body to work with the bright young minds of IIMA.
With inputs from Profs. Anil Gupta and Vijaya Sherry Chand, and Shivani Agarwal, Secretary, Forum for Industry Interaction (FII) of IIMA.
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