Professor Ravi John Matthai worked in the Marketing Area from 29th August 1965 to 13th February 1984.
He was the Institute’s first fulltime Director. He succeeded Dr Vikram Sarabhai. After stepping down as Director, he worked with IIMA in the Marketing Area as Senior Faculty until his passing away.
Prof Matthai was born in Trivandrum, Kerala. He studied at the Doon School, Allahabad University and Oxford University. After receiving his BA (Honors) in Economics from Oxford, he joined MacNeill & Baryy Limited in Kolkata. In 1963, he left MacNeill to join IIM Kolkata as a Senior Professor. Later, he worked for a year as a Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It was under his stewardship that IIMA earned its well established reputation across the globe. With his entrepreneurial and managerial skills, Prof Matthai built an educational institute of excellence. In September 1972, he stepped down from his post as Director and stay on as a professor with the Institute. He was convinced that a new style of leadership may be in order. Prof Matthai believed that permanency of directorship often leads to stagnancy in educational institutions.
In 1975, Prof Matthai decided to test whether corporate management disciplines could be related to gut issues of Indian poverty. He selected Jawaja block which included about 200 villages with a population of approximately 80,000 people in a drought prone district of Rajasthan. The area was then regarded by the government authorities as devoid of any scope for development. Believing that people were the greatest resource for development, Matthai began to work with village communities on issues of livelihood and empowerment in an environment that was (and still remains) among India’s most degraded and oppressive. Volunteers from IIMA and the National Institute of Design (NID) joined with local citizens in the search for livelihood options that could be sustained in the face of social, environmental and political challenges.
This experiential learning of running a grass root development project, led to the setting up of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand. Ravi Mathai, and two of his former IIMA colleagues, Dr. Kamla Chowdhry and Dr. Michael Halse are credited with conceptualising the need for an independent Institute of Rural Management. The institute was established in Anand, at the express invitation of Dr.Verghese Kurien then Chairman of the National Dairy Development Board. Ravi Mathai was associated in the initial years in various capacities - being a member on the Board, directly in teaching students, apart from informally mentoring the faculty.
As Senior Faculty at the Institute, Prof Matthai published several works. He authored The Rural University: The Jawaja Experiment in Educational Innovation (1985). His documented experiments on educational innovation received acclaim from the Indian Government who often sought his advice on several matters. He was a member of various social, educational, research, and corporate organizations.
The National Institute of Design (NID) at Paldi, Ahmedabad, has a Ravi J Matthai Design Research Chair for ‘design innovation for enriching school education, craft sectors and design research’’. It focuses on developing a range of design research related projects and activities in this area.The institute library at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand and the Centre for Educational Innovation at IIM Ahmedabad are named after him.
In 1986, IIMA established the Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation (RJMCEI), to conduct research and undertake training activities to influence the management of education systems in India.
Prof Matthai passed away in London after a bypass surgery.
His inspirational speech at the first convocation of the National Institute of Design (NID) can be heard on the following link.
Date of Birth: 6th August 1927
Date of Death: 13th February 1984
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