Vinita S Sahay – Exploring Avenues to Identify Student’s Interests and Abilities

  • Kindly brief us in short about you and your journey since the beginning of your career.

Dr Vinita Singh Sahay is the founder-director of IIM Bodh Gaya and has been recently appointed for a consecutive second term. She is the driving force in making IIM Bodh Gaya an eminent management institution in this country. She carries 27 years of rich experience spanning academics, research, training, and consulting both in India and abroad.

She excelled consistently with higher ranks throughout her academic career. She is a Gold Medallist in M.A. in Economics and has done her PhD in Customer Value. She worked as a Visiting Professor at the Aarhus University, Denmark, for ten years (2009-2018). Prof. Sahay participated in the ‘Global Colloquium on Participant-Centered Learning (GloColl)’ at the Harvard Business School, Boston, U.S. and at the Harvard Centre, Shanghai, China. She also participated in the “Developing Leadership, Governance & Management in Higher Education” programme conducted by Leadership Foundation for Higher Education & UKIERI in Birmingham, UK.

Before leading IIM Bodh Gaya, she worked as a Professor of Marketing at IIM Raipur from 2012 to 2018. During these years, she held several academic leadership positions, including Chairperson (International Relations), Chairperson (Doctoral Programmes) and membership in many committees. Before her stint at IIM Raipur, Prof. Sahay was the Professor & Chairperson of PGDM Programmes at IMT Ghaziabad. She has conducted many Management Development Programmes and several Consulting assignments for both Public & Private sector organizations.

In addition to her academic expertise, Prof. Sahay has consistently enhanced her work on the research vertical. She has published and presented over 70 research papers in International/National Journals/ Conferences and book chapters. She has organized Six large international conferences, and edited six books. As a token of excellence for her work, she has received many academic awards, including the best paper award.

Also, she is the Independent Director at BSE Subsidiary-India INX, India’s 1st international exchange, located at GIFT CITY IFSC in Ahmedabad. She is Member of the General Council of National Board of Accreditation, and also a member of the All-India Board of Management Studies AICTE. She was the Chairperson of the Selection Committee of Lilavati Awards for Women Empowerment, and she has also contributed as an Expert on several UGC Committees.

Dr Vinita Sahay has made remarkable progress since assuming the position of Founder and Director of IIM Bodh Gaya in 2018. Since then, she has set up a world-class, state-of-the-art campus and has shaped the Institute into a “research-based business school”. Besides the flagship MBA Programme, she initiated a PhD Programme and a Five-Year Integrated Programme in Management (BBA+MBA). This year the Institute has launched two specialised MBA programmes under her guidance, namely, MBA in Digital Business Management and MBA in Hospital and Healthcare Management. Currently, Dr Sahay is focusing on consolidating the institution’s position as a world-class business school.

  • How do you use technology in the classroom?

IIM Bodh Gaya has successfully integrated technology into the classroom to enhance the learning experience for the students. They can engage with digital content, collaborate effectively, and access online resources through virtual learning classrooms, big screens for multimedia presentations, and seamless WiFi connectivity. The institution provides access to a wide range of e-books, journals, software and other databases. Instructors incorporate multimedia content such as videos, animations, and interactive simulations to simplify complex concepts in the classroom. Online assessment and feedback systems, like LMS, Moodle, Google Classroom, enable effective personalized guidance and tracking of the academic progress of the students. By thoughtfully leveraging technology, IIM Bodh Gaya creates a dynamic learning environment that equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the digital age.

  • What has been one of your most outstanding contributions to the institution you have worked in for their development?

Dr. Sahay has made remarkable contributions to the academia and the growth of the institutes she has worked for. Like from a batch size of 38 students in 2018 to a robust student base of 1140 in about 5 years with five long duration fulltime residential courses hence providing opportunity to over 1100 students to change the orbit of their lives has been one of the highest points that too without compromising on the quality standards.

As the Founder-Director of IIM Bodh Gaya she has been instrumental in the construction of the permanent campus and developing an exceptional & diverse faculty pool. She played a pivotal role in launching programmes such as the Ph.D. Programme, a Five-Year Integrated Programme in Management (BBA+MBA), MBA in Digital Business Management and MBA in Hospital and Healthcare Management.

She has also established specialized centers like “Samatvam: The Centre for Mindfulness” and the E-Cell, which focuses on promoting mindfulness and nurturing entrepreneurship among students. Her commitment to corporate social responsibility is evident through the institute’s CSR initiatives and social outreach programs, reflecting her dedication to giving back to society.

Furthermore, she prioritizes capacity building by offering training programs for professionals from public and private organizations, fostering a culture of continuous learning and skill development. Under her leadership, IIM Bodh Gaya has transformed into a research-focused business school and has made significant progress toward obtaining AACSB accreditation, a testament to her vision and commitment to academic excellence.

Through her relentless efforts and strategic leadership, Vinita Sahay has positioned IIM Bodh Gaya as a renowned educational institution recognized for its academic excellence, innovation, and societal impact. Her contributions have not only elevated institute’s standing but have also created a lasting legacy, shaping the future of business education in India.

  • Please tell us about your organization in brief.

Situated on a prominent highway (NH83) that connects the renowned Grand Trunk Road and the state capital Patna, IIM Bodh Gaya’s campus is unique to IIMs as it is located within the main town itself. Notably, the region holds immense religious significance worldwide, with attractions ranging from the revered Phalgu River to the Mahabodhi Temple Complex—a central pilgrimage destination for millions of Buddhists globally which is 10 minutes away. Moreover, it enjoys excellent connectivity through Gaya International Airport, well-maintained road networks, and abundant rail connections. These transport links facilitate convenient access for students and faculty, making it an ideal place to call home.
Inaugurated in August 2015, the B-school had been mentored by the premier IIM Calcutta for nearly two and a half years following its inception. In February 2018, Vinita S. Sahay assumed leadership of the institute with a vision and mission to be a globally recognised management school for developing socially responsible and mindful business leaders and enhancing academic excellence in learning practices and research and successfully completed its eight years.

As a Founder Director, Prof. Sahay set up a world-class, state-of-the-art campus and a “research-based business school” at IIM Bodh Gaya. The institute has made remarkable progress under her leadership. She started two programs, a PhD programme and a Five-Year Integrated Programme in Management (BBA+MBA), besides the flagship MBA Programme. This year the Institute is going to launch two more new MBA programmes under her guidance, namely, MBA in Digital Business Management and MBA in Hospital and Healthcare Management. She has also established ‘Samatvam: The Centre for Mindfulness. She is striving for the Off-Campus center of IIM Bodh Gaya in Patna.

Students at IIM Bodh Gaya come from all over India, representing 26 states 170 cities and diverse professional backgrounds. In terms of placements, IIM Bodh Gaya has witnessed substantial growth. The highest domestic package offered to students exceeded INR 48.58 LPA for the academic year 2021-23, more than doubling from previous years. The average and median domestic package for the batch stood at 16.00 LPA and 15.25 LPA, registering a growth of 34 percent and 22 percent YoY respectively.

  • How have you dealt with challenges, and what are some ways you have resolved them?

In February 2018, Vinita S. Sahay assumed leadership of the newly-established Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bodh Gaya, where the campus grounds were predominantly covered with mature trees and shrubs. Initially, the institute encountered challenges, including the absence of senior administrative staff and permanent faculty. Moreover, a dispute arose with occupants of two hostels owned by Magadh University, who were hesitant to vacate the premises despite the official transfer of land to the institute. However, since then, remarkable transformations have unfolded within the institute.

Notably, the old campus building has been refurbished to accommodate administrative offices and classrooms that align with the modern requirements of an academic institution. Additionally, the permanent campus showcases an impressive academic structure, a well-equipped sports complex, student hostels, and faculty housing, all of which draw inspiration from the Vihara concept of Nalanda. The achievement of these developments was made possible through the valuable assistance of the local administration and even the required intervention from the police.

And bringing diversity to the campus was a challenge. Starting with fewer than 40 students per batch in their regular full-time MBA program, IIM Bodh Gaya now welcomes nearly 650 students for the 2023-25 session, with approximately 35% of the student population being female.

The cohesive team at the institute has initiated numerous well-thought-out projects, with a primary focus on ensuring the success of new courses. Attracting a talented pool was also a significant challenge for the institute, but the unwavering focus has been given to procuring a permanent faculty, resulting in a roster of 50 permanent faculty members, with an additional 18 faculty members scheduled to join in the near future.

  • What motivates you?

As a nation with a youthful populace, the path to reclaiming our status as a prosperous nation lies in the advancement, education, and skill development of our young generation. Creating opportunity for more students to make a difference in one more life motivates her. She is driven by the vision of witnessing our country regain its former glory, and this aspiration keeps her motivated. Her passion for institution-building and cultivating talented individuals, who are the very foundation of our nation, further fuels her determination.

  • Who has most influenced you to become an educator/administrator, and how did they influence you?

Dr Vinita Sahay’s journey towards becoming an educator/administrator has been influenced by various factors, including her education within the Kendra Vidyalaya system. The Kendra Vidyalaya system, a network of schools in India, played a significant role in shaping her aspirations and passion for education and administration. Proudly recalling her time as a Kendra Vidyalaya student, she emphasizes the impact of teachers who were PhD holders and their invaluable contribution to her development. Their knowledge, passion, and guidance were powerful inspirations, highlighting the transformative power of teaching and administration.

During her early life, Vinita S. Sahay had the opportunity to experience frequent transfers due to her father’s profession in the defense sector. They nurtured in her a strong sense of adaptability, resilience, and essential interpersonal skills, which she considers essential for personal growth and development. These factors motivated her to make a positive difference in students’ lives and contribute to the field of education.

  • What are your professional goals for the next 5-10 years?

Dr Vinita Sahay, focusing on IIM Bodh Gaya’s growth and success, has set key objectives for the institute. She aims to complete Phase-I construction and ensure a seamless transition to the new campus, providing an inspiring learning environment. Integration of Phase II will expand infrastructure and resources to accommodate a growing student population and offer advanced academic programs. We wish to be triple crowned Institution with Global accreditations like AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS are pursued to establish international recognition, foster collaborations, and attract global talent. Driven by a belief in personal growth, she aims to create a culture that encourages development and continuous learning. Her strategic approach and dedication will shape the future of IIM Bodh Gaya.

  • What message would you like to portray to the student universally?

Ms Vinita Sahay assures students that it’s normal not to have their lives completely planned at a young age. She acknowledges their societal pressure but urges them to embrace experimentation and not be constrained by expectations. She emphasizes the importance of exploring different paths to discover their passions and talents. Vinita advocates for a flexible and supportive education system that allows students to choose disciplines based on their strengths and interests. She encourages students to enjoy the learning journey, pushing their limits and relishing the vast possibilities.

  • Being in the industry for a long time, enlighten us with the educational scenario of your country and the ever-changing education sector.

Traditional education in India is evolving by integrating digital technologies and online platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of online learning, emphasizing the need for digital infrastructure. Skill development and vocational training are prioritized to bridge the gap between academia and industry. Holistic development, experiential learning, and the rise of EdTech startups contribute to lifelong learning. Challenges remain in rural access and affordability, but efforts are underway for inclusive and equitable education.

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