Dr Vinita S Sahay: Exhibiting the Essence of a True Tenacious Leader
Dr Vinita S Sahay
Dr Vinita S Sahay

Any educational institution that focuses on dedicating itself to students’ welfare and is motivated to present uncompromising strategies to resolve issues will undoubtedly run across predicaments that call for solutions, particularly for the ones that demand being perpetually resilient in the context of today’s unpredictable times. When it comes to such circumstances, the administrator of the establishment ultimately poses as in charge of ensuring that every facet of an institution is protruding excellence and averting all challenges.

Accompanying such strategies for overcoming adversities as a pioneer in contemporary educational settings is Dr Vinita S. Sahay.

Dr Vinita Sahay is the second woman in the country appointed by the Government of India to head the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bodh Gaya. She joined IIM Bodh Gaya as the Founder Director.

With around 26 years of experience, she has published and presented a large number of research papers in International/National journals/ conferences and book chapters. She has organised three large international conferences and edited five books.

The Knowledge Review had the privilege of interviewing Dr Vinita, an apt figurehead who serves as an inspiration to many.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Kindly brief us about you and your professional journey since the beginning of your career. Tell us about your academic and professional milestones and the significant achievements, accolades, and recognition you have earned in your career so far.

Currently, I have been working as the Founder and Director of IIM Bodh Gaya since February 2018. I have 26 years of rich and varied experience in academic administration, academics, research, training and consulting both in India and abroad. I secured first class with high ranks throughout my academic career with PGDM in Marketing as a major concentration area, a Gold Medal in M.A. Economics and a PhD in Customer Value.

I was also a Visiting Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark, for ten years (2009-2018). I participated in the ‘Global Colloquium on participant-centred Learning (GloColl)’ at the Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and Harvard Centre, Shanghai, China. I also participated in the ‘Developing Leadership, Governance & Management in Higher Education programme conducted by Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and UKIERI in Birmingham, UK.

In the last five years, IIM Bodh Gaya made remarkable progress on all fronts under my leadership. As a Founder Director and Academic leader, I had two major responsibilities, firstly, to build a committed team of faculty and staff with strong work ethics and commitment to a conducive high-performance culture, and secondly, to create a world-class, state-of-the-art campus.

Prior to IIM Bodh Gaya, I have been working as a Professor of Marketing at IIM Raipur since 2012. During these years, I held several academic leadership positions, including Chairperson (International Relations) and Chairperson (Doctoral Programmes), along with membership in many committees.

Prior to joining IIM Raipur, I worked as a Professor and Chairperson of the PGDM Programme at IMT Ghaziabad and other institutions. All throughout my career, I have carried out my responsibilities with utmost integrity, commitment and dedication.

At IIM Bodh Gaya, we have come a long way, from being an only employee till July 2018 to a robust team of about 85 people; it has been an exhilarating journey. Building the campus brick by brick has taught me precious lessons on tenacity, perseverance, team building, and never say die spirit and has given me immense joy and satisfaction of building something from ground zero. We are in a very crucial phase of our AACSB accreditation journey with the recent visit of the mentor. The next five years will be to consolidate its position to be one of the finest business schools in India.

Tell us about your institute, its distinct academic solutions, achievements, mission, vision, and USPs.

We are setting up IIM Bodh Gaya as a ‘Research-based Business School’. We already have three Full-time programmes running, and this year we are launching two new Specialised MBAs: MBA in Digital Business management.

MBA in Health and Hospital Management

We have also established ‘Samatvam: The Centre for Mindfulness.’ The core value ( USP) of the school is ‘Mindfulness’, and our vision is to raise a league of socially responsible mindful leaders. This distinctive positioning in the realm of Mindfulness and Well-being is pathbreaking.

Today, IIM Bodh Gaya is known for academic excellence, high-quality research, strong international linkages and corporate engagement. The placement has been outstanding for the last three years. The new campus is a blissful mix of modern architecture, culture and heritage of Bodh Gaya. The campus will be ready next year, and the new Academic Session will start from the new campus. We are also working towards starting an Off-campus IIM Bodh Gaya in Patna.

Being a prominent leader in the educational space, what were your significant contribution to education in society, the upliftment of academic structure in the country, and the development of your institute?

My strong belief in quality, transparency and process-driven organisation led to the development and implementation of some of the key initiatives like Nine Policy Manuals to run the school. These initiatives helped in creating a conducive academic and research environment on campus to attract high-quality faculty members from IIMs, IITs and foreign universities.

What are the major challenges you faced in your academic career, and how did you help your institute overcome them?

We have come a long way under some challenging circumstances. All the issues around land encroachments and acquisition are behind us. Bringing diversity to campus was a challenge. Today, we have students from more than 170 cities and 28 states: it is a microcosm of India with about 35% of girls students. As a cohesive team, we have started many well-conceived projects, and they are at a critical stage of take-off. There are several innovative, ambitious, yet incomplete tasks and unfinished agendas at this point in time. Ensuring the success of new courses is critical.

How do you keep yourself motivated and inspire your students to choose an exciting career for a bright future?

We are a nation with a young population, and at this juncture, the only thing which will help us regain our glory as a prosperous nation is upgrading, educating, and upskilling this young population; the dream of visualising my country regaining its past glory keeps me motivated.

Helping our students explore and recognise their Swa-dharma based on their talents and passion is IIMBG’s way of helping our students have a bright future.

What is the next step for you and your institute?

Our Phase-I construction is on the verge of completion. Moving into the new campus with planning and integration of Phase II is a priority. To have global accreditations in place is essential, and sustaining a culture which helps everyone to become the best version of themselves is the top agenda.

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