A lot has been debated over the dire need of a strong and coherent industry-academia partnership in order to pave way for an all-encompassing growth of supply chain in the country. With the desired impetus coming from the government, the onus is now on the new age professionals to steer the growth in the right direction. The recent NITIE annual conclave Avartan’19 reflected some striking aspects with a view to harness this symbiotic relationship…
India is transitioning to an economy that is increasingly driven by consumer demand. Simultaneously, a stronger environment supporting entrepreneurship has increased competitive pressures on existing businesses. In this context, business growth is no longer guaranteed, and businesses need deeper expertise to thrive. Such expertise is available in our academic institutions but is poorly tapped into at present. In many cases, academic institutions do not see the importance of industry relationships beyond getting students placed.
Creating unique business models suited to the needs of a unique country requires work on both sides of the industry-academia line. This is increasingly taking place. Alumni are playing an important role in this, as are special programs happening as joint efforts between academia and industry.
With complexity and unpredictability rising in the business environment, supply chains need to be more responsive while also focusing on cost efficiency. Today’s supply chain management teams are excessively focused on cost. The supply chain manager needed today has to know when to focus on cost and when to focus on revenue opportunity exploitation. This requires a better understanding of business challenges of the day and to be able to assess & articulate how the supply chain team can contribute, beyond controlling costs.
Industry-Academic partnership is a symbiotic relationship, which needs to be leveraged for the benefit of all. The academia forms an important part of any new research and innovation happening in the domain of supply chain management. Universities play a crucial role in achieving economic growth in today’s knowledgebased societies. The industry benefits from highly qualified human resources such as researchers and students by gaining access to technology and knowledge. The universities in turn benefit from access to industry set ups and real time cases, which have a wide domain and an extensive scope of implementation. In case of the next-gen supply chain managers, the skill sets required have undergone a transformational change. With the advent of new age disruptive technologies and the inflow of data analytics, one needs to be equipped with the requisite domain knowledge that is changing at a very fast pace. A supply chain manager must be prepared to face the changes that are happening in various sectors ranging from FMCG, Manufacturing to E-commerce. Embracing the novel techniques of problem solving and adapting to the highly dynamic supply chain demands is the need of the hour.
I have been associated with campuses in the capacity of guest lecturer or speaker in area of Supply Chain (SC) for last decade or so. My area of focus has been around emerging retail and supply chain practices covering a wide canvas – supply chain networks, infrastructure, big data & technology in supply chain, B2C practices, etc. As I look back, two clear trends emerge:
• The participation levels have exponentially grown. What used to be a discussion/lecture to a small group of interested students in supply chain has now become a lecture and Q&A session with a group of at least a 100+.
• The topic that I cover within supply chain has rapidly changed, thereby possibly indicting the advancement of interests and techniques used in supply chain (This also implies that no longer can I use older presentation decks!).
Not only these interactions with campuses and students have been gratifying and thought provoking for me, (without sounding selfish) these have personally helped me a lot in my professional space. It has helped me draw and understand some of the latest theoretical frameworks, which then get used in strategy discussions in corporate office. Also, high quality discussions and incisive Q&A sessions keep me thinking of better responses and solutions even when I am not with students.
Based on my discussions with students and faculty, I get encouraging feedbacks on how some of these lectures have helped them get clear industry perspective and understand what’s most current and relevant. Fundamentals of supply chain have obviously not changed – every professional outside continues to strive to create new age Aligned, Agile and Adaptive supply chain in their respective industry space. However, the focus has quickly moved to more B2C practices, high end-customer centricity and deploying big data & AI across the entire SC value chain. From an age of building reliable backend and speedier front end, we have quickly moved on to creating Agile and Predictive SC networks & services. It is important for students and academia to understand these fast-changing trends.
These changes around us also influence how industry now looks at supply chain talent emerging from campuses. Curiosity, approach towards solving unstructured and unsolved problems, ability to learn/un-learn and relearn are some of the important softer factors that need more attention than the grades in the classroom. Artificial Intelligence & big data is winning on one-hand, knocking off many conventional SC roles. On the other hand, it is also creating new and interesting career options where the new age supply chain manager must decide areas of deployment of AI, resource allocation and developing more cross-functional skills and EQ.
As we embrace Industry 4.0 with cutting edge technology and re-imagining the future, industries are constantly evolving to become more consumer-centric to deliver superior quality, improved variety, at a right cost and convenience. While industries across India have been collaborating across entire value chain to deliver superior value to the consumers, they have also begun augmenting partnership beyond the conventional methods of Summer/Winter Internship projects and pre-placement offers. The tech world has shown us that innovation fosters with an open source and decentralized culture where ideas are welcome from across the board, across the hierarchies and beyond the defined limits of an organization (For example Hackathons/ Ideathons). Mondelez India recently launched an inter B-School Supply Chain Strategy Case Study competition called “The New Normal” across Top 10 B-Schools in India. Through this case study, we are aiming to establish stronger partnership with academia to help us spot new global industry trends, which can transform our supply chain to Best In Class. This will pave the way for Mondelez India to tap into a wide as well as deep ecosystem of academia including students, faculty members, research associates, etc., to help us create a future ready supply chain. In the process, we will also be able to spot the next gen talent who thinks creatively and who has ambitious vision to not just create value for her/his organization but also the industry as a whole.