The country’s top B school, the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, is facing a leadership crisis despite the government approving the appointment of Boston University professor Sushil Vachani for the top job last year.
Since Vachani is two years away from turning 65, his age has become a bone of contention. According to the rules, a government academic position can be held only till the age of 65. This means Vachani’s tenure as IIM Bangalore director will be no longer than about two-and-a-half years, or half the actual term of an IIM director — five years.
The age factor is not a worry for Vachani at Boston University. Vachani, it is learnt, has expressed concern about leaving his tenured position as Professor of Strategy & Policy at the Boston University School of Management for a post that will be cut short due to his age. Due to these concerns, Vachani, whose appointment was cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet in 2013, is yet to take up the position. While he has not yet officially written to the Human Resource Development Ministry, Vachani is learnt to have sought clarity on whether he can get a full five-year tenure, which may not be easy given the government’s rigidity in such matters.
Vachani’s appointment came soon after Prof Ashish Nanda from Harvard University accepted the top job at IIM Ahmedabad. That quitting a job abroad to take up a position in India is no cakewalk is clear in both cases. In Nanda’s case, the nod came only after his dentist wife found a way to practice in India.
“While it was earlier indicated he would join as IIM Bangalore director in January, 2014, Vachani has sought clarity on whether he can get a full five-year term or if an extension of the tenure will be possible. Since this is not an easy assurance, given the ACC rules, he did not join in January,” an HRD Ministry official said.
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“He has now taken up another academic engagement, which will keep him occupied till July. The government has to take a call on this issue at the earliest possible. If Vachani is unable to join, we need to start the selection process afresh — another nine-ten month long exercise,” the official added.
Sources said making an exception for Vachani would prove difficult, especially since he was not the first choice to head the institute.
Pankaj Chandra, the previous IIM Bangalore director, was recommended for a second consecutive term in January 2013, but he turned down the offer. Ever since Chandra completed his term, IIM Bangalore has been steered by an acting director.
Vachani, who did his B Tech from IIT Kanpur, went to the Harvard Business School and IIM Ahmedabad. Vachani also worked at Tata Motors and Boston Consulting Group in the US.