Prof. Hitesh Bhatt is the Director of the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), a pioneering academic institution in rural management education and research based in Anand in Gujarat, India. It is committed to pursuing excellence, creativity and integrity. Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, editor at large for South Asia at On Think Tanks, conducted this interview.
Annapoorna Ravichander: Could you please share a brief background about yourself?
Hitesh Bhatt: I started my career with Reliance Textiles way back in 1979. Working in senior positions in companies like Mafatlal and the Sunflag group in Tanzania, I always has a yearning to teach. I am a people person, and love work involving interaction with people, so teaching and training comes naturally.This drove me to apply for a teaching position at IRMA in 1995.
AR: What was your experience when you joined IRMA as its director?
HB: The director’s position came to me without intention, and I was pleasantly surprised when the Chairman, Shri Dilip Rath, called me to his office and asked if I would like to take up the position. Here I am since December 2017.
AR: Did you foresee any challenges? What were they and how did you overcome them?
HB: I became the director on December 1, 2017, so it is still too early to say anything. However, what I can say is that running an institution is not an easy task. Every day brings with it a new set of challenges. My main challenge is to get everyone on the same page with pride in their association with IRMA, and to implement this with the greatest transparency possible.
AR: In addressing these challenges did you get any support? If so, from whom?
HB: I consider myself lucky with the support I have got from the IRMA community, be it faculty, officers, or staff. The enthusiasm with which everyone has come forward has been a big boost. It makes me optimistic for the future.
AR: How has your interaction or work with your board members been?
HB: The board has been very cooperative. It was they, after all, who suggested me for the director’s position. My interactions with the board members have been full of camaraderie and good will.
AR: As a director, could you share some tips on how you manage projects at different levels and with different stakeholders?
HB: I don’t know if I would call them ‘tips’ but I like to work encouraging integration and reaching out to people. You will often hear that I am never available in my office, because I prefer to be ‘out there’ in the field. I prefer to be with the people I work with to understand their problems, where they come from, and working out solutions through interaction in a collective spirit.