Address by Chairman IRMA for the 38th Annual Convocation- 18 April 2019

Shri S M Vijayanand, Chief Guest for the 38th Annual Convocation of IRMA, Prof. Hitesh Bhatt, my colleagues on the Board of IRMA, faculty & staff of IRMA, invited guests, parents of the graduating students and the graduating students of FPRM and 38th PRM batch of IRMA.

All of us, as a part of the IRMA fraternity are indeed extremely proud of being associated with IRMA which has been contributing towards the development of rural sector by making available committed and dedicated professionals for the sector, where about 70% of India’s population lives. In this way, we have continued to honour the vision of our founding father Dr Verghese Kurien who firmly believed that (and I quote) “India's place in the sun would come from the partnership between wisdom of its rural people and skill of its professionals" (unquote).

As you are aware, while implementing the world’s largest food aid for development programme, namely Operation Flood, Dr Kurien realised that there was a dearth of rural management professionals to take up the colossal task of bringing about rural transformation and that this task cannot be accomplished by the graduates from premier managements institutions, who, he rightly felt, were not quite suited to the needs of the rural sector.  Having realised that the mammoth task of creating and building grass-root level farmer owned and managed institutions cannot be accomplished by professionals like an “accidental Kurien”, he established IRMA in the year 1979 for creating “better Kuriens”, as told by Dr Kurien himself, by carefully selecting and training them. IRMA has continued to nurture and develop a cadre of committed and dedicated rural management professionals through its flagship programme of Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Management.

When we look back on the contribution of IRMA to nation building, we indeed feel proud of the fact about 70% of close to 3,000 IRMA alumni have consciously chosen to work in sectors like development and livelihoods, dairy cooperatives, social entrepreneurship, agribusiness, environment, education, renewable energy, research & academia, policy & advocacy, consulting etc.  It is indeed satisfying to note that the IRMA alumni have continued to be imbibed with the values and ethos of IRMA and have chosen their careers, which despite being less remunerative, have offered them an opportunity to serve the rural masses.

Apart from the Post Graduate and fellowship programmes, IRMA has been offering short and long duration Management Development Programmes for upgrading the skills of working professionals. Having realised the importance of imparting management skills to the working professionals, National Dairy Development Board has supported and enhanced the capacity of IRMA by facilitating launch of a 15 month Executive Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Management this year for the working professionals.  I am happy to say that the first batch of the PGDRMX is currently undergoing training and will soon add value to their respective organisations. I am sure that in the coming years, more and more organisations working in the development and rural sectors will sponsor their middle level managers to enhance their skills and help their organisations to grow. 

I am happy that IRMA has maintained the 100% placement track record with the students getting placed in the ogranisations of their choice in 2019 after matching the jobs with their skill sets.  I would like to place on record my appreciation to all those organisations which have participated in the placement process and also to the faculty and staff who worked very hard to ensure that sufficient number of job offers were received and 100% placement was achieved for the 38th PRM batch.

On this day when you are going out of this institution as rural management professionals and as messengers of IRMA’s values and ethos, I would like to take the opportunity to share with you a few thoughts which you may like to keep in mind while pursuing your chosen professional careers:

  • Firstly, be upright in following the core values like integrity, commitment, professionalism, empathy etc., which have been cherished by all the organisations which have been founded by Dr Kurien and nurtured by his successors.
  • Secondly, always be on the learning curve. Rural sector needs innovations and business as usual may not lead to optimum impacts. Keep yourself abreast with the latest know how, tools, techniques which you can effectively use, but not at the cost of the wealth of our rich traditional rural wisdom which could be sharpened with your managerial skills.
  • Thirdly, focus on the bottom line of the rural households for whom you are ultimately responsible apart from the bottom lines of the companies you are going to work for. In the ultimate analysis, your professional growth and that of your organisations will depend upon the extent of your contribution in bringing about change in the lives and livelihoods of rural households.
  • Fourthly, as a rural management professional you need to strike a balance between the Helicopter view and the Microscopic view of the sector you are going to work in. An exclusive Microscopic view would not let you appreciate the bigger picture while an exclusive helicopter view may take you away from the ground reality.
  • And lastly, you should always remember that in a country like ours where majority of the farmers are small and marginal, inclusive and sustainable growth in rural, agriculture and allied sectors will only be possible by promoting and strengthening producer centric institutions representing the collective interests of the farmers. We have time and again observed that if we place the tools of development in the hands of farmers collectively and appropriately guide them how to use it, miracles can happen.

Friends, Annual Convocations at IRMA have always been much cherished events in which eminent personalities have awarded the degrees to the participants and have delivered thought provoking Convocation Addresses.  In this series, today we are privileged to have with us Shri S M Vijayanand as the Chief Guest. 

For IRMA, Shri Vijayanand does not need any introduction as he has been associated with it as a member of the Board of Governors and has immensely contributed in taking forward the cause of IRMA. A former career bureaucrat, Shri Vijayanand has been an expert in the field of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and has made immense contribution to this sector while working in the position of Secretary in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development.

He has also been the key architect of Kerala’s democratic decentralisation initiative and has played a key role in the devolution of power and human and financial resources to the local government institutions.

I would end by quoting Mahatma Gandhi (and I quote) "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” (unquote). I have full trust and confidence in the 38th PRM batch of IRMA that like your predecessors, you all will reach out and selflessly serve the rural sector to bring about rural prosperity.

With these words I wish all of you every success in your respective careers.

I now invite Shri S M Vijayanand to deliver the Convocation Address.

Thank you.