A place like Kashmir has to take inspiration from nations built from scratch but with great intent and purpose. This resounding remark came from the man who played a big part in setting up a business incubator at Srinagar and started working closely with various departments and institutes in the region to create a synergistic approach to finding solutions.
“We need to set up systems and processes in place and that require help from those who have been lucky to get right exposure to the better systems and learn from them,” said Dr. Muqbil Burhan, an Associate Professor in the area of Business Policy, Strategy and Entrepreneurship.
“I think I can be one of those with a responsibility to contribute.”
Dr. Burhan has been the International Faculty Fellow at MIT Sloan Business School, USA and International Research Fellow at College of Technology Management, EPFL Laussane Switzerland. He has also visited Harvard Business School USA, NTU Singapore, Moscow University, Rotterdam School of Management Netherlands, University of Economics Ho Chi Minn City, Tashkent State University of Economics, Udayana University Bali for research and training purposes.
Currently the Chairperson of Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Skill Development at IIMJ Srinagar campus, Dr. Burhan has been offering training programs to various central and state/UT government departments and corporate executives.
“The institutions within J&K need to work together to create synergy. I see that missing,” he said. “Collaborative approach will help the ecosystem develop in J&K that will support local aspirations and needs. Unemployment is on a higher side when it comes to National average and the focus also has to be on upgrading skills. A convergence of departments, institutions and various sectors is needed for that.”
Dr. Burhan’s research is primarily focused on Technology Management, Strategy, Innovations, Entrepreneurship, Skill Development and Business Policy. He has rich consultancy experience also, having worked on various projects with Central and state Ministries. He has also served as chairperson executive education at IIM Jammu in the past.
“IIM Jammu has a vision that is focused on transformation through management education. We started Srinagar campus of IIM Jammu in 2021 which was the year when all of us were dealing with COVID crisis. However, we used the time to develop some infrastructure for the campus that includes communication network, classroom facilities, library, sports facilities, residential facilities and Business Incubator. The focus, at the outset, is on corporate training, consultancy, skill development and entrepreneurship. We intend to benefit the region through training programs that support livelihood and promote entrepreneurship.”
Following is an edited excerpt of his talkathon with FPK.
Dr. Burhan, could you provide a brief introduction about yourself and your motivation to embrace roles that encompass IIM Jammu’s Srinagar Campus and the Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Skill Development?
I was born and brought up in Anantnag town of Kashmir. Like most of the people of my age, I saw lot of turmoil during school days that, generally, have long lasting impact. It can result in variable response on individual behaviours and many times a more close relationship with the place. I was moved outside Kashmir during school days by my parents for better opportunities that I could, probably, cash. I studied at IIT Delhi and also got a good job in the corporate.
However, that tendency to be back, among the people with so many scars and pain, could never die. I found my way through IIM Jammu where I joined as faculty and developed a proposal, with the support from my Director, to develop Srinagar Campus which can primarily focus on promoting Entrepreneurship, Innovations and Skill Development in the region.
We could set up a business incubator also at our transit campus and started working closely with various departments and institutes in the region to create a synergistic approach to finding solutions.
The IIM Jammu’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Skill Development at its Srinagar campus is set up with an aim to benefit youth of Kashmir division largely through promoting and developing an ecosystem for Innovation and Skill Development that leads to enterprise development.
With international fellowships from esteemed institutions like MIT Sloan Business School and EPFL Lausanne, how have these global experiences shaped your perspective and ignited your commitment to fostering education, innovation, and empowerment in Kashmir?
I have been lucky enough to have an exposure of great institutes like MIT USA, Harvard University, EPFL Lausanne Switzerland, Nanyong Technology University Singapore apart from some good universities in Netherland, Moscow, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kazakhstan. The exposure of working in such environment and with bright minds shapes your thought process. Seeing people work for the communities and for a purpose is always motivating. It creates great teams and a purpose for life.
Place like Kashmir has to take inspiration from nations built from scratch but with great intent and purpose. We need to set up systems and processes in place and that require help from those who have been lucky to get right exposure to the better systems and learn from them. I think I can be one of those with a responsibility to contribute.
Offering insights into the distinctive role played by IIM Jammu’s Srinagar chapter, how does it foster management education, skill development, and entrepreneurship? How does the chapter aim to contribute to both Kashmir’s economic development and academic excellence?
IIM is an institute of National importance with a setup that has focus on quality and execution in the field of Management education, research and consultancy. Place like Kashmir needs these institutes to come forward and work for the upliftment of the society which has been bruised by violence and underdevelopment for decades.
Management education, skill development and Entrepreneurship needs a different approach here considering the cultural and historic background of this place. An approach based on innovation, design thinking and systems thinking can lead to better solutions that will have good impact on economic development of the region.
Academic excellence is achieved through focus on the aspects like attracting better talent, applying good methodologies and research. When institutes like IIM collaborate with local institutes, these elements are institutionalized by the system.
As you hold key roles at IIM Jammu’s Srinagar Campus and the Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Skill Development, how do you envision leveraging the transformative power of management education to empower individuals, uplift communities, and drive economic growth in Kashmir?
Management education plays a crucial role in bringing a change at any place and it will have a more important role in Kashmir region owing to its long history of disturbances and its impact on the economy. IIM Jammu has a vision that is focused on transformation through management education. We started Srinagar campus of IIM Jammu in 2021 which was the year when all of us were dealing with COVID crisis. However, we used the time to develop some infrastructure for the campus that includes communication network, classroom facilities, library, sports facilities, residential facilities and Business Incubator.
The focus, at the outset, is on corporate training, consultancy, skill development and entrepreneurship. The campus in Kashmir region is important for us to have a broad outreach in the region. We intend to benefit the region through training programs that support livelihood, promote entrepreneurship in the region through incubation and training support, give consultation to government in bringing transformative change.
We recently concluded a 2 year fellowship with Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship where very competent fellows were placed in all districts of J&K to work with district administration in supporting skill ecosystem at district level. The fellows were trained and mentored by IIM Jammu to do the job and the J&K administration benefited immensely from that.
We did several Entrepreneurship Orientation Programs for students of J&K Govt. colleges here in Srinagar, programs for faculty members of these colleges also, Management skill development programs for Principals and superintends of Polytechnics and ITIs, Management Development Program for Managers of J&K Bank, Employees of PNB in J&K. We are doing Leadership development programs for principals of degree colleges and Skill to Enterprise Module (STEM) which is a one year long program to create super 30 entrepreneurs from Kashmir region.
We work closely with various departments of Government of J&K including Skill Development Department and Higher Education Department. We intend to work closely with other educational institutions in J&K to create synergy that supports livelihood, quality education, innovations, skill development and entrepreneurship in the region. I am sure all this is going to have a positive impact on J&K and bring a transformative change.
The Centre for Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Skill Development (CEISD) seems to be a hub brimming with possibilities. Could you share its core objectives and elaborate on how it aims to ignite innovation, skills, and entrepreneurship in the region?
Entrepreneurship, innovation, and skill development are interconnected concepts that play a crucial role in economic growth, job creation, and societal advancement. Entrepreneurship, innovation, and skill development are interconnected drivers of economic and social progress. Encouraging entrepreneurship, fostering innovation, and investing in skill development initiatives can lead to job creation, economic growth, and a more competitive and resilient society.
It is crucial for governments, educational institutions, and businesses to collaborate in promoting these concepts to unlock their full potential for societal benefit. Through CEISD we aim to develop an ecosystem that promotes favourable interaction between various stakeholders to ignite and promote innovation, skills, and entrepreneurship in the region.
In J&K there is a need to bring more awareness about these ideas and train the workforce accordingly. We developed an idea of creating Small Business Development Units in each district of J&K where these units act as a part of larger platform connected through the portal which centralizes the information to be made available to youth of J&K. The units will act as centers of information about skill development and entrepreneurship and preferably set up in Polytechnics/ITIs to help the youth in converting their ideas into enterprises in addition to organize awareness programs, hackathons, competitions and gradually grow a network of mentors, incubation centers, financial institutions, local business on this platform.
We visited various colleges across Kashmir division to help the colleges develop Incubation and Innovation centers that can be connected with each other to create synergy within the higher education system to support innovation and entrepreneurship among youth. There are many projects/programs lined up for CEISD IIM Jammu to initiate that will have a meaningful impact, God willing.
With Kashmir’s vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, how do you believe your academic and practical expertise can create an environment where local talent flourishes? How can innovative ideas be transformed into thriving businesses, enriching the region’s economic fabric?
Entrepreneurship in Kashmir is being promoted through several measures but I don’t see a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit awakened yet. It requires a confidence building measures where youth see this as something for which they can give up the urge to work as Government employee. We will have to create success stories for that and showcase them to motivate youth in that direction.
I see the interest of youth in Kashmir division drifting from one dominant role to another based on ‘heroes’ we produce in the society. I am sure with some good young entrepreneurs here, with a valuation of unicorns, we will see a change in the environment.
Striving to bridge the gap between education and job market needs, how do your efforts in Skill Development equip youth with skills that secure degrees and also open doors to impactful employment?
IIM Jammu envisions the idea of quality management education that supports economy and societies. We wish to create more job creators than job seekers. Entrepreneurship is taught as a core course in our flagship programs and we allow our students differed placements to take up entrepreneurship and come back for corporate placements in two years if they fail in that endeavour.
We offer short term cutting edge management programs to youth and corporate to fill the market skill gap. Our focus is on Industry 4.0 skill sets and we update ourselves on market trends to bring changes in our courses, syllabus etc accordingly.
Amidst rapid technological advancement, how do strategic approaches in Technology Management act as catalysts for economic growth in a dynamic region like Kashmir?
Changing market conditions require dynamic capabilities. Strategic approaches in technology management can indeed act as catalysts for economic growth in dynamic regions across the globe.
Kashmir region has its own dynamics and will require some deep thought by its think tank to bring a positive change. I am not sure if rapid technological advancement is the solution unless the workforce is aligned with it which takes time and if the two are misaligned, it will have negative effects.
However, if implemented effectively, these strategies can leverage technology to drive innovation, improve productivity, and create a competitive advantage. The strategic interventions that can reap results could include establishing and nurturing innovation ecosystems that bring together technology startups, established companies, research institutions, and government agencies.
These ecosystems encourage collaboration, knowledge sharing, and the development of new technologies, products, and services. It also brings investment in education and skill development programs to ensure that the workforce is equipped with the skills required to harness and manage advanced technologies.
A well-trained workforce can be a significant driver of economic growth; build and maintain modern infrastructure, including high-speed internet, transportation, and logistics, to support the growth of technology-driven businesses. A robust infrastructure is essential for facilitating efficient operations and market access; creating a favorable regulatory and policy environment that encourages technology adoption and innovation; foster a culture of entrepreneurship and support startups through incubators, accelerators, and access to venture capital.
It encourages the formation of new tech companies, which can create jobs and drive economic growth and promote collaboration between academia and industry to ensure that research conducted in universities is aligned with the needs of businesses. This can lead to the development of practical and marketable solutions. It encourages organizations and individuals to continuously learn, adapt, and stay updated with emerging trends and innovations; leverage data analytics and big data to make informed decisions and identify growth opportunities. Data-driven insights can enhance competitiveness, drive economic growth and promote sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies.
Investing in green technologies not only aligns with global trends but can also lead to cost savings and new market opportunities.
Collaborating with national and international institutions brings diverse insights. How do you intend to tailor these insights to Kashmir’s unique economic dynamics, ensuring they resonate with local aspirations and needs?
Establishing partnerships and collaborations with other dynamic regions and global players is important for growth. These collaborations can lead to knowledge exchange, investment opportunities, and access to new markets.
We collaborated with Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Government of India to bring two National projects with J&K as priority. The projects focused on improving skill and Entrepreneurship ecosystem in J&K. The priority is to help small business units grow and convert unorganized businesses into organized businesses and benefit them from various government schemes.
We focus on bringing help of financial institutions like SIDBI here to help these businesses. Our collaboration with SIDBI led to projects like STEM that would help skilled youth to convert their skill into enterprise through handholding, training and incubation.
The institutions within J&K need to work together to create synergy. I see that missing. Collaborative approach will help the ecosystem develop in J&K that will support local aspirations and needs. Unemployment is on a higher side when it comes to National average and the focus also has to be on upgrading skills.
A convergence of departments, institutions and various sectors is needed for that and we, as institute of National importance, intend to play pivotal role in that.
Often considered a pathway to brighter futures, how can management education dismantle socio-economic barriers and empower individuals from diverse backgrounds to contribute to Kashmir’s progress?
Socio-economic barriers are obstacles and challenges that individuals or communities face due to their social and economic circumstances. These barriers can significantly impact access to opportunities, resources, and overall well-being. Lack of quality education and educational resources can create a barrier to upward mobility. Financial constraints may prevent individuals from pursuing higher education. Limited job opportunities or inadequate employment conditions can hinder socio-economic progress and Underemployment, where individuals are overqualified for their current jobs, is common at places like J&K.
Disparities in income distribution can lead to unequal access to resources and opportunities. The wealth gap may perpetuate a cycle of poverty for some individuals and communities. We see different level of discrimination and bias in place like J&K which at times has basis in rural-urban divide and at times based on caste discrimination which leads to barriers to equal opportunities.
Implicit biases in hiring and promotion processes may limit career advancement. Lack of affordable healthcare services can result in poor health outcomes for economically disadvantaged individuals. Preventive care and timely medical interventions are also inaccessible to larger population in J&K. Socio-economic background can influence social mobility, limiting individuals’ ability to move up the social and economic ladder. Access to networks and opportunities may be constrained. Lack of digital literacy may further exacerbate the condition. Stigmatization and social exclusion based on economic status can impact mental health and well-being. There are many issues that can aggravate the situation. I could just recall few and place like J&K has its own complexities.
Addressing socio-economic barriers requires comprehensive and inclusive strategies that focus on education, employment opportunities, healthcare access, and policy reforms to create a more equitable and just society.
We, at IIM Jammu, work for underprivileged and marginalized and believe in creating inclusive societies which work in the direction of removing socio-economic barriers. This needs proper structures and processes in place that are aligned to these goals. At IIM Jammu we created Center for Diversity and Inclusiveness to bring awareness about such ideas, work for these societies and help government achieve these goals.
Striking a balance between economic evolution and cultural preservation can be delicate. How do you envision achieving this equilibrium, where progress harmonizes with tradition and modernization pays homage to heritage?
This is complex but important issue. Kashmir has a unique culture that is preserved throughout its historical ups and downs. Any conflict between culture and economic evolution will face resistance and opposition. However, if there is alignment between the two, it is the best model to follow.
Things change with time and we too should change for good but cultural sweet spots, which I believe are many in Kashmir, need to be protected. There is a tendency to blindly import ideas and innovations, at times in search of modernization or as a result of cultural incursions, that disrupt the existing systems.
If we can have sustainable innovation in Kashmir to protect these cultural facets with improvements to match the growing customer needs, there will be less conflict between the culture and economic evolution. For example, Hamam has to compete with electric alternatives. It survived over the years due to sustainable innovations, unlike mud/clay plastering in houses. Same is happening to art in Kashmir and survival becomes problematic.
The potential for transformative change lies within the youth. How does your expertise inspire them to embrace roles as entrepreneurs, creators, and catalysts of economic transformation in Kashmir?
We will have to create success stories for youth to follow and develop a conducive environment that gives positive vibes. Entrepreneurship, Innovation or role of youth as catalyst to transformation should not appear a distant dream to them, when youth in Kashmir doesn’t lack talent but good exposure. We will be organizing events and programs that will give them the right exposure and promote networking.
Partnerships with international institutions offer fresh perspectives. How will you leverage these collaborations to enrich educational offerings and infuse renewed energy into Kashmir’s economic landscape?
This certainly does but we will need first to create an atmosphere which can support such interactions. We must also leverage the experience of people from the region who are working outside and create a database of mentors for the youth. Such interactions will inspire the youth and motivate them to do well and also learn from their domain knowledge.
Economic diversification is a shared objective. How does innovation, strategy, and entrepreneurship contribute to carving new economic pathways beyond conventional sectors, enhancing Kashmir’s resilience?
Economic diversification would mean expanding and broadening the economic base of Kashmir region by reducing its reliance on a particular sector or industry. This, in larger sense, creates a more resilient and sustainable economy by developing multiple sources of income and reducing vulnerability to external shocks.
Diversification can enhance a region’s resilience to economic shocks and crises. A diversified economy is better equipped to absorb and recover from disruptions. Economic diversification is a complex and long-term process that requires strategic planning, investment, and collaboration between the public and private sectors. By embracing diversification, regions can build more resilient and adaptive economies that are better positioned for sustained growth.
Innovation, better planning and promotion of entrepreneurship in diverse sector having great potential in Kashmir will lead to economic diversification and growth. The youth should be motivated to think beyond government service, Govt. should promote emerging industries and sectors with high growth potential and skill youth accordingly. A well-educated and skilled workforce is essential for diversification. Investing in education and training programs that align with the needs of new and growing industries can enhance the workforce’s adaptability.
Building and upgrading infrastructure, including transportation, communication, and energy facilities, can attract new industries and support existing ones. Infrastructure development is crucial for the overall competitiveness of a region and I think that Government is already working on that.
Innovation is a key driver of economic diversification and promoting the same in colleges, universities and elsewhere will be helpful. Collaboration with other institutes outside J&K will help the regional institutes grow and that should be part of institutional strategy.
Also, supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses can contribute to economic diversification. These enterprises often bring innovation, agility, and diversity to the economic landscape. Identifying new markets and promoting the export of non-traditional goods and services can enhance economic resilience. A robust financial sector is essential for economic diversification. Access to finance, venture capital, and investment opportunities can facilitate the growth of new industries.
Moreover, developing the tourism industry is important for J&K. Tourism often creates jobs and stimulates growth in various sectors, including hospitality, transportation, and entertainment. Embracing sustainable practices and investing in environmentally friendly industries can contribute to both economic diversification and long-term sustainability. Governments play a crucial role in promoting economic diversification through the formulation of supportive policies, incentives, and regulatory frameworks that encourage the growth of diverse industries. Government has to play its role here.
Finally, extending beyond classrooms, how can education foster a lifelong pursuit of knowledge that equips individuals to navigate economic shifts, adapt to change, and continually contribute to Kashmir’s growth story?
In essence, learning extends far beyond the confines of classrooms, embracing a lifelong, diverse, and continuous journey of discovery and growth. Beyond classrooms, learning takes on a multifaceted and dynamic form. It encompasses real-world experiences where learning occurs through hands-on experiences, internships, and apprenticeships, where individuals apply theoretical knowledge in practical, real-world situations. Informal learning happens through everyday activities, discussions, and interactions. It includes self-directed learning, exploring interests, and acquiring skills without a formal curriculum.
Technology enables learning beyond physical classrooms. Online courses, webinars, and e-learning platforms provide opportunities for individuals to access educational content from anywhere. Learning is enriched through community involvement, volunteering, and civic engagement. Engaging with diverse communities exposes individuals to different perspectives and fosters social awareness.
We need to create an environment for such activities in Kashmir which promote good work culture, support internships and apprenticeships for students and motivate them to go beyond course syllabus to upgrade and upskill themselves.
Travel is another important aspect which we ignore. Traveling and immersing oneself in different cultures provide valuable learning experiences. Exposure to new environments fosters adaptability, cross-cultural understanding, and a global perspective.
Learning is facilitated through mentorship and networking. Building relationships with experienced individuals allows for the exchange of knowledge, advice, and guidance.
Pursuing hobbies and passion projects encourages self-directed learning. Whether it’s art, sports, or personal projects, individuals acquire skills and knowledge driven by their interests.
Learning in natural environments promotes environmental awareness, problem-solving, and a sense of connection to the world. Outdoor education can complement classroom-based learning.
Developing reading habits among our youth is so important. We should develop a culture where libraries, in our localities, are considered as essential as religious places. Books, articles, and literature are powerful sources of learning. Reading exposes individuals to diverse ideas, cultures, and perspectives, fostering critical thinking and empathy.
Engaging in artistic pursuits fosters creativity and self-expression. Whether through visual arts, music, or performing arts, individuals learn to communicate and innovate.