A weeklong trip by President Mark Schlissel to India on Nov. 4-8 brought into focus the long and deep relationship the University of Michigan has enjoyed with the world’s second-most populous nation.
It included visits to several U-M partner institutions and meetings with industry and government leaders, and concluded with a summit on startups and technology in India. The trip focused on new research collaborations, building on the current partnerships and engaging with alumni.
“I am in India here to see what India is prioritizing in education in both the near-term and long-term future,” Schlissel said. “The fact that we are both democracies and there is a big English-speaking population makes it an ideal partner for us.”
Schlissel started the trip with a visit to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where the partnership with U-M has grown over the last decade to include research collaborations on cancer, immunology, genetics and disaster medicine.
“Research institutions have critical roles in setting the agenda for global science,” Schlissel said while addressing a group of scientists from both institutions. “It is, therefore, extremely important to explore how we might build upon this work that will advance the collaborative research opportunities for scholars and scientists both at U-M and in India.”
He also met ministers of health and human resource development, along with Vijay Raghavan, scientific adviser to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to explore how U-M can better partner with India.
In Mumbai, the meeting at Bombay House showcased one of U-M’s oldest collaborations.
“(The late) C.K. Prahalad from the Ross School of Business challenged us to think about frugal innovations,” said Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of the Tata Group. “His bottom of the pyramid concept has been a huge inspiration for us.”
That led to conceptualizing an executive education program for the Tata executives at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, which had been going strong for 25 years. Tata is an Indian multinational conglomerate founded in 1868 and headquartered in Mumbai.
Schlissel also participated in TATA Talks, a TED-talks-style conversation covering a wide range of topics with Tata chief economist Rupa Purushothaman.
While much of U-M’s engagement occurs at an individual level, institutional support is important for sustained long-term growth, said Leela Fernandes, director of U-M’s Center for South Asian Studies.
“The trip showed a deep understanding of the significance that India will play economically and institutionally in shaping the future trends in undergraduate and graduate education,” she said.
Alumni in India were equally excited by this visit.
“It’s such a pleasure to have President Mark Schlissel here in India,” said Sanjay Reddy, vice chairman of the GVK group. “Hosting a dinner in honor of his visit was quite an opportunity, and his visit has recharged us all.”
The deep connection between U-M and the alumni was also evident in a gathering of the U-M Indian Alumni Association in Bangalore, which took the shape of a two-day summit on startups and technology.
Alums came together along with deans of U-M’s Ross School of Business, School of Information and Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning to talk about startup and entrepreneurial culture in India.
“The exchanges that happen between faculty and students as they travel around the world make the world a safer place,” said Schlissel, who concluded his trip with a promise to return.