IIMU’s rural immersion course, which has been part of our flagship PGP program since inception, reflects our commitment to create responsible leaders by providing values-based education and to make a meaningful contribution to the region. We believe that it is essential for future managers or entrepreneurs to have a good understanding of the social and political background of the country. To pursue this, rural Immersion starts with a course on the Indian Social and Political Environment and continues with the class dividing into five-person teams which spend a week in a village where they work closely with NGOs to appreciate on-the- ground realities and challenges faced by those at the bottom of the pyramid.
IIM Udaipur is strategically located in the southern part of Rajasthan which is surrounded by tribal villages. This region performs extremely poorly on the human development index, with 85% tribal population in the belt. The rural immersion program allows students to develop sensitivity to rural issues through direct experiential learning.
Students are connected with the local NGO partners working in the areas of livelihood, health, and education. These grassroots organizations work as liaison and host for the students. Students have pre-defined assignments designed for them which they execute in groups. One important part of these assignments is to develop an understanding of the socio-economic status and resources of a village through participatory rural appraisal methods. Students conduct door to door surveys, focus group discussions and informal discussions. Their classroom lessons on Indian Social and Political Environment provide them with the necessary background to prepare their assignments.
Some of the assignments that IIMU students have previously undertaken are assessing the opportunity gap that exists for village youth; understanding financial and digital inclusion in rural India; and assessing the daily workload of rural women and analyzing how it affects their health. Students’ findings on malnutrition and open defecation in the villages have been covered in the local media and presented to the local administration and government officials which helped them plan state interventions.
A report on ‘Lack of bathing spaces for women in rural areas’ was a joint result of IIMU students’ immersion and VikasAnvesh Foundation. The Foundation had a methodology in place which enabled the students to contribute through fieldwork and their ground-level observations. This report was later published by the Foundation.
In an agrarian and rapidly urbanizing country, the experience of rural immersion is eye-opening for management students. In the future, IIMU graduates would be better equipped to craft policies or come up with new programs or strategies at the rural level.
An underlying priority for IIMU is to instill in our students a sense of commitment as managers to have a socially responsible impact, to give them an understanding of how difficult and challenging this often can be, and to provide the practical knowledge and tools to enable them to accomplish this aim. This program teaches students humility and fosters the idea of giving back to society.