Nandita Abraham, CEO of Pearl Academy, talks to Sangeeta Yadav about the faculty and teaching mores at the academy and the expansion plans.
You were recently promoted as the CEO at Pearl Academy…
I joined Pearl Academy in 2001 as a faculty member with a realisation that I could offer something value creating for the growth of youth in this creative industry. I headed the School of Creative Business and teach fashion marketing, international trade etc. Then I moved to the management side which was a great opportunity for me as I was able to impact more people. I started doing collaborative projects with international colleges and industry.
What is the USP of Pearl Academy?
We develop creative professionals who can contribute to the industry. Empowering professionals who want to be an entrepreneur or manage working in a company, manage failure and succeed and develop a global perspective to become competent and confident about their potentials. Our strength is the agility and ability to look tomorrow’s career.
How do you encourage students to come out and question in the class?
Being able to talk, present themselves, justify or argue is nothing to do with if you are an introvert or extrovert. When you are an introvert, you still have thoughts. It’s about how you are made to put across well in front of the people. At Pearl, students are made to question. We have no exams except for subjects like accounts. We study through presentations, debates and negotiations. In a class of 25 people, there are group presentations, individual presentations, people give each other peer feedback. We prepare students to not just give a positive criticism and receive it as well.
What is the biggest trend in the fashion and design industry today?
The industry has become more open to partnering with the fashion schools. Industry experts understand that we are developing people to make their tomorrow. As a college, we have to be able to give to the industry not just our student but thought leadership, direction and questioning.
Tell us about the collaborations.
Every week, there are different industry people giving guest lectures. We want them to broadly talk about three things — about their journey because a student can understand and connect to them directly. Second, what happens in the industry and workshops around their specialised area be it product design, animation, virtual reality etc. Third and the most important is explain the students what happens to them in the first two-three years of working because young people today want to become CEOs of tomorrow.
How should one manage such a big responsibility and work with other people, etc. Adjusting expectations of early career aspirants and the industry is important. They give live projects to the students and also engage with our faculty to take advice.
Tell us more about the teaching mores?
There is the Ignite Programme under which we have Hybrid Learning Online (HBO) pedagogy where we create the classroom to discuss, negotiate and argue but we don’t use the classroom for giving information which they easily get from online. All the study materials we give it online. We have a platform called Blackboard which was launched last year to share the links for study material. Sometimes children learn best at two in the morning. But with this blended learning, they can listen to the lecture at 2am or read something. Other application is Beamed Class.
When an expert comes to Mumbai campus, all the students at various branches get to attend the lecture trough advanced technology. We have included social media, gamification and other advance media as a part of the learning process. There are corporate projects for students like for Spice Jet, Tihar jail, Mind Rocks, company to study consumer study, plan a blueprint of the event, decide on exterior, collection, etc.
What’s in the pipeline?
We are planning to launch School of Media and Journalism and School of Sports Management by next year. Sports courses will have event management, photography, fitness management, leagues etc. We already have some beauty courses as part of fashion course but we are trying to launch a separate school of it.
We are looking at launching career opportunities for adults like working professionals or housewives who are planning to work from home or launch their own start-up. They can learn on a weekend courses or evening courses of one year. More industry and international tie-ups and the launch of Bengaluru branch is also there in the pipeline.
What advise will you give to students who wish to start their venture early?
It’s a good idea to collaborate with someone who has business background. A designer tends to look at aesthetics, beauty and what they want. But at the end of the day, it’s what the customer wants and is he willing to pay for what you are offering. Thus, we have classroom projects where design and business students work together to understand the business and Intellectual Property Rights modules.
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