Day Three – Ahmedabad
Friday 13 November
Morning meeting with the Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA), in their beautiful campus in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It’s amazing how many astonishing buildings and academic centres Ahmedabad has – whether it’s the NID or the Centre for Environmental Planning (CEPT), or whether they’re built by Louis Kahan or B. V. Doshi, the city just seems to be full of them. While Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore compete for the title of economic capital of India, Ahmedabad strikes us all as being more of an academic centre, severely tied with India’s design and artistic history, be it under the Mughals, the Marathas, the British, or the Gandhis.
The meeting takes place in their Board Room, where we meet with several members of staff, including Ashok Ranchhod, their Director who has recently relocated from Southampton to takeover the role from his predecessor. MICA is arguably the only HE institution in the country that dedicates to the professional development of Indian communicators. It was set up in 1991 with funding from Mudra, one of India’s largest advertising agencies, as an academic response to the needs of the growing local communications/media sector. As with other creative sectors in India, the 90s and early noughties have seen an explosive growth that hasn’t been matched by the supply of trained professionals. Academic training in the creative sectors in India is therefore a major issue (and a huge area of opportunities), and with the government’s lack of support it’s not strange to find cases like this, where the private sector has intervened. Nowadays, though, MICA remains an autonomous entity, no longer funded by Mudra but self-funded through the student’s tuition fees, and regulated administratively at arm’s length by Mudra’s Foundation.
MICA runs courses on Media Planning, Advertising Planning and Client Servicing, as well as their flagship Postgraduate course on Communications (PGPC). In addition, they run diplomas to improve communicators’ management skills, and manage a series of ‘Centres of Excellence’ that carry on valuable research and provides opportunities for graduates. Through their EDC centre, set up with support of the Government, they run the PGPC course and administer Com-cubator, India’s first incubator for Communications Technology-based start-ups. Com-cubator is an exemplary model of an academic institution that understands and caters for the existing needs of a creative sector, providing incubation, research provision, mentorship schemes and management training programmes. As an incubation facility, they help young practitioners with clever ideas turn them into reality, giving them office spaces, post-production facilities, business advice and opportunities for funding, accounting, and legal support.
Like MICA, NID has started its own incubator. They provide infrastructure for projects, usually for those around design technology (like MICA’s Com-cubator, the incubator here is funded by the Government of India’s Department of Technology, hence the limitations). Unlike the Com-cubator, though, the focus is not on businesses but on ideas, so the space is more of a technology lab than a business incubator. As MP Ranjan proposes, it’ll be better to have a separate network of business people, working outside NID, to come over every once in a while to learn about the ongoing projects and pick up the ones to fund and take over to a business level – with their advice, support, and money. NID runs a small module on design business, so the students are not exactly trained to be on their own once out there. Is this education model viable? Or is it better to concentrate exclusively on developing design skills, leaving business training outside the curricula?
Quick stopover at NID’s shop, where we inject some money into the Gujarati economy, and then off to sample some five star cuisine at the House of Mangaldas, a gorgeous restaurant and hotel in the middle of old Ahmedabad.