Prior to being designated dean at INSEAD, Jain served as the dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in the United States, and had been a member of the faculty since 1987. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Dipak Jain, Dean Designate of INSEAD, the international business school based in Fontainebeau, France, will assume his new role next month. INSEAD currently has three campuses worldwide: France, Singapore and the UAE.

Prior to his appointment as Dean, Jain served as dean of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in the United States, and had been a member of the faculty since 1987. Before leaving to the United States for a PhD in marketing, Jain earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and statistics and a master's degree in mathematical statistics from Gauhati University in India.

Gulf News had the opportunity to sit down with Jain to talk about his new role and the future plans for the INSEAD Abu Dhabi campus.

Gulf News: From mathematical statistics to marketing, why did you decide to make this shift in careers?

Dipak Jain: While I was there doing my PhD, I got a very useful insight and the insight was mathematics is good nowhere. What will you do with a mathematics degree? Some of my friends told me you should move to business as you will get better return on your intellect.

At that time it was 1983-84 when most of the business education in the US was moving towards being data driven and more analytical.

If you look at 1982-85 most of the supermarkets started to use this scanner technology, so you can collect a lot of customer data.

Airlines started the frequent flyer programme. There was this whole era of data-based marketing.So if companies have such strong data, they need strong people with mathematical statistical skills to analyse the data and get customer insights.

That's where I made the transition from mathematical statistics to look at applying statistics to marketing data.

After all these years, why did you decide to leave the United States?

In 2009, I decided to move on. At that time, I took a year off and I was thinking of what to do next. One of the options was to go back to academia and become a regular professor.

Then I got several offers from other institutions asking me to join their faculty, but one fine day I got this surprise call from the people at INSEAD asking me if I would be interested in this job.

What attracted me the most was that this is a school with a different philosophy.

American schools, no matter what we say, are more US centric because the market there is so large and what I found unique about INSEAD was that it truly wants to be a global business school.

INSEAD was established in 1959, where is it today?

If you look at 1959 when we started INSEAD till 2009, those 50 years the reputation came from our location in Fontainebeau, France, and we became known as a great business school outside the United States.

Then the board and some of the faculty who were involved in researching the Asian market said why not explore the market evolving in the East?

If INSEAD truly wants to become a global school, we need to have some footprint in the eastern side. At that time, either you go to Hong Kong or you think of other regions like India and China. But India and China at that time were not as developed as what we see today, so the stable markets were Hong Kong or Singapore.

At that time the board decided to start the Singapore campus. That was at that stage the same what the Abu Dhabi campus is today.

The decision to expand to Abu Dhabi came from the alums.

In 2006, INSEAD decided to look at the Middle East especially with the growth we saw in this region and its attraction of a large number of expats.

What programmes does INSEAD offer in Abu Dhabi?

When we decided to come to Abu Dhabi our main attraction was executive education.

Here there are people who come to work for companies, so why not create a product that suits them?

Today, our two products are non-degree executive education and degree programmes for executives.

The target market for both products is the same. However, we don't have a full MBA programme yet.

What are your expansion plans for the Abu Dhabi campus?

In 2008, we started the non-degree programmes. In 2010, we started the first Executive MBA class. We started the first last year close to 26 people. We like to start slow small and scale up. At least for the next year or year and a half we'll try to get a deeper understanding of the executive education market here. Then depending on that market we can decide on a full-time MBA programme. My priority is to build the Abu Dhabi programme and take it to a level where it's stable.

What would you get at INSEAD that you wouldn't get anywhere else?

The way we design the curriculum there has to be some part that we call the global foundation. You need to know the global landscape of management education, followed by the local and regional. If you ask me about here [Abu Dhabi], they would learn how attractive this region is to the rest of the world, what kind of companies are investing here because sitting in the US in Chicago I may do one case study on Emirates or Etihad Airlines, but we wouldn't know about the local region. Our strategy is that people who are admitted to Singapore would go to Fontainebeau and those who are admitted at Fontainebeau would go to Singapore. We want our global community to be aware of the global affairs. We have multiple locations and we are trying to harness the knowledge from each location.

What is the percentage of women and Emiratis at INSEAD today?

The global percentage is that 33 per cent of students are women. In Abu Dhabi, it's 27 per cent which is not very different.

In our first offering, we had 26 students of which only one student is Emirati. It may be we have not done the full marketing or that the executive MBA is still a new concept here. So we need to do a better job this year in trying to say what the purpose of the programme is. This in time would grow.