Retail remains one of the largest industries across the world and has been very agile in adopting the upcoming technology. – Dr. Deependra Sharma

Interview with Dr. Deependra Sharma

Dr. Deependra Sharma

Professor (Marketing), Amity Business School
Amity University, Gurgaon, Haryana, India

Q1. You are a Professor and handle many other works like Academic Affairs, Training and Placement, Branding and many more. How do you handle all works simultaneously?

I think that it is my passion towards work accompanied by effective Time Management that allows me to handle various responsibilities simultaneously. When you move up the ladder, a to-do list keeps getting longer then the only way to accomplish your tasks is to manage time more effectively, efficiently and focus on what matters most.  Usually, I prepare a ‘2 by 2 Important- Urgent matrix’ where I categorise my work based on their relative importance and urgency.

One of my mentors tutored me about time management and according to him one should be realistic about time and should always keep reminding oneself that time is a scarce resource. Therefore, I formulate and organise my goals, plans, schedules, and tasks to effectively use time. Many a time’s things do not move the way you plan and there are certain interruptions that accrue. In such a situation I make sincere efforts to monitor my use of time while performing activities, including adjusting to interruptions or changing priorities.

Q2. You had both academic and administrative experience in your long span of career. Which one do you like most and why?

I have been in academics now almost for more than two decades and as part of my job I am expected to serve the organisation in various capacities including the work of administrative nature. I have been heading the various departments including BBA, MBA, MIB, PhD, Study Abroad Program etc but personally I am a teacher at heart and I enjoy the most when I am in class interacting with the young, energetic and bright minds, I take this part of my job very seriously and I have a philosophy that keeps me going. If you allow me, I would like to share my teaching philosophy with the readers.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” (William Arthur Ward)

My teaching philosophy is an outcome of how I look at my roles as an academician i.e. a teacher, a researcher and a service-provider. I consider my university/institute as a place where knowledge is produced as well as stored and my interaction (in any form) with various stakeholders as a medium to promote and deliver knowledge. Moreover, I do not want to appear selfish by not making my contribution to the existing pool of knowledge, thus I take my role as a researcher with utmost sincerity. Further, my role as a researcher enables me to enhance and validate my teaching.

Peter Drucker had a view “That there is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all” and this is my view also. Hence, I neither want to learn nor teach anything which has got no practical implication in real world. As a service provider, I feel that my teaching and research should be focused to make some contribution in enabling the practitioners to address the issues in a more effective and efficient manner.

With this background, the foundation of my teaching philosophy involves kindling the passion for learning amongst students by making them participate actively in the learning process. I aim at enhancing students’ ability to critically evaluate the concepts taught specially that of my area of teaching i.e. marketing. This ensures that students are moving from the state of cognition to the state of meta-cognition.

To develop critical thinking, I use Case method of teaching. First, it forces students to take individual decisions; where the focus is on enabling the students to learn a systematic approach of identifying problems and reaching a logical solution rather than depending on memorized one. Additionally, during the course of discussion many a times I also get new perspective on the topic from the arguments and counter-arguments that pop up during this process.

This method also ensures improvement in students’ ability to communicate effectively. To do so I give them thought aggravating writing assignments which they have to present orally as well. While one group is making a presentation about the case, remaining class act as an critic inquiring the analysis and the conclusions made by the presenter. I also continually push the students by questioning their solutions.

After the case presentation, each solution is critically reviewed in the class which allows students to overcome their vacillation about admitting and sharing with fellow students  how their analysis missed a perspective given by the classmates .It also train students to listen well. Listening others means that students are able to appreciate that there in real life there is no single solution to the issues rather  multiple outcomes are possible.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” (Carl Jung

Since the inception of my academic career, I have spent substantial time and effort gladly serving on number of committees related to students. This has allowed me to be in touch with their problems that they face on various fronts. Further, becoming aware about their problems provides me much required feedback about my deliverance which may be modified if required.

Finally, I believe my role as researcher and service provider to business community not only enhances the quality of my teaching but also validate it. I am currently engaged in research and am trying to venture into consulting.  I would like to conclude by saying that conducting research and providing consultancy will empower me to perform my function in the academic channel of distribution from production to consumption, and ultimately to retail knowledge that has been verified at peer-level and at business level.

Thus, enabling me to deliver the relevant and accurate knowledge, using the various teaching methods to obtain optimum output.

Q3. What are your research interests?

My research interest is focused on making contribution in developing an in-depth understanding of individual decision-making with special reference to retail sector. Consumer behavior is very complex and unpredictable. It is often characterized by deviations from perfect rationality and is affected by various factors that make it difficult to develop a clear understanding about underlying reasons. I use quantitative as well as qualitative method of investigation.

So I develop survey tools and analyze data to get better understanding about decision making and its psychological underpinnings. I try to ensure that my research is good enough to make contribution to the existing field of knowledge and at the same time it enables the practitioner’s i.e.  real world decision makers to take informed decisions in the areas retailing, opinion leadership. Now-a-days I am developing another research area i.e entrepreneurship.

Q4. Which one thing do you want to change in yourself and why?

 This question is a bit personal in nature and my answer will have a bit of spiritual connotation to it.. I would like to bring a change in my approach towards life and things and would stop taking life too seriously. I want to practice how to rise above my environment and focus on ‘who’ I wish to be, rather than on what is going on around.

It is a known fact that happiness is a state of mind and is in no way associated with the materialistic possessions or achievements, but irony is that still we all are after them. I intend to give myself some space while resetting psychological state while allowing my mind to focus purely on things that bring happiness

Q5. Online Ecommerce Companies are giving a great competition to Offline Retail Store. They are selling good on major discounts. How do you see future of Retail (Offline) in the world as a Retail Management Expert?

Retail remains one of the largest industries across the world and has been very agile in adopting the upcoming technology. Development in retail-tech, fintech has transformed the way small as well as big organizations manage their respective business. I believe that there is much store in future for retail.

There are few trends that I hope will define physical retail. Retailers are toiling hard to offer customers an engaging experience and is also making efforts to educate them so that the customers may make a well-informed buying decision.

This is evident with brands like IKEA or Pepperfry establishing the experience centers for customers where customers are not only to able touch and feel but are also able to have inclusive purchase experience. Secondly, in order to beat e-commerce companies in their own game retailers are providing more massive selection with technology solutions like Virtual Inventory and Virtual Reality.

Retailers are also now adopting technology to make their presence felt on the Internet, Social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp. Also, concept like omni-channel are going to become a norm.

Q6. What message would like you like to give to the young professionals who have recently started their professional life?

Today’s youth is very smart, well informed and highly confident. They do not need much of an advice but there are few words of caution I would like to share with them. These are based on previous experience where I have observed many students not being able to achieve to the best of their potential.

Students who would soon be joining the real world as professionals should always be cautious of not getting into their comfort zones. This may be suicidal. They must strive to accumulate as much diversified knowledge as possible and not be afraid of attempting something that they have not done before. This mindset will ensure optimum learning which is going to be a steppingstone for progressing in one’s career.

I also wish if the youth could spend some time in talking to oneself. In today’s world, we all are so busy in chatting, texting, mailing and talking to other people on various digital platforms that we tend to ignore ourselves. In a small survey I conducted with my MBA and B Tech students , I was surprised to observe that most of the students spend 7 to 8 hours per day on mobile but only 2 % of 120 students claimed that they introspect themselves at some time or the other.

I always tell my students to talk to yourself and introspect your actions as these will help you to connect with yourself. This ‘connect’ is very critical because until and unless your body, mind and soul are not connected, you are train to no-where.

Since, I am involved with the training and placements also, I have an opportunity to interact with the industry people and based upon their feedback I want to share that industry looks right attitude and communication.

A student may be topper but if he misses on these two parameters, he will not be picked up by corporate. Therefore, I strongly suggest students to work on these qualities from the day one as Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Lastly, networking is not a choice but a mandatory condition for success in today’s world. It should not be confused with taking the advantage or manipulating the people. You should make all sincere efforts in developing genuine relations with the people who matters.

Q7. Recently, New Education Policy (NEP) has been declared. What according to you it intends to offer with reference to higher education?

The progress and prosperity of any country depends on the quality of education that it offers. I feel that it is a very welcoming step taken by present government to come out with a NEP almost after a gap of thirty-six years. I find this policy progressive and quite ambitious.

The NEP-2020 has set up a very ambitious target of attaining the gross enrolment ratio of 50% by the year 2035 whereas it was only 26% in 2018.Further, this policy talks about embedding more flexibility in the curriculum by adopting an interdisciplinary approach and offering multiple exit options to the students. One of the major change that his NEP professes is that now there will be one single regulatory body i.e Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) for the entire higher education except medical and legal studies.

Also, to make it one of the most centralized regulatory institutions, all four of its independent verticals will also be responsible for funding, grants, standards, and accreditation. Another revolutionary step that it talks is about the granting of graded autonomy to universities, and in a step that will phase out university affiliations over the next 15 years.

I am confident that such initiatives will  play a role of  a catalyst in the advancement of higher education in the long run but there are many challenges that need to tackled and watch how the things get  unfold and see how policy  gets implemented.

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