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Dr. Sanjay Patro, Fr. Donald D Silva , Pranjal Pachpore

Rural Immersion Program- Learning Through Lived Experiences

Rural Immersion Program- Learning Through Lived Experiences Prof. Sanjay Patro - Dean(Academics), XLRI , Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur, India. Extended Abstract Businesses have tremendous potential for social transformation and well-being of people through their product and services. Currently, the majority of businesses focus on urban consumers, with few products specifically designed for rural areas in underdeveloped and developing countries. By redirecting business focus toward rural markets, the program expects to inspire the development of products that are developed for rural markets. For this potential to become a reality business will have to redirect their resources on rural areas as they are still untapped markets. These areas hold the key to the future growth of businesses and human society alike. The challenge is that most business graduates who join business programs belong to urban areas, they have never had the opportunity to closely observe a life which is quite different from their own with its own set of opportunities and challenges. With this problem in mind a rural immersion program was developed in Indian B-schools. XLRI has been running this program for more than a decade constantly evolving the program. The paper delves into the genesis and evolution of this program for the years. It also discusses the objectives of the rural immersion program and its transformational value for the students and society. Apart from this the paper also discusses the role of various stakeholders that have significantly improved the program. The paper discusses the reasons for bringing in other stakeholders and the extent of their involvement in the program. The methodology is based on grounded theory as limited research has taken place in understanding the pedagogy and outcomes of rural immersion programs. The method for data collection is in-depth qualitative interviews of faculty involved in running this program over a decade, students who have undergone this program and other stakeholders involved. The outcomes of the program vary a lot for the students as the learning is through lived experiences. The students live in the rural conditions for a few days without any urban amnesties leading them to actually experience rural life in its raw form. A few of the outcomes can be categorised as socio-cultural learnings, understanding the rural business and ecosystem, stringent resource allocations by rural communities, societal developmental projects, social change programs among others. Though a few parallels are to be found with global immersion programs for business students where students are exposed to global businesses and markets which are more developed, rural immersion is focussed on underdeveloped and developing markets and its eco-systems. The paper makes the case for the adoption of rural immersion program by business schools globally by claiming that it will go a long way in exposing students to rural markets. Given that graduates of top business schools reach the upper echelon’s in the corporate world, the program shapes their perspectives through lived rural experience. It will encourage them to make decisions that benefit society.