Ranjan Kini brings both regional and international perspectives to his students as an information systems professor at Indiana University Northwest’s School of Business and Economics.
With a focus on technology in business, these views are based on his travels and teachings around the world as well as his relationships with region business community members.
“As a business major, there is a certain level – both conceptually and practically – expected in regards to technology when students come out of the business school. One of my primary goals is to learn what is needed as it is always changing. I constantly interact with companies and the community to learn from them what they need in employees and bring that into the classroom,” Kini says. “I want to build their skills and make sure they have the tools … build confidence in them to help them be lifelong learners.”
Kini has seen first-hand how technology has changed countries and driven economic development during his time in Thailand, Chile and Finland. He went on sabbatical in Thailand in 1998 after being awarded a grant by Rotary International.
“Like Tom Friedman’s ‘The World is Flat,’ we can definitely gain from what is happening in other parts of the globe. I was able to compare and contrast technology in the U.S. and Thailand. I was invited back to teach in the graduate program. Back then, I got a glimpse of what was happening in rapidly developing countries such as Taiwan and Singapore and that gave me input on how to bring a technology discussion from an international perspective into the classroom,” he says.
“They have invited me back (to teach) again and again. I continue to bring my background of international teaching to the classroom.”
Back in the region, Kini says he also is able to understand technology expectations by serving on advisory committees for various organizations.
“Based on these experiences, I can gradually transform my curriculum and connect the community, businesses and public sector in the classroom. What do I need to change to make sure students have the skills they need?” he says.
IUN professor Charles Hobson has worked with Kini since he began at IUN. Hobson teaches classes on teamwork, leadership and organizational behavior.
“He has a worldwide reputation as an expert in his field. In my opinion, nobody is as knowledgeable as Ranjan is about international business and business operations. He keeps his hand on the pulse on business internationally and he is very knowledgeable about business operations, specifically the use of the technology,” Hobson says. “In addition to being an expert, he gives back to the community. He donates his time to tech projects in Northwest Indiana and is an invaluable resource to Northwest Indiana, giving freely of his time and expertise.”
Kini earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in India. He then came to the U.S. and earned his MBA with a focus on operations management and management information systems and his doctorate in management in information systems.
“When I was growing up in India, there wasn’t much technology at the time. When I came here for my MBA, I did a significant amount of work on a computer. With my engineering background, I had a natural inclination to move into IT,” he says.
Kini says teaching is gratifying as he continues to mentor and guide future innovators. He cites a response from a colleague who answered a student’s question about why he is in the classroom instead of owning a business.
“I am not going to be a billionaire, but I am a billionaire-maker. These kids are creating new companies, new jobs. They are the movers and the shakers. Transferring my knowledge and making the economy better is more gratifying than making one company for myself,” he says.
Kini is currently focused on raising awareness of the need for a statewide broadband strategy. While he says there has been progress made, he strives to connect with the decision makers to spotlight the importance of having affordable high-speed access for every household in Indiana.
“We have issues as things are moving more and more online. Not everyone has access or it’s too expensive. We need to have digital inclusion for everyone. Some states have a strategy and there are national plans in other countries. I just came back from Thailand and they are making every first-grader have a tablet in hand in school,” he says. “There is some movement but it’s not rapid. Chicago is trying to become a test area so hopefully that will connect us to the bigger picture.”
The need for a broadband plan is central to economic development in the region as well, Kini says.
“It used to be location, location, location for businesses. Now it’s location, location, connectivity. It’s good for the community, good for economic development, good for students. Future companies don’t have to be brick-and-mortar … there will be great companies online. We need the support of technology infrastructure to help them flourish,” he says.
“There has to be a cohesive strategy and plan and I am pushing that constantly.”