Featured Interviews – Dr. Matin A. Khan

Dr Matin served as Dean and Director of IBA from 1972 to 1977 and contributed greatly to the development of academic standards throughout the country. In recognition of his services, Dr. Matin A Khan was bestowed upon the status of Professor Emeritus by the Institute of Business Administration (IBA). He also served as Dean of Faculty of Management Sciences and Life Professor Research at Hamdard University.

 

The apartment block was much like any other in Karachi. A narrow street with cars parked on either led us to a compound with some children playing in the open space. One of them waved at me, a friendly gesture but one lost on me so engrossed I was in my thoughts. I was about to meet a doyen of the IBA and was preparing myself for what was to be a portentous meeting.

 

"I have setup an interview with Dr. Matin", Prof. Mirza Sardar had told me over the telephone. I wanted to record his thoughts for the IBA history project and Dr. Matin A. Khan, who had joined the faculty in IBA's earliest days and served as Dean & Director of the institution from 1972 to 1977 to contribute greatly to the development of academic standards of IBA, was among the first people I wanted to speak to. He had received his MBA from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania and DBA from the University of Southern California, USA and was a member of IBA's academic board.


I had been interviewing graduates of the IBA, especially those from the 80s and 70s and they spoke about the people who had had impacted them in their formative years. Invariably the talk led to Dr. Matin Khan. His name was taken with respect, bordering on awe. The words "brilliant", "fair", and "difficult to get an A" came up frequently. Regarding the last one Dr. Matin himself told me the same, that he had very high standards for his students as that was the only way they would learn the value of hard work and he wanted them to truly excel in life. And excel they did. His students graduated to join world-class organizations and succeeded in the areas of industry, government, academia and entrepreneurship. Today they are CEOs and Directors, professors and researchers, high ranking government officials and familiar names in the world of commerce. One of them is an office bearer in a major political party and even after more than two decades he could recall the lessons given by Dr. Matin.


Dr. Matin's grandson led Prof Mirza Sardar and me to his room where he was lying on the bed. I had been told that he has suffered from poor health but even in a horizontal position he exuded authority. He was bedridden but his voice was strong and his voice filled the space with the same sonority it possessed when he was a young faculty member more than five decades back. His dark eyes were slightly dulled but still twinkled with humor and the handshake was firm.


As Prof Sardar did the introductions I was setting up the camera equipment and thinking about the changes he must have witnessed. It was winter and the room was completely silent the way it gets in the cold months when suddenly his voice cut across the hushed atmosphere, "Barha umda suit pehna hai aap nay" ('That's a very nice suit you are wearing". I glanced up to see who he was addressing and he was looking straight at me with a benevolent smile on his face. 'Nazar hai aap ki Matin Sahab" (It is only how you are appraising it Matin Sahab) was my response. That remark broke the ice and we started the interview. "Please tell about the IBA of your day", I requested. The question was deliberately open ended so ask to elicit a holistic response. He was silent and his eyes got a faraway look in them. Perhaps he was thinking back to the days when he had joined IBA after getting his MBA from the world’s oldest and arguably finest business school in the world, the Wharton Business School at University of Pennsylvania. "I did as well as any foreign student" he said with a broad smile. IBA had been setup a short while back and was collaborating with Wharton Business School on several aspects including curriculum and faculty development. Dr. Matin brought with him a firm and profound understanding of business education and his teaching methodology and pedagogy was aligned to mould students into not just industry captains, but also critical thinkers and visionaries who would go on to shape the economic and social landscape of the country.


Dr. Matin was a firm believer in the case study method and field research and would take his students around the commercial district of Saddar for first hand research. Along the way he would discuss areas of management, strategy, marketing and much more, all which made for informative lessons and an immersive learning experience. Students who were unprepared for the case discussion could be asked to leave but according to him, "Such was the rigor of the students that it only happened a couple of times". He also said, "Admission in IBA was very competitive and students who did not do well were soon out of the institution. Of course this meant that the graduates were supremely trained and got picked for jobs by the leading organizations of the country". Dr. Matin's developmental impact was not limited to the students. As Dean he was also responsible for faculty training and played a major role in sending IBA faculty for doctorates and certifications to leading international institutions. These faculty members then returned to IBA to serve the institution with distinction and nurture the next generation of students. His impact was not just limited to IBA and he was associated as Project Director for almost a decade with JRP-IV, a research project on improvement of slums while he was a visiting Professor at Ahmad Bello University, Nigeria. Besides all this he was a prolific writer and between all his academic responsibilities he took out time to author a large number of books and articles on marketing and research methodology.


We spoke about these matters and much more. On some questions he would pause and but the silent spells wouldn’t last and he would plunge on to bring out more memories from his treasure trove. "IBA has seen many changes but good ones. It simply cannot be compared with any other institution, they are completely different entities", he asserted on more than one occasion. However, he was wracked with coughing spells and we could see that he was having difficulty speaking for long periods. It was also getting late but I felt we had barely touched the tip of what would be an iceberg of rare knowledge. We said our goodbyes and he asked us to come again for another long walk down the memory lane. As we were stepping out of the room he said, "Really, that’s a very nice suit you have on". I told him that I will gift him a similar one and he can wear it at the launch of the IBA history book. He laughed and said he will definitely be there. I am sure of it too for those who teach are immortal and this ephemeral life but a passing phase. He passed away from the corporeal world on June 23rd, 2014 but Dr. Matin will live on through his students and through the institution he loved and nurtured. Dr. Matin will always be a part of the IBA.

 

Interview conducted by:
Sibtain Naqvi - Alumnus 2007

 

 

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Featured Interviews