Indian Man completes PhD at 82

PUNE: It was a unique PhD viva-voce at the management faculty of the University of Pune recently where the student appeared to be at least 20 years older than his guide and examiners. And, it was certainly not the first degree acquired by 82-year-old Moreshwar Abhyankar. He has indeed a string of degrees and diplomas to his credit, including masters in arts, business administration, LLB, MMS and diplomas in journalism and social work.

It took Abhyankar nine years to complete the PhD on the subject ‘Impact of training interventions on the development and competencies of employees in private sector units in Pune’. Abhyankar, who retired as zonal director of Union labour ministry’s workers education scheme in 1988, chose this particular topic for his thesis because of his teaching experience of over 50 years. “During my experience in training and teaching, I often wondered if the training programmes designed and conducted by the companies helped these employees at practical level.”

During a seminar on the subject, he asked expert Pratibha Joshi whether workers found the training useful. “That’s when Joshi, who subsequently became my guide, suggested that I take up the research,” he said. “Initially, I was skeptical considering my age and health, but later took it as a challenge.”

Not only Abhyankar surmounted the age related health problems, he also braved other physiological challenges that confronted him after meeting with an accident in 2006. “I converted these challenges into opportunities and faced them bravely.” he said.

The research was conducted in four companies, Bharat Forge Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, Cummins India Ltd and Thermax Ltd, where Abhyankar used to undertake training courses for the employees. A questionnaire was prepared to analyse the effectiveness of training programmes at all levels. He found that training helped the employees to change the mind set and the attitude of trade unions in a positive way, increase productivity and reduce wastage.

After the analysis, he learnt that prior intimation and information about the training programme needed to be given to trainees and instructors, there should be no disturbance during training that would distract or break the link in the learning process. It was also observed that technical aspects along with timely notes helped to maintain the quality of training programme.

Talking about how he kept himself updated with changing trends in the field of management, Abhyankar said, “Today’s workers are highly educated even at floor levels. They have the passion to prove themselves. The various training programmes over the years and interaction with the trainees helped me to keep myself updated.”

Abhyankar’s guide Pratibha Joshi said, “Even when the medical issues concerning Abhyankar’s health came in his way, he maintained the tempo throughout. He kept reading books and material pertaining to his subject when he met with the accident and during his illness.”

She added: “He was completely independent. Despite physical problems he himself went for the surveys, interviews and research.”

Abhyankar returned the complement and said, “My guide was my silent motivator during the entire study.”

Abhyankar did not face many problems during registration for PhD at the university as his colleagues helped him and only a progress report had to be submitted at regular intervals.

When asked what kept him going during his almost a decade long study, he said, “I was halfway through my research work when I met with an accident, I was gripped by doubts for a moment but regained confidence and kept a positive attitude till the end. The research kept me busy and made me feel healthy. I got immense support from my wife.”

Talking about her husband’s success, Ashadevi Abhyankar said, “I was happy that he kept himself busy with something. The physical hardships did not affect him as he is mentally very strong and focused. I played a role of a doctor during his bad health and a wife when he needed motivation.”

About his future projects, Abhyankar said, “I plan to work with Infosys on the same lines as my PhD as their training policies are different.” I will work on employment retention issues. Also, today’s jobs are physically and mentally taxing, which adversely affect the employees’ health. I want to conduct a study on this.”

Also on his wishlist are topics like long and irregular working hours of employees, analysis of the authenticity of spiritual articles that appear in the print media and a follow up study on the effectiveness of the in-house corporate journals that are published.

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