Since the opening of Indian economy in the 90s, it is being integrated in the global business environment at a fast rate. The changes are coming from many directions and present both opportunities and concerns. The challenge is transforming students joining B-schools today to face the new world with confidence. This requires fresh thinking in designing and delivering management education.
In 1961, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta was established in collaboration with Sloan School of Management (MIT). Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad had initial collaboration with Harvard Business School. This led to many Indian B-schools that followed these two to increasingly adopt a curriculum that is oriented in the West. Recently, the West’s management education model has been discredited for focusing on short-term financial goals to the detriment of long-term interests of all stakeholders.
The Japanese management style is also dead. Its seniority led and consensus style is too slow for today’s fast-moving business environment. In addition, the Japanese attitude to global business which assumes the world speaks only Japanese also led to severe debacle of stars such as Sony, Panasonic etc.
About globalisation, Mahatma Gandhi had said, “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” If the Indian management education has to stay relevant to the Indian growth story, it is time to give the world the Indian style of management education which has its vision and mission firmly rooted in “Think global act local”. The principles and practices of management are well known but what would make it Indian is the context in which these are learnt. To make the transformation to Indian style of management, three aspects are to be considered:
1. Research to develop an India-centric curriculum:
At present, the research output is nothing to write home about. Between 1990 and 2009, India — as a whole — contributed to only 108 papers in the top management journals or about five papers a year. The elite B-schools, of which there are approximately 25 in the country, have the resources, trained faculty and the brightest students to undertake such research and modify curriculum, case studies and develop teaching aids such as simulation labs. This effect can trickle down to next level of B-schools. The AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) provides sufficient flexibility for business schools to develop electives.
The Indian economy and the advent of globalisation have made the country a rich picking ground for indigenous case studies. Not all developments have been successful. For example, many earlier overseas acquisitions have suffered from lack of experience in areas such as due diligence and understanding new financial tools. Spawning of new private sector industries like organised retail, airlines etc have brought their own set of failures such as Subhiksha bankruptcy, Kingfisher Airlines and Air India crisis. Case studies of failures will be more useful for learning than reliance of only success stories. A significant amount of information is available in public domain and a start can be made from these sources.
To have a meaningful two-way collaboration with foreign B-Schools, we must have significant research outcomes to share. Conducting research in social sciences is not a costly affair. A lot depends upon the motivation and training of investigators. Very few teachers have a PhD, and this should be a priority starting with the elite and A-category B-schools. A PhD should be mandatory for promotion.
A recent C-Fore survey identified attributes and skills which were valued by recruiters, the principal ones being team working, analytical knowledge and problem solving, communication and presentations, working under pressure, proactive attitudes, interpersonal skills, ethics and integrity, among others. Most of these are soft skills, while the curriculum of B-schools is skewed toward quantitative skills and analytics. The curriculum should take elements from sociology and anthropology, subjects that deal with people and communities.
2. Faculty shortage and development: It is a paradox that Indians are heading to top B-schools in the West, while there is an acute shortage of competent faculty within the country. The mushrooming of business schools from 50 in 1990 to nearly 4,000 today have contributed to this shortage. Besides government-sponsored B-schools, few others offer salary and other benefits of the Sixth Pay Commission, shutting the door for bright teachers to enter faculty as well as move from industry to academic. Very few B-schools invest in faculty development.
This critical shortage of competent faculty is closely related to the lack of research in B-schools. The faculty should have the capability of self and group learning. It should be exposed to new and emerging concepts both in India and abroad followed by research to adapt these to Indian environment. Take the example of risk management. In India, risk management covers many aspects such as civil disobedience movements like maoism, political activism, environment, unstable global business environment, supply chains, natural and man-made disasters etc. Trained and upgraded faculty can lead research in such topics which can then find its way in the curriculum and industry practices.
The faculty-student exchange programme at present functions with well known Western B-schools, should be extended to institutions in countries/regions important for Indian businesses such as Africa and Latin America. The faculty should be adept in interpreting opportunities and threats of conducting business in these regions, which can find its place in a globalised curriculum. This also brings into focus the development of multi-lingual and multi-cultural aspects of globalisation with application in areas such as cross-cultural negotiations, developing strategic outlook and scenario planning etc. Faculty development cannot take place in isolation and the need of the hour is co-creation to create value from scarce resources.
3. Quality development of B and C category B-schools:
Out of nearly 4,000 business schools some 3,500 are in this category which produces business graduates who are largely unemployable. This reflects in the poor placement records of the B category as 15-30 per cent and for C category estimate is below 20 per cent. These have poor faculty, little industry interaction, exclusive reliance on classroom lectures, poor communication skills of students; and therefore, low level of understanding concepts and poor participation in group activities.
To stay relevant, business schools in rural and semi-urban areas must start producing managers to cater to the needs of local entrepreneurs, local self-government, agriculture and forestry business, small hospitals and allied services, hotels, retail, distribution and inclusive financial institutions.
SMEs offer an excellent entry for these graduates. There are approximately 400 SME clusters in India such as:
Vizag: marine food
Faridabad: auto parts
Jalandhar: sports goods
The focus of B and C grade schools to work in close collaboration with local industry will help these schools get a new confidence to undertake problem-solving exercises, case studies, projects etc. The government should also chip in to provide financial help and tax breaks to SMEs to train and hire fresh management graduates.
Take for instance, Tirupur Business School. It is an example of establishment of business to provide management graduates for local industry, knitwear in this case. This B-school functions in co-operation with trade associations and other local institutions. This is the model of a B and C category B-schools which can have valuable spinoffs such as:
1. Increased opportunity for research in local business and develop curriculum, faculty in a dynamic environment
2. Affordable cost of management trainees
3. Availability of local industry faculty
4. Interaction with cluster’s global business components
5. Entrepreneurship development. Entrepreneurship cannot be taught but it can be learnt. In smaller organisations, students would be in touch with top management and more likely to spin out entrepreneurial ventures.
However, such business schools need to develop certain additional competencies in their students. For example, communications skills must be developed from day one. Competency in spoken and written English is critical if students have to move seamlessly into the industry.
We are now seeing a shakedown in B and C grade B-schools. The weaker ones are closing and in future only those, which adapt to their environment and improve their quality, will survive. The future of management education lies in quality B and C grade B-schools which has the numbers to take value of management education to every corner of India.
Indians have a natural genetic framework to deal with contradictions, diversities and ability to work in an unstructured environment. They can become world-class global leaders with Indian values to successfully take their organisations into the uncharted future. Few business schools in India have the required depth of competency and skills to convert students into global managers. To conduct research, develop curriculum, faculty upgradation and enhancement of quality of B and C category B-schools requires close co-operation and consultation between all stakeholders such as B-schools, other related institutes, state and central governments, industry and their associations. Allowing established foreign B-schools to open Indian campuses will raise the bar and improve quality of education in the long run.
Management education is more practice than theory, more art than science and more time a student spends learning outside the classroom more effective the manager he/she will become.
1. A purv Pandit:The business of management research at Indian b-schools, www.pagalguy.com,5 May 2011
2. CNBC TV 18 — C FORE B School Survey Results 2011