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India is falling behind on data infrastructure: Harvard School dean

Lauds Prime Minister's Make-in-India campaign, says India would do well to focus on advanced manufacturing

Kalpana Pathak  |  Mumbai 

To capitalise on new economy opportunities India needs high bandwidth sources, said Nitin Nohria, dean, Harvard Business School.

India, he added, is falling behind on data and this could adversely affect the growth of new economy companies.

“There are exciting developments here. A homegrown new economy company like Flipkart is taking on Amazon. That is an exciting development to watch. Then there are companies like Housing.com. But what I am disappointed with is that India is really falling behind on data. We need high bandwidth sources like 3G and 4G,” said Nohria.

He added, “What I worry about is if the growth of these new economy companies will in some way be constrained? Our data base infrastructure needs a lot of work to be done if we want to truly capitalise on the new economy opportunities and the entrepreneurs that we are beginning to see.”

Nohria, who will be completing five years in July as the dean of the world’s best business school (ranked by Financial Times), lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India campaign, saying if India could focus on advanced manufacturing, it would be good.

“The fact that we are opening up sectors like defence, which is largely about advanced manufacturing, is a huge opportunity. Once you build capability around the high-end, then it has ancillary benefits. Defence is a huge opportunity as there is real need for the country as there is a lot of import taking place. It would be good if we have manufacturing capability on that front,” Nohria added.

HBS which offers executive education programmes in India plans to keep its portfolio small and healthy.

“We want to keep it that way in local markets. We have had mixed success in executive education here. Our primary commitment is to bring people from India to Boston and have a fewer courses in India,” said Nohria.

HBS has seen high demand for its executive education programmes from India. Even though the programmes are slightly expensive and there is travel cost involved, the benefits one derives is with regard to a wider class group and thus more learning.

Lauding the efforts of the IIITs in the sphere of entrepreneurship, Nohria said, “There is latent entrepreneurship energy in India and I am a big booster of the current efforts by the IITs.”


To Nohria, entrepreneurs in India succeed despite the system and there is little being done to be fundamentally supportive.

“Chasing permits is not the greatest use of an entrepreneur’s time,” Nohria said adding, “The US ecosystem is much friendlier to entrepreneurship. We need to think on many dimensions on how to support entrepreneurship.”

To foster entrepreneurship on campus, Harvard has built an i-lab or an innovation lab, a space of about 30,000 square feet. The lab is open to students from the university and has a portfolio of entrepreneurship-oriented courses. Nearly 20 per cent of all Harvard students have some form of exposure to i-lab, Nohria said. There are also entrepreneurs in residence, to whom students have an access. HBS said it is seeing larger appetite among students with regard to entrepreneurship.

“New ventures are being created every day and companies which have been formed in i-lab have seen tens-of-million of dollar investment so far. We are positive that this will grow,” said Nohria.

Indian B-schools however, said Nohria, need to foster a stronger research culture. At HBS faculty members have professors devoting 50 per cent of their time in research and 50 per cent to teaching.

“No in India that I know of has that commitment. We also have relationship with some Chinese B-schools and we are beginning to see them make equivalent commitment to research as we are and also measure their faculty member if they are part of international research rankings,” said Nohria.

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First Published: Tue, January 06 2015. 00:30 IST
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