Friday, 4 November 2011

Global footprint

Harvard Business School, Chicago Booth and now INSEAD have Indian academicians at the helm. Nitin Nohria, Sunil Kumar and Dipak C. Jain are the desi links to these renowned business schools. Ask Jain what he thinks of Indian management schools, and his voice is full of optimism. “They are superb,” he says. “The quality of education that India offers is on a par with international standards. I see a lot of global companies hiring these graduates.” 
Our graduates are going places. The bigger question here is, in India does the individual win in opposition to the collective? While B-schools in India churn out world-class managers, are the schools leaving a distinct global mark, too? Will an IIM figure alongside a Harvard or Stanford on the priority list of, say, an applicant in Australia?
India's presence on the Financial Times business school rankings has been restricted to the Indian School of Business and Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. SP Jain Centre of Management (Dubai/Singapore) made an entry into the list this year. An explanation for this is that certain parameters do not fit in the Indian context. 
As Professor Saral Mukherjee of IIM-Bangalore puts it, “One factor they look at is the hike in salary. Most of our students are freshers joining a B-school right after graduation and, therefore, we are disqualified on that front. In addition, our research base is not as strong as other international schools.”
The gap between demand and supply for quality B-schools is huge in India. Therefore, getting an edge over international B-schools still remains a distant dream. “B-schools in India have primarily focused on local candidates. Their marketing and awareness-building need a global audience,” says Jain.
Another process that ensures global recognition is international accreditation by the Association of MBAs (AMBA), European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). So far, only SP Jain Institute of Management and Research has been accredited by AMBA, and IIM-A and IIM-B have EQUIS accreditation. Recently, CRISIL launched a B-school grading index.
On receiving accreditation from EQUIS, IIM-B was told that while its teaching standards and the quality of students matched their expectations, what it lacked was global recognition. “The best students abroad would not consider Indian B-schools on a par with a Stanford or a Harvard,” says Mukherjee. It is the proverbial Catch-22 situation. Attract mediocre international students in the name of diversity or make it India-centric.
But as India and China become centres of growth and power, the managers need to appeal to a global mindset, too. It is all about bringing different perspectives into the classroom. What experts advise is: expand the student exchange programmes, attract globally renowned faculty on a full-time basis or at least introduce faculty exchange programmes across B-schools. This becomes even more important with talks about the government liberalising higher education in India. 
“One of our biggest concerns is that the entry of international B-schools will result in them attracting faculty from IIMs,” says Mukherjee. “We must, therefore, liberalise the compensation structure to make teaching an attractive option.”

Exchange of ideasIn a classroom, a professor discusses the reason behind Google's success. He keeps throwing questions at the students which elicit a few answers, makes a few jokes and then moves on to the next point. It could be a classroom in a B-school anywhere in India. But in this case, the students in this class are not from India. They are from Singapore spending a few weeks in India to understand a different system. “India has such a vibrant entrepreneurial culture, and there are people here with so many diverse needs, our students are exposed to a different life here, very different from the one they lead in Singapore,” says Gay Peng Kee, programme director of the National University of Singapore.
Even companies tend to prefer students who have had international exposure. It makes them adapt to situations better. “In Sony, we have Indians, Japanese and people from various other nationalities working with us. In order to ensure that candidates can cope with the diversified cultures, we prefer students from B-schools who have global exposure,” says Sanjay Bhatnagar, national head, HR, Sony India.
Indian universities are doing their best to capitalise on this trend. “We are expecting at least five to ten foreign students this year,” says Rajan Saxena, vice-chancellor of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai.
Maime Poutrel and Jean Baptiste Van Robais are part of a group of French students who are spending a semester at NMIMS. What they like the most about the experience is the interactions with the Indian students. They are impressed with their intellectual knowledge and infrastructure. “They have brand new infrastructure and use the latest technology,” says Maime.
Professor Atish Chattopadhyay of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research thinks these programmes give students a primer on the work ethics followed by different countries. It also gives them a chance to look at what works and what doesn't, a kind of operational introspection. 
“Some of our students had gone to Germany for an exchange programme. They were not as methodical as the Germans in their approach towards the project they were assigned,” he says. But it worked in their favour when the project faced certain changes. “The Indian students could adapt faster to the changes than the Germans,” he says.
Faculty members are also sent for training and teaching assignments to foreign universities. Although B-schools are prioritising global exposure, there are a few in the industry who have raised doubts about the approach. 
“I really don't think a brief global exposure which some of the institutes offer for two to three weeks gives an exposure to a different culture or environment and does not add much value to the industry,” says Bhawna Pandey, head, HR, Protiviti Consulting Pvt Ltd. “But yes, along with that, a general global socio-economic perspective to the syllabus will surely help.”

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