You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive. Nor let your attachment be to inaction.” The Bhagavad Gita helped Arjun navigate through an entire war and now B-schools are using it to help students navigate the world of business. Bows and arrows may have been replaced by notebooks and laptops, but the instruction is the same—instilling values for life. If one had to review the past year, and the fact that corruption had paralysed not only the government but also industry, the idea of going back to a simpler place is quite appealing. So, Indian B-schools are focusing on building managers with strong values, unlearning western ideologies and relearning Indian values.
In the past year, the dialogue across B-schools has been towards tweaking pedagogy and ensuring a more relevant environment for management education. The SP Jain Institute of Management & Research's value- based leadership development programme says it is essential to look at and understand oneself. “The core of Bhagavad Gita is about how can one live intelligently, understand the other's subjectivity and to realise that means are as important as the ends,” said Atish Kumar Chattopadhyay, deputy director, PGDM, SPJIMR. He added that this philosophy is a deviation from the oft repeated western idea where the end justifies the means.
IIM Kozhikode, too, believes in revisiting the past for a better future in management. Apart from teaching from the Bhagavad Gita, the institute has a business museum that takes students back in time to India's rich business heritage and gives them a sense of how ancient Indians conducted trade and what made them a commercial powerhouse.
Apart from learning from the scriptures, business schools are also accepting leadership lessons from other disciplines. And professors say that it is not just about looking at profits and losses; now the focus is on being more flexible and on understanding society better.
IIM Kozhikode student Arnab Guha Mallik has learnt about the caste system, Sanskritisation and religious extremism as part of his curriculum. “We are so idealistic and cut off from these realities that we do not know about these things,” he said. “But now we know that these things actually happen and we have learnt the way to react to such situations.”
The endeavour is to create a complete human being, said Dr Debashis Chatterjee, director, IIM Kozhikode. “The India of the future has to be inclusive, which means a manager needs to know what to count than just how to count. A good manager is a good human being and needs to be able to create social capital for the country,” he said.
At WeSchool, Mumbai, this concept is taken further. In addition to the conventional classroom lecture, the school uses theatre, literature, poems, films and book reviews to connect with students and to teach management and leadership principles. The students also are guided to delve into the dilemmas in the stories that involve ethics, change management and adversity management.
Apart from these, yoga sessions and Vedanta lectures by disciples of Swami Parthasarathy are a weekly feature at WeSchool. Dr Uday Salunkhe, group director, WeSchool, said, “The ethics and corporate governance module in our PGDM programme employs a stakeholder management framework, emphasising the social and ethical responsibilities that a business has to both external and internal stakeholders. A twin theme of business ethics illustrates how ethical or moral considerations [affect] the decision-making process of managers.”
The syllabus also includes subjects like the Gandhian concept of trusteeship and its relevance in modern times, an analysis of why good managers make hard ethical choices, Indian values and its impact, and Vedic analysis.
XLRI, Jamshedpur, has also introduced a course titled Introduction to Sustainable Development and Corporate Sustainability for all the programmes. This course is designed to sensitise and equip students to navigate the interface of business and sustainable development. At XLRI, a three-day team-building programme is compulsory for the students. The objective of the programme is to develop leadership and teamwork through adventure activities. The programme includes overnight camping and other outdoor activities. A village exposure programme is also mandatory for the students. The students stay in the village and are expected to study some of the practices and issues specific to that area.
Anusheel Srivastava, 26, a second-year HR student at XLRI learnt a unique lesson on personnel management at one such programme. He said, “We learnt of a village which needed a school, but the men of the village were not too keen on building it. What eventually happened was that a couple of women in the village decided to build the school. It took a bit longer, but the work was done.”
At the Goa Institute of Management, the Give Goa course runs throughout the first year and adds credits for the Cumulative Quality Point Index. At the start of the year 60 to 70 NGOs make a presentation on the work they do. Students can choose to work with any NGO on a social project approved by the dean and the faculty. Only six students can work with one NGO. They need to attend field work for 20 Thursdays and produce a quantifiable result, on which they are judged by the client, their peers and the faculty.
The incorporation of such a variety of unique courses is a natural progression for business schools in India. Many have had to make drastic changes to their curriculum to be relevant to the industry's needs.
Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad, has revisited their teaching methodology in the past two years. Their theme is Global Breadth, Indian Depth. The curriculum offers four India-centric compulsory courses in the second year—international business and India's global integration; business, government and society in India; economic policies and regulatory environment in India; and entrepreneurship and business development in India. In a way, this is an attempt to contemporise management education and to look at the impact that society and government has on companies, giving students a more holistic view.
A student at IMT, Amit Nayak, 23, who comes from an engineering background has realised that although he has the technical skills, his management skills need a refreshed perspective, especially since Indian businesses have started to grow into global brands. “India is our centre, so we definitely need to have a sound knowledge of the Indian market. But we also need to realise that a lot of our companies are turning into MNCs and, therefore, we have to get a global perspective too,” he said.
A global perspective is mandatory even for the industry, said Kruti Jain, director, Kumar Urban Development Ltd. “Teaching must increasingly focus on global issues,” she said. “They must have progressive subjects and must train the students to face the new world dynamics. Education is no longer just theoretical. It also involves the coaching to handle businesses that are capable of impacting the country's economy. The focus should be on creating global leaders and astute entrepreneurs.”
Internationalisation of campuses has become a priority across B-schools. Apart from creating an environment for exchange of ideas and cultures and a deeper understanding of the international markets, there is also a need for collaborations between B-schools.
Specialisation is now a key word, said Chattopadhyay of SPJIMR. “Our students spend a full semester in a top B-school abroad,” he said. “The idea is to expose them to specialised courses in those leading schools which are not readily available in India. This ensures that their skill and knowledge development is very high.” SPJIMR is also planning to have 36 additional seats, mostly for foreign students. “We have a concrete strategy to reach out to foreign students. We are going to focus on the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia,” Chattopadhyay said.
Colleges like the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management and Higher Studies have started accepting GMAT scores so that international students can apply. “In another five to 10 years we will see 10 per cent to 15 per cent international students in our student composition,” said Dr Debashish Sanyal, dean, School of Business Management, NMIMS.
Dhruvi Shah from Dallas, Texas, said, “My husband wanted to work in India and I took this as an opportunity to study here,” she said. “The learning curve for me has been very steep, although life is much better back in the US. The chaos here is a challenge in itself. You get to learn life lessons and I think I am more mature now.”
Exchange programmes, which are one of the best ways to exchange ideas, are now a common fixture in the curriculum and it is not unusual to see French and Indian students getting ready together for a class and nervously working on their presentations. For Ludmilla Justin the biggest difference between India and France is the level of competitiveness. “I see students are more eager to learn and more motivated to succeed, than back home,” she said. A student of Rouen Business School, France, Ludmilla is spending a semester in NMIMS.
Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, has a full-time postgraduate programme in international management which lets students study across campuses in Europe. “The programme has a batch size of 60, where 30-35 students are Indian while the remaining students are from ESCP Europe campuses [in France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy],” said an MDI spokesperson. “All 60 students study three terms at MDI and the remaining three terms at ESCP Europe campuses. They also have options to intern in international companies or pursue a career back in India.”
XLRI director Fr E. Abraham, SJ, said, “There are NRI students applying to XLRI each year. But what is unique about our full-time programme is the opportunity XLRI provides to students for international exposure. XLRI has entered into collaboration with 22 universities abroad. These range from universities in the US, the UK, Australia, and Europe, to the Philippines. A healthy exchange of students takes place each year, providing our students with international exposure.”
Industry tie-ups have always been an essential part of the B school experience. Joint projects and internships are important to both the students and the companies. One such initiative is a partnership that Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd has with the Indian School of Business. This industry-academia association is aimed at building future leaders who would be ready to meet the real time challenges and opportunities of the infrastructure industry in India. As part of the collaboration, Srei has sponsored a student-run professional club at ISB known as the Srei Infrastructure Club. Srei guides and mentors several activities of the club while helping students connect with a broader group of infrastructure experts across the country.
Students are exposed to the details of Srei's ongoing projects in sectors like road, telecom, aviation, rural infrastructure and power, to gain hands on exposure to real problem solving. Club members can access Srei's strategic brainstorming sessions. Students learn through experience and offer their fresh perspectives on various government policies and public private partnership models.
Hemant Kanoria, CMD, Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd, said: “A spectrum of ideas made Srei join hands with the Indian School of Business. For starters, we wanted access to the country's most talented individuals that were about to enter the workforce. We work alongside these students through their academic year at ISB, giving them complex real life infrastructure issues pertaining to policy, framework and project development. It has been a great initiative and we hope to see this partnership strengthen over time.”
The interesting part is that the club is a completely out-of-the-classroom activity. Deepak Chandra, deputy dean, ISB, said, “The grant from Srei enhanced the quality of the club's activities. This was a new pedagogical tool, and it increases the quality of learning.”
Entrepreneurship is also being encouraged across B-schools. “At MDI, students have formed an entrepreneurship cell where they promote ideas, discuss them on forums and host weekly discussions. Apart from these, students practise entrepreneurship through initiatives like Prayas, student-run convenience store,” said an MDI spokesperson.
And, even social entrepreneurship is encouraged in NMIMS with a course introduced for the same. XLRI also gives its students the opportunity to experiment in the area of social entrepreneurship. “We also let our students take a one-year drop from placements and try out entrepreneurship. A lot of students have opted for this,” said P. Ray, dean (academics), XLRI.
In recent times, ‘women at the workplace' has become a hotly debated topic. Although India Inc. is supportive of women at the workplace, the truth is that somewhere along the line, women opt out of their careers. One of the problems is that our workplaces are not very gender sensitive and are yet to offer equal opportunities keeping in mind specific problems that women face, especially when they are at the mid-management level.
While that may be an ongoing discussion in the corporate world, in B-schools the debate is on giving equal opportunity to women. IIM Kozhikode is all set to increase its intake of women from 30 per cent to 40 per cent. Chatterjee of IIM Kozhikode said, “We want to level the playing field for female students. In fact, the CAT has also seen an 8.6 per cent increase in application from women this year. It has become aspirational for women to apply to IIMs.”
While IIM K is sending the message by increasing intake, other schools have a different take on this. “I think the movement will happen naturally,” said Chattopadhyay. “Women constitute 40 per cent of our intake and it has been a normal process as our experience has shown.” But the awareness is building up, between both women and men who are now trying to understand the role gender plays at the workplace. Chandra of ISB said, “We do offer various courses where we focus on how women can reach the top in any industry. Interestingly, I have seen even men participate in these programmes. They say they want to understand the world of the future.”
While the opinion on having a specified number of seats for female intakes is still divided, across top B-schools placement has not been a very big issue. “Placements, as always, have been excellent this year. XLRI concluded its final placement process 2012 in less than four days, with 98 per cent of the batch getting placed within the first three days,” said Abraham. SPJIMR saw an average salary of 015 lakh per annum being offered to students.
“E-commerce and pharma are two sectors that have shown tremendous promise at MDI. Major recruiters in this space have been e-Bay, Flipkart, Naukri.com, Policy Bazaar, Eli Lilly, Becton Dickinson, Biocon, Ranbaxy, Sanofi Aventis, Novartis, Merck and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals,” said the institute's spokesperson.
In the current economic scenario, some sectors have been treading cautiously, while others have taken this as an opportunity to grow. In fact, many B-schools are introducing mobile and internet marketing into the curriculum to cater to the growing demand from this field. But more than just the monetary benefits, what B-schools now want is to send out students who have a well-rounded holistic view of the world and the role business plays in it.