What they don’t teach you at Indian B-schools

Source: The Hindu, India

This last Sunday, I watched a show on CNBC called Lessons in Marketing Excellence. Essentially, it featured the final round of a competition for B-School students across India conducted by CNBC and Hindustan Unilever Limited. The four finalist teams were asked to address the problem of how to help the Indian Railways innovate. As the bright students in their dark suits made their presentations, they unwittingly offered several lessons for why we lack innovation and leadership in India. The show especially provided an ironic commentary on how the education we provide in Indian business schools and the general eco-system of Indian business are boxing us in and curtailing even a tendency to innovate.

LACK OF ORIGINAL INDIAN THINKING

Almost 15 years ago, I had just graduated from Wharton and was cutting my teeth as a young B-School professor at Purdue University. Pankaj Chandra (a fellow-alum of Wharton although many years my senior) who was at IIM-A (and is now Director of IIM-Bangalore), invited me to a conference on operations management that he was organising in India. I accepted but had to cancel out at the last minute. However, a senior colleague at Purdue went and, when he came back to the U.S., I asked him how it had gone. He told me that he was struck by the fact that both in methodologies and in applications, the conference was completely West-oriented. The only presentation that had Indian “roots,” he said, was a paper that discussed how to optimise scheduling idli-cooker operations in a Bangalore Darshini restaurant. It is sad that more than a decade later, the same disease plagues our B-Schools and, consequently, our management thinking in the business world — a lack of original Indian thinking. I am hardly advocating a B-school version of Indian nationalist sentiment, but one must surely pause to ask if we are teaching our students to reject a language they know well and to instead put on a voice and idiom that they only half-know. Read more…

(Baba Prasad is president & CEO, Vivékin Group & Visiting Professor of Management, IIIT-Hyderabad.)

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