Clairvoyance is a virtue these education entrepreneurs seem to have in plenty. Some were propelled by inner drive, others by the paucity they saw around them. The liberal environment of the '90s and the subsequent technology revolution did the rest. G.P.C. Nayar was a PR manager in a state public enterprise in Kochi who put his skills to use in a PR course for students.
"As an entrepreneur, I was a loner," recalls Nayar. "None came to my rescue because I had no credit rating and they could not find any worthwhile reason to lend to an individual who makes a living by some distance education programme. I started the programme in the academic year 1992-93 as planned. In 1994, the aicte granted its approval after several hurdles they had created, hurdles which would dissuade many."
But the years of struggle paid off. SCMS today sits pretty in a new, centrally air-conditioned campus on a built-up area of 1,42,000 sq ft—one of the largest for a B-school in India—built with a term loan of Rs 25 crore from the SBI in 2002.
A chance the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) in Bhubaneshwar latched on to. Started in 1992 as an
ITI training centre, it went on to become the youngest institute to be awarded deemed university status in India and is now a university. Today, KIIT produces 240 graduates every year. Chancellor Achyuta Samant talks of the discernible pressure on B-schools to produce quality graduates. "In the 21st century, the paradigm in the corporate sector has shifted from being capital-centred to knowledge-centred," he says. "This calls for a new breed of managers who are agile enough to keep pace with changing times. Unfortunately, curriculum and pedagogy in a majority of management schools are still archaic. They need to update themselves in order to be relevant in the present time." Towards which end, says Samant, "we have established a strong interface with industry." KIIT collaborates with some of the top names in the corporate sector in jointly offering academic programmes. International conferences and workshops too are integral to its programmes. It seems to be bringing in returns—this year KIIT has attracted students belonging to 12 nationalities. "We are also broadening the range of courses we offer," says Samant. "In this connection, three schools—School of Rural Management, KIIT National Law School and School of Languages—have been set up in 2007."
Far from the fanfare of IIMs, institutes like SCMS-Kochi; IIMM, Pune; IBS, Hyderabad; Bangalore's ABA or KIIT, Bhubaneshwar are making their quiet presence felt. For, as Bala predicts, "It is going to become very, very difficult for industry to find suitable managerial manpower in the country. Just 7 per cent of the youth in the 17-23 age group is in the mainstream of higher education in the country. As one among the fastest growing economies of the world, if we fail to produce sufficient manpower, industry in general, and
MNCs in particular, will be forced to recruit manpower from other countries."To pre-empt that, Bala and other B-school leaders are equipping their students to meet the challenges on a global terrain. Ploughing huge investments in creating infrastructure and global syllabi, these institutes are moving away from conventional methods to modern, realistic and need-based training. As Bala says, "Every MBA is now a profit centre: perform or perish are the keywords. Industry has no time to train them. They want performers from day one. We are working on great changes in our entire approach. Our directors are studying these critical issues. We will soon emerge as the best consulting centre for the industry as well as the government."
Future managers at the Alliance, Bangalore
IBS too has innovated on a number of counts on the premise that India will need high-quality managers in large numbers. Says Panduranga Rao, "Of course, technology is one of the many inputs that went into making this institute a successful one. I may mention here that we initially emphasised on investing our limited resources on educational software (faculty, proactive curriculum design, courseware development) rather than on educational hardware (land and buildings). Another important move has been to make the entire pedagogy case study-driven. There were hardly any case studies available in writing in India during the mid-'90s and we had to buy the case studies from Harvard and integrate them into classroom teaching. This need has motivated us to initiate case development activity in a big way. As of now our institute develops more than 300-400 case studies on Indian and foreign corporates every year."Not to be left behind, SCMS-Kochi too has tuned its academic plan to global needs. According to Nayar, SCMS places a lot of premium on developing an ethical and cultural dimension to the character of its students. "In a globalised environment, says Nayar, "it is not enough that a business institution trains youngsters to be successful professionals in their own country. Today's managers must have global competence as no business activity is confined to any one country or one region. Knowledge of cultures of countries with which he does business is of paramount importance for his success. SCMS-Kochi provides adequate training to its students to make them globally competitive."
As our economy grows, the scope for trained managers gets unlimited, not only in terms of numbers but also with regard to opportunities. Aware of this potential, these institutes are content to feast on the fringe benefits for now. But slowly and surely, they are registering a presence on the radar screen of corporates and wannabe Sunil Mittals and Arun Sarins.
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