Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Public Policy and Industry

Indian Institute of Management Calcutta-the first of its kind has kick started its Golden Jubilee celebration on 14th November, 2010. Several panel discussions on Management Education in India: Past, Present and Future revolved around primarily two basic components, namely: 1) Spreading the IIM system physically 2) Made the to-be-manager understand the immense need to understanding human and social capital, ethics, value and social structure in order to run the business successfully.
The first point was easily understandable. Central government has already nodded to create more and more IIMs. One of the panelists suggested starting ‘Indian Institute of Management Global’ in order to leave its mark on global platform and prove its worth as centre of excellence. It was highly applauded.
But what seemed the disturbing trend is that, the industry is recruiting from IIMs, but the quality and knowledge it is expecting is lacking in the IIM fresh graduates. Prof. Amitav Bose compared with India’s Forex reserve. He told, ‘IIMC is a huge repository of knowledge. Students bring in a huge amount of knowledge & after 2 years when they leave, they leave it here just as Forex…” This created a role of laughter but no one has denied this either. As one of the panelists pointed out, IIM brand is on sale, not the individual student!
Now the question is what industry wants? And to my utter surprise, what Industries are looking for, students here at IIMC consider those as secondary subjects! The buzz words in their mind is Finance and Marketing and industry is focusing on more and more in understanding social and human capital, value, ethics and social structure or in a word Public Policy!
Public Policy and Management (PPM) group is one of the best groups at IIMC, but the subjects always appeared ‘boring’ to the students because job market never gives any importance to those! If we have to accept the emerging trends from this two-day management conclave, one has to admit the students are grossly wrong! They are getting recruited because they are the products from IIMs,(some faculties believe ‘semi-finished product’) and not for their merit and their gyan in finance and marketing!
From industries’ perspective why is Public Policy becoming so important and ethics is becoming a talking-point? Just imagine India of 1990 (before the economic reform phase). Inflation at its worst, no-no to foreign investment, stringent law for trade and commerce, no social development, and number of people below the poverty line is alarmingly high! At that time IIMs Management Course was not that relevant and moreover people don’t understand that what a manager should do! Manmohan Singh’s Economic Reforms yielded tremendous change in Public Policy and social order. The concept of investment bank, venture capital, private equity first time emerged in India’s job market and thus the IIM system became so important and quintessential for the industries.
In the initial phase, finance-marketing-HR won hands down! After that, strategic management took over and the current trend is Public Policy and Ethics! Capitalism is changing and it’s directly impacting the societal order. If the base of the economy (as of now India is a Capitalist state) keeps changing, what could be the constant, definitely Public Policy and Ethics. Every second day government cannot change its policies. So in the ever-changing society, ethics become important. And where stands the management or to say managers? He may be the manager of a reputed company, but he has to perform within the societal norm. For that, he needs to understand the public policies first. Say, being a manager of a company he decides to build something around a non-developed area where people needs to be displaced and environment laws has to be concurred with. He cannot arbitrarily displace them or violate the environmental laws. If you don’t know the law of the lands and think yourself the king of an island, than you can’t be a manager. If the manager is not aware of social and human capital of his own organisation, how could he function? Thus, public policy is so important.
I want to share two personal anecdotes from two of my courses.
Scene 1: 2.15pm, post lunch session of Business Ethics class. Nearly 75 students were in the class, among 50 were busy taking their afternoon nap, 5 were listening and rest were either playing games on mobile or in the laptops! When asked, the blatant reply: ‘chhoro na, non-credit hain!’ (In IIMC Business Ethics is a non-credit course, which easily has acquired the reputation of non-productive too, though the assumption is entirely wrong!)
Scene 2: It’s a credit course. The Discussion on ITCs E-Choupal was going on. Among nearly 80 students, 15 were awaken, all others were engaged in reading newspapers, taking nap, playing games as they felt the course is useless (again wrong, of course!) In some of the PPM courses students pay attention as they are somewhat related to finance and regulations!
If these are the general picture of Business Ethics and PPM classes, so Industry cannot get what they want.
And from a different perspective, how many recruiters focus on the fact ‘how much you know’, they sort CVs based on CGPAs. So students always busy calculating that! The sense is ‘What’s the use of learning, once I get a job will learn there!’ and some of them have a bizarre idea that as ‘we have cracked the CAT, we already know everything, even more than the professors…’
IIMs, no doubt are the best of the academic institutions, but it needs to ‘reflect and introspect’ in its current syllabus! Too much emphasis on Finance and Marketing is actually ruining the other important subjects which industries are looking for. Particularly at an MBA stage, every single subject becomes inter-disciplinary. No one is denying the immense importance of Finance and Marketing, but this has to be in mind if those are minus of Public Policy, Ethics and CSR, those won’t get a platform to perform. At the end of the day public policy and ethics which call the shot, I don’t think non-ethical business can even survive!
Wake up, guys… look beyond the attendance sheet!

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