January 19, 2006

IIMs - Mr. Arjun Singh is right

Mr. Arjun Singh, Minister for HRD

Indian Institutes of Management, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bangalore

Indian Institutes of Management, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Indore

The Indian Institutes of Management were established in various parts of the country under Government auspices and all manner of support by the Government, including their funding, to train business managers of India.

These IIMs have done good service over the years by turning out managers who have made a name for themselves in various businesses. Indeed, some of these IIMs have gained some reputation in other parts of the world, although they are far away from being counted amongst the top Institutes in the world whether in teaching or research studies.

NOT ONE of the IIMs of India figures in the rankings of top 100 global management schools of 2005, whereas China boasts of three and even Brazil, Mexico and South Africa figure in the list!!

Some of these IIMs are now thinking of expanding their operations in other countries. In this instance, the HRD Minister, Mr. Arjun Singh is absolutely right in rejecting their proposals in this regard.

His stance is quite logical, nothwithstanding comments of some academicians and industry leaders seeking full autonomy for the Institutes in their decision making.

Mr. Arjun Singh is right on all counts.

First, the Institutes were established with a clear mandate from the Government that envisaged that they will train and nurture the talent within the country and help the country achieve distinction in the field of business management. Although the IIMs have been doing this, they have still to reach very many areas of the country where young boys and girls with talent are unable to get first class training in business management. In the absence of adequate facilities, hundreds of young people are deprived of the opportunity to become the future business managers.

Second, considering the existing and projected growth of the Indian economy, the country will need trained managers in large numbers which the existing IIMs are clearly not in a position to provide without expanding in other parts of the country.

Third, inspite of their tall claims of being centers of excellence, students from India continue to go abroad to get trained in prestigious business management institutues and universities in other parts of the world. Once there, they have plenty of opportunities in the host countries and the talent which rightfully should be helping their own country India, is lost for ever in foreign countries. If the IIMs are indeed providing the high quality training that they claim to provide, , there is no reason why an Indian student should still yearn for a foreign university.

On the other hand, if the IIMs are really providing such a high level of education which is projected in public perception, they should be able to attract students from abroad, even from developed countries, for training here.

In this situation, regardless of the emotional hue and cry for autonomy from all and sundry, it is quite out of place for them to think of spreading their operations in other countries.

The priorities for these IIMs are clear:
  • To improve their standards of training to a level where not only the Indian students stop thinking of going abroad but also where students from the developed world recognise the mettle of these Institutes and seek training by coming to India. They need to get international recognition in the true sense in their own right.
  • To expand their operations in other parts of the country where there are no facilities for training in their sphere of specialisation viz. business management.
It is hoped that despite showing signs of softening, Mr. Arjun Singh will not change his perfectly valid stance and not allow the IIMs to get the benefit from the Government support, supply of land and public funds received by them over the years, by going abroad.

It seems rather strange that the Institutes which are supposed to develop clear strategic thinking of the highest order in their students, themselves have skewed thinking about their own raison detre and responsibilities towards the country.

Let them make optimum use of the infrastructure they have already created within the country and also create new centers within the country rather than squandering resources on creating new infrastructure in foreign lands. They need to focus themselves on fulfilling their obligations towards the Indian society rather than yielding to flights of fancy. It is immaterial that some of them might be generating adequate revenues and creating a corpus with their own earnings, for that cannot be the criterion for allowing them to do what they please in the name of autonomy.