Entrepreneur and management guru S. Rajeev, who recently took over as Director of the Asian School of Business, talks about the need for a mutually beneficial relationship between academia and industry
Ever wondered why Silicon Valley in the United States, home to some of the biggest technology corporations in the world, is still a leading IT zone in the world? S. Rajeev, management guru, IT entrepreneur, Stanford Business School graduate and newly appointed Director of the Asian School of Business (ASB) in the city, spent 20 years working in Silicon Valley (at AT &T Bell labs, among others).
He says that the key to its vibrancy lies in “circulation.” He explains: “Apart from amazing technological inventions, Silicon Valley has a lively entrepreneurship culture. That's there because there is also a lot of circulation of intellect, among technologists, academia, and the industry – a set of people whose job is to come up with new ideas and an industry with the knowhow to make money of these ideas. Unfortunately, here in India, this kind of circulation is solely missing. Only at the Indian Institutes of Managements (IIM) and Indian Institutes of Technology does such circulation happen, and that too only to an extent, with the former being far more involved with the industry than the latter.”
And the city is an ideal environment to build up this culture of ‘circulation,' he says, especially because ASB and Technopark (where the institution is located) have the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship. “All they need to do is reach out to each other,” says Rajeev.
In fact, boosting such a culture is one of Rajeev's major aims when he takes over at ASB. “For example, Bell Labs invented the transistor. But their marketing strategy was so off that instead of them earning money of it, it was Sony who made billions from the technology. Similarly, the creative potential of some of the companies at Technopark are amazing. What they lack is solid marketing strategy. That's where ASB will come into the picture,” says this native of the city, in his American accented English. Rajeev is an alumnus of St. Joseph's School, Government Arts College and University College. He is now based in Bangalore and is part of the faculty of the IIMs in Bangalore, Kozhikode and Ahmedabad, apart from sitting on the boards of various companies.
Another pet interest of Rajeev's, which he hopes to bring to ASB, is rural development. He seems buoyed by late economist C.K. Prahlad's ‘Bottom of the Pyramid' theory, which proposes new models of business management by factoring in the economically disadvantaged socio-economic sector – the world's biggest demographic, with some 2.5 billion people – as creative entrepreneurs and value demanding customers.
“Individually the poor may not be powerful but collectively they are a force to reckon with. Already companies are getting on the bandwagon. Cavin Care, for example, came out with a Rs.1 sachet of shampoo, which became a big hit among them. Another incredible success is India Post's Rural Life Insurance Scheme, where the minimum entry price per person was brought down to Rs. 6 a day. What's all the more exciting is that Kerala, where every village has good communication and connectivity, is a dream destination for every market strategist.”
Of course, all this ‘circulation' depends on the education system in India, which he says needs to change. “There's way too much politicisation of education in India and our present education system in India kills creativity, plain and simple. It celebrates mediocrity. And that's coming from a country that once produced geniuses such as C.V. Raman, S. Chandrashekar, S. Ramanujan and S.N. Bose. We really need to invest in research. It's not as if we don't have the potential.”