Opinion » Lead

Updated: March 12, 2012 11:57 IST

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

Baba Prasad
Comment (169)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

In emphasising western theories and concepts, management education is curtailing innovation

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.

People and Colour

When one imagines India, the highlights are universal: People and Colour. Does it signify anything for our business world that the B-School students, including women, were without exception dressed in dark “business” suits? Where were the bright colours that India exudes? Dark business suits perhaps proclaim one's arrival into an elite club. But throttling ties and stifling suits are also metaphors for the dark state of management education and thought in India in particular, but generally all over the world. As we seek to close the door on such closeted-thinking, Shashi Tharoor's Hindi-practising colonialists ironically present a solution: To say “Darwaza band karo,” they practised “There was a banned crow!”

Why do I call these presentations symptoms of the stifled innovation and struggling strategy that is dogging Indian business? One of the central questions of the Indian Railways case that the students analysed was: “How does IR innovate to generate revenues, build capacity and increase market share?” Or as the show host put it, “Suggest innovative strategies to increase revenues for the Railways.” Look at the presentations and the solutions that the students put forth after one whole month of research. Why wasn't there even one bit of colour in what was supposed to be a marketing presentation? Of course, when I say colour, I use it symbolically to imply freshness in thought. Again let me make it clear — I do not hold only the students responsible for the wan thinking. In fact, we — management educators and stuffy sultans of strategy in the corporate world — are the ones who have brought this about. Did we see one video of a train compartment; hear one audio interview of a passenger, or an employee? No. These presentations evicted colour, but they also evicted the sense of people that is India. Instead of exploiting the aesthetic resonance of train travel, we heard long-winded statements in boring voices from behind tall podiums. Why? Because we have taught them that that's the way to be leaders. In this country, of all places, we seem to have forgotten the power of storytelling and the rich repertoires we possess. And we call these shows “Lessons in Marketing Excellence.”

The solutions proposed also primarily fed off the data in the case and worked at marginally increasing revenues from the operations. One team suggested that the addition of a new class between Second Class and 3-Tier AC would generate additional revenue because Second Class passengers would choose the newly introduced class that was higher-priced. The Railway officials on the panel of judges dismissed it saying that when they introduced 3-tier AC between 2-tier AC and Second Class, rather than Second Class passengers opting to go up to 3-tier AC, 2-tier AC passengers opted to go down. Another team proposed looking at three Indias — India-1, India-2, and India-3 — in terms of paying power, and suggested a focus on India-1. Promptly the Railway executives said that ignoring the largest and least wealthy India-3 category would not fit into the mission of the railways. In short, solutions like these kept bumping against the fact that the Indian Railways has both a social mission and a business vision. Such solutions focused only on milking existing operations, and consequently were only incremental. The point is that there was no demonstration of any out of the box thinking. While the team from FMS did propose a few refreshing, although small alternate streams of revenues, it is telling that they did not win the competition.


Ok, let's take a step back and ask ourselves another question: In what other way could the students have approached the Indian Railways case given to them? Let's start at the basics. What strikes me most about Indian Railways is the consistency with which they have maintained the design of the train and the architecture of the railway station. If Mahatma Gandhi came back and looked at the Indian train today, he would not find it very different from the ones in which he travelled across the country about a hundred years ago. And they certainly haven't changed much from the trains I used to take several decades ago as a young school kid going for the summer holidays from Mumbai to my grandparents' house in Tumkur, near Bangalore. How would it have been if the students had started with thinking about how to change the basic structure of the compartment? Not incremental recommendations about providing “pillows and blanket sets”, but something more whole, more substantial. Could they have examined restructuring the bathrooms on the trains? For decades, with the help of the Railways, we Indians have been defecating across the face of the nation. Can we change that, and perhaps monetise the solution? How about using the waste to generate fertilizers or energy? What are the pluses and minuses of that? Alternately, would a redesign of the compartments with lighter material lead to fuel savings? What could be the cost savings? What safety risks would the lighter compartment bring? Another thought: How about building better railway stations and creating a whole new, beautiful retail space in the station? Can we convert that precious space of the “railway station” which is mostly located in the central areas of the city into a “third place” to hangout — between office and home? What revenues could be derived from the retail stores that will populate the “new, cool railway station,” the “third place”?

Straitjacketing approaches

The straitjacketing approaches we teach in B-School and promote in the Indian corporate world are not going to help pose or answer such questions. Innovation requires breaking bounds not just in application, but also — and more importantly — in thought. Paradigm shifts should not be just the effect, but in fact, should be — again more importantly — the cause for innovation. Would it be heresy to teach B-School students that Porter's framework and the concept of positioning is not all that there is in strategy, that the core-competence approach despite its brilliance has limited application, that Blue Ocean for all its attractiveness does not tell you what to do when your blue water is bloodied by lean and mean sharks? Would it be heresy to teach them that all these approaches to strategy are necessary but not sufficient conditions for strategic success? Would it kill us to teach them that we need to stop thinking of organisations and businesses as mere machines to which we apply formulas and frameworks, and instead think of the next frontier in strategy where we will have to work with organisations as if they are living, breathing, humans who have stories to create, live, and tell?

Till we find our self-confidence, our own voices, and brand Indian ways of innovation that go beyond the stereotypical jugaad that seems to be our only answer to innovation, we will have to remain content with aping others and making the same mistakes that the others made — others, who incidentally are not brighter than us. Till that time, no original innovation will come out of India.

It's now time to ban the crow-ness of B-Schools and executive cadres. It's now time to also proudly bring in the colourful finches, the macaws, the mynahs, the bulbuls, and the whatever. Are we ready?

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

More In: Lead | Opinion

In IIM lingo, the article was "globe"est piece of journalism i have ever read.
Objective of an MBA program: Structured approach to solving practical problems

Do we need arts here: NO. There are arts schools for that.

Does innovation mean throw away all past learning: NO. The stuff they teach here has been tested in lot of business situations.

Do we over-emphasize being Indian. YES...I din't get how being Indians gives us any advantage (or disadvantage) in being innovative.

I think the writer is just looking for ways to garner publicity.

from:  An IIMA student
Posted on: Mar 12, 2012 at 01:28 IST

I am completely in agreement with the Author. I think the culture of innovation needs to be promoted right from the School levels, where stress. Moreover, there should also simplicity in everything that we convey to others. Even in the language that we use.
Why should there be such an artistic language, to convey such a simple idea. Few points would have sufficed to put-forth these thoughts.

I apologise , if I have offended. My intention is not that!.

from:  Mohamed Hassaly
Posted on: Mar 11, 2012 at 21:23 IST

very true, indeed. the solution lies in the hands of youths who have both head and heart to bring a sea change by taking up the responsibility in politics.,

from:  Revathi Rabganathan
Posted on: Mar 11, 2012 at 21:06 IST

Students are not to be blamed its our system. Try to think different, be
different, act differently and the entire system comes down on you. say
something that people don't like and you become the villain. How can you
expect our young men and women to 'think different' in this environment.
We were never taught to think different heck in fact we were never
allowed to think different. 'Nail that stands out gets hammered.' - This
is basically our culture.

from:  Vipul
Posted on: Mar 10, 2012 at 03:14 IST

The answer to this might be a li'l more fundamental. We have heard legends about the B school education in India beinig stereotyped. But how many of us have thought that the very selection criteria for these B-Schools could be a reason.
The approaches to solutions(might be case study based) are need based, as in..I need to make money...and I can solve DI and Quant faster than most people..Best thing to do..I'l take B school entrance exams. The whole process after that is more so a desperate attempt to fulfill this flawed dream
Not demeaning students' efforts here but when selecting Business grads its important to pick people with the zeal for business, not those who are primarily good at a few subjects. Thats where schools of the west stand out. Agreed they too have high mean-gmat scores but they also do have a VERY GOOD percentage of candidates who are there to study business and not those trying to leverage their superior quant skills.Are we ready to accept this fundamental change?

from:  Geetesh Iyerr
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 22:30 IST

Unfortunately the faculty is not clear about the end product of MBA education. I had asked dean of my MBA school about the end product at the end of two years period . According to me answer was not satisfactory . The end product should be capable of original thinking ,creating a plan within given parameter.I had quoted Israeli Armed Forces as an example. According to me expectations must be told to them so they can upgrade themselves accordingly. In an environment where teachers do not have industry exposure ,how do you expect them to produce leaders.
MBA to my mind is not all about academics ,more about personality traits,leadership original and audacious thinking. I would like to treat MBA students as agent of change , and expect them to achieve those standards. Present system is only producing striat jacket BABUS,

from:  Sudhir Suri
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 19:39 IST

Interesting Article!
Answer is Interest. Interest brings originality of fearless ideas.
Only person could have prepared an excellent valuable presentation who
was REALLY interested to know about the issues people are facing
during train traveling from start to finish and how to translate them
into business making ideas. Which means all issues from booking a
ticket through internet or from counter to finally leaving rail
station at the destination need to be addressed? Lesser travel comfort
– Lesser revenue and More travel comfort – more revenue. However it is
easy to say then implement but not impossible. First problem is that
this presentation work was given to a bunch of undoubtedly intelligent
guys who were not sure if they really wanted be an MBA [if it would
not lead to a highly paid future job].
We have already started working on improving our rail system and I can
feel it during train travel whenever I got chance to travel in my
1. Ticket Booking -
I am not agreed with author at this point where he said railway system
is same as it was during Gandhi’s period [maybe more provoked by
frustration then reality].10 years ago I had to go to railway station
counter and had to stand in a never ending queue. Now I can book my
train ticket with a slow working railway website. So now problem is
how to make this ‘slow working website’ better so it can give relief
to 10% travelers at least. Second issue is what about other 90%
travelers who are still standing in queues. Either increases the
number of counters [clearly highlighting the name of destination if
still booking system is not centralised] if space is not enough on
existing station then think of additional station.
2. Railway station –
Density = Number of people per square meter
Make it pleasant then complex.
Please don’t say that we don’t have enough money to make a bigger
train station or addition station! More space for breathing without
smell will perhaps give us feeling of being somewhere in Swiss? This
means we need to deal with two issues first platform space and second
disposal of waste from the train and the platform.
3. Train Time –
In my country, I realised that it would be all right if our watches do
not have 1 min precision. I will be FINE with (+/-) 15 minutes
accuracy. Why? Please address this issue. Sure trains get delayed
because of some unforeseen problem either technical or weather. Then
please fix it or keep an alternative. Last time my train was 2 hours
late because of Fog. So Fog is a problem then what is the solution for
this? Think.
4. Journey –
More Comfort = More Cost
I am not trying to justify that uncomfort in train travel is OK.
People argue that our trains are not comfortable enough. But looking
into how much we pay for a ticket and what we get is not unreasonable.
For example 100 miles in 3 AC in India costs 400 INR and in UK it is
30£ [2400INR] and in Swiss it can be around 60 CHF [3000INR].
Revenue – Expenses = Profit.
I HOPE that part of this profit is being used back into improving
Railway’s facilities.
5. Alternatives of Road travel –
Running two coaches of train every 30 minutes between two medium sized
towns would increase revenue/profit for railways, increase safety,
decrease fuel consumption and pollution by replacing millions of buses
from the roads. If we don’t have this infrastructure then it’s good
news. Build it. Generate more jobs. Please don’t tell me we don’t have
money after loosing almost 23bn £ in a single scandal. Think!

from:  A Gaur
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 18:03 IST

The premise of the article does not match with the solutions provided.

I happened to watch that show and Toilets, seatings, retail, advertisement on tickets and stations, anti collision device, more trains on same tracks, more kind of coaches, route rationalisation, surveillance, passenger info system are ideas that have long existed.

Giving two new ideas over what was presented wont bring Indianness or innovation in education.

Look closely at the reponse given by IR officials. They will reject all ideas as untenable, unviable, no budget etc. Its when the society becomes open to change will they get change to benefit it.

from:  Vineet
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 15:53 IST

This is an interesting article and a well reasoned one. However, I am not sure to what level is it a well researched. I have myself studied at one of the "Indian B-schools" and can vouch for a few things. Prof. Pankaj Chandra was my OM prof in 2008 - He joined IIM Banglore in 2009. He asked us to do a project on OM and our topic was on queuing at Railway Stations. We actually went to the railway station and stood there for a couple of hours, trying to make sense of the queue, why it was there in the first place and what could be done to reduce it. In another project that I did, I interviewed 31 candidates - each was over half an hour in length. The entire interview format was not picked up from some book but designed from scratch by me with significnat guidance from the prof incharge. Then there was a course on good governance where each of us actually interviewed people from the bottom of the pyramid - small kids who begged on streets, people who lived on pavements etc...

from:  Nirmesh Mehta
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 15:48 IST

credit to the author that he started a very healthy debate as to where
the actual problem lies, but to be very honest, while reading the
article, i felt the author was highly biased..

the problem is not dry-run b-schools or lack of innovative thinking...
and neither is the problem the highly competitive CAT that some of the
readers were pointing at..

the problem lies in the basic education system of this country...
spoon-feeding is encouraged here, rote learning goes unnoticed, and
the grasp of concepts and practical thinking is ignored... all this
mainly because of the dismal student-teacher ratio in every school of
this country... and after all this, these kids are expected to
graduate to the rigmarole of the corporate world where innovation is
the only way to u can differentiate.

unless free thinking is encouraged at schools, under grad colleges and
subsequently at grad schools and b-schools, this highly debatable
issue of a growing india vs a grown up west will always continue..

from:  Aditya Chavan
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 14:51 IST

It is a sharp and clear presentation of the ailments, in the form of
lack of motivation, insight, planning, and management in the premier
Indian institutes, which roll out students each year just as a batch
processing machine rolls out identical and generalised products, made
without employing much of intelligence. Classroom teaching methods
are effective only as long as they teach how to multiply two numbers
or the help you cultivate the habit of reading extensively. Beyond
that, there is much more to teaching and learning. The role of teacher
is crucial when he should motivate the students and stimulate their
thought processes so as to become sensitive to grass root level
realities. Run of the mill case studies are in no aspect, a way to
improve the Innovation Quotient of the country because, each problem
is unique in its own way, hence we need a unique, crisp and direct
solution for it.

from:  Shivani Shukla
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 12:06 IST

Having read the article and some comments, I must say that the author
seems to be slightly disconnected with the Indian management system. I
understand the need for innovation for driving a business but that is
not what is taught in the B-schools today, having recently passed out
of an IIM, my take on innovation in the present business sense would
be limited to advertising or product development. As future managers/
consultants, we are subliminally given cues on how to be risk averse.
We are taught that there is a time for innovation and a time for
incremental change and according to them, its the time for latter
rather than former. I, however, am of a different opinion but which
others will vehemently oppose.
The one thing rightly pointed out by the author was the lack of
"marketing" in LIME. having witness the event first hand, it looks
more and more like a consulting event rather than a marketing one. I
guess there are some LIMEs to be squeezed for the esteemed HUL organizers here.

from:  Pulak Murarka
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 11:56 IST

Surprisingly, author started with saying Indian B-school ideas are
west oriented but some how ideas suggested by author in section
"Alternatives" don't show any Indian colours or reflect Indian thoughts. Be it redesigning coaches or merchandising platforms and stations or lighter trains saving fuel, don't they sound western innovation? But on other hand, the author's basic thoughts of researching India and do marketing accordingly, instead of blindly duplicating the west, is commendable.

from:  Rahul
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 08:50 IST

Most minds, in India as elsewhere, are spoilt by a "good" education. Since strategy is applied common sense, acceptable as such to peers in the MBA student age group, the lack of innovative or truly brilliant solutions is to be expected.

If Steve Jobs or Bill Gates had gone to business schools, it's doubtful if their innovative tendencies would have been as strong.

from:  Hari Prasad
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 05:18 IST

I believe the problem is two folded-
1. Most of the students that enter the MBA classes do not have work
experience and come fresh out their college to join B-Schools, and hence
thrive on the theoretical knowledge imparted by the professors.
2. The lack of management research - only a rare percentage of students
leave the lucrative jobs, and try to invest in themselves in the b-
schools by joining PhD programs and doing India specific research.

from:  Raghav
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 02:07 IST

What is direly needed is a pragmatic approach to pedagogy in all fields. Learning by doing is more valuable than memorizing facts and regurgitating them in quizzes, tests and final exams. Labs that recreate real world problems and scenarios will foster incubating innovators in line with what the author correctly proposes. These labs need not be confined to Science, Engineering or Medicine but can be modelled for business schools too.

from:  Jayaram Rajaram
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 01:37 IST

Couple of points -
1. IR should not be privatized. Look at the high cost of railway
travel in UK and US. It'll only reduce revenue source for IR.
2. Lack of innovation streams from rote learning rather than hands-on
practicals in the Indian system of education.
3. The innovation can be seen at the grass-roots in our country at all
4. The curiosity level among students is poor right from school.
Without that its very hard to get a child to learn something.
5. Fathers and mothers don't have time to tell stories to their
children. Where will a child learn how to dream big if not their home?
6. Motivation and reward scheme are skewed in our country. Rewarding
promotes self-centred approach rather than team building. Motivation
at the right time is critical. Indians are normally not very generous
in appreciating people for their effort or work especially in jobs.

from:  Amit Sarkar
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 01:34 IST

The Indian Railways has huge untapped advertisement potential. The Railway Coaches, Cabins can hold Advertisement hoardings and even film posters. The Railways must come out with an in-class Railway magazine that can have advertising space.
Railway Canteens can sell Rail Neer and Packed foods in urban super markets. They can introduce a system of reward points for purchasing these products.
Indian Railways go to remote corners of India in some of the most breath taking journeys in the world. Some good scenic photographs during Railway journeys can be taken and pasted inside Railway coaches, and stations for an image make over and promote Railway tourism. These photographs can be used to sell Railway calendars, diaries and screen savers. Railways can also start Railway library for AC class passengers.
These are simple measures that can improve our Railways. There is no denying that we need our Railways to reach the levels of China and Japan some day in future.

from:  shyam
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 00:57 IST

I think the author missed out to talk about the environment to foster
such innovation. Coming form the IT industry I can say that we don't
have a silicon valley here (Bangalore isn't even close - but it's
heading in the right direction). Also take a look at China - the hub
of reverse engineering and cheap imitations. No major innovation comes
out of there either. Lack of 'Exposure' is a prime cause.

And seriously when was the last time an MBA grad actually built
something that became an empire of sorts? (a google or an apple or in
any other industry for that matter). In that context, to really gauge
whether Indians can think out-of-the-box (pursuing it is a different
story altogether), posing the Indian Railways problem to school kids
would have provided some brand new ideas (and not just here but
anywhere in the world!).

I would have liked to see more research go into this article with a
broader perspective.

from:  Praveen
Posted on: Mar 9, 2012 at 00:15 IST

on B-schools, we can stipulate that unless they successfully solve in each year, atleast 10 of common man's problems, they cant let their students graduate. also, instead of learning Western case studies, why cant they come with a good solution for crowd management in Tirupati and other religous places/congregations. Societal involvement and patriotism is zero in B-Schools.

from:  kal
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 23:11 IST

The article is excellent!!! Instead of B-school students, the organizers CNBC should have invited experienced porter, cleaners, station masters and platform vendors, they would have given very good innovative idea. I agree with the author on Jugaad. No surprise if somebody from B-school uses the alternatives suggested by author with his/her plan- Jugaad. The hindrance to the Innovation or Innovative idea in India is the way the society views the failed attempts. Failure is a sin in India. So Jugaad and short cuts works fine, it gives a sense of accomplishment in a country of more than 1 Billion people.

from:  prasbad
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 23:04 IST

Honestly you don't have to be from B-School to solve Indian Railway problem. Cleanliness is the foremost. Teach the cleaners and officials what cleanliness is. Badly designed compartments, no ergonomics,no high speed trains. I was recently in Bangalore Cant Railway station it looked not different than what it was 15 years ago. The best solution is government should look at privatizing Railways. The attitude of Railway officials and employees have no intention to give the best service and experience to the customers.

from:  Nathan
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 20:14 IST

What an article!!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

from:  AK
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 19:59 IST

As rightly suggested by a reader, we lack innovation since childhood...
While solving puzzles of Shakuntala Devi today , I was thinking about
creating my own puzzles; that is innovation. We are always suggested to
solve the already made puzzles, never to create our own... So the
today's need is to motivate students i.e children to think out of the
box not only copying and following others blindly....

from:  mayank jain
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 19:48 IST

i totally agree with the authors....i myself , am a management
undergraduate and in my own experience , have seen examples where
imaginations and off-the-beaten track ideas re discouraged.

we are blindly trying to ape management concepts that wets has maybe
dumped 10 years back.

.....say KOTLER for marketing when you don't get to use imagination
while making a marketing presentation in classroom?...example....a
professor dismisses the whole group for using prezi and animation in
first year project presentation..reaosn?....too much color....standard
not accepted in industry...use powerpoint...
i mean..COME my point about INNOVATION
innovation will not happen until our whole system of curriculum doubt the system is there for a reason...but don you think
we need to tweak it according to the present times.
as far as India trying to catch up with the other countries in terms
of Innovation i think we have already missed the bus..but still
there;s hope...

from:  Abhimanyu
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 19:27 IST

I think the views of the author is directed primarily to prove that we Indians do not think the Indian way.It is clearly evident from the line " .... instead think of the next frontier in strategy where we will have to work with organizations as if they are living, breathing,humans who have stories to create, live, and tell?" The author does not try to criticize the ideas put forward by the B school students, nor does he say that his ideas are the most innovative ones towards helping Indian railways create revenues. He gives the problem a different way to look at, essentially solutions in the Indian way. They might be prone to be less feasible in the current scenario, however they are not extensions of already implemented westernized thoughts, lacking the out of box Indian cerebration.It is indeed a thought provoking article, not only relevant to the future mba graduates but to the country as a whole.

from:  Swagata Kayal
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 17:49 IST

We seem to have a lots of management schools but I would say India is one of the worst managed country in the world. We can not manage our dirty streets and transportation. These MBA degrees are only useful to get white collar jobs and become an 'yes man@ to every person with some power. We use our caste systems to keep a whole bunch of slum dwellers where they are and make them to do our so called dirty jobs. And how can one expect to find "innovation" when things are run by age old tradition and culture which favor the privileged few?

from:  Anand
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 16:24 IST

Its true for some extent .. But those people who join MBA are Business
mind ,indirectly they want to earn more so they prefer to be in the
safe side(in indian contest).But western people have good financial
background support so their mindset is completely different from us.
Author is right in saying that we lack originality that is true to some
extent but those people who are innovative don't require to be trained
in this institutes like Tata,Dheerubhai etc and still more in the
comming days.

from:  vivek
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 15:39 IST

I think many of the commentators are missing the point. The topic is not
about renovating the railways nor about the MBA grads ideas of
renovating the railway. Nor they are about analysing writers ideas of
renovating the railways. The point here is a whole different one which
is the standard or method of education provided in India.

from:  Ramachandra
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 15:12 IST

Nice read. What is basically 'brand Indian ways of innovation' ?(with
the beating) it could be helpful for readers to know something of this
sort actually exists/existed. Innovations examples you have mentioned
are (more or less) related with managing 'technological' changes in the
railways.. I was not sure if Author expected, in some ways,
Nationalistic sentiment from the B-school students, how can it happen
if 'you' have not sowed it in them?? B-school education is just a step
of the ladder for students to land up in high paying job. Who has time
to really sit down and innovate for the country? They would be more
than happy to show some bullet points/charts which look smart in 15 min
Saddest Fact of today's India is that two things are seen wrongly.
Salary and Intellect,students wish to be called to have possessed both,
when they run into b-schools.'Indianness'is Saraswati and Laxmi don't
live together, which you see in conferences. who's scapegoat really?
students or mentors ?

from:  Ashish Ambadas Kulkarni
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 14:21 IST

Nice article, here is my comments on the subject
1) Examination system has to be changed, we mug the text books and vomit that data in exams
2) Innovation has to start from schools. Children should be encouraged to do extracurricular activities, sports, NCC, drawing ,music etc where there is scope for innovation
3) People should realize Western theories has limitations with respect to Indians, we are more emotional than mechanical.
4) Take cue from CK Prahalad, who is one of the pioneer in managment innovation.
5) We have many problems that need to be resolved, Infact we have huge potential for innovation in health, agriculture, infrastructure etc
6 ) Also we need to come beyond IIT's and IIM's.

Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:57 IST

Talking of MBAs one of the best innovative manager I could think of
was my mother. Bringing up 10 active kids on a shoe string budget, out
of necessity made all the necessities like papads etc in house and was
even resorted to Charka spinning cotton thread to exchange for cloths
at Kadhi out lets. She was a remarkable personality who could manage
several demands with smile and unparalleled patience and always found
time for every thing. I would consider her as one of great managerial
ability far better than any MBA. Of course she represented one of the
many thousands who were laying foundation for the youth who are making
country proud today.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:57 IST

Dear Baba Prasad,

Thank you very much for providing this excellent article. Case study based MBA education is making stereotypes out of an innovative lot. In the real world business scenarios does not repeat. While some scenarios might be similar, a detailed observation would bring out lots of new/changed parameters. Management is not yet evolved as a complete science. Hence lots of its theories does not cover all the parameters. SCP model, SWOT and Forces models are just examples of it.

Since you are associated with teaching the MBA students, requesting you to please impart knowledge in a way to improve the innovation in whole life, not only in management. That alone will lead us to change our own lives.

Once again Thanking you for this article.

from:  Biju Kuttichi
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:50 IST

You can teach the process of innovation in B-schools but you need
people to involve themselves deeply and passionately to apply thought
to bring about innovation. Many a times, I find that innovation in
India is cost driven because of the spending capability of our
customer. We are good at driving cost based innovations by optimizing
cost at different ends of the value chain. Even the market seems to
respond fast to these innovations. Hence we basically bet big on these
innovations and forget the rest.

I am based out of Germany where innovations are safety and comfort
driven especially in the transportation domain.As far as improving the
railways is concerned,what I see is that we need achieve a good trade
off between cost for travel and comfort of the passenger at all tiers.
This would mean that people look at the problem from a different
perspective of not reducing ticket prices but to offer maximum value
for the price paid.

from:  Hariharan Venkitachalam
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:47 IST

i had worked as a visiting faculty in a number of universities and also L I B A at Chennai. I had always been using the Indian situation and Indian case studies for the students whether they welcomed it or not. I had also written Two Case Studies books suited to Indian situation, a book of Organizational Behavior suited to Indian situation and a book on H R D purely suited to Indian situation. all these in 1992 and alas No TAKERS THEN AND EVEN NOW at all excepting one book on Training and Development and another on communication, perhaps these two were well received in England,Africa and USA!!!!!! it is no use crying about the B Schools and their system and also crying about Indian Railways going from bad to worse. It is the ATTITUDE AND BEHAVIOR THAT SHOULD CHANGE!!!!

from:  n.ramaswami irps
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:48 IST

Its not that Railway officers doesn't have any brains and all MBA's have brains. The problem lies elsewhere. The system around which railway operates has to be reviewed. The third party ideas might not work well with Railways. For example Retail Space.... Do we have enough parking space in railway stations to do that? The solution would be to have a participative culture in Railways and free and frank views of all officers should be considered. And more importantly political influences should be first stopped.

from:  Thangavel
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:32 IST

While the author is quick to lament and criticize as is the Indian way, he hasn't done his research on the Indian railways thoroughly nor has he understood the context of the assignment the contestants had. It is easy to look up a few articles on the success of the Hong Kong public transport system as well as the Japanese train companies to suggest monetization of land is the solution. The reality is the railways already is doing this and has even unveiled a project to place optic fibres below rail lines. His other solutions are also baseless since there is huge sunk costs in redesigning the compartments which are only worthwhile if we are ushering in a new generation of trains like China has done. Monetizing toilets is not socially feasible as providing service depending on payment would discriminate against the poorer travellers. The reason behind the AC compartment was to reduce the losses on lower class tickets which is the major pitfall of railways. Anyway it's easier to criticize

from:  Arnav Mukherjee
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 13:27 IST

Nice article. The fact that it questions the effectiveness of so-called premier institutes of India is daring in itself. As rightly pointed out in several comments, this problem plagues all fields not just business schools.
Even a kindergarten school suffers from this problem. Everyone tries to fit every student in the pre-existing molds overlooking the inclination of the student. Everything is copied from somewhere. Assignments, projects, thesis, curriculams. Everything. We Indians dont know how to think global and act local.

from:  Shachi
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 12:52 IST

You may be right to some extent but don't judge Indian MBA students by
these competitions. MBA education in India is very course intensive.
In IIMs, there are 3 trimesters a year with lot of stress on
academics. There are class tests, surprise quizzes, mid-terms and
compulsory attendance. Classes involving guest lectures run late night
or on weekends. US B-schools have Friday off along with the usual
weekends. You have 2 semesters a year with 5-6 courses each semester.
Classes and course structures are all well organized. Indian MBA students who participate in these competitions often prepare their presentations in 2 or 3 nightouts. Campus calls such students 'Fighters'. It's not that students don't understand the importance of market research but most often either they don't have
the time for it just falls low on the priority list of hundred other things that you do in MBA school. Trust me, these students will do well when their living depends on solving such problems. Thanks!

from:  Pratyush Sinha
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 12:46 IST

As far as indian railway is concerned , we can innovate simply by understanding the basic needs of the people who travel by indian rail, as we know that necessities are root cause of invention.As far need are concerned these are 1. Bathrooms for morning bath 2. better toilet( with toiletries) & water 3.Better food ( breakfast, lunch & dinner)...believe me it is hoorrible at the moment( that includes rajdhani, duranto & shtabadi trains) more categories of compartment which has fare & facilities between AC3 & SLEEPER with increased fare. 5. Retail stores in each trains which sale basic items or daily use 6 mobile phone near for each 9 seats to convey important information to rail employees( emergency, need , baby food & milk ) 7. Got rid off the Ist & second class of the AC compartment( as people would love to travel by air as the air fare is getting closer given the low cost flights in India & increase the 3AC coaches as this would save them a substantial sum of money

from:  vikas aggarwal
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 12:10 IST

very inspiring article - so should we do MBA anymore?

from:  Shrenik Jain
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 12:10 IST

Hi. Nice article.. I could only read the first couple of posts not all..
my apologies.. My argument for this article is that the conventional
model such as Porters theory etc. on which this modern world is based on
should be understood first by person who is willing to do something
different. I strongly believe that to break the rules one needs to know
the rules very well, after all the rules are made by people and there is
always a room for improvement and change.

from:  Anshul
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 10:40 IST

Today so called modern Indian people are using English grammer for learning kannada language. This is what the fact. We are almost completely based on west to solve our domestic problems. We dont think does it fit to indian soil or not? Come out of the western world and thinking like indian will definately change our future. But the policy makers and even our new educators are not in a condition to agree it as they have completed their education in the foreign soil.

from:  Dr.Pannag Kamat
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 10:08 IST

your analysis on most of the Indian MBA is spot on. what we are producing is highly egoistic clerks who push products innovated elsewhere on poor Indians with a hope of earning fat bonus. whereas what we need MBA in India is to first objectively identify the root cause of our myriad problems and evolve local solutions to them. it is not that all of our MBA is bad. but the fear is most of them are tending to be directed wrongly and marketed vigorously for wrong reasons. let the folks at the top take note of these important suggestions and rectify our system, sooner the better. or we risk producing clones of a defective model.

from:  suresh
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 09:40 IST

I am delighted to read the article as well as the numerous comments on that. Today B Schools are like friendly neighbourhood grocery shops in India. MBAs are basic graduates and every other person u ask boasts of MBA degree.Anybody who does not have anything to do is doing MBA! Mimicking western education is Indian way of doing things! Why blame that now! If it is not useful to the country why worry about it as long as it helps the one who studies it! Prime B School education is never meant to help India prosper or develop;are they? There are umpteen cases where IIM grads have failed miserably in real life situations. So MBA is different from real management?!

from:  Rajendran
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 09:33 IST

If a question arises on what is new or what is the technological improvement done, then the answer slowly diverts into the cost benefits! I will give an example from Kerala. The new government with a slender majority and a by-election to overcome is desperate to win the masses. They have suggested a wholesale of changes and 'new' projects. One of them is a metro in Cochin. If we think realistically, what is needed is expanding the existing passenger train facilities and tracks. A 3 coach metro will not do any good whatsoever to the large crowd which comes from the near by towns for their jobs. Instead it will eat space and money! Another one is a superfast rail track. Doubling of the existing rail tracks have not even been done. The reason given is the lack of space. But they think they have space for this superfast corridor! The change is required from the grass roots. Children should be asked ideas to improve their rooms, surroundings, pseudo money management etc.

from:  Ramachandra
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 09:20 IST

Excellent introspection. This 'block' in the thought process is existing from the grass root level. Even in the KG schools as they are called now, children are fed the bookish 'knowledge' and the stereotype of a 'successful' life. In day to day life, we can see people thronging the religious places for benefits, 'eating' medicines for a 'healthy' life. Having food according to the diet prescribed by some 'expert'. Designing houses according to another 'expert'. Even Dressing according to the societies 'modern' view of dressing! Something FRESH is completely missing from today's Indian society. We see papers presented at various places and after attending that we feel, what is new in this? Just some made up 'slides' [I hate slides] showing things existing in google or already existing theory contrived into a new one. Even the so called 'research' organisation of the government do the same. They just copy the already existing thing and implement them.

from:  Ramachandra
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 09:14 IST

The Professor is bang on target. He is hitting Iron at the right time.
Mostly the affluent professors wont come out with such a daring article.
I think its the blend of indian and western which will make india a
better place to live. "I am planning to do MBA from abroad then come back to india"

from:  Karan
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 08:54 IST

I believe that the objectives of a Railway System in a country such as ours go beyond revenue and profit. Who is this Railway running for? I mwould rather take a train if only I could be rid of the smell of faeces and urine as I enter the train. many more like me would rush to take a train rather than a flight. Like the author says lets put colour into the drab trains we have - clean bathrooms, comfortable seats, and a nice place to hang out. Revenue and profit will follow if only we could meet some basic needs of the people of India.

from:  jayashree
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 07:59 IST

Business schools are there to teach about 'how to innovate' or 'think out of the box'. They are there to help gain you certain skills that will be form the basics of management or administration.There is no substitute for experience. I agree with the author on one note that we have spent enough time trying to follow the west in terms of education and research,we need to come up with our methodologies.US education is centuries old,we still follow the British system.It's time we start giving a serious thought about radical changes and for the that the best of minds have to gain certain experience and come back and contribute through education. Education is not lucrative career in India and hence they stay put in the corporate sector.

from:  Arun
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 07:38 IST

The problem is right there in the face of it. The teachers who teach in MBA courses are nothing but old commerce teachers who perhaps managed to get either initial MBAs or doctorates in Indian universities. These guys havent got a clue about interactive teaching and act like dictotors in classes. So students behave like sheep. But these decorate this farce called MBA studentship with smart attires and there goes the show for the world of parents who start to think that their children are doing something very smart and innovative. Indian teaching these days does not even encourage as much innovation we used to have decades ago as when I see Indian students these days they can't write a simple proposal they cant spell nor can they think. They are good rubber stampers. Very few are worth the degrees leave alone MBAs. Then when they start work even in MNCs they are treated like children so they behave that way. Still the same fear environment. Too many dictators in Indian companies.

from:  SV Nagappa
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 07:22 IST

The fundamental solution to lack of innovation I think is reforming the education system. We should start teaching 'How to do' rather than 'What to do'. Even before the kid sees the world everything is already determined for him and he or she is just told what to do from thereon. Well that requires innovators in reforming the education system and the only one we find are our politicians. Need an example, Samacheer Kalvi in TamilNadu.

from:  Raza
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 05:40 IST

This article is so refreshing. Original thinking requires a culture that encourages kids to ask questions. That is simply absent from all walks of Indian life. Changing something that has become part of culture is the most difficult thing to accomplish. I hope we have more teachers like you who encourage kids to ask questions and to think out of the box. Then only we can begin to change the anti-innovation culture that we currently have. Thanks a lot.

from:  Sunil Singh
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 05:37 IST

Most places around the world, a strong foundation for 'thinking outside the box' or 'Critical Thinking' is laid in the early school (middle & high) years. These are crucial building blocks, which colleges and universities can further expand upon. While the Indian school system prepares students always for expected outcomes, the western school system seems to encourage questioning status quo, from kids as young as 8.

from:  Usha
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 04:32 IST

There were 104 comments on this article (mine would be 105 if accepted) - so many great minds at work looking at the article from multiple angles. Basic question would be why are Indians good in engineering (used to be) but not at marketing - may be it's just the ethos of our Indian fabric. We are not taught to question and understand the question why should be things be done in a certain fashion - we are taught to follow a strict regimen right from the childhood days and that is what we are good at. We Indians are brilliant as some of the us are behind the genius of Apple products but making it a success was by a person who thought outside of the box (Tim Cook is talking about an age where laptops would become irrelevant). I disagree with the author that why not the b-school grads think out side the box - it is not that one can think creatively coming out of b-school. That kind of attitude and aptitude should be imbibed right from the pre-k age.

from:  Seshu
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 03:35 IST

While I agree with what the author is pleading for India to do as a whole, i.e., be creative innovators and not just mindless drones, there were two things that were just glaring. One was, as I read the article, the story of the UN world summit of crabs. You know the one where Indian jar of crabs were able to be left open without apprehension that one would escape. That is the backbone of the thinking of the ones in higher power in India. Two, this quote from the article "Would it kill us to teach them that we need to stop thinking of organisations and businesses as mere machines to which we apply formulas and frameworks, and instead think of the next frontier in strategy where we will have to work with organisations as if they are living, breathing, humans who have stories to create, live, and tell?" It sounds a lot like 'Personhood' garbage being pushed in USA. Its big $ only making their $ bigger & the little guy, littler. Not a good idea to view big business as a life form...

from:  Universal Karma
Posted on: Mar 8, 2012 at 02:43 IST

The topic is 'Suggest innovative strategies to increase revenues for the Railways. ' Innovative 'out of the box' suggestions that Mr. Prasad, a Wharton product lists out are new designs for the toilet, face lift /relocation of Railway stations with retail space. These are fundamentally value additions and socio-hygiene related suggestions that need to be considered, but not under the purview of revenue increasing propositions. Monetizing toilet waste and retailing in Railway stations could be criticized as derisively as he does about the 'dark suits' and the presentations of the participants. Mr. Prasad could have been a little more discreet in his assessment of Indian B schools. The most innovative revenue generating project was by Lallu Prasad Yadav who introduced advertisements on rail coaches; however, the charm of the conventionally painted Railway coaches took the beating; even this gimmick is not sustained.

from:  M.R.Sampath
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 23:46 IST

Nice to see a great article and equally great response, couldn't stop to jump into! The author has urged Indian educationists, corporate honchos and all other stake holders to move ahead of the existing somber arising out of occupational hazard. The lack of quality resources and an avalanche of rush to grab them, create a situation what's called the today's India. The onus has to be someone to bring the nation in a place where it should be by right and not due to its drifting away owing to unimaginative constrains it is facing. The alternative offered by professor was nice one as many others, too came up with. The country is in transition mode and now the things have to be bound to change, when the millions of people join the rank to shed hundreds of years of mediocricy of the nation on the back of extreme destitute. Now, we have seen there are people sufficient enough in our country who have moved away from the spiral vicious cycle of poverty, things are destined to brighter for sure!

from:  Anand Jha
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 23:31 IST

Indeed, the innovation sector in the country seems to be in a state of protracted dormancy. In my personal opinion, India can't transcend the shackles of monotony unless the youth really starts coming 'out of the box'. As an environmental undergraduate at one of the finest technical institutes in the country, I can understand the plight of the author, his concern over the pervasive stagnation in innovation. In four years of collegiate education, I have become aware of the truly 'straitjacketed' pedagogy we are bestowed with. Innovation can flourish only if people realize the paramount significance of 'cutting outta the loop' and 'experimentation'. 'Cause, all the major discoveries that we know of today, had been calls of serendipity and experimentation. Colors become conspicuous when they are worn with confidence. India needs just that. Passion. Perseverance. Knowledge.-all that is required.

from:  Anika
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 22:53 IST

This article is long, long, long overdue. And to say this is restricted to business schools is to simplify the truth. This time in India, my tailor delayed delivery several times. When asked he said he had been in business for 50 years. I asked him: why don't you improve your shop? Why don't you build a training school? Why don't you fold your clothes and keep them neatly? In short, why don't you CHANGE?? His customers were booming, so were his rates -- but there was nothing to suggest that his life was better. The situation was the same with the electricians, the plumbers, the painters. Our innovations are happening in some esoteric corners, with people being profiled on the pages of business magazines in glam suits. The basic comprehension of the need for innovation, of a desire to just live a BETTER LIFE, this basic need is strangely absent. The attitude is: in the end we are going to die anyway, so why bother!!!! Believe me, it is an astounding reality.

from:  Gauri
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 22:22 IST

Teaching has suffered enormously at the hands of schools, universities, and other centers of learning. It is suffused with models of learning which are far from innovation. Basically,our society is satisfied with stereo-types in learning process. The B Schools and other centers of learning fit into this stereo-types. The rush for Eng. colleges for engineering studies and MBAs only signify this.(You have only to peruse the matrimonial websites to see the preferences of parents of girls/girls themselves- Mr.Vittal Srinivasan who has posted his comments has a point). Hats off to the author for highlighting this core deficiency in our system.

from:  G.Naryanaswamy
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:57 IST

I wouldn't agree that innovation is not supported in India. The IT revolution that swept across India in the 1980s was the greatest innovative movement in India. It led to India becoming the IT superpower of the world with support from the private sector such as TCS, HCL, NIIT, Wipro etc. Under Dr. Sheshagiri's leadership, the various teams in National Informatics Center became prime movers of business process re-engineering in the government sectors in the Central Government and State Government agencies. That had a snowballing effect on Public Sector and even the private sector. Even economic liberalization in India with Dr. Manmohan Singh as the chief architect, was a great innovative movement, making the Indian economy turn around and exhibit tremendous economic growth since the 1990s. I can only recall with gratitude the great support I received for innovative ideas from the bosses in the agency I worked.

from:  Joseph Ponnoly
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:57 IST

Introspection comes from sides opposite. West sees the east and East sees the West. West holds carrot for all the High Tech and Hi fi brains, Hence the grey cells train themselves with the winds of west and becomes their wind mills. First it should be realized that human export is nothing but extended slavery. West has the costing of railways are high and lean in people density and here it is packed density. Simple rule. They always forget the increasing the fares are simple solution, why worry about brain storming and a simple subject on this. I do not know. Think Indian, buy Indian and sell Indian.

from:  Ravinran Sankaran
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:41 IST

A well written article. First of all we need to understand why this 'westernization' of Indian education happens. One simple answer is poverty. Academicians in India are paid low and only way they can make ends meet(?) - have a car,own a home and and have some left for retired life is to follow the work of rich nations' academicians so that they can get invited to their institutions and offered handsome( handsome in Indian standards) compensations, which they can use back in India to buy a home, car etc. How can a professor working in a University in Chennai or Mumbai making say atmost Rs. 12 lakhs a year afford a Rs. 50Lakhs house? Whether it is the scientists in IISC, TIFR and any other premier(?) research Institution or an unknown university in India, they all want to visit rich nations. In fact, most of the research they do helps only these rich nations and not India. India is spending crores and crores of rupees to train and educate their citizens only to help the rich nations.

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:35 IST

The article was very precise.I should congratulate the writer of taking the core issue at hand - Innovation! Well, how could you expect 'Out of the thinking' when what all B-schools expects is one to be a Math wizard. Years ago, I remember me preparing for the CAT and ultimately failing, for the the sole reason that I am not a great math guy. I have seen so many of the my mathematically brilliant friends ended up working for Investment banks. It's time we not only re-think about the recruitment process in B-schools, but also making our school education system more creative.

from:  Partha Gopalan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:35 IST

Innovation is next to impossible in India not because of Indians are
any less, but due of stifling working atmosphere of highly
hierarchical and conventionally bound society, discouraging
questioning mind set. Not at all conducive for incubation of path
breaking original ideas. Working in nationally important defence
aviation project I was a victim of callous indifference to many out
of box solution to highly complex production problems. It can be
very depressing working environment with no incentive or
recognition. I can vouch with great confidence that an Indian is
no less innovative but most of the time the innovator will be
whistling in the dark without any mentor for the innovation to
flower. Indian working environment could be cited as a great example
for dampening innovations.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:10 IST

As suggested by the author, the alternative of turning railway stations in shopping points is an old concept now, i read about it around a month ago and I think that it was linked with Mamta Banerjee. If this article was written prior to that then author has suggested an innovative alternative otherwise this article is an irony in itself

from:  Tapish
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:02 IST

How about introducing a better security system? The trains have always
been target of terror attacks and bomb blasts. How about adding security
monitors, scanners that can detect any explosive material carried on
board? How about installing security camera's? Give a positive
impression to customers that train travel is not only fun but safe.
Customers will be happy to pay the extra bucks for these features.

from:  Suresh Soundararajan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 21:00 IST

Well the whole issue lies in our educational system at the grass
We indians have started following a fast-food model kind of approach
in our education,which is completely based on linearity.Under this
approach each and everyone of us has to follow a standarized protocol
to be successful..similar on the lines how food are prepared in fast-
food..a deviation from the protocol leads to failure....which is going
to hit us badly in the long run...irrespective of the fact we are the
second most populous country in the world, we will lack in HR rather
than natural resources....All we need to do is to create an organic
environment where a child can be innovative and understand himself
better and explore...for a child always have a greater learning curve
and aspirations than a normal grown up adult...talents needs to be
identified and nurtured rather than lying dormant..Imagine If Sachin
wasn't given a due attention in his childhood...none of us would have
known him...

from:  Alok karak
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 20:57 IST

Brilliant article and insightful comments by the readers. Sometime
back I watched an interview of Steve Jobs where he said that the
reason Apple Macintosh was 'insanely great' was that the people
working on it were not just computer scientist but poets, painters and
historians. Jobs himself had studied calligraphy in his college days
which later inspired him to introduce various font styles in modern
PC. Most Indian students rarely read or work on anything other than
what is required for scoring in exams. Reading books(not just
newspapers) is essential in developing your thought process. History,
philosophy, literature can teach you things which can never be taught
in CAT coaching classes. Programming competitions like Google Code Jam
expose the myth about the Indian Computer Programmers every year.
Very rarely does an Indian programmer even figure in the top hundred
when the Chinese, Russians and Ukrainians top it.

from:  Jaytirth
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 20:45 IST

Well written...

from:  Krishna Kumar Sankaran Kutty
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 20:43 IST

The kind of alternatives the author suggests would only come from
dedicated, passionate engineers, architects. Its cannot be expected the
come from direction less graduates taking up management courses lured by
the sparkle of fat salaries. But the sorry state of affairs that exists
today the management grads boss the others.

from:  Prasad
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 20:36 IST

As usual, any discussion in India gets waylaid by agendas and pet peeves of the participants. The same is evident in the comment box here.

Only Ed Hayden hits the nail on the head: how does one "teach" creativity and innovation? One can not. We can just provide an enabling environment for such ideas to be developed,appreciated and shared in the broad daylight of our eco-system and the harsh glare of workability/adaptability.

from:  abhinav gaurav
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 20:26 IST

Somehow i feel little contrarian to the ideas suggested in the article. Innovations are not out of the world experiences suggested by a few people who can study a large enterprise as railways in a short time and arrive at a blueprint for execution. It could be simple steps or ideas or ideas to create innovation. I feel we need to allow the younger folks to experiment and boldly come up with options. There is no bigger learning than making mistakes.

from:  c.v.narayanan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 20:11 IST

Nice article. I wonder if the railway authorities have taken some feedback on improving the revenue form its grass root workers - the people manning the stations, the TTEs, train caterers, engine drivers. These are the people who interact with the general public and run the machines. I feel they would give the best suggestions if sought in a serious manner.

from:  Raja
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 20:07 IST

why you are going to B school even at primary level, the innovative
skills are plucked. When a project is given to a kid, the kid is not
encouraged to do the projects parents have to be facilitators and kids
have to do instead the mother or father completes the project in a
nice manner and the school also appreciate the best presented one with
out thinking whether such a neat work could have been done by a kid
and the one who did on his own is side lined. so next time his or her
parent jumps into fray and makes the project, thus the causality is
the creativity of the kid. for the teacher it is the CR matters for
the princy the CR and promotion matters for the parents the award in
the annual day matters. hence such a situation if you want to change
pl change at he bottom. Pl tell me sir to whom we are ready to give
the hand of our daughter an MBA in MNC or a teacher in the school? the
answer lies in the question.

from:  Vittal Srinivasan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 19:44 IST

My previous comment continued...

All I wish to say is that just taking this one example and generalizing the way of teaching across all (or most) Indian B-skools would not be appropriate, in my view. Bcoz I can personally give tens of examples of such presentations, wherein the ideas presented by some of the participants were so unique/innovative that I had to stop myself from standing up and applauding them in the middle of the presentation, though I was competing against them.

Also, innovative thinking is not something which needs to be taught at a B-skool, its something which comes naturally and should be encouraged from the school level itself. You can't really teach some1 to be innovative. But yes, I do agree that some (but not all) institutes follow a rote way of teaching, which may discourage a student from innovative/lateral thinking...and that, indeed, needs to be addressed.

from:  Vaibhav Goyal
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 19:39 IST

Nice article.
Though I partly agree with the point that Mr. Prasad has made (which can be summed up from the comment - '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.'), I don't agree with the basis on which this point has been made (the ppt by B-skool students).

As an MBA grad just about to pass out, I have attended many such b-skool competition ppts, and have given a few myself. And I can confidently say that in most of those ppts, the level of innovative thinking was way higher than the kind of ideas presented in this particular competition, which Mr. Prasad has mentioned. In fact, am surprised that the students chose to make such plain ppts ('boring' may not be the correct word to use), without using sounds/images to make them interesting. Coz we hv always learnt to make a ppt as interesting & concise as possible, while making sure that ur point is made.

from:  Vaibhav Goyal
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 19:38 IST

The article is a quick-fix by the author if i am not rude. The actual
problem is our school education system. Imagine the way our schools
are mugging up text books,percentages,pressure . If a child's brain
is not aligned to this creative development environment it is
difficult to get out of box results at a higher IIT or IIM level.
Morover the governement education system is not helping our country's
need for requiring young people in all fields not just engineers and
MBAs. The change should come first at children's level. Improve a
creative class room learning, merit system not based only on
percentages but a overall development of the child. Dont bind their
thoughts for dog's race .

I feel instead of analysing mistakes, pointing them out and
publishing its good if people discuss solutions, take responsibility
for this , plan accordingly to change, be commited to it, execute the
plan and move forward. Action is important and every one should
recognise it.

from:  vamsi krishna
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 19:37 IST

We Indians place too much focus on rote learning and reproduction of the textbooks. We teach our kids 'A' for 'Apple' and force them to remember only that, throughout their lives, instead of encouraging the kid to explore and identify an item that represents 'A' to him.
We are not giving the kids an opportunity to relate to their lives with what they are learning.
Change in education policy, teaching methodology, teachers and classrooms are the prerequisites for India to unearth the potential of the kids and students.
Once the kids and students start relating their education and learning with real lives, innovation will become a part of life.
Innovation is not thought, but learnt.

from:  Hemnath S
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 19:15 IST

Out of the box thinking is not encouraged in India at all levels of
education which one passes to reach at a post graduate level.It is not
only about MBA or B schools but a scenario of whole education
system.Because grades do matter,so willingly or unwillingly one has to
be a part of rat race,then where comes the question of innovations? MBA
curriculum should not encourage learning by rote, which is being

from:  komal preet kaur
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 19:12 IST

Brilliant article. It is very difficult to break the mold and innovate when for all the past years you have studying by rote & heard of innovation in autobiographies of few successful people. Many students actually want to do more than study stuffy MBA syllabus but more often than not they find their ways obstructed by syllabus, exam patterns & lack of guidance.

from:  Akshay Vartak
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:54 IST

This article articulates the quintessential fact of what we lack
in 'Indian Education System'. Why blame at B school level. Start from the
primary school level itself. Where is the concept of innovation? Every
student should follow a set of guidelines given by teachers who in
turn get these guidelines from CBSE/ICSE and other state boards of
education.Any new innovative thinking has considerable resistance and
is often mocked upon.We are a society of doing 'stereotypical
jugaad's' and very happy with that (excellent with manipulation &
politics)hopefully we are original in playing politics rather than
innovation.This is not the end of the tunnel.But there is a ray of
hope.Why not make innovation a part of curriculum from lower grades of
school itself?Generating new ideas and appreciation/encouragement for
out of box thinking should be part of yearly academic performance.
Mold the young minds towards creative thinking which would help these
generations to evolve at higher level of academics.

from:  Manoj Pillai
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:45 IST

Several years back we were travelling by train. That was perhaps the
time when business school at that city had finished its campus
interviews. The entire conversation for bulk of the time veered round
the pay packets they were offered. To the passengers around it looked
somewhat crass commercial that management education would be measured
in terms only of the salary packet. That has perhaps contributed to
the decline in out of the box thinking of management graduates. If any
B School conducts a similar seminar of business school graduates this
time on what went wrong with the Air India merger, much the same stuff
would come out. A great and lucrative future is assured for business
schools in India and American and European management schools could
have several more joint ventures in India.

from:  s subramanyan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:36 IST

I agree with the author, well presented
I beg to differ in one point it is not the B-Schools alone that is to be blamed, the whole system of eduction is a culprit for this type of stereotyping attitude. A kids creativity is curbed in pre-schooling days itself. CAT does not tests one creativity, it only test quantitative ability and presence of mind. Something should change from the root itself

from:  lakshmi
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:28 IST

@Madhu-You said it,Miss!I liked few of the points expressed by the author,like:Using floor space more judiciously and wisely in upcoming stations;Converting stations into a business opportunity,but given the current scenario of our political system,how many of these alternatives are actually practical?Railways as such is a sensitive issue.If you try to put put money in r & d,opportunists will accuse you of squandering people's money when half of the country do not get to travel because of inadequate infrastructure.If you try to monitize the railway station as a business place,only large ones will succeed.What I am trying to say is,given the scope,given how our country works,the best way to generate revenue was by streamlining the process,cutting waste and inefficiency,which require minimum approvals,and is within ur reach.Innovation is not always about coding Facebook,creating Apple;It can be small small things that betters your current approach.

Though I liked the piece. :)

from:  Aks Gupta
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:20 IST

Good article. As an IIT graduate (long time back), all we were basically
taught from western text books. We learnt the subjects well but rarely
ventured into creative areas (may be to some extent due to financial
issues). Coming to US, in grad school, we were basically taught think
for yourself, use the books but that is not the end in itself. Added to
that you were judged by mostly what you did and not how many years of
education or from what school(to a large extent). I think this concept
should get instilled in the Indian education system to move forward.

from:  Ryan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:08 IST

Another important point to increase the revenue is improving the link between railway stations and residential locations. Either railways can make an agreement with the local transporters or can roll out their own transport company , identifying the residential areas and other primary or historical places. The transport vehicles shall be having enough space to carry the luggage of the passengers and convenient for women and elderly.

from:  krishnakumar
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:03 IST

Every B School has to ponder. There is huge wealth of talent and money in this country. Only it needs application. Rich live ensconced in their own world with little care for the poor who live in squalid surroundings, malnourished and earning less than a dollar a day. These B-Students and many of the students who pass out of IITs, IIMs, Government-run Medical colleges, do not think of innovation and ideas to improve the lot of the poor. As the author rightly points out, India needs solutions for its various problems tailor-made for its people. What is best from West also could be taken. If only the corporate and government join in sincere efforts, many of the problems of the poor could be solved by innovative ideas.

from:  Sreenivasan P
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:02 IST

Dear All,
Claiming MBA is not good, Railways not good, everything you complain
only.... Indian Rail still 25 Years old see the capacity it carries
increased many folds...we have still big hope in modernising the
existing train itself like providing extra care for passengers and
entertainment like kids play area, library, internet on the go etc....
Schools & MBA or any other is about a persons experience only we have
to find our best working way out of it. Train will go from place to
place it will never go till your house and drop us all. we only have
to find better way of doing and we are responsible not our teachers &
professors who not only tell what is written in book but also making
our futures also shine. <

from:  Ramesh Selvaraj
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:01 IST

well said i completely agree with the author..
Innovative thinking is definately the need of the hour.If we want our country to step up and raise the standards of living our thinking should be innovative and fruitfull.

from:  sukhbir singh
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 18:01 IST

Author has a fair point. But considering the demography of these elite institutes, one gets the fair idea of why the "products" of these institutes fail to innovate.

from:  G V A Dharanan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 17:59 IST

The author is absolutely right in telling that we need to stop thinking
of organizations and businesses as mere machines. With the rise of
technology and increase channelizing of information, customers are now
educated and making informed choices about the products and services.
This has changed the ways of doing businesses and the traditional
methods of strategic and management methodologies will not work
The Indian innovation industry needs to realize this and work its ways
up to resonate with the changing scenarios of the market. Excellent
article !

from:  pavan karwa
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 17:40 IST

Candid and good. Especially the following words of the author:
"In fact, we — management educators and stuffy sultans of strategy in the corporate world — are the ones who have brought this about."

India is a continuous paradox. To find its innovations, you have to look at those places where you least expect it.

from:  Avtar Singh
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 17:40 IST

Why should a b school encourage innovative thinking...

They teach what corporates expects from the students...
Who encourages innovative ideas...

Which company recruits me for being innovative.

Which competitive exam in india encourages innovation..?

How can one who is able to think innovative get recognised...?
I'll be happy if i get answer for above questions..

P.s I have done an mba.. During my course, i organised events encouraging innovative ideas..
I have some innovative ideas too... Don't know where to present it.. Neither i dont know does it has any value..

from:  Kanagaraj
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 17:05 IST

When we ape others feeling of slavery comes in us. It is always easy to copy than to think and develop, this attitude of coping Westerners Blindly has curtailed our abilities. I always feel the France, Japan, Germany, Israel, Korea & Even China are not using so called International English Language but still they are developed or developing, they have their own theories in their own languages. But we always shy away from using our own languages for research. Here first every student need to learn our official or Business language and then develop theories using it. If we start using our own languages in which we feel comfortable we call succeed in a better manner.

from:  Akshay
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 17:03 IST

Refreshingly, someone from a business school is taking a stand here. The problem
however lies deeper, indeed, it pervades our entire education system. We do not
encourage independent thinking or risk-taking. Nobody is interested in changing
the system, only in milking it and aping the more visible signs of Western
education or culture such as dress and slang are considered quick-fire ways of
getting to that goal. This is much easier than challenging authority as represented
by parents, teachers, "sanskara" which forces the individual into a narrow corset.

Even at elite institutions such as the IIT (where I studied), the highly bright
students who are capable of introspection and skeptical reasoning, the pursuit of
grades becomes the primary goal.

Like they say, in a rat race, even if you win, you are still a rat! Apparently, that
doesn't bother many.

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:51 IST

1. One suggestion which comes to my mind is, people carry a lot of luggage in trains, why cant we restrict it to two bags per person, anything above it will cost additional 100Rs or so. This might decrease the hoolaboo created by lots of luggage in the compartments and give some revenue generation as well.
2. Improve the parcel compartment and its delivery qualities like GATI and other delivery vendors and increase the revenue marginally, or lend this service to a third party vendor for better revenue generation and quality.
3. Make the general compartment better in quality, so that people who don't get the normal compartment ticket can travel in better looking general compartments at a bit higher ticket rates.

from:  Ranjit Nair
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:48 IST

great revelation..."straitjacketing" has curbed the original thought process. But neither the author nor the participants mentioned anything about losses which are incurred by the railways due to train mishaps. Huge investment in R&D is called for to make the railways safe. This would help save millions of dollars in the long run. Laying multiple tracks and utilising the railway's property near the tracks could generate huge revenue for the railways.

from:  ankit jain
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:26 IST

The writing is excellent. The facts discussed here are also energizing. Actually, I personally feel that educators most of the
time discusses the management cases of foreign origin. The innovations
happening at the grass root level in India are not discussed in the
class. if it becomes the case then the student would more be able to
relate the case to the local context.
Case discussions is an effective way to discuss different concepts of
strategy rather than only harping on only framework. Why can't we
direct our students during internship to write a case on the
organizations where they are sent to instead of writing a mere report.

The whole pedagogy has to be renovated first. And this is need of the

from:  Debasish Maitra
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:22 IST

All we need is energy ...

from:  HARI
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:18 IST

great revelation...."straitjacketing" has curbed the original thought process.Instead of borrowing ideas from the west or book,they should have approached the problem in the same as author did.

from:  ankit jain
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:11 IST

. Economy air fares and AC class fares are almost comparable and people
won't mind paying more to save time plus getting a train ticket is not

The thing is there is no dearth of demand for railway services, we just
need to have more trains, more routes and of-course a very easy and
stress free ticketing system

from:  James Basumatary
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:11 IST

Why are we still aping the western form of education, right from schools to institutions like IIMs ? A question we all must ask.

Our ancient education system not only had helped create a wealthy society that attracted invaders to India , but also created health and well being in society. No wonder then to overpower India by changing the 'Indian way of life', it was first decided to break the back-bone of India -by doing away with our ancient but successful education systems that gave us our cultural & spiritual strengths as well as immense wealth.

Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:09 IST

The author is right in the larger picture, our teaching should go
beyond just learning all the frameworks. Actually what I felt is the
frameworks are actually very useful, its just we haven't learn to
implement it properly. I would like to focus on the railway problem
1. Making railway station a hangout place is not feasible as our
railway stations are already crowded and it will lead to more
difficulty in crowd management and on top of that we have security
issues. Yes of-course we can have some retail stores for stuff which
people are likely to buy while traveling (we already have food and
book stalls, probably we can have gift and clothing stores), just like
we have in certain airport.
2. Lighter materials for train, while for this what I felt is it will
decrease the stability of the train, but I don't know, this option is
open for further investigation

from:  James Basumatary
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:09 IST

Firstly I appreciate the alternatives suggested by the author to
improve the revenue of Indian Railways. It is a very good idea of
putting railway station as a part of a shopping complex as in cities
like Seoul. But with the solutions suggested by those students, I see
it is not problem with curtailing innovation but just their mind set.
They look at any organization as something with a vision of getting
profits. Ant they might have focused only on the part "generate
revenues" in the question they were asked. All MBAs should not be tied
together and entitled "nerds or non-creative" with this small

from:  Srinivas Kothuri
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:05 IST

what a wonderfully written article! Provided a 'new' perspective about
the need to innovate at the grass-root level. Also, some of the comments
above, wherein the alternatives have been discussed, are worth an

from:  Arpit
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 16:05 IST

Brilliant article. My dad (late) Prof R P Rao a 1952 Wharton school product was always dissappointed that I did not do MBA after my engg. During the last couple of decades developing alternate products for IR by introducing light weight composites has helped to think out of the box. When the challenging problem of solving the open toilet discharge was given to us by IR, we in association with IIT K and RDSO have successfully developed a Zero Discharge Toilet System, where the toilet discharge is separated to recyclable water for onboard flushing and the fecal matter is converted to manure at the end of the journey. Fertilisers(urea) are sedimented from the excess flush water. Rather than attempting a existing western method we designed a system for the Indian regional toilet habits where the excess water used in train toilets made us convert the problem to a profitable one. Education should be restructured in India (not only in B schools) to think in the Indian context and innovate.

from:  R. Krishnamohan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:50 IST

Good one. The Jugaad mentality has to go to for the real chance to come
in. Will never follow this when I land up in a B-School. And remember
this post and its lessons.

from:  Rondeep
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:50 IST

I agree with the author.India is following up with western trends without considering its own which needs to be addressed.Westerns are being followed as they are successed.

from:  P Prakash
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:44 IST

A brilliant article. The author could have been more specific as to the dogma which has been dogging in our country's system. We need to get out of the stereotypes set forth by the Western world in terms of technology, innovation and management. I would not go to the extent of rejecting the their ideologies but what needs to be done is stop forcing the existing frameworks onto the current scenario and come up with innovations which would suit us. It is about time India goes from a 'service' based destination for corporations to being a innovation and production superhouse.

from:  Kushaal
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:39 IST

As rightly pointed out by Capt.Vijayaraghavan.K., one has no one to blame other than ourselves. So much pressure is come to bear on the children that they tend to focus on only scoring the marks to get a respite rather than understanding the subjects.

Many of us in conversation and debates say that understanding is more important but when we meet a school student, the first question we ask is hoe many marks did you score in the exams.

Also, would like to point out that the solutions suggested by the author himself are not so original as is set to be made out and that many of the suggestions have been implemented elsewhere.

There is only original thinking and no such thing as "Indian original thinking"

from:  Hari Kumar M P
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:38 IST

I appreciate the author for the fantastic analysis. Having worked
for four decades in public sector aviation defense undertaking
mostly blindly following Western design, I know it is impossible to
offer any improvement however convincingly brilliant. Having been
under British whip for 150 years the Indian psych is embedded with
complex of inferiority, anything white man is invariably better than
any brilliant innovation by a coloured “native”. After all IIT or
IIM are no more than extended appendage of Indian society and
illogical to expect anything better. Talking of rail coach design,
I have no hesitation in saying there is tremendous scope for
improvements with in country using, lighter, stronger, crash worthy,
cheaper and by far superior design using the current state of the
art in materials and manufacturing technologies. It is very
difficult to incubate any brilliant ideas due the entrenched status
quo mentality and lack of technically savvy project leaders.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:28 IST

First of all the Indian railways should identify and implement a permanent solution to automatically dispose the train toilet seewage into the seewage lines at the junctions. Otherwise our national railways distribute raw seewage across the length and breadth of our country. Every station stinks to the core as the toilet wastes are directly let out at the stations on the tracks. How can people expect higienic food at the stations, if this is the case. Why cant the trolleys used at the stations be fitted with Rubber tyred wheels. This will reduce noice pollution to a great extent. The flooring at the station platform should be smooth to drag luggages fitted with trolleys. The railways can get a few big players in catering who can setup stalls at the stations and/or provide packaged food for the passengers

from:  Swamy
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:21 IST

First of all my sincere thanks to Prasadji for such a nice article.Yes we need to give an important place for "innovation" in Indian Education system.I think it is clearly shown in Three Idiots.

from:  ashish
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 15:21 IST

Nice piece, particularly about the dress code. I agree that railway stations have to be places to hang out. I guess they already are particularly in rural India, where a peole sit on the kulvert under a tree to chat. But in urban areas, they need to be converted to malls which the railways have to give some thought. The fixation with the west when it comes to management has to stop and we need to look at Indian ways of doing business., a la lalu prasad.

from:  Niaz Ahmed
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:55 IST

If we did a census of business leaders in China, the US or any number nations some might be shocked at how much is borrowed, passed back in forth. Sony was founded by a student engineer studying in the U.S. He began making transistor radios with solid state parts created by Bell Labs for military electronics. US corps were content using tubes at the time. Japan also borrowed organizational theory from Howard Deming, a 1950s era thinker we ignored. Japan adapted his ideas for flat management structure and gave greater weight to worker generated ideas for improvements to products and processes. In the 1990s Deming's ideas for Total Quality Management came BACK to the US. Another census of business innovators like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or the founder of Dell,would show many never finished a basic degree let alone an MBA. I agree with the article in the need to find solutions wherever you may. India has rich potential for ideas. But how does one teach creativity and innovation?

from:  Ed Hayden
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:42 IST

Enlightening... As a person planning to join one of the premier
B-Schools, this makes me a little wary and at the same time encourages me to break free of the "straitjacket". Thanks for the article, really enjoyed reading it :)

from:  Hema Priya
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:35 IST

A very thought provoking article based on excellent observation. Many years ago, when I was a PG student at IIT, one of my friends, a research scholar doing his PHD, commented which I remember still. "The only true skill one learns after completing his PHD is FORTRAN PROGRAMMING". Similarly the only true skill the MBA grads come out with is making a Power Point Presentation with nice colour charts and confusing words.

from:  Sarat
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:34 IST

Having studied at one of the top business schools in India and as a
current student in one of the top universities in the US, I agree with
the article. But the bigger question is how do we teach innovation and
creativity when all of that has been driven out of the students
throughout their student life? When the teachers themselves might not
be capable or committed enough to teach it? It goes beyond just free
thinking. We need a systematic approach to get the students to think
like innovators, to be aware of organizational factors that promote
and inhibit creativity. In the short run, business school curriculum
could include innovation workshops, case studies and field trips to
get the students thinking creatively. In the long run, the whole
curriculum could be turned around to emphasize on originality and the
art of tying data with innovative solutions.

from:  Maitreyi
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:31 IST

An excellent article. Having gone to grad school in one of the finest Universities in the US, I have been working in Engineering R&D in India for the last 5 years. I can attest to the fact that Innovation is not just lacking on the business side of corporate India, but even in the place where it is essential - R&D! Working in a cross-section of Indian industries (no MNCs) - from Automotive, to Aerospace, to Heavy Engineering to Ultra-Precision Engineering, in companies ranging from turnovers of above 5000cr to less than 1cr, I have found that "Innovation" is a four letter word that does not even feature in the dictionary of corporate India. Considering that B-schools cater to Indian Industry it is not surprising that they provide what their "market" demands - and Indian industry certainly does NOT demand innovation.

from:  Amit Ganguli
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:30 IST

I thank you for publishing the thought provoking “ What they don’t teach you at Indian B- Schools”( The Hindu, March 7th 2012). Even at the much hyped Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), there is very little “India centric” teaching or learning. The name “India” is for namesake only. In the era of WTO, the B- schools of India should act as innovative think tanks and be seen regularly in the popular media’s business pages advocating strategies to improve India’s international trade. Sadly, this is missing. The only time one gets to see Indian B-schools in news papers are when a few graduating students get hired at astronomical salaries by MNCs. Higher salaries seem to add higher values to Indian B-Schools and not the other way around. Nearly 70% of revenues to Indian railways come from freight sector. I fail to understand why the B-school students failed to focus on this in their televised discussions. Here is a hilarious anomaly about passenger fares in our railways. Platform ticket costs Rs 3. But, a suburban train ticket to High-tech city from Osmania University in Hyderabad covering a distance of 16 kms also costs the same Rs 3. Is there a rational reason for this? After all, travel and non-travel can’t cost the same. This should be a meaty subject for Indian B schools to study and debate leading to innovative recommendations. There are many more like this, if only Indian B schools care to be Indian.

from:  S.Ganesan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:18 IST

I accept with the author but there is no scope in any Indian Organisations (IT, Government,Educational) for innovation.There is no encouragement, resources and support for the Fresh and Young Graduates to work or even put forward their Thoughts. Develop good Platform and companies should cultivate research activities in College levels and even at the work place. Give them the Freedom to think, Innovate and Implement. Some may fail but surely Difference can be felt.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 14:15 IST

I agree with the author word by word. Very well written article. The
most important message being our reliance on "jugaad". In general, our
mentality has become to just get things done, some way or the other. We
really don't approach a problem in an out of the box fashion where the
solution can be a long term and helpful. Hope such kind of articles are
eye openers.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:59 IST

Each one here blames the system, none has given a solution for the problem. This is the only quality we Indians have. If we think that our institution have not quality education, then it's also our responsibility to show them the direction or some example to improve it rather than to blame the system.

from:  Rishabh
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:58 IST

Can Innovation Be Taught?

Young generation want a big fat paying job, but they do not want to work
too hard. Preferably a job where they can surf the net all day, visit
social networking sites, have a two hour lunch and go home early. Is a
four day work week and two months vacation asking too much?

1% of the population are innovators, visionaries, have the potential
to transform society. 1% will be great. And they don't waste their
money on MBA.
The other 99% just keep pushing the elevator buttons until they get to
their floor.

Innovation can come glacially with 100 clones madly typing 24/7.
Or it can come with the lone, nerd antisocial genius, working for days
on end, ignoring daylight, food, and sleep. Edison invented
electricity, the grid and half of household devices by himself.
Paranoid Wright Brothers. Bipolar Stephen Jobs.
The Button Up Corporations are just clones that eventually follow
these innovative breakthroughs.


You can't engineer craziness!

from:  Ryan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:53 IST

Awesome! The author nicely explained the trend of the modern generation.

from:  Divya
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:48 IST

This is perhaps one of the brilliant articles offering a new perspective on the teaching at IIMs and IITs. What was once perceived to be as temples of modern India has now become elitist in approach. It lacks the human face - the majority of the Indians who are poor. As one who passed out of IIT-Kharagpur, I had noticed the inconsistencies and the existence of a "digital divide" - two worlds - one inside IIT campus and the other just outside IIT gates represented by dhabhas, tin-roof houses, mud huts, rudimentary cycle shops and yet what not. As the author right suggested, emphasis should be on paradigm shift - the relevance of these so-called "builders to the nation" in the contemporary age. They have achieved only in enhancing the digital divide and be as inmates of islands of excellence/autonomy. It is far, off from the nation and its people.

from:  M.S.Chagla
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:34 IST

A fantastic article and great introspection on why we need to look at innovation from an altogether different perspective, especially in Indian B-Schools.

from:  Ashish Rastogi
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:31 IST

Juse a few new shades for improvement, can we use the wind flow effectively when the train moves to generate the power required for the lights & fans in the train rather than electric lines or the concept for cycle dynamo to generating power when the train moves. Also we can build multi storage building godowns above the railway stations so that transporation of food grains would be easy. Cover the railway track with solar panel and generate power to distrubute to the near by villages.

from:  Sri
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:26 IST

An undoubtedly well articulated piece, highlighting the core aspect missing in Indian B-schools today -sensitizing students to 'out of the box thinking'. I really enjoyed reading the whole thing,each point sort of in a way,echoing what I myself always thought of Indian railways.Where can we start innovating?Well,where can we not? Indian railways may be the largest in the world,but it totally ignores traveller comfort. The entire experience of booking tickets to catching the train in our substandard platforms,to travelling in rickety, debilitated coaches, is little short of shabby! There are avenues to innovate in every dimension, as the author points out. Also totally agree with Navaneeth V K's comment about the screening process in our B-schools. More than 80% of IIM admits are from the technical backgrounds, which seems pretty obvious,considering the pattern of our CAT exams. Till we have more a relevant screening exam, actually testing a candidate's B-school aptitude,we cannot expect better!

from:  Prashant Kumar
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:26 IST

There should not be stereotyped teaching from the textbook to the MBA students. The faculty should bring their own experience and expertise to the classroom. The students should feel they are getting something that is unique, and which they would not get anywhere else.
The students come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Those with a business background often feel that, "the real world is not like the simple economic models". As a result, the teacher should be very cautious about claiming too much for theory. There should be positive correlation between his research ability and the ability to teach the students from his findings. Relating classroom teaching to "real business practices" should be the aim of any business school.
The teaching team projects are to be designed in ways for students to learn how to communicate, lead, find problems and solutions, negotiate, and facilitate changes in organizations. There should be seminars by front line business leaders, followed by field trips and interaction by students with industry and faculty.
A good teacher should be friendly with the students, do research on each and every topic of the subjects, and give good examples as how to solve specific managerial problems practically with best interpretation, graphs, and tutorials in power point presentations so that students understand the concept clearly. Finally he should give opportunity to students to speak and express their views and must make corrections to what they speak. Further there should be continuous assessment of the students by conducting quizzes, assignments and presentations.
To raise the quality of MBAs, schools need to cover material relevant to current and contemporary issues. They should incorporate new materials into existing courses. Faculty should be encouraged to undertake business internships. Further corporations must identify MBAs with potential for senior level management and train them. The students should identify the problems of the industry, discuss with their faculty and find solutions for them.

from:  Prof.P.Madhu Sudana Rao
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:19 IST

I appreciate the author's views - but doesn't this kind of innovative thinking need to begin earlier in schools and not just something that has to be present in Management students? Recently, my eleven year old son participated in a drawing competition held at India Gate. He knew that environment might be one of the topics, and had plans of drawing something from nature (he is a keen amateur birdwatcher and photographer). To his amazement, there was a specific topic provided - air pollution in the city. Widespread dissemination and taking in of information without really any deep thought or analysis going into it means that might just end up being a jargon spouting society, making all the right noises, but without moving an inch. It's like shutting genies in bottles.

from:  Namitha
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:08 IST

good article but lacked the basics

1. what is western and what is eastern...?? the best is appreciated everywhere. Why you read e=mc sq and f=ma or socrates and aristotle
why they read chanakya and appreciate the imp of 0 from india.

2. innovation is not a quality one gets as soon as he got birth. It comes by learning and experiences. we have to learn from each and every part of the world being a cosmopolitian.

3. When you yourself work out of india although being an Indian, you should come here and alter the mechanism you feel erroneous. why to sit in AC room and discuss about Indian affairs so casually.

4. India is having many a faction based on numerous points and so our world is. Why to differentiate then India from world. Let everybody excel in the whole world not in a particular region.

from:  aditya
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 13:07 IST

Indian education system gives us competence in one thing, ie. Copy-
Pasting. The methods are predominantly western, their solutions are
copy-book, their approach is traditionalist and their ideas lack
innovation. The number of Nobel Prizes in Sciences & Mathematics, is
a good indicator of country's scientific prowess, and sadly, India
doesn't figure prominently on this scale. Our centres of excellence,
IIM's, IIT's, NIT's and other colleges of similar stature, are very
low on 'original' Research Work. Research & Development has to move
away from piecemeal approach and focus on longterm goals.

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 12:59 IST

I was surprised why the IIM graduates did not realize about the horrible smell that we face the moment we land in the railway stations. We defecate on open tracks and is cleaned by night soil workers, couldn't they have thought of redesigning better closed toilets on carriages, As author rightly mentioned Railway stations are located in prime locations of a city allowing us to make use of the land better. But the most important thing was laying fast tracks, even after 60 years of freedom our railways run hopelessly 60-80 km/hr whereas without much change in technological design it can be made to run for 300-350 km/hr like in west and japan. Hyd to warangal is 150km which should be city limits for any nation but not for India.It takes a silly 3 hours to travel the distance. If we could lay fast tracks in 4 directions of hyd,70% of AP comes under 1-2hrs travel of hyd and improving road infrastructure for the stations improves connectivity and improves GDP and people's empowerment.

from:  vamsi
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 12:58 IST

Let's do some soul searching here. The moment a kid starts to blabber something resembling to an alphabet, it's thrust into a school. Ever since, it's groomed (read tortured) to become an Engineer or a Doctor to start with. The kid hardly has any time to think on it's own because school is followed by tuition, extra-curricular activities (that of it's parent's interest). Before the child realises he's under pressure to perform at all levels. the only mantra that a child knows is "Money can buy anything in this world", a perfect platform for taking-up management P.G. At this stage how do you expect him/her to think out of the box?. Barring a few parents who encourage their children to think freely & just assist in their decision-making (unlike the majority who decide for their children), this society is equating success of a person to his opulence & not to his calibre/principles. Now it's for the elders to lead by example & inculcate good values in their children, success would follow.

from:  Capt.Vijayaraghavan.K.
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 12:57 IST

Our bschools are producing Managers for Investment Banks,MNCs with hefty packages than strategists who address long lasting problems in Railways, Sports and other sectors. How many people with prior experience in Railways go and do management education? How many people Management education, get back to work with Govt and other govt affliated systems. There's lack of Vision on the part of IIMs to bring about a social change and a skewed misconception that IIMs are money making routes by aspirants who join IIMs. Unless we address the issue on both industry and education front, we can never expect a social change.

from:  Vinod Sundaram
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 12:53 IST

I wouldn't say that lack of innovation is a problem created by B-schools. The problem is with the mindset of Indian students - lack of experimentation stems from the sole aim of 'getting a high-paying job' from a B-school. This leads to following of set patterns in the school and getting ahead.
What needs to change? Hiring methodology by companies. Instead of looking at their grades and number of bullet points in the resume, they should focus on giving innovative tasks such as making videos, advertisements, etc. - and select based on freshness!

from:  Goonjan Mall
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 12:52 IST

Being a participant in the initial rounds , I can tell you the students
are not only responsible but the entire system that encourages run of
the mill ideas. The out of the box ideas are rejected as not feasible
and something that would not get immediate results. So if the effort
towards the implementation is discouraging from the one hearing your
ideas, who would want to go for a lost cause

from:  Nidhi Acharya
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 12:47 IST

I completely agree with Mr. Prasad's views. I think that another very apt reason for such dismal environment in these premier institutes of India is because of marks oriented studying rather than interest oriented learning. In the present competitive global world we may simply loose out due to our such conservative attitute rather than those that are very much debated upon.

from:  Bhaskar Deka
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 12:14 IST

Brilliant article! However, the problem with the lack of "out of the box" thinking isn't restricted to just Business Schools in India. It exists in the field of Engineering as well (seriously, how many patents/practical new ideas can we claim to have had from the reputed IITs and NITs?). I think the problem begins at a much earlier stage(grade school) where children are merely expected to memorize facts and take up exams based on those. Unless there's a paradigm shift in our approach to learning, we are bound to remain where we are currently.

from:  Narendran S
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 11:56 IST

Imagination is greater than knowledge.The type of education our B-Schools provide are improving our knowledge but curtailing our imagination.The general problems i face with Indian Railways is ticket booking system,the quality of food provided,toilets,cleanliness,ambience in the compartment,security,lack of accountability by railway staff etc..Better tracks(more electrification),the average speed an Indian train runs is far less compared to other country counterparts.Better connectivity between rail road system can/will also improve revenue.
Coming to B-schools i heard somewhere THINK GLOBAL,ACT LOCAL.

from:  SravanKumarY
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 11:33 IST

AT Last there is GROWING need expressed openly to MAKE Mgt Edu RELEVANT to Indian scenario! A very WELCOME step/Info.I worked with IGNOU for over two decades whenever addressing the Mgt students I use to raise this matter every time as FOOD for THOUGHT. We NEED different MBAs that help country grow with its own riches! Basically Mgt edu is SOFT subject unlike Science/Engg. Making profit by any means seems the main theme where as making customer satisfaction/need/happiness appears to be secondary. We can see in the enormous variety of computers/mobiles and other gadgets being sold so that India becomes a fertile land for electronic junk disposal! Even the same situation[Mgt tactics] with a variety of combinations of medicines being sold across.Where as the much NEEDED push towards RESEARCH work on new less toxic and more potent drugs is still a dream.Net result HALF of India is chronic patients of High BP,Diabetics etc All these leads us to NEED for CHANGE in Mgt Edu, for innovation.

from:  Dr.B.S.Sudhindra
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 11:14 IST

Some respondents here have suggested that work experience of at least ten years should be made mandatory for admission to B-schools. However, I don't think this will ever work. The need for innvoation should arise from the industry. Today, B-schools in India give admission to those "fresh" students or students with just a few years of experience, because they are easily placed at the campus placements. Indian B-schools are today known for their placments than for their curriculam or any other innovative approcah to teaching. However, the blame dose not lie on B-schools. Even the companines in India not want hihgly experienced candiates, they want those who are fresh and can be easily moulded in their culture. Most companies in India including I.T. companies are status-quotist. No One wants innovation in India, at any sector, be it private or goverment. The lack of out-of-box thinking expressed in this article is just the reflection of overall indifference of Indians to inovation.

from:  Shirish
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 10:49 IST

Not because I don't have the 'acumen' to go to one and envy the ones with a 'lucrative' and 'astronomical' salary, but I totally agree with you. The B-schools tries to imitate and fails in that too. Will Ratan Tata, a famed 'manager' and 'leader' be able to clear the CAT and get into an IIM? Or for that matter, Mukesh Ambani? But I am pretty sure they will get into any B-School in the West where they look for the 'problem solving skills' not in the multiple choice but in their life.
Mani Mama (name courtsey: an article in Hindu) is a famed caterer and an emergency manager. His tradition needs to be taught. The management of festivals, weddings, famous restaurants etc. needs to be researched and taught.
PS: "Shashi Tharoor's Hindi-practising colonialists...": LOL

from:  Navaneeth V K
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 10:48 IST

Sir, with all due respect, I am going to contradict you on a some points.
1. What these students exhibited is actually more Indian than western. I am doing my MBA in US and find Americans lean more towards the creative aspects of business and Indians on quant side of business.
2. The problem is not in the b-school. I believe it begins long before that. The way we assess talent in India is purely objective, unlike in West (atleast in US). You need an 100% in the aptitude test to get a job in India. And have you seen CAT? Your creative guys never made it to the b-school.
3. I also feel that your define innovation is very narrow, which ironically is more a contemporary western way of looking at innovation. Innovation need not be colorful always, and can be far less colorful. Facebook is innovative but isnt Dell too?
4. Finally, sir, cut some slack for these kids. We are young, and still learning our way around business. Thats why we dont get the CEO job immediately.

from:  Madhu
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 10:34 IST

Right from the dress, to the looks of the corporate offices to the lingo, everything is a copy of the western model. But that shouldn't surprise us. Our elite education system is preparing people to work for the west. Even children in rural schools learn about the London bridge falling down and L standing for 'Loganberry'. Innovation and creativity comes from engagement. It is not a function of higher thinking, but of involved dreaming. The products (and I use the term deliberately) of our schools and colleges, which cater to the middle-class and upper-middle class feel out of place in the world when they inhabit. The production was geared towards a different world setting. It is not surprising that many of our children and youth who study here and then go abroad excel in that system. A system where academic achievement is measured in term of reproducing what one learns, rather than being able to apply them, and marks are valued over creative thinking, empathy and love is bound to fail

from:  Naveen Thomas
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 10:28 IST

Excellent article. There are several factors involved in generating outstanding professionals in the country. Quality comes when the institute gets an autonomy and the professors feel the freedom of reflecting their intellect through their students. But in India, the autonomy is at stake. In the name of uplifting the society, power greedy politicians open up several IITs and IIMs in places where you dont even get to see good infrastructure and professors. The institute generates students who dont even know what the world is up to. When we think about innovation, we need to attack the root cause of basic education. I still remember in my school days where my teacher says I need to exactly reproduce whats there in the text book to get good marks. If I ever try to interpret and write in my own words, I face the punishment of getting lower marks!! Thats how we study at most of the schools. When I interacted with school children some months back, I see the same situation even now!!

from:  RAJA
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 10:19 IST

Any applied subject/course has its limitation. In order to comprehend,
think and get holistic perspective , to get to the core of matter and
come up with creative and innovative solution one need to have the
basics right. Management education is a mix of concepts borrowed from
sociology, psychology, economics and a bit of statistics.But its
highly inadequate. In order to create leaders and business solution
providers we need decision makers who understand society and its
institution,psychology of individual and group, economics, geography,a
bit history and political science. Many a times a BA students who has
read combination of above subject analyse business cases better than

from:  Tejaswi Patil
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 10:12 IST

Indian Bschools inherently attract people who are looking for jobs.
Meaning, they have already subordinated themselves to the western
employment giving corporations which promises to promote them from the
son of the house to the big car buying caretaker of the house. This
mentality is encouraged even more when everyone is pushed towards
getting a job on Day 0. Bschools do not promote an autonomous sense of
ownership or individual thinking. They certainly do not make people
comfortable with failures. Which is why this happens. No one will
think out of the box if all they have to lose is a 'job', as opposed
to a lifelong dream.

from:  Deepika
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:49 IST

Nice article...It is true that innovation is the need of the hour. And it requires a lot of unconstrained thinking.I believe that the entire Indian education system has to be revamped, right from primary education.We have to move away from rote learning process and give more importance to individual thinking and ideas right from the beginning. Tackling the problem from the higher level and unattending the grass roots will not provide a solution. Till then we have to be happy with inNO(WAY)tion. Nice Cartoon.. It is really in line with the context of the article.

from:  Shijhu
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:45 IST

An amazing article hitting the face of Indian B-Schools. The most important thing is that this comes from a veteran management professional, or else, the management cadres will dismiss this as yet another disgruntled rant by those who failed to get to B-Schools.Thanks to the author.

from:  Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:45 IST

The one thing that the Indian railways also works under is huge constraints caused by a social mission and more, by populist agendas. Freight is something that never got attention (together with ancillary systems like last mile transport, storage) - even if the FM recently spoke about increasing the budget for this.
Passenger fares HAVE to remain artificially low, and new trains get launched to every village in each railway minister's home state. So replacing rolling stock, or repairing thousands of miles of worn out track, are just not going to happen that easily. "Monetizing" cosmetic changes so there's more than just tea stalls is already going on. Chennai Central has aircon restaurants, wifi etc. What is much more important in chennai is that you don't ever have to use a foot overbridge. Optimizing routes, track mgmt, engine / rolling stock maintenance and fuel efficiency, managing ever increasing footfalls at stations etc aren't cool enough for TV case study competitions :(

from:  Suresh Ramasubramanian
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:34 IST

The way to improve performance and administrative efficiency is by challenging existing assumptions , beliefs and values.The key to high economic growth is innovation, which is not possible without challenging existing mindsets.We need to develop the leadership and managerial capabilities that brings innovation . We can not innovate new ideas if we just follow the methodologies of the west. I agree with the author that out of the box thinking is required to bring innovation.

from:  Nuzahat Ara
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:29 IST

Good article. In general, to teach gyan with Indian roots in our schools (not necessarily B-schools), we need to first produce gyan or knowledge. Knowledge creation precedes its dissemination. For knowledge creation, in-house R&D is a must. The woeful state of R&D at our univs says it all.
In B-schools, scholars must be encouraged to create knowledge, by doing research and publishing at quality journals worldwide. Their pay, perks, promotions and eventually tenure must be predicated on research output (like the system has evolved to be, in the west). Then and only then we can talk about Indian B-schools doing home-brewed innovation & measuring the delta in business performance.

- An academic at a desi B-school.

from:  Sudhir
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:28 IST

Awesome article. Management graduates need to understand that innovation is not about fancy suits and power(guzzling)point presentations. It is about simplicity (something that we lack these days). Highy thought provoking. Kudos to the writer!

from:  Divya
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:25 IST

This Idea of inculcating and identifying the Indian way of management and thinking has to be given a formal push by the like minded practitioners and thinkers. Today when our industries are getting global, Indian managers can test and strengthen the Indian management principles. There are hardly few collections of indian thought in the form of books or on the internet. This is the first writing i have been able to read since the same idea started to simmer in my mind about a year or so.Thanks to the writer and may your initiative light the torch of Indian management thinking.

from:  narendra
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:21 IST

Excellent article pointing out what's missing in Indian education system in general and Indian Business Studies in particular.
Its high time we think on these lines and mend our thoughts and ways.

Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 09:17 IST

Management schools dont teach how to handle a country where the population is exploding and the peoples desires are heightened by Television,internet access and hard sell of better lifestyle by movies,malls,and later technology goods. Management is required not in small measures but in the larger scene of improving the country and distinguishing that there are different levels to cater to.Give a large category of people the better life by moving them up and the crushing burden on the lower levels is gently shifted and the people below have a better time.The West are experts in this but the pseudo socialism and the concern for Aam aadmi
negates it .Work on it.

from:  Prof.Paul.V.John
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 08:36 IST

The problem sadly is not restricted to Indian B-schools (don't have
evidence to it, because I didn't go to one myself), but if you think
of Indian B-schools or most colleges in India as an extension of the
current intellectual/general climate in India, this is hardly
surprising. We tend to ape Western ideas at a very superficial level,
missing the essence. And, the detail. For a country with such a deep-
rooted culture, it is stunning how we get carried away with management
jargon. I have a simple solution: Make around 8-10 years of work
experience mandatory for admission to B-schools. Make it less about
glamour, more about hard work and truly understanding the nature of
work. Impossible to implement of course in the current intellectual
state of the country :)

from:  Krishna Kumar
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 08:35 IST

The problem goes beyond B-Schools teachings and their curriculum. A
lot depend on the level of interest shown by the corporate houses
towards innovative thinking. Every one looks for innovations that has
profitability inbuilt in to it. But is it possible to innovate only
the profitable ideas? Do we have the ecosystem that allows and promote
just innovative thinking, The profitable innovation will automatically
be a part of it that can be nurtured for future development.
Just to add on few new shades for improvement, Can they use the space
near to railway stations for horticulture on lease basis. This will
add to their revenue at the same time it will reduce the stinking and
foul smell that usually greets all passengers approaching any big
railway station in India. Other area of improvement is their parcel services. Can they introduce a online tracing mechanism for parcel services to update the current status of customers parcels? Thanks.

from:  Rajesh Kumar
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 08:31 IST

Thank you for a well reasoned article. This is just symptomatic of a
first generation of business leaders getting trained in western modes
of doing business. For all its shortcomings, this has enabled us to
win western business and grow large corporations such as InfoSys. As
we mature as a nation and create more wealth, we will look inwards to
stream in the best in our society. Almost 30 years ago I had a similar
thought when visiting one of the IIT's. I had returned to work in
India after graduating from a major western university. What struck me
was the contrast between the technological advances within the IIT
walls, and the near stone age society that existed just a few 100 yds
outside of it. I could not not understand how we as a society could
allow such a situation to come to pass.
It is our politicians (present & future) largely who must be
sensitized to the huge disparities in the country, and do something.

from:  CS Venkat
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 08:11 IST

I totally agree with the writer, Even I used to think on similar lines,
even though we have IIT and IIMs how many Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or
Eric Smidth are from India, our top notch IITians or IIMS end up landing
in a good firm for a heavy pay check, may be a handful would have tried
other options. We really lack innovation and we try to be more secure.
This I mean the general public, exceptions are always there.

from:  vinod
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 07:56 IST

very nice....

from:  Subhash Thakur
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 05:48 IST

The MBA programmes (offered in India and rest of the world) have lost
their worth decades ago. The case study method makes the average MBA
graduate look for the matching case study when faced with a business
problem in real-life employment -- and then make (or avoid) similar
decisions as in that case study. It was in sheer disgust of this
hideous approach that Prof Mintzberg stopped lecturing to MBA
students. He insisted that MBA students must have several years of
field experience before enrolling for the programme. Re the author's
"Indian" ways -- few years ago, one IIM invited Laloo Prasad to
lecture. Lalooji claimed to created surpluses of thousands of crores
of rupees for the Indian Railways -- later it dawned that he ignored
the expense side of the operations. How does one deal with the fawning
servile IIM and the (in)competent and (in)sincere civil servant who
briefed Laloo?

from:  Jay Ravi
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 05:34 IST

Innovation needs free thinking. Sadly, in our busy world, we try our best to conform to known standards, refusing to take a risk or as the author puts it "refusing to think outside the box". I don't know if the article is over-critical of our B-schools; I didn't go to one. The case presented, definitely garners evidence.

from:  Vasu
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 04:47 IST

The same is true in many other fields including mine- Medicine. There is no scope
for innovative thinking in the medical curriculum. Indian authors literally plagiarize
Western text books. The 'practicals' include recording a frog's muscle twitch on a
smoked drum- something that was done in the eighteenth century. Our health care
problems are unique. Given our limited resources, we need effective, tailored
solutions. I hope the powers that be read this article.

from:  Dr. Uday Kanakadandi
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 03:39 IST

I agree with the author that the easy picks on innovation, i.e., general cleanliness, clean modern bathrooms, nicer food court and retail should have been part of the solutions offered. Better carriages and tracks (trains in Europe and Japan run almost noise free to passengers inside the train which reduces stress), seating configuration, better toilets etc also will be part of my recommendation. If you take a journey on a train in India and think through the whole experience from purchasing a ticket to the station and the actual travel, you can think through what you like and dislike, which should give you relevant issues to address. Hope our kids learned a good lesson

from:  Ganesan Srinivasan
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 03:01 IST
Show all comments
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor



Recent Article in Lead

A template for teacher education

None of our Teacher Education programmes has ever seriously tried to achieve a clear and convincing enough understanding of what one tries to achieve through education. It always has been a rhetoric of larger aims and working for myopically understood parental and market aspirations »