Are Indian b-school students losing out on the cutting global edge

For Indian b-schools, the only semblance of being ‘global’ is either the exchange programmes with foreign universities or the few foreign students hanging around in the campuses. World over, ‘global campus’ is the biggest USP for b-schools, which has percolated right into the classrooms a typical MBA class at INSEAD or Nanyang Technological University has students belonging to as many as 86 nationalities.

Why are we not going global then? Are Indian b-school students losing out on the cutting global edge?

Starting right

It all begins with the right marketing: possibly the first stage in getting the desired mix of students. Admissions and marketing officials from b-schools abroad do immense amount of travelling across the world to net the right audience. Rashmi Udaykumar, Head of Admissions at SP Jain Singapore says: No other way to get international students than to go where they are. We hold a lot of fairs in countries varying from China to Australia.

Kara Keenan, Associate Director of Admissions, Marketing and Financial Aid at INSEAD, says that her b-school uses a mix of different approaches to get the required international bunch. INSEAD hosts weekly information sessions on both of our campuses in Fontainebleau and Singapore and in cities around the world. We also hold frequent virtual chats and online sessions on our website. In addition, we have also been utilizing social media with our presence on Facebook, Twitter and our new blog. This kind of outreach definitely helps us to connect with applicants globally as evidenced by our Class of 2011 which includes over 85 nationalities.”

And Singapore and France are not the only countries gung-ho about the global pitch. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, does pretty much the same thing. Deputy Director of Admissions in the Office of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid, Ankur Kumar says that his team travels extensively to international markets. We have recognized that much of future world growth is going to come from countries that have not been part of international MBA programmes. Hence, we deliberately host many information sessions for prospective students in places like Africa, the Mideast and Southeast Asia.”

Criteria make the difference

With admissions also come the criteria. It is not just marketing to a world audience, it is also choosing the right kind. Besides GMAT, GRE or TOEFL scores (and a few others), the b-schools are very selective about the students they enrol a global perspective is a must.

INSEAD for instance, likes its students to have some international exposure before they join, plus learn a foreign language. The INSEAD MBA equips our alumni to work anywhere in the world. Accordingly, we attract applicants with cross-cultural sensitivity and an international outlook. We like if they have also traveled abroad, if nothing else. Being fluent English is a prerequisite to be at INSEAD. In order to start the programme you must also prove that you have at least a practical knowledge of another language, said Keenan.

With National University of Singapore (NUS), the focus is to get students who show leadership skills in a global environment. Angelyn ANG, head of Marketing and Admissions at NUS says that her school picks students who want to learn about Asian as much as world business. The world is getting smaller as companies are opening up across the world. We look at students who can take up these challenges, says Angelyn.

For Nanyang, it is a little similar – global MBA with an Asian focus. SORIANO Nicanor Lazaro Director, Marketing & Admissions says Asia is where the global markets are shifting-its increasing influence is now a reality in global business. We like to take on students who understand and realize the influence of global business. Singapore is a strategic hub in Asia, which offers more China, India, SouthEast Asia and Asia Pacific access. True to their promise, this year 87% of the Nanyang student body is international while at NUS, about 18 % come from India and Korea each and about 12 % from the US and Europe

insead better than indian b schools

A typical project group at INSEAD: Mohit Belani (Indian), Nour Al Koudsi (Syrian/Canadian), Nienke Budde (Dutch), Daria Morozova (Russian), Carlos Aboitiz (Philipino/Spanish)

How does a global experience help

No one can answer that better than the students who are its biggest beneficiaries. Students who spoke to Pagalguy said that the biggest pull for them to study abroad was the global make-up of the curriculum, international faculty and rubbing shoulders with students from different nationalities. Says Mohit Belani, a student from INSEAD, It’s amazing to be sitting in an international class. So many nationalities means so many views. The group that I am working with on my project includes a Syrian/Canadian, a Dutch, a Russian and a Philipino/Spanish. Where in the world will I ever be able to work on a project with individuals from such diverse nationalities?

Same with Abbas Mantri and Andrew Humphreys from Nanyang. They say that more the diversity in the nationalities, more is the learning. If I were to say democracy is the best form of government, there is all likelihood that someone from the class will talk about how a government run by a single ruler is better and he will have equal reasons for his argument because he has lived in that situation. I don’t think I will get a real argument of this sort in a b-school in India, says Abbas.

While SP Jain has a majority of Indian students, a Chinese student Yu Dongni there says that she loves Indian movies and no better way to get a better understanding of them than study in an India b-school that has an international focus.

Anukish Garg from NUS says that the system of teaching is way different and better in Singapore than in India. At NUS, the focus is on industry experience, so one gets an industry perspective on what one is studying.

Students say that generally the atmosphere in global schools abroad help broaden their focus and understanding. Aditya Dhawan from INSEAD says that since all the students in class have years of work experience behind them, the discussions are mature and people are less rigid in their thinking.” Same sentiment is shared by Shobit Choubey from NUS. “Since students are of different backgrounds, the perspective is more mature. As even the faculty is international we are being subject to diverse views.”

Students in b-schools abroad, report to their school in shorts and casuals, unlike India, where a basic dress sense is asked for. “We are allowed to think independently whether it is the dressing or studies. We are taught to be critical when we want to, provided we have good reason to do so. In India, going by what the b-school and faculty instruct is the norm,” said a student.

So can we get there?

A number of schools in India have exchange programmes with international universities and this enables international exposure. Quite a few schools have international speakers and some faculty coming over for a lecture or two, sometimes more. But there is way to go before we become global, say b-school professors. There are some basic factors to tackle.

Bala Balachandran, dean of Great Lakes, Chennai and Professor of Accounting and Information Management at J.L.Kellogg says that Indian B Schools are not perceived as Global, due to the lack of research publications in international scholarly journals. In India publication and research is emphasized in only a few schools like IIM and ISB, and the faculty is loaded with more teaching hours. Also, the pay scales are seeing decent light only now, the faculty are driven to make extra money for doing consulting which diverts them in many non-scholarly pursuits. Given that we have over 3000 b-schools, I can hardly count 300 publications in scholarly journals.

Prof Bala suggests that the only way to raise the standard is providing proper incentives for faculty. In Great Lakes the faculty are expected to teach about 100 hours in a year and can so spare time for research. Unfortunately many B Schools have a teaching load of over 160 hours and if the pay is not enough then they supplement their income by consulting. In US especially in Kellogg the teaching load is less. I always tell my friends in India that we in US are working 24 by 7: that is 24 hours in a month and 7 months in a year. Obviously we have time to do research and thus the world sees our research output and that too in scholarly journals and not business magazines.

VK Menon, Admissions Director at ISB, Hyderabad says that the need to go fully global for Indian b-schools has not yet come but will happen in the years to come. When more companies go global and the demand for international jobs and employees rises, that is when even b-schools will rise up to meet the international needs. When people abroad start getting posted in Indian MNCs on a larger scale, international people will also want to study here.

ISB took the first step in going international when it formed an association last year with three other Asian schools to attract students from the US and Europe. While Menon says it is early to put on record, a number of students have come through because of the association.

For Dr Michel Kalika, dean of EM Strasbourg, France says that Indian firms are moving towards more investments in the European market and European firms are increasingly investing in India. International students know that there are very good business schools in India . May be they have to be more confident in infrastructure and other facilities that the schools in India provide. International students will, over time, also see the importance of the relationship between Indian business schools and Indian companies investing in European markets.

Angelyn ANG from NUS says that there is nothing wrong in what Indian b-schools are doing. They work perfectly well for the students they serve. In fact, some of the Indian schools are known world over and produce good students and they are slowly opening up to an international outlook. It will be a matter of time when Indian b-schools will become a destination for international students.