HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju
Mr M M Pallam Raju, the current Union Minister for Human Resources Development is an Engineer in Electronics and Communications from Andhra University as well as an MBA graduate from Temple University, USA. Post his degrees, Mr Raju worked abroad and on his return served on the boards of a few very successful public limited companies.
The minister insists that no single degree helped him reach where he is today. He gives credit to a blend of his various educational disciplines as well as his assorted work experience, which, he claims, helps him in his daily routine.
PaGaLGuY met up with Mr Pallam Raju for an exclusive chat on what he thinks of the higher education scene in the country, especially MBA.
Do you think b-schools serve their purpose in India?
Yes, I do. MBA education per se fulfills its purpose in India, fills a capacity and encourages a leadership environment. It teaches you how to run a business and create a future. The IIMs and other good schools have come to leverage strength, they help in governance. But I also want these schools to improve efficiency in the public sector, besides their present strong participation in the private sector. Management expertise generates a higher value system in the field of business education. But the IIMs have to stress on finding solutions to some of the real issues in our country, these include more involvement in governance, academics, capacity shortages, national security, safe drinking water, urban congestion and youth issues.
But Indian b-schools have a bookish orientation when compared to schools abroad?
Yes, there is an emphasis on the text book learning and that is where the theory comes from. A b-school is where ideas are given birth to and notions are created – as far as that goes, book knowledge comes of help because fundamentals are made strong. But there is no substitute to real life experience. The MBA experience is a world experience. Look at the IIMs, people go to them for academic brilliance.
I, am of the opinion that nothing can replace experience. Experience is what makes you a manager, it is not theory. But you learn as you apply what you have studied in school and that is where the real learning takes place, which means you need a combination of both – theory and practice.
Does your MBA degree help you to function better?
I would not say MBA alone. I did my engineering before the MBA and I have also worked abroad, in Boston as well as Norway. It is the diverse experience of studying different disciplines as well as working in companies abroad that has helped shape my thinking. Working abroad is a different experience and opens up your mind. There is professionalism and at the end of the day it is apparent that there is nothing like good intelligent work that gets you going.
What is your view on the diploma versus degree argument?
At the end, quality education is what makes the difference, whether you get it from a diploma or a degree. It is what you make of your learning which is of consequence. Yes, it is better that there is a consensus on this and we would like to make the path clear on what is the best way out but like I said before it is what you make and take of the learning.
Entrepreneurship is not encouraged in India like it should be?
I would not say that. Take for instance, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jodhpur, which has launched a programme to encourage entrepreneurs; it is doing a very good job. Be it b-schools or other, I believe that encouragement is being provided to people who have business ideas and want to explore. But yes, more can be done definitely. It is important that a business idea is given the right kind of an exposure and support after it has been sparked in a business school.
Do you think b-school education in India is globally irrelevant?
Management brains should get involved with the professional education institutions so that we can create a skilled work force. Every IIM should set up an accreditation body to raise the quality of education so that we are globally competitive. But this cannot be provided by an institute only, there has to be an inner motivation to be the best. Students have to contribute individually as well as being part of an institute to match up to the world. It is when both go hand in hand that India can truly face up to world challenges.
However, at the same time, the IIMs and other top schools should also focus on local issues as well. Regional issues should also be stressed upon. It is when issues on the local level are tackled that the global vision becomes attainable.
Do you agree that ‘soft’ skills are on a decline in our institutes and companies?
There is a growing awareness of humanitarian skills along with real-life experiences. The empathy factor is very important to have as a student or an employee in a company. To feel for your colleague plays an important role in growth of a person within a company or institute. Organisations have to take lead to make sure its employees possess traits that help build the company emotionally as well.
Would you like to have more b-school grads in your ministry?
My top-level officers are in constant touch with b-schools across the country for various projects etc. There is already an exchange of knowledge in different ways, I guess that will go on and be encouraged. I would like the management brains to give back to those who subsidise them. They should lend a hand to nation building by sharing some of their expertise with the government. Because India’s poor should be part of the country’s growth trajectory.