What they don’t teach at any Indian B-school

In my latest travels across International conferences and meetings, I have seen a sad common denominator that exists for almost all Indian delegates and attendees – they are really bad at networking.

Picture this. There is a special networking event/dinner at every conference or seminar. While every international delegate is busy practicing the art of networking amongst people from different corporate entities and international organizations, you would always find the Indians in the crowd clutching onto their visiting cards, and roaming around without any clue as to how to approach the next person. Most of these folks are happy to “exchange cards” and look away when the other person intends to start a conversation. (Russians come a close second in this worst networker category).

When I saw this constant trend across all such events (a suited delegate from India looking skyward or at waiters and wondering whom to approach next), I wanted to understand if something like this is in-born or is a part of our DNA in this country.

We are told a story at school and across families, that if we study well, work hard at academics, or end up being academically superior person, then jobs would come to us and we would be successful in our careers. This story (sadly) remains the same for our business school as well, wherein spoon-fed placements processes dominate the psyche of “students” who refuse to grow up and take responsibilities.

One look at the PLACOM (generally the placement committees across b-schools) members’ placement opportunities and salary figures would clarify what I am trying to tell here. Why should a handful set of people pre-selected for the “networking” job at b-schools get all the advantage and access to the best of profiles? Why is it that the entire batch at any b-school doesn’t take up “networking” with companies? Why do b-school Directors allow such a practice to remain (even though they accept and complain regularly that this process is faulty)?

My view on this is: Every business school in India should teach this amazing but rare skill of “networking” to its candidates; and “NO” I am not talking about the networking inside classroom or batch. I am asking b-schools to create ambiance and systems for these candidates/students to network for summer internships, jobs and more with corporate directly.

Why not abolish the pre-placement presentations? Why not substitute this process with a pre-placement networking dinner event across major cities in India? If you are anyways charging money from students for their placement activities, then make them accountable for the outputs.

MBA should empower, and a cultural reflection of our society cannot undermine this fact. Create systems of “networking” at India business schools and empower students with something they will need throughout their lives.