Thursday, February 02, 2006

Should the IIMs go ‘global’? - 1

IIM B Global Plans get Green Signal

Words mean different things to different people. Take the term 'global'. If you were on an IIM campus and a student commented the lecture he just attended was 'global', it would hardly be a compliment to the professor.

Global, in IIM lingo, is shorthand for general gas. And that is what appears to be dominating the current debate on whether IIMs should – ironically- go ‘global’. There is the IIMs-owe-it-to-India camp vs the India-owes-it-to-IIMs camp. But, leaving ideology aside, does globalising make sense?

Yes and no. IIMs must become players on the global stage. Whether they need to physically step out of India to do that is the question that needs to be asked.

‘Global’ campuses
Let’s start with the IIM Bangalore proposal to ‘set up shop’ in Singapore which is how this debate was sparked off in the first place.

First of all, is it viable for the IIMs to set up full-fledged physical campuses abroad? I don't think so. When INSEAD entered Singapore it had committed to spend $35.5 million (60 million Singapore dollars) to set up a campus which would rival its 2.9 hectare campus in Fontainebleau. The campus was to be built in 4 phases - and will be fully completed only by 2016.

To be seen as 'world class' an IIM B satellite campus would have to do match INSEAD. Was that what they had planned? Not at all. The foray abroad is meant to be a revenue earning opportunity, not a drain on the resources of the mother brand. Way back in July 2005 reported:

Now IIM-B - the business school in India's Silicon Valley of Bangalore - hopes to export its strength in business strategy and finance by offering an online EMBA programme, targeted for November or December, at its Singapore campus.

The initiative will be hosted at Bhavan's Indian International School, with the institute sharing its lecture halls, seminar and conference rooms, library and computer centre.

"The EMBA course modules would be taught online, with nearly all the faculty members, in terms of teaching staff, working out of our Indian campus," says Prakash Apte, director of IIM-Bangalore. "But we're also looking at hiring locally-based faculty members depending on demand," he adds.

Such a strategy certainly makes sense but more from a ‘business’ point of view than as an institution. Dr Apte admitted that, “Although we're reaching out to the entire region, a large proportion of the students are likely to come from the Indians living and working around the region.”

The added attraction: the IIMB course is expected to cost less than those offered other foreign players in Singapore.

And that, I think is the problem. As long as IIMs continue to be seen as a value-for-money MBA education mainly by Indians – whether based in the country or overseas – IIMs will never be truly ‘global’ players.

Thought leadership
"If you look at the global environment now, India is fast becoming an economic powerhouse. There is a great interest in the knowledge of the Indian economy, in Indian companies and the peculiarities of the Indian market. And this is what we can provide better than Chicago GSB or INSEAD. Fundamentally, this is where our strong value-proposition lies."

That statement by Dr Prakash Apte sums up the opportunity for the IIMs. Suddenly the spotlight is on India. We are being seen as the Next Big Market for everything from automobiles to apartment complexes. Multinationals are dying to understand what makes India ticks. Can IIMs be the ones to enlighten them?

Take outsourcing, for example. Since India is at the forefront of this business revolution, logically, an IIM professor should have seized the opportunity to become an internationally renowned expert on the subject. It hasn’t happened – for two reasons.

Much of the research at IIMs is lacking in contemporary relevance. Some of it is also lacking in academic rigour.

Secondly, even the research output which is worthy of recognition rarely creates the desired impact. That’s because while they may teach the subject, IIM professors are loath to ‘market’ themselves or their work.

It’s a chicken and egg problem. As one IIM professor puts it, "If I were to propound a management theory based on karmayoga, it would have religious connotations. If the same idea of being ‘committed to the effort, not the accomplishment’ was propounded by a professor from Harvard it might well be seen as pathbreaking."

So yes, IIMs lack in source credibility as ‘thinktanks’– hence their research is not taken seriously. But it would take just 2-3 outstanding individuals to break this perception. Of course, they would necessarily have to be not just brilliant academics but persuasive communicators and networkers as well.

Easy to advise, of course...
There are other important issues... Such as attracting quality faculty and a diverse student body. More on those and other challenges, in my next post.


  1. The IIMs should definitely enter the "Global" space.Itz disappointing to see the IIMs not figure in any of the top school rankings worldwide.The Bweek and the Financial Times ranking did not have any IIMs in it and The Economist rankings gave it the 65th position. IIMs are really good. The story needs to be told to the global audience."Global","Diversity","Relevant work ex", "A fit between the school and the candidate" might be gas here in India , but on a personal note, I think it does add value.Good to see IIMB competing with other schools at Singapore.

  2. Yes..IIMs should go global.If not for the extra resources..atleast for the chance to gain worldwide recognition.

    Apart from that it is just good buisness sense to have a campus abroad which will help u gain a major financial support.After all it is the Indian Institute of BUISNESS management.

    The main area of concern though,is that,Will the quality of students entering be the same?In India..there is absolutely no doubht...the people entering IIMs are brilliant..thanx to the gruelling selection process.
    I somehow feel that the atleast 50% of the success that IIMs have is coz of the quality of students entering IIMs...hence if they are not able to simulate a similar selection process outside India, it just might blow up in thier face.

  3. When it's easy ticket to a fat salary, who would go against it?

  4. The multinationals used to think “Act global, think local” . Now it is India’s turn it seems with companies like Bharat forge forging ahead and the IIMs also taking the lead.

    If somebody like Aditya Birla could build an entire empire abroad( he was called a factory building factory- built around 70 factories) from virtually nothing, there is no reason why the IIMs should not do well. The IIMs are recognized among Indians as world class management education but the IITs are recognized likewise by everybody. It’s namesake will also help-no harm as it has solid substance. New problems will crop up but they can cross the bridge when they come to it. If they won’t take the initiative, who will?

    With your insightful, entertaining writeups and unique style, your are in the IIM league among the bloggers, Rashmi. When do you intend to go global, visit us mere mortal’s blogs and give us a tip or two(in a lighter vein):-

    There is no doubt that among bloggers you are the pro
    Among budding bloggers too, you should move to and fro
    Even cricketers give tips, it shall help budding bloggers grow
    From your experience, I am sure many would love to borrow
    For what you are today, many of us want to become tomorrow.

  5. No need to go global. We should first have more IIM's in India before we go global. Going global can wait but can we go completely national before going global. Is profit now the only motive of IIM. I believe it should impart education rather than going to sell education!!

  6. Hi

    IIM Going Global and Khyber in Burbs, both face similar issues.

    before people launch into me for making saceriligeous comments comparing IIMS to a restaurant.

    The anology is they have to go global without diluting the standards. They have to create world class infrastructure in a world class city as Singapore.

    If they fail to have world class facilities the fallout will affect the reputation of the mother brand in the region.

    It would make it harder for IIM graduates from the mother institute in the S-E Asia region to be seen to come from a world class institute.

    Unless the investments are committed to that scale, I dont see a reason to go global

    VFM doesnt come across as a good way to go in a place like Singapore

  7. Just a thought on the side-
    'Global' isnt solely IIM lingo- it has been used for several years by other Bschools too, especially XLRI. It is said to have originated from a course here decandes ago called 'Global management which of course, was very gaseous. Today, even the professors use it in their question papers, warning us not to write anything 'global'.

    Will the quality of a Singapore IIM passout match that of an Indian IIM grad? Or is the Singapore Campus just going to be an easier way to get the IIM tag?

  8. Yes, imagine Harvard or Wharton entering India by renting a floor in Delhi Public School... IIMB's plan does not befit the status of the institute either! It would be OK to say we are offering online courses to international applicants and have a 'contact centre' in Singapore. The word campus conjures a completely different meaning...

  9. going global is very vague.

    even sp Jain mumbai has a campus in dubai. but what does it do? nothing! SP Jain spams its regular mumbai applicants with ads for the dubai campus. they send out mails , letters and free CDs !!!!

    but the main question is not answered. why should i go to Dubai in the first place?!??!?!? interesting thing is that SP Jain is trying to satisfy the local demand by going global!?!?!? i think they earn more by doing so!

    i think the quality of the students at the IIMs is much better than what you get in the so called harvards and stanfords where you can pay your way into it. the fact is that bcoz the average age here is 24 and there it may be 30-35, thats all the difference.

    the profs may not be as good as the profs there , but then if you dont pay them well then thats expected.

  10. As you rightly pointed out it will be difficult for the IIMs to compete with the likes of INSEAD in terms of international facilities or campuses and maybe even faculty. However, what they can provide is unique India (or South Asia) centric courses which will be difficult for non Indian Bschools to replicate. Given the growing importance of India in the international economy, these courses are likely to become quite popular.
    Viewing international campuses as just another business oppurtunity and offering cheaper "value for money" MBAs will only bring down the brand value of IIMs in the long run.

    And Sandhy, thanks for explaining the origin of 'global'.

  11. Being a global world class educational institute has nothing to do with opening up campuses all over the world. Rather it has to do with attracting talent from across the globe. The first order of things should be for IIMS to gain recognition as The premier institute in any selected field of management and excel in that area to attract talent from all over. Does an MIT or Stanford open up campuses all over? No. Part of marketing is being exclusive and IIMs should know that. By opening more campuses you will only dilute the talent that one attracts and therefore the quality of the output.

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