Showing posts from August, 2010

Training in India: Time to Shift Gears

I often get asked about training business in India. This is a summary advice that I shall give, based on my experiences so far, on where the opportunity is.

I think too many corporate training businesses in India try to ape the western companies. Often, they are offshoots or aligned to some Western publishers or training providers. The problem is - this alters their agenda. Rather than being driven by the markets and its needs, these businesses become tied to targets set by their Western partners. I have been in situations myself, and also asked around other entrepreneurs, why they follow these targets so unthinkingly. Two reasons are normally given. First, these Western partnerships are viewed as crucial to competitive existence. Second, it is assumed that Western companies have a better business model for corporate training that India needs, and hence, it is not about servicing the market but about introducing a 'high-quality' product or an idea.

The problem with this approach…

Today's Inspiration: Salman Khan

Also, Bill Gates talks about Khan Academy here.

Waiting for the Renaissance Man

Suddenly, our lives have become difficult. Bad news is everywhere: Terrorist threats, global warming and great recession spoilt our party. As the Cold War ended, we breathed a collective sigh of relief and made a new start, but this relief is all but gone now. Worse, we only have ourselves to blame. It now seems that we are incapable of living in peace.

The bad news isn't everything though. We have made significant progress since the end of Cold War. Remember, we did not have any of this - the Facebook/MySpace crowd, read-write web or iPhones - then. Whatever is the bad news, we have made tremendous progress and opened enormous possibilities. Just that the media is so intent on bad news that such optimism sounds out of place.

I am an optimist, but I think bad news is for real. I am as concerned about global warming as anyone else and do not deny the human responsibility towards it, but I refuse to see it as the end of the world and haven't yet started building my arc (or headed …

Five Revolutions To A New India

The world seems to be discovering India. At least, the cityboys are. The talk is that India is that 'emerging' nation now, which will put China behind. My taxi driver says so, one may assert. Besides, the Indian growth rate, compared to the anemic European and North American ones, looks stellar.

There are two reasons about this excitement regarding India. The first is Demography. After all, China is ageing, and India is full of young people. Lots of commentators, Nandan Nilkeni among them, talks glowingly about the 'demographic dividend'. The idea is that with so many young hands to work, this is indeed India's moment to lose. The second factor, though a bit cliched, is democracy. Indian democracy is a crowded, chaotic circus, but it is still the country's most crucial asset against the social discord that is bound to happen when a country changes course so dramatically. While the Chinese migrant labour may have to suffer in silence, only to rebel with force and…

New Opportunities for Private Education in Britain

In the next few years, the private education industry in Britain will undergo a fundamental change.

Private Education is already one of the most dynamic industry sectors worldwide. Something like the transportation industry in the 1990s, this is a sector stretched for capacity, with serious quality problems and increasingly noisy demand from its constituents, students in this case, that it gets its act together.

In America, things have already moved forward quite a bit. We have already seen the emergence of some of the world's largest private education companies there, along with the accompanying innovation, dynamism and career opportunities. Britain has lagged behind, despite its stronger vocational and practical education tradition. No doubt, some of the K12 companies have done well. However, the publicly funded model of Higher Education has constrained the emergence of serious private players in this sector.

All that is changing now. Last month, the government allowed BPP Educatio…

Coming Up For Air: Ideas of A New Career

It is one of those moments: I am tired of my rusty old self and want to make a fresh start.

So, no mid-life crisis for me. That would be against the principles I grew up with: Never mind the difficulties, keep working and things will happen to you. Sort of thing my grandfather, who built a successful business from the scratch, would have approved. He went by some sort of Asian value - 'the man who rises up before dawn 360 days a year, never fails to make his family rich' - but this may as well pass by the name of 'protestant work ethic'. But, whatever it is, it serves me well. Despite the inescapable ups and downs, recessions and all that, it helps to keep my head down and keep moving.

This is what I am doing right now. I had to write off my last few years of work, relationships and all that, and make a fresh start. But that was okay: I could condition myself to think that my life is starting afresh and I must be humble enough to absorb the difficulties and keep my mind …

Disrupting Class: Technology & Timeframes in Education

Earlier, I was reading Ricardo and wondering whether technology will remove the 'rent' associated with well-known place-based colleges and expand the access to accommodate the teeming masses that are knocking on the door. I did not think I was arguing against good education: I was arguing against the elitism in education, which in turn allows the formation of education ghettos in sub par community colleges and training institutes.

My thoughts have moved forward, in line with my reading about Alfred Marshall's life and work, and I have started wondering about another impact that technology may have on education, by altering the time frames we are used with. Yes, I typically thought education is 'long run', and advised so to the wannabe education entrepreneurs. However, my usage of the terms, 'short run' and 'long run', was more in line with popular use, than the meanings ascribed to them by the economist who first used them; Marshall, indeed.


Disrupting Class: Why Technology Must Transform Education

I have taken the title here from Clayton Christensen, whose useful book on how technology creates disruptive innovation in Education I have read and written about before. But, at this time, I am reading David Ricardo, and my ideas are focused on how modern technology is set to disrupt the education model as we know now.

But, first of all, Christensen, who predicts that technology will change the business model of education. Education, as he sees it, is currently a value chain model, where value is added to set inputs at different stages of the process, and a value-added output is delivered. He predicts that this would transform into an User Network model, somewhat like the telecom business models, where users participate in a network and value is created as every extra connection is added. In an earlier post, I mused on these ideas, which indeed seemed plausible.

But the point of this post is not the business model per se, but the economics of education. More precisely, I think we need …

Overseas Students in the UK: Reflections on the Agency System

I have decided to focus my research on the Overseas Student experience, particularly in the UK. I have strong reasons: I have access to a lot of overseas students, and the fact that I feel a natural affinity, though, truth be told, I have never been an 'overseas' student myself.

I still have an year before I start writing the thesis, so I decided to use this time to collect data and reflect. This blog, being my scrapbook of ideas and the platform to continue the conversation with all those who share my interests, will obviously be the place where I post these ideas and observations.

I shall start with a random one. The use of agencies by British colleges and universities have always been controversial, though the practice has only expanded in the recent years to American colleges. The idea is simple and common sense - that a commission is paid to an agent for recruiting students on behalf of British universities and colleges. The commission varies from 10% to 35%, not a bad sum …

Education At the Time of Great Change

Over last one year, I have had the opportunity to think, read and discuss about how technology will change education. I started from the point that technology will completely transform education: Something like everything will be online in a few years from now. And, then, I met a few people who were of the opposite persuasion, that technology may change things on surface, like a smartboard in the class, but the tutor would remain central to the education experience.

The truth is, it will be somewhat in between. Education has been slower than other industries, for example transportation, to respond to technological change. But it has still changed. The great change in education would have come about five hundred years ago with the printed book; again about hundred years back with printed photo; and around the same time, with sound recording. However, each one of these were only small steps in transforming education - from a pursuit of privileged few to a basic requirement of modern life…

Bill Gates on Online Education

Leadership Notes: Leadership of Free Men (and Women)

For all the talk of leadership, spare a thought for the followers. Because they make the leaders. In a way.

A leader may not be an identified individual that we would like to believe. Or that's what celebrity obsessed mass media wants us to believe. Rather, more often than not, a leader emerges - based on the context - and other people, followers, choose to follow them. Think of the first man on the dancing floor and you know what I am talking about.

So, leadership is not a position or a title, but a relationship, that one enters with others from time to time.

In a way, then, followers make the leaders. Without them, there will be no leaders. Imagine dancing alone on the floor. Writing a book that no one reads. Standing up on Speaker's Corner without onlookers. We think of people who do them as crazies, not as leaders.

So, then, why, in business, we assume leadership comes with position, or gets embedded in title? Because, indeed, business tries to fashion itself more after the hi…

Leadership Notes: What I Believe

Management is over. Dead. Gone. Welcome to the age of Leadership.

I don't believe in the Leader/Manager debates. It is fashionable indeed, to pour smart soundbites about the difference between the leader and the manager. Things like: Manage the process, lead the people. Or, the manager steers a team through the woods, but the leader gets atop a tree and find the way. And, most popularly, short versus the long term, tactical versus the strategic - each designed to tell us, with preciseness, at which point a manager should cross the leadership threshold.

And, then, there is this whole argument that management is nothing without leadership, and leadership needs management. Mintzberg says this, primarily. He has a point: Management without leadership will be boring, and leadership without management will be chaos. All good leaders must manage, and all good managers must be able to lead. Indeed.

But, increasingly, it is unclear what you can manage. The age of uncertainty is no longer a ca…

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