Showing posts from July, 2012

Training in India: How Not To Have Partnerships

This reflection relates to my own experiences, and various conversations I have had with Indian executives, particularly from the training industry, regarding the Joint Ventures or licensing arrangements, which seem to be popular and growing, between Indian and Western training outfits in the training space. The questions - the value of partnership, who should one partner with, what to expect - come up again and again, and indeed, my advice was sought, as recently as last week, for a similar project.  There is a consensus among the Indian executives that such partnerships/ licensing add value. Of particular interest to Indian companies are packaged concepts and ideas, models and certifications that such partnerships bring. Consider the recent outpouring of emotions on Facebook and other similar platforms on the demise of Steven Covey, though the mainstream media largely ignored it, which came primarily from the training business community in India. I am sure similar friendly feeli

Training in India: Need for A New Start

Training in India has come of age: The choices, range of courses, price points, geographical spread, availability of trainers, have emerged, carrying the industry a long way off from the duopoly of NIIT-Aptech days. However, despite the progress, two problems seem to afflict the industry still: One, most companies are still trying to be like NIIT or Aptech, and talking about fast, franchise-led growth; and, two, the training is still dominated by derived content from one Western fad or the other, and very little research and development is actually being done in India.  Training in India is an exciting industry. It sits right in the middle of growing population, rising industry demand and a sub-par education system. The opportunity in the sector is, therefore, exciting: It can, and should, play an important catalytic role in helping the Indian industry move to the next level. This role, which will indeed come with increased profitability, demands new thinking, which is in shor

Gifts versus Markets

We live in an age of market fundamentalism. That is, live by an assumption that the markets are cure all, and as long as we free everyone's hand to buy and sell at whatever price one chooses, everyone will get the best deal by the magical work of the invisible hand. This doctrine is being pushed everywhere: In an age where the sovereign states live in mortal fear that George Soros may pull their money and bankrupt them overnight if they don't toe the line, markets are made to penetrate every sphere of our life, in education, health care, environment, relationships and even births and deaths. The idea of the markets has become hegemonic, so widespread that one can not see its edges and question its limits; indeed, questioning the merits of the markets is seen as blasphemous and unusual. However, still the criticisms of markets are emerging. First, that this represents a fairly narrow view of human race, that it is driven by self interest, despite many evidence on the contra


This is the 1001th post on this blog, done over almost six years. Not that I have written it all, some are videos and snippets, and a few are guest contributions. However, it is still a large number: I am amazed myself that I managed to find time to write all of that, amid everything else that happened in my life during the period (which, to sum up, amounts to five deaths, four marriages, two divorces, three births in my close family, alongside four job changes for me!). However, as I mentioned earlier, this is precisely the reason I write - for me, writing is somewhat therapeutic - a few minutes of space to indulge and dream, much needed amid all the chaos and confusion of everyday life. This writing was what some of the French philosophers will call my strategies of living, my window of sanity and escape from the framework of compliance, my moments of being myself rather than a cog on bigger wheels. But these 1000 posts lie in the past now: The sheer volume of the posts, and I am a

India 2020: Is This The Time To Hope?

A strange thing is happening in India now, an admission that things have gone wrong. In a way, this has never happened before. This is also amazing, given how elitist the Indian administration really is: Most messages get screened off before it reaches Delhi. May be this is working this time as the message is coming from the global puppet masters, the big media honchos sitting in London and Washington, who have started mocking the Indian Prime Minister: The Indian government, while oblivious of the mood of its own people, surely knows that this is only a pre-cursor of what the bond traders and hedge funds will think. However, while it is easy to be pessimistic about the Indian government's motives, let us savour the moment: The Indian Government is thinking it has got it wrong, a first in its sixty years of history, and trying to do something about it! Indeed, this seems easy for anyone looking at it - was everything not going wrong in India for so long - but the fact that it

Quality and Profits: Teaching Employability

Employability, at the time of writing, is the buzzword in Higher Education, some sort of holy grail defined by the governments, pursued by the institutions and seen as an opportunity by all sorts of companies, including the large ones involved in publishing. A number of initiatives are underway: New websites and apps are being developed, new books being published, and there are even companies which offer 'employability certificates'. In short, the confusion in Higher Education is in full display with this business of employability. This is a worldwide issue. It is an old one in America, and most people are therefore keen to import content from the States. It is a new one in Britain, as the Government of the day has suddenly woken up to it and mandated that every university should publish data on students' employability. It is a critical one for India, where the poor quality private schools are creating a degree inflation but the students are mostly stranded without a j

The Gift Economy

When I wrote previously about Business Gifts and Bribes , I believe I took a narrow, almost prudish, stance about what a gift means. In the ensuing years, with more exposure to different cultures, my perspectives have somewhat evolved. If I have to update the essay now, however, I have more materials: A number of American companies struggled with the gift-giving practises in China, a number of executives got fired, anti-bribery act came into force in Britain - in summary, the discussions around gift giving continued to intensify. However, it is possible to argue that treating all gift giving as some sort of bribery is based on a dim view of human nature, which is essentially incorrect. Not all transactions between two individuals are always a commercial transaction: Not even interactions two strangers always have to have a strictly defined purpose. Gift cultures, as opposed to money cultures, underlie many human activities, including what we do on the Internet and what is usually

The Return of the Local

1990s were heady days. The decade of the global, I shall say, of optimism, of a sudden step change in human, and all our personal, histories, indeed the time when the end of history could be claimed. The decade built up in perfect crescendo, big events at the beginning, slow build up in middle years reaching the perfect storm towards the end. In India, where I spent the decade, my familiar world of government jobs, predictable parochial life, limited choices available through local corner shops, all disappeared in the space of few years. I got on to a plane first time in 1994, but by 1998, with cheaper flights and business reaching to far flung destinations, I was flying once in a few weeks. I had no passport in 1994, but by the end of the decade, my job, of a humble trainer/ training manager, took me to different countries already: On 16th January 2001, I left Calcutta for good. In short, 1990 is when the world arrived in my suburb. There were other deeper changes. In 1990, our

Reassessment and Recalibration

I have been pursuing, with all earnestness, a particular dream for last four years, but I have reached a point to pause and think, and change directions, if necessary. Call this return of the practical, or even its revenge; however, it is my return to the real life in many ways.  My problem has always been that I have been trying to do too much. May be I read too much new business mythologies and signed up to garage entrepreneurship without necessarily connecting the dots, that I am late in life to start, and not everything happens to everyone. This is not a new feeling, I have been here before: What is new is this - whenever I thought about this earlier, the full reality had not sunk in till then, and I saw giving up as a sign of cowardice! Cowardice - that's how I thought - in chivalrous, almost quixotic, terms! Now, I am trying to think like a grown up, and viewing giving up, at least some part of it what I wanted to do, or deferring, as pragmatism.  My idea is to creat

The Idea of University in Transformation

The consensus is that Higher Education is broken, which is strange, because we are seeing an unprecedented rise of Higher Education. Every year, more and more people want to go to college, new institutions get set up, more graduates come out, more research money becomes available and more media coverage, measured in column inches, gets dedicated to Higher Education. The only thing that is going down is how much the Governments spend on Higher Education, but that is at the back of the general demise of the welfare state and the currently dominating view that Higher Education is primarily a 'private good', that it makes its recipients richer, and therefore should remain in the realm of private enterprise. This growing demand and shifting structure allows us a view of a sector in motion, where, with us as witness, the structure and the processes may all change, along with the attendant relationships, world views and what it actually does. So, here is my hypothesis: Commercial

What Management Does

I am reading DRIVE , Daniel Pink's usually interesting take on motivation and what makes people tick. I have come across the key ideas of this book before, primarily through Pink's presentation at the TED, which I found extremely interesting and put on this blog earlier. [ See it here ] The key idea, to repeat, is that there is a limit to extrinsic, material, incentives for work. Most managers indeed operate with an extreme, behaviourist assumption about why people work. Because they get paid, simple, is an extraordinarily naive but extraordinarily common answer. And, accordingly, they believe that the promise of higher pay, extra pay, incentives, is what makes people go that extra mile sometimes required by the business. WRONG, says Dan Pink, in this book. I completely agree. Psychological theories, elegantly presented in the book, show that extrinsic motivators, like money, does work, but only in a limited context, only for activities which are routine (making 40

On Writing

My blog writing obscures the trouble I am having in my life, and that is precisely the point of it. With social commitments, a deadline to turn my dissertation in by 7th of September and an M&A situation at work, I have not had a free weekend since New Year, however, still I keep posting a few hundred words ever so often. Indeed, this makes me look non-busy, and creates arguments that I am ignoring the other tasks while I still find time to write. However, for me, writing is critical: It is therapeutic, it is what keeps me sane and able to do what I must do. I shall not make the claim that I am 'visionary' in any sense (a common description on Linkedin these days); I shall settle for the humble claim of being a dreamer. I keep talking about things that are not there. I live a rather strange life, half in what I do, but other half imagining and talking about things what I wish to do. However, this isn't any hallucination and most of the things I dreamt, I have at l

A College in India 2: What Should It Do?

In India, the number of colleges have more than doubled in the last half decade. So, why do I still think that I should try set up a college? In fact, if anything, there is some sort of oversupply in India's Higher Education, with growth in college numbers as well as the number of degree granting institutions outstripping the growth in student numbers. Coupled with onerous and unnecessary regulation, India's Higher Education is almost an impossible business: Last year, more than 100 approved business colleges notified the regulator about their intent to wind up. My thinking is that India has a distinct quality problem, rather than quantity problem (I have written about this before). India's Higher Education so far is a money-laundering mechanism for politicians, at least in most cases, and hence most of the development in the sector was of poor quality. Besides, everyone jumped into the field wanting to offer Business Administration degrees at Undergraduate and Postgra

A College in India 1 : The Question of Form

I am spending a lot of time these days talking about a Higher Education college in India. This is my next big thing - I have worked on the idea for many years - and I am hoping that this will finally allow me to find one thing that I really want to spend my life doing.  Indeed, this is not a short term project and will still take years to play out. Indian regulatory regime is complex and difficult, though there are some signs of opening up in the recent months. The demand for Higher Education is fast changing in India, and a new college needs to tread carefully to balance the traditional needs with the emerging ones. Finally, there are questions of form that I must resolve in my own mind before I commit myself into the project. The question of form, first: I have spent two years in the entrepreneurial end of For Profit Higher Education and learnt a few things about how the industry operates. More importantly, I have spent a lot of time talking to various Private Equity firms i

Is Europe Over?

Europe is the new sick man. It is crisis after crisis, Greece followed by Ireland followed by Portugal followed by Italy followed by Spain followed by Cyprus followed by, possibly, France, into abyss. The Euro-sceptics feel vindicated: Suddenly the issue of a referendum whether to stay in Europe is back on the agenda in Britain. The European dream, not just the Euro (which Britain was never part of anyway), seems to be over. However, only a few years ago, Europe seemed like a model, in environmental activism, foreign affairs and in balancing the strife of a capitalist society with the need to protect and nurture the vulnerable. It is a few years of clueless leadership, combined with global economic crisis, that stole Europe's leadership credentials. However, I shall argue that it is too early to write off the European model, and indeed, if this implodes, we are back into some serious trouble. One has to remember that all the gloom and doom about Europe comes from the insta

Immigration: Can we talk about it?

Immigration is not what it used to be. Or, to put it correctly, it is what it used to be, plus something else. Boatloads of people still turn up at the doors of rich countries; but, to snatch a share of global pie, countries also actively pursue immigrants. The political rhetoric around them has changed too: Once the usual, comfortable issues like colour of skin and religion became politically incorrect, politicians who lack courage but seek votes have made immigration their proxy issue. It is not a subject you can easily discuss in a pub, or a coffee shop or gym. If you do, everyone will look at you as if all issues around the subject have already been settled. As if, immigration is BAD, everyone knows! One needs to only look at how crowded the buses are, no parking spaces, getting into school is a hassle and a lottery, no jobs, house prices are well beyond middle class salaries - the ill effects of immigration are just too obvious. Conveniently, all the things that could be blam

The Return Path

Today is some sort of anniversary, 8th, of me living in England. When I first came, I used to keep a count of days I was here, and expected this to be a short trip; now, I keep counting down the time I still have to live here before going back to India.  That's a serious thought. It is no longer an expat's itinerant dream, of which I wrote about before. I have taken the decision that I must, for a host of practical reasons, find a way back to India. That was the plan anyway, when I came here first: I wanted to live and learn, but never wanted to settle for good. But there are other reasons which have arisen since: I obviously do not want my father to live alone, as he is doing now, after my mother's, and then my brother's, unexpected death. And, finally, I see India as the great canvass of opportunity, where I can possibly make a difference: I always thought that way. What changed recently is my view that I would only go back to India if I can go back to Kolkat

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