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 feelings are reserved for Ken Blanchard, Robin Sharma, Anthony Robbins and other Business Gurus, and surely this means a decent licensing revenue stream for all their companies (and royalties for books) from the Indian training market. The question, however, isn't whether these partnerships and diffusion of ideas are needed - they indeed are - but what value does it bring to the Indian training companies and how much do they benefit Indian learners.
I must admit that I have personally been benefited from some of these western paradigms, particularly Seven Habits and various quality management initiatives, and I am surely not attempting to question the inherent value of these books, models and ways of doing things. At one time in my career, I made an (abortive) attempt to help a friend, who developed a rather 'cool' model of measuring training effectiveness license his model to Indian companies: In the end, he didn't want to do it as he thought the business cultures were quite different [though that did not stop the gathering momentum on Jack Phillips' model of training ROI and other similar tools]. I also worked to license various leadership and English learning products in the Indian market, completely convinced of their value at the time.
However, over time, I have become conscious how culturally grounded these 'western' models are. Consider Steven Covey's 7 habits, which has Protestant ethic written all over it. Indeed, there is nothing wrong in cultural cross-pollination, and Indian gurus also have a good business healing Western executives. However, an institutional acceptance of a culturally grounded model to be the pinnacle of business wisdom is problematic: To be successful, an Indian business need not become an American business, it needs to transform itself within the framework of Indian values.
I think this is becoming even more apparent now than ever. The Indian white collar worker pool has expanded significantly over the last two decades, and many inner cities and villages have started contributing to it. What used to be a narrow pool of urbanised Anglicized workers have now become more embedded in Indian value system. In this context, the Western models should resonate less and less with this audience, which is precisely what I found out in my previous experiences with English Language learning systems. The problems there related particularly to the culturally grounded references, and the assumption of a particular kind and level of learner involvement, which were simply not practical in India. Unfortunately for me, I never picked up these problems myself - because I was already immersed, by then, in similar pedagogical methods. It was only when we tried to cross the chasm, to go beyond the early adopter urban market to the mass market which we all hoped would materialize in India, the limitations of the Western model became apparent.
Admittedly, that was English language training: The other areas, like Leadership training, operate at a different layer, drawing an audience which is more exposed to Western thought paradigms. However, these training programmes try to achieve more: While English training is merely equipping an individual with a technical skill, leadership training, potentially, is challenging the entire value system of the person. This is a much greater challenge, and though the audience may have greater exposure, often having lived, traveled and studied abroad, their value systems might be deeply grounded and it may be a far greater challenge, given their relative superiority among their peers ('I know what Western nations do - I have been to France for a holiday!') and consequent unwillingness to reflect and challenge themselves.
I also see a problem in the way Indian training companies perceive these Western training systems and use them. Often, such partnership/ licensing decisions are done at a higher level (I am guilty as charged - I have made mistakes by trusting my own judgements over those on the ground) and style may trump substance in that kind of decision-making. The Western training companies are often far superior in packaging and presenting their materials, and often the Anglo-Saxon masculinity (in the sense Hofstede used the term - people are not shy of talking about their achievements) magnify the value of the content and the system. Besides, this is a self-reinforcing cycle: Because one can buy well-presented content and licensing limit the upfront costs and risks, the Indian outfits will often not do any design and development activities themselves. In the end, most partnerships between Indian and Western training organizations build in a 'style' premium by stealth, for a design which is not suitable for the market in many cases.
Which brings the discussion to the last, and the most important, point about pricing: The built-in style premium will often skew the value equation and result in under-performance of the arrangement, not just in terms of outcome but also financially. A typical license fee for India will range from thousands to millions of pounds, and often the concepts such as purchasing power parity, which means in Indian context every dollar can buy five times of what it can buy in the United States, are ignored. So, if you consider a typical deal wherein an Indian company signs up with an UK firm paying an upfront fee of £200,000 or so, which is approximately $300,000 and the equivalent of $1,5000,000 in PPP terms, the Indian firm is saddled with this cost, not to mention ongoing training fees, material costs and various royalties, apart from upfront purchase commitments for materials which may never sell, for a product which may be wholly unsuitable to the market, and may not help their customers at all.
So, my suggestion to Indian executives in most cases to put substance over style, learn from the Western firms through limited and focused partnerships, rather than buying the materials and know-how wholesale. I also advise about doing the partnership in baby steps and doing as much market research as possible, including drawing feedback from people on the ground, like the trainers, though I recognize the difficulties in getting disinterested opinion. I do think that an Indian company can benefit through partnership with a more matured western outfit, but only if the partnership is dictated by the requirements of the market, and not by the slickness of the presentation.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.