India is one of the most complex markets of Higher Education in the world. It is complicated with multiple layers of regulation, with the States and the Centre having a say, and neither of them having a definitive say. It is a strange marketplace with a modern service economy overlaid on a middle class created by public sector careers, where conservatism and aspiration are in constant conflict. It is unusually corrupt, and this is one sector where Private Sector matches or betters Public Sector corruption (see my lament here). All this makes any new idea, and market entry for a new institution, global or local, extremely difficult. (see more here)
I have done several projects with global organisations trying to enter Indian Higher Ed market, and understand why they must try. (see my earlier post here) Despite the complexities, India is simply the biggest market for education. It is the arena where the big questions of education innovation are being played out, and to be a player, any Higher Ed innovator must win in India.
Of course, such global companies mostly fail in India. There are some apparent reasons, or at least one reason broken into three parts.
First, many global organisations, when they approach India, they assume Indian Higher Ed market to be underdeveloped. Given the chaotic regulation, confusion and corruption, this is an obvious assumption to make. However, this is a mistake, because Indian Higher Ed is matured, and competition in India is fierce. This may be a contradiction of terms, but it is usually known that everything and its opposite is true for India. More specifically, in Indian Higher Ed, like everything else, one encounters huge institutional failures and a thousand ways of improvising around it. No wonder India is one country where employers report most satisfaction with Higher Education institutions, perhaps because there are many different layers of Higher Education exist side by side. This competitive challenge is usually underestimated, and the fact that a basic solution is not good enough is usually overlooked. In the quest to develop low-cost solutions - everyone knows India is a poor country - global players forget that cheap would not do, because Indian players will easily match it.
Second, unlike many other regions of the world (say, Sub-Saharan Africa), India does not seem to have a capacity problem in Higher Education, particularly after the massive, private sector led expansion in the recent years. So, whoever wants to go to an Engineering college, can more or less go to an Engineering college. This is another difficult conceptual leap, and only so because India is many countries at once. The parts visible to Global Players is the developed parts of India - the big cities - and the Sub-Saharan Africa hidden in India, where there is a problem of education deprivation, is not visible to any Global player.
Third, and this is really a continuation of the earlier point, because the Global companies usually want to operate with their develop country cost structures, even if it is a scaled down version. That limits them to the richer parts of the population of India, where there is no educational deprivation and the choice is abundant. Besides, the global courses, offered in English, are self-limiting too. If one knows English, has the money and lives in a big city, there is no educational problem to solve for him. This is hardly understood by education investors and entrepreneurs, whose business models are often based on aggregate data and miss the granular understanding of the Indian education market.
So, is there a market in India, and how to approach it?
My strategy suggestion, after many years of working, few successes and some failures, is to create a differentiated offering with local inputs and great value. So, instead of hankering for scale, one should start by targeting the Upper Middle Class students and figuring out how to create value for them. They have a lot of options, but one can still create value with differentiation. A degree from a developed country is sought after, and if it could be delivered at Indian costs, it would be different. So would be courses in advanced technology areas, or for professions, which is still quite limited in India (but growing fast). Offering travel options, which an Indian competitor can not easily offer, may create further differentiation, as well as an opportunity to connect with global employers through internships or projects.
All this, at an Indian price, which is basically to factor in the Purchasing Power Parity equation (a $ in India buys 5.5 times as much it would do in the United States) and the low per capita earning in India (which is about one-fifth of that of China), because Middle India is an extremely value conscious market. This could indeed be created with a combination of global frameworks and Indian input costs, though this needs deeper understanding of the country.
This last bit, deeper understanding, is indeed the missing piece, which primarily comes from hubris that inform most global businesses (See, for example, Professor Pankaj Ghemawat's work on the subject). Following the logic of the market is business common-sense, but, as we all know, this is not always so when a company starts talking global. The strategies, then, are not defined by the usual logic one would follow, but some kind of top-down logic which misses the point. This leads to misplaced priorities and assumptions. One company I worked with wanted to incorporate a personal leadership framework in their courses, and assumed that it would be a great selling point. This leadership framework, quite well-known, was a Western one, informed by Christian religious thinking, something that was once popular in India. However, the conversation in India today is mostly about new frameworks and ideas about leadership, with various new models gaining huge popularity (see my earlier post, though it perhaps betrays my scepticism about all religiously-informed teaching), and this particular framework, popular in the 90s, is seen as tired and irrelevant. The fact that the company and the market were putting different value emphasis on this element of education is symptomatic of the disconnection that ails global companies.
This is indeed a classic global versus local dilemma discussed in International Strategy playbooks. However, my contention that India (and China in its own way) needs special treatment is based on the uniqueness and size of the Indian market. I am fully in agreement with the observations of Rama Bijapurkar, who calls India A Never-Before Market, and know from experience that most global companies completely miss the point.
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
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
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.
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
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,
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
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
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.