Photograph of Anil Chawla

DEBATE ABOUT
INDIAN BUSINESS SCHOOLS - THE 'BROWN SAHIB' FACTORIES

Author - Anil Chawla



The article "INDIAN BUSINESS SCHOOLS - THE 'BROWN SAHIB' FACTORIES" generated a a wide range of reactions. The reactions are presented here without comments.

There are a large number of messages and you will need some patience and perseverance to go through all of them. Yet, it is worth the effort. I profusely thank everyone who sent his / her comments. They have made the debate lively and interesting with their contributions.

I have added a short introduction at the end of some comments (whenever I know the person). In some cases I have removed parts of messages that were unrelated to the article.

With Best Wishes and Regards,

Anil Chawla

22 October 2003




Hi anil,

I am not sure if I am already too late in replying to the article. As I can see, it already has a long thread of debate going on.

I am a product of IIT Kanpur 2001 Batch and IIM Lucknow 2003 batch. And in the past 6 years of my life, I have had an experience of both the kinds. That of being a non-bakait (non-pseud in IITK lingo) at IITK and of gettng a culture shock when I stepped into IIM Lucknow. And my words below draw from these experiences.

Still at IITs (I am speaking in plural because I have participated in cul-fests of all IITs), there is a big divide between the english and non-english junta. All we guys knew about english was what was there in the school curriculum (I come from the best english medium school in Bhopal). Me, and many of my friends had absolutely no interactions with novels, magazines etc. The maximum english we read was then we went through the sports update in english newspapers (which too was a rarity coz in kanpur, most of us read Dainik Jagran). But at no point in time, any of us was looked down/up upon because of our competence in english. Yeah there were people who were gods in english literature, but I too was respected because of my thorough knowledge of hindi movies. In essence, it was CONTENT that was more important, NOT THE FORM.

The first time I realized that I had to work on my vocab and grammar was when I had to appear for CAT. That was the first time, it struck that english was so necessary coz it was used as THE LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION.

While in IIML, I realized that the environment was the exact opposite. There are these pseuds who just used to speak non-sensical english words simply to hide their lack of knowledge in any discipline. Then, we used to call them GLOBE answers (coz no matter how much or how varied you speak, you are equidistant from the core). And the place was full of such junta. It was all about presentations and writing reports. The maximum research and hard work was done by people who were conecptually strong and if they lacked in communication; the presentation work was passed off to someone who can create a good impression while speaking. Afterall, the impression on the teacher was what that mattered. (While in IIT, it was necessary to be only conceptually correct.) I can recall several instances where people who can give non-stop useless globe were considered GOOD MARKETERS IN THE MAKING by other junta. What rubbish.

One Look and you shall find, Hindi literature is COMPLETELY absent from IIM LIBRARIES, HINDI THEATER becoming less popular by day. Anything in other regional languages is non-existent. Not that they are popular now a days (I myself don't read them) but I know there were people who wanted to read Hindi INDIA TODAY after having read ET in English.

Never before did I find so many friend circles based on regional similarities as I did in IIML. By the time you step in 2nd year, you will see a distinct circle (I mean a group of people who will always hang out together) of marathi junta, one that of junta from chennai, people from bengal, and many such other circles of people not speaking fluent english. On the other hand there were groups like those of dehlites and others who would consider themselves citizens-of-the-world by speaking fluent (read too-fluent and accentuated) English.

All this adversely effects the culture of the institution. Many of my colleagues who came to get "inspired" at various IIMS, were totally disappointed. It was a clearcut message that content is not that important in today's world, it is only the form that matters.

Such places are meant to make friends-for-life. Atleast for me, my true identity is still that I am an Engineer from IIT and will remain that way. This has not come up because of the false sense of pride I instill in myself. But because my B-School experience showed me how hollow other junta can become.

Regards

Anshul Mishra
Associate Consultant - Enterprise Solutions
Infosys Technologies Limited,
Hyderabad


Higher the proficiency in anything and everything is better. Not to brag but many of my friends are proficient in at least five languages including English, Hindi, Sanskrit and a couple of local languages...I dont believe anything is at issue here. If people want to sudy English and be proficient in it let them be and similarly if someone does not want to be, so be it. On a rating level, I would say English, though popular at the international level, is pretty screwed up as a language. But at the moment it is the lingua franca, especially in International Business.

Dr. N. Nagaraj


What you missed out is that popular culture is headed the "pseud" way. The culture is really pseud. Todays popular music is completely divorced from the immensely rich Indian heritage in music. Most of the singers are untrained ! Same for 95% of the dance. Surely there is no reason to see Lara Dutta or Abhishek Bachhan dance.

As a nation, we have lost faith in training and rigior. We believe that quick results are possible just by tweak of a keypad. The IIM problem is not going to be solved by changing the examination. The IIM grads are the Lara Duttas and Abhishek Bachhans to the MNC.

Currently the IIMS only manage to introduce people to business. They are not hired by the MultiN's for their skill set. They are simply the filtering grounds. My friends who teach in the IIMS say that they have only 1 yr to teach them anything as the rest of the time they are interviewing or enjoying their new promised prosperity. There was a period in IIMA, when students were not attending classes but playing a stupid game over the network. I mean about 60% of the student body.

In my opinion, the IIMs are not important to the nation. Nor are the IIT's. It is more important to raise the standards of the other 10,000 engg colleges so that the value of rigour and application of the mind is understood.

Sudipto Mukherjee

Dr. Sudipto is a faculty member at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. My thanks to him for putting the issue in a wider perspective.


Dear Mr Chawla

Thank you for that thoughtful article.

It should be apparent to anyone with some basic honesty that human talent, intelligence and creativity are not exclusively rooted in any specific language. For that very reason depriving individuals access to institutions of learning on the basis of some kind of language discrimination can only be explained on the basis of the pseudo label that you have enumerated upon.

Yet there are other aspects of reality that one needs be cogniscent about. All languages are simply not equal. Some are technically far more sophisticated in their construction, precision and meaning. Others may be easier to learn simply because of the absence of such foregoing requirements. Yet others are known for their pleasing musicality. And perhaps another aspect not to be overlooked must be the tyranny of an age when a language gains ascendency over others. The English language surely belongs to this latter category.

The dominant position of English in todays world surely cannot be overlooked. For every example of a Tata or Birla or Dhirubhai, counterexamples can be cited among the IT trail-blazers who have been responsible for Indias change in economic fortunes. Had these been the English stuttering types, it leaves little to the imagination what India's lot would have been in seizing the economic opportunities.

Yet the question begs to be answered - need English be put upon a pedestal in India? The answer surely will vary depending upon the situation under review. Unlike China or Japan which have had the advantage of a common script India was (and is) a disparate region in both script and speech. The only link language across the region was the unfortunate colonial legacy - English, and that too known to the economically advantaged 'elites'. Surely therefore it is not dificult to understand the morass we find ourselves in today.

What opportunity there was of evolving Hindi into the 'natural' national language was scuppered through sheer incompetence in the education policies (60% literacy after five decades of independence!) and simple chauvinistic arrogance and insensitivities to regional mother tongues. Therefore though Hindi is taught in most states in India, it is nowhere close to being a functional replacement for English.

Given this scenario, it should become obvious that if the considered option were to offer regional language alternatives for studies in institutions like IIMs, the likelihood of communication ghettos forming across the nation must surely be a certain likelihood.

That may not happen as dramatically to disciplines such as engineering, where the professional interactions are more likely to be cloistered, but it is my guess that over time there is the danger of language barriers forming and not allowing for the percoaltion of ideas and development over the country.

The real issue is therefore in my opinion, not that English be de-emphasised in places like IIM, rather that viable enhancements be made to making Hindi a more functional medium across India.

Ashok Menon
IIT/K '75


Please consider the following

  1. As said by Dr. Nagraj, English is the lingua franca- even if it is a screwed up as a language. It was the medium of instruction at IIT. It is logical to expect that you have some command over the language you are going to be taught in.


  2. As far as 'psueds' are concerned can there be only English proficient pseuds? No Hindi , Bengali, Marathi etc. proficient pseuds? (I think you will find a fair number of the last mentioned lot in Pune).


  3. One of the founding fathers of IIMA, Sheth Kasturbhai Lalbhai (who belonged to the generation of Sheth G.D. Birla and was an entrepneur of comparable stature) had only a working knowledge of English. He is supposed to have once said to IIMA graduates: you have all passed out of the Indian Institute of Management. I studied at the Insitution of Indian Management.


  4. There is probably as much difference between management and entrepneurship as there is between an aeroplane and a bird. Or between machine design and machine maintenance.


  5. IIM/A at least, is not dependent on govt. Grants any more.


  6. Pepsi has been sponsoring cricket matches for almost as long as it has been in India. Its success record is unenviable. So your example on success with Bollywood vs. Lack of it with Remo concerts needs to be reexamined.

Rahul B. Thakkar
IIT/K


IMHO, the author doesn't mean/suggest that proficiency in the english language is NOT useful. He is quite right when he questions the logic behind keeping English Language proficiency as a measure of potential of being a good manager. Bare minimum levels of knowing English is necessary for the course structure in professional institutes like IITs and IIMs, but I have never seen a person not performing well in these courses just because of the reason of not being "proficient" in the english language.

I also agree with the author's opinion of making the English as a passing requirement in CAT and not a competitive one. Though, I was really amazed by the description of pseuds and non-pseuds of IIT Bombay in 1970s.

Thanks,
Manish
IITK


Just a note on this topic of english requirement in CAT :

GRE and GMAT require knowledge of english words that are often not used(not required) a few days after the exam.

Sapota
IITM '98 BTech EE


The whole issue of English in B Schools is complex. We need to understand that all high paying jobs require good command over English. I agree that one does not need to be a oxford dictionary cat - but ability to speak and write neatly in English is very important.

Imagine the scenarios when B Schools make English optional.......what will happen is that when it is time for campus placements one set will corner all good jobs and from the following year everyone will be back to picking up English.

If we want to have pure market forces dictate things - then it is not a bad idea to make slacken the "English" level - but take a look at all high paying jobs in the country - and you see that barring the odd exception all require good command over English.

Suhas


Dear Chawla ji,

A deserving article trying to draw attention of 'pseuds'of current times.I feel the problem is related more to "attitude" then to" language",but" language" is a cotributing factor . Hope this article generates some positive thinking in IIMs.

Regards
Radhakrishnan

Prof. Radhakrishnan is a faculty member at Technical Teachers' Training Institute, Bhopal.


Dear Anil ji,

I have gone through your article on Indian B School. It was very interesting to learn the comparison. IIM's are really producing students more suitable for the MNC's than for India.

One of our students from Jabalpur who is very close to me has joined IIM [Kolkata] last month and I am sending him the article for inspiration.

With best,
Niket


Dear Mr Chawla,

Thanks. Enjoyed reading the article. One suggestion : It would have greater impact if it had half-the-length.

Regards.
Nirmal Joshi


Anil,

Here are some thoughts. Would apreciate a response.

I understand what you say about the need to develop regional businesses in regional languages and not falling prey to multinationals. Your examples of Birla, Tata and Ambani is well taken. However, I have some thoughts that could counter your stance; just so you can iron out your arguments even more, please see how you can respond to the arguments presented below.

The IIMs do not really teach you how to start up businesses - this entrepreneurial drive is difficult to teach, and the drive must work from inside every person desiring to start up a business. Given this, IIMs mostly prepare the students to be part of management in companies. I am going out on a limb in saying this, but I believe most IIM graduates would fit in as managers (mid-level or higher) or working in financial institutions managing money. Given such a scenario, a lot of time is allocated for sharing and debating ideas with each other (remember GD - "group discussions" - as part of entry interviews?). How do you suppose these debates can happen if everyone speaks a different language. Are we going to have discussion groups based on language affiliations?

I know you are not asking anyone to eliminate English from their vocabulary, but one cannot debate in English unless one becomes more than proficient - one needs to be fluent in it. When you have competition as the hallmark of business and the nature of those who enter IIMs, do you really thin the students are going to limit themselves in their English language skills? I don't think so, but would like to hear what you have to say.

Engineering schools do not spend their time getting students to debate. Most of the problem solving skills do not require a fluency in English - it's either equations, or point form answers. However, Managements schools are chock full of debates, and therefore, it must necessarily be language dependent - this is not brought about in your article where you compare engineering schools to management schools.

Now the question of funding -I agree that IIMs are funded by the government and hence the government must make sure that the graduates are good for the country and not for some MNC. But, how do you inicorporate the fact that the graduates who work for the MNCs are also earning mega-bucks which they spend in the country. I can understand if they expatriate the money, but most don't. If one turns IIMs into self financing entities, only the rich will get in, and therefore, the lower economic classes will not command the higher salaries and aspire for a better living standard in India. Does this mean the government should continue to fund the IIMs and then stipulate that graduates work "towards enhancing the country" even if it means that they not take up positions in MNCs?

The examples you provide - Ambani, Tata and Birla - are exceptions. They lived in another time frame. I am not sure they could have pulled it off to the same extent if they were to start off today and lead their businesses in an increasingly international playground with inter-related resources.

Don't get me wrong - I too am sinicerely concerned about the local and regional languages and ethos, but sadly see the English language becoming the de facto language of businesses, primarily because of the globalization force. If you didn't know, INFOSYS has mandated that all its employees must speak in English on their campuses - what do you say now? (not that I am relishing it)

Amalan


I agree with you.

Since instruction is in english and the pace is quite hectic at IIMs it would be difficult for vernacular students to catch up.

May be IIMs could do one thing. They should be testing only analytical and other skills for admission. Along with the main papers they can have an English paper to determine those weak in English. Those selected and found weak in English can be given a crash course in English for 2 or 3 months before the actual course at IIM starts. To do this they may have to start the admission process a couple of months in advance.

Narayana
IITB EE 91


To add to this, ppl go to IIM not to start their own business but a get a high paying job. we shd realize that Ambani, Tata or Birla never looked for job, they wanted to go for their own businesses.

So I think there is diff between Enterpreuner and a IIM graduate.

Sushant


Anil ji,

Very interesting. In addition, even Maths is not needed to such great extent that it be given 50% weightage. I think one issue remains is what to test in objective questions way so that selection is really based on the performance in the exam rather than contacts, etc.

Regards,
Raj

Raj Bapna has written many books on a variety of subjects. He is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and BITS Pilani.


Dear Anil,

I find myself in total agreement with you. I was not aware of the pattern of IIM admissions test and I find it preposterous that English is given 50 % weightage. This definitely discriminates against vast majority of highly intelligent people who are not as fluent in English.

Your observation that this manufactures managers only for the foreign or foreign-controlled companies also rings true.

I would also like to add that I find more and more people using Indian language in business. I travel all over India - from Chandigarh to Chennai, and language of business seems to be either the local state language or Hindi. Since I am often an outsider to the state, most of the time my clients talk to me in Hindi (Yes,Chennai included). 10-15 years ago it used to be English.

I think use of Hindi develops a kind of bonding that English does not. Deep inside we feel that it is 'our' language.

Nandu Madhekar

Nandu Madhekar is a consulting chemical engineer based at Pune. He has done his B.Tech. from IIT Bombay and has done post-graduation from USA.


For the original article "INDIAN BUSINESS SCHOOLS - THE 'BROWN SAHIB' FACTORIES", Please click here.

Please write to me your comments about the above debate.
anil@samarthbharat.com
hindustanstudies@rediffmail.com



ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification (now a lawyer too) but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.


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