What Can Indian B-Schools Learn From Global Experiences?

Today’s managers must navigate those unchartered waters and guide their firms through the challenges and opportunities presented by the global markets where Indian firms compete.

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Indian businesses today are far more global than is the curriculum of the majority of India’s business schools. While companies such as the Tatas have acquired valuable international assets in sectors ranging from automotive to zing and others, such as the Marutis and the Mahindras have partnered with global firms to bring technology and brands to the Indian marketplace, India’s young MBAs still get exposed to courses that are heavy in accounting and finance and less focused in the challenges of global business. Smaller firms and firms in the technology space are receiving funding and know-how from Chinese powerhouses such as Alibaba and Tencent, while their brilliant entrepreneurs have more knowledge about handling operations than handling negotiations across cultural divides.

One way or the other, the entire Indian business community is increasingly facing the waves of global competition and the demands of operating in international marketplaces. Today, imports and exports represent approximately 20% of the country’s GDP, while foreign direct investment inflows have reached tens of billions of dollars. Who will manage this explosion in international activities and who will interact with, understand and appreciate, negotiate, structure and build relationships, and manage non-Indian workforces in countries half way around the world? Today’s managers must navigate those unchartered waters and guide their firms through the challenges and opportunities presented by the global markets where Indian firms compete.

Learning about international business requires a very different pedagogy and a much more intensive exposure to the challenges and the peculiarities of global business. Cases retelling the trials and tribulations of firms expanding overseas, forming international strategic alliances, setting up green field operations in foreign markets and building foreign subsidiaries can familiarize students with the vocabulary of international business but do little to expose them to the true challenges of managing across borders and building relationships with firms from distant lands.

 For those skills, leading business schools have embraced experiential learning formats in wtheir curricula and have created opportunities for their students to participate in applied projects that involve real companies and peers from other countries. For example, Schulich’s Global Leadership Program has created a range of teams of MBA students from across business schools in Canada, the USA, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Singapore and China and has tasked them to solve real business challenges for businesses operating across different markets. While the companies get real consulting advice, the true objective of those projects is to immerse the students in the unique experiences of operating in international contexts. Students have to negotiate the terms of their work, have to build teams with individuals whose mindsets are very different from what they are familiar, have to rely on others whose cultures and value systems they may not understand, and have to argue about the right decisions with people who might be comfortable with entirely different group decision norms. Students quickly realize that no amount of lecturing can replace the invaluable lessons of having to actually experience those moments. Admittedly, those projects are far more time consuming and much less structured than the traditional lectures in the confines of a classroom, but their learnings are immensely superior and far more valuable for Indian businesses.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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