If you thought business school students were interested only in slick city jobs, think again. The ITC-sponsored 'Mera Gaon Mera Desh' rural business plan contest at B-schools has suddenly become acutely competitive with several foreign business schools jumping into the fray to join battle with the Indian Institutes of Management and other domestic schools.
Sources involved in conducting the preliminaries of the contest said students who were normally expected to angle for merchant banking or similar urbanised white collar jobs had jumped into the fray with their plans for a sustainable rural business model.
Sources said the contest had become a prestige fight with the entry of international business schools like Wharton, Stanford and Harvard, as well as London School of Business and the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.
Attractive prizes and the possibility of the idea and business model being converted into reality for the benefit of the country have helped, said Rajeev Gowda of IIM Bangalore.
Team prizes at the campus level was Rs 100,000 and Rs 50,000 for the first two teams. For the finals, team prizes will be Rs 600,000 ($13000), Rs 450,000 ($10000) and Rs 300,000 ($6666).
Gowda said some of the best business plans on offer included a project on bio-diesel and alternative energy, extension of services and products offered through the network of e-choupals set up by ITC in rural areas and retailing of financial and risk diversification products in rural areas.
Mumbai-based Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies student Pragya Goel said her project team had submitted a plan on retailing of pharmaceutical products in rural areas and restoring the feasibility of the primary health centre network
The idea of transforming rural India appeared to have struck a chord with management students and teachers, sources said commenting on the wide range of projects submitted, which included micro-credit plans.
Over 1200 teams have registered for the three-part contest.
In the first stage, students submitted business plans online through 'itcportal.com'.
On-campus selections were now being held, with top 10 teams from each B-school or major urban centre presenting their plans. This will end by December 4 except for two campuses.
The top 15 teams will travel to Kolkata for the finals on January 15, 2005.
The 'Mera Gaon Mera Desh' business plan contest was meant for aspiring business leaders with unique business ideas on how to create value for rural India, the sources said, through feasible business models.
Judges for the contest include economists Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Vijay Kelkar, Ranjit Pandit, academician Krishna Palepu, politician Jairam Ramesh and agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan.Participating B-schools include all IIMs, XLRI, IRMA, ISB, IIFT, JBIMS, SP Jain and others in India and Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Michigan, London School of Business and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.