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A window to the world outside India

Virginia Marsh | February 10, 2009

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For PRL Rao, a Hyderabad-based entrepreneur, contact with the Indian School of Business has helped produce a strategy to take his niche electronics business global, find potential financial and marketing backers and given him the confidence to embark on large-scale expansion.

If his plans are realised, his business - which makes automatic switching and dimming systems to conserve energy in large-scale lighting - will lift its turnover from Rs12m ($246,000, euro192,000, pound168,000) to Rs1bn within five years and generate 30 per cent of its sales from exports.

"Through ISB, I got to understand the scene outside India much better," says Mr Rao. "The conviction that we must operate globally got stronger."

Mr Rao's involvement with ISB, the Hyderabad-based business school, came about partly with the support of the Wadhwani Foundation. The charitable organisation funds not-for-profit efforts to educate and support new entrepreneurs. It sponsors the Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development at the school.

In a country of extreme poverty, working with different social groups is a core philosophy of the school's executive education offering. ISB also has other initiatives under way, including a programme to encourage women in business, sponsored by Goldman Sachs.

"We want to reach out to different segments as much as possible, segments that normally can't afford to come here," says Deepak Chandra, associate dean of the centre for executive education.

It is in the "enlightened self interest" of institutions such as ISB to ensure that the benefits of India's economic emergence are widely shared, adds Ajit Rangnekar, deputy dean.

"People will not wait for trickle-down. They can see (how other people live) on television," he says.

Executive education accounts for about a third of ISB's revenues, with some 2,000 participants last year, split almost evenly between customised and open enrolment courses. This compares with about 420 students in its full-time MBA programme, its main source of income.

Core tenets
Founded in the late 1990s, ISB began offering executive education in 2001 when it also began the MBA programme. It says its executive education is the biggest programme of its kind in India and is growing by about 25-30 per cent a year.

Faculty come mainly from within ISB, which has five specialist research centres and from its alliances with the US institutions Wharton and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and also London Business School. It also draws on specialists from other institutions.

Prof Chandra says the centre is based on three core tenets. First, it aims to help local businesses to understand better both the global environment and international management practices at a time of increasing deregulation and competition. Second, it should help Indian companies expand globally. Third, as interest grows in emerging markets, it will examine the characteristics of the business environment in such markets and the most effective way to operate in them.

It is in this latter area where ISB hopes to have a "home advantage" and to capitalise on the global importance of emerging markets.

"As emerging markets expand, we see ourselves expanding also and becoming a global leader," Prof Chandra says.
One example is ISB's interest in family businesses, which are more important in India and Asia than in most western economies.

While the most popular courses in the open executive education programme are in general management, leadership and strategy, there are also courses specific to family businesses. It has launched a family business leadership circle for ongoing networking and peer support.

On the customised side, ISB is benefiting from the rapid development of the Indian economy and the need for corporations to woo talented staff. It is just embarking, for example, on a five-year training and development programme for an information technology company that will involve 5,000 to 7,000 participants.

"IT companies want people in huge numbers. Attracting good talent is a challenge," Prof Chandra says.

Relevant content
The programme, much of which will be delivered electronically, will include certification for participants. It aims to attract talent to the organisation and then develop and retain these people. The programme is being run in partnership with ISB's IT specialist research centre, which will help provide relevant content as the five-year period unfolds.

"Learning has to be a tool for attracting and retaining staff," Prof Chandra says. "There will be programmes for each career transition point."

The other leg of ISB's executive education offering is providing training for overseas companies interested in the local market, with international participants providing about a fifth of the centre's revenues. It offers an "Inside India" open enrolment programme, and customised courses.

Prof Chandra says ISB has worked with 40 to 50 companies, local and international, on customised programmes since 2003 and that, in executive education, almost two-thirds of business comes from repeat customers.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

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