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IIMs want ethical business leaders

October 07, 2008 10:40 IST

Gone are the days when it was all about numbers and corporate strategies at the Indian Institutes of Management. The institutes have now begun sensitising students about business ethics and morality as well. Be it inviting eminent personalities like the Dalai Lama to speak on business ethics or incorporating ethics as a compulsory course, IIMs are making efforts to produce ethical managers.

The Post Graduate Programme review committee at IIM Ahmedabad had recommended the inclusion of business ethics, business taxation, organisational leadership and internet technology in the first year curriculum this year. Now, instead of continuing with business ethics as an elective in the final year, IIM-A has incorporated ethics as a compulsory course in the first year.

Ajay Pandey, chairperson, PGP, IIM-A, said: "Our social conditioning by and large makes us unethical vis-a-vis a lack of civic sense and concern for the environment. Management students are at an age when they are less vulnerable and can differentiate the right from the wrong. The subject has been introduced to sensitise students about ethical issues as and when they take up responsibilities later in their career."

It all began in January 2008 when IIM-A invited the Dalai Lama to give a talk on business ethics on the campus. Even as the spiritual leader talked about how principles and ethics in business bring a sense of peace and mental tranquillity, the institute decided to make increased efforts to sensitise its students.

Other IIMs also seem to have drawn inspiration from IIM-A. IIM Calcutta has set up a business ethics and communication group this year that focuses on teaching, research, training and offering consultancy on human values and ethics in management. The group tries to achieve an authentic synthesis of Western and Eastern (especially Indian) approaches to management by creating frameworks of knowledge and methods of application of the same in the context of existing management concepts and practices.

"A separate academic group has been set up from this year to design courses to further the cause of ethics in management. We have also introduced ethics as a compulsory course from this year. It was the fiascos like Enron that made us realise that these issues need to be taken up," said a faculty member at IIM-C.

IIM Indore will be hosting a three-day programme on business ethics and corporate social responsibility at its campus in November. The objective of the programme is to understand the conceptual foundations of business ethics and corporate social responsibility, appreciate the wide variety of corporate responses to ethical and societal demands and chalk out a CSR policy appropriate to their organisations.

Consistent with the institute's goal of creating socially and environmentally responsible business leaders, IIM Kozhikode has had a course in business ethics for first year students for a decade now.

Saji Gopinath, PGP chairperson, IIM Kozhikode, said: "We introduced a compulsory course on business ethics for the PGP students 10 years ago. We felt that management students need to have a clear-cut understanding of ethics, while taking important decisions. The course would give them a better idea of the responsibilities of a manager in an organisation. That, combined with a course on social transformation in India, which focuses on the societal issues across the country, would help the students take sustainable decisions for the society when they graduate."

As for IIM, Lucknow, J J Irani, chairman, board of governors at IIM Lucknow, had, in his address earlier this year, emphasised the need for incorporating business ethics in the curriculum.
Vinay Umarji & Chitra Unnithan in Ahmedabad