‘Management skills are more important during a downturn’

Deepa Nair Nivedita Ganguly Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on August 26, 2013

Dean Garth Saloner

The family business programme will be a new programme we will be launching, inspired in large part by talks we have had with Indian families. We hope to start the programme within a year’s time.

It is in during times of economic slowdown that many basic principles of management education have evolved. Garth Saloner, Dean of Stanford Graduate Business School, spoke to Business Line about the changing dynamics of management education, his School’s plans in India and trends in entrepreneurship. Excerpts:

In the context of the economic slowdown, how have the MBA course and management education evolved?

The basic principles of a general management education hold strong through both upturns and downturns. Stanford’s MBA education, today, is not just about principles of general management. It’s also about the skills that students need in order to be effective leaders when they graduate, building teams and working with others within the organisation. These skills are more important during an economic downturn.

What are your plans for India?

We are committed to being in India in a variety of capacities. When we look at the world, we expect that in the decades ahead India will continue to be a leading economy. Therefore, we are focussing on educating all our students who are increasingly engaged with working with Indian companies. We have recently introduced the Stanford Ignite programme in Bangalore. We are also involved in a variety of executive education programmes. The family business programme will be a new programme we will be launching, inspired in large parts by talks we have had with Indian families. We hope to start the programme within a year’s time. We also plan to take the Stanford Ignite programme to other locations. We will be in Paris next month and China next year and we will look at launching it in other cities in India.

How will the Stanford Ignite programme give a spurt to entrepreneurship in India?

We have had a lot of experience with the programme for about seven years. We expect to find young entrepreneurs and innovators in early stages of their careers and provide them with the kind of general management knowledge to start their companies and accelerate them.

In the context a slowdown, have you seen a change in the number of applicants?

Interestingly, we have seen an increase in the number of applications. I think if you look at MBA programmes in aggregate worldwide they continue to grow in popularity. The range and type of programmes offered have also been increasing. I don’t expect growth in management education to diminish at all.

Have you seen changes in the Indian students coming to Stanford? What has been the impact of rupee depreciation on the admissions from India?

India is one of the most important countries from which our non-US students come. The decline in the rupee is a little too recent for us to see an impact. Apart from a number of other fellowships, through the Reliance Group fellowship programme we are able to provide financial aid to five students from India who come to Stanford. After graduation they are required by the fellowship to return to India.

How do you steer candidates towards entrepreneurship?

We are agnostic in the sense that we provide a general management education that will allow them to pursue whatever they dream of. However, 40 per cent of our graduating students are associated with start-ups, with 15 per cent of our students starting their own companies. The reason is robust entrepreneurship curriculum. We expose them to other entrepreneurs who have gone down the path as well. One of the major things that inhibits people is fear of the unknown, fear of taking risks to follow that passion. But if you are exposed to many role models who have done it before you, it helps demystify the process of entrepreneurship.

Indian B-schools have traditionally been dominated by engineering graduates. How do you think diversity can be cultivated?

We have a significant number of engineers. But I won’t say they dominate; we have a diverse class by way of background and experience. A number of our students get not just one degree when they come to our classes but a joint degree and we have had second degrees in fields such as law, medicine and education. This year, we have added the possibility of a dual degree — an MBA in computer science.

What challenges do corporations and top executives of companies face in today’s environment?

Overall, one has to be careful as we are in different economic cycles in various parts of the world. So, there are many parts of the world that are not suffering a downturn but are booming, like Sub-Saharan Africa. The US economy is not growing rapidly but there’s a sense that things are picking up. The effect of the relative downturn can be felt more in India. I have been talking to Indian business leaders who have expressed concerns about the depreciating rupee and uncertainty about the political environment they have to operate in. I think business thrives in an environment where one can understand what to expect. I think some clear guidance of what to expect from the Indian government would help set the stage for economic growth.

Published on August 26, 2013
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