Ajit Rangnekar | There has been no negligence on ISB’s part

Ajit Rangnekar | There has been no negligence on ISB’s part

Hyderabad: The Indian School of Business’ (ISB) class of 2011 received a record number of job offers at higher salaries, cutting across industries, in the last placements season. It was the 10th batch to have graduated from the Hyderabad-based institution, which has been in the news in recent years for the wrong reasons.

In 2009, dean M. Rammohan Rao resigned because of his association as an independent director with Satyam Computer Services Ltd after the company’s founder-chairman B. Ramalinga Raju confessed to having misstated accounts to the tune of at least 7,136 crore over a period of years.

In March this year, the school’s founder chairman Rajat Gupta, a former chief of the consultancy McKinsey and Co., quit after US market regulator levelled charges of insider trading against him; Anil Kumar, another former McKinsey hand, resigned from the school’s board last year after being implicated in the insider trading scandal.

Ajit Rangnekar, who last year became dean of the school, known as ISB, which is building a second campus in Mohali, near Chandigarh, spoke about these issues in a rare interview. Edited excerpts:

On the first 10 years of ISB’s existence and the future:

If I have to use just one word to describe the last 10 years, it is exhilarating. We have had all kinds of challenges to deal with, but more than that, I think we have seen a lot of opportunities, which were probably not fully understood in the beginning. And on balance, we have probably succeeded way beyond our own expectations.

But when I look ahead, we now see our role a lot more clearly, and I think our role is in three parts. The first is to provide the best possible education that anybody can aspire to. We will continue doing that using our current portfolio model of our own faculty plus bringing the best faculty from abroad. The second is to do world-class research.

There’s a third thing that really excites me the most; and that is the work we are doing which will have a major impact on the society that we live in. I think both Tunisia and Egypt clearly showed that just having a high GDP (gross domestic product) is not an answer. Egypt had a GDP (growth rate) of something around 6% per annum—certainly not a bad rate—and yet they had a revolution simply because that growth was not inclusive.

In our country, we have had a government which, since 2004, has been talking about inclusive growth.

But I think as a society, all of us have to really understand what that means and make sure that whatever we do meets the overall greater interest of society.

On the changing role of business education in the post-crisis world:

It certainly has changed in the US. To some extent, it has changed in Europe. But I am not convinced that in our country we have felt more than a small tremor of that earthquake.

If you look at our country, the issues and challenges are somewhat different and to some extent the fact that we did not have a major, traumatic incident is actually going to be a problem for us. Change happens when either there is an enormous opportunity, as it was perceived during the dotcom boom, or when there is a big catastrophe, as it’s now happening in the West. I think we have to ensure that there is a far more inclusive world.

On the departure of top ISB people in the face of controversy:

None of this has happened in ISB. ISB has had nothing to do with it. Let me turn around and ask you a counter-question. In 2008, or 2007, would Mint or any other publication have told us that these were wrong people for us to have on our board? If there was any negligence on our part in having these people, I’m willing to take the blame for it. That’s number one. I do not think that ISB has been at all negligent. Now let’s look at what happened and let me start with poor Rammohan Rao.

All that one can blame him for was for being an independent director and head of the audit committee of a company in which massive fraud was created by somebody else. He was unfortunate rather than an active participant in anything...

Anil Kumar and Rajat Gupta were both independent directors; they were not executive directors of ISB. ISB is being led by a dean and the dean’s council. None of these people, in their actions, or ISB, have shown any low standards. They have all shown exemplary high standards; they have all done extremely useful work for ISB, for building this institution up.

So, as far as we are concerned, we feel bad that they are now in this situation, but it is entirely something which has nothing to do with ISB.

On ISB’s initial stand that Rajat Gupta would be vindicated:

The correct thing, instead of conducting a trial by media, the world should wait for the trial to be over. I think everyone who knows Rajat or knew Rajat, had exactly the same viewpoint. That here is a man of absolutely impeccable background, and everyone, therefore, said exactly what we said, that we are surprised and we are confident that he will be vindicated...and we shall await (breaks off)...there’s no point in our speculating on something which is completely outside our this thing...we shall wait.

On the latest placements season:

I place a lot less emphasis on placements than the world outside does. I am far more concerned about what long-term careers my students get. This year we have rolled out very ambitious life-long learning programme for our alumni, where we will have programmes, meetings, networking opportunities, which help them to keep themselves ready for their future growth.

On the state of management education:

I think, frankly, there is a fair bit of angst and confusion at the moment. The recent AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) regulations, to say the least, have been extremely unhelpful.

AICTE wants everyone to have a common admissions test, they will decide the curriculum... Which world are they living in? It’s simply not rational and it’s not in national interest... Regulation by definition has a negative connotation whereas what we need is accreditation, what we need is a growth-oriented accreditation policy.