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IIM Ahmedabad Director Ashish Nanda On Skill Development, Management Education And India’s Legal System

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Ashish Nanda, director of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, believes autonomy, with accountability, is paramount to building professional institutions of global excellence. In an exclusive interaction with BW/Businessworld, Nanda shares his views on skill development, management education and India’s legal system.  Before joining IIMA in 2013, Nanda was Robert Braucher Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School, and, before that, a faculty member of Harvard Business School.


On Skill Development
The debate about skill development should focus on creation of opportunities, not just jobs. To benefit from our demographic dividend, we must build the capabilities of India’s youngsters as they enter employable age so that they seek and leverage opportunities: opportunities to work in skilled jobs, but also opportunities to entrepreneurially develop new businesses and create jobs. And for that, our post-secondary education system needs to change on three dimensions. One, undergraduate education should have a liberal arts approach, so that the students develop broad perspectives and sample various subjects to find the ones to which they resonate. Two, professional education should be close to practice so that graduates of these professional schools have a good understanding of the real world when they enter it. Three, programs should be offered in bite size chunks for practising professionals, for education is now a life-long activity and, to remain on the cutting edge and to renew themselves, executives are increasingly going back to school throughout their work lives.

On New IIMs
There is no doubt that we do not have the capacity to cater to the demand for quality management education in the country. For instance, less than one per cent of our applicants find their way to IIM – Ahmadabad every year. This is not to say that others are not qualified enough to receive world class management education. However, we need to think carefully whether setting up of more IIMs alone will solve this problem. Perhaps the easiest part of institution building is development of physical infrastructure. But, how do you ensure the best quality of faculty? How do you ensure the best education for students? Developing culture of academic excellence takes time. To build capacity, perhaps we should follow a mix of building some new IIMs and also strengthening existing IIMs. Leading IIMs that have the software of culture of academic excellence can grow hardware of additional physical capacity, and they can also mentor the new institutions that are being set up. We are already doing it in the case of the new IIM coming up in Nagpur.

On Indian Institute of Management (Bill) 2015
It is in a draft form and the ministry is in the process of getting stakeholder comments at the moment. I hope the Bill, in its final form empowers IIMs rather than centralises controls. Autonomy ensures efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation. And autonomy goes hand-in-hand with accountability. If IIM administrations is responsible for decisions, it should be held accountable for results as well. Centralisation is not the answer. It disempowers and reduces accountability.

On Legal Services Industry In India:
There is a joke in international legal circles. They say that the forecast about the Indian legal services has been consistent for over a decade now: that the industry will open up to foreign competition within the next three years. The fact remains that by not allowing international law firms to practice in India, we are losing out. Several companies with Indian operations, including Indian multinationals, are choosing locations, such as Singapore, to execute cross-border deals or to conduct arbitrations, because they prefer to work with the best of global legal talent in an efficient legal milieu. So, we are losing business. Opening up Indian legal system to foreign players not only brings some of that business back onshore but also offers jobs and career opportunities to young Indian lawyers. Increased competition motivates indigenous law firms to improve their quality.

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