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BW Businessworld

‘We Will Work With Indian Companies’

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Soumitra Dutta, a researcher of Global Innovation Index report, a Roland Berger Chaired Professor of Business and Technology, Dean of External Relations, and faculty director of e-lab at INSEAD, has done his PhD in computer science and MSC in business administration. He was in India recently to release the CII-INSEAD Global Innovation Index (GII) Report. Dutta spoke to BW Online's Poonam Kumar on the reason behind India's poor performance in the GII report and what makes INSEAD a preferred destination for management students. Excerpts.
India has slipped 11 places down from its previous rank in the GII? What is the reason, according to you? And what can we do to improve our ranking?
It is important to keep in mind that these rankings are relative rankings. Thus while India has improved in absolute terms as compared to last year, it has slipped in relative ranks. This is an indication that India needs to accelerate the pace of change in some key areas such as infrastructure, education, administrative burden of regulation etc. Due to a variety of political issues, I think that the pace of change has been slower in the past few years than what was desired. Now that India has weathered the crisis better than many other economies, it is time for India to move forward with speed and confidence.
The small countries topped the GII this year, whereas, biggies such as the US, the UK and Germany slipped from their previous ranks (ranked among top 10 last year). Your comments.
Small countries such as Scandinavian nations and Singapore typically do tend to do well in many international rankings. This is not just because they are small – note that there are many other smaller nations which do not make the top 10 list. However, the smaller countries which do come in the top do share some common strengths such as good leadership, a clean and efficient environment, a culture of investment in people and good infrastructure. It could be argued that they often find it easier to make changes and implement new policies given the small sizes of their countries and/or populations. Larger nations often have a harder time to implement changes and one possible reason for the drop of some of the larger countries could be the recession which has hit them harder than many of the smaller nations now at the top of the ranking.
Now that the economy is picking up, what kind of impact do you see on admission for the executive programme of INSEAD?
B-schools have two markets: one is the MBA market and the other is the executive education market. The MBA market is usually counter-sector market. What we expect is when the economy picks up MBA applications will decrease slightly because last two years it increased dramatically – 25 per cent per year or more. And the executive education market is more cyclical and that market has decreased with the economic slowdown. But now we expect that market would pick-up.
What is the USP of executive programme? And what are the criteria to join the E-MBA programme at INSEAD?
The USP of the executive programme is that you have to keep on learning. The lifecycle of knowledge is about two years, so every two years, half your knowledge gets outdated. So, if you look at any executive today in an organisation they have to keep on learning. Let us take an example of web 2.0. For most of the executives, it's a very new thing. The only way they can learn about how the companies can use web 2.0 is by enrolling into executive programmes and learning from professors and other people in the classroom. In turn, the students could even learn about what works in other countries or in some other company. For executive MBA, we typically take people who have been very successful and did not have the time to do an MBA earlier. These are people who are in their late 30s and want to do an MBA to develop their skills but didn't have the chance or ability to do it earlier.
What is the percentage of Indian students' and other countries at INSEAD?
The highest proportion of applications comes from Indian students. We have a policy in which we limit the number of student for any one country, does not matter which country, to 10 per cent. The three biggest nationality groups on campus are Indian, American and French. We have a policy of increasing diversity in the classroom.
Tell us about INSEAD's future plans?
We are a global school. We have the campus in Singapore and we are expanding in Asia to Singapore. We will be doing more in India with Indian companies. We are setting up our new campus in Abu-Dhabi.
For companies and individuals, how important is innovation in the current scenario?
Innovation can be defined as the leverage of new ideas to create value in economic or social terms. The world has become more flat and competition is global. Innovation is the only option for countries that wish to continuously improve their competitiveness and develop their societies. Societies around the world also face common problems such as energy, climate and the environment. Again, innovation is the only way forward to find solutions to these common problems.
Your book Throwing Sheep In The Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World (2008) focuses on Web 2.0. With tools such as advanced social networking functions and smarter, personalised web services we are going beyond Web 2.0. Are the ideas mentioned in the book relevant in the present context as well?
Well, the web 2.0 world is not yet well understood and I would hesitate to say that we are stepping into a web 3.0 world. It is not very useful in my view to make sharp distinctions between specific phases such as 2.0 and 3.0 as I believe that this is all one continuous process. In many ways, the seeds of what we today see as the web 2.0 world were sown 40 years ago at the inception of the Internet. When the internet was designed, it was designed as a real time shared system with open standards and with intelligence distributed to the edges. These design choices have today become a reality for many individuals and businesses around the world with the maturation of key underlying enabling technologies (such as broadband to the home or office) and have created the world we call today as web 2.0. The changes are as much or more in changing habits and behaviors as in technology progress. These changes continue and our actions today (such as attempts to provide universal broadband access) will influence and shape our world tomorrow. Whether we call it web 3.0 or something else really does not matter, in my view.
What are the new teaching methods used at INSEAD?
All processes in INSEAD are tightly integrated – we do not manage our Europe, Asia and Middle East campuses as three separate independent entities. Students join INSEAD as an institution, begin their studies on any campus they like and migrate at their own will to another campus. Faculty members choose to live and work on any campus and the management structure is uniform across the three campuses – such as one Dean, one department chairman, one MBA admissions office, etc. INSEAD also uses video conferencing extensively to integrate the campuses – it is interestingly the single biggest (one location) user of video conferencing in both France and Singapore. Technology supports our strategy at INSEAD and keeps us at the forefront of innovation.