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ISB teaches SMEs how to go global

Hyderabad school dips lower to tap hidden market in mid-career management education, reports Narayanan Madhavan.

delhi Updated: Jun 19, 2007 02:56 IST
Narayanan Madhavan

So you thoughtglobal business education was only for those seeking jobs in big companies? The Indian School of Business (ISB) thinks otherwise. Last week, the Hyderabad-based institution kicked off a special executive education course for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and it is glad that it did.

While MBA courses and schools mushroom, mid-career education to polish up or re-tool serving managers is also emerging strongly, and ISB, which has a Centre for Entpreneurship Development under its wings, decided to dip a little below the usual line to blend entrpreneurship with executive education.

“We wanted to really differentiate ourselves,” said Deepak Chandra, assistant dean at the Centre for Executive Education. “We thought of how we could aid the trend of going global.”

The ISB course trains small companies to evolve from low-cost operations to one based on scale. For example, it suggests tactics like forging alliances with global retailers, teaches small businesses how to negotiate contracts and how to position themselves in a global market.

Chandra says he was pleasantly surprised by the response to what seemed like an unlikely marriage between SMEs and going global. Attendees have paid Rs. 24,000 each for the three-day programmes that started in Delhi last week and carried on to Chennai and Mumbai this week.

Chandra said the pricing was meant to make the course affordable enough for small businesses. The course, with 50 attendees each, attracted more response than the seats.

The faculty includes a diverse mix of speakers including representatives of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and credit rater Crisil Ltd, besides the London Business School.

But how small is small?

”I am not talking about the roadside shop but those with $ 1 million or so in revenue and between 100 and 200 people in size,” said Jerry George, London Business School professor who is on the faculty. He says many Indian companies of this size do not reach out to the world, though they can.

“One of the primary drawbacks of Indian companies is that they think they can’t go global,” he said. “Indian entrepreneurs have a sense of false modesty.”

He cites the example of Kochar Infotech, a wireless data service company from Amritsar, which charges only $2 or 3 per job which can fetch as much as $18 in the United States or the United Kingdom.

Part of the ISB course’s business is to raise aspirations, and part of it is tell the attendees how they can do it.

George said Hyderabad’s Dr. Reddy’s Lab, now a New York-listed pharmaceuticals major, was 20 years ago a small generics player, but decided to go global in 1993 whenith $160,000 in revenues. The firm took a big step in 200 by acquiring a Mexican firm for $57 million, and things have never been the same again.

Other Indian companies counted in the league include Gitanjali Jewels and telecoms software maker Subex Azure (which resulted after small Bangalore player Subex Sytems acquired Azure in a global reverse merger).