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‘The lectures seemed like dharma teachings’

Keisuke Matsumoto, a Japanese Buddhist monk, an ISB alum and the World Economic Forum’s (2013) Young Global Leader Honouree, is changing the way temples function in his country.

education Updated: May 28, 2013 18:49 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

Keisuke Matsumoto, a Japanese Buddhist monk, an ISB alum and the World Economic Forum’s (2013) Young Global Leader Honouree, is changing the way temples function in his country.


Please tell us about your decision to become a monk. What led to it?
In Japan, a son of Buddhist monk succeeds his father’s position. Though I am not in a hereditary custom, I have been interested in how to overcome the fear of death and found that Buddhism is a great way to find a path to overcome the fear.

Was your family supportive of this decision? What did you have to do to become a monk?
Yes they were supportive. My father always told me that the career choice is up to me and I can become whatever I want to be. To become a monk, I had to find a temple to belong to. A friend of mine introduced me to Komyoji temple.

When was the exact moment that you decided to get a degree in management? What was the condition of temples then?
After becoming a Buddhist monk, I did a lot of things at temples to develop the potential of Buddhism. Through these activities, I noticed that temples lacked a sense of management.

Why did you choose Indian School of Business?
As a matter of fact, ISB was the ideal school MBA for me. It offers an intensive one-year programme and the education quality is world-class. ISB’s location has special importance for me. I love India and even gave my son an Indian name. India was the cradle for Buddhism. I am attracted to Hyderabad’s multi-cultural characteristic and the talents of ISB students.

Why India?
As I said, I simply love India.

Explain the selection/admission process. How did you get through?
I think the process was nothing special compared to other applicants. I have gone through TOEFL, GMAT, essays and interview on campus. In the interview, I was asked about Buddhism, like: ‘What is noble eightfold path?’

Shifting from India to Japan, and then to a business school in a city like Hyderabad. How did you adjust? What was your first day at the business school like?
Since I and my wife have visited India several times before, it was not difficult for us to adjust. Actually, I don’t think living in ISB campus is hard for international students. ISB campus is very clean, tidy and advanced. During campus life, we often went out and enjoyed local activities to feel India. As long as we stay on campus, life is not different from the life in Japan.

Did the management programme help you get ahead with your mission?
At ISB, I have learned effective ways of management in an organisation, and would tell other monks what those ways are and how they can be attained. Nowadays, many business schools provide good classes in the field of non profit. Particularly in my major, marketing and strategy, electives regarding CRM or marketing services were very helpful at my workplace, a Buddhist temple in Tokyo. As you know, a religious institution is not for profit, but has particular missions to fulfill. So fundamental strategies in business cases cannot be directly applied to its management. However, in terms of delivery of services, what we have to care about, is almost the same. I was also pretty much impressed with electives about leadership. The lecture by Prof Prasad Kaipa seemed like dharma teaching by a priest.

In terms of tools and frameworks, Porter’s Five Forces Analysis can be used for developing strategies in the management of non-profit organisations as well. It’s very simple but powerful. And in any case of temple management, I first try to develop service concept that I learned in marketing services. Pricing strategies are also interesting, since a typical temple has the unique pricing structure of ‘pay as you wish’. In terms of personal coaching, theories I learned in organisation management and leadership are very useful.

Please let us know about the process through which you got selected by the World Economic Forum
Actually, I am not very familiar with the process. The CEO of a famous security company in Japan recommended me to the WEF office and fortunately I was accepted.

Elaborate on the changes that have so far been brought about where temples in Japan are concerned?
As a Buddhist monk, being MBA graduate doesn’t make any difference to my position or rank in the temple. But it will practically make a difference to the quality of my work.

Buddhism is my life. I respect the tradition of Japanese Buddhism. But at the same time I am not satisfied with its current situation. To promote Buddhism among modern people, we have to update temples to meet modern needs without spoiling their religious traditions.

In Japan, Buddhist monks are desired to be good managers of a temple as well as religious leaders, though there is a critical shortage of monks who have good management skills. As I launched temple management school for Buddhist monks, I have motivated a lot of monks and I am very confident that the monks who are engaged in local temples will play a significant role as life partners for people.

The programme, the learning

Keisuke Matsumoto was a student in the PGP Class of 2011 at the ISB. The postgraduate programme (PGP) in management at the ISB is an incisive one-year programme that has been designed keeping in mind the student’s eagerness to get back to the corporate world faster. It is ideal for working professionals to enhance careers without a long hiatus from work. Students learn not just from the faculty and their peer group, but also from successful leaders and entrepreneurs who frequently visit the campus.

The one-year postgraduate programme in management (PGPM) attracts the best of talent from India as well as abroad. The students are professionals from diverse backgrounds – educational, professional, ethnic, geographical and social. Peer learning is an important component of learning in addition to classroom learning. Students come with work experience ranging from two to 20 years both in India and abroad. Students come in with prior experience in functions like sales and marketing, finance, project management, architecture, operations, consulting, research, advertising, travel, tourism, hospitality, technology, etc. Increasingly, ISB is also seeing students from niche profiles including the armed forces, practicing doctors and surgeons, entrepreneurs, civil servants, fashion designers, shipping crew, lawyers and journalists among others joining the management programmes.

Keisuke Matsumoto, the brilliant Japanese monk, was a great addition to the class. He brought in a completely different perspective compared to what is seen amongst MBA students. His plan, post his PGP programme was to popularise his philosophy. He is such a grounded individual, that it was a pleasure to interact with him. A philosopher – manager in the truest sense
- VK Menon, senior director, careers and admissions at the ISB

Five facts at your fingertips

1. About ISB The b-school was founded by a group of businessmen and academicians. It has campuses in Hyderabad and Mohali. It offers an MBA-equivalent postgraduate programme (PGP) and other programmes

2. Flagship Programme ISB’s one-year PGP in management has been designed keeping in mind the student’s eagerness to get back to the corporate world faster. It does not fall under the AICTE’s regulatory mechanism for b-schools

3. Placements Among the firms that recruited ISB students in 2012 are Aditya Birla Group, Infosys etc. The average domestic pay package (cost to company) offered in 2012 was Rs. 18,83,403 and the average international CTC, $130,135

4. Hyderabad This historic city is today the capital of Andhra Pradesh

It is home to some Central-government institutions as well, including the University of Hyderabad

5. Admission There are different deadlines for Indian and foreign applicants. The application deadline for Indian passport-holders is September 15, 2013, in the first cycle and November 30, 2013, for the second. More at www.isb.edu