Kenny Hsieh is the envy of the class of 2008 at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B). The 22-year-old ethnic Chinese speaks Mandarin like a native, although his grandparents migrated to India more than half a century ago. Hsieh has even bagged an upcoming summer internship at Lehman Brothers’ Hong Kong office on the strength of the language.
“They said I was a perfect fit,” recalls Hsieh, who has since been pestered by his classmates to teach them Mandarin. “They realise I have an advantage,” says Hsieh, who lives in Chandigarh and also speaks Hindi and Punjabi.
Mandarin is not an easy language to learn but other B-schools are as enthusiastic as Hsieh’s classmates. Puru Gupta, the student placement coordinator at Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), has been studying Mandarin and been on an eight-city tour of China, including several trips to Wal-Mart in China and had meetings with the company’s officials. And last year, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad introduced a language-course called Business Chinese, to add to its French and German offerings.
If everyone wants to be part of the China story, it is because the country’s economy has grown at about 10 percent for the last three years. Knowledge of Mandarin gives students an opportunity to participate in this growth, as employees of either Chinese firms or Indian ones that wish to operate in that country.
Shanghai General Motors, a joint venture of General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Co, has signed up to participate in IIM-B’s placement week where companies will pitch to students. “It’s a first by a Chinese company at the school,” says Sourav Mukherji, the professor in charge of placements. Reliance Retail, the organised retail arm of conglomerate Reliance Industries, is talking to FMS about openings at its procurement centre, which will be based in China.
Even students who are not in the running for such jobs see the merits of learning Chinese. Bhushan Dabir, a 2007-batch student of IIM, Ahmedabad, plans to enter the lingerie business and has signed up for the course in Business Chinese. “It is inevitable that one day, we will have to do business with the Chinese,” he says.
“I guess the students will not give up on London,” says Jay Mitra, Dean, FMS, commenting on the emergence of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, as preferred destinations for Indian B-school graduates, “but they are realising where the growth is.”