Around 140 former students from all over US came together for the first IIM Global Convention titled Scaling New Heights hosted by the Americas based alumni of IIMs at the picturesque Summit Pointe Golf Club in Milpitas, California on April 21-22.
IIM USA Inc is a pan IIM organisation founded in the summer of 2005. It represents more than 1500 Americas based old pupils of the Indian Institutes of Management.
The keynote speakers at the convention included Kanwal Rekhi - a Silicon Valley legend, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Professor Anjani Jain - Vice Dean, Wharton Business School, Professor Jagmohan S Raju, Professor and Director of the Wharton - Indian School of Business Program and Prof Nagananda Kumar - Management Guru and an IIMA Alumnus.
The event kicked-off on Saturday, April 21 with an introduction by IIM USA President Ashima Jain who reiterated the multiple objectives of the organisation including promotion of the IIM brand in line with the IIT brand in US, a forum for networking and a platform for professional development. This followed a message from IIM alumnus Indra Nooyi, CEO Pepsico and a fun filled interactive workshop by Professor Nagananda on the efforts and initiatives on the IIM brand promotion and propagation in US.
The post lunch networking intensive program commenced with an informal, humorous chat by Kanwal Rekhi who narrated his personal and professional journey in the last five decades. Beginning with his stint in IIT in India to a US university and several American corporate, Rekhi took the audience down the memory lane on a trip of the life and times of one of the most successful Indians in the US. Speaking about the rough road traversed by Indians in US corporate, he said, "From being typecast as techies to being accepted on the top rungs of the corporate and as peerless entrepreneurs in all spheres of work and life in US, we have come a long, long way."
He added, "Though it has been a difficult journey, yet the image transformation has finally happened for the Indo Americans in the US and unlike us from whose mouth India spilled out as soon as we opened our mouths, the next generation has no cultural constraints to hold them back."
Expressing his views about product development vs service sector IT growth in India, he said that product development will gradually happen and instead of focus on any specific industry as a funding choice, his centre of attention is the individual on the helm and her adaptability and other traits for long-term success. On a broader plane, he said that primary healthcare, education and infrastructural development should be the troika of priorities for the Indian government.
Following the interesting personal journey of success, Professors of Wharton - Anjani Jain and Jagmohan Raju compared the MBA programs of the best schools of US and India. In an interactive session, they pointed out lack of innovative research, reaching out to alumni for fundraising and other initiatives for institute betterment, globalisation of the curriculum as some of the major areas where the premier Indian institutes lag behind their American counterparts. "Here at Wharton we are under continuous pressure to provide an excellent education, a nouveau experience in line with the latest business trends to our students," said Professor Raju.
Elucidating about Wharton's Indian School of Business (ISB) initiative, Prof Raju said, "Before the ISB initiatives, many of us in American academia went back to IIMs with open arms, asking what we can do for the institutes, but since our offer for help and involvement was not accepted, the Indian school of Business initiatives were commenced as a way for us to give back to our nation."
Changes in the curricula and courses at IIMs due to the ISB initiatives of premier business schools of US was pointed out by the experts as a positive trend and hopefully one that would result in raised faculty salaries, better curricula and other positives.
Professor Jain opined that like the US, Indian government should not be in the business of higher education and time is ripe for lending institutes to promote loan programs and financial aids for students desirous of higher education perusal in India. Some of the other initiatives enumerated by experts included increase in student capacity at IIMs, betterment in curricula and faculty at 2nd tier Management institutes and active alumni involvement.
On the subject of IIM brand awareness in American corporate, the general sentiment was that IIM brand has made a dent in the American consulting and financial services in the last five years. However, in behemoths like Google, Yahoo, Oracle and others, it is yet to make an impression and it is individual responsibility to reach out to the human resources and top management to promote and propagate the institute name.