Friday, August 10, 2007

Lets Kill The Brand

These things often start with an advertisement. Somebody in the HRD ministry had this idea of putting up an advertisement in all the newspapers calling for applications to the IIM director’s post. This is indeed in line with the tempestuous relationship that the IIMs have had with the HRD ministry of the governments of the last decade. One might want to ask, what is the big deal with a seemingly harmless advert? Traditionally, the Director’s name has been proposed by the governing council of the institutes and the approved by the HRD ministry. The approval has been a formality but it seems that things might change as the man in the charge of human resource development for the nation wants to meddle more. Bakul Dholakia (Director, IIMA) was initially combative and then allegedly struck a re-conciliatory note (With TOI group, everything has to be allegedly).

What is the big deal with autonomy? Institutes like the IITs and IIMs want greater autonomy because they want the freedom to fix salaries (get/retain the best faculty), start cross-border collaboration programs, improve infrastructure, spend on capability building initiatives etc. However, governments have wanted to increase their grip on these institutes of excellence because it makes strong political statement. I am not sure about the target segment of voters that they are trying to approach via this increasingly meddlesome approach.

So while these steps try to destroy the last vestiges of idealism and excellence in the country, I hope someone wants to build something as well. Governments should try and build alternate brands to the IITs and the IIMs. Merely creating more of such institutes might be counter-productive at best. It would be better if they inject funds for infra development and to attract better faculty at the NITs and the next line of Management institutes. While such steps make headlines, I really wonder if Arjun Singh is bothered beyond gaining some cheap publicity out of this. Would be great if his bunch of cronies apply themselves to improving the primary and the secondary education infrastructure than with such retro steps. Anyway, all this would be nothing more that noise for them so let me not waste my time either.

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