Sunday, July 10, 2005

B-schools and regional cultural differences

If you are used to reading news, you could find an article on “What ails B-school education in India” almost every week. Top people from corporate who have 20 or so experience in top management in top companies of India, who themselves invariably are pass outs of the older Indian Institute of Managements, write about that they find missing in the B-school education in India. While I tend to agree with half of them – like the need for emphasis on practical aspects rather than jargons etc, I couldn’t connect to the other half that hovers around B-school students being bookish etc. Given the time limit of two years, I think B-schools are doing good in terms of curriculum, and there’s always going to be some restrictions on what one is going to learn in the classrooms as opposed to the wide wild corporate world. But there is something more that I’ve really found lacking – need for an education about the cultures within India and how to understand customers in different parts of India.

Not many of us know that different regions in India have very different cultures, and that the mentality could be very, very different. While I was in Delhi, one of my Punjabi friends asked me “how different is South India?” which set my thought process. First and the foremost, the languages are different, which means that the entire thought process and the value system is different. That’s because, as kids, we are invariably taught values based on our own language, and when the language changes, there is a possibility for the whole base to shift. That’s just the beginning. The other differences are – food, traditional clothing, festivals, calendar, majority race (Dravidian versus Aryan), to name a predominant few. Although my knowledge about East India is cosmetic, I guess the same kind of differences exist there too.

Ofcourse, there are a lot of overlaps and not everything is different. For example, the different cuisines can found all over India. Thanks to T-shirts and Jeans, youngsters might pass without any difference. And the English language and calendar unites us in more ways than we could think is possible. The culture differences are acutely felt by people who are not aware that the cultures are very different. We’ve all come across North Indians who complain about pure South Indian food after landing in Chennai and crying to go out of the place, and South Indians (like me) perpetually missing home and traveling miles to get a taste of something remotely resembling a dosa. It’s just that we are not aware of the magnitude of the existence of such a difference that makes things shocking. With such a shallow understanding, how would we successfully understand the minds of customers and make good marketers?

Cutting it short, the point I’m trying to make is: With such a lot of culture differences, it would be a costly mistake not to understand them. I’ve seen cosmetic references about intra-cultural differences – mentions about difference in saving and spending mentality; the levels of development and urbanization etc, but like the International Human Resources courses we have, I think it’s imperative to have some sessions to understand people in different parts of the country. I felt the need for it when a professor asked “Do you think there are work culture differences between Chennai and Delhi?” and just ten or so hands went up, most of whom have had a taste of two or more such Indian cultures.


At Sunday, July 10, 2005 5:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very well said govar. But the onus is not on the school. As I have always maintained, "The purpose of this 2 year stint is not to upgrade ones academic capabilities. But to meet up new people and develop friendships. The moment people start groupiong themselves in to sets of geographical proximity, the whole purpose of coming to an II is broken."

At Sunday, July 10, 2005 6:09:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

My argument is: If we are learning about International HR, why not intra-national HR? About different cultures. And grouping based on geography is going to happen anyway, just bcoz of comfort zones. But I dont see any reason to restrict ourselves within the zones.

At Monday, July 11, 2005 5:31:00 PM, Blogger harry said...

point noted dude..i think i read a article on similar lines emphasizing the need to understand intra cultural issues.


At Monday, July 11, 2005 7:10:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Hari: Can u send me the link, if possible?

At Saturday, July 16, 2005 1:49:00 PM, Blogger Amit said...

Important point. B Schools always emphasize on understanding international cultures & nuances but nobody speaks of bridging the gaps which exists in our understanding of regional cultures. & given the fact that most of us are going to be working in India, maybe serving US customers primarily, this is very relevant.
Good food for thought.


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