Marketing Business Education: Searching for Innovation



Article by: S.S. George
Director, ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research)

Today's business environment is characterized by change and complexity. Product life cycles are shrinking while consumer preferences are changing frequently and dramatically. Technology is no longer a trump card for gaining competitive advantage, but more a wild card, with an unknown value and an uncertain impact on performance.

A number of technologies are available to achieve a particular end in any given industry, and in most cases, it is almost impossible to foretell which will fail and which will succeed. In such an environment, innovation is critical to an organization's survival and growth. This is particularly true in activities related to marketing such as new product development or product modifications and process and communication changes - perhaps more so than in any other function. As with business, so with business education. While the demand for management education is growing in the country, business schools are also facing the fallout of the turmoil in the business environment, having to cope with profound changes in their markets. This article discusses why business schools in India should become more business-like, and begin to practice some of the theories they have been teaching for so long.

The Business of Business Education

Traditionally in India, education, even business education, has not been viewed in terms of products or markets. Instead, education has been viewed as the responsibility of the government. Consequently, educational institutions have for long operated in an environment quite different from the one businesses operate in, following practices and approaches far removed from the rough and tumble of corporate life.

However, this situation is now changing dramatically, in much the same way the rules of doing business in India have changed in the past decade or so. The financial crunch facing both the central and state governments has resulted in a reduction in the government's role in providing education, particularly higher education. Now, due to reduced funding from the government, most government funded educational institutions are not in a position to expand or change to meet the demands of the marketplace. In this changed environment, business schools are realizing that they operate in a marketplace, and that to survive they must begin applying the theories they teach to their own operations.

A business school serves two markets - one consisting of prospective students, and the other consisting of prospective employers. There is what is sometimes described as an 'implicit understanding' between the student and the business school (or at least the better schools) that the student will get a job if he completes his course successfully. Hence the critical role of placements in the success or failure of a business school.

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