January 10, 2010
School of Engineering, Amritapuri
Dr. V. G. Narayanan who teaches at the Harvard Business School was in Amrita recently. He spoke to students and faculty at the Amritapuri campus.
“It is essential that managers be trained professionally in today’s increasingly competitive business world,” he stated. “Managers should be able to coach their people effectively. But we find that most managers have not received any training on how to be good coaches.”
Dr. Narayanan who has published extensively in The Harvard Business Review, Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, and the Management Science, in addition to other top journals, shared key insights about the need for professionally trained managers.
“Life for people living below poverty line will be dramatically transformed over the next generation,” he emphasized. “To make this happen, we will need professionally trained managers who can make the right choices about developing infrastructure, public health, etc.”
“Demand for professionally trained managers is growing today at 20%,” he shared. An MS in Statistics, Dr. Narayanan also has an MA in Economics and a PhD in Business Administration, all from Stanford University. He earned his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad.
Dr. Narayanan recalled his experiences as an MBA student. “We had to prepare well before going to class daily. Classrooms were stages for discussions. Learning was no longer an individual process. A professor’s job was just to orchestrate the discussions and ask questions.”
Dr. Narayanan also shared methods followed at the Harvard Business School. “I always tell students to consider every class as a board meeting,” he said. “I start a class only when everyone is in their seats. If someone is missing, I enquire about them.”
He compared the Harvard Business School to an Army Regiment. “No absences are allowed there, except in cases of serious illness, a death in the family, or your own wedding. This is applicable to both faculty as well as students. Instructors are expected to be in the class ten minutes before class starts.”
Dr. Narayanan has authored a number of cases and has consulted with many companies. During the Q&A session towards the end of the talk, he was asked a question. “What do I need to do in order to start my career as a brand manager in a good organization, after I complete my MBA?” a student asked him.
“Look at good brand managers in the business world, and learn about them,” Dr. Narayanan answered very practically. “My recommendation would be to invest in your own human capital. Work in some organization with good brand managers. Learn from them and then you can gradually join a good organization.”
When asked about the increasing number of Indian students studying MBA in foreign universities, he agreed and said, “When I joined the Harvard Business School in 1994, there were hardly one or two students from India. But now, there are 17 to 18 students who are either from India or of Indian origin.”