Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Learning curve


In the last eight years, the number of Kathmandu colleges offering BBA, MBA, and evening MBA programs has gone up. Thanks to college-friendly demographics, there's no dearth of applicants. It\' clear from each year's crop of slick ads that the competition for tuition money is getting more lucrative.

This contrasts sharply with the hostage mentality with which most of our businesses operate.

Not a week passes by without multiple shutdowns. Swarms of Young Communist Leaguers take to the streets, believing that the only way to please Bhagwan Mao, motherland Nepal, and Chairman Dahal is by extorting money from small businesses, beating up businessmen, and seizing other people's hard-earned property. The recent failure of the government to deal pragmatically with the only available, if second-rate, foreign firm to help solve Kathmandu's water problems has given the practice of outsourcing management contracts for better performance a bad rap. That raises the cost of doing business, and provides first-rate investors with reasons to avoid Nepal.

Such activities signal that the momentum for businesses in the New Nepal will be determined less by rule-based, competition-driven excellence, and more by either mob violence or ideologically-laced 'scientific' communism that labels dissenters as reactionaries.

Given this broader disconnect between what they teach and what's happening out there in Nepal's business landscape, should Nepali business schools start changing themselves?

Yes, along these three dimensions:
Engagement: In the future, businesses in Nepal will have to deal even more with agitating unions, threats and strikes, firebrand social activists, media-savvy environmentalists, civil society leaders, and Grown-up Communist Leaguers (GCLs) who will set national policies. How are business schools preparing students to adapt to these realities? To say that whatever's happening right now is a temporary phenomenon (see interviews below), and that Kotler's marketing tips will solve all problems is to seriously underestimate the extent of the changes that will shape business activities in Nepal.

Entrepreneurship: Producing recruits for banks and INGOs is fine. But even such institutions cannot live up to their potential when unemployment is the most distressing social problem-witness the hordes of young men with nothing to do but roam the streets. Instead of getting stuck on a self-serving 'who got hired where' conversation, it's become urgent for Nepali business schools to live up to their own promise of producing leaders by proactively looking for ways to promote entrepreneurship among students and alumni. This helps expand the range of employment opportunities for a bigger swathe of society.

Research: The role of the private sector remains unclear in new Nepal. Is it to be actively promoted? Is it to be kept as a milking cow for YCLs and politicians? How and where does the application of business principles make sense to raise productivity, incomes, and social welfare? Research helps answer these questions, and perhaps shape the content of conversations about the role of the private sector in our society. Given their intellectual capital, business schools are most suitably positioned to put the process of knowledge creation and sharing among their priorities.

Unlike other schools, business schools are most directly affected by the changes taking place in a society. If they ignore or make light of what's happening in Nepal now, then they run the risk of being irrelevant to their students' future. That is why, our business schools need to see what more they can do to better prepare both their students and themselves to understand and then address some of our society's pressing problems.

Nepali Times spoke with the heads of major business schools in Kathmandu and asked them three questions:
. Why people should spend money on a business degree when the general mood seems to be against businesses?
. How are students prepared to deal with business realities that include corruption, agitating unions, threats, strikes, and politicians who don't believe in business?
. What single feature makes your school different from the others?

LP Bhanu Sharma
Principal, Apex College
. The present mood of the country is temporary, and the situation will improve soon. Nepali business and economy are undergoing a paradigm shift, and our placement is excellent.
. We focus on human behaviour and social interdependence. MBAs are trained to be street-smart, insightful, and ethical. We see these negative trends in business and economy as transitory.
. Apex balances theoretical inputs and applied managerial skills in an environment of cross-cultural orientation and positive thinking.

Bijay KC
Dean, South Asian Institute of Management
. In education, expenses are an investment. Our challenge is to prepare graduates who can work under constraints and think of tomorrow. Things will and have to change and we have to contribute positively.
. Attitudes and behaviour need to change to fight corruption etc. We encourage our graduates to think positively, work in teams, be patient, and be solution-oriented. We make them aware of their social responsibilities and help them develop leadership skills.
. Our emphasis is particularly on South Asian values and developing
managers and entrepreneurs with leadership skills and a global mindset.

Subas KC
Dean, Kathmandu University School of Management
. Business isn't just about profits, but about meeting the needs of people by providing goods and services. Negative perception of the business community is temporary and situation-specific.
. Our curriculum teaches the theories and skills needed to run businesses. In many courses, students go out and do projects.There they interact with people from the business community, observe and get a better sense of business complexities. They have to do summer internships too, which prepares them to deal with the realities of running a business.
. Our strength is our faculty. We have a pool of teachers who
have both industry experience and academic excellence.

Kedar Joshi
Executive Director, Management Association of Nepal
. Surviving in the business world requires strategic thinkers, better management, and a competitive culture. Nepal is on the threshold of peace and development, and this is also the era of globalisation and opportunities around the world.
. We focus on developing managerialism [sic] and professionalism
. Our blend of academics and professionalism helps produce academically sound and practically capable managers.

Mohan Das Manandhar
Head, Ace Institute of Management
. A business degree is a long-term investment. We are between two rapidly growing economies and some of the growth will trickle down to Nepal. We're going to need people with skills to take advantage of those opportunities.
. Our students' projects include having to find the best way of dealing with different scenarios. This teaches them about political uncertainties and preparedness. We also encourage them to conduct surveys and compile data to get a sense of what is going on in the business world and invite eminent business people to talk
about their real life experiences.
. Our teaching staff always brings up-to-date relevant information
to classrooms to teach students about current business realities.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)