Siddharth Shekhar Singh, associate professor at Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
India’s economic boom post-liberalisation inspired many to return home — Siddharth Shekhar Singh, associate professor at Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, is one of them. He decided to shift to India after working in USA for 15 years. “I spent eight of those years as faculty member at Rice University, Houston. I admire the university system in the US because it values research and allows it to flourish. Universities there are also geared towards bridging the gap between knowledge creation and applications,” he says. “Naturally, I was not willing to make a compromise in my workplace. Today, ISB is the only place in India that is like a top US research-oriented business school. ISB also offers attractive associated benefits to make the transition to India easier.”
The 40-year-old has a PhD in marketing from Kellogg School at Northwestern University, Chicago, USA, an MBA in marketing and finance from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, and a BTech from IIT-BHU, India. “I tried various things before entering this profession. I was in the corporate sector for a few years with Johnson and Johnson. I was in politics for a few years as an independently elected general secretary of BHU Students’ Union. These experiences made me realise a few things. I feel strongly about social work. I value my independence of thought and action. It was then that I decided to go for a PhD and work in the field of academics. Being an academician, I am free to pursue what I want and in the way I want,” he says.
In a critical evaluation of the current management education scenario, Singh says, “There is a strong demand for trained professionals and supply is low. We have a lot of people with degrees, but few with education. Education has to be strengthened if we are to benefit from our young population. I do not think we are taking the right steps to handle this issue. I am afraid the time to act was yesterday,” he says.
His observation is that too many politicians and businessmen are involved in the education sector and it is in their interest to keep it under control. Since students have no choice but to get a degree, there is no need for quality control, which is, in any case, monitored by the government. He says, “This cozy system is very bad for the country as it directly impacts the quality of education,” he says.
Having a first-hand experience of top-class training in the US, Singh says, “It is interesting to note that even the US has a shortage of good research faculty and universities compete to get good faculty members. In India, even the basic understanding about research is lacking and the existing system is not geared towards attracting the right people.”
Singh is also the director of the Fellow Programme in Management. He feels Indian students are very good with numbers but are relatively short-sighted. “They care more about grades and assignments than long-term benefits. I find that relatively fewer Indian students are good at understanding and linking abstract concepts. This could be a function of the age of our students, who are relatively young. This is also a reason why good schools such as ISB value experience in their admission process,” he says.
Finally, he adds that business ethics is what drives the Indian management sector. He believes that this is an area which is a work in process across the globe. “One has to have a strong moral compass, and the right approach to decision making. Ability to recognise right from wrong is context-dependent, and society has a role to play. I have found the moral compass of US students stronger. They are better able to recognise right and wrong, and are more willing to do the right things. Surprisingly, I have found even seasoned executives in India lacking in this area,” he says.
Recognising this as an important issue, several colleges in the country are taking many steps to emphasise ethics. “I think the problem is much bigger in our society. For example, even good politicians and citizens fail to distinguish between what is good for their favoured political party and what is good for the country. Too often, these two are confused as being the same. The ability to distinguish right from wrong has to be rooted in principles beyond our self-interest. Our society has to change if we want to catch up in this area,” he says.