On an August evening in Dubai, 11 years ago, Aby Abraham was relaxing at home after returning from work. Little did he suspect that his life was about to change. He was reading the Gulf Times and noticed a news item about XLRI Jamshedpur starting a management programme in Dubai. “I got excited and decided to find out more,”he says. A couple of weeks later, he was writing the entrance test for the new three-year, part-time postgraduate management course.
Abraham, who is now 48, was among the first batch of graduates of XLRI’s Dubai programme. After getting his diploma, he joined Lloyd’s Register, an engineering risk management com- pany, as a manager for West Asia and Africa. It was a turning point in his life. His BTech degree from the College of Engineering Trivandrum, had led to purely technical roles, but now he had a technical-cum-managerial function– at Lloyd’s Register, he was involved in negotiations for oil and gas contracts.
Like XLRI, several Indian management institutes have set up schools outside India, targeting non-resident Indian and international students, many of whom are already working professionals. While the course content and standards of these overseas schools match those back home, the institutes themselves are often structured differently. Some are able to offer students a more enriching experience with global faculty and international exposure.
Besides XLRI, Dubai is home to some leading names from India, such as SP Jain School of Global Management, Manipal Global Education Services, BITS Pilani and the Institute of Management Technology. Some schools offer programmes in other countries also. For instance, the SP Jain School of Global Management is also present in Singapore and Sydney, and Manipal Global Education Services offers an MBA programme in Malaysia.
T.V. Mohandas Pai, who helped shape HR policies at Infosys in its crucial years and who is now Chairman of Manipal Global Education Services, emphasises that Indian business schools need to go global. “Overseas students will get exposed to Indian business culture and practices, and could become a talent pool for Indian companies that are becoming multinational,”he says.
It is already beginning to happen. Sriram Rajagopal, Vice President for Human Resources at Cognizant, says:“We have been hiring from SP Jain Singapore and Dubai for the last five years. We recruit from these campuses primarily for our India operations.” Most students at these overseas institutes are Indian expats, though there are also international students of Indian or other heritage. Since many are midcareer professionals, classes often meet in the evenings or on weekends.
Laws in other countries allow such institutions to be for profit – something they cannot do in India. So Manipal Global Education Services is a for-profit school in Dubai and Malaysia. The SP Jain School of Global Management is a for-profit legal entity, separate from the SP Jain Institute of Management in India. The India school was set up in 1981 with a corpus from the late businessman and parliamentarian Shreyans Prasad Jain under the not-forprofit Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan trust. The global school is privately owned by S.P. Jain’s grandson Nitish Jain in his personal capacity. “We get global faculty, but we have a long-term relationships with SP Jain Mumbai faculty,”says Jain.
XLRI has a local partner in Dubai –the Allied Institute of Management Studies (AIMS). But M. Srimannarayana, Associate Dean of the Jamshedpur institute, says: “XLRI ensures that 100 per cent faculty inputs are from XLRI India for all the programmes in Dubai.” He adds that faculty members in India travel to do teaching stints in Dubai.
Predictably, the overseas branches of Indian management schools leverage their locations to give their programmes the edge. Jain says: “Ours is a very integrated MBA programme that spans three cities – Dubai, Singapore and Sydney.” So students in the 12-month programme spend four months in each city. Jain says:“Because each city is different politically, culturally and economically, the learning becomes quite amazing.”
Many institutes customise programmes based on industry and geography. “At present, programmes from XLRI Jamshedpur are being offered to UAE target segments with customisation, in line with local needs and expectations,” says XLRI’s Srimannarayana. “AIMS in partnership with XLRI promotes short programmes designed for various industry sectors in the UAE.”
Almost all global branches of Indian institutes offer courses for local mid-career professionals. “Our target audience is employed youth who are looking at furthering their skills and who aspire to move up the corporate ladder,” says S. Vaitheeswaran, Managing Director and CEO of Manipal Global Education Services. The institute started in Dubai in 2003/04 with 20 to 30 students in a batch. Today, batch size has grown to 260 and, besides the school in Kuala Lumpur, it has got a licence to start an online university. “It will be a 100 per cent online university, registered in Kuala Lumpur,” says Vaitheeswaran. He adds that it will kick off with an MBA programme. Since many students are working, placement is not as big an issue as it is back home, but still, some schools are active on this front. Placement matters more for schools such as SP Jain School of Global Management, which take only full-time students. “We have seven career offices Dubai, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Singapore, Shanghai and Sydney,” says Jain, adding that salaries often jump almost threefold.
The fee for SP Jain’s one-year global MBA programme is $42,000, which includes accommodation in three cities. Typically, fees for global programmes are around 30 per cent higher than in India, although recent increases are partly due to rupee depreciation.
Some students enrol in hopes of a better job or fatter salary. For others, a global MBA whets their appetite to study further. XLRI Dubai alumnus Abraham is now working on his PhD in marketing at XLRI Jamshedpur.