We urge the government to immediately close down all overseas State Bank of India branches. There’s unmet domestic demand for retail banking — millions of Indians don’t have savings accounts. So SBI can no more indulge in the appalling luxury of serving foreign customers before every citizen has a bank passbook than IIM Bangalore can teach foreign students before every aspiring Indian youngster gets a management education. In fact, since the HRD ministry’s ban on an IIM-B Singapore campus has redefined supply-demand economics — you can’t cater to home market if you do business abroad — as well as national prestige — exporting its best institutions has no value for a country — we suggest the principles be applied universally. What’s ONGC doing chasing Sudanese or Central Asian oil? And why only public sector entities? Indian private businesses have exhibited dangerous tendencies recently. In 2004-2005, Indian entrepreneurs acquiring foreign firms spent roughly a billion dollars.
Clearly, if stern action is not taken now, we are in serious danger of creating some globally recognised, first-class brands; ventures that will — shock — make a name for the country and — horrors — bring money into it. At least Arjun Singh has done his bit. He may have even outdone Murli Manohar Joshi. They may be equals when it comes to rewriting and re-rewriting the country’s past. But on the issue of the country’s future, Singh’s ban on exporting the IIM brand easily has more impact than Joshi’s effort to reduce IIM tuition costs. Joshi was then roundly advised that the problem with IIMs is not that they are too expensive to afford — scholarships and/or loans can take care of bright but poor students — but that they are too few in number. Singh’s HRD mandarins have taken the supply constraint argument to produce a new understanding of education.
Foreign campuses, especially in super-quality conscious countries like Singapore, are supposed to equip the exporting institution with more academic depth and business savvy. This is supposed to apply especially to business schools. American and European B-schools think so, and are ever so keen to find a foreign footing. They are doing their country wrong. As our HRD minister may say, this is another thing they don’t teach at the Harvard Business School.