In 1992, I went to work for a new business school in Hyderabad called Vignana Jyoti Institute. This was an autonomous business school, and therefore we could devise our own curriculum. We were also starting from scratch- that means, we five or six faculty members would be the primary architects of the Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM).
The promoters were a group of mid-sized industrialists from Hyderabad, and this was their first foray into education. The director was from Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), well known for its Executive Development programmes. There was a batch of twenty students in the first batch, many of whom were related to the promoters. But that was no problem, as they were mostly bright people. The small class size made it an enjoyable experience. We knew every student by name, and the quality of the interaction was high.
Sudhir, one of the students from this first batch would become a colleague at another institute a few years later, where he joined as a research associate. In general, the first two batches of students spread the good word, and Vignana Jyoti earned a good name in the city while we were there. Thomas, in H.R. , Venkata Rao in Quanti, Sudha in Accounting and Finance and Dayakar Rao in Eco were the colleagues, and I handled marketing. Some more joined after a year, but these four remained close because we had done things from scratch, together.
The institute was located in West Marredpally, a very good location to travel to for most of us. There was also a post office and an Irani café for other needs nearby. For lunch, we could go to Garden restaurant for a biryani, or Kamat for a thali. I ate a lot of biryani in the three years I spent there, usually accompanied by Thomas.
While at Hyderabad, we had an inspection from AICTE, for approval of the PGDM program. This program in India is considered as the equivalent of the MBA degree, and is made famous by the IIMs. Luckily for us, my paper had been published in a top American journal, the Academy of Management Journal, just that year, and that issue was available in our library. That got us some brownie points with the inspection team, and we did get the recognition from AICTE. This later became a coveted recognition, but not many parents believed then that PGDM was as good as an MBA. India could be the only country in the world where a degree is inferior to a diploma, at least in management!
We also managed to do a couple of Executive Development Programmes while at the institute. These were fairly basic, on Human Resource Management or General Management, but helped to network with industry. One of the memorable industry experiences was of Dr. Reddy’s Labs, who came and discussed with me at length one of the assignments I had given to my marketing students based on an article on pharma patents- Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers used to copy foreign drugs and used to change the process by which they were manufactured. They were protected by Indian law, which in 1995 did not recognize Product patents for drugs- but only recognized process patents. So, as long as you changed the manufacturing process, you were OK. This has changed since then, but the issue of intellectual property was hot then. I was impressed to see a pharma company taking the time to discuss this with me. Indian companies were not particularly proactive in reaching out to the academia then. This was much before the I.T. boom!
The ICFAI business school had just started in Hyderabad at around that time, and was probably suffering initial hiccups like high faculty turnover. But in about 10 years’ time, they grew by smartly scaling up, and expanding to different centres in India. They added 100 extra students every year, until their combined intake was higher than all the six IIMs put together!
One other major event I remember was the launch of Global Trust Bank, the private bank floated by Ramesh Gelli, in the post-liberalisation era. Earlier, many years ago, Indira Gandhi had nationalized all the private banks. This launch was significant for many reasons. Though the bank suffered from problems later and had to be taken over by another one under RBI directions, it paved the way for the emergence of stronger private banks in general, like HDFC, ICICI, and later, Kotak Mahindra, UTI (now Axis Bank) and Centurion etc. It definitely spurred the public sector, nationalized banks to start thinking about their future survival.