Friday, May 27, 2011

Finally E-learning Begins in India – with a Bang!

May, 2011 seems to be the beginning of a new era for Indian e-learning. With several companies and organizations announcing e-learning initiatives India is poised to address the gaps that have long existed in this part of the world.

The e-learning era appears to have finally dawned in India. From being a largely outward looking industry, where Indian companies primarily served as a service provider for clients in US and Europe, Indian companies are becoming inward looking – a clear reversal of trend. Leading this transformation are several Indian companies that have lined up with some very innovative offerings.

This month Educomp announced that it has joined hands with Great Lakes Institute of Management to provide e-learning education. The two partners are poised to invest around Rs 150 crores (15 million USD) in the next five years and the duo are planning to roll out e-learning management courses which will cost about 10 percent of the cost that a student spends in the regular courses. Sify meanwhile is planning to introduce a learning management system in India and they already have a couple of customers who are interested in its products.

At a corporate level Harvard Business Publishings (HBP) is planning to begin e-learning for Indian managers this year. The courseware will be delivered through the mobile platform. Close on it’s heal are other institutes like the Wharton's Executive Education Division that have also shown a keen interest in beginning such initiatives for the Indian manager.

Even iProf, which claims to be India’s first and largest e-learning superstore for IIT, CAT, PMT and other high-stakes tests on tablet computers, has announced an investment by Kaplan Ventures to enable the iProf platform to offer test preparation in GMAT and GRE, two exams required for admissions to most competitive U.S. business or graduate schools.

The Indian NGO sector too is not far behind and many have already begun using e-learning for furthering the cause of education for the marginalized and the disadvantaged sections of the society. Smile foundation of Ahmedabad has begun a innovative program called the Twin e-learning Programme (STeP) which is designed to offer job-oriented skills to youth from the less privileged sections of society living in urban slums and peripheral rural areas.

In Kolkata, a Jesuit-run media center is promoting e-learning in schools using audio-visual material in a bid to make lessons more interesting. Called Chitrabani, the center, named began its Bichitra Pathsala (innovative school) a year ago.

With so many different e-earning initiatives in the country, the service-driven mindset is rapidly getting replaced with an innovation-driven mindset. This however, brings forth a new challenge of gathering next level e-learning professionals who possess strong grounding in innovation. What it also requires is the need for the industry to enrich itself by drawing in the academic fraternity which has for long been kept out of the commercially-driven service industry.

At the government level, IGNOU, India’s largest Open University, has announced the details of the virtual university for Africa after the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised such an institution in May, 2011, at a summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Pan-African E-learning Network of IGNOU will be devised as a robust e-learning network that will go a long way in alleviating the needs of African nations.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Will it be a Transformative Agent?

The Nandan Nilekani led UID project appears to be a gigantic step forward in arresting identity frauds and duplication in India. The UID project, it is believed, will bring Indians at par with the European citizens by offering them a social identity number that can be useful to launch social welfare schemes launched and prevent the role of middlemen or political groups that siphon off the money. Here's Nandan Nilekani's interview that throws light on the nuances of the UID project.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Research Visit to Europe

Dear Friends,

I have been selected by the European Research, funded by the European Union, to visit Germany and other European countries to undertake a study on my area of doctoral research which is on the New Media and the Internet. In September and October I will be in Potsdam, Germany. I will pen down my everyday experience in Europe, as a traveller. You can read these writeups at



Its a Time to Change

Dear Friends,

Its been a momentous journey with all of you. Its been about 5 years that I started blogging on issues related to e-learning. And all these years e-learning has also evolved, aquiring new forms and new avatars, each better than before. The issues that plagiarized the e-learning world have lessened, if not eliminated, to a considerable degree. The blog too had to evolve and shed its narrow focus on e-learning and embrace a much broader field of discussion. Henceforth, I will blog on broader issues that relate to the EDUCATION (e-learning/training) and MANAGEMENT (leadership/strategy/Human Resource).

Expanding the nature of this blog was essential because of the interconnectedness of these various forms. I have also replaced the now obsolete title band of this blog which is given below:

Historically this blog began as fun and then slowly acquired a serious tone. And it has also set a few benchmarks in the Indian blogosphere. No wonder the discourses in this blog has been dissected and deliberated by a whole generation of bloggers in India and abroad. The blog's critical writeups have also rattled a few quarters, annoyed countless and jerked up an equal number from their slumber. I can promise that I will continue to lay before you a platter of dishes that are not served in the industry. I shall continue to serve as the alternate voice. Hope you will enjoy the journey further.


Friday, February 19, 2010

On Leadership and Pseudo-Leadership

No other word in human history has been so frivolously used and misused as the word “Leader”. In India an excessive use of the word evokes strong resentment amongst the educated and sensible largesse. Petty that for most Indians every well-dressed man, every English-speaking guy and every Merc that rolls signifies leadership. We are naive in the sense in which we assume leadership to be so ephemeral, so easy coming. We take their supremacy for granted.

In India, the term “leader” evokes a visual image of a politician-like figure perched on high pedestal with thousands of creepy followers beneath, shoving one another for space. In Indian businesses "leaders" seek to provoke the image of a Nobel-laureate like stalwart whose leadership is all about English suits, elegant appearance and fancy mouthings. Day in and out images of these Indian businessmen pops out of shabby magazines and websites eulogising them as heroes, whose actions or history are rarely questioned. The story is somewhat like the seemingly-decent Aggarwalji of Haldiram whose real brand and business ethics became evident when he was charged for the ruthless murder of a poor roadside vendor in Kolkata. Perhaps it was a stroke of bad luck that brand Haldiram wiped it goodwill off the marketplace in one stroke. Its history now stands questioned.

Deliberations on leadership over the years has been pretty shaky. Human Resource departments of countless manufacturing plants in India have dwelled on this catchy term because it captures the popular imagination. What is left untalked is the real essence of leadership. The debate continues...

For the politically correct folks, leaders like Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and N. D. Tiwari continue to ride high on leadership metrics. For the non-political gentry these names are best relegated to oblivion. Their stories are perhaps best examples of the private image eating into the public. Bill Clinton was hailed as a great economist, orator and statesman until his petty affair with a White House intern shook the conscience of every American citizen and made him into a no-man. Tiger Woods, admired as the greatest golfer of our times, met a similar fate when his unholy liaisons with prostitutes became public. Back in India, N. D. Tiwari, a veteran Congress leader, faced a humiliatory exit when he was allegedly filmed romping with prostitutes, even while his age and stature as constitutional head of an Indian state weighed heavily.

The true leaders of our times in India are undoubtedly the thought-leaders and silent implementers who do not pride in any long sedans or oodles of artificial mass following. Such individuals, hidden from the gaze of the popular media and the international fraternity, can be found in unusual places. With the true spark of leadership within their hearts these silent leaders are felt, not by their dresses but by the way they devote themselves for countless ways in which they serve those around them and the society. Unlike the millionaire who rides past you in a Merc and gives you a shrill feeling of poverty or downtrodden-ness, true leaders in India remain positioned amongst the masses, in silence.

Yet it is equally true that there are millionaires in India like JRD Tata, Ratan Tata, Narayan Murthy and their ilk who have set new benchmarks of leadership, not by their razzmatazz but by being balanced individuals -- both in their personal and the professional realm.

Its time to do a little introspection and recognize true leaders. It’s time to shun the mediatized images of leadership popping out of television sets or magazine covers. Perhaps its time to realize that real leaders are ones who are utterly honest and dedicated to improving the lives of others, in small steps and in subtle ways. True leadership perhaps is more visible in the enthusiastic soldier who guards our borders, the housewife who toils relentlessly or the brother, friend and neighbour who never shies away from being just and humane.

What our self-proclaimed leaders of the political and the corporate world have failed to learn is that true essence of leadership borrows from a pure intent, humility and honesty. After all what’s a leader who claims to be educated in the best of universities in the world, flaunts enormous wealth but mistreats and misleads others with almost the same fervour. They are perhaps best seen as museum pieces, jokers to be looked down and benchmarked as social misfits. The one fitting response that may do justice to the fragile ego of such men and women is to emulate the style in the India movie, Three Idiots, and proclaim “Jahapanah Tussi Great Ho! and sign off.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recession in India: Carried or Created?

For the global media recession appears to be the central theme. Most writings dwell on flat market statistics, often failing to highlight alternate opinions -- in particular on the fundamentals questions that naturally arise for economies like that in India.

In India, recession is yet another opportunity for journos and localized 'experts' with myopic vision to talk about -- even if their opinion is nothing but a unworthy emulation of popular opinion. Thank you Sir, I am enriched! Your objective is fulfilled.

For me, information sharing is about a quest to gather the holistic framework, to capture sensible alternate views that allude our understanding. My quest for a knowledge on the fundamentals forced me to meet Mr Vivek Kumar Sharma, Group Head - Strategic Business of the Ashok Minda Group, at Noida. No wonder for a scholar like me Mr Vivek remains a treat -- given his rare acumen to sniff what others ignore. His is an opinion that remains unhindered by the sundry voices that clutter our mental landscape. Here's the perspective that emerged from my discussion with him -- between sips of strong coffee.

Recession is a boon for India, a corrective pause that seeks to lead Indian corporate towards becoming more matured and more experienced. The recession we witness in India today is more than just mundane market economics or capital flows. Perhaps it calls for a more holistic analysis of the fundamentals. Are our economists listening? Perhaps there aren't any.

Fundamentally, recession is absolutely normal for India. For a market that reeled under absymal and unstructured growth it offers us the rare opportunity to pause for a while and assess the situation -- forcing us to recede back and revist the fundamentals. Expecting a continous and unhindered growth is perhaps naive by all standards. Any growth should ideally be enriched with pauses and that's what the recession is helping us to do. Afterall who can account for the way every Tom, Dick and Harry was minting money round the corner, doing nothing substantial. Or the unjustifiable fat pay package of a funny group of corporate professionals with limited mindsets who fancied more about their high-flying lifestyle than the professional competencies they possessed. Somewhere someone has to account for this anomaly. Perhaps recession is the savior.

Its time we ward-off the Indian tendency of getting excited about everything and anything. So far Indian corporates were behaving like the dog that walked beneath the horse-driven cart, content that it was pulling a heavy carraige, much to the surprise of the onlooker who witnessed the horse slogging it out. With the carriage down, the dog lies battered -- its ambition still aspiring. Today much to the delight of all the arm-chaired pseudo-intellectuals in Indian corporates are nowhere to be seen predicting the vision of a great future ahead. Poor souls they never got their fundamentals correct.

Even before news of a global recession seeped in Indian shores companies have begun firing people and predicting a grim future. And as employees recede into a quagmire of depression, entrepreneurs and their able management stars are digging pits to hide -- from something not so visible in the horizon. What an irony!

Only a few months back Indian companies appeared to be in the pink of their health. Today they lie limping at the other extreme. Thrilling extremeties indeed. For many India was just about to replace the United States' economy but loo the train seems to be heading towards Somalia. What a pity! A few months back airline companies offered free tickets and treated ordinary passengers like the Maharaja. Today they report losses, inspite a reduction in tax and fuel prices and treat the Indian pasenger as an unwanted street dog waiting to hop in for a cheap ride.

Indian buisiness is surely sentiment-driven. More so are its drivers -- the shaky entrepreneur and his equally shaky teams. Imagine a corporate culture smeared with jargons, of powerpoint presentations and stolen alien concepts that do not fit the industry.

These corporate honchos have failed us. We all believed in their illogical philosophies. Little meat but too much sound. the ones who have failed us are a selective bunch of ill-equipped corporate gurus who hyped the sentiments because they benefitted. What else accounts for the countless mindless powerpoint presentations and the discomforting salary packages?

Its time we questioned the obnoxious pay package of corporate team members in India. Instead of focussing on building a matured system and human capital corporate houses have been running a rat race to hire professionals with a fat pay package. Yet their competencies have never been questioned. These professionals usually remain content being stuck in day-to-day issues rather than growth-related value-laden work.

A better way out of this mess is to contain this trend and lay more emphasis on human capital -- on working out a balanced remuneration based on identified competencies. The money saved can go for building cash reserves for sustaining critical human resources for a longer period of time during recessions.

The anomaly in the remuneration in India is noticeable. In Europe, for example, the difference between the salary of the lowest employee and the highest paid employee is about 10 to 15 times, while in India the difference is about 400 to 500 times. Let's seriously think on this if at all we want to sustain the indian economy.

Its time entrepreneurs critically question these people at the helm of affairs. Afterall they have taken everyone for a ride for too long. What is required is an extra flair of competence to outwit vile professionals at the senior management.They depict what Vivek Kr. Sharma says, "a seemingly strong mind embedded serious weakness."

Indian corporates do not analyze success from how things ought to be rather than whether corporate goals aligned with the personal objectives of a select few. Who cannot recall the scenario a few months back when investors from across the world were fed to the ill-conceived and smartly presented business scenarios. The common scene is most 5-star spots were that of the eager investor and the smartly dressed Indian who positioned himself as the next Bill Gates in the horizon. The gullible investor perhaps had little option but to shell out millions of bucks for projects that promised them tremendous returns.

The recession could not have come at a better time. Its definately the time and an opportunity for entrepreneurs to understand that they need to check the people they trusted and benefitted the most. They need to understand that all management members are not Ratan Tatas, Azim Premjis or Narayan Murthy.

Recession or not organizations in India are poised to loose their strengths and empty their coffers even while trying to gain ground. For instance, in the absence of a matured competency matrix in most Indian companies, corporates are likely to retrench key people for the time being. This will appear to be beneficial in the cash-strapped businesses. However, as the market will pick up there will be a crazy run for rebuilding on the organization's strength. The result: employees who were retrenched are likely to return back at twice or thrice the salary at which they were thrown out.

For the general members of the public who are severely limited from comprehending the finer nuances or the economy and the myriad forces at play Mr Vivek Sharma offers a rather unusual argument:

As per our beliefs, "India have about 84 billions Gods and Goddesses. In a population of 1.2 billion odd Indians each Indian can stake claim to about 70 dedicated Gods and Goddesses. Market or no market there is no reason for us to worry. We will always find these Gods and Goddesses helping us out."

Perhaps our high-flying corporate honchos need such divine intervention...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Forget E-learning, the System is Rotting at the Base!

E-learning sounds attractive, suggesting a gigantic leap onto an era of rapid and serious learning change. The psychological comfort it offers to educationists and upmarket teachers in India enables them to use these complexities of technology to raise the level of perception towards learning and education. Today its clear that there’s no rocket science in learning – the way it is made to appear.

Look at the very core of the educational system in India -- it’s a pure mess. The basics are so intelligently sidelined through a fascinating technological garb that it confuses many a poor souls. For the Indian citizenry its a confusing realm as they try to make sense of traditional education and technology-aided. No other example can highlight this mess than the recent confusion surrounding Nursery admissions in the various schools of Delhi – India's national capital.

It was a quite a drama in Delhi. Right under the nose of the central government and with the seemingly stringent norms spelt out by the Ganguly Commission, the schools blatantly ignored rules, bent admission procedures, fiddled with processes and led to a massive confusion of sorts. Yet very few voices could be heard against this. Perhaps the Indian citizenry remained immatured to be able to see through the flimsy system.

Schools in Delhi had their own unique criteria for admission. Under the garb of the Ganguly Commission the admission formula was a mess – every school had its own unique system. Parents meanwhile remained thoroughly confused. There were ones who applied for their ward’s admission to as high as 35 schools, since they were not sure where they would get lucky. At the end of the ordeal almost all ended up in despair. They did not know what criteria were used to select students. When they demanded information they were shooed away like cattle. Information collected from several parents reveal a vicious nexus. Some suggested that it was the social status and wealth that defined the admission norm – for schools remained in the run to grab students whose parents were powerful enough to offer them indirect benefits – in cash or in kind.

Amindst this chaos there were several hundreds of low-grade schools that attempted to position themselves as an alternative – showcasing such things as the airconditioned classroom, presence of a swimming pool and other so-called “world class standards”. Most of these schools also used the word ‘International’ as a prefix or suffix to suggest their new found avatar. A closer look suggests that they were nowhere near being international – even on the cleanliness front.

The very premise in which everyone questions these schools is the fact that the land in which they were situated was handed over to them by the Government – since education is considered to be serving a noble cause. There were countless news items on the admission process in Delhi that questioned the credibility of admission and the response of the government.

The dramatics that unfolded and was spread over several days threw more questions than answers. It suggested how Indian education system remained eons behind global educational standards. It also forced many to question the veracity of the claims that most schools make about education – most of which was downright farcical. For scholars the situation offered a perfect ground for conducting research on education in third-world countries. Its perhaps interesting to see that why India produces very little leaders and researchers and more of salaried slaves who find solace in serving in a private or a government sector company that can guarantee them a decent lifestyle – nothing more nothing less.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Indian companies need competent HR professionals

Any wonder what the acronym HR means in India --"Human Resource," "Human Recruitment," "Human Relations" or what an employee recently coined "Humiliation Resource."

Any discussion on organizations is perhaps incomplete without pondering on its HR practices and HR health. Inspite a booming economy Indian companies have always grappled with HR issues that never seem to end. For many the high attrition rates are a direct indicator of any organizations HR health. After all its the HR Deptt. that is responsible for the fundamental "organizational culture." And the system appears to be worsening by the day.

For experts high attrition rate symbolizes a heathy economy. Enormous opportunities, they say, are driving the youth to seek fatter salary packages. Companies, on the other hand, see attrition as the organization's inability to match the industry-standard salary packages. In essence both these perspectives are flawed at the very core.

The current issues of employee-retention is a fabulous creation of shabby HR practices -- a creation of ill-bred and half-baked HR professionals, most of whom owe their knowledge to C-grade run-of-the-mill institutes strewn across India. For most HR activity relates only to "Recruitments".

Rising attrition rates is a direct reflection of the HR incompetency. HR Departments, for one, are now endowed with the skills, competency and knowledge to map individual needs and organizational goals -- a prerequisite while recruiting resources. Today very few Indian HR professionals appreciate the immense potential of on-demand training and e-learning. For them these are jargons that typically signify nothing. No wonder that HR Departments in Indian companies (barring a few well-structured companies) has now come to be seen as a very low-end and low-dignity assignment in the management spectrum.

To clearly understand how the HR is setting back your organization try answering the following questions:

1. Has your HR Department ever asked you to submit your training needs?

2. Did you ever meet a matured HR professional in your current company who has offered you matured and sensible personal advice?

3. Can your HR department put a box soliciting annonymous letters about the issues that concern employees?

4. How many HR professionals within your organization are employee-friendly?

5. Do you think that the HR department in your organization are spies of the senior management and cannot be trusted with personal information.

6. How many HR professionals in Indian companies have a good understanding of the company's line of business?

7. Can you approach your HR Deptt. in case any conflicting situation with your immediate superior?