Flashback: Samanvay

Samanvay – A small step today leading to a thousand great leaps tomorrow.

To many starstruck aspirants around the world, an MBA degree from a premier institute conjures up images of lucrative job offers and a chance to leapfrog several rungs of the corporate ladder. The allure of the degree also stems from the perception that it allows for a breezy familiarity with the captains of the corporate world. It holds the promise of a life less ordinary, a continuation of a steadily rising career graph for some, and the only escape from a quagmire of mediocrity for others.
This entire equation seems terribly lopsided, if you ask me. Lopsided, because it makes you dream of rapid growth without sustainability. Of growing the business without accountability. Of taking, but not giving. Lopsided, because nowhere does it remind you that with great power comes great responsibility.
All this is unsustainable in the long run, as we painfully witnessed in the global meltdown of 2008-09. It was caused in no small part by well-paid managers in high places, and it prompted much introspection and soul-searching in the MBA community abroad. There were calls to address the imbalance between the short-term incentives for managers and their impact in the long term. People tried to codify management into a profession, like medicine and law. In the USA, they proceeded to draft a manager’s version of the Hippocratic Oath.
India, had been thankfully spared the worst ravages of the recession, but the question “Why and how should we instill a sense of responsibility in our MBA grads?” is hardly ever asked. It is a question of critical importance. For, in the new world order, India stands poised on the cusp of economic growth, prosperity and greatness. Our GDP growth, powered by a growing demographic dividend, is expected to outpace China’s within the next 3-5 years. It will be realised only if those who have been deprived of access to the economy are now incorporated into it. It will materialize only if the vast hinterland that is our rural and informal economy, is integrated into the mainstream. In other words, the next phase of growth has to be powered by the Bottom of The Pyramid, which in India, has more than 400 mn people. If this segment is not mobilized, our estimates will remain a pipe-dream.
It is here that the MBA grad has a vital role to play. He must use his acquired business acumen to devise creative ways for engaging the unserved, the unbanked and for involving them in business. By doing so, he can help India achieve the sustainable growth that it dreams about. At IIM Indore, we have been trying to put these ideas into practice.
We realized that financial inclusion is a key enabler of economic growth, and India is crying from lack of financial inclusion. There are more people with mobile phones than with bank accounts in our country. With only 40% of the people having access to banking facilites, only 20% having any kind of insurance cover, less than 4% having insurance cover and only 26% of the rural population with annual incomes below 50,000 holding bank accounts, financial exclusion threatens the very foundations on which our dream of a better tomorrow is built. Which is why we decided to do something about it today.
At Samanvay, the launch event of our annual management fest, Ahvan, we helped open No-frills banking accounts and provided Accident Insurance for seven hundred people from the rural areas nearby. They are from mostly labourers with limited income, but do possess savings, which were excluded from the banking system for a variety of reasons. They will now experience the benefits of joining the banking system.

For our institute and our fest, this act is but a small step. However, we hope that it will enable a thousand great leaps tomorrow. We hope it will help India unlock its potential.  And finally, we hope to provide a sense of direction to the debate on how and why should an MBA grad behave responsibly towards society. Fittingly, our theme for the fest this year is “Inspire to Act, Act to Inspire.”

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