Do You Trust NAAC Accreditation?

As per the University Grants Commission, https://www.ugc.ac.in/oldpdf/consolidated%20list%20of%20all%20universities.pdf , there are 988 universities comprising of 54 central universities, 429 state universities, 380 private universities and 125 deemed to be universities in India as on 18 June 2021.

Of the 318 Universities shown as having valid accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), 9 universities are graded as A++ (the highest possible grade), 36 are graded as A+ and 147 are graded as A. This means 192 universities are ‘A’ Grade and only 126 universities are ‘B’ or ‘C’ Grade universities. Clearly, 68% of the universities are either unworthy of accreditation or they do not give a damn about NAAC.

This information is gleamed from the Microsoft Excel file named ‘Institutions-accredited-by-NAAC-whose-accreditation-period-is-valid.xls, downloaded from the link titled ‘Institutions with valid accreditation’ from the site http://www.naac.gov.in/2-uncategorised/32-accreditation-status accessed on 29 June 2021.

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), established in 1994 for addressing concern on the quality and relevance of the higher education, is an autonomous institution of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

QS World University Rankings 2022 seems to have failed in capturing such excellence of Indian Universities since they do not rank even one University from India in the top-500 in the World. Institutions ranked lower than 500 are those, which do not score even 30% marks on cumulative ratings. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/see-behind-curtain-qs-world-university-rankings-2022-mukul-gupta

What is the likelihood that QS World University Rankings are anti-India? Is there any possibility that we have designed NAAC as a system of self-adulation for concealing the fault line within? Or is it merely coincidental that NAAC is happy to accredit and certify mediocrity as excellence? Is NAAC happy crowning a meagre figure among cyphers as enormous? Is NAAC failing in its purpose?

Most scholars in higher education system and administrators in the Education Ministry know the truth about NAAC. Keeping their mouths shut and feigning ignorance of such academic malpractices is not anything surprising amongst Indian academia. Remaining miser in allowing excellence and becoming benevolent in tolerating ordinariness is the hallmark of academics in higher education, may be because of their personal inadequacies and self-doubts.

‘You scratch my back and I scratch yours’ seems to define the peer-relationships amongst Indian academics where they work for selfish mutual benefits rather than the glory of education. Being a defiant juvenile in the Indian Education system, I am unable to forget a Sanskrit subhashit taught to me by my teacher Shri Chandra Shekhar Dwivedi;

उष्ट्राणां च गृहे लग्नं गीतं गायन्ति गर्दभा: परस्परं प्रशंसन्ति अहो रूपं अहो ध्वनि:

The government needs to wake up to the deep divide between the goals and virtues that NAAC is advocating (कथनी) and what NAAC is doing (करनी).  One who cares for the Indian Education would expose rather than cover such hypocrisy (मिथ्‍याचार) of NAAC.

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First Published 30 June 2021

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COVID-19 – Lessons so far

Corona Virus pandemic has taught us a complex and contradictory set of lessons. On the positive side, the pandemic confirmed the importance of droplet and contact infection. The pandemic travelled as fast as the modern transportation could take it around, confirming that it was human bodies that spread it. 

On the negative side of the lessons from the pandemic is that it is exceedingly difficult to get an urban population to stay at home. People need to work so they can eat; parents want their children to go to school; businesses dependent on customers, whether department stores or movie theatre operators, do not want to close down.

Hence, the most practical strategy in dealing with COVID-19 is been: move quickly to isolate the acutely ill in hospital wards or at home, under professional care and roll-out an intensive public education effort about personal hygiene to everyone else.

It is learned that it is not easy to get the public to practice the rules of modern nose/ mouth/ hand hygiene. Even at the height of the pandemic, educated and well informed people broke the rules. It appears that COVID-19 has been a ‘simple to understand, but difficult to control’ pandemic. Perhaps the most demonstrably useful methods of protection are certain forms of quarantine and isolation but, under conditions of modern life these are not readily applicable. In spite of being difficult to apply and uncertain of success as it may be, the minimizing of contact seems at present to offer the best chance we have of controlling the ravages of covid-19. Our response to the next wave of pandemic COVID-19 will likely confirm these lessons.

This odd combination of futility and certainty would continue to characterize summaries of the ‘lessons learned’ from the pandemic. In the field of prevention little real progress has been made. It will therefore be justifiable to increase the emphasis already placed on the COVID-19 patient as a definite focus of infection and to adopt reasonable measures to reduce crowding and direct contact to a minimum during a period of epidemic prevalence.

The opportunities for self-protection by individuals lie along the same line: avoidance of crowds and of direct contact with COVID patients and with people suffering from the infection; rigorous avoidance of the use of common drinking glasses, common towels and the like; and scrupulous hand washing before eating. Techniques of safe coughing and sneezing should be taught to people. A careless sneeze from an infected person without a mask or a face-cover is a super-spreader.

Vaccination is a saviour but not a licence to break the discipline of personal and social hygiene.

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First published 14 Aug 21

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Politics of Commotion: Superficial Dialogue through Digital and Social Media

Over the last several years, we are witnessing, may be not perceiving it seriously, that political discourse in India is now getting confined to TV and Social Media and is commandeered by the scheduling consideration of these media options.

To enable the TV editors to gather participants for the debates and encapsulate content for prime time viewing, the messages are created no later than 5:00 pm. Likewise, to ensure proper rest for the media persons and the message sources, political activities, agitations, rallies, sloganeering, press-conferences, are all usually held after 10:00 am but before 2:00 pm.

The use and proliferation of digital and social media has radically changed both the way we are using language and the way we are ‘doing politics’ these days. Virtual space has now become the ‘natural habitat’ of an increasing number of individuals around the world; a space where they engage in discussions, work, shop, bank, hangout, relax, vote, find love partners, conduct their day-to-day activities, and so forth. A large proportion of day-to-day verbal and visual communication has migrated to various participatory web platforms. Social media have been hailed as either emancipatory tools contributing to a more participatory democracy, creating instant awareness about different social issues, a new public space of sorts (‘Arab Spring’ and the ‘Occupy’ movement are two widely cited examples).

A public sphere is a space of political communication and access to resources that allow citizens to participate in it. In this sense, given the exclusionary and commodified character of digital and social media, they cannot be considered as public spheres nor should they raise our hopes that revolution will be tweeted. Social and digital Media is dominated by corporations that make money by exploiting and commodifying users and this is why they can never be truly participatory. On a serious consideration, digital and social media are just another tool of control and containment, a profoundly depoliticising arena that fetishizes technology leading to a denial of a more fundamental political disempowerment.

One can realize the magnitude and impact of the medium if they consider that in the famous ‘Russia meddling,’ posts from a Russian company had reached the newsfeeds of 126 million users on Facebook during the 2016 US election and hundreds of thousands of bots posted political messages during the election on Twitter alone.

Digital and Social media is a new kind of an effective political instrument that, in the context of advanced capitalism, both dehumanizes politics and struggles and absolves people from the guilt of inertia in the face of major social and economic crises. It serves as an escape from the stress of intelligence, the pain and tension which accompany autonomous mental activity. Social Media is actually an effective anaesthesia against the mind in its socially disturbing, critical functions – leading to the knocking out of the mental agitation. Social media, as tools for producing and consuming different kinds of texts promotes a one-dimensional discourse. Consider the characteristics of Twitter’s one-dimensional discourse:

Language used in Twitter is short, fragmented and decontextualized: it is a language that tends to express and promote the immediate identification of reason and fact, truth and established truth, essence and existence, the thing and its function leaving no room for a dialogue and counter-reason. Twitter demands simplicity, promotes impulsivity, and fosters incivility.

Digital media takes the pedestal of instrumental and technological rationality and reduce audiences to the status of commodities and consumers of advertisements.  Such audience commodities that the media consumers become themselves are than sold as an audience to the advertising clients of the media.

Face-book, Twitter and other sites serve as an escape from the mechanised work process, and a breather to muster strength in order to be able to cope with the next round of work again. This allows social media to be marketed as entertainment – an entertainment that is accessible, on demand, any time and every time. For this entertainment to remain as a pleasure, it must not demand any effort of independent thinking from the audience. This constructs an involvement through inertia that creates a false sense of participation, security, homogeneity and consensus. Everyone is presumed to be a producer as well as a consumer of content, and the meaning of the messages get lost.

While there is around-the-clock exposure, constant access, and immediacy (all content is immediately available for reading and commenting), the message in the digital and social media is often decontextualized. The context is always that of-the-moment, limiting broader interpretations, connections and exploration of ramifications. Such content have a planned obsolescence, as the next programme or tweet will draw even more attention, commentary, visibility, and currency. The contents history is the here and now, as an ongoing critique of reality. Meaning loses history.

It comes, then, as no surprise that digital and social media have been serving as the ideal medium for populist parties and their leaders promoting the Politics of Commotion.  Digital and social media constitute an alternative to the mainstream media. Political campaigns started using social media as early as 2009, but it was with the 2019 General Elections that their use was taken to the next level.

Today, most political figures and parties use digital and social media platforms to disseminate their agendas and this has largely changed the way politics is conducted. This is a time when politics is ‘branded’ through social media. While democracies need liberation of the individuals from politics over which they have no effective control,  it seems that digital and social media have a firm grip on a large percentage of the our population, while people, in turn, have no control over digital and social media.

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First published 05 Aug 21

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Peer-Reviewed and Impact-Factor Dilemma in Research

Peer review (as the publishers claim) is designed to assess the validity, quality and often the originality of articles for publication. Its ultimate purpose is to maintain the integrity of science by filtering out invalid or poor quality articles.

From a publisher’s perspective, peer review functions as a filter for content, directing better quality articles to better quality journals and so creating journal brands.

Different journals use different types of peer review. At least four main types of peer review processes are in vogue:

Single-Blind: the reviewers know the names of the authors, but the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript unless the reviewer chooses to sign their report.

Double-Blind: the reviewers do not know the names of the authors, and the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript.

Open Peer: authors know who the reviewers are, and the reviewers know who the authors are. If the manuscript is accepted, the named reviewer reports are published alongside the article and the authors’ response to the reviewer.

Transparent Peer: the reviewers know the names of the authors, but the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript unless the reviewer chooses to sign their report. If the manuscript is accepted, the anonymous reviewer reports are published alongside the article and the authors’ response to the reviewer.

The peer review system is not without criticism. Studies show that even after peer review, some articles still contain inaccuracies and demonstrate that most rejected papers will go on to be published somewhere else.

Despite criticisms, peer review is still the only widely accepted method for research validation and has continued with relatively minor changes for some 350 years.

The impact factor (IF) is a measure of the frequency with which the average article in a journal has been cited in a particular year. It is used to measure the importance or rank of a journal by calculating the times its articles are cited.

The calculation of Impact Factor is based on a two-year period and involves dividing the number of times articles were cited by the number of articles that are citable. To illustrate – Calculation of 2010 IF of a journal:

  • A = the number of times articles published in 2008 and 2009 were cited by indexed journals during 2010.
  • B = the total number of “citable items” published in 2008 and 2009.
  • A/B = 2010 impact factor 

If one publishes an article in a Journal with Impact Factor 2.0, then it must live up to the average citation performance of articles in that journal and it must therefore be cited at least twice in each of the succeeding years, or else, the article will contribute towards lowering of the IF of the journal.

The belief that peer-reviewed publications should be the metric for research success seems to be rooted in the following assertions that are accepted as truths:

  • A peer-reviewed publication conveys more research authority because its findings have been vetted and then accepted by other members of the discipline.
  • The peer-review process is anonymous, more competitive and (supposedly) more objective in its selection process
  • Peer-reviewed publications are more prestigious and convey the expertise of the researcher.

These assertions are oversimplifications that erase the real nuance of peer-review publication. The peer-review process leaves the fate of someone’s research findings subject to the whims of two or three people who, like all of us, are influenced by variables including their own natural preferences for certain kinds of work. It is just a generalization to claim that peer-reviewed publications are always more selective or rigorous. (Admittedly, however, a peer-reviewed publication will almost always take longer to appear in print, which, for some people, adds to the genre’s perceived rigour.)

Peer-reviewed publications are simply not the only place where intellectual conversations are happening and where a researcher might want to share their ideas.

Over emphasis on Peer-Reviewed and high IF journals for publishing has resulted into more of replication and conformist research. Within my limited experience, I have found that most of the people who are creative types produce work that would not make sense in many of the “top” academic journals. They would therefore follow the path of Influencing without High IF Publishing through Usable, Useful and Timely Preprints and overcome the limitations inherent in High IF Publishing without Influencing.

A great research paper is not enough and it requires development, mobilisation, and exposure. A preprint is a version of a scientific manuscript posted on a public server prior to any formal peer review. Once it is posted, the preprint becomes a permanent part of the scientific record and is citable with its own unique DOI. By sharing ones research early, one can accelerate the speed at which science moves forward.

One Rewarding Story:

I am gratified with the fact that instead of waiting to publish my research in esoteric journals with high impact factors, which would have taken their own sweet time to convey their rejection or seeking revision or acceptance and publication, on MODELLING SPREAD OF CORONA VIRUS USING ADAPTED BASS MODEL (ResearchGate DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.30944.43522), I chose to publish it as a non-peer-reviewed, preprint under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC allowing others to remix, adapt, and build upon my work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge me and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

The benefit of giving free access to my Applied Managerial Research to others is that the same has been pursued, acknowledged, utilised and improved upon quickly and proactively. Here are the citations that I am now aware of (in the chronological order of their appearance and not conforming to citation styles):

  • Zeny L Maureal, Jovelin Lapates, Madelaine S Dumandan, Vanda Kay B. Bicar and Derren Gaylo (of Bukidnon State University, Philippines) (August 2020) “Adapted Bass Diffusion Model for the Spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines: Implications to Interventions and Flattening the Curve” International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change.  www.ijicc.net Volume 14, Issue 3, 2020
  • Ted G Lewis (of Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, United States) and Waleed I. Al (of Bahrain Defence Ministry, Manama, Bahrain) (March 2021) “Predicting the Size and Duration of the COVID-19 Pandemic” Frontiers in Applied Mathematics and Statistics.   Vol.6. DOI: 10.3389/fams.2020.611854
  • Ted G Lewis (of Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, United States) (July 2021) “Emergence of Contagion Networks from Random Populations” Research Gate, Pre-print.

The above story has enthused me to do more creative and out-of-box research and not care too much about getting it endorsed and accepted by 2-3 unknown peers. I would prefer to share my research with the world without any delay and leave it to a more inclusive, extensive and democratic review by fellow researchers and audiences. I have been actively involved in delivering keynote addresses at non-academic conferences and writing hard-hitting op-ed piece that shapes public policy. These have often been contrarian approaches to conformist thinking.

The views of pure-applied research which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of abstraction of observations into model-building and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth management-theory by itself, and management-practice by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality of managerial wisdom.

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First Published 19 July 2021

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Business of Education

Education dates back to the very first humans ever to inhabit Earth. Why? To survive, every generation has found it necessary to pass on its accumulated knowledge, skills, values, and traditions to the next generation. How can they do this? Education! Each subsequent generation must be taught these things. Stretching the idea wider, even animals educate their off springs in matters of safety, food-gathering and survival in some ways.

Education is a Human Right and ‘Education in human rights’ is itself a fundamental human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that education is a fundamental human right for everyone and this right was further detailed in the Convention against Discrimination in Education. Right to education entails

(1) Primary education that is free, compulsory and universal

(2) Secondary education, including technical and vocational, that is generally available, accessible to all and progressively free and

(3) Higher education, accessible to all on the basis of individual capacity and progressively free.

The Right to Education Act 2009 describes modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children aged between 6-14 years in India under Article 21 (A) of the Constitution of India. Compulsory means no child can refuse to be educated.

This act has made education a fundamental right for every child. Delivery of Fundamental Rights would not be a business even if the government were to entrust it to any of its instrumentality, agency or authority.

Any business has customers who have the right to accept or reject the products or services offered to them by the business entity. By this definition, at least education for children aged between 6-14 years cannot be a business.

The history of formal education extends at least as far back as the first written records recovered from ancient civilizations. India had the good fortune of having institutions of Higher Education, Takshshila and Nalanda, even before the 5th century B.C. Education in India was always focussed on careers – Scriptures for Brahmins, battle-science and governance for Kshatriyas, and crafts for others. The Muslim invaders and the Christian Missionaries influenced the education system to a large extent, former using force while the latter using demonstration. Macaulay destroyed the system nearly fully though Swamy Dayanand and his contemporaries tried to preserve it.

Horace Mann, credited with creating the foundation of American modern public education system, saw that the industrializing world demanded different skills than its agricultural predecessor. He prioritizes certain aspects over others. For example, lumping students into groups rather than treating them as individuals. This made “education” much easier, even if it did nothing for the individual student who didn’t adapt well to this new system. It’s worth reminding ourselves now about the key characteristics of the industrial era, and how we can see them manifested in the education system that continues to be emulated in India to this day:

  • Schools focus on respecting authority
  • Schools focus on punctuality
  • Schools focus on measurement
  • Schools focus on basic literacy
  • Schools focus on basic arithmetic

Notice how these reinforce each other. You enter the system one way, and are crammed through an extended moulding process. The result? A “good enough” cog to jam into an industrial machine.

The higher education institutions are plagued by the erosion of academic integrity, corrosion of standards in the curriculum, the oversimplification of admission standards without understanding the importance of true preparation for higher education, and the rise of economic self-interest in both institutions and faculty, places the teaching of classes much lower on their priority.

Even the school education is equally diseased. Government schools face a social burden placed on them by poverty and hopelessness. Troubled children carry the ills of their homes and neighbourhoods into their classrooms every day. In many schools, teachers must feed the bodies and souls of their students before they can even begin to feed their minds. These schools face inflexible bureaucracies, inane regulations, and incompetent administrators and their teachers being called upon to run every chore for the government outside the school other than teaching in the school. High school drop-out rates and students whose performance on Mathematics and Science tests puts them at or near the very bottom of their cohorts elsewhere in the world.

It is this set of facts that has provided legitimacy to the private enterprise in education and has sparked business-of-education initiatives.

The business-of-education thrives on the logic: If you can compete, you will be hired for a job. If you are hired, your virtuous habits would eventually lead to your promotion. As promotions accumulate, your pay increases and eventually you reach financial comfort. Or perhaps even significant wealth!

Is this logic responsible for accelerating the acceptance of education as business?

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First published 02 Aug 2021

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Do We Prepare MBAs To Avoid Mistake-Repeating?

Irish statesman Edmund Burke is often misquoted as having said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Spanish philosopher George Santayana is credited with the aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” while British statesman Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Lessons from the past may not always ward off doom, but they can provide insights into the present and even the future.

In June of 2009, an interviewer asked the legendary economist Paul Samuelson what advice he would give to someone entering graduate study in economics. “This is probably a change from what I would have said when I was younger,” Samuelson replied, but “[I would urge them to] have a very healthy respect for the study of economic history, because that’s the raw material out of which any of your conjectures or testings’ will come.”

When you ask any faculty member if economic, financial, or business history is important, they would almost for certain say yes. Yet business schools in India rarely recruit a business historian as a member of their faculty. At most business schools, history provides marginal value at best, it makes an interesting elective, but is not at the core of what they provide to students. While historical questions rarely arise during placement interviews for jobs in investment banking or consulting, the ability to think in historical frameworks provides students of all stripes the capacity for analytical depth that outstrip their peers.

Teaching economic, financial, and business history enables students of business schools prevent the ultimate analytical error: fighting the last battle. Since humans intrinsically look to the past for guidance, they tend to find solutions in the past as well. Formal education in history prevents bad, ad-hoc uses of history in decision making.

While our businesses are unlikely to break the tyranny of the quarterly report any time soon, teaching history forces business school students to think in the long term. Analysts who think in the long term are less susceptible to mistaking volatility spikes for the greater trend, and thus better structure investments and firms that are successful over 20, 50, and even 100 or more years.

Business students are likely to carry a wrong notion that their forerunners were less sophisticated than them, because they have better data, more developed analytic theory, and better computational tools. So they believe that they would not have made the mistakes made by their predecessors. Once they study business history, they would realise that the people of the past were not ignorant bumpkins. We are subject to asymmetric information, negative externalities, and deficient regulatory apparatuses just like they were.

Not political or social trends but economic crises cause profound societal shifts. Political crisis of 1975-77 did not change India but the economic crisis of 1991 forced us to shift our priorities. Not undermining the science, humanities, technology or policy studies, it is largely business school graduates who will make the economic, financial, and business decisions that prepare the ground for massive societal change. As business schools train students to make these decisions, they have the duty to remind them of the implications of these decisions as well.

Business history, together as a body of literature and a community of academic researchers, has both a narrow and a broad definition. The narrower definition includes researchers who conduct primary archival research, although using a plurality of sources and methods, on the history of business enterprises, who belong to the professional business history societies now established in many countries. The broader definition comprises scholars from a variety of social science disciplines (including management studies) who study the historical development of business (sometimes doing original archival research of their own, and sometimes bringing new theoretical perspectives and conceptual frameworks to bear on existing research). These two circles interact and enrich the field, which remains open to multiple methodologies and new questions, without falling under the spell of crippling orthodoxies which constrain research agendas.

The “open architecture” of business history as a discipline means that it is unusually well‐placed to participate in vigorous two‐way exchanges with scholars in adjacent fields. On the one hand, careful empirical research by business historians can effectively challenge or qualify many of the “stylized facts” on which influential theoretical analyses in the social sciences sometimes rest. Corporate governance and financial systems are particularly striking examples, as few if any of the typological frameworks influential in the comparative literature (insiders vs. outsiders, stakeholders vs. stockholders, banks vs. capital markets, common vs. civil law) can account persuasively for the range of variation observed by historians over long time periods within and across countries. On the other hand, comparative social‐scientific analyses suggest new questions for business historians, concerning the morphology and explanation of cross‐national differences in the organization of business interest associations, the development of vocational education and training systems, and other similar issues which have not hitherto figured prominently in national historiography.

A sense of business history is important for business leaders to develop a contextual intelligence; that is, a strong sense of the business environment they are navigating. “11 future lessons we can learn from the history of business” by Jonathan Wichmann (10 September 2018) is a very insightful read from the World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/11-things-business-history-can-teach-us-about-the-future/). 

Indian Institute of Management at Ahmadabad had initial collaboration with Harvard Business School. The institute followed Harvard tradition of the case study approach that required management students to probe into past business dealings to understand the evolution of business operations and strategies. This initiated a new course called Business History. This course was introduced in the post-graduate curriculum under the able guidance of Dr. Dwijendra Tripathi, former Kasturbhai Lalbhai Professor of Business History at IIMA. Nearly all management schools in the country boast of using cases as the pedagogical tool in imparting business education without actively acknowledging that cases are historical events and case-method of teaching involves simulating and emulating history for acquisition of wisdom.

India does not have any “core” business history journal, like the international journals like ‘Business History’, ‘Business History Review’, ‘Enterprises et Histoire’, ‘Enterprise & Society’, ‘Japan Business History Review’ and ‘Zeitschrift für Unternehmensgeschichte’. With apologies to other authors for my ignorance, I am aware of two popular books contributed by Tripathi ­– ‘The Oxford History of Contemporary Indian Business’ and ‘The Concise Oxford History of Indian Business.’ three popular books contributed by Tirthankar Roy are – ‘A Business History of India’, ‘The Economic History of India, 1857-2010’ and ‘The East India Company: The World’s Most Powerful Corporation.’

Paul Samuelson came to realize only in 2009 that history, economics, business, and finance are interconnected and inseparable, and need to be treated as such. By relegating history to the far-flung corners of a few elite business schools, we deny the intrinsic character of the subjects we study and teach, and risk condemning our students to a cycle of mistakes that can, in fact, be avoided.

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Articulated by borrowing liberally from https://som.yale.edu/blog/the-importance-of-teaching-history-in-business-schools and https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199263684.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199263684-e-001

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First published 26 July 2021

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I Have Tested Positive. Am I Going To Die?

I am not insensitive to the grief of so many around who have already lost someone close to this terrible disease. I feel and share their grief and anger having lost not just one but many from amongst my family and friends over the last few days. While they were gasping for life, all of them repeatedly asked me this question, “Am I going to die?” Many others, who were by their side, attended by the same medical teams, also asked this question recurrently. Of them, many survived but a few could not.

Our pain is unique to us, our relationship to the person we lost is unique, and the emotional processing can feel different to each person. It is acceptable for us to take the time we need and remove any expectation of how we should be performing as we process our grief.

When we lose a loved one, the pain we experience can feel unbearable. Understandably, grief is complicated and we sometimes wonder if the pain will ever end. We go through a variety of emotional experiences such as anger, confusion, and sadness.

This post reflects my concern for those who are battling for life and for their family and friends who are equally anxious.

“I have tested positive. Am I going to die?” is a straightforward question that most people would like answered. This simple question is hard to answer. Ask this to someone who has seen a dear one succumb to this disease and the frank answer would be, “to be true and forthright, yes you are going to die, unless some miracle happens.” Ask the same question to someone who has seen a dear one survive this disease and the likely answer would be, “it is going to be a long, painful and apprehensive battle, but don’t worry, everything will be fine.”

A forthright question, “I have tested positive. Am I going to die?” is remarkably challenging to be answered by a bystander to the agony of the raging pandemic, who can only look at numbers and statistics to support his answer.

When the risk of death from COVID-19 is discussed, the Case Fatality Rate, sometimes called Case Fatality Risk or Case Fatality Ratio, or CFR, is often used. The CFR is very easy to calculate. The number of people who have died, divided by the total number of people diagnosed with the disease is CFR.

CFR is the ratio between the number of confirmed deaths from the disease and the number of confirmed cases, not total cases. That means that it is not the same as the risk of death for an infected person and, in early stages of fast-changing situations like that of COVID-19, probably not even very close to the true risk for an infected person.

Recall the question we asked at the beginning- if someone is infected with COVID-19, how likely is it that they will die? What we want to know is not the Case Fatality Rate; it is the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR). CFR is not the answer to the question, for two reasons. First, CFR relies on the number of confirmed cases, and many cases are never confirmed; secondly, CFR relies on the total number of deaths, and with COVID-19, some people who are sick and may die soon, are not counted in total number of deaths until have not died. The first reason inflates CFR while the second one deflates it.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, it can take between two to eight weeks for people to go from first symptoms to death, according to data from early cases. With CFR data available for the last 67 weeks that this pandemic has been raging, it is seen that the CFR for a country is not fluctuating as wildly as it was in the first 40 weeks and the CFR for many countries, including India, have not seen large deviations from a stable trend line over the last 18 week.

It is exceptionally important however to note that CFR for cases under Home-Isolation, under Medical-care and under critical-care are different. Further, these CFRs vary across states and locations within India. National CFR is an aggregated mean of all of this CFRs. The cases under critical care are overwhelming the health-care-system at this time, for which the CFR is logically and expectedly much higher.

With IFR being non-available, CFR is being used, albeit quite cautiously, to answer the question, “I have COVID-19. Am I going to die?” and the tremendously relieving answer to the question with a very high chance of being true, at least for patients under home-isolation and those kept in quarantine is a very loud NO. I hope the COVID-19 survivors, who constitute over 98% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections will join the chorus.

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First published 11 May 2021

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COVID Confusions

COVID-19 is a new acronym coined for Corona-Virus-Induced-Disease of the year 2019. Year 2020 made some old word or phrases suddenly very fashionable and buzzing with new meanings, and injected them into active vocabulary of people. Corona, a word hitherto associated with the Sun, novelty and SARS-Coronavirus-1 was not so much in use but became suddenly a dreaded word linked to COVID-19. Positivity, a word that was generally used for the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude up until then, took on the other meaning of the presence rather than absence of a certain substance, condition, or feature, now a measure of incidence of disease.

Check out some of these words or phrases for yourself, because your inability to use them in conversations may be mistaken as your ignorance – animal-human interface, asymptomatic, carrier, clinical trials, community spread, contact tracing, Contagious, Droplets, Epidemic, flatten the curve, herd immunity, HRCT scan, incubation period, Isolation, Mask, mRNA Vaccines, Mutant, Outbreak, Oxygen-concentrator, Oximeter, Pandemic, Pathogen, patient zero, PCR test, personal protective equipment (PPE), Plasma, Quarantine, Rapid-Antigen Test, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), Screening, self-isolate, social distancing, Super spreader, Symptomatic, Transmission, Vax, Ventilator, Viral Vector Vaccines, Zoonotic – and the list goes on.

Some proper nouns also made their way in the active vocabulary – Wuhan, AstraZeneca, Covax, Covaxin, Covishield, Sputnik5, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Novavax, Coronil, CoviSelf, Remdesivir, 2-DG, and so on; but the most conspicuous proper noun is FAUCI.

Anthony Stephen FAUCI (born December 24, 1940) is an American physician-scientist and immunologist who serves as the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the chief medical advisor to the president. He has acted as an advisor to every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan. From 1983 to 2002, Fauci was one of the world’s most frequently cited scientists across all scientific journals. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, The New Yorker and The New York Times described Fauci as one of the most trusted medical figures in the United States. Currently Fauci is the Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, officially appointed in 2021.

After initially declaring in April of last year that the virus was “not a major threat to the people of the United States” and that it was “not something the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about,” Fauci repeatedly urged Americans not to wear masks early in the pandemic. Later, Fauci admitted that he had believed all along that masks were effective but said he had wanted to ensure that supplies would be reserved for medical professionals. In other words, he asserted that he had the right to lie to the public for what he believed to be their own benefit. If Fauci is correct that masks effectively contain the spread, then the cost of his misinformation as the pandemic worsened may be incalculably large, for the US community. (https://www.delcotimes.com/opinion/chris-freind-dr-fauci-needs-a-dose-of-reality/article_9bce984e-7641-11eb-8c87-4f0114a8a7a2.html )

After repeatedly dismissing the theory that the COVID-19 virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, Fauci now says he cannot rule out the theory.

Fauci has now backtracked on his comments about the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for the Chinese lab under his leadership, that funding was not for “gain of function” research, a laboratory technique that intentionally makes pathogens more dangerous and transmissible. Gain of function research in Wuhan was indeed funded through one of Fauci’s grants.

Late last week, COVID policies stated that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, any longer. Defending the policy, Fauci declared that the abolition of mask mandates was not a contradiction of previous policy but instead followed “evolving science” on the virus; although no examples of this supposedly new scientific evidence were forthcoming. Fauci then added to the confusion by declaring, apparently on his own authority, that young children would still be required to wear masks in school. Then, just a gay later, Fauci suggested that it was “reasonable” for businesses to maintain mask mandates even for vaccinated Americans, in blatant defiance of the CDC’s recent guidance. Whichever way one looks at it, Fauci has become a key player in the current controversy, which completes his transformation from an independent doctor into a political football, at the age of 80 years.

Fauci has also steadily moved the goalposts on the percentage of the population that will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Earlier this year, he said herd immunity would be achieved when 60% were vaccinated; in recent interviews, he has spewed out numbers as high as 85%. At the very least, the top infectious diseases expert of the US and chief medical adviser to Biden is loose with the facts and is prone to changing his mind. To be fair, the pandemic caught a lot of people unaware, but the thing about Fauci is that he always is so sure of himself. (https://nypost.com/2021/01/24/dr-fauci-needs-to-be-held-responsible-for-mistakes-devine/ ).

India has done well in vaccinating the armed forces personnel with 90% of them having already received both doses of vaccine. India did not listen to the US guidelines (CDC) on reopening of schools, which is now being associated with untold misery that followed in Texas.

Luckily, Indian policy-makers do listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci but do not blindly subscribe to all his utterances. Good, is not it, that while being open to all the information, suggestions, knowledge and advice coming from everywhere, we have a mind of our own. When it comes to inconsistent and improvisational COVID messaging, no one can surpass Dr. Anthony Fauci.

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First published 24 May 21

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Management Education Requires Radical Reconstruction

Having successfully impressed upon the entire business community the need for ‘vision statements’ and ‘defining their purpose and mission’, it is the business schools themselves who have failed to internalise these ideas and their own management leaves much to be desired.

If one were to use a simple input-process-output model to examine what they do, business schools are unsure about what the input (incoming students) they seek is, what the process they subject this input to is, and what is the output they churn out.

Business schools are unable to articulate, say and implement if they educate, train or facilitate learning among – future managers who would also have leadership and entrepreneurial capabilities; or future leaders who would also have managerial and entrepreneurial capabilities; or future entrepreneurs who would also have leadership and management capabilities; or something else. 

Business schools fail to comprehend that their process for teaching and learning is completely different from the processes adopted in other streams of knowledge. Most other streams of education use methods of description and recreation of phenomenon through attempting to describe the how/why of occurrences and then letting the learner recreate the occurrence in the laboratory – thereby generating one’s own data to see if one can arrive at the same descriptions of occurrences leading to acceptable and replicable generalisations about the how/why of such phenomenon. In contrast, business-schools enable learning through ‘mimicry’ of some singular phenomenon. Learners receive descriptions of some episodes with some speculation about how/why of that occurrence. A learner is unable to generate own data to arrive at similar how/why of such phenomenon. No acceptable or replicable generalisations about the how/why of similarly repeating episodes is possible.

Unsure of what output they intend to produce using methods of mimicking, business schools are even unsure of the kind of student they wish to recruit. Business schools are unable to define the prior-learning (both through formal education and through experience) with which their students would come on board for a graduate degree in Business.

Simple Description of Graduate Management Education In India

Many economic and competitive forces have directly impacted management education institutions during the last two decades or so over which, business schools had little control. Most institutions were far too risk-averse to adequately respond. There should be no doubt that the economic and competitive market in which we all operate has been permanently altered by Covid-19. 

The demands of today’s marketplace call for a new set of skills and abilities. In this sense then, business schools must align themselves with an evolving context for leadership, which should be embedded in the curricular and co-curricular experiences of business students. These new models of leadership would be defined by instability, non-repeating and unlikelihood of events.

While ‘change is a constant’ and ‘all management is change-management’ are the clichés, the realisation that in spite of nearly everything changing continuously or discontinuously, human beings are not changing, and hence human needs are not changing, has to sink-in. The needs for survival, safety, affiliation, self-realisation (esteem, cognitive, aesthetic), self-actualization (achievement, accomplishment) and self-transcendence (visionary intuition, altruism, unity consciousness) are the same as they were in the last century. How people connect as informal organisations or formal organisations changes, but why they connect is not changed.  Greed and selfishness for power and wealth has not changed, nor has altruism vanished. Right was never the might in human history and there is no change in this facet of civilisation. Might is right as it always was. What constitutes might may change. Means are constantly changing not the ends.

Business schools need to create reciprocal, mutually beneficial collaborations with all kinds of business and non-business organisations in order to prepare today’s students for an economic marketplace that, in many instances, doesn’t yet exist. This reflects an uneasy, but an essential sea-change.  Curricula and related activities have historically been the sole domain of the faculty and an extension of the academic enterprise but business schools have to recognise that the curricula and related activities required for succeeding tomorrow is neither their monopoly nor does it probably exist with them.

Business schools have to equally appreciate that access and delivery methods – blended, synchronous, asynchronous, full-time, part-time, virtual or physical are all methods of delivery of knowledge and education. Learning is independent of these methods. Learning has always been blended and facilitated or mediated by multiple actors including peers. Business schools can only design and control the delivery systems but learning is a personal and internal process for an individual learner. Yet, business schools have to bear the responsibility of learning over which they have little control besides being enablers and facilitators. The need for business schools to adapt their approaches, as well as their requisite business and revenue models, to evolving learners’ convenience is imperative.

Near commoditization of the management education industry makes it difficult for all but the most sophisticated consumer to discern the difference between many of the programs offered and the new platforms for delivery. Undifferentiated products and undifferentiated marketing is recipe for failure. The opportunity lies in designing differentiated products for different learners segmented on the basis of differences in their prior learning. Allowing customer-self-selection would provide the benefit of customer preference rather than institutional prescription.

Business schools have to define the input-process-output of their enterprise and these three are the themes for defining the management education sector.

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First Published 29 June 2021

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See Behind the Curtain of QS World University Rankings 2022

I will begin on a lighter note because what follows is serious and may be tough, harsh and unsavoury for quite a few learned people.

There is a joke about a man asking his son about his result in the school, which is narrated nearly in all parts of the country. Rendered in local dilect with local nuances and cultural flavour, the outcome is always hilarious.  This joke goes something like this –

Man (to his son Ramu) – tell me, whether you passed this time or have failed the exams once again

Ramu (replying to his father) – I have stood fourth in the class

Man – very good Ramu, but did you pass

Ramu – Gopal (Head master’s son) has stood sixth in the class, I have done better than Gopal

Man – Poor Gopal, he remained behind you, but did he pass or not

Ramu – only Dheeru and Golu passed, they stood first and second. Don’t get angry with me, I am better than 36 in my class. Only 3 are better than me.

Man (in angry and abusive tone) – Idiot, you failed again

Clearly, the result was only 5% (2 out of 40) pass rate.

Let us now look at the QS World University Rankings 2022. India has celebrated that three of our institutions – IIT Bombay (shared rank 177), IIT Delhi (rank 185) and IISc Bangalore (shared rank 186) continue to remain in the top 200 ranked Universities of the World even in 2022. The Prime Minister (https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1402628065474203650) and the Education Minister (https://twitter.com/DrRPNishank/status/1402559433259962371) also congratulated these institutions, and rightly so, rankings do give us a sense of achievement. We need to be careful however, if our euphoria (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-emerging-a-vishvaguru-says-ramesh-pokhriyal-after-3-indian-institutes-figure-in-top-200-qs-world-university-rankings/articleshow/83373333.cms ) is like that of a Ramu or a Golu?

QS World University Rankings 2022 feature 1,300 universities from around the world. There are 35 Indian Universities in this list of 1300. (https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2022 )

Universities were evaluated according to a weighted average of the six metrics – Academic Reputation (40%), Employer Reputation (10%), Faculty/Student Ratio (20%), Citations per faculty (20%), International Faculty Ratio (5%), and International Student Ratio (5%).

The matrices are reported as measurements on an analogue interval scale (0-100) which are then aggregated into an overall score (weighted average). The overall score is therefore on an analogue interval scale (0-100).

The overall score was then ordered from high to low and discreet ranks awarded as 1, 2, 3, and 4 and so on. Universities tied at same overall score share the same rank and the next rank is then skipped to account for double cases at same rank. In such ranking, among the top 200 ranks, three institutions from India figured.

Let us try to see beneath the veil of these ranks.

  • MIT, which ranks first has an overall score of 100 (rounded up) composed of Academic Reputation (40% of 100), Employer Reputation (10% of 100), Faculty/Student Ratio (20% of 100), Citations per faculty (20% of 100), International Faculty Ratio (5% of 100), and International Student Ratio (5% of 91.4).
  • The overall scores are thus some kind of ratings for the Universities. Interestingly, as we go down the ranking list, the overall score drops very fast – Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh United States scores less than 75% but ranks at 53; Hanyang University, Seoul South Korea scores less than 50% but ranks at 156; Maastricht University, Maastricht Netherlands scores less than 50% but ranks at 156; and University of Missouri, Columbia United States scores less than 25% but ranks at 476.
  • Overall Scores for Universities ranked at 501 or lower are nor reported (they scored 24 or less out of 100)

Let us revert to performance by the institutions from India. There are 35 institutions from India in the list of 1300 ranked institutions, of which 3 are in top-200, 5 more are in the 201-500 group, another 14 are in the next 500 ranks while the remaining 13 are in the last 300 ranks. The top-3 institutions from India are rated and ranked as under:

  • IIT Bombay (Academic Reputation -51.3, Employer Reputation -79.6, Faculty/Student Ratio- 32.5, Citations per faculty -55.5, International Faculty Ratio – 1.5, International Student Ratio – 1.6; Overall score – 46.4; rank-177),
  • IIT Delhi (Academic Reputation -45.8, Employer Reputation -70.8, Faculty/Student Ratio- 30.9, Citations per faculty -70.0, International Faculty Ratio – 1.2, International Student Ratio – 1.7; Overall score – 45.9; rank 185)

and

  • IISc Bangalore (Academic Reputation -34.2, Employer Reputation -19.2, Faculty/Student Ratio- 48.8, Citations per faculty -100.0, International Faculty Ratio – 1.2, International Student Ratio – 1.8; Overall score – 45.7; rank 186)

The next 5 ranked institutions are:

  • IIT Madras (Overall score – 38.1, rank 255),
  • IIT Kanpur (Overall score – 36.4, rank 277),
  • IIT Kharagpur (Overall score – 36.3, rank 280),
  • IIT Guwahati (Overall score – 28.3, rank 395) and
  • IIT Roorkee (Overall score – 28.0, rank 400).

Here is what the rating data displays:

  • Only the public institutions of technology and science are able to find a place in the top-500 club. These are deemed to be universities but not a university in the real sense of the term. A university is multi-disciplinary, spanning across humanities, science, commerce and social sciences rather than being confined to a very narrow focus on technology.
  • There is no real Indian University in the top-500 ranks. South Africa has 4 real universities in the top-500 club.
  • As against 8 institutions from India in the top-500 club, Europe has 212 institutions, United States has 87 institutions while Rest of Asia has 117 institutions (includes 26 from mainland China, 16 from Japan).
  • These 8 institutions do not account for even 1% of the total university enrolment in India.
  • The best of best in India scores only 46% marks as compared to the best in the world score of 100%.
  • There are large variances in the scores for Academic Reputation, Employer Reputation, Faculty/Student Ratio and Citations per faculty within the top 3 whose ranks are spread over only 9 ranks.
  • Employer reputation seems to exceed Academic Reputation for the high ranked institutions in India. IISc turns out to be an exception in reputation as well as in its Citation score.

Makeup is used as a beauty aid to help build up the self-esteem and confidence of an individual. Like NIRF Rankings (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350354434_NIRF%27s_India_Rankings_Are_Ludicrous) QS World University Rankings 2022 are a makeup for educational institutions. This makeup conceals the ugly pockmarks on the face of Universities in India. It is unfortunate that the Education Minister has utilized this makeup to beat the harsh lights and the glare of camera flashes which would expose the rot in education system.

By calling these rankings as a testimony for India’s “leap in the field of Education & Research and is emerging as a VISHVAGURU” Education Minister is only proving his lack of understanding and literateness. Surely, he remembers well – “Parde Mein Rehne Do Parda Na Uthao, Parda Jo Uth Gaya To Bhedh Khul Jayega, Allah Meri Tauba – Allah Meri Tauba” (परदे में रहने दो पर्दा न उठाओ, पर्दा जो उठ गया तो भेद खुल जायेगा, अल्लाह मेरी तौबा – अल्लाह मेरी तौबा) keep the curtain on, don’t lift the curtain, If the curtain is lifted, then the secret will be revealed, Allah is my repentance – Allah is my repentance.

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First published 12 June 2021

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