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Indian school teaches how to become an entrepreneur

Indian School of Business, just 9 years old, is ranked #12 by the Financial Times.

Indian children in field
The way forward for India's economy may lie with entrepreneurs. One school, the Indian School of Business, focuses on training entrepreneurs. Here, schoolchildren walk through a field at Koribari village on the outskirts of Siliguri, Aug. 25, 2008. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

Photo caption: The way forward for India's economy may lie with entrepreneurs. One school, the Indian School of Business, focuses on training entrepreneurs. Here, schoolchildren walk through a field at Koribari village on the outskirts of Siliguri, Aug. 25, 2008. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

NEW DELHI, India — Arun Shenoy, an engineer who has worked in the U.S. and India, didn’t have to think twice about where he wanted to learn how to become an entrepreneur.

“I decided to go to the Indian School of Business because they are at the forefront of helping entrepreneurs,” said Shenoy, who worked for Trane, now Ingersoll Rand, one of the largest manufacturers of air conditioners in the world.

“I’ve been following ISB since it started in 2001 and as I followed it more, the more I knew it perfectly matched what I wanted to do,” he said.

ISB, based in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, is just 9 years old, but already it is ranked 12th in the world by the Financial Times. Helping distinguish it from other schools is a rotating list of foreign faculty members — in addition to top Indian faculty — from schools like the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton, Northwestern University’s Kellogg and the University of Chicago.

“ISB has a perfect mix of Indian teachers and teachers from outside India so it gives you exposure to Indian and Western business,” said Shenoy.

From the beginning, entrepreneurship was a major area of focus. ISB set up the Wadhwani Center for Entrepreneurship Development in 2002 with the help of Romesh Wadhwani, a successful software entrepreneur in the U.S. 

ISB prefers students with work experience of at least three to four years, which is unlike the school's highly regarded public counterparts, the Indian Institutes of Management, and closer to the way it's done in the U.S. As many as 200 of the school’s students so far have become entrepreneurs.

Do you think the future for India's economy hinges on making the poor the growth drivers? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

The school offers a one-year, rather than a two-year course, which is less disruptive for professionals who have taken leaves of absence from their jobs. As a result, ISB's applicant pool is more diverse than other institutions, and not limited to fresh graduates. The school's MBAs seek out sectors that other management graduates don’t usually join, like media, health care and real estate.

“Two years ago when we were first ranked by the Financial Times at the 20th position we were absolutely thrilled — for a month,” said Ajit Rangnekar, ISB dean. “One question that bugged me is what does this mean to the average person on the street. I realized to my shock it meant nothing at all," he said.

At that point, Rangnekar decided to revamp school's mission, making it more about fostering equitable socio-economic growth in the country.

Last year, ISB also started mentoring entrepreneurs to development ideas and inventions that benefit society. The school had been working on a few initiatives, like supporting social ventures and doing academic research on what Rangnekar calls the base of the pyramid — which means the poorest section of society.

“We looked at it and said we don’t want to be selling to the poor, then we said, ‘Wait a minute, let’s make the poor the growth drivers of the country. Then the benefits to society would be huge,’” said Rangnekar. “We were doing many, separate things but we were not sure where they were headed. We always knew we would be a different kind of school focused on India’s emerging economy."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/education/100802/india-school-business-educating-entrepreneurs