Academic journal article IUP Journal of Management Research

Institution Building: Experiences, Lessons and Challenges[dagger]

Academic journal article IUP Journal of Management Research

Institution Building: Experiences, Lessons and Challenges[dagger]

Article excerpt

I feel priviledged to have been invited to deliver this speech. I had the fortune of inteacting with Mr. yasaswy closely for over a decade. He was one of the geniuses with a huge sense of practical wisdom. We used to spend hours discussing many things. Every such conversation was enriched with new knowledge and ideas. One of my last conversations with him was in the context of the visit of the current head of the Mewar royal family of Rajasthan to Indian School of Business (ISB). We shared our thoughts on the legacy of 76 generations of continuous service of the Mewar dynasty to the society even post-independence, and the challenges of building an institution across the centuries. Our efforts to recollect the names of families and organizations with similarly rich heritage did not yield much. We concluded that institutions are rare and building and preserving them are not easy tasks.

In fact, the meaning and challenges of building everlasting institutions has been an area of enquiry for me for some time. I thought this would be an appropriate topic for today given that Yasaswy spent a considerable part of his life building the ICFAI as an institution. I was fortunate to have interacted with him during this phase of his life when ICFAI grew as a banyan tree. I shall share with you the essentials of those thoughts today.

What Is an Institution?

Basically institutions are organizations with a unique identity and respect. We feel proud to be associated with them. They are unique in a number of ways, and they are not easy to be copied. It is not just for a moment in history that they shine, but they continue to shine, spreading light of guidance, inspiration and leadership across many decades, and sometimes centuries. Three such pillars of global eminence in the educational field are the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. The earliest records on the Oxford University date back to 1036 AD, almost a thousand years ago. Cambridge University, again in Britain, is over 800 years old. Harvard University in the USA is close to 400 years old. These universities have been the destinations of the brightest minds of the world across countries, and they continue to be so. There are many other widely admired institutions, in academics and out side , several with shorter hi stories existing in India and elsewhere. Some of the familiar names are the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM A), t he Indian Ins titute o f Scie n ce ( IISc), Beng alur u, t he Ramakrishna Mission, and the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, besides commercial entities such as the General Electric, Tata Group, Unilever and Merck Pharmaceuticals, Germany. Let us look at some of the common features of these institutions.

Clear Sense of Purpose

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, in their famous work, Built to Last, had identified the presence of a clear purpose of long-term existence as a critical element of distinction in the widely respected and long-lasting companies they had studied. Most such institutions have a vision articulated in a social context that they vigorously pursue to accomplish. They see themselves adding to the richness of the society through their activities. It is worth recalling the tremendous efforts made by the Tata Group with a clear purpose of contributing to nation building. Proud of India's heritage of industrialization prior to the industrial revolution, 150 years ago, Jamsetji Tata wanted to provide Indians with an opportunity to rebuild the nation. To quote JRD Tata, "With that object in view, he decided, almost single-handed, to launch India on the path of modern science and industry and to risk his fortune in the process. That the great projects he conceived and his sons carried through were successful is less important than the motives with which they were launched, than also the sense of social consciousness and trusteeship which Jamsetji inculcated in his two sons and my father, R D Tata, and which have continued to this day to inspire and guide his successors and through them, the management of the various enterprises which they promoted" (Lala, 2004). …

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