Realizing potentials – of Individuals and Communities – questions for you and me

Last eight months have been a great learning experience. For the first time in life, I almost spent at least three weeks every month traveling across India, addressing young, aspiring leaders of tomorrow, learning from them as well as motivating them to push their boundaries. I have covered almost fifty cities, Srinagar to Chennai and Rajkot to Kolkata, a few of them twice over in these eight months. These endeavors have helped me not only realize but also initiated a few thoughts about enabling individuals and also communities /cities realize their potential.

Enabling Individuals

While interacting, sharing outstanding entrepreneurial stories, interviewing qualified aspirants to IWSB and listening to a few of their own nascent entrepreneurial adventures, my belief that the serious talent in the hinterland is no less than the ones we see in the metros of our country is repeatedly getting vindicated. In fact, it is more focused, directed and productive. They know what they want. Coming to the students who passed out this year from IWSB, almost all the seven entrepreneurial ventures have been initiated by these ‘country bumpkins!’

Youth in Srinagar enjoying the entrepreneurial stories
The question that I usually encounter, which I heard even this morning when I was interacting with a few B-School representatives at an MBA Admissions event -“Many who seek admissions cannot even communicate well in English”. Having seen a few thousand over the last three years through our selection process that involves – a group task, group discussion, writing introspective realizations for own growth post these group processes and followed by interview – my original thought about ‘speaking in English’ has further strengthened. Should communication in English be the basic requirement or should it be keenness to learn, passionate about a cause, eagerness to take risks, ability to question the conventional, being a good team member, enabling others to perform etc., be a few parameters that one need to explore among the admission seekers in a B-School process?

I notice that most of the city-bred are good in speaking in English, but communicating the thought process is different from speaking good English. Speaking for the sake of speaking is not articulation. It is about the ability to analyze, think, structure and communicate, which is usually a casualty in most cases. Many of those who can speak in English are usually found lacking on many of the critical parameters that I enumerated above. The faculties that can facilitate one to do so can only be enhanced by regular reading of variety of issues. At least one need to be abreast with the latest news and analysis, editorials and features in the newspapers and magazines are great sources for these. Most of the youngsters are spending disproportionate time on the web, and that too unfortunately on the social websites and chats that are becoming time-guzzlers without gaining anything worth mentioning. If one is not really concerned about ones own learning and growth, how one can really think of enabling a company grow. It is time the youth, especially from cities and towns, wakes up from their slumber, shed their callousness and are serious about what they want to achieve and contribute.

On the contrary there are many who have been brought up in the hinterlands that are determined, capable and steadfast in achieving what they are set out to. We have a few in the short journey of two years at IWSB who are on the way to create a great impact in the society and community with their entrepreneurial work. During this year’s recruitment process I have come across a great number of youngsters who may not be very good in communication but are certainly outstanding prospects for entrepreneurial leadership. There is many a leader out there across the world that has made towering contributions despite being poor in English language communication!! Haven’t they?

What is the role of an educational institution in such a scenario? Is it not wise for a B-School to recruit an aspirant with potential leadership capabilities, and help such potentials to master English language and communication skills? Should it not be high on any B-School agenda if an aspirant is outstanding in most of the aforesaid parameters? It will be shortsighted for an institution to negate individuals solely on language and communication. I hope everyone is listening.

Enabling communities and cities

In between interacting and facilitating students while traveling, I usually sneak out with my camera to explore every city. I did it in almost every city, including Benaras, Kanpur, Ranchi, Patna, Srinagar, Durgapur, Hissar, Jammu, Bangaluru, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Indore, Jaipur, kolkatta, Amritsar… not to talk of smaller towns and villages that come on the way during my drives.

Every city has inherent strengths, but attitudes that disable any city from really realizing its potential is its utter callousness towards civility and civic amenities, ill-planned development, even of the new extensions of the city, let alone the old towns / walled cities within. The gentry are least bothered about what we are doing on the roads to the traffic, what we are doing to utilization of resources, what we are doing waste disposal, in the process what we are doing to the fellow human beings, living beings and the environment. Each one of us seems to be concerned only of “I, me and myself”! What comes of this Indian behaviour and psyche?

These attitudes carry on to our roles too – policy makers, urban planners, municipal authorities hardly seem to do anything to better the situation. Each one seems to be thinking of biding time when they are donning the roles, only to focus on self-aggrandizement.

I keep wondering how planned is this road widening, elimination of the roundabouts etc when a kilometer ahead the road is going to be only two-lane due to a bridge or a worship place. You suddenly realize a four lane road carrying six files of vehicles is trying to squeeze into two lanes! I have never seen such callous planning anywhere in the world. In the name of Common Wealth Games, so called beautification around the city seems to have no meaning. You need to just go around connaught circus to just understand. Ask the well-informed families living there for the last eighty years. I have been seeing CP for the last thirty years, yesterday I was wondering about the madness that is being created. There are scores of roads where the granite binding the dividers have fallen/removed in the name of betterment and the lie on the roads for days. Does anyone in the municipality really cares about what happens to a motorist who rams into one of those boulders!

I went around the by lanes of Old Delhi on the Occasion of EID a couple of months ago. I spent the Friday at Jama Masjid …during the prayer time and Saturday night in the busy markets inside the wall city to soak in the biggest festivities among the followers of Islam, went with school children on a ‘walk’ in the wall city and also through the ‘galis’ of Benaras, virgin roads of Ranchi etc. The stories are same – filth on the roads, poor waste management, least concern for hygiene, erratic traffic management, indifference towards public property etc. One thing gets reiterated time and again – we as a nation are long way away from good Urban Development endeavours…

The usual refrain from municipality is lack of the budgetary allocation (is it really so, or it is about inefficiencies in the system?) compared to what the salary bill is (should the numbers be pruned?). Whether it is the gentry or the municipalities, each one of us contribute directly or indirectly to this utter chaos. We can chose to be indifferent or take a step towards correcting and enabling our communities and cities realize their potential. Come, let us make some positive difference.

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