Entry #3: Dean Nohria’s World Introductory Tour

Day Nine – Reflections on China

China marks the last international leg of the Dean’s introductory tour. We arrived in Hong Kong on Monday and headed directly off to Bloomberg TV where Nitin did a live interview with Rishaad Salamat discussing MBA career options and the role of business schools in educating leaders. Hong Kong is home to over 400 HBS alumni and the HBS Association of Hong Kong, which welcomes both alumni and friends of the School in the region, grew 25 percent this year alone. Dean Nohria was able to get a perspective on the very latest business trends in Asia from some of the most influential business, government and academic leaders in Hong Kong. Amidst meetings with alumni and friends of the School he sat down with Duncan Mavin of the Wall Street Journal Asia to talk about HBS’s aspirations for globalization. Duncan also posted a video interview with Nitin.

A mere 24 hours after landing in Hong Kong we were bound for Shanghai, home to the Harvard Center and many of the 1,000 plus HBS alumni in greater China. The Center officially opened in March and although it was fully operational at the time most everything around it was still under construction. The progress in just a few months is amazing. Shanghai is hosting the World Expo and they have decked out the city to welcome millions of visitors from around the world. Alumni came from as far away as Hong Kong and Beijing to join Dean Nohria for a wide-ranging and lively discussion about the School, the future of MBA education and the global business century. In true HBS style Nitin turned the discussion over the participants who offered no shortage of views on the state of business in Asia. Our visit here coincided with the delivery of a new executive education program on Creating Value Through Service Excellence with Professors Earl Sasser and Das Narayandas.

Of course this visit too included interviews with the media. The first, where the dean spoke about the financial crisis and the future of MBA education, will air on CBN TV China this coming Saturday. Later in the day he met with Bao Jianguang of Global Entrepreneur Magazine to discuss the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in business education.

The visit to Shanghai was a perfect capstone on the international stretch of the Dean’s world tour. From here he jetted off to San Francisco for more meetings with alumni and friends. There is no media scheduled there so this will be my final entry. Throughout this trip people remarked to Nitin about what an ambitious undertaking this was in his first month in office. As a participant/observer I can verify that it was indeed a test of stamina, but the warm reception he has had at each stop along the way has provided ample fuel to reenergize. And what better way to begin the global century of business than with a global listening and learning tour with alumni and friends of the School?

Thanks for following along.

Entry #2 – Dean Nohria’s World Tour

Day Six – Reflections on India

It has been a remarkable few days. On July 28, Dean Nohria returned to India for the first time since his appointment was announced in May. His visit was wildly anticipated in the country of his birth by alumni and friends of the School and the Indian press who turned out in large numbers to see him deliver the Sixteenth Annual J.R.D. Tata Memorial Oration at Tata Theatre in Mumbai. Close to 1,000 participants braved an afternoon monsoon to hear Nitin speak about the India and the Globalization of Business. India’s business community was well represented as were HBS alumni and many students from universities in Mumbai. The central sponsor was The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM), which invited representatives from several other regional chambers. It was a truly impressive showing of India’s most engaged business practitioners.

ASSOCHAM President Dr. Swati Piramal, offered a warm introduction. In his remarks, Nitin was equal parts optimistic and cautionary about India’s future role on the global business stage. He lauded the tremendous success of the past two decades, citing several examples of Indian companies, including Tata Industries, who have built a presence outside of India while creating economic growth and prosperity in the country. However, he cautioned India’s business leaders not to rest on their laurels or to assume that they have won the race. He spoke about the next century being a truly global one in which those nations who innovate best will reap the rewards.

The balance of the week included three other public speaking appearances –two for NGO GiveIndia.org and one for NGO Toofles – and meetings with many HBS alumni and friends of the School. In each talk Nitin continued to drive home the message that business has an essential role to play in solving the world’s most pressing problems and in creating growth and prosperity. That message was well-received in a nation where the business community is increasingly focused on social enterprise endeavors.

From my perspective as a first-time visitor to India it was in a phrase, a shock to the senses, in all ways. It is a land of stark contrasts. There is tremendous energy and a palpable entrepreneurial spirit. At the same time, there is heart-wrenching poverty. Most of all, there is tremendous potential and one thing stood out to me – regardless of where we were or to whom we were speaking, the people were gracious and warm. I look forward to returning.

Next stop – Hong Kong . . .