The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- AIMA has succeeded in defining professional management

The change in attitudes today to family and non-family managers is striking. In 1971, M.K. Raju challenged Lala Charat Ram of the Sri Ram family business to become president of the All India Management Association. He became president of AIMA a second time as well. Since then top-notch managers have emerged from family businesses as they have from among employees, but few have become presidents of AIMA. Local management associations have had a higher proportion of family managers as presidents. The management movement led by AIMA has promoted the professionalization of management irrespective of whether the manager is an owner or not.

Management education began in the early Sixties in Calcutta, Delhi and Bombay Universities and then in the IIMs (followed by over a thousand government recognized management institutions today). There is some misconception that only an MBA (or equivalent) makes a professional manager.

Is management a profession at all' It does not have a closed and controlled entry, with a guild to regulate admissions and publish rules that must be complied with. Anyone can become or be called a manager. There are no minimum educational or other qualifications and no entry tests to be passed. There is no body that can disbar a manager, as there are professional associations and guilds to disbar a chartered accountant, company secretary, lawyer, architect or doctor. While there is a body of knowledge, there are no rules that regulate the manager. There are no fundamental truths that can be said to apply to management forever. Any enterprise, any group of people who are in an organization, has to be managed if it is to be effective in achieving its objectives. AIMA has succeeded in defining professional management as consisting of an ethical approach to achieve maximum efficiency for effective achievement of goals.

After Enron, India, like many others, has formulated rules for corporate governance, or the conduct of top management. Some companies have such rules for all employees. Most have charters for boards of directors. Others have conventions, like non-ostentation in work (for example, everyone travelling by air does so only by economy class), and in personal lives, not paying bribes, and so on. There are core rules whose violation means losing the job. Many companies have now written out whistleblower policies that protect an employee who points out violations by others in the company. But there are no perennial truths in the practice of management. Its freedom of entry and this lack of core truths are what make it difficult to label management as a profession. But there can be management professionals.

Jawaharlal Nehru's government suggested creating AIMA. It was to promote professional management and training and to pioneer new ideas. It was one among the many different institutions being created to enable India to govern itself and its activities wisely and in conformity with the public interest. Local management associations in Madras, Bombay and Bangalore had preceded AIMA. AIMA has adopted as its motto the promotion of excellence in management. To mark the beginning of its golden jubilee year, the president of India declared February 21 as Management Day, thus recognizing the centrality of good management to the country.

AIMA has been at the fore in widening the scope of management. An important activity of AIMA illustrates this, the conferring of the Lifetime and JRD Tata corporate leadership awards. The first Lifetime awardee was Prakash Tandon, the first Indian CEO of Hindustan Lever and the doyen among professional managers in India. Others included V. Krishnamurthy, the most outstanding among public sector managers. The early JRD Tata awardees include Narayana Murthy, and Deepak Parekh (in financial services when they were still not recognized as a booming sector). R.A. Mashelkar, director-general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was another. AIMA was recognizing that scientific research and its good management made a major difference to business and the community.

By instituting awards for outstanding management in the civil services, AIMA extended the concept of professional management to non-business activities. Awardees have included S.R. Rao for his work in cleaning plague-ridden Surat, Samarjit Jana, a pioneer in AIDs management among sex workers in Sonagachhi in Calcutta, the outstanding managing director of the Delhi metro, E.Sreedharan, and others. Through these awards, AIMA has widened the applicability of management concepts.

AIMA (with local management associations) has made special efforts to reach theory, research and management experiences through education programmes, training, competitions and testing to practitioners, teachers and students. Almost 30 years ago, AIMA saw that management education in the IIMs and later in universities and private institutes, was not accessible and affordable for many. Many could not stop working for two years. Others did not have the money for the fees. AIMA started the first distance-learning programme in management in India and is now pioneering the use of information and telecommunications technologies to create 'virtual' classrooms. It aims to have a few good teachers available to students around the country.

Other institutions have followed its lead in training initiatives for managers. AIMA has also pioneered in designing and conducting standardized tests for students, accrediting teachers and managers, for recruitment, and so on. The national games that it conducts have exposed students to competition in simulated situations of reality.

AIMA also initiated, over 40 years ago, the annual advanced management programmes for managers. It was the first to induct into these programmes computer education for senior and older managers. These programmes have kept pace with the times and they are very different today than when management was a new concept. Indian Management, the monthly management journal from AIMA, published by Business Standard, has become a model that many other Asian countries are seeking to emulate. Its annual management conventions are attended by over 1,000 managers from all over India and neighbouring countries. They provide a forum for managers to meet informally and to be exposed to the latest thinking and experiences.

Thus AIMA has propagated and expanded the reach of professional management. Management education and jobs are now attracting the best and brightest talent in India. Management books and journals as well as seminars and conventions attract many subscribers. AIMA has ably achieved its mandate of propagating professional management and pioneering new ideas. It must now seek to push even more for excellence so that India can be competitive in a globalizing world.

Competition defines the challenges of the 21st century. It is now endemic in the economy. The best skills have a worldwide market. Companies have to benchmark performance against the best in the world, anticipate changing world scenarios, whether it is the price of oil, American interest rates, new technologies, new processes and techniques and democracy in information availability. An apparently unrelated event can have a serious impact on business. Education, health, infrastructure, public governance have to become increasingly efficient so that they can be most effective in achieving objectives.

AIMA must seek to apply management concepts in a planned way to government, small and tiny industries. For this it must add Indian languages to the purely English language focus of all its work. It must actively engage itself in issues of good corporate and public governance. It must uphold high ethical conduct and ostracize venal managers since it cannot disbar them. It must focus on improving opportunities for women and the socially backward groups. It must be actively involved in improving the quality of management education so that students who pay high fees actually get value from the education. Given its effectiveness in the last half-century, AIMA is well placed to achieve them.

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