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Combat fatigues to corporate warriors - Generals enrol in B-schools

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OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT   |   Delhi   |   Published 03.08.06, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, Aug. 3: Generals in the armed forces, including vice-chief of army staff Lieutenant General S. Pattabhiraman, are enrolling themselves in management schools for corporate jobs after a new law that paves the way for them to don business suits after years in battle fatigues.

Services’ headquarters today quietly inaugurated a programme to turn riflemen into corporate warriors.

One of the first lessons to the top brass with corporate ambitions was imparted by a young ex-officer at a get-together this afternoon. Captain Randeep Hundal, a former officer with the 3 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) till September 2005 and who saw bloody action in Kashmir and in the Northeast, said: “It took me six weeks to understand that I was into marketing management even when I was a soldier. In the army, I was marketing the idea of death and killing to my troops.”

The head of the armed forces’ resettlement programme, Major General Harwant Krishnan, claimed that efforts were on to amend the adage “old soldiers never die, they simply fade away”.

“That isn’t true any more. They may also take up corporate jobs in blue-chip firms.”

A change in the Companies Act of 1956 on a recommendation by a committee led by J.J. Irani, former chief of Tata Steel, has made this possible. The upshot of the change in the law is that generals, admirals and air marshals are seeking to reorient the education of old soldiers and bring in lessons from warfronts into corporate boardrooms.

Pattabhiraman, who was the head of the crucial Western Command, was recently in a controversy over misquoted remarks on the practicality of having women in combat arms. He now leads a group of nine lieutenant general-rank officers and 11 major general ranks from the army, navy and the air force who have opted for a course at the Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon.

The changed law makes it mandatory, under rules of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), to have at least a third of the boards of companies as independent directors. Senior officers of the army see this as a huge opportunity. Former armed forces officers have served many companies for years but this opens up a door for corporate jobs so wide that even the vice-chief has thought it fit to prepare for life after uniform in such fashion.

For years, management texts have quoted from masters such as Sun Tzu (The Art of War) and gurus have imparted lessons learnt from battlefields for emulation in marketing warzones. Now, the battle-hardened boys want to claim their own.

Six institutes have decided to set up special programmes for senior armed forces officers: IIM Calcutta, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore, IIM Indore, Narsee Munjee Institute, Mumbai, and MDI, Gurgaon.

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