MAY 26, 2002
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China's India Inc.
The low cost of doing business and the vast Chinese domestic market have proved an irresistible lure for Indian companies. From Reliance to Infosys; Aurobindo to Essel; and Satyam to DRL, several Indian companies have set up (or are setting up) operations in China. India Inc. rocks in Red China.

Tete-A-Tete With James Hall
He is Accenture's Managing Partner for Technology Business Solutions, and just back from a weeklong trip to China, where he checked out outsourcing opportunities. In India soon after, James Hall spoke to BT's Vinod Mahanta on global outsourcing trends and how India and China stack up.

More Net Specials
Business Today, May 12, 2002
The School Of Hard Knocks
Is it coincidence that four out of world's eight richest people are dropouts?

The crowd of students fell completely silent. Their professors looked aghast. I was at an IIT, speaking on entrepreneurship-and a throw-away remark caused the furore. ''Your education here is completely useless in the real world, hope you know that,'' I'd said as an aside.

The furore set me thinking. I'd grown up in a typical middle-class home, where academic excellence was seen as the only way to greatness. A couple of role models were endlessly cited: of so-and-so who came first in some exam and went off to the US. And of such-and-such who got a full fellowship at a great university.

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I check on where these people are today. Mr First-in-class sits in a cubicle at a large tech firm in the Valley, among thousands of other 'cubists'. Mr Fellowship is still at the same university that paid him to learn-but is teaching now. They're doing okay, but they aren't likely to be my kid's role models. Or yours.

Two is no sample size to learn from, so I look at other successful entrepreneurs globally. Not one I can find was an academic standout. Is it just coincidence that four of the world's top eight billionaires are dropouts?

Do this: think of all the toppers you knew who studied day and night. Where are they now? How come that other good-for-nothing dope nobody expected anything from turned out to be the star achiever? Is there a pattern here?

Here's my theory: academic excellence is inversely proportional to business success. Don't know about you-but when applied to people I knew in school, it works 100 per cent. Are you pushing your children to come first in class? Does that mean they will fail as business people?

Why do I feel our education is irrelevant in business? Tell me, unless you're in the chemicals industry, when did you last apply Boyle's Law to your life? Or matrices for that matter? As for your graduation or MBA, have you learnt anything with any bearing to the planet you live on, the time you live in, and the work you do now?

I've also wondered why the most-sought-after hires by investment banking companies in India are computer science grads from IIT with a pg in marketing from IIM. More disturbingly, how many MBA programmes actually produce entrepreneurs with the 'I'm-okay-with-zero-salary' start-up fire? How come all these students crave high paying jobs doing low-IG maintenance work for some smoothly-running MNC?

Lazy hr people are as much to blame. I can imagine them saying: ''Well, we need smart people, but where do we find them? Hmmm-got it! Of every 1,000 students, 10 get to IIT. Of that, perhaps three get to IIM. Natural selection shows they must be smart. So let's pay whatever crapload of money it takes to hire them.''

Dear hr person, here's a simpler way. Just give the CAT/GMAT to all and sundry, put them through a group discussion, and hire the better ones. Why make them waste two years on an MBA?

But I'm often told by parents: ''Yes, these degrees and MBAs may be useless. But they are insurance, just in case the unthinkable happens.'' I have two big problems with that: One, no successful enterprise was started by a risk-averse person. If you have a fall-back, you are likely to have very little motivation to move forward. Perhaps many dropouts succeed simply because they don't have anything to fall back on.

Two, the unthinkable has already happened-jobs are being slashed all over the place-and having a degree hasn't saved your job, or found you the next one. I've also noticed a hiring quirk: class toppers almost never turn out to be good candidates. I guess if you've spent your entire life glued to textbooks, you haven't seen much of the real world, and you're of little use to business. It's the street-smart 20 percentiler with a last-minute cram after a year of class-cutting who tends to do better.

What does this mean for us? For some, I hope, a re-think on the way they hire. For others, perhaps a little soul-searching. For me, well, I'll get even more hate mail than usual!

Mahesh Murthy, an angel investor, heads Passionfund. He earlier ran Channel V and, before that, helped launch Yahoo! and Amazon at a Valley-based interactive marketing firm. Reach him at