Making managers

2015-07-31

Ekantipur

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As Nepalis, we have always known that we have valuable resources, but we still do not know how to manage them.

Waste of potential

We have fertile lands and very favourable weather conditions. We have water resources and experienced farmers too, but our agriculture productivity has been almost stagnant for a very long time.

We started producing woollen carpets for export by producing or importing wool, but that did not last long as we did not clearly understand the local laws of carpet-importing countries, market needs in terms of design, production, quality and prices, and the need to get quality materials and technology for quality products. We also started exporting readymade garments, but it could not take off. In fact, we have never been able to sustain our economic growth for long and expand the market of our products.

The case of organic tea and coffee is no different. Despite vast opportunities for export and demand in the international market, we have problems in internal management of people, resources, processing and marketing. We have not been able export these products to high value markets. We are yet to modernise our agriculture and processing and speed up transfer of technology. Worse of all, production of better variety seeds and better variety and high yield meat and milk, and the mechanisation of farming did not occur at the right pace. Quality control aspects like soil testing, pest and insect control and irrigation management are still waiting to be modernised.

Furthermore, inspite of having abundant water resources, we have an electricity deficit. We have barely exploited even one percent of the country’s total electricity potential. Most likely, we have not even carried out a sound study of our resource potential and a plan for the management of the resources in order to benefit the economy. We need to add 50-100 megawatts of electricity to the national grid each year just to fulfil our needs with the current transmission system. In the developed countries, it is the right of every person to have access to uninterrupted electricity supply, but we still live in an age of brownouts and blackouts even in this 21st century.  We have a poor physical infrastructure base, poor human resource base and a very poor perception of the need for quality in all our development efforts.

One of the main reasons for this situation is the lack of management concerning ‘what we do’ and  ‘how we do’ things with respect to technology. We have to have a holistic perspective to the current state of affairs.

Course in management

There was an effort to introduce management education in Nepal, but its scale and modernisation was not taking root. It was during that time in the early 1990s that some Nepali graduates trained abroad in science and management decided to pick up the thread and make a serious beginning in addressing the problem with a vision—empowering the youth through an education system that will push them to embrace quality and productivity. A strategy to educate the youth in technical subjects in our country was adopted through technical programmes.

With the restoration of the multiparty democracy in the 1990s, globalisation started taking root in Nepal as well. These changes also brought many policy changes in the economic sector too, for example, opening up private sector investments in banking, airlines, telecommunication, media, education and health care. The policy produced mixed results—some good and some not so good.

The birth of Kathmandu University (KU) as an independent and not-for-profit public institution would probably be something on the good side. It first introduced academic programmes in the field of sciences like pharmaceutical science, environmental science, computer and information science as new areas; electrical and electronic engineering and mechanical engineering in engineering science; and management and teaching education in other professional areas. All these programmes picked up well. These programmes were first taught at the University’s own school of management  and later extended to colleges affiliated to it. The programmes focused on pertinent areas due to its close links with the business sector.

The courses in management picked up in a very short time. The MBA programme  started in 1993 by Kathmandu University has now spread over to scores of excellent undergraduate to graduate level training institutes. The KU management graduates are sought after in every sector of the economy. The management programme is one of the highly subscribed programmes by the youths. As a result, the number of graduates seeking to study management in foreign universities might have even probably dwindled.

Kathmandu University certainly deserves the status of a ‘flagship institute for management education’ for creating glorious prospects for the economic growth of Nepal. The other institutes that have contributed to the impressive success of management education are Little Angels College  and Nepal College of Management (NCM) , affiliated to Kathmandu University; and Ace Institute, Apex Institute, SAIM Institute , Global Institute, Shankar Dev Campus  and Min Bhavan Campus affiliated to other universities.

As management becomes important in every field of the economy, the importance of management programmes with a focus on various disciplines has to be carefully continued and reorganised, when necessary, to suit the technological and economic developments in Nepal and across the world. Every graduate from the management discipline should not only take up jobs in the service sector, but should also seek to become an entrepreneur who create jobs for others. This way, they will not only help themselves but also the discipline and their institute and contribute towards the economic success of the country. In all these aspects, the leadership role of Kathmandu University will always be remembered as  an acadmic insitution which played a pivotal and pioneering role in spreading the importance of management education in Nepal.

An article by Suresh Raj Sharma.

Sharma is a former vice-chancellor of Kathmandu University