How do you see the overall education scenario in India, especially in the Rural?
Unfortunately, our universities and colleges are, at best, purveyors of skill and information. As a result even the best of our institutions are merely consumers of ideas produced elsewhere, mainly in the western industrialized countries. The higher education system in India has quantitatively grown in a remarkable way to become one of the largest systems of its kind in the world. The growth can be ascertained from the fact that starting with only 263,000 students in all disciplines in 750 colleges affiliated to 30 universities in 1950, the number has grown in excess to 11 million students in over 20,000 Degree colleges affiliated to more than 230 universities and non-affiliated university-level institutions.
There is a dire need for development of educational infrastructure in the rural area. Over 150 private universities as against a total of about 650 universities have been set up in the country but very few of these exist in rural area. Enormous potential exists for genuine intervention by committed entrepreneurs to establish private universities in rural area.
The Govt. has opened the doors for foreign universities in India. What will be the impact of it?
The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in India is still less than 20 percent against a target of about 30 percent. To attain this target we are required to more than double the number of Universities and other institutions of higher learning. This calls for massive investment and quality human resource which is unlikely from domestic sources. Thus the initiative being taken by the Government in attracting foreign universities to provide higher education in India is a welcome step. Depending on the type of brand names that make their presence felt, many domestic ventures may capitulate. This is, of course, a very simplistic appraisal. Given the regulatory overhang, how many elite universities ultimately set up their campus will have to be carefully watched. However, if the foreign universities succeed in delivering quality education, people will make a beeline for it. Further such a move may compel the existing domestic institution to upscale the quality of education being imparted by them.
Many private universities that have come up in the recent past are mostly located in Metros or Urban areas. Do you think rural areas have been left out?
Yes, it is a statement of fact. Rural areas have not been fully exploited. The UGC in a report of 2010 identified 60 percent (i.e. 374) districts of the country out of a total of 650 as educationally backward districts. Out of these 14 districts are provided with no college, 32 with one college, and 81 with less than 10 colleges. Further, most of these districts are densely populated. Till recently about 150 private universities have been set up in the country, most of them are in or around cities or towns. Private Universities cannot exist in vacuum. Infrastructure in Rural Areas is abysmally poor.
How do you think private universities can play a role in spreading higher education among rural students?
There is an enormous potential for private universities to provide education in a win-win situation provided they recruit quality faculty and evolve innovative academic processes.However, to succeed they have to sell a dream. Having done that, they have to live up to the same.
Rural marketing has emerged as a new field for Marketers. Will it be taught in your university?
Nobody can ignore Bharat which comprises one tenth of the total world population. The rural consumer is discerning and rural markets are vibrant. The rural marketing in India has evolved as a new discipline which is catching the attention of everyone be it a corporate, an academician, a policy maker or an NGO officer. The demand for rural marketing managers is growing rapidly. Companies also need to change the profile of their brand managers as they are usually urban bred MBAs who have been born and brought up in urban, have been taught the urban/western marketing principles and have not proved to be very effective while designing strategies for the rural markets. There is an urgent need to look for the managers specialized in rural markets and hence the education in rural marketing has a great significance in today’s context.