Dipak Jain is dean of INSEAD, one of the world’s largest graduate business schools with campuses in Fontainebleau, France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Prior to INSEAD, Dean Jain spent nearly three decades both as an educator and a business school administrator. He began an illustrious tenure at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 1986, serving as a professor of marketing and the Sandy and Morton Goldman Professor in Entrepreneurial Studies before rising to Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in 1996 and then to Dean of the Kellogg School from 2001-2009. Dean Jain is widely sought out for his business knowledge and experience. He has worked as a consultant to Microsoft, Novartis, American Express, Sony, Nissan, Motorola, Eli Lilly, Phillips and Hyatt International. He also serves as a member of the board of directors of Deere & Co, Northern Trust Corp and Reliance Industries (India).
Above all, Dean Jain is a global citizen whose warmth and intelligence keep him in high regard. Born and educated in India, he now travels the world as leader of a business academy dedicated to reflecting a global perspective and cultural diversity in all aspects of its research and teaching. During a break at INSEAD’s Fontainebleau campus, he took time to speak with me by phone about the global business landscape. Here are edited excerpts from Dean Jain’s answers to five questions I asked about global business, economics and education.
1. As Europe struggles with the debt crisis in Greece, the specter of debt issues hover over the entire world. What are the consequences to business and what can business leaders do to avoid such debt problems?
Dean Jain: This situation is like a wake up call for businesses. This is a time when companies need to also look at their resources and their spending balance and make sure that they are prepared for challenges that we are going to see in the future. When something like this debt crisis happens, companies should not ignore it. They should start digging deeper into the issues that are coming out of this crisis to see how the business is affected. And they can then come up with a plan. Once you start thinking deeply about these things, you can see a plan of action. But if you put the issue on the back burner, you will never get to it. The companies’ problems may involve fewer stakeholders. Maybe there is not a direct correlation. But the connection is that you need to start thinking about what are the issues in my own business and what are the steps to be taken at the company level.
2. In what some consider a post-American world, what should America’s political leaders keep in mind when it comes to setting policy for doing business across the globe?
Dean Jain: America is a society that has valued entrepreneurship, and that is the seed of a lot of economic growth in America. It is beautiful to see in America that entrepreneurship starts very young. I have three children. As a 5th grader my daughter got an assignment in school to come up with a business plan. She told me she didn’t know what a business plan is. I asked her, what do you want to do? And she said I want to start an ethnic restaurant. So, she put together a basic plan to raise a million dollars for her restaurant. In 5th grade this country is emphasizing entrepreneurship. In India, where I am from, we don’t educate like that. In this country we create creative minds at a very early age. This is what I think is very important that we don’t lose in America. American entrepreneurs, they create wealth–not only business wealth, but human wealth. People have great respect for what the U.S. has achieved. So American leaders must remember that we mustn’t give up our entrepreneurial excellence. If people here want to achieve, they can achieve.
3. How would you define entrepreneurial achievement? What is success?
Dean Jain: When you are starting your journey as an entrepreneur you are starting your journey from success to significance. You start off with success. The journey can follow two paths. You can have a business purpose—to sell a product or service profitably. And some entrepreneurs have this purpose for improving society—a social purpose. It’s not either or. The business entrepreneur can apply parts of the business to dealing with issues for society. Look at what Bill Gates did. He was an entrepreneur who built an empire, and he decided one day to do things to improve the world.
Whatever your purpose, what are the most important markets for entrepreneurs to focus on as they look for opportunities to be successful during the next decade?
Dean Jain: People used to do entrepreneurship within their own boundaries—a neighborhood or a city. Globalization has extended entrepreneurship beyond these boundaries. The electricity of the computer can come from anywhere. So when you think of markets for entrepreneurs, consider opportunities all across the world. In particular, entrepreneurs should look at how the demographics are changing. Western countries are becoming more of an aging population and Asian countries have more of a youth population. India has a population of 1.2 billion. The median age is 25 to 26. So you have 600 billion people who are 26 years old or younger. That’s a huge youth population. In the U.S., Japan and Europe the trend is toward an aging population. So entrepreneurs should keep in mind the trends of the population. Also keep in mind a country’s resources. Why are people getting interested in Africa? Because of its natural resources. Brazil and Russia are rich in natural resources. India is rich in human resources. So each country has its own expertise domain. You can look to see which country has areas that you can exploit.
4. What is your take on the power and influence being amassed by tech companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook? Is it good for global competition or not so good?
Dean Jain: The spirit of continuous improvement they show, and their push toward excellence is the real value they provide. Think about Apple. They are continuously improving. They have an ongoing investment in and commitment to innovation. In that way they serve as a lesson to us. Google is also a very good lesson. Those companies excel at continuous innovation. They understand the needs of people before people realize their own needs. They anticipate people’s needs before people do. And Facebook, they saw the need to harness this power of social networks. They recognized the need to create certain entities, which were forums for people to get together. Coming together is a big thing. Working together and creating something new is what allows us to move toward achievement. We need to create more exchange forums. And today we don’t need to do it physically. We can do it through electronic forums. So, I think these companies are good for competition. Their example challenges others.
5. Finally, what are your thoughts on the role that educational institutions, particularly business institutions, play in the development of business leaders?
Dean Jain: Our academic institutions should make the best use of human capital. Our role is to attract and shape human talent. At our best we create interest in learning. An academic institution is not only about formulas. We teach the formulas, but more importantly we teach students a way to think. We provide them with the resources and point them in the right directions. We all live under the same sky, but each of us seems to have a different horizon. We want to nurture a student’s ability to see beyond what others can see. That is to me a lot of what the best entrepreneurs are. They are innovators because they can see things beyond the normal horizon, the normal spectrum. You can do that provided you have the resources and put in the effort. I am not a big believer that things happen do to chance. Chance favors the prepared mind.