From Vedas To Cloud: The Transformation Of Education In India

SAP Guest

By S V Sankaran, Senior Consultant, University Relations, SAP Labs India

The ruins of Nalanda University in India where Xuanzang studied

The education system in India has come a long way of evolution – from the vedic days dating back to around 1700 BC to today’s computer age and e-learning.

Throughout, Indian tradition has always accorded special importance to education.

The Vedic Tradition

The Vedas were the main repository of knowledge and were passed on from generation to generation by the oral tradition, the teaching mainly taking place in the gurukul system (students in residence with the teacher). In later times the scriptures and other texts including poetry were recorded on palm leaves specially treated for preservation and written with a sharp writing instrument.

The gurukul system was the main stay of education and was mainly availed by the higher castes – Brahmins and the royalty. During the Buddhist period the first “universities” appeared at Taxila (now in Pakistan) and Nalanda where a multitude of disciplines were taught: philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, grammar, logic, arts and crafts.

Besides India, students traveled from Tibet, China, Greece and Persia to attend these universities. Nalanda University had the largest library in the world, which was unfortunately set to fire & burnt later by Moghul invaders (the fire reportedly burned for three months).

Moghul and British Influence

The Moghul period brought with it the Islamic influence in education, the Madrassas. The colonial system that followed with the British Raj saw the next major transformation: the widespread use of English as language of learning and instruction, and the introduction of the western system of teaching science, engineering, medicine, law and other disciplines.

During the British Raj, Christian missionary schools and colleges started to dot the education landscape. Also institutions were founded as well as academies to train defense and administrative personnel. These formed the core of the higher education system going into the 20th century.


The government schools reaching into city and rural areas and the missionary schools had been the backbone of primary and secondary education, but in recent decades a mushrooming of private schools, especially in the urban areas, has drastically changed the scenario.

After Independence, the Indian government set up premier tertiary institutions like the IITs for engineering education, the IIMs for management education, and similar institutions for medicine and law education. These have become benchmark institutions, recognized the world over for their excellence. Graduates from many of these institutions went to top universities around the world for their graduate education, often settling down there abroad for life and career.

Private institutions have also sprung up in large numbers in the last few decades offering widely varying educational facilities. One unfortunate trend with the growth of higher education has been an increasing emphasis on exam and grades oriented learning, fueled by the proliferation of competitive entrance exams for science, engineering, medicine, law, etc. and tutorial centres who compete to prepare the students for these exams.  A material percentage of today’s college graduates are perceived as not meeting the needs of industry.

The Rural-Urban and Rich-Poor Divide

A notable feature is the significant difference between educational facilities available in urban areas as compared to the rural areas. Also with the increasing costs of education and private education, the rich are able to corner superior educational facilities, the poor being left to what they can afford. Having observed that, there are again increasing opportunities for bright rural students to attend top educational institutions through the route of competitive entrance exams, merit seats, and scholarships.

There is another interesting trend in recent years as well. It has now become common for the upper class and rich students to go abroad to attend top universities like Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, etc. for undergraduate education, with much enthusiasm and support from the parents.

An underlying fact with education in India is the extent to which parents are willing to spend on their children’s education. It is not uncommon to see parents finance their son or daughter’s education, not just through college, but even through all post-graduation study.

Women’s Education

Women’s education has come a long way, from the centuries old tradition of low levels of education for women with their family bound roles to the current status in urban areas where women study on equal opportunity, including in engineering, medicine, law, etc. and excel in them.

There is at present no problem of having to motivate women to study maths, science, engineering, and medicine, quite in contrast with the scenario in developed western countries. Women not only study in these areas, but also secure several top ranks at graduation.  India is not afraid to mobilize the other half of their potential workforce.

Increasing use of English

Today’s education landscape in India includes an ever increasing use of English at all levels in schools and in the public sector, which opens the world for global opportunities for graduates in all sectors. With the English language as an enabler, India seems to have a strong affinity for the Information Technology (IT) and Information Technology Enables Services sectors, which are especially well developed and bring much benefit and employment to our country. The world now regards Bangalore as the IT capital and the Silicon Valley of India. Teaching soft skills, including use of the English language, receives important attention both at school, college and industry training.

A Move towards e-Learning

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are making a large impact in the move towards e-learning in recent years. India has developed a strong a Space program over 50 years, mostly by indigenous efforts (necessary, because cutting edge technology, was long denied to it by the developed countries, especially the US).  India has established dedicated satellite systems for education and tele-medicine delivery, which can reach even the most remote rural population. From the 1980s, when computer-based education started to be delivered through CD-ROMs, e-learning has boomed,  paving the way for several private players and government agencies which create and deliver e-learning systems today.

The govt has launched two schemes, the National Mission on Education through ICT and the National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning.  Online courses are available from basic school education to professional level courses from the IITs in various areas.  In 2011 the Govt of India announced the release of a very low cost AKAASH tablet, specially developed for use by students, which the government has planned to make available for just $35. Tablets, iPADs, even mobiles are likely to transform the scene as the user point or classroom of the future. The large mobile penetration growth in India – about 914 million subscriptions as of July 2012 — could make a significant impact and enable many services including education for rural India in the days to come.

This article was written as part of The Future of Education research initiative.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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The Future Of Supplier Collaboration: 9 Things CPOs Want Their Managers To Know Now

Sundar Kamak

As a sourcing or procurement manager, you may think there’s nothing new about supplier collaboration. Your chief procurement officer (CPO) most likely disagrees.
Forward-thinking CPOs acknowledge the benefit of supplier partnerships. They not only value collaboration, but require a revolution in how their buying organization conducts its business and operations. “Procurement must start looking to suppliers for inspiration and new capability, stop prescribing specifications and start tapping into the expertise of suppliers,” writes David Rae in Procurement Leaders. The CEO expects it of your CPO, and your CPO expects it of you. For sourcing managers, this can be a lot of pressure.

Here are nine things your CPO wants you to know about how supplier collaboration is changing – and why it matters to your company’s future and your own future.

1. The need for supplier collaboration in procurement is greater than ever

Over half (65%) of procurement practitioners say procurement at their company is becoming more collaborative with suppliers, according to The Future of Procurement, Making Collaboration Pay Off, by Oxford Economics. Why? Because the pace of business has increased exponentially, and businesses must be able to respond to new market demands with agility and innovation. In this climate, buyers are relying on suppliers more than ever before. And buyers aren’t collaborating with suppliers merely as providers of materials and goods, but as strategic partners that can help create products that are competitive differentiators.

Supplier collaboration itself isn’t new. What’s new is that it’s taken on a much greater urgency and importance.

2. You’re probably not realizing the full collective power of your supplier relationships

Supplier collaboration has always been a function of maintaining a delicate balance between demand and supply. For the most part, the primary focus of the supplier relationship is ensuring the right materials are available at the right time and location. However, sourcing managers with a narrow focus on delivery are missing out on one of the greatest advantages of forging collaborative supplier partnerships: an opportunity to drive synergies that are otherwise perceived as impossible within the confines of the business. The game-changer is when you drive those synergies with thousands, not hundreds of suppliers. Look at the Apple Store as a prime example of collaboration en masse. Without the apps, the iPhone is just another ordinary phone!

3. Collaboration comes in more than one flavor

Suppliers don’t just collaborate with you to provide a critical component or service. They also work with your engineers to help ensure costs are optimized from the buyer’s perspective as well as the supplier’s side. They may even take over the provisioning of an entire end-to-end solution. Or co-design with your R&D team through joint research and development. These forms of collaboration aren’t new, but they are becoming more common and more critical. And they are becoming more impactful, because once you start extending any of these collaboration models to more and more suppliers, your capabilities as a business increase by orders of magnitude. If one good supplier can enable your company to build its brand, expand its reach, and establish its position as a market leader – imagine what’s possible when you work collaboratively with hundreds or thousands of suppliers.

4. Keeping product sustainability top of mind pays off

Facing increasing demand for sustainable products and production, companies are relying on suppliers to answer this new market requirement.

As a sourcing manager, you may need to go outside your comfort zone to think about new, innovative ways to collaborate for achieving sustainability. Recently, I heard from an acquaintance who is a CPO of a leading services company. His organization is currently collaborating with one of the largest suppliers in the world to adhere to regulatory mandates and consumer demand for “lean and green” lightbulbs. Although this approach was interesting to me, what really struck me was his observation on how this co-innovation with the supplier is spawning cost and resource optimization and the delivery of competitive products. As reported by Andrew Winston in The Harvard Business Review, Target and Walmart partnered to launch the Personal Care Sustainability Summit last year. So even competitors are collaborating with each other and with their suppliers in the name of sustainability.

5. Co-marketing is a win-win

Look at your list of suppliers. Does anyone have a brand that is bigger than your company’s? Believe it or not, almost all of us do. So why not seize the opportunity to raise your and your supplier’s brand profile in the marketplace?

Take Intel, for example. The laptop you’re working on right now may very well have an “Intel inside” sticker on it. That’s co-marketing at work. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s top 100 most valuable brands by Millward Brown Optimor, this largest supplier of microprocessors is world-renowned for its technology and innovation. For many companies that buy supplies from Intel, the decision to co-market is a strategic approach to convey that the product is reliable and provides real value for their computing needs.

6. Suppliers get to choose their customers, too

Increased competition for high-performing suppliers is changing the way procurement operates, say 58% of procurement executives in the Oxford Economics study. Buyers have a responsibility to the supplier – and to their CEO – to be a customer of choice. When the economy is going well, you might be able to dictate the supplier’s goods and services – and sometimes even the service delivery model. When times get tough (and they can very quickly), suppliers will typically reevaluate your organization’s needs to see whether they can continue service in a fiscally responsible manner. To secure suppliers’ attention in favorable and challenging economic conditions, your organization should establish collaborative and mutually productive partnerships with them.

7. Suppliers can help simplify operations

Cost optimization will always be one of your performance metrics; however, that is only one small part of the entire puzzle. What will help your organization get noticed is leveraging the supplier relationship to innovate new and better ways of managing the product line and operating the business while balancing risk and cost optimization. Ask yourself: Which functions are no longer needed? Can they be outsourced to a supplier that can perform them better? What can be automated?

8. Suppliers have a better grasp of your sourcing categories than you do

Understand your category like never before so that your organization can realize the full potential of its supplier investments while delivering products that are consistent and of high quality. How? By leveraging the wisdom of your suppliers. To be blunt: they know more than you do. Tap into that knowledge to gain a solid understanding of the product, market category, suppliers’ capabilities, and shifting dynamics in the industry, If a buyer does not understand these areas deeply, no amount of collaboration will empower a supplier to help your company innovate as well as optimize costs and resources.

9. Remember that there’s something in it for you as well

All of us want to do strategic, impactful work. Sourcing managers with aspirations of becoming CPOs should move beyond writing contracts and pushing PO requests by building strategic procurement skill sets. For example, a working knowledge in analytics allows you to choose suppliers that can shape the market and help a product succeed – and can catch the eye of the senior leadership team.

Sundar Kamak is global vice president of solutions marketing at Ariba, an SAP company.

For more on supplier collaboration, read Making Collaboration Pay Off, part of a series on the Future of Procurement, by Oxford Economics.


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The Importance Of Leadership On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Charmian Solter

Here at Switch & Shift we strive to illuminate effective leadership practices. We pride ourselves on creating cutting-edge solutions for employee engagement, communication, and creating company culture, to name a few.

Why are these topics so important? Well, according to The Importance of Employee Engagement infographic by NBRI, courtesy of Brandon Gaille, if leadership doesn’t step up and affect change and build trust and engagement, their employees will be busy doing anything but work while on the job! This infographic says it all.


For more on developing more engaged, loyal, and productive workers, see How Empowering Employees Creates a More Engaged Workforce.


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