Ask for Prof. Abhishek Narasimha on the KIAMS campus at Harihar and you are sure to be greeted with a smile and directions to the ‘YouTube Prof’. You look inquiringly at the student, and all you get is a matter-of-fact:“You’ll know when you meet him.”
An Engineer with a PGD in Signal Processing and Communication Technology from Coventry University, UK, Prof. Abhishek Narsimha prima facie teaches nothing remotely close to any of his Engineering subjects. That could be because of his other education – an MA in Political Science. Well, that too is not something he teaches at KIAMS. Prof. Narsimha has been, for quite some time now, been teaching HR purely out of his passion for Organizational Behavior, Cross-Cultural Management, Business Ethics & CSR. A compulsive researcher, Prof. Narasimha has many papers and articles to his credit, which he has presented at a number of prestigious seminars and for which he has gained recognition. So where’s the connection in his academic background?
“A very strong connection, actually,”he says with a smile, answering a question he must’ve been asked a thousand times. “Engineering helped in shaping my analytical and rational thinking, while Arts have helped me in developing my softer side. I try to combine both, to bring out a wide range of perspectives. For instance, while discussing supply chain issues in Business Ethics, it is important to bring in issues like the Savar Building Collapse in Bangladesh, where workers were exploited and were employed under norms violating the charter of ILO. Moreover, promotion of democratic values like freedom of expression, just and humane conditions of work, as well as the promotion of human rights, should be the main goal of every business. It’s what the long term sustainability of any organization depends upon.”
He rattles of a number of crises that have arisen due to globalization, like the mining of Coltan (an important mineral in laptops and mobile phones) during the Congo Civil War (1997-2003), and moves fluently into the importance of cross-cultural understanding.
“Owing to globalisation, the erosion of territorial significance has been an important phenomenon in social, political and economic activities. It has led to mass consumerism and similar consumer lifestyles around the world. But at the same time, it has revealed inherent diversity and has led to an expression for stronger cultural values in different parts of the world, which are rooted in traditions. Like the promotion of the Coca leaf in Bolivia, the failure of Walmart in Germany and rise of Pan-Islamism in Egypt. Therefore, we can see a dialectic interaction of globalization with respect to different cultures. Cross-cultural understanding today has significant implications in HR policies, Marketing, as well as in identifying a right business strategy to target a particular country.”
He then goes into the nuances of why McDonalds serves McAloo Tikki, or PizzaHut sells Birizza (Biryani + Pizza) in India.
“Every choice”he concludes, “is finally a combination of the head and heart.”
And what’s with this tag of “YouTube Prof?”
“Ah!”he exclaims breaking into a smile. “I use videos from YouTube to bring in the concept. We keep the delivery simple and clear in the classroom. We do a lot of group assignments to get students to apply these concepts to real life scenarios. Of course there’s reading material, but I include a lot of discussions and debates around key issues based on the material.”
Prof. Narsimha comes across as an idealist, which is not so surprising considering that he is still young. He concedes that being from the same generation helps him connect with his class better. His work with Shiksha Aadhar, a community initiative for the education of underprivileged children in and around Electronic City in Bengaluru, has been well acknowledged; though he prefers keeping a low-profile when you broach the subject.
“I’ve always been interested in gaining knowledge and sharing it with people. It’s why I took up teaching. I believe it is necessary for young people to get into teaching to contribute towards building a better future with holistic individuals. If all young people take up corporate jobs or get into startups, who will take up the baton of imparting learning in society?”
Prof. Abhishek Narsimha is currently researching the efforts of Dharavi Market, a social enterprise startup, working to bring the craftsmen of Dharavi (one of Asia’s largest slums in Mumbai) to the World Wide Web.
“Dharavi Market attempts to break the myths about slums being places of poverty and misery, and helps realize the spirit of entrepreneurship among slum dwellers. They have a website where they display the products of the craftsmen, and they have an app they can use to upload their products directly on the website of the company. There are a wide range of products from shoes, leather jackets, apparels to pottery products all made by the people of Dharavi.”
Given that most of the research in business management focusses on large corporates and new age startups, this seems like quite a revelation. Prof. Narsimha, for one, is extremely excited about this social experiment.
“After all, it’s not every day that you come across an opportunity to go beyond the regular stuff, and explore entrepreneurship at the bottom of the pyramid.”