One of the first things that struck me when I joined IBS (at Ahmedabad) was the sheer diversity – of food, clothes, looks, cultures, thoughts, and of course, the people – who were from as diverse backgrounds as I could imagine.
At the kitchen – one of the first places my stomach insisted that I try out – there was a variety of food such as Gujarati kadhi and dhoklas, north Indian food paranthas and tadkas, south Indian sambars and dosas.. I could go on.
I am from Orissa, a state that is outside everyone’s radar. In the year when I joined, about ten years back, I could as well have been from the Moon. I wanted to tell them so much about the richness of Orissa’s culture – its dances, its literature, its art forms, the temples, architecture, and the minerals from the state. But I was too tongue-tied in the initial days to assert myself like that.
Then I met another man from the Moon – a senior student who was also from Orissa and I felt comforted. Its always to meet other people from the same place that you are, especially if you are in a minority.
Diversity – A fact of Life at IBS
Diversity is a reality in IBS and if you are lucky to join any of its institutes, it is as if you are in a mini-Indian setup. In common with many other institutes of repute, IBS is a melting pot of cultures, and different academic domains. What makes it unique is the relatively lower concentration of students, which makes us more intimate with one another and come into closer contact with the diverse people we see here. There is more mingling of the cultures and there is a lesser tendency for people of one state to stick together.
A study by Crisil last year showed that in IBS Hyderabad, about 30 percent of the students were from West Bengal, followed by 17 percent from Delhi and 12 percent from Uttar Pradesh. Other states such as Maharashtra, MP, Andhra Pradesh were also represented.
The students were from various academic streams. Predictably, nearly half were from the engineering stream but then there were students who had graduated in arts, science, commerce, business administration and other disciplines.
I have not seen too many international students, but I understand that there are some studying in some of the institutes.
In my initial days at IBS, I was bemused by the cacophony of languages resounding in my ears in the dormitories, common room, dining hall – Hindi (in various dialects), Bengali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Telugu, and Marathi. They would be talking to one another in Hindi or English – then suddenly someone’s phone would ring and that person would switch to his or her own language – indicating that it was a family member they were talking to or someone from home.
Diversity Creates an Integrated Community
This may seem like a contradiction but it is true. When you are from different backgrounds and cultures, you take more time to get to know the other person and this creates greater bonding. Since there were very few people from my home state, I had to make friends with students from the other states.
I felt closer to them than I had ever felt with people from my own state or who had similar backgrounds. Yes, a lot of us were from engineering and many of us were in the same boat struggling to understand financial management and accounting, but we would take help from the commerce students who were only too willing to help us.
Our work on various projects brought in different kinds of ideas because everyone thought according to their individual backgrounds. This inevitably led to arguments and fights but I think we got closer in a sense. There was fun; there were challenges; sometimes it was hilarious and we learned a lot.
Diversity – The Best Teacher
I can’t think of anything, which prepares you, better for the outside corporate world than the diverse character of the IBS institutes.
Your communication skills definitely improves and language is only part of it. Accents differ, so do pronunciations and you realise that you have to adjust our speech and manner of speaking so that others can understand it too. You can take it as an opportunity to learn a new language, if you are so inclined.
Communication would also mean appreciating certain nuances of in the way that others interact and in their usage of certain words.
You become more tolerant of others – their habits, their mannerisms, the way they react to situations and events and sometimes this might even rub off on you. You start to appreciate the perspectives of others who are from a different culture or mindset.
You also become diplomatic. Diplomacy has become a dirty word and it is often confused with hypocrisy and trying to downplay things. This is not the truth. Diplomacy is all about being subtle. When you get into the corporate world you will realise that diplomacy forms a large part of your communication and management skills.
If you working as part of a diverse team, diplomacy is often called for in dealing with your peers and bosses.
Diversity enriches your personality. I am not surehow this works but I have found that students who have come from a diversified background in terms of their experiences and interactions make better colleagues and work mates. It is easier to establish a rapport with them.
When living among diverse groups you get experiences – at second hand certainly – that you would otherwise not have been exposed to. It gives you more learning and understanding than you could ever get from any management book.
For myself I can say that the global exposure that I had in IBS as a result of its diversity has been an enormous advantage to me in my career. I have always felt confident that I can fit in anywhere and have never felt the need to surround myself with people from my own culture and background. The more different, the better.
Contributed By : Sidhartha Mohanty(Class of 2005, IBS Ahmedabad).