Founder of S P Jain School Of Global Management, Nitish Jain believes the secret to a good education is making it global.
Since the advent of the Internet, the word ‘global’ has taken on a new meaning – and no one understands this better than Nitish Jain. Hailing from India, Nitish is a well-known educator and philanthropist, as well as the founder of S P Jain School of Global Management. His efforts to modernise business education and global employability have earned him multiple awards, including the Outstanding Contribution to Education Award by CMO Asia and the Award for Excellence by the Australia India Business Council in 2014. With the Institute’s 15th anniversary celebrations on the horizon, Nitish discusses his inspirations, life experiences and ideas for the future.
Even as a young boy, Nitish was always a dreamer. Although a prominent educator now, Nitish would often find his mind wandering during class – an irony that is not lost on him. Describing himself as shy, his interests at the time lay in sports, specifically chess and table tennis, where he represented his school. As the grandson of noted parliamentarian, industrialist and philanthropist Shreyans Prasad Jain, after whom the school is named, Nitish had the good fortune of meeting various renowned public figures at the time. “You would often find politicians, doctors, poets, religious leaders and many other prominent people at our dinner table,” he shares.
Nitish counts his practical and generous grandfather as his foremost source of inspiration and mentor. “He had a simple philosophy – your friends are your friends, but it is your enemies that you need to befriend,” he says. Nitish shares that at the age of 60, the senior Jain became a philanthropist, promoting multiple schools and colleges, including one for students with special needs. “He may not have been a billionaire, but he had the heart of one,” Nitish says fondly.
When asked about his decision to enter the education sector, Nitish says it was pure chance. After completing his MBA at Cornell University, he returned to India and started a food business that he ran for the next 10 years and eventually sold to Best Foods, a Fortune 500 company. With time on his hands, he offered his services to a business school. This experience led him to realise that this was his true calling. “Just the ability to make a real difference to society by developing the leaders of tomorrow made it so worthwhile,” he shares.
In the early 2000s, Nitish realised that most degrees offered were academic in nature, and far from practical or relevant in an era where ‘global’ was the name of the game. There was a rising demand for graduates who could work efficiently in a global team, and conduct business with people from different countries and cultures. “As businesses became global, so did the need for business schools to be global,” he explains. It was this mission that led him to found S P Jain School of Global Management, which now has campuses in four of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities: Dubai, Singapore, Sydney and Mumbai.
A Changing Paradigm
In today’s competitive era, most companies are no longer looking for ‘book-smart’ students. Instead, the spotlight is now on those who are able to think critically and creatively to solve problems. This changing paradigm is what Nitish seeks to address through his schools in a multitude of ways.
A major factor, he believes, is to inculcate multiculturalism. To achieve this, students of S P Jain study in a minimum of two or more campuses, allowing them to truly soak in the diversity of cultural, political and business practices across regions. Another factor, he states, is the school’s “razor-sharp focus on offering an innovative and result-oriented business education,” a vision that seeks to remedy outdated, conventional methods of education.
The school is also diligent about keeping abreast with the latest technological developments and includes this as a core element of their programmes, curriculum and pedagogy. Nitish is of the opinion that technology may soon replace existing ‘human’ professions, a trend that is already being seen in some industries. “Even as we speak, technology is disrupting businesses, so one needs to constantly learn and unlearn,” he believes.
The school’s success speaks for itself, having been ranked Top 10 in the World by Forbes a few years ago, and more recently being ranked fourth in the Times Higher Education-Wall Street Journal Business School rankings. By crafting graduates who have studied in multiple countries and acclimatised to a global environment even before joining a workplace, Nitish firmly believes that his version of ‘global business leaders’ has come to life.
Focus, Hard Work And Luck
Nitish is undoubtedly an accomplished entrepreneur, and ascribes his success to having a single-minded focus. Hard work, he believes, is now the norm and no longer a differentiator. “I believe in the art of doing one thing really, really well. I read and research a lot and spend a lot of time thinking of how we can be different,” he elaborates.
This entrepreneurial spirit has been well recognised, both locally and globally. Aside from the multiple awards he has been honoured internationally, he was also chosen by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to be part of a global delegation representing the ‘Make In India’ campaign. “Representing my country at a global level was just amazing,” he says. “We met political leaders, opinion makers and prominent business dignitaries from Australia, and discussed how our two nations can work together to create a better tomorrow.”
Other proud moments include the celebratory gatherings at S P Jain whenever the school receives a top ranking. Describing the energy at these gatherings as “truly extraordinary”, Nitish’s fondest memories are of staff, alumni, faculty, students and well-wishers shouting and cheering with joy.
However, these achievements have not come without struggle. “There have been at least five occasions where we were on the verge of closing down,” he recollects. Though his team was resourceful and savvy in their thought process, Nitish attributes some part of their survival and success to good fortune. “Without luck, you really cannot win,” he smiles.
In 2010, Nitish was selected by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to be part of his delegation to present the 'Make In India' campaign in Australia
Life Away From Business
Another influential person in Nitish’s life is his wife, fellow entrepreneur and author Bapsy Jain. Interestingly, though they both studied in Mumbai, they only met in the US while she was working and he was pursuing his MBA. Currently the finance director of the school, she helps keep a check on Nitish whenever he “comes up with another ‘grandiose plan’,” he says jokingly.
Nitish is also well known for his philanthropy work, a tradition he has carried on from his grandfather. Attributing this tendency to his upbringing, he says “I have been brought up to believe that the main purpose of life is to help others. To me, achievement is best measured in the difference you make to society.”
Not one to show off, he says he tries to contribute to multiple causes, albeit discreetly, with his current efforts focused primarily on India. Be it in philanthropy or education, Nitish feels that the golden key to any sort of success is to have belief in yourself. “When you really and truly believe in yourself, you will make bold decisions that can change the world.”
The S P Jain campus is housed in a renovated heritage building, located within the lush surroundings of HortPark
This article was first printed in MillionaireAsia Issue 51 - Mar 19