Sunday, June 29, 2014

Of Hanafi School of Marketing, Orientation of New Students and Dr Matin A Khan of IBA

As my experience of dealing with students continues to accumulate, and as I closely observe how priorities of students change from what they are during their university studies to what they are in their later careers, I appreciate more and more the criticality and the importance of the two advices given by Dr Matin A Khan in our orientation session at IBA Karachi in 1985. So much so that over the last ten years I have made it customary to emphasize these points in every orientation session for the new intake of students that I am now privileged to address as Dean.

This was the turbulent month of March 1985. Bushra Zaidi's death (as she was trampled upon by a bus while waiting at a bus-stop), had ignited the powder keg of violence in Karachi that is still continuing to explode unabated, thirty years later. In spite of the widespread torching of buses and vehicles that took place during the protests, IBA went ahead with its admission test process, staunchly adhering to its tradition of not closing down or delaying its schedule for any reason. I had my entry test, followed by the panel interview and then the group discussion, and finally after having cleared the three stages, I was asked to come for orientation. At that time, it used to be a great deal getting selected for IBA's MBA program. The intake used to be around 25 and there were no other options for MBA that I knew; the craze of institutes offering MBA in every nook and corner has not yet started.

Our orientation program was held at the main campus and was addressed by Professor Dr Matin A Khan (1922 to 2014) who was officiating as Director in place of Dr A Wahab who was in Japan for a one year sabbatical. Dr Matin A Khan had earlier also served as Dean and Director of IBA, succeeding Dr Mukhtar from 1972 to 1977. In his gentle but direct style he mentioned the following two things that I did not register the way I should have done at that time, but later their import became more and more clearer with experience.

The first one was what Dr Matin referred to as the basis of Hanafi School of Management or Marketing [Can someone please provide a more detailed reference to this]. He mentioned the prevalence of the ills of our society such as corruption, lying, fraud,  violence, double-dealing, duplicity, treachery, and embezzlement and connected them with the theory of marketing.

In marketing we are taught that to succeed your product or service must fulfill some need. Greater the need, greater would be the success of your offering. If our society is full of cheating and corruption, then this is not a problem to complain about. This is not a situation from which to run away, bicker, loathe, bail out and emigrate. It is actually a challenge and an opportunity. The more the people are worried about a particular problem in society the greater is the opportunity for the service or product that would solve the problem. If corruption is the problem that people are worried about, then providing a service that stands for righteousness and integrity is the solution which would be in great demand and would lead you to success. If duplicity and double dealing are the major problems afflicting our transactions then providing straight, simple and direct interaction with no hidden costs and also being true to the word, is the solution which would be in great demand and would ensure you of success. If violence is used by the powerful to exploit the weak, then the message of peace and respect is in great demand, and done in the right way would provide you with success.

Let me give a recent example of how the social yearning for a need can make someone a leader overnight. This is the story of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The history of Pakistan had been replete with spineless officials and judges, whose only claim to rise had been "Yes Sir", who would succumb to the first sign of force, who would acquiesce at the slightest of prodding and whose only qualification had been to follow the orders from the powerful agency that has been the real ruler of Pakistan under the doctrine of necessity. But, something happened that day in 2007, as CJ sat in that GHQ room with "generals" (extremely general of course) in full uniform regalia forcing him to resign, he did something that Pakistan was yearning for decades: He gave a simple "No"! He provided what was in great demand and what the people were yearning for a long time. This made the man who neither had the looks, nor speech, nor style, nor the charisma, an instant leader for which people came out on roads and protested and the rest is history. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and may be his weaknesses had been more than his strengths. But, his claim to leadership and changing the power balance in country can simply be traced to just providing the "No" to the people that were accustomed to only hearing the "Yes Sir" and who believed that acquiescence to illegal power was one of the reason for their current dismal state.

The challenge is how to design the features and attributes of the solution, how to define the perceptions, and how to package it so that people can understand, associate and adopt it providing an opportunity for your success. A leader, business or otherwise, articulates the solution in a manner that people can associate with and can feel with. A leader must exude the credibility from his character and personality. He needs to impress upon his constituency about his genuineness. A leader then also enables the people to adopt the solution and guides them along the way through the various stages leading to the assimilation. The challenge for the universities is to inculcate the Hanafi approach to marketing and management in their students and to develop their necessary credibility and character in that can enable them to assume leadership by going through all the phases from identifying a social or societal problem, designing an appropriate solution, packaging it, disseminating it, and facilitating the people in its adoption.

The other thing that Dr Matin talked about that day was the importance of utilizing the opportunity that students should avail at university by networking with other students and learning about the lifestyles and thinking styles of a large cross section of people. He asked us to use this time at IBA to have a network of friends who are your colleagues and class fellows, who are your seniors and who are your juniors. What I now understand from this is that you need to establish friendship and linkages with your juniors, seniors and your peers. Not only establish these linkages but also maintain them over time if you want to be successful. The maintenance of social linkages with consistency throughout your life constitutes what is often termed in our culture as "waza dari" ___ Continuing to interact with a person in a manner that should not vary with fluctuating fortunes, that is, specifically it should not deteriorate with increase of your fortunes or decrease of his fortunes.

Unlike a school where the class fellows and school fellows are fairly homogeneous, a university provides an environment where there are students from different ethnic backgrounds, different demographics, different areas and different interests. It is important to spread around and establish a vast network of linkages. I often tell my students that when you graduate you should have at least 400-500 contacts in your phone book of students of your university whom you can call your friends or close acquaintances. About 100 from those who are in senior batches, about 100 from the junior batches and the rest from your batch. These contacts should not just be a list that you have imported in your contacts list to please the dean. But, these contacts should be those whom you can refer to as your friends or a close acquaintance. One of the criteria for such contacts that I propose is that you should have taken them to lunch/dinner at least once and they should have reciprocated by taking you, at least once, to a similar dinner/lunch. This is not difficult given that for a bachelors you are in the university for around 4 years. It is not only important to have their contact information in your phone book but it is also important to keep updating the contact information and remain connected for decades after you have left and diverged in your interests and careers. Maintaining these contacts that you have established in your life is one of the most important determinant of your success in life.

I often see students in universities who are very selective in their choice of whom they associate. It is unfortunate to find many who select a group of four or five colleagues in their first year, and continue year after year, course after course with the same group. They lose the opportunity to enrich their interpersonal skills and are unable to develop their fellow feelings and insights in the psychology of people by restricting themselves to only the people whom they identified when they first entered the university. Hence, such people never become good managers or good leaders and their achievements in life are also much below those who were able to develop their interpersonal skills through extensive interactions. I often recount the story of a student of our days who probably graduated at the border line of the GPA requirement, but managed to cultivate an extensive network of friends and contacts. He was active in various societies and student activities and used to be arranging all sorts of events, trips and outings. If one had done a survey of the population of IBA which was around 400 students at that time, nearly everyone would have regarded him as a friend or a close acquaintance. Last time I heard, he was heading a bank in Pakistan and earning a salary with benefits of as high as one can get in banking sector in Pakistan, which is very high!


I had been giving the credit of these advices to Dr Matin in  my orientation addresses to the new students for several years. I learned of Dr Matin's passing away on June 22, 2014. At his soyem last week I resolved to write this in my blog, and later also mentioned these at the condolence meeting held in his honor at IBA last Saturday, June 28, where several of his students and colleagues were present. I remember his "shafqat" and magnanimous style. I can still feel the warmth and feeling of being connected that oozed from his handshake that went beyond that interaction. His style of being full of love and affection and being enthusiastic about your suggestion would always remain with me. Although I never had the previlige to study a course from him, I gained a lot through the brief interactions with him while I was teaching at IBA from 1995 to end of 2000 in some academic meetings, and also a few times I met him while he was at Hamdard. How can one leave such long lasting impressions from such short interactions! May Allah grant him the best of abodes in Jannah. Inna Lillahe wa Inna ilaihir rajioon.

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