A memorable visit with the Indian Ambassador


A delegation from Parul University, India along with a delegation from the Bern University of Applied Sciences Business School had the rare honour of meeting with His Excellency, Sibi George, Ambassador of India to Switzerland.  

Report and interview from Jacqueline Bürki, Head of International Office, BFH Business School. 

During an intensive short-term programme in Bern from 18 – 30 March 2018, a 25-member delegation from Parul University, India along with a 26-member delegation from the Bern University of Applied Sciences Business School had the rare honour of meeting with His Excellency, Sibi George, Ambassador of India to Switzerland.

The busy 12-day programme was organised in pursuance of the January 2017 memorandum of understanding between Parul University and Bern University of Applied Sciences, whereby both institutions committed to strengthening international collaboration. A first initiative took place in August 2017 using the Young Entrepreneur Exchange Project (YEEP) as an enabler.

Young Entrepreneur Exchange Project

The YEEP international summer school is a three-week intensive hands-on programme, bringing together highly motivated students from industrial and emerging economies. The programme not only challenges inquiring minds to use their entrepreneurial skills while working on a business idea/concept within a start-up environment but to work across cultural boundaries. The first week of the programme was dedicated to gaining valuable insights into the Indian and Swiss culture. During the second and third weeks, the focus was on the business ideas, brought in by Parul University students, with the goal of taking these business ideas one step forward. BFH students were also able to acquire an enhanced understanding of the Indian business environment through lectures and local industry visits as well as first-hand experience from local entrepreneurs and coaches. They were able to realize that India is indeed a difficult and complex market which is culturally diverse and geographically distant from Europe.

YEEP International Summer School characterizes brilliant opportunities for entrepreneurial skill building through mediums of diverse cultures, teams, environment and working styles. A perfect blend of creative and structural group learning!” Dr. Devanshu Patel, President of Parul University

Likewise, the BFH Business School strives to offer its students with real-life practical experience within its curricula. Thus, as a pilot exercise, the International Business Management major “Negotiating in Multicultural Environments” was opened to allow for live negotiations between Parul University and BFH Business School students. This second initiative resulted in 24 Parul University students with a faculty member travelling to Switzerland for a two-week period. During their stay, the delegation visited the Zurich Financial Museum, undertook a privately organised Zurich Business tour, met with the mayor of Interlaken and learnt about Swiss history and culture. Naturally, a visit to the Cailler chocolate factory and daily trips in Bern had to be part of the agenda.

The real highlight was meeting His Excellency, Sibi George, Ambassador of India to Switzerland, at his private residence. Members from both tertiary institutions had the honour of learning first hand of the importance of collaboration between Switzerland and India. On this momentous occasion, we had the opportunity to interview His Excellency, herewith the insights we gained.

This morning we presented our cooperation with Parul University. Could you share your insights on the importance collaboration in the area of education has for India?

In India, the right to education is a fundamental right which the State guarantees. In a country with the size of India, with a large young population, education is one of the priorities we take quite seriously.  It is very important; this can be seen in the number of educational institutions, in particular, engineering institutions which now focus on skills development. Young people now have opportunities to have an education, however; in a globalised world, there is an urgency for them to get exposure outside of India. That is where the educational exchanges become very important.  Therefore, anything to do with education is very important for the government of India and the people of India because the young population, which makes up 65% of our population, needs to be skilled and trained so that they can make productive contributions towards our economy and also to the world economy.

We have recently been tasked with developing an International Executive MBA (iEMBA) programme for Indian executives, taking part of their courses in India, partly in Switzerland and including a distance learning element. We are interested to know your thoughts about how such offerings are perceived in India and if there is an interest? 

I think there is a huge interest and I think it's an excellent initiative. I have seen and heard about the success stories in this market. People plan to continue with their education after five to seven years of work experience. They generally seek accredited institutions, Switzerland has some of the best education facilities, and I am sure that this programme is going to be a huge success, with the kind of opportunities which I mentioned that India offers. With international exposure and training abroad, it will help us further contribute towards the economic progress. I think it will be a huge success.

As mentioned, this new iEMBA includes digital learning. Could you tell us about the role digitalisation plays in Indian education and what are the plans for the future? 

India is proud today that we did not miss the information technology revolution.  We were one of the pioneers in this industry. Silicon Valley is a good example to see the number of Indians who have a digital background. The IITs are an example of some of the best universities and best educational institutions in India. And I think with the NITI Aayog, the new governmental planning commission, has come up with another initiative on the digitised education programme which is having a huge impact. To listen to a good professor in a university in New Delhi, someone has to travel two or three thousand kilometres from Calcutta or the northeast. Today that very professor is talking to you in your institution.

That ties in with our next related question concerning innovation in education. According to the NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, their objective is “to develop the innovative mindset from Class VI onwards”. How is this impacting tertiary education?

Besides what I have mentioned earlier, NITI Aayog has come up with a new programme called Talent Innovation Programme. The plan is to encourage out of the box thinking, coming up with ideas, and the government aims to support those ideas so that they become a reality.  Today India has a huge start up programme which is being supported by the government and by the private sector.  I think it's a programme which has a huge potential, and which has the support of the government.  

One of our researchers will be visiting Parul University in August to investigate potential areas of research cooperation. We would be interested to know how the Indian government and its representatives worldwide support collaboration in tertiary education and in particular research? 

I believe this is one area where we have a major focus in terms of no longer thinking in silos, but rather integrating and engaging with each other. It involves the world, India, for example, is involved in many exchange programmes. There is an Indian Chair in many of the universities across the world, including Switzerland. We are therefore ready to look at these proposals and to work with the universities and support them.  

The Indian Embassy has requested closer collaboration with the Bern University of Applied Sciences, in particular, related to Indian students studying in Bern for short or more extended stays.

In conclusion, experiences gained through projects such as YEEP India and the intensive short-term programme in Bern have allowed for the BFH Business School to develop a knowledge base and skill set which can be of use when providing research and services to local SMEs as well as potential future Indian investors looking into Swiss ventures. At the same time, other BFH departments have been encouraged to investigate and develop short-term programmes as well as summer schools with Parul University.