Walter Saldanha's AICAR Business School opens doors

By , agencyfaqs! | In | November 01, 2002
The Asian Institute of Communication and Research was formally inaugurated yesterday by Kerry Rubie, vice-chairman, client services worldwide, Leo Burnett Inc

Walter Saldanha, social activist and erstwhile chairman & managing director, Chaitra Leo Burnett (now Leo Burnett India), is a happy man. His long-cherished dream of establishing a residential institution for higher learning in the field of communication has just borne fruit. And the sense of achievement and contentment he feels shows, when he talks about AICAR - the acronym for Asian Institute of Communication and Research - which was formally inaugurated yesterday by Kerry Rubie, vice-chairman, client services worldwide, Leo Burnett Inc.

AICAR is situated in a 30-acre campus at Neral, in the foothills of Matheran, Maharashtra, about 95 km from Mumbai. The institute currently offers two MBA courses - a two-year, four-semester full-time residential programme, and a distance learning programme - with specialization in communication management, marketing management, human resource management and insurance management. Admissions to the AICAR MBA are based on entrance tests that include assessment through presentation skills, group discussion and personal interview. The campus and its facilities are also available to corporates for management development programmes (MDPs).

AICAR is the result of what Saldanha terms "a noticeable degree of 'leadership vacuum' in almost all sections of business, government and society". The primary objective of the institute is to impart value-based education that creates "leaders of mettle", as Saldanha puts it. "I would like to see our students take on societal and rural issues as these are the challenges ahead," he says. "Which is why AICAR does not focus only on the business aspect, which our existing business schools teach anyway. We want to add the dimension of being good corporate citizens by teaching how to deal with issues of social concern. The aim is to make better corporates and leaders, not just good businessmen. Our students must have a big heart - only then can we change this country for the better." Interestingly, students at AICAR would have to undergo projects in rural areas as a part of their curriculum.

Saldanha, who retired from advertising in 1999, admits that the acres he purchased at Neral some 15 years ago were not purchased keeping the institute in mind. "I wanted to start a farm here," he recollects fondly. "And I wanted to find a connect with the economically weaker sections of societyÖ the income from the farm was to go towards the benefit of the local people in terms of providing them better education, better water solutions etc." Incidentally, Saldanha has been involved with issues such as slum development and leprosy eradication in Mumbai.

The thought of creating an institute "evolved over the years", and was the direct result of fulfilling the ad industry's need for talented people. "By the time I had decided to hang up my boots, the focus on the institute had sharpened," Saldanha reveals. "It is time to look at the entire spectrum of communication, not just advertising. And most importantly, there is a need to understand the hopes and aspirations of the people of this country, which requires fundamental research. Research is the base of any communication strategy, and communication is the key tool in this millennium. Which is why we decided to establish AICAR." Incidentally, the farm that Saldanha talks about also exists alongside the campus.

Saldanha adds that the project had the blessings of Leo Burnett, which made everything easier. "I had shared the idea with Kerry a long time ago, and Burnett encouraged me to set this up. I think they are as proud of AICAR as we are. And I believe they would want to be a part of this institute in the time to come." Incidentally, Leo Burnett has made significant investments in AICAR. For instance, the agency has made donations to the tune of Rs 36 lakh. Of course, contributions need not only be monetary. "Our students must get international exposure, and Burnett's people regularly come down to India. I would love to have these people coming over to the campus as well," Saldanha suggests.

Despite all the investments, one thing is clear. Leo Burnett does not hold any equity stake in AICAR. "The investments have been made in the spirit of donations to a good cause, and because Walter is close to the agency's heart," says Aniruddha Banerjee, executive director, Leo Burnett India.

"One of the operating principles of Leo Burnett is the belief that we must invest in the training of people," observes Rubie. "As has been said before, in this industry, assets go down the lift every evening. So we have to invest in people. So when Walter first talked about the idea of an institute, we saw that his idea was consistent with our philosophy. And marketing and advertising are areas where we, as an agency, can play a significant role. So we have committed our resources." Rubie reveals that Burnett would, for instance, offer AICAR students access to proprietary tools such as the much-vaunted Brand Belief System. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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