Skip to main content

Integrated Experience

At the Yale School of Management, we believe that our integrated curriculum provides the wide-angle lens needed to evaluate the "messy, real world problems" that leaders increasingly face. The international experience was a fascinating illustration of how these problems play out, and how our curriculum prepares us to address them. One of the things that caught my attention during our trip to India was the prevalence of large, diversified companies on our itinerary. These companies do everything. Reliance Industries, for example, has dozens of businesses including oil and gas exploration, numerus grocery stores and a joint venture with Ermenegildo Zegna. Why do these conglomerates proliferate? I think we pulled in an idea from every core class debating this question on the bus between meetings. Here's the story we came up with. According to the people we met on our trip, justice tends to prevail in Indian courts, but it can take a long time -- like, decades -- to recover assets after a default. Creditors are loathe to lend money to a new business without existing cash flows and incumbents therefore have a completive advantage in access to finance. Cash flows matter more than assets, and a reputation for repaying loans matters more than a game-changing idea. This is part of the story, but we also think that management matters. On one side of the management story is the patriarchal executive of a medium-sized business who bragged in our meeting that 50% of his managers were related to him. On the other side is the large holding company that just brought on an expatriate executive to lead a global expansion. The holding company could start a new business in an unfamiliar field and out-compete the patriarch by hiring the best talent without regard for blood and relying on data rather than trust to make decisions. This is the type of boundary-free problem our integrated curriculum helps us think through, and I came back excited to start our capstone term. Lo and behold, three days after returning from India, we have a class on the role of the state in capital accumulation. What do you think? Do Indian companies really diversify more than US companies? Did we get the story right? Is there any good research out there on why Indian companies diversify?