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Back to school for Norway?

Telenor executives and social services officials,for starters,could do with some elementary lessons

Written by Jaithirth Rao | Published: March 20, 2012 3:20:25 am

Telenor executives and social services officials,for starters,could do with some elementary lessons


The Honourable Minister of


The Kingdom of Norway

Dear Minister,

It has been common knowledge that the education system in your country,as in those of your neighbours,is one of the best,if not the best,in the world. However,recent developments as reported in the press have convinced this writer that you could do with some gratuitous advice in this area. You may kindly treat this as consultancy that is provided to you absolutely free of charge,purely with the intention of promoting goodwill among men (sorry,I should have said,“goodwill among human beings” in order to comply with the politically correct fashions prevalent in your country) and helping you take your fine educational system to greater heights.

First,there is something seriously wrong with the syllabus,curriculum and teaching practices in your higher institutions that teach the discipline of business management. It appears that senior executives of Norwegian companies,particularly in the telecom industry,are oblivious to elementary matters as they merrily go about investing (or should I say squandering?) billions of dollars (sorry,kroner) of precious funds entrusted to them by their shareholders. They are given to casual,lazy and lackadaisical decision-making. They do not conduct what is customarily known as “due diligence”. They make investments in companies in faraway foreign countries (foreign to Norway,that is) without asking elementary questions as to how the companies receiving the investments acquired their licences. They ignore the fact that there are serious questions floating around in the public domain,none of which are secret,and which could have a bearing on the future of these investments. They ignore that there are legal challenges against the basic structure of the businesses of the companies where your worthy Norwegian giants are willing to pour in money. They ignore elementary principles of risk analysis and downside protection as their boards make enormous commitments of money.

And once things go wrong,they come running to your government to bail them out,much like the truant child who expects the mother to protect her/him against the big bad predators of foreign lands. They ask you to believe they knew nothing about matters that were being debated and discussed quite openly. In fact,the senior executives of Norwegian firms are asking all of us to take them at their word that for months and even years,they never read newspapers or watched TV.

Being gullible,I do take them at their word. It is your education system that I find fault with. You must insist that all business schools in Norway immediately introduce courses which can be conveniently named Investments 101 and Risk Analysis 101. Before they invest in a company in a foreign country,it would be a good practice if they conducted due diligence. They should read the newspapers; they should watch TV news channels; they should analyse if the companies they are investing in have committed acts or been beneficiaries of deals which may be illegal; they should take into account whether there are existing litigations,again in the public domain,which might negatively impact the investments.

In business schools in other countries in the world,admittedly less advanced than yours,these management practices are considered fairly routine. Once you make the curriculum changes,I am sure that the executives of your giant companies will admit that they make investments with their eyes open,with full knowledge of the risks they are taking and fully aware that there is no point in running back to the Norwegian government when their decisions are found out to be naïve,foolhardy or plain wrong. They simply thought they could get away with certain risky moves in a foreign country,moves that they would probably never have considered in Norway itself. They can then stand up as men,not boys (sorry adults,not children — I keep forgetting the importance you folks attach to political correctness) and take their losses on their chins,as it were.

The second area where your education system is failing is in teaching your government officials the way motor skills work among human beings. As the minister of education you could,for instance,ask your educators whether they have heard of chapatis or rotis — a thin Indian bread. If they haven’t,please show them some of these squishy breads. You can then ask them if it is possible to wrap some vegetables in a chapati using a fork and a knife and,after accomplishing that daunting task,whether the said chapati can actually be eaten using a fork and a knife. Doubtless being extremely intelligent and honourable people (as I am told all Norwegians are),they will discover the limitations of the motor skills of human fingers and the implements that they can use. In our foreign country (foreign to Norway that is),over a few hundred years we have empirically established that eating chapatis and tandoori chicken using one’s fingers is the most efficient way. If your great neuroscientists discover a way to do this efficiently,please do publicise this. But for the time being,please urgently revise the Norwegian textbooks where the subject of motor skills is addressed.

I have admired Ibsen and Heyerdahl who,to my knowledge (I readily concede my ignorance) were the last great persons your country produced. I consider it a rare honour to be in a position to provide free advice to the exalted personage in charge of educating Norwegians. Please convey my best wishes to all your citizens,especially to the officials in your telecom companies and government social services department.


H.F. Consultant,aka Humble Free


The writer is chairman of the Nasscom Foundation

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