Convocation address at IBA, Karachi

Convocation Address – IBA, Karachi
Ishrat Husain
December 1, 2018

Let me begin by expressing my profound thanks to the Executive Director, members of the Board of Governors and members of the Executive Committee for bestowing upon me the honour of being the Chief Guest at the 2018 Convocation of IBA. I have been invited to address a number of convocations throughout Pakistan but the one I am going to attend today is of very special significance. The reason for this is not only emotional that I have been associated with this fine institution for a period of eight years but it provides me once again an opportunity to reiterate and reemphasize the messages I have been conveying to successive batches of incoming and outgoing students. Some of you may find it boring and dull to hear me talk about the same things as I have done in past. But to me, these ideas would remain on my radar screen until they are deeply entrenched and openly displayed in practice by a majority of IBA graduates. I want to see a qualitative difference in the behavior and conduct of those coming out of this great institution. So let me crave your indulgence in repeating those ideas once again in the hope that these may stick with some of you.

Before I do that let me offer my sincere congratulations to 900 graduating students for their perseverance and dedicated efforts. It is a testimony to your strive for excellence. You now enter a selected galaxy of the top notch professionals of this country . Whether you choose to become an entrepreneur or get employed in public or private or non profit sectors I am sure you would acquit yourselves admirably well. I would also like to congratulate the parents of the graduating students that their anxieties and concerns are finally coming to an end. They have made enormous sacrifices to see this day and I want to thank them profusely for their determination. I also wish to thank the faculty members and staff of IBA who have enabled these students to cross this important hurdle in their lives.

Let me now turn to a few thoughts which I want to share with you. First of all, Let me tell you honestly as to what would please me the most is when your future employees, associates, clients, and all those who come in contact with you come and tell me that what distinguishes IBA graduates from others are not only that they are bright and competent but they exhibit highest ethical values in their conduct. In this overall decaying environment of today where self gratification has become the norm, please do not get tempted or distracted and uphold your integrity against all odds, do not deviate from principle of merit in your decisions, adhere to hard work and discipline under all circumstances and remain humble and considerate in your dealings with others. Therefore, integrity, honesty, hard work and discipline, humility and compassion should be an integral part of your character and every day conduct. Ability would take you to the top but character would keep you there. You would no doubt be subjected to difficult choices at critical junctures at various stages of your life, would face serious dilemmas that affect your personal and family life and challenge the values you uphold and at times it is possible you may suffer enormous pains and agony. Please do not think for a moment that the world around is fair and just. But once you rationalize by saying to yourself "every one else is doing why should I restrain myself " and begin to take short cuts and detours from the straight path you might achieve the immediate goals and get instant satisfaction but remember that the road you have taken is going to cost you immensely in terms of your future aspirations and expectations. Reputation, once soiled or stained, is never going to get cleansed for the rest of your life. Those who pretend that having made one infraction in life, they would not repeat it and get back to the straight path are sadly mistaken. That one infraction has already done the damage and would become a big stain on your character and a hindrance in your way forward. So while it is tough to remain above board in our messy environment I can guarantee that those of you who firmly stick to their values would come ahead and achieve heights. Those who indulge in self delusion that they can get away without any harm would never be able to make it.

I have had the privilege of serving on many selection committees, boards and search committees for choosing chief executives and other top positions in the public, corporate, academia, non-profit organizations, and donor supported projects. I have seen many bright and competent persons, who otherwise deserve the positions being ignored, sidelined or by passed because their reputation had reached ahead of the process. And therefore it was so gratifying for me to see a large number of IBA graduates being short listed in the most recent round of the selection of the Chief Executives of banks and Commissioners of Securities and Exchange Commission. I am quite sanguine that in times to come the short list of the potential candidates for top positions in the country would emanate largely from among those IBA graduates who strive to work hard, honestly and to the best of their ability. Not only that would remain the case within the country but also extend outside the borders.

The other point which I would like to urge upon you is to show compassion towards your fellow beings. You are among the privileged few who have made it to a higher academic institution in the country. Only 10 percent of cohorts in your age group do get this opportunity and 90 percent are left behind. This imposes upon you an additional responsibility to help the poor, disadvantaged and not so well to do in whatever you can. In this " me " generation where you have reached this stage in your life by dint of your efforts and hard work you may feel the others could not make it and therefore they do not deserve any empathy. Please do not lose sight of the fact that luck also plays a part in one's life. Just being born in a family that can afford to send you to get quality education is largely a matter of luck. Think about those who are as intelligent and bright as you are , may be willing to strive equally hard but are deprived because they cannot afford to have access to educational opportunities similar to those you have availed. For this reason, I am extremely proud to have reinvigorated the Talent Hunt programs under which talented students from poor families are coached and mentored and prepared for IBA entrance tests. It is heartening to note that this almost dormant program under which only a handful students could enter IBA has taken off and as many as 131 scholars are currently enrolled in various degree programs. I would strongly urge that the least you can do once you get settled in your career is to assist in expanding this program so that a larger number can benefit from this initiative.

The last thought that I want to leave with you is about preparing yourself for an uncertain future. You are going to enter an era of tumultuous changes caused by disruptive technologies, shift in the balance of economic power and consequential geo political tension between the existing hegemonic power and the new challenger, deep demographic transition and increased vulnerabilities to energy-food-water nexus due to climate change. The knowledge and skills you have acquired would soon become obsolescent and outdated. Only those among you who are continuously recharging their mental batteries and reequipping themselves with new tools are likely to succeed. Those who become complacent and believe that the degree and credentials they have earned today would act as a meal ticket for the rest of their professional lives would meet with shocks. So please do consider the entry to the real world as a first step in the long journey of an uncharted direction. So do your utmost to prepare yourself for unknowns and imponderables and think how you would traverse this path.

Finally, let me pay my sincere compliments to the entire IBA community for the tremendous progress it has made during the last decade. When I look back at 2008, and compare it with 2018, I am simply amazed. The achievements are too many to be enumerated on this occasion but let me recapitulate some of the key strategic objectives that have been attained in this last decade building on many successes of the previous Directors.

The biggest asset of any higher education institute is its student body and faculty. In 2008 we had 75 full time faculty members ( only 25 percent of them or 19 had PhD degrees) and none of them had an office of their own where they could sit peacefully, prepare for the classes, meet the students for counseling, carry out research . They all sat in a common room just before their classes began and then dispersed. Today each one of the 118 faculty member has an office with lap top, phone and other equipment. Because of this facilitation we were able to attract or train as many as 73 who have PhD degrees from the leading universities of the world. The ratio of PhD degree faculty has now reached 62 percent. Several of them are still undergoing the training. This facilitation became possible because we were able to mobilize Rs 500 crores from private sector to build or remodel as many as 30 stuctures for class rooms, laboratories, hostels for boys and girls, student centre, sports complex, auditoriums, multi purpose facilities, air conditioning, landscaping and utilities. This enabled us to increase the enrolment from 1811 to 3701 today and new degree programs in Accounting and Finance, Social Sciences and Liberal Arts, Economics, Mathematics, Journalism, Islamic Finance and Management Sciences have been introduced. Community outreach has expanded and in addition to only one centre in 2008 i.. the Centre for Executive Education we have five new centres for Entrepreneurship , Business and Economic Research, Journalism, Islamic Finance and ICT. I would like to dispel the popular perception that IBA is only for the rich. It would be appropriate to repeat that WE follow a needs blind admission policy and any student who qualifies the test would not be denied admission because of financial constraint. The numbers speak for themselves.With only 67 scholarships amounting to Rs.5.6 million in 2008 catering to less than 4 percent of the student body , the number of scholarship holders this year was 834 with disbursement of Rs226 million. That is almost one fourth of full time students are receiving some kind of financial assistance and in addition 99 students have obtained Qarz e Hasna.

Despite these achievements let us not become smug or complacent as we still have not reached the goal we had set for ourselves to rank among the top institutions in the country and the region. We haven't yet got accreditation from the bodies such as AACSB and we still have to attract top names for our faculty. I am sure the Board, management and faculty and staff would be working hard to attain these goals in the near future.

I want to thank you all once again and wish all you best of luck in your future endevaours.