Yogis could find city life easier to bear

By Miranda Green in London

Burnt-out bankers and spiritually impoverished climbers of the corporate greasy pole keen to take a fresh look at their lives will find themselves offered another option in the new year - a London-based MBA which combines business and management theory with yoga and philosophy.

India's Manipal university has joined forces with the Ayurvedic Company of Great Britain - which promotes the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda - to offer an MBA in humanistic management. Alongside the usual components of a business qualification - such as accounting, marketing and organisation - the course will offer modules in yoga and stress management, alternative health and well-being, the environment and even poetry and philosophy.

According to Gopi Warrier, the company's chairman and tutor on the course's poetry module, there is a "dire need" for an alternative and more holistic approach to business.

Without it, he argues, the City of London's high-fliers are in danger of burning out en masse as their obsessive pursuit of riches takes its toll at an increasingly early age. "A lot of my friends are in the City," Mr. Warrier says. "They are burnt out, they have no idea of life outside. They make money, but making money doesn't make you happy."

Mr. Warrier, an MBA graduate of the London Business School, argues that without changing their attitudes, the companies can expect only minimal loyalty from young people taught nothing but "greed and Enron values."

So far around 20 students are expected to enrol for the three-day-a-week course, which starts in February. Mr. Warrier hopes to attract "executives who are fed up", and to lure younger students away from conventional MBA courses which, he claims, merely reinforce the morally-bankrupt values of society.

"The younger you go on one of these programmes the more you are contaminated," Mr. Warrier argues. "The laws of capitalism are being taught as if they are mother's milk."

But the purveyors of established MBA programmes rejected his views, saying that business ethics and cultural awareness were on the curriculum at the top business schools. "We all focus quite heavily on the softer side of things now, because that is what people want," the London Business School said.

This article appeared in the Financial Times, Europe, Monday, December 27, 2004