The class of 2007 in front of the main building
So, what makes
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad the best B-school in
India? Is it the case study method of instruction, the faculty,
the placements, the alumni network, or simply the heritage of
the place? Or it is merely an issue of perception, of IIM-A being
the biggest B-school brand in the country? Prakash Apte, Director
of IIM-B (Bangalore), contends that it is the latter. "We
also employ the case study method. Our faculty is as committed
and renowned. Our placements were, in fact, better than IIM-A's
this time (the best overseas salary in 2006, $193,000, Rs 88.78
lakh, went to an IIM-B student; there is not much gap in the domestic
salaries either)," he says. "It is just a perception
that they are better than us."
There are those in IIM-A who admit that the
school's standing comes from a virtuous cycle. "(We have)
everything, from the best students to best recruiters to best
placements," says Professor M.M. Monippally, Chair of the
school's post-graduate programme (PGP) in management. "We
churn out the best year after year and that strengthens the perception
that we are the best." Is it all brand-image and perception,
| FACTFILE: IIM-A
| Founded: 1961
Batch size: 250
Faculty: Student ratio*: 1:8
Average domestic salary in placements 2006: Rs 9.66
lakh per annum
Average international salary in placements 2006: $92,500
(Rs 41.6 lakh)
Number of offers made during placements 2006: 510
Number of companies offering overseas jobs in 2006: 20
Success rate for applicants for 2006-08: 1:680 (one
out of every 680 students who wrote the test secured admission
to the school)
* For Post-Graduate Programme only
Delivering The Brand Promise
There are many who don't agree. "It isn't
that the institute has been sitting pretty all this while,"
says Professor Bakul H. Dholakia, Director, IIM-A. "If it
is considered an excellent brand, then that's because its custodians
have consistently delivered on the brand promise and worked to
keep its essence contemporary." Those on the IIM-A campus,
and many outside it, agree with him. "When I went to IIM-A
in 1990, I was a plain mechanical engineer with no exposure to
business," says Pulak Prasad, Managing Director, Warburg
Pincus India. "When I walked out in 1992, I had been exposed
to a wide range of business practices, like finance, marketing,
strategy and most importantly, to an exceptional peer group and
world-class faculty who helped broaden my perspective of the world."
Indeed, the school has, year after year,
worked towards ensuring that its brand pedigree remains undiluted.
It still remains the most difficult business school, globally,
to gain admission into, and hence, attracts only the best students
in the country (the success rate for admissions in 2006 was 1:680).
"The campus has an extremely competitive environment,"
says V.N. 'Tiger' Tyagrajan, a Class of 1985 alum and currently
Executive Vice President, Genpact. "You are rubbing shoulders
with an exceptionally intelligent, ambitious and spirited lot
all the time, which keeps the adrenalin going." "The
rigour that starts with the entrance test is maintained right
till the end," adds Madhabi Puri-Buch, Senior General Manager
and Country Head, Operations, ICICI Bank and a class of 1988 alum.
"The school readies you for 14-16 hours of work a day under
extreme pressure." That hasn't changed a bit, laughs Mayank
Rawat, an electronics engineer from IIT Delhi and a second year
student. "I was given some half-a-dozen case studies on the
very first day and asked to prepare for a discussion the next
The courses themselves change year on year.
Take electives or optional courses that students opt for in their
second year. The school offers 65 such. "One third of these
electives are scrapped every three years and new subjects are
introduced to ensure contemporariness," says J.R. Varma,
Dean and Professor, Finance and Accounting. A sampling of new
electives: entrepreneurship, telecom policy, insurance, agriculture
and retailing. "No other school can boast such varied choice,"
adds Varma. The method of education itself remains case-study-led,
which is a Harvard Business School-inspired way of teaching where
students are challenged to present solutions to real-life problems
faced by corporations and managers.
| BRAND AMBASSADORS
MD/ Warburg Pincus India
Managing Director/ ICICI Bank
President, Foods/ Unilever
MD & Head, Investment Banking/JP Morgan India
Sr GM and Country Head (Ops)/ ICICI Bank
Danseuse, Actress, Social Activist
The Brand Custodians
Dholakia believes that IIM-A's faculty is
its differentiator. "A constant focus on research and development,
which leads to evolution of new products and processes, which
in turn provide an excellent interface between academics and business
world, are the key to IIM-A's success and, this ever-evolving
balance comes from the extraordinary work done by our faculty,"
he says. The institute has an in-house faculty of 82 (rival IIM-B
has 71) and according to Dholakia, "their selection process
is even more competitive than the entrance test for graduates".
Two-thirds of management research in India comes out of IIM-A
every year, he adds. IIM-A's faculty also consults for leading
government and corporate entities; apart from helping generate
material for case studies and burnishing the IIM-A brand some,
this also brings in money, crucial for an institute that hasn't
received a grant from the government for the past three years
(50 per cent of the amount individual faculty members earn from
consulting assignments goes to the school). The government-stipulated
salaries for the instructors are a bit of a joke (a professor
can earn between Rs 35,000 and Rs 42,000), but the faculty isn't
complaining. "The autonomy, the atmosphere and the affiliation
with a world-renowned institute, more than compensate for it,"
The world may have discovered India's better
B-schools but schools in the US, even Europe are still considered
a class apart. Despite this, a significant proportion of the country's
best graduate talent chooses to stay back and study at the IIMs
because, according to Rawat, "they offer a fairly world-class
education at an extremely competitive price." For instance,
while IIM-A's two-year post-graduate programme costs around $4,000
(Rs 1.84 lakh), the corresponding figure is around $100,000 (Rs
45 lakh) for European B-schools and over $150,000 (Rs 69 lakh)
for American ones. And most students venturing abroad, maintains
Monippally, do so because they can't clear cat. That IIM-A is
no less a brand than some of its global peers is evident from
its track record at placements. This year, Barclays, a leading
global investment bank, made 22 offers; of these, only 16 were
accepted. The bank offered one student an eye-popping salary of
$185,000 (Rs 85.1 lakh) per annum, a 22 per cent increase over
the highest overseas salary ($152,000) offered by HSBC, London,
last year. That a bank like Barclays should come to India to hire
staff for its global offices and pick up as many as 16 candidates
from one school, confirms what global B-school rankings don't.
And other placement-statistics only drive home the point: 20 companies
offered overseas placements; 17 students accepted jobs in the
us, 28 in Europe, and several in Asian capitals; the top 50 students
who took up jobs abroad were all made offers in excess of $100,000
(Rs 46 lakh).
|Knowledge temple: IIM-A boasts of one
of the biggest management-focussed libraries in the countrybuilding
Brand Extensions And Affiliations
IIM-A, insists Dholakia, has constantly been
evolving and expanding. The school, he points out, offers the
most number of courses and seats of any B-school in the country.
For instance, it launched a PGP course in agri-business management
last year; another, for executives, was launched this year. It
also offers a doctoral programme in management, some 70 short-term
management development programmes, and a faculty development programme
for teachers, researchers and trainers. The school will have around
800 students on the campus next year and the new courses will
help fill its coffers, too. The vision: to be among the top 20
business schools in the world by 2012. "In terms of our curriculum,
faculty and students, we are already among the best in the world,"
says Dholakhia. "Where we lack is global exposure and diversity."
Already, IIM-A runs a comprehensive exchange programme with some
35 global business schools. Every year, one-fourth of the PGP
batch spends one term at these schools and in return, their students
come to IIM-A. The school is also launching a double degree programme
with France's ESSEC Business School and it has forged an alliance
with Duke Corporate Education (us) to provide customised corporate
education programmes to managers. "We will not set up our
independent centres overseas till we are able to garner resources,
like infrastructure and faculty," says Dholakhia. "Any
gap there would dilute our brand equity."
IIM-A loyalists, though, point to certain
gaps that the institute should plug while moving towards achieving
its larger goals. "Innovation and introduction of new courses
should happen at a faster pace," says Warburg's Prasad. "IIM-A
still doesn't have a comprehensive set of courses on practical
aspects of capital markets and on investing as a profession."
Genpact's Tyagrajan believes the school doesn't do enough to build
soft-skills. "Management education in India doesn't lay much
focus on people management. Skills like managing an older team,
taking touch decisions like sacking should be taught seriously."
And ICICI Bank's Puri-Buch believes that since it is undoubtedly
the leader in its space, IIM-A should start emphasising the need
for significant work experience before an MBA. "Practical
experience helps understand theory better. This partly explains
why graduates from Harvard or Wharton are considered superior
to their Indian counterparts." Then, Dholakia and his team
are not oblivious to these realities. "We know that if brand
IIM-A has to rule the market, it will have to innovate and evolve
constantly. We are at it," says Dholakia. "Always."