At first glance, the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) campus, spread over 200 acres of undulating woods in Bhopal, would remind you of an adventure camp or a training academy for a forest service.
Look closer and you’ll realise that the educational facilities are world class and the campus wi-fi enabled.
With the world’s eyes on the Copenhagen Summit and a paucity of managers who understand the phenomenon of climate change, career prospects for IIFM students could not have been more exciting.
The raison d’ etre of the institute is to provide leaders in professional forestry management, environmental conservation and sustainable development of ecosystems, said senior faculty member Amitabh Pandey.
“Unlike students graduating from other business schools, managers trained at IIFM work in the knowledge domain with exciting careers in policy analysis, research and training,” said Pandey.
“This has placed some of the alumni in a position where they provide inputs on legislations in fields such as agriculture and forestry,” added institute director R.B. Lal.
The current batch of students say the courses at the institute are rooted in reality.
“Besides being the only institute in the country to teach forest management and offer courses in environment, IIFM helps us interpret global knowledge in the Indian context.
We want to create an indigenous body of knowledge,” said Priyanka Batra, a final year student of a post-graduate diploma in forest management.
The institute has an intake of about 70 students for its flagship post graduate diploma in forest management (PGDFM) that is likely to go up to 90 by 2010. About 30 per cent of the curriculum is general management while the rest focuses on a specialisation in Development, Environment or Conservation and Livelihood.
The institute also holds training sessions for officers of the Indian Foreign Service, judges and bureaucrats from the government’s department of rural development.
An MBA from IIFM opens job opportunities in the social sector.
“Most students take up jobs in sectors such as climate change and micro-finance that offer a mix of management and development functions,” says Professor K. K. Navaladi of the Faculty of Communication and Extension Management.
The highest package for the PGDFM batch of 2009 was Rs 7.2 lakh per annum while the lowest was Rs 2.7 per annum. The global economic downturn took took its toll on the average package that came down from Rs 7.2 lakh per annum in 2008 to Rs 4.6 lakhs this year.
The time taken to ensure placements for the entire batch also got stretched. A total of 105 offers were received for a batch of 61 students in 2009.
Venkatakrishnan, a final year PGDFM student said that while the initial idea to set up the IIFM at Bhopal was because of the substantial forest cover in Madhya Pradesh, industry interaction is hindered because of this.
His classmate Ashish Phulera, who has worked for six years in the Uttaranchal Forest Department, says he wants to leverage his experience in forestry to continue in the sector after his MBA.
“There is a misconception that IIFM is about commercial exploitation of forest resources. Very few timber companies recruit from here.”
What gives IIFM the edge over other management institutes?
Network of Indian Environment Professionals founder president and IIFM alum Chandra Kishore has an answer. “Being face to face with forests, wildlife, the tribal and the rural communities inspires and humbles you,” says Kishore. “Learning to manage ecosystems as a manager is more challenging and daunting than any corporate war in the board rooms of large MNCs.”
2009: Rs 7.2 lakh
2008: Rs 8 lakh
2007: Rs 9 lakh
Placement season days
2009: 10 days
2008: 2 days
2007: 2 days
Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya
Founder of Ekgaon Tech
Programme officer, UN Framework Convention for Climate Control at Bonn
Olam International, Aditya Birla Group, SKS Microfinance, Micro Save, TERI