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School for leaders

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad has held on to the popular perception of being the country’s numero uno B-school Prasad Nichenametla Reports

education Updated: Nov 04, 2009 12:07 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

The football game has the Louis Kahn grounds all charged up within minutes.

A group of young men and women are shouting hard, alleging foul-play. While the teams on the ground are shoving each other, their enthusiastic supporters on the sidelines are providing full-throated encouragement. Arguments follow... and with the game resuming, the fight for the ball only intensifies.

The players are jostling, tackling and shouting at each other. They are out to prove who is the ‘boss’ on the ground.

No, this isn’t a football match gone out of control. It’s just a bunch of tomorrow’s corporate leaders at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) letting their hair down.

It’s called futcha-tutcha and the crowd is just indulging in a game of football.

Once the game is over, the ‘rivals’ go back to being friends again.

But jostling with teammates and rivals is only a minor part of what students at India’s numero uno B-school do.

What is it that keeps IIM-A on top in survey after survey?
The intensity of the courses is what separates IIM-A from the rest, seems to be the unanimous opinion of students, faculty, alumni and recruiters.The case study approach (derived from Harvard Business School) meticulously mastered by the IIMA, (which all other B-schools now emulate) not only involves stories of big companies like Infosys but of the ordinary man on ground like a chaiwala outside the IIM gate. Unlike other institutes, the pedagogy revolves around the case study approach, which is supplemented by classroom lectures, seminars and with new batches coming in with new concepts the cases are refurbished every year.

Then, there are surprise post-lunch quizzes announced on the mess notice board.

Every dormitory is shared by seniors and juniors that helps in the dissemination of knowledge and strong bonding that in many cases lasts for life. Some juniors could be up to 10 years older than their seniors and have several years of work experience.

“This is something you will never get to see in any engineering or other institute. The kind of handholding and knowledge transfer that we gain from seniors is amazing,” says Himanshu Nema, a second year PGP (post graduate programme in management, the flagship course) student who is an engineering graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Classes start early, at 8.45 am. Many professors prefer to shut the class doors after the stipulated time, so, it is commonplace to see students skip breakfast and make a dash towards the new academic block of the iconic red brick structure designed by American architect Louis Kahn.

“That is why snacks are served during breaks… you can’t ‘manage’ it with an empty stomach,” says Anirban Tarafdar (25), a second year PGP student.

Class participation, quizzes, project work, assignments and examinations — a typical day at IIM-A serves as a precursor to a top executive’s workday, where he gets only about five hours of sleep.

A special (some say most dreaded) feature of IIM-A is the WAC (Written, Analysis and Communication) assignments. “Though given almost a week in advance, the nature of the assignments are such that most students struggle to complete it,” Rohan Desai, a second-year PGP student said.

So, students have to work day and night (literally) to complete it. And unlike many universities, the deadline is never extended (as in real life corporate situations).
Samir Barua, director, IIM-A, who was also a student here (joined the institute in 1976 for his Phd after an M Tech in Industrial Engineering from IIT Kanpur) recalls an incident when “someone in the batch has put some cigarette butts into the WAC submission box”. Result: all the submitted assignments went up in flames.

“The mischief must have been done by a student who had not been able to finish his work. It rocked the institute and the management threatened students with dire consequences. But the culprit was never caught,” Barua, for whom IIM Ahmedabad is an association of more than 30 years, says.

That is an example of the bonding that IIM-A engenders among its students.

What else about the institute attracts students and recruiters?
“It’s the brand name, obviously,” says Tarafdar. It’s a reputation that the institute has earned the hard way — by producing dozens of CEOs and leaders of institutions ranging from Wall Street (Ravi Mattu, former head, equity and fixed income, Lehman Brothers and Ajay Banga, ex CEO, Citi - North America) to the country’s largest private sector commercial bank (K.V. Kamath, non-executive chairman and former CEO & MD, ICICI Bank).

“IIM Ahmedabad played a formative role in my career. It gave me outstanding exposure to the theory of leadership and management, and to concepts of finance. Equally and perhaps more enriching was the interaction with students from diverse backgrounds, which gave me new perspectives and formed the basis of some friendships that have lasted to this day,” says Kamath.

The old school tie plays no mean role in the perception about IIM-A’s superiority. With a high-powered alumni network returning year after year to recruit more talent from their alma mater, the brand keeps growing stronger.

“The idea of coming to an institute like IIM-A is not to learn just from the professors but from everyone around,” says Anant Kabra, a first year PGP student.

The global recession and the slowdown in the Indian market has taken a toll on average salaries received by IIM-A graduates this year. But it hasn’t really changed students’ preferences on specialisation.

“Our students realise that they are making a career and not taking a mere job when they sit for placements. People who are interested in finance as a career still tend to sit for finance jobs despite the recession since they believe this is a good time to enter the industry and experience both the crests and the troughs,” says Professor Saral Mukherjee, chairman, placements, IIM-A.

But despite the lower salaries this year, the institute’s brand equity remains untarnished.

Many people rate IIM-A higher than some of its more famous US and European rivals. “I have been to other countries like Sweden but the environment IIM-A provides is far superior,” says Ajith Mooken, an exchange student, pursuing business administration at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland said.

May be that’s why IIM-A keeps topping surveys with such boring regularity.

Factfile
Average salary

2009: Rs 12.13 lakh
2008: Rs 17.8 1 lakh

Batch size
2009: 257
2008: 248

Placement season days
2008: 5 days
2009: 9 days

High-profile alumni

K.V. Kamath,

Chairman, ICICI Bank

Harsha Bhogle,
Cricket commentator

C.K. Prahalad,

Management guru

Jerry Rao,

Serial entrepreneur

Mallika Sarabhai,

Dancer and social activist

High-profile recruiters
McKinsey & Co, BCG, Goldman Sachs, P&G, HUL, UBS, and Morgan Stanley

India’s top 50 business schools

Institution

Composite Rank

Faculty Rank

Alumni Rank

Recruiter Rank

Learning Experience Rank

Global Exposure Rank

Resources & Infra Rank

rand & Marketability
Rank

Quality of Outcomes Rank

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
1
1
1
3
1
1
2
1
1
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
2
2
2
1
2
2
1
2
2
Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
3
3
3
4
4
4
4
3
3
Indian School of Business, Hyderabad
4
5
7
7
3
3
3
4
4
Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow
5
6
4
11
6
6
6
6
5
Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur
6
7
13
5
5
5
5
5
6
Indian Institute of Management, Indore
7
9
5
10
9
9
7
9
8
Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi
8
10
11
8
8
11
13
7
7
Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi
9
8
15
16
7
8
8
10
10
Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Delhi
10
14
17
19
13
13
14
13
17
Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai
11
25
16
2
24
22
28
14
13
Management Development Institute, Gurgaon
12
12
33
32
10
12
10
11
12
ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad
13
21
14
21
17
21
21
26
13
Loyola Institute of Business Management, Chennai
14
16
20
17
12
7
11
12
11
S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai
15
15
18
41
15
18
20
18
15
Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar
16
23
27
25
14
20
18
16
18
K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research ,Mumbai
17
24
35
18
25
24
23
23
24
Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad
18
20
19
47
11
14
12
8
9
Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, MUMBAI
19
27
23
20
26
28
25
21
21
Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi
20
19
42
38
27
16
27
27
27
Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, IIT Bombay
21
22
37
33
18
15
9
15
16
Institute of Management Technology ,Ghaziabad
22
29
31
13
19
25
17
17
19
T.A. Pai Management Institute, Manipal
23
17
24
59
21
19
16
22
22
Amity Business School, Noida
24
35
22
6
28
27
22
28
28
Balaji Institute of Modern Management, Pune
25
26
52
24
16
10
15
19
14
FORE School of Management, Delhi
26
31
45
14
22
26
26
25
26
National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Mumbai
27
33
53
40
20
23
19
20
20
International Management Institute, Delhi
28
34
54
27
23
17
24
24
25
Institute of Rural Management, Anand
29
11
30
na
29
29
29
29
29
Alliance Business Academy, Bangalore
30
13
46
na
29
29
29
29
29
Nirma Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
31
18
32
na
29
29
29
29
29
Goa Institute of Management, Goa
32
32
39
na
29
29
29
29
29
Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies, Pune
33
nr
8
31
29
29
29
29
29
Symbiosis Centre for Information Technology, Pune
34
nr
12
22
29
29
29
29
29
Xavier's Institute of Management, Mumbai
35
nr
21
9
29
29
29
29
29
Symbiosis Centre for Management & Human Resource Development
36
nr
10
35
29
29
29
29
29
Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune
37
nr
9
37
29
29
29
29
29
Christ College Institute of Management, Bangalore
38
nr
34
23
29
29
29
29
29
Institute for Technology & Management, Navi Mumbai
39
nr
29
28
29
29
29
29
29
Apeejay School of Management, Delhi
40
nr
49
12
29
29
29
29
29
Institute of Management Studies, Ghaziabad
41
nr
28
36
29
29
29
29
29
Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research, Mumbai
42
nr
47
26
29
29
29
29
29
Birla Institute of Management Technology, Noida
43
nr
43
45
29
29
29
29
29
Institute of Finance and International Management, Bangalore
44
nr
48
49
29
29
29
29
29
Institute for Financial Management and Research, Chennai
45
nr
59
44
29
29
29
29
29
N.L. Dalmiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai
46
nr
66
39
29
29
29
29
29
Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai
47
nr
65
43
29
29
29
29
29
Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management,
48
nr
44
58
29
29
29
29
29
Balaji Institute of Telecom & Management, Pune
49
nr
63
50
29
29
29
29
29
Department of Business Management, University of Calcutta
50
nr
58
57
29
29
29
29
29