Inside India’s B-School In The Heart Of Its Tech Capital

The campus of IIM-Bangalore, commonly considered India’s No. 2 management school. Courtesy photo

If you are planning to launch a business in India, Bangalore — the Silicon Valley of India — is probably where you want to launch it.

Ergo, if you are an Indian who plans to study business in your home country, the third-biggest city in the country and one of its economic powerhouses is a good place to be.

Bangalore, with an eight-figure population and a place among India’s top five most productive metro areas in terms of GDP, has served as a tech hub since Texas Instruments opened a base there in the mid-1980s. More than 30 years later, the city has become home to hundreds of major startups and dozens of unicorns, from information tech giant Infosys to online retailer Flipkart. Electric car makers, cryptocurrency exchanges, whiskey distillers, fitness facilities — you name it and a company has set up in Bangalore to make, market, and sell it.

In real estate, transportation, food, agriculture, biopharmaceuticals, aerospace, and much more, the list of Bangalore-based startups is long and growing. Naturally, then, smack in the middle of this hive of thriving new business on the southwestern edge of the Subcontinent is a collection of highly specialized Indian schools, producing droves of talented grads for industries hungry to scoop them up: engineering schools, science institutes and academies, research institutes, law schools, medical schools, more than a dozen universities. IT firms in Bangalore employ about 35% of India’s pool of 2.5 million IT professionals.

The city is also home to more than 20 management schools — and premier among them is the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, commonly viewed as the No. 2 IIM school in the country (after IIM-Ahmedabad) and a top-three business school on the Subcontinent. Of late, IIM-B has been making a name for itself even outside of India. In its most recent ranking, The Financial Times placed IIM-B’s one-year Executive Post Graduate Program in Management 33rd overall, up two spots from last year and 29 spots since 2016 — and the highest place in 2019 for any IIM school. Reinforcing the high demand for talent, 100% of IIM-B’s grads get jobs within three months of graduation, according to the FT, at a base salary (US$178,774) that has grown more than 30% in four years.

“The school has been doing consistently well over the years,” G. Raghuram, director of IIM-B, tells Poets&Quants. “We have high-quality faculty who are focused on research and quality teaching, and we are located in Bangalore, which is the Silicon Valley city in India. That means we have a culture of innovation and digital development. We have a good pool of students, especially for the executive programs, and lots of good adjunct faculty. And we have good infrastructure.”

A SCHOOL THAT MEETS ‘ALMOST ANY GLOBAL STANDARDS ANYWHERE’ 

Professor G. Raghuram, director of IIM-Bangalore. Courtesy photo

In its latest cohort, IIM-B’s EPGP welcomed 698 students in round one and another 73 in round two. That is dwarfed by the size of the school’s MBA-equivalent program, its two-year Post Graduate Program in Management, which welcomed 1,470 and 430 students, respectively, in the two rounds. Where do the students hail from? Just as at the other IIM schools, they are overwhelmingly Indian. None — zero — of the EPGP students are internationals. Very few of the PGP students — 63, or about 3.3% — are from “overseas.” Most of that small minority, the school says, are from China and Southeast Asia.

In the competition among IIMs for student talent, a simple rule applies: A is most Indian students’ first choice, followed by B, then C, Raghuram acknowledges. The reason, he says, has to do with a legacy mindset.

“Because they tend to talk to those who already have come through such program. To be honest, I think if a student tried both Ahmedabad and Bangalore, there is still a higher chance they will choose Ahmedabad,” says Raghuram, who himself earned his MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad. “But if a student has Bangalore and Calcutta, or Bangalore and any of the other schools in our area, they would clearly choose Bangalore. But there are these perceptions of Bangalore as going up.

“Going forward, I hope to see more students choose Bangalore over Ahmedabad. But today, except for Ahmedabad of course, students will always choose Bangalore. Only when it comes to Ahmedabad, the more students tend to choose Ahmedabad. And then amongst the executive PGP, similarly more students tend to choose ISB (Indian School of Business).”

While IIM-B remains one of the top schools in India and has gained prominence outside the country in one of the premier global rankings, it continues to be very much isolated in terms of attracting international talent. The chief reason, Raghuram says, is structural: India as a country is not yet ready — or not perceived as ready — to be their host.

“We believe India needs to become a more attractive country,” he says. “Our institutions, our faculty, the campus — it’s almost to any global standards anywhere. Therefore, in terms of quality of education or the infrastructure, it’s a non-issue. But yeah, in terms of the overall country, India needs to improve.

“But I think I see that changing, and hopefully, we should have more (internationals) coming on board. As a country, I mean, India is developing, the GDP is going up, the infrastructure is improving. I think the perception of security needs to improve.” Raghuram points to IIM-B’s dual-degree programs, its widely respected MOOCs, and its student exchange program, the latter of which receives 40% participation by PGP students. For its exchanges, the school has partnerships with dozens of business schools around the world, including elite schools in the U.S. like the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. “So, we have exchange programs, we have dual-degree programs. I think with all of this recently, slowly the word ought to go around that even doing a full-time degree here with us could be a major learning experience.”

(See the next page for our interview with G. Raghuram, director of IIM-Bangalore, edited for length and clarity.)