‘THINK IN TERMS OF POSSIBILITIES, NOT CONSTRAINTS’
Sandeep Yadav, an intelligence officer with the Indian government’s revenue division, has also been taking a pay-it-forward approach to his PGPX classmates. After arriving, he started a Fireside Chats series featuring business executives.
“I have invited and hosted sessions with five speakers from industry, including founders of two leading companies, to complement the classroom learning and to provide guidance on career planning and preparation for post-MBA roles,” Yadav explains. “For me, the biggest success was the interesting follow-up conversations that happened after the sessions ended.”
Those discussions could be found in the classroom too. Business Strategy has been a particularly popular course for the Class of 2022 thus far. Aditi Sodhani, an innovation manager at an educational foundation, appreciated the mix of case dissection, simulations, and role plays to help her craft solutions that counter competitor moves. At the same time, Shubham Gupta came away with an unforgettable lesson from the class.
“I have absolutely relished our strategy sessions by Professor Sunil Sharma,” explains the World Resources Institute veteran. “The way he unpacks any case study – combining facts, theory and practical intricacies of strategizing and planning in today’s VUCA world – is just incredible. Every lecture is loaded with pearls of wisdom. The one that I have written in bold on my whiteboard is this: ‘Leaders and entrepreneurial managers think in terms of possibilities, not in terms of constraints’”
It’s not just the classes that earned acclaim from the class. Sarvesh Patel has found the pre-class study group discussions to be very valuable in beefing up his business skillset. “IIM Ahmedabad makes a great effort in handpicking a diverse set of ten talented and highly-accomplished professionals ranging from charted accountants to army service members to engineers and business leaders. Everyone brings unique valuable insights drawing from their work experience that enables 360-degree thinking. It is common to find fresh perspectives that directly connect academics and industry in these daily discussions and I’ve lost count of the “WOW” moments.”
And there was some humor along the way too!
“Fun fact – Our professor made us take a collective oath that we will always include opportunity costs and ignore sunk costs in our decision-making,” notes economist Ridhi Jain. “No amount of reading or studying economics could have ingrained this thought as well as Professor Pingali.”
A NEW WAY TO LEARN ENGLISH
Outside class, Jain savors long drives and hikes, with her favorite being a 21-mile jaunt through New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park. Speaking of treks, Shubham Dang has summited a 15,000 mountain…in the dead of winter. At the same time, Aditi Sodhani is a classically trained dancer who has been performing for over two decades. How did Sandeep Yadav prepare for the English-speaking coursework at IIMA? Let’s just say he took an unconventional route as a college undergrad.
“I used to call the toll-free number of my telecom service provider to practice my English.”
Yadav’s resourcefulness came in handy in India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence Unit, where he operated out of Jammu & Kashmir. “I established a network of collaborators and partners from scratch, used adversarial thinking to identify opportunities, and established practices to deal with the unique legal environment of the state. By 2019, I had played a critical role in narcotics seizures valued at about USD 24 million, generated intelligence leading to the recovery of lost revenues of about four hundred thousand USD, and executed more than 15 searches in often volatile and high-stress situations that included militancy-affected areas. In recognition of my central role in the revitalization of the unit, I was recommended for the highest award in the Indian Federal Indirect Tax administration.”
A CLASS PROFILE
Taking a big picture view, IIMA received 1,255 applications for a spot in the PGPX program. Ultimately, the program accepted 13% of applicants — a rate that makes IIMA PGPX more selective than most M7 American MBA programs. This year’s class features 140 students, with a 323 average GRE (Quant and Verbal combined) and a 701 average GMAT. Overall, the class hails from 10 countries, with 51 students having international work and study experience outside India. In addition, women comprise 24.29% of the class.
Academically, 88% of the class majored in an engineering-related field as undergrads. Another 12% earned degrees in commerce fields. Looking at professional backgrounds, the largest group of students (30) was last employed in Manufacturing and Engineering. Energy and Utilities and Consulting accounted for 19 and 17 students, respectively. Banking and Information Technology students each hold 9 seats in the class. The remainder of the class includes students from Aerospace and Aviation, Government, IT Products, Defense, Retail, Construction, Logistics, Healthcare, and NGOs.
LEARNING HOW TO THINK…AND PRESENT
Ask any IIMA graduate what they remember most and “case studies” is certain to top the list. Think of cases as stories, filled with characters and events, motivations and conflicts — all universal and urgent. What cases lack are satisfying endings. Here, students are left with no clear-cut answers…just interpretations of the moment. That means deciphering incomplete data and weighing uncertain options. Along the way, students hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills through repetition: conducting analysis, evaluating options, debating alternatives, and seeking consensus. In the end, IIMA students are exposed to an array of industries and perspectives, while sharpening their ability to frame issues and present solutions at an executive level.
The case method’s versatility has been the biggest eye-opener for Shubham Gupta thus far. “Every single case puts you in the shoes of different protagonists: finance manager, marketing head, small business owner, C-suite professionals of multinational companies, consultant, etc.,” Gupta explains. “This helps you understand diverse perspectives, organizational dynamics, and nuances of how different functions mutually reinforce each other to create a thriving organization. Ultimately, irrespective of role, sector, and type of organization you join post-MBA, it stimulates holistic thinking and decision-making.”
For Ridhi Jain, the real value of the case method is something that can’t measured in traditional academic settings: poise and self-assurance. “The confidence has been instilled because of the case-based learning followed at IIMA, where the professors adeptly facilitate classroom discussions and help students develop the skill of “how to think”. Two months into the program, I feel confident to break the problem down into smaller parts, think of different approaches to evaluate and analyze, and synthesize information to find best-possible solutions.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH RAM KARTHA
The case method is just one of the unique facets of the IIMA PGPX program. What new developments are in the works at the school? What makes PGPX grads so appealing to employers? How can applicants increase their appeal to admissions? To answer these questions, P&Q reached out to Ram Kartha, Head – Corporate Relations for PGPX. Here are his thoughts on the state of the IIMA experience.
P&Q: What are the two most exciting developments at IIM Ahmedabad and how will they enrich the MBA experience for current and future MBAs?
RK: “IIM Ahmedabad has set up several research centres that facilitate the integration of cutting edge management theories with the Institute wide offerings. These centres provide a platform for faculty and students to interact with industry leaders, and enhance their classroom learning. Some of the centres include The Centre for Digital Transformation, The Centre for Transportation and Logistics, Brij Disa Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Ashank Desai Centre on Leadership and Organisational Development, etc. These centres provide students with multiple opportunities to engage with industry beyond coursework.
IIM Ahmedabad’s JSW School of Public Policy integrates public policy with management. Engaging with the government is critical for students to develop a holistic view of management.”
P&Q: In a 2020 Financial Times survey, IIM Ahmedabad ranked among the most recommended MBA programs by alumni. What are two most differentiating features of your MBA program? How does each of these enrich the learning of your MBA students?
RK: “Our MBA programmes have always been applauded by our alumni as an unmatched transformational experience. Several of our successful alumni have attributed this to the strong emphasis we place on decision-making as a learning method. Our case-based pedagogy ensures our students are industry ready when they graduate.
IIM Ahmedabad also places very high emphasis on continuous engagement with the industry and policy-makers. Our faculty serve on the boards of several reputed companies, and are a part of several government committees aimed at policy making. Several alumni, who hold leadership positions across the globe, are actively engaged with the faculty to enhance student learning on campus.”
P&Q: In recent years, there are several areas that have gained increased prominence in business school programming, including STEM, analytics, artificial intelligence and digital disruption. How does IIM Ahmedabad integrate these concepts across its curriculum?
RK: “IIM Ahmedabad’s foundation motto is “Vidya viniyogadvikasa”, which means “’development through the distribution or application of knowledge”. Following from this, the institute has invested heavily on several research centres across various disciplines. These centres attract scholars and thinkers from various disciplines to enhance the connect between theory and practice. So, while IIMA is a standalone management institute, we are able to provide a holistic experience to the students by leveraging on our presence in the corporate and government sectors.”
Next Page: Profiles of 12 IIMA PGPX Students.