Meet IIM Kozhikode’s PGP-BL Class Of 2024

Normally, you don’t celebrate 3rd place. In a zero-sum world, a bronze is deemed the equivalent to a participation trophy – a painful reminder that you aren’t the measuring stick. For IIM Kozhikode, 3rd place means something very different.

This year, the school climbed two spots in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) produced by the Government of India’s Ministry of Education. Now, IIM Kozhikode sits alongside IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore among India’s elite business schools. Compare that to three years ago, when it ranked 6th. No, IIM Kozhikode will take being a runner-up…for now. After all, the honor means the program is making progress and doing things right. That just serves to motivate them to take the next step.

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PERSONAL ATTENTION AND EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

What set the Kings of Kerala apart in the NIRF ranking? Based on the data, the school scored among the best in India for teaching, graduation outcomes, and inclusivity. If you ask the PGP-BL Class of 2024, they’ll praise benefits that are harder to quantify in a ranking or narrate in a brochure. For Drishti Sharma, IIM Kozhokide differentiates itself through its small cohort size, which ranges from 60-65 candidates in the PGP-BL cohort.

“The smaller cohort has its own advantages. We have already formed a very close-knit group, wherein we sit together and talk at length about each other’s experiences across sectors and industries. The class discussions are extremely rich, and each individual comes into the limelight in terms of participation and performance. In the short time that we have spent together, I can say with confidence that I have already earned some friends for life.”

In contrast, Kaustubh Rath, Sharma’s classmate, boils IIM Kozhikode’s big advantage down to its emphasis on experiential learning. This enables students to truly learn technical concepts and leadership fundamentals by practicing them throughout their year in the PGP-BL program.

“Experiential learning attracts me because it aligns with my belief that implementing theory leads to authentic learning,” Rath explains. “It provides a platform for me to apply the concepts and skills learned in the classroom to real business challenges, enhancing my problem-solving abilities and decision-making skills. Additionally, it enables me to develop a deeper understanding of different industries, business practices, and market dynamics.”

“GOD’S OWN CAMPUS”

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Thus far, Rath has been impressed with his access to industry leaders and guest lecturers. Recently, these guests have included senior executives from organizations like PwC, Wipro, Ernst & Young, and Tata Hitachi. Despite opening in 1996, IIM Kozhikode has produced many distinguished alumni, including Sneha Choudhary, Co-founder and CEO of Zolo, and Neel Kothari, the CEO of iZooto. That doesn’t count founders of firms like Beat0 and the Mom’s Store. This alumni network is active too, opening doors to potential connections and opportunities in students’ areas of interest.

At the same time, Dheemanth Reddy lauds IIM Kozhikode’s Global Immersion. A required course lasting two weeks, the immersion enables students to take courses, conduct site visits, and complete a project that exposes them to international business practices though IIMK’s partnership with SDA Bocconi – an MBA program ranked 6th worldwide by The Financial Times.

“The international immersion component provides exposure to global business practices and cultures, broadening my understanding of the worldwide marketplace,” Reddy adds.

And then there is Kerala itself – a hilly and Monsoon-soaked paradise near the southwest tip of India. It is an area known for being an information technology hub, half the population of its northern juggernaut Karnataka. Technically, IIMK is found in the city of Calicut, whose metro is home to two million people. Thanks to this scale, the school attracts all the big names for recruiting: Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Bain & Company, JP Morgan Chase, and Capgemini (whose sustainability practice is run by an IIMK alum). Despite the opportunities around them, Apoorva Chaturvedi has found the best part of her IIM Kozhikode experience came when she watched the first rain shower on “God’s Own Campus.”

“The rains exemplified the picturesque beauty of this campus, and I could relate to all the posts and videos on Youtube and websites describing the IIM Kozhikode campus as the most beautiful one. Being from the hustle and bustle of my Mumbai life, this campus in Kozhikode highlights such a contrast, and the fact that I am happy and satisfied here is a learning lesson of the crucial things in life.”

PGP-BL Students

FROM ADVERSITY TO ADVANCEMENT

For Dheemanth Reddy, business school represents a continuation of his foray into education. Four years ago – just six months removed from his first job – he co-founded Unschool, online courses designed to enhance upskilling for professionals. As the head of sales, Reddy was in the middle of it all, even signing up industry experts and customers without a website at the start.

“I designed the operations model from scratch and created a profitable model. Unschool grew from a 3-member team to a 100-member team, got recognised as one of the top 10 LinkedIn startups in 2020 in India, and raised funds through Y Combinator. That being said, more than achieving millions of dollars of revenue, building leaders by trying to lead as an example is my most significant accomplishment.”

Reddy wasn’t alone in beating the odds. Despite few electric vehicles being on the road, Kaustubh Rath convinced 28 dealer partners to invest in chargers. During COVID, Pushkal Chinta lived up to his motto to “Do better when inconvenient defines us.” As a co-founder of a firm involved in the cocoa trade, Chinta had to pivot his entire value proposition when restaurants shut down. In response, he started a cloud kitchen bakery to remain financially solvent. By the same token, Ashutosh Ranjan spearheaded India’s implementation of tag reading software for airport luggage handling.

“The system replaced conventional laser-based sensors with advanced camera technology, ensuring that each piece of luggage was accurately mapped and tracked throughout its journey, resulting in a significant increase in tracking accuracy to an impressive 98% and above,” Ranjan writes. “This achievement was truly remarkable as it addressed the persistent issue of lost packages, which had been a common concern for both airport authorities and travelers.”

IIM Kozhikode Classroom

EARNING RECOGNITION FROM THE INDIAN PRESIDENT

Ranjan isn’t the only tech maestro in the Class of 2024. Working as a fintech product manager, Rewati Bulusu developed a Kuwait-centric platform “with the capability of a payment gateway like RazorpayX, and an e-wallet functionality like Paytm Wallet.” After his peers told him one of his solutions was too simplistic, Dharan Chakravarthi got a second chance to prove his critics wrong. He implemented a process that saved a 20-member team roughly 10,000 hours in manual effort.

And how is this for impact from SHIVANGI SINGH, who last worked in supply chain management for Maruti Suzuki India?

“I was awarded the ‘leadership award’ in cost savings (Rank 1 out of 20,000 suggestions across MSIL) which led to an annual savings of $32.5 million for the organization.”

Ameya Agrawal made his name in public service, heading up an NGO focused on rehabilitation for people with disabilities. During his tenure, Agrawal worked with district officials to build 11 rehab centers across Maharashtra and Goa that served over 100,000 people. His work even resulted in a national award from the Honourable President of India. One of his initiatives, a 1.5-million-person survey, helped to map individuals with disabilities in the Akola district of Maharashtra.

“This groundbreaking initiative, which was later termed as ‘Akola Pattern’, put persons with disabilities on the map, dramatically changing how policies and measures were implemented to improve their lives,” Agrawal explains. “Our efforts gained widespread appreciation across India, and the project was adopted at the State Level, earning the prestigious National Award from the President of India for the District. The success of the Akola Pattern caught the attention of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who announced the implementation of the project throughout the state. Discussions are also underway to replicate this initiative in other states as well.”

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LESSONS LEARNED

This ability to make a difference carried over into IIM Kozhikode. For Apoorva Chaturvedi and Kaustubh Rath, this meant being selected as a member of the Placement Committee. However, there was far more involved than a straw poll popularity contest. Instead, says Rath, it was “nothing short of military training for the corporate world,” replete with real world simulations and eight-hour turnaround challenges. In the end, says Chaturvedi, the process prepared her for the academic and responsibilities she was set to face.

“It was a challenging endeavor that required me to go through several selection rounds, work through the night to finish tasks under strict deadlines, create a soapbox, pitch ourselves for votes before the cohort, and finally complete the personal interview,” Chaturvedi adds. “By making the final cut, I learned the value of perseverance, consistency, and giving my all to the task at hand. The cohort’s confidence in me through their votes increases the responsibility of being a member of the Placement Committee.”

Vrushali Agrawal says she received the ultimate compliment from Dr. Deepa Sethi. After giving a presentation outlining her research. She told Agarwal that “You spoke like a TEDx speaker” – a small gesture that boosted her confidence immeasurably. For many class members, it was the small epiphanies – ones derived from sweat and trial-and-error – that reflected the biggest changes over time in the PGP-BL program. Dharan Chakravarthi, for one, recognized that he didn’t manage time and resources all that effectively, resulting in him becoming “more mindful of what I do, how I do it, and when I do it.” For Naina Nedungadi, a client relations executive, business school has taught her to look at problems from a variety of vantage points before formulating a solution. In Dheemanth Reddy’s case, the PGP-BL program enabled him to operate at the speed of being a high-level executive.

“The course demands energy and it is very important for us to be running with pace the program goes. Very rarely will you will a day without quizzes, assignments, or presentations. Every day feels like a race, especially when you are with some of the top talents in the country. In the midst of the chaos, there is good chance of losing sleep, losing confidence, and breaking down. Somehow, I managed to find my peace with all of it by truly embracing the feeling to studying at top three institutes in the country and this feeling makes me more perseverant to chaos.”

Next Page: Interview with an alum.

Page 3: Profiles of 12 IIM Kozhikode students.

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