January 23rd, 2017
Established in 1961, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIMA) has a global reputation for management education. One of the three oldest IIMs on the Subcontinent — IIM-Calcutta was also founded in 1961, while IIM-Bangalore was founded in 1973 — IIM-Ahmedabad is “one of the top business schools in the world,” public relations executive Mitaaly Naidu says. “IIMA brings together great minds, nurtures talent, and educates leaders of enterprises.”
2000 graduate of IIMA Sanjeev Kumar, now a faculty lecturer at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, has kept in touch with alumni and faculty at his alma mater. He tells Poets&Quants that sees big changes over the last several years in both the infrastructure of the campus and its culture, including an opening up amid the globalization of the business school landscape.
“The institution itself has not been very international,” Kumar, LEO lecturer I of technology and operation at Ross. “It’s the big fish in India and because it’s the big fish, they don’t really do much internationally. Recently they have started admitting some international students, and the faculty have started engaging with an international audience, because now we have all of the rankings which are international rankings and they want to make sure that they are represented in there. But they are such a well-known brand in India, they’re such a prestigious brand that they feel they don’t need to market themselves as much.”
‘MY PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT IS TO GO TO THAT PLACE’
IIM now has campuses in most states in India, Kumar says, but the ABCs — as Ahmedabad, Bangalore, and Calcutta are known — remain the top schools. And while they share a name, they are not cooperating entities: Like the UC system in California, each IIM is actually an independent university, Kumar says, with its own governance, its own dean, and its own approach to teaching.
“Think of Michigan State and the University of Michigan,” he says. “They’re both in Michigan and the names are similar, but other than that there is no link.”
The ABCs are the top schools, but the A — IIM-Ahmedabad — is the most prestigious of all. Some half a million Indians apply for its 200 yearly openings; compare that, Kumar says, to Harvard, one of the most exclusive schools in the U.S., which admits some 15% of applicants.
“In my academic career, my proudest achievement is to go to that place,” Kumar says. “It’s unimaginable to a U.S. audience how hard it is to get in. In India, everybody who is academically bright will take a shot at getting into the school. So literally if you choose the 200 brightest people in India every year and your put them on that campus — that’s what it’s like.”
BIG CHANGES IN THE LAST 7-8 YEARS
To get in to graduate school in India, students don’t take the GMAT. They take the CAT, or Common Admission Test. And they are not studying for an MBA: They’re studying for a PGDM, or Post Graduate Diploma in Management, which is a globally recognized master’s degree on par with the MBA.
Few may get in, but once they do, they thrive, Kumar says. U.S. B-schools are brimming with IIM alumni who have become faculty here; as an example to he points to Dr. Gautam Ahuja, head of the Ross Strategy Department.
When IIMA alumni come to the U.S., they leave a far different educational system, Kumar says. “It’s not like the U.S. where you go to school and you live in your own apartment, this is like a dorm for everybody, so everybody lives on campus, everybody eats out of the same dining hall, it’s a 24-hour engagement,” he says. “You go to class in the morning, which is right next to your dorm, then you have lunch in the dorm. It’s a very strong, very tight-knit community.”
Faculty, too, live and work on campus. “It is actually like its own town,” Kumar says. “There is a boundary around it, a main gate you enter to enter the campus, everybody who is associated with campus lives on campus.” And IIMA has expanded its facilities in the last seven to eight years, he says, a facelift that coincides with both the increased internationality of the program and a rise in U.S.-based companies — especially those on Wall Street and in tech — hiring out of the school.
CASE-BASED AND QUANT-HEAVY
All three IIM campuses offer post-graduate diploma program in management and agri-business management, a fellowship program and a number of executive training programs.
Initially mentored by Harvard Business School, IIMA has carved its own niche over the last 50 years, earning the No. 1 spot for opening up new career opportunities for students in the latest rankings by The Economist. As per Financial Times’ 2015 Global MBA Ranking, IIMA’s Post Graduate Programme for Executives is ranked 26th in the world, while the flagship Post Graduate Programme is ranked 15th in the Financial Times’ 2015 Masters in Management Rankings. It is unique among Indian B-schools for its Harvard-inspired reliance on case-based learning, Kumar says, and it is highly quantitative, the result of so many engineering students matriculating there from around the country.
“At IIMA, our primary objective is to provide the best educational experience and our aim is to educate leaders of enterprises,” Mitaaly Naidu says. “IIMA has been true to its founders’ guiding principle and played a pivotal role in India’s development over the last five decades. The tradition of faculty governance, strong commitment to teaching and research, independence on all operational matters, and a peer culture that values commitment, academic independence, and performance has allowed IIMA to evolve into an institution of excellence and an important producer of case materials in India.”