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“A holistic perspective”

“The Financial Times” ranks the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad as the highest placed newcomer in its 2011 global ranking. That is due to impressive salaries for alumni and due to an extensive international network with other prestigious schools like Stern, Booth, WHU, Essec and HEC. MBA Channel spoke with IIMA’s director Professor Samir K. Barua about the school’s image to be one of the toughest business schools to get into and the relative value of international accreditations.

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Samir Kumar Barua

What makes the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad – or briefly IIM-A - the subcontinents’ first business school?

The factors that make IIMA the top ranked management school in the subcontinent include firstly the design of its academic programmes. Besides being rigorous they are also relevant for the emerging needs of practice. Secondly it is about the quality of the delivery of the programmes - the faculty for the programmes is a judicious mix of full-time academics and executives from the world of practice. What also counts is the practice oriented research done by faculty, that are brought into discussions in the classroom - and last but not least the student centered learning pedagogy that is used by the Institute.

The British “Economist” considered the Institute to be the toughest business school in the world to get into. Every year over 500 students apply for each seat in an MBA programme. Why is that? What is so special about your school?

IIMA continues to be the first choice of MBA aspirants. The reason is the superior quality of education that is offered by the Institute. The academic process is rigorous and relevant for the emerging needs of the world of practice. The Institute also enables students to develop a holistic perspective that takes into account the needs of the larger society.

The salary data is impressive, both in terms of the average three years after graduation with 174,440 dollar and in the increase in earnings following the MBA of 152 per cent. Who is hiring your students?

Graduates are hired by leading international as well as large national companies, a significant proportion are hired by foreign firms. Most IIMA graduates get hired by the financial and the banking sector, closely followed by consulting firms. Of late, several graduates have chosen to become entrepreneurs.

How do you train you students to compete on a global level?

Students get exposed to the global situation through specific courses such as International Finance, International Business, International Marketing and International Capital Markets. More importantly, every course has a large proportion of teaching material – including case studies – that is international in character. A large proportion of students intern with foreign companies. Such exposures lay the foundation for students to be able to compete at the global level.

Do the exchange programmes with universities like Stern, Booth or WHU help?

The Institute has a very active student exchange programme with about 65 foreign business schools. About 100 students from these schools – some of them are highly rated - spend one term or about 12 to 13 weeks at IIMA. A similar number of IIMA students go abroad and spend a term in foreign schools. The intercultural exposure through the exchange programme is extremely useful for developing a global perspective.

How is the ratio male and female students?

The percentage of female students in the cohort for the two year Post Graduate Programme varies from year to year. The average would be about 15 per cent. This percentage has to be seen in the context that only about 20 per cent of applicants to the post graduate programme are female.

The “India Times” reckons the success of IIM-A is due to the fact that the school is a pioneer of the case-study approach which resulted from the collaboration with Harvard Business School when the Institute was founded in 1961. Are you still working with the case study approach? 

The dominant pedagogy continues to be the case method of instruction. The case studies are chosen so as to impart an international character to the courses taught. The Institute has a repository of over 4,000 cases, written by the faculty of the Institute. The cases and readings for the courses are chosen in a way to keep them relevant in the extant and emerging context.

There are about 2,500 business schools in India, with more emerging daily. Yet, while Indian business schools may be teaching great students, there is little evidence that the schools are creating innovative ideas through research, writes the Financial Times, quoting a study from the London Business School. What do you say to that?

Faculty in the top management schools in India, such as IIMA, is engaged in research that has relevance to practice. Much of the work is empirical in nature and has made an impact in the sectors the works belong to. Such work, though relevant and innovative, is not easily accepted for publication by the academic journals in management.

Why are so few other Indian business schools accredited with Equis or AACSB?

I think most schools in India do not need such accreditation. Besides, the increasing number of business schools being accredited by AACSB/Equis has reduced the value of such an accreditation as a mark of quality.

What is the greatest challenge in the future for you school and what are the biggest chances?

The big challenge will be competition from established foreign schools for students and faculty after they establish their presence in India. The big opportunity would be setting up programmes and campuses outside India.

Facts and Figures IIM-A
800 full time students and 1500 executives enrolled in courses every year
84 full time faculty
60 partner Business Schools in 23 countries and 2 double degree programmes
20,000 Alumni
The two-year full-time Post-Graduate Programme in Management (PGP), is the flagship programme of IIMA, fees for the first year are 630.000 INR (or 9050 Euro), cost of living are extra.

Samir Kumar Barua
M.Tech (IIT Kanpur), Fellow (IIM, Ahmedabad) Director, IIMA
Academic and professional pursuits cut across several disciplines; specific areas of interest include capital markets, portfolio theory, international finance, operations research & decision sciences, applied statistics, operations management, and management information & control systems. Barua has taught courses in these areas at IIM, Ahmedabad, India and as visiting professor to academic institutions in several other countries – USA, The Netherlands and Singapore. He has also taught extensively in national and international executive training programmes. Barua has authored books and more than fifty case studies in management and several management games for training in managerial decision making. He has been a consultant to many public and private organizations, in the manufacturing, banking and financial services sectors. Currently, he is member of the Board of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd; Securities Trading Corporation of India; Paras Pharmaceuticals Ltd; Torrent Power Ltd; Coal India Ltd. He is member of the Board of Trustees of ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya and member of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on Monetary Policy of Reserve Bank of India.

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