Can you update us about the status of class sizes in your post-graduate courses?
We had 180 seats in the Post Graduate Program in Management (PGPM), 60 for PGP in Human Resources and currently 32 students from India and 15 foreign students for PGP in International Management. From the next academic year we would have 240 students for the PGPM program, and the number of seats in other programs would by and large not vary much. We are looking at increasing seats only in the PGPM program which happens to be our flagship program. We have just recently got the AICTE approval for the expansion as well.
What has the CAT cutoff at MDI been in the last couple of years?
The cutoff has regularly been over 98 percentile, and that’s where we would expect to see it in future as well. Even though MDI has increased the PGPM intake, we do not want to bring down the quality of students we admit.
What do you do when there is a tie in CAT percentiles? Do you look for sectional percentiles?
There is seldom a tie even on the second decimal place. But if there still is a tie, then the quantitative and verbal sections would have an edge over the data interpretation section.
How many applications have you been getting for the PGPM program in the last couple of years?
We have been getting around 18,000 to 20,000 applications each year, from which starting this year we will select around 240 students. The number of applications has gone down marginally. In 2005 we received more than 20,000 applications while in 2006 we received around 18,000 applications, so there has been around 5 to 10 pc reduction.
What do you attribute this drop in application sales to?
It could be probably because our cutoff scores have begun to be known in the market, and applicants who are not expecting to perform well in the CAT exam, or have not performed well, would want to try their luck in some other type of b-school.
What is the unique proposition offered by MDI over others Indian b-schools in the same league?
One of the propositions is the increased number of foreign students that we have in MDI. With India being recognized as a hotspot for foreign investment, it’s very crucial to have the kind of exposure that a student gets at MDI. The second reason being our drive to introduce essential components of important foreign languages, which is going to be beneficial to the students once he goes out into the international corporate arena. Number three is the value of our program itself. It is something that has made its own place in the market and of course, we have consistently had very good placements. Our students get placed in a matter of hours once the placements start.
Could your briefly run us through the stages an application goes through once it reaches your office?
Initially when a student applies, we note down his CAT application number, and we have a special agreement with the CAT committee, under which they send us the scores of all such candidates. Based on this we call about 1,200 to 1,400 students for the interview and group discussion stage. The weightages in the final score vary from year to year, but by and large they are 2/3 for the CAT score and 1/3 for the group discussion and interview.
What do you look for in candidates during the interview and group discussion stage?
We look for basic communication ability. We try to see if the candidate can talk sensibly, if not knowledgably on a particular topic. We look for general awareness of the society that he is in and in-depth knowledge of the sector that a candidate has worked in, if he has work experience. Number two, we look at the candidate’s attitude and try to judge if he can cope with the academic stress of an MBA program. In the group discussion, we focus on the candidate’s ability to summarize the discussion. It helps us judge if the candidate besides communicating his ideas clearly, can also listen to what is being discussed in the group and understand the flow.
Does more weightage to CAT scores during final selection stage bring along a compromise on the applicants’ soft skills?
Well not really. During the interview round we look for certain skills and if we see that if the candidate lacks the bare minimum communication skills then we have a discussion on rejecting him and only then come up on a conclusion. In that sense we have a veto power during the interview and group discussion stage, regardless of the CAT score.
How do you treat work experience in your admission process?
The work experience is factored only after the candidate has satisfied the CAT cut-off criteria. We don’t consider work-ex in the initial stages though. During the group discussion stage, we mark the candidate for the quantity and quality of work experience. The reputation of the company that he has worked in matters a lot.
You are accepting GMAT scores for PGPM starting this year.
If a student happens to be outside India at the time of CAT, then they have the option of taking GMAT as the entrance test. But the focus will be on normalizing the GMAT score at par with the performance of our larger CAT candidates. Under no circumstances will we compromise on applicants coming through the CAT route just for accommodating GMAT takers.
How many faculty members does MDI have and what is your plan to expand the number?
We have full time faculty strength of about 80 and we do have plans of increasing that in the future. As per the AICTE norms we should have a faculty student ratio of 1:12, but as of now, we have a ratio of 1:8, which is a ratio we would like to maintain. We are also on a feverish search for qualified faculty. Our hope is to have more than 100 full time faculty members before the start of the next academic year.
Are you prepared with the infrastructure and hostel accommodation for the expanded PGPM batch?
We have a problem there, but the advantage of MDI is that we have a lot of MDP accommodation. So in the interim we have been using any vacant MDP accommodation to host the 185 students in PGPM. Even with the increased batch size, the combined strength of the PGP and MDP accommodation is enough. But much more construction is on the anvil and there will be some disturbance in the meanwhile, but that would be sorted out soon.
What have been the recent hottest areas in your placements?
The investment banking sector has been very sought after. We also have foreign placements increasing; finance is another hot area. Manufacturing is picking up again. We have the same portfolio of companies as any other Indian b-school.
From the PGPM point of view, where do you think MDI is going wrong?
Well, our footprint in south India needs to be stronger. We generally also need to work on our brand image. Those are probably the key areas we need to focus on.
What do you do with the golf course on your campus?
It is used mostly by the elderly people who come to visit the MDI campus, though it is not a very popular sport among youngsters.