Dean’s Talk – SDM Institute of Management Development, Mysore

What do you think are the differentiating qualities of SDM-IMD over its peer institutes?

Peer institutes are much larger than SDM-IMD. The difference is that we have strongly believed in being low profile and that is where we have tried to build on to a small number quality. If you see, we have only 120 students a batch and many people look at us and say that in an economic model this doesnt t make sense and we should go for a larger student body of say 400-500. The major differentiator is that we have been low profile, high quality (want to deliver high quality) and that is really what sets us apart.

In terms of a ranking, considering all of Indias B-schools where exactly would you place SDM-IMD?

In terms of a ranking, we should be in the top two-three percent, which means in the top 30 assuming that there are 1,700 B-schools across the country.

How has SDM changed over the years? What are the major changes in the infrastructure, for instance you have a new campus
I think there are two things that have changed. One is physical infrastructure; we have a substantial new campus and so on. The second thing which has distinctly changed is that we are consciously trying out to break out of this conservative low profile mode. We want to tell people that there is great institute available over here. We want to tell them that Mysore is actually at a significant advantage for studies rather than an obstacle because you got ambience, you got everything, you can concentrate. So I would think that the major change is that you will be seeing a lot more of SDM-IMD in terms of people from all over the country. Statistics will tell you that more than 40 to 50 percent of students come from areas other than Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. I think that is a major change.

We are also making changes in our academic outlook; we are making a change to see whether we are producing leaders of the future. A lot of people provide an MBA in the standard fields such as marketing, financial management. This year we are trying to build in what we call a socially relevant project. A first year student just must go out in society and spend a week and sensitize himself/herself. We are getting into more seminar oriented projects where people will have to get involved in hands-on learning rather than just classroom instructions.

What has been the range for CAT percentiles for SDM during admissions?

Applicants called for the Group Discussion and Personal Interview stage mostly have CAT percentiles in the 70 to 85 percentile range. For the admitted batch this year, the average percentile this year was between 79 and 80 percentile.

Within that range of percentiles, how do you ensure a quality student crowd at the school?

Its done through two avenues. One, we try to see a minimum of 80 percentile in CAT and the other is the academic track record. We feel that consistency of academic record is an indicator of a persons attitude toward studies which is an important leadership management requirement. The second part of it is that we are consciously trying to make ourselves known amongst the community, that here is a very good B-school which gives one more than many other B-schools and therefore should be looked at.

What are the specific weights that you assign to the various parameters of the screening process?

(Anwered by CS Somu, Chairman – Admissions)

Consider that the total points allotted are 100. The CAT percentile gets 20 points. Sectional cut-offs are not considered while screening applicants. The exact weightage allotted to the CAT percentile depends on the CAT scores received. If say 1,000 applicants have around 98 percentile then the CAT percentile is given less weightage.

Performance at class X, class XII and at the undergraduate level get total 30 points. The individual weights are – class X gets 8, class XII gets 8 and the undergraduate result gets 14 points.

The GD-PI round gets 20 points. Equal weightage is given to the group discussion and personal interview. In the group discussion, writing skills of students are also tested.

Another 10 points go to consistency throughout the academic career. Work experience gets 10 points. A student needs to have a minimum of one years experience to be considered an experienced candidate. A student with more than five years of work experience gets a 10 out of 10. The remaining 10 points are for suitability. If a candidate has a very good overall application but is not deemed to be ‘suitable’ then he is rejected. At the time of the personal interview, a panel asks questions related to issues such as situation handling and attitude.

Being in the hub of the software industry, does most of the batch at SDM get placed in software companies?

Well, last year it was not half the batch, It was about 30 to 40 out of 120, so around a third of the batch. I think the reality is that software is still one of the biggest recruiters in the country. However for both our remaining experienced and non-expreienced students, the variety of sectors is balanced.

What are the pros and cons of being a relatively new B-school located in a smaller city like Mysore?

The pros are that we are located away from a main city which means that there is no significant distraction for students and this lets them focus on what they do. Mysore is a small town and yet large enough to not be considered a village and people can spend some time here. In fact I have been telling people that we are located in Karnataka and Mysore and one has tremendous opportunity to do many other things such as visit places on weekends. There are so many places of interest. Mysore itself is complete heritage. Once you grow out of this, nobody is going to spend time doing these things. So you have an opportunity to do it almost free of cost.

The weather and ambience is beautiful and its conducive to learning. You are just two and a half hours away from Bangalore, so you are well connected by bus and train. Excellent environment, excellent facilities, enough industry to give exposure are largely the pros I would consider from a student community point of view. Being in Mysore, we have good industry interaction because it does not take them more than 15 minutes to come here. But if I were doing the same thing in Bangalore, half the day is gone in visiting.

Cons, as of today I am not able to see a substantial negative. Mysore was a negative maybe five-seven years back but not today. I am not able to see what can work against this place.

How does SDM-IMD manage to interact with the industry being located in Mysore?

Industry interaction isn’t only about people in Mysore. In the earlier days when I used to be a visiting faculty here, it used to take me five hours to travel from Bangalore and today it takes two and a half hours. Thus interaction with Bangalore is good.

I noticed that you have a vegetarian only campus. Considering that you have students from a wide variety of states here, havent any of them ever brought up the issue of you not serving non-vegetarian food on campus?

Well let me put it this way, any non-vegetarian would like to have non-vegetarian food. Here let me tell you my philosophy. I think people have been very good, they know what they are getting in to. Initially there are some students who miss their non-vegetarian food. But my guess is that two weeks down the road they are quite comfortable because we are also adequately well located for people to go out when they want to. So I dont think about it as a significant issue. But from my point of view if you ask about SDMs uniqueness, I think a large amount of management education happens outside the classroom. We are not building leaders and managers on the basis of frameworks and theories. Over here it is education 24/7. It is for a non-vegetarian to know that he can survive for some time without non-vegetarian food. It is for a north Indian to know that when he works as a salesman of Unilever in Kerala, he will be able to eat boiled rice.

Why are yoga classes compulsory for first year students?

We believe that yoga is good for the mind. It has nothing to do with our Dharmasthala or religious framework. I think that the world has acknowledged that it is good for certain things. We believe that it is something we should offer to the student. We have the benefit of being a fully residential establishment. We have the benefit of saying that it takes a person 30 seconds to walk up to the yoga house. Do this and we are only saying to do it for the first year. Continue doing it in the second year if you feel that youve benefited.

Do you allow a student to opt out of it in the first place?

Exactly, this is where since we run an institution, somewhere along the line we have to strike a balance between what we believe is necessary and what we believe is freedom to allow people to do what they want. By the same argument, I shouldnt ask for attendance. Say people know what they want to do if but if I do that then I am not able to guarantee my employers and my recruiters that I have a discipline in my institute and if I dont have this discipline, lack of discipline could extend to anything.

How is life outside of academics at SDM-IMD?

There are two parts to it. One is on campus and the other is outside campus. Outside campus, the city and whatever little it has to offer. We are close to Bangalore, so if people wish to take a weekend off or something on those lines then they can do so. The good thing about this institute is that there are lots of things happening on campus. Therell be functions, festivals, clubs, forums. My guess is that campus life is pretty active. The non academic front is largely in cultural, social and group activities.

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