First take on IIM Udaipur: Looking forward to make a mark

?One of the new kids on the ‘IIM’ block, the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur (IIM-U) sure makes a pretty picture. The peach-coloured building that houses IIM-U looks rather regal on a cold winter morning. The early sun rays strikes it gently and the pockets of fog around the building, slowly melt away. Under the morning sun, the building gleams, thanks to the fresh coat of paint.

There are layered gardens in front of the building, flaunting an array of colourful flowers. Inside, in the reception area, huge Rajasthani paintings hang along the walls. However, there is no one in sight, not even behind the receptionist’s table, which still smells of fresh wood. A closer look reveals a long corridor next to the reception area and a series of rooms flanking it. It’s a Sunday morning and understandably the building is quiet, except for the breeze that races in everytime the main glass door opens. But the silence is not for long. Suddenly, there is this uproar and the building breaks into a voluminous chatter – its obvious that the first batch in the history of the IIM-U has just finished a class. A sprightly group, considering that it is Sunday.

We tend to have classes on Sundays. Since there are lecturers who come from other schools, weekends often get devoted to classes, says Manish Kakati, one of the students who is also part of the Student Media Cell.

Why IIM-U

Students tell PaGaLGuY that they took a conscious decision to join IIM-U. Says Indore-based Piyush Jain, a first year student. Apart from IIM-U, I also had offers from Vinod Gupta School of Management-IIT Kharagpur, Management Development Institute-Gurgaon, Institute of Management Technology-Ghaziabad, International Management Institute-Delhi, etc. but I joined IIM-U because of brand IIM and being a part of the pioneer batch, one can set new standards for others to follow. Delhi’s Piyush Singh also had similar reasons. “The best part about IIM-U is that this place is not averse to experimentation plus, the best practices from the top global b-schools have been modified and applied here.

For Saad-ur Rasheed from Allahabad, it was a choice between IIM Kashipur and Udaipur. It was clear that IIM-U had a distinct advantage over IIM Kashipur in terms of its connectivity to Delhi and Mumbai and its proximity to IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Indore. I was not very sure if I would get into IIM-U and had already prepared to join Mudra Institute of Communications instead. Once the results were announced I came here. Facebook also gave IIM-U students a good head-start. Saad-ur-Rasheed added that an active IIM-U student group on FB provided key information about the school. One of the students Kunal Kochhar also started a Wiki on IIM-U, which helped a lot in deciding on IIM-U, he said.

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The City of Lakes took their breath away

That the school was in Rajasthan also had a say in the decision for some of the students, especially those who had got offers from the other new IIMs. Rishabh Chadha from Bhopal says that the beauty of Rajasthan is incomparable. Udaipur, known often as the Venice of the East has a congregation of the medieval and modern Indian culture and tradition.

Faculty

The current faculty includes award winning professors, researchers and consultants from the best institutes of India. PaGaLGuY had earlier spoken to IIM-U director, Prof Janat Shah, who said that faculty is and will continue to be his biggest challenge. Prof Shah is open to permanent faculty who may not want to shift bag and baggage to Rajasthan and he is also open to aiding exemplary industry professionals having 20 years of experience to secure a PhD and come aboard. There are a few professors who will join in 2012 and some who will join in 2013. It is refreshing to see that out of the seven permanent faculty (excluding the director), four are women. Some of IIM-U’s visiting faculty include the likes of Prof Shyamal Roy, who was dean at IIM Bangalore and Prof Jagdeep S Chokkar who was dean at IIM Ahmedabad. A lot of guidance and support is also sought from Prof Jahar Saha (former director of IIM Ahmedabad) who mentors all faculty in academic matters.

Infrastructure

Currently, there is one classroom at IIM-U with capacity to accommodate 66 students, which has been designed and built with some of the high-end materials that are both functionally effective and aesthetically superior. The walls are acoustically treated with 70mm thick combination of rock wool and wood wool board covered with fire retardant fabrics. This wall treatment combined with perforated metal ceilings with non-woven tissue on top ensures one of the best possible NRC (noise reduction coefficient) values. Even the windows are treated with Duette blinds that are made of honeycomb structure fabrics to help in energy conversion and sound absorption. According to Manish Kakati, similar classrooms are going to be built on the ground floor and first floor in the next few months.

There are three hostels in the institute. These include the Ramanujan and MDS Hostels for boys and MDS Hostel for girls. The building belongs to Mohanlal Sukhadia University, where IIM-U is presently located. The hostels have been provided with the state-of-the-art biometric security systems. Sporting facilities are provided adjacent to the hostels with the girls having access to a basketball court in their hostel while the Ramanujan boys hostel has an indoor stadium adjacent to it. The pride and joy of the hostels though is the Wi-Fi and LAN connections, which are among the fastest provided by any Indian educational institution, the students claim.

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IIM-U also has a 1 Gbps Internet link in the campus. A backup link of 5 Mbps is also kept to minimise the downtime and Internet blackouts. The college campus as well as the hostel premises have been converted into a Wi-Fi zone with seamless integration. According to Gudakesh Kumar, a YouTube channel with the name ‘iimudaipur’ has been created to provide students and faculty with ‘do it yourself’ videos. It is also being used by students to publish educational videos online, Gudakesh informed.

Is there anything that is not nice at IIM-U?

Yes, a little. Piyush Singh says that the same ‘start-up’ nature of IIM-U can sometimes seem odd. Being the first batch of just 57 students, there are times when the campus atmosphere feels a little flat.’ “Having got used to over 2,000 students wandering in my college campus with even minor events turning up sizeable crowds, it is sometimes a little deflating to see barely a couple of dozen people appear for a Literary Club event, he says. He adds that there is no indictment in the enthusiasm of the batch because of the small number of students there are more than a dozen active clubs hosting some or the other event almost everyday.

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Lot of enthusiasm and lots of clubs

There are plenty of clubs and cells at IIM-U. Being the first year, everybody wants to have a hand in writing history. While the Media Cell is quite on the dot with its job as the channel between IIM-U and the outside world, the Industry Interaction Cell serves as the single point of contact for all industry related activities at the campus. The IT club, ConnectIT aims at meeting various software and hardware requirements for the entire campus. The IIM-U campus has access to a 1 Gbps optical fiber cable network from BSNL, and an additional backup of 5 Mbps from TATA Network Services. The club members host and manage the college website iimu.ac.in. The Cultural Committee Committee organises various cultural activities like music nights, dance events, dramatics, painting competitions, etc. The literary club, Potpourri caters to a diverse field of activities, which include everything from quizzes to JAM and late night movie sessions. The club arose out of the members needs to introduce the majority of the batch to participatory activities quite apart from any course material. Potpourri also manages the institutes fortnightly magazine/newsletter.

The core ideology behind Finomina, the Finance Club of IIM-U is to nurture interest and to create awareness among the students regarding the different domains of the financial services industry. Prayatna is an initiative directed towards sensitising the future business leaders of IIM-U with their social responsibilities.

For Amogh Sanzgiri, being actively involved in social activities helps since it involves interaction with the industry. This has inculcated a sense of professionalism in us. Personally, I believe the club has made me more adept at planning and organising activities. Working with a diverse group helps us to challenge each others ideas and bring out the best in each other.

The soft side of IIM-U

The presence of some 30,000 NGOs in Rajasthan helps to satisfy the social concerns of IIM-U students. Work has already started with a couple of them and plans are on to rope in more. With regards to understanding the business model, Manish says that it is very important to understand the main drivers of the economy of the state. The economy of Rajasthan is largely based on the industrial sector because of the climate and soil of the state which doesn’t allow agriculture throughout the year. Also, there is a large-scale seasonal unemployment in the state during dry season. People are working largely in the unorganised sector and taking their products to market through a middleman who takes a lion’s share of the profit earned,” says Manish. Hence collectively, IIM- U is going to be focusing on developing industries in the area by way of encouraging the structured model of business. “The curriculum has also been designed in a way to provide a symbiotic platform where the students and industries both can learn and grow together, ” he adds.

After work, it is play

Recreation takes on a whole new meaning at IIM-U. The entire hostel heaves a sigh of relief once the late night deadline to submit an assignment passes, the night actually begins with a few table tennis matches. The matches go on till the wee hours of the morning. Some prefer to hit the gym, while others may play a game of badminton. The music lovers jam in the music room which is packed with full of instruments such as electric guitars, synthesisers, etc.,” says Swetha P, a student.

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Anish Racherla from Hyderabad says that night life in Rajasthan is often more beautiful than day. Whenever we find time on weekends, we are off to explore the night life of the city, Udaipur being one of the most sought after tourist destinations in India is home to some of the most exclusive hotels in the world and a vibrant night life, the lakeside comes alive at night with tourists of various nationalities shopping and having a great time. The view of the Lake Palace hotel and Jag mandir in the middle of Lake Pichola is a sight that will mesmerise you, and an awesome dinner with such a view is all that is required to unwind and get back to the daily grind, Anish vouches.

What do you think the new IIMs have to do to come on par with the older IIMs?

Gudakesh says that the new IIMs should set a benchmark of their own. They should try and incorporate the best policies and practices of the established ones whilst doing away with some of the flaws. “It’s important for each of the new IIM to establish their own brand name. Obviously, the assistance from the more experienced ones would be required in the initial years,” he said.

Shwetha adds that the new IIMs have an advantage of not carrying any baggage like the established ones. They have the golden opportunity to start afresh and build their identity, the way they want to. Smaller batches provide flexibility in the formative years, which makes it easier to experiment with various methodologies, especially the pedagogical ones. It is important not to forget that even the stalwarts amongst the IIMs had once started out as small and have attained their position after years of perseverance and hard work, she says.

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So, is it just an IIM tag or has the experience changed you in anyway?

Manish says that it is a misnomer if someone says that IIM is just a brand. An MBA programme in the IIM is one of a transformation process on a broader canvas. IIM-U stresses on academic excellence with no compromise on quality. It keeps the fire in you burning, it teaches you to take a stand, it teaches one the good side of criticism, it teaches you how valuable a second is in ones life, it teaches us to look around and adopt the best practices (not copy but adopt them).

Simply to put forward, the experience of learning from an IIM is one of a kind, be it new or old. Its like if you dont have an iPhone, well you dont have an iPhone,” he adds.

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