What is the mission of IIM C and what sets it apart from other b-schools in the same league?

The mission of IIM C is to be an international centre of excellence. In terms of what sets it apart from other IIMs is the very open academic culture here. There is an enormous amount of involvement of the faculty members in running of the institute and designing of the activities. It is a place where academic work is respected.

Why should a student with calls from all of IIM A, B C should opt for C over A and B?

Firstly, we already have a reputation, that IIM C is what is called in the young generation jargon as a ‘very acad kind of place’. There is a lot of depth to the knowledge that is imparted.

Secondly, this place has a huge reputation of a place where there are lots of extra curricular activities. We consciously try and nurture that because there is a lot of experiential learning this way. Look at Intaglio, if you see the scale of events here, you will realize that the people who are organizing it are going to carry it to their old ages. Of course Intaglio is the biggest event, but there are all kinds of smaller events in progress all the time.

Besides that, right now I’d say that Kolkata is a very happening place. Though we are
located outside the main city, there is a lot of Calcutta to discover even when you come to live in IIM C campus.

But the crux of IIM C’s exclusivity lies in the mix of academic depth with extra co-curricular activities.

What is the general profile of students coming at IIM C and does IIM C prefer any profiles of educational background and work experience over others?

No. We do give a little (stressed) weightage for work-experience. For taking CAT, which is the first round of admission, the undergraduate subject of study doesn’t matter. Then at the group discussion and personal interview level we check what we cannot check at the CAT level, that is a student’s demeanour, confidence levels, general awareness, communication ability, intellectual ability and reflexes to an extent. I agree that qualities such as ethical ability are hard to check in that short time, but we do try to guage the personality. I think by and large the current young generation students applying to IIM C are very close to one another in terms of personality and background, how they are brought up, the books they read and so on.

How important are past academic scores in the admission process of IIM C and what can a student do to make up for bad acads in undergraduation?

Once the CAT result is out and the candidate is shortlisted, academic scores cease to matter at IIM C. I can’t speak for the other IIMs, but at IIM C, we look for the academic performance aspect in the CAT. I know of past students who barely scraped through their undergraduation degrees but did get an admission into IIM C. On the other hand, I will also stress that there is a lot of rigour involved in the IIM C system of study and one has to be studious in order to survive.

Are you saying that once shortlisted, two students with the same cat percentile – but one with 45 percent marks in the undergraduation and the other with 80 percent marks in undergraduation – are on the same plane during the remaining part of the admission process?

Absolutely. At IIM Calcutta, yes.

In light of the case of an IIM Lucknow graduate working in an oil PSU who lost his life fighting for ethics and the diametrically opposite one of an IIM Bangalore graduate who was indicted for committing fraud in Samsung, a question that has arisen is how are ethics imbibed to management students at the IIMs?

I agree that ethics can’t be taught, just like leadership cannot be taught. However you can sensitize a person and make the person aware. If you make him think even once that an ethical choice is an important issue, and that it can have implications which you cannot think of when you take the decision, you end up sensitizing that person.

There are two kinds of things. One is when we don’t even understand that the choice we’re making is in fact based on ethics. The second is when you make a choice but you don’t see the implications clearly, that it can be hurtful to other people or appear very damaging to other people. How do we handle that? I think the fact that we give the understanding of such choices equal priority to say, derivative pricing, does send a message to the students somewhere.

Besides, there are specialized optional courses on business ethics in which teach case studies and situations where a typical manager would find himself in. Also in other courses like business policy or economic policy, we talk about ethical issues relevant to that particular context. Even in daily life at IIM C, we teach students to not rag juniors, we call on them to not just cut-paste material off the Internet for assignments, and if you have to take some interesting piece of information from the net, at least assimilate it and then write your own interpretation of it while quoting the source or providing the reference.


We recently heard that the CAT might become a computer-aided test.

Yes, Bakul Dholakia (Director, IIM Ahmedabad) did say that in a TV interview. Sometimes, very informally, it has been discussed that while the design of the exam is in constant engagement, the logistics are very difficult to handle. Yet we don’t want to outsource CAT .

For example on the CAT day, you will find nobody on campus. all the faculty and their family members are roped in to look after a centre somewhere or the other. As the numbers are exponentially growing, what happens if 3 lakh people take the exam? How do we manage that? So we were thinking if online testing could be a solution. So it’s still in the ‘is it’ phase. First we have to see what are the problems in conducting computer-aided testing, what happens if it goes wrong in backward areas and so on.

The CAT changed drastically this year (2005)…

I’d say the exam itself is evolving. Like couple of years back we started letting the students take the question paper home.

After this CAT 2005, I had a newspaper journalist calling me up frantically, asking me how do I react to the chaos, that the number of questions were reduced, this passage was so difficult, the paper had nothing to do with last year and so on.

The problem is, if we’re going to screen 1,500 students from 1.6 lakh, which is a very tough job, I dont want everybody to max the paper. I want them to tell me that it’s tough. So CAT has to be unpredictable and difficult.

When you look at b-schools admissions abroad, they are very subjective as opposed to CAT which is extremely objective. Do you think that the IIMs might be losing out on good future leaders due to its extremely objective admission process? If the IIMs have to become globally competent they will have to take these students aboard. But these same students might not be able to crack the CAT. What are the IIMs doing to address this problem?

There is so much excess demand for good quality MBA in India that when you look between 99 percentile and 98 percentile, it becomes a difficult choice. These students are coming from similar backgrounds and their tastes and preferences are also very similar. Who do I take and who do I drop?

The only way this can be resovled is by having a large number of good quality business schools to serve this excess demand. With a mix of such schools where in one they concentrate on solid technical fundas, and others where they look very subjectively into your background, there is a huge space for excellence. The IIMs too are constantly debating whether there is a need for more schools, perhaps with different admission criteria.

However, there is a bigger problem facing management education in India and that is the lack of quality faculty. That is a big constraint because typically a good faculty member will prefer to teach in Singapore or the US and we just cannot match the salaries he gets there. There can be people in the industry who are good practitioners and can also be wonderful teachers but they just don’t have the time to teach.

So in india, unless you are very passionate about teaching, or probably you didn’t land up the job you wanted so you decided to hang around teaching in a b-school, teaching is not very financially rewarding.

What are the challenges the IIMs are facing in order to go global in a big way?

There are many ways of going global. One is when you have presence in international journals, your faculty is mobile and you have lots of exchange programmes. There is tremendous scope for the IIMs here.

The other way is in terms of a campus presence outside the country. So I can open a campus in Singapore or start a dual degree with a Harvard and so on. Right now, I don’t think the IIMs are in a position to exrcise the second option for the simple reason that there is such an excess demand in India, that the government as a stakeholder will not look upon that in kind.

There can be a scenario when a Wharton actually comes to India, sets up a campus here and offers an MBA programme. If that happens, there will be a lot of poaching of good faculty, and the IIMs will have a tough time retaining their faculty. That is also when the brand value of the IIMs built over the years will matter most.

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