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IIM alumni walk down memory lane | Forbes India

I got in touch with my friends from IIT-R who were now IIM alumni. After much I got placed even before final placements formally began! (Guess A friend and I started an initiative to meet all the professors before graduating. Outside India, IIMA may be well-known in academic circles — and the IIMA alumni diaspora may extend to almost every big city in the world. Being a young institution with a growing alumni base, the committee plays a vital Going forward the committee plans to form an Alumni Association and hold.

This was, indeed, revolutionary: In conventional colleges at the time, there was a vast gulf between teachers and students. This would be near-blasphemy in most institutions at that time. Yet, such is the adaptability of the human mind, that we adopted this in but a few weeks. Just as we adapted to the system, the plus-hour workday of the first few months soon eased off to the point when some of us went for matinee shows a few times a week!

In addition, of course, to evening visits to the outdoor ice-cream stalls at Law Garden and late-night snacks at Manek Chowk. No Ola, no kaali-peeli taxis existed then in Ahmedabad, and barring very few, none of us had our own vehicles. However, despite these outings, the campus itself was the main centre of activity.

Evenings and late nights saw groups of us sitting around and—like neighbourhood addas in Kolkata—discussing everything from personal problems to the woes of the world. Maybe, in keeping with the times, they are discussing the same issues on online social networks!

Everyone on campus—students, staff and faculty with their families—would turn up under the clear, star-studded sky.

Some faculty members insisted that the Friday night show be shifted to Saturday. My fellow class representative and I insisted that since this was a student activity, it was for us to decide, and not the Institute. This led to a stand-off, and finally after suffering some surprise quizzes on Saturdays we had our way, with the faculty graciously relenting.

However, neither such issues, nor others, affected the very close faculty-student bond. Now, I hear, organised movie shows are a rarity, and I doubt if the faculty join even these occasional events. Two other initiatives from our time are worth recalling.

IIM Ahmedabad Alumni Association

One was the Music Room: A record player and, yes, vinyl records: In the days when most of us heard music only on the radio or in films—with an hour or two a day of Western music, at best, on radio—this was indeed a boon. A few of us also started a student magazine, Red Brick, and successfully brought out a number of issues. The population on campus has now increased and so has the PGP batch size: From odd in our time to now.

Other short-term courses mean about more students on campus. The most dramatic change has probably been the gender ratio: In our batch, we had one! Amongst other dramatic changes is the increase in entrepreneurship. In our day, the choices we thought of were a job in an Indian company or one in an MNC only a few crazies like me thought of the government as an alternativeand no one—bar a few who came from business families—thought of entrepreneurship.

Yet, we—the early batches—can take pride in helping create the reputation and brand image that IIM-A has today. And we would hope that successive batches continue to nurse the dream and make the effort to, indeed, change the world. There were some landmarks in terms of what was happening in the country—for the first time personal computers came to the campus, the Indira Gandhi assassination took place as did the Bhopal gas tragedy.

So, in many ways, it was a very defining period in our history. It was pre-liberalisation, so we belonged to the generation that was just grateful to get a job. Or, at least, I was very grateful to get a job. We had a batch of about people; I think we had 19 girls.

Only 70 percent of the batch were engineers, compared to today when, in some of the IIMs, more than 95 percent are engineers.

IIM Ahmedabad Alumni Archives ⋆ omarcafini.info

So there was a lot of diversity. But, in general, the bulk of students were from the metros. Which, again, has changed; now, students are from all over the country. I came from Assam, where I had a very small-town existence. The first semester is always one of awe and shock, right? You are not used to—at least coming from a non-engineering background—the rigour of daily assessments.

You are used to university exams where you cram in at the end of two or three years. The continuous evaluation process is new, and they do pile on the pressure. That would be from interacting with exceptionally bright and diverse individuals. There were people who were talented in sports, in dramatics, in writing, quizzing. It was a very accomplished set of people, and just getting to interact with them provides huge learning and insight, particularly for me, who had come from a smaller town.

When I had joined, I had had very little exposure to the business world, and had never even heard of Hindustan Lever. Partly because the class sizes have doubled or tripled—in our time it wasnow it is or It is a totally different dynamic. The talent night was big; the inter-IIM was huge.

We took a whole train coach and went to Calcutta for the meet. That was great fun! Assam has produced some outstanding table tennis players, such as Monalisa Baruah, so everyone played table tennis! Even I did; not that I was great at it. It was a big thing. Today, if you walk out of the gates of IIM-A, you have all these stalls with really good street food.

In our time there was no heated water; in winter we would heat our bath water with immersion rods. Today the whole campus is solar-power heated, so you have running hot and cold water. You had one or two phones for all the students. One major feature outside of academics was the queue in front of that one phone. And since we got letters, we had pigeonholes, and you would have to go there to pick up your letters. There were two important haunts on campus. The hottest selling variety was Kaju Draksh; it was their No.

We also had music in something called the DJ Room, which was very ornately decorated, outside which you could organise a party, where the badminton court became an impromptu dance floor. And whenever you organised a DJ night, people from the dorms around would pour buckets of water on you. It was part of tradition. But what has changed is the fact that there are so many mobile phones now that you can get food delivered to your room from the stalls outside; and you also now have many more commercially run restaurants on campus.

In my time, food choices on campus was limited, or you stepped out to have paratha in the gully outside. The thing that has not changed is something called WAC—written analysis and communication. And then, as you are going to drop the paper in the box, the job of the senior batch was to impede you at every step—they would throw stuff, throw water on you.

So it was like an obstacle race. A significant percentage of the girls in every class got married to someone on campus.

IIM alumni walk down memory lane

For years IIM-B could not develop a distinct personality. Having our own campus made a tremendous difference and that was when IIM-B began to have an identity of its own. With this we also dropped our public-sector leanings and were no longer ashamed of being a capitalist institution. We went through an identity crisis when we tried to clone IIM-A or had the culture superimposed on us.

Fortunately, we evolved from this phase and have developed a strong culture of our own. The single-minded focus is to be the No. Faculty, resources, industry exposure, facilities, Bangalore has it all.

While comparisons are odious, I think, one of the main differences between Bangalore and Ahmedabad is in the academic rigour. Bangalore is more laid-back. Personally, I believe some pressure would not be a bad thing at all. I learnt about teamwork. I made friends who are still with me after 24 years.

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I learnt to look at things from different perspectives. After my convent education, I saw the world as black and white. At IIM, I learnt that life had shades of grey. I also learnt to think logically, meet deadlines, be organised, multi-task, keep a low profile, adjust to various situations and apply knowledge across disciplines. However, there, are areas where IIM-B can improve. A lot of us lack the pride of belonging to IIM-B which is critical to building an educational institution.

The "badge value" is essential. This is where continuous brand building is required. Not just the highest dollar salaries and the number of foreign postings.

The legends and folklore which contribute to the living history of an institution need to be preserved and passed on. Our alumni networking is not strong enough. Successful practitioners are also needed as faculty, not just for guest lectures but to teach full courses. Curricula need to be constantly upgraded in tune with industry requirements while retaining a strong base of theoretical knowledge. I strongly believe that applications and case studies have no meaning without the relevant theory, much as my students disagree with me.

Members of the faculty need to be in the public eye, shaping education and public policies; be more visible in seminars and industry interactions rather than through just consultancies. And this is where IIM-A probably scores over us. It was still dark outside. I could feel the chill of a December Calcutta morning. I switched on my desk lamp and settled down to read MIT economist Paul Samuelson's chapter on price elasticity of demand, when the shot rang out. The sound was so loud that my roommate jumped out from under the blanket.

We ran out to investigate. In the middle of the football field was a body and we could see a group of young men running away. Then a police jeep came screaming. It will be a waste of your time. It wasCalcutta was burning. Talented young men and women were abandoning their education, fired by Charu Majumdar's exhortation to bring social justice.

Is IIM-C ready for the future? Soon afterward, the Indian Army moved into West Bengal. Social justice could wait for the future, what was important right then was preservation of social order.

I left all such issues behind. Graduating from IIM-Calcutta, I set out on a course that would lead to my joining two other men in founding Re-diffusion.

Bringing a revolution to the Indian industry seemed a more practical bet. IIM-C too, like other management institutions, has left such troubling concerns behind.

Social revolutions are decidedly unfashionable in this era of globalisation. And what better proof do we need that the choices we made are right than the astounding starting salaries of IIM graduates? However, management institutes, unlike medical and engineering ones, have to suffer the annual embarrassing reality check of rankings issued by business newspapers and magazines.

In this era when all eyes are turned towards international success, the methodology used for ranking by the Financial Times,London, is instructive. While it does assign the single highest weightage 40 per cent to the starting salaries commanded by the MBAs, substantial weightage 20 per cent each is placed on quality of thought leadership and diversity-the number of women and international presence at the faculty, student and board levels.

In the Financial Times list last year, no Indian management institute figured. The success of the IIMs for that matter any higher education institution is predicated as much on the highly selective entrance process as on the value added during the students' tenure at these institutions. The true driver of the value added is the thought leadership provided, which is reflected in the number of research articles published in quality international management journals.

Such research is the outcome of consulting assignments with real-life businesses. And both such linkages with industry and research output are woefully inadequate at present.

Management science works off the theoretical foundations laid by its more mature cousins: Where it adds value is by creating "theories"- schema that operating managers can use in their daily work. Since such theories often tend to be specific to economic and social situations, it is not as easy as prescribing Harvard Business School cases to Indian management students. Today, ensconced in their secure world,do IIMs hear the distant but troubling social and economic gunfire of battles Indian companies fight?

WTO intellectual property battles, fight to build a world scale services industry, the battle to make Indian manufacturing competitive. Do they have the luxury of merely observing these battles from the safe confines of academia? I had worked for six years with the Tatas before I joined the institute. I believe doing MBA after a couple of years of experience makes it much more meaningful.

Being in Jamshedpur it was located at a place with a strong industrial culture. The college had a very good programme on industrial relations which few other colleges offered.

Having had work experience, I knew how things worked in the real corporate world. Studying at XLRI also taught me about the concepts involved. It was a terrific experience. We had an excellent faculty as well. We were involved in a large number of out-of-the-classroom activities.

In fact, I think I learnt far more by engaging in those activities as compared to the usual classroom sessions. Social work was high on the agenda. We used to go out to the villages to work closely with the people, understand the problems and issues affecting their lives and help find solutions. We often conducted marketing fairs there. Debates, discussions and seminars were frequently organised on the campus and they helped a lot in building confidence and honing organising skills.

The institute has only got better with time. Today even as I interact with the institute as the chairman of its board of governance, I see tremendous change on the campus. Keeping pace with the changing times, a large number of new courses have been introduced.

There are courses on Enterprise Resource Solution and Marketing Law which have great relevance in today's corporate world. It has started an initiative called "Marketing in Practice" which essentially talks about real-life business issues faced by marketing executives. Today, it has a large number of visiting faculty from the corporate world. This gives real world exposure and experience to our students. Alongside, it has started networking with international institutions to set global benchmarks.

XLRI was the first B-school to start a branch in Dubai which conducts programmes for working professionals. Physical infrastructure has also kept pace with the overall growth.

The institute recently set up a very well equipped academic block with 10 classrooms, a 1,seater auditorium, latest computing infrastructure and a modern amphitheatre complete with projection systems and sound systems. They also have a state-of-the-art library which has a lot of online content that can be accessed from the students' hostel.

But there are areas of concern. Being located in Jamshedpur, which is not very well connected, reaching the place is always a problem for the visiting faculty. Despite a better quality of life, not being located in the big metros sometimes does impact in attracting faculty. However, more important than anything else, I feel MBA education in India is far removed from the realities of the corporate world. And this does not apply to XLRI alone. I would want to speak for B-schools at large. The basic purpose of management institutions is to develop good managers and leaders.

Two things contribute to a successful manager-his knowledge skills contribute 25 per cent and his attitudinal skills the remaining 75 per cent. While Indian B-schools hone knowledge skills there is nothing in the syllabus that shapes a student's attitudinal skills like leadership, the ability to handle success as well as failure or to take on challenges. I believe at least two-three years of work experience should be made mandatory for all B-school students. This will help students understand both the concept as well as context of various corporate issues.

Life is about changes. Success is all about changes.