What does it mean to get MBA from Indian Institutes of Management India (IIMs)? Directors opine

IIMs: The brand, the myth and the institution. Let’s take a closer look at these prestigious institutions of management 

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have consistently played a pivotal role in shaping the future of leadership and fostering innovation in the business landscape of India and abroad. As we delve into the insights shared by prominent professors and directors from leading IIMs, such as Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director of IIM Bangalore and Professor Debashis Chatterjee, Director of IIM Kozhikode; Dr Mahadeo Jaiswal, Founding Director of IIM Sambalpur; and Prof Himanshu Rai, Director of IIM Indore, we gain valuable perspectives on the significance of obtaining an MBA from these prestigious institutions, the challenges they face in maintaining their reputation, and the role of research in their academic environments.

Nurturing visionary leaders: What an MBA from IIMs entails

In India, IIMs stand tall as bastions of prestige and excellence in the realm of MBA education. Their formidable brand value is universally acknowledged, and IIM students are highly sought after by corporates and leading business companies around the globe. As Prof Debashis Chatterjee of IIM Kozhikode poignantly asserts, “IIMs have a pre-eminent role in altering the business landscape of not only this country but also of the world.”

But what exactly does it mean to earn an MBA degree from an IIM? According to Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director and Professor of Strategy at IIM Bangalore, it signifies an immersive and transformative educational journey that moulds students into visionary global business leaders, dynamic entrepreneurs, influential policy-makers, and social change agents.

“The MBA programme achieves this through exposure to the best faculty and thought leaders, intensive course work, experiential learning opportunities, international immersion, and thoughtful reflection,” states Prof Krishnan. 

In a similar vein, Professor Rai of IIM Indore adds, “I feel that beyond academics, IIMs also prioritise holistic development, encouraging participation in extracurricular activities for enhanced leadership and interpersonal skills.”

As an example, IIM Indore offers a distinctive Himalayan Outbound Programme, where students confront decision-making challenges in the heart of the Himalayas. Furthermore, the Rural Engagement Programme propels students into the villages of Madhya Pradesh, enabling them to identify and devise solutions for real-world challenges.

Dr Mahadeo Jaiswal, Founding Director of IIM Sambalpur, echoes Professor Rai’s sentiments, when he says, “The learning experience extends far beyond the classroom, with students actively participating in 30-40 events, some of which involve international collaboration.”

Beyond these enriching experiences, graduates also gain access to a robust alumni network, offering enduring connections and mentorship possibilities. Moreover, the curriculum places significant emphasis on fostering a global perspective through international exchange programmes, preparing students to navigate the intricacies of the interconnected global business landscape.

The evolving role of IIMs in India’s business landscape

IIMs have played a pivotal role in India’s growth story, leaving an indelible mark on the country’s trajectory. Professor Krishnan aptly characterises their multifaceted contributions as, “A symphony of innovation, expertise, and leadership.” He further elaborates them as follows: 

1. Source of new ideas: IIMs are crucial sources of innovation and ideas for the government and industry. For instance, an IIM Bangalore study led to the waiver of stamp duty on low-cost housing, boosting the sector.

2. Neutral experts: They serve as neutral and unbiased experts in policy and legal matters, offering valuable insights to institutions like the Karnataka High Court.

3. Leadership development: IIM alumni head major Indian and multinational companies, such as Marico and Colgate Palmolive India, shaping various industries.

4. Entrepreneurship: IIMs contribute significantly to the entrepreneurial pool, supporting businesses like Delhivery, an e-commerce logistics giant. “IIMs,” as Prof Rai of IIM Indore affirms, “are not just about theory but about practical impact on the business world.”

IIM Indore, for instance, adheres to a core philosophy centred on nurturing socially conscious and responsible leaders, according to Prof Rai. Moreover, IIMs remain deeply committed to community engagement, contributing meaningfully to nation-building. This commitment echoes Prof Rai’s sentiment, “We also contribute to nation-building.”

In tandem with this, IIM Bangalore has undertaken innovative initiatives to address pressing national challenges. Their entrepreneurship development programs and incubation support have left a significant imprint, bolstering the aspirations of thousands of entrepreneurs nationwide.

Professor Krishnan, in reflecting on the journey of management education in India over the past six decades, notes, “Over the last 60 years, management education in India has evolved well, in tune with the needs of the times. Today, Indian management institutions like IIMB are ranked among the top management institutions in the world.”

IIMs: Challenges and innovations
Sustaining the reputation and prestige of an institution like IIM is not an easy feat. However, these institutions have not only maintained their stature over the years but have grown in influence. As Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan astutely points out, innovation has been the lifeblood that has propelled them forward.

IIMs have successfully identified new opportunities and addressed them effectively, ensuring continued excellence. They’ve embraced technology, pioneered online education, and expanded their course offerings, including specialised MBA programs that integrate technical skills with management.

Prof Chatterjee from IIM Kozhikode emphasises that IIMs, as national institutions of eminence, must always be a step ahead. In an era where business ventures must be economically viable, technologically feasible, politically acceptable, and environmentally sustainable, IIMs bear the responsibility of nurturing a generation attuned to this multidimensional approach. 

“We have this enormous responsibility of creating a generation who think in this direction. The challenge therein is that we have not only to create competent managers but also compassionate individuals,” he contends. This approach, he believes, is in the very DNA of IIMs, driving them to seek opportunities even in the face of challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, shedding light on some pressing challenges, Dr Mahadeo Jaiswal of IIM Sambalpur points out the issue of insufficient funding. “A cessation in funding would not only halt revenue generation but also compromise the quality of education provided.” He also urges for more international exposure, which adversely impacts global rankings.

When it comes to IIM Indore, Prof Rai points out their journey of staying relevant amidst the rise of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology. According to him, IIMs must continually adapt their courses, not only imparting knowledge but also equipping students with the discernment to navigate the vast sea of information available online.

Prof Rai elaborates, “Our elective courses on Cybersecurity and Cryptos help students understand the nitty-gritty of the field thereby becoming adept at the skills required as per the industry needs as they graduate.”

Attracting and retaining top-notch faculty members also poses a challenge. IIMs require educators who are not only experts in their fields but also effective pedagogues capable of delivering high-quality instruction. Prof Rai highlights that IIM Indore nurtures its faculty’s expertise through exchange programs with foreign universities.

Professor Krishnan from IIM Bangalore reflects on the institution’s journey, highlighting their achievements and strengths. Their commitment to digital learning and MOOCs, strong executive education programs, and robust connections with industry practitioners have played pivotal roles in their success.

He underscores that IIMs have not only adapted to change but have also been innovators, leveraging their location and partnerships to introduce pioneering programs like the weekend MBA-equivalent programme in 1998 and the Master’s level programme in Public Policy and Management in collaboration with the government.

In 2014, they embraced Massively Open Online courses (MOOCs) by partnering with edX, offering over 50 high-quality management courses globally. Prof Krishnan notes, “Around two million learners have enrolled in our MOOCs courses since inception.”

As Professor Krishnan aptly summarises, “There is no shortcut to educational excellence.” The success of IIMs has been a culmination of innovation, adaptation to change, and a relentless pursuit of excellence, solidifying their position as global leaders in management education.

Are IIMs graduates homogenised in their thought? 
IIM graduates have long been associated with a certain homogeneity in their approach, driven by a singular focus on high-quality jobs and corporate success. This perception was further fueled by the prevalence of engineering backgrounds among IIM students.

However, in recent years, IIMs have actively undertaken measures to diversify their student bodies, broaden mindsets, and cultivate socially conscious leaders fit for the challenges of 2023.

Professor Chatterjee emphasises the manifold benefits of diversity in the classroom. In MBA programmes, where case studies and discussions are pedagogical mainstays, diverse perspectives enrich decision-making processes. “Diversity helps in enriching classroom discussions by bringing in fresh perspectives in an intense programme like MBA at IIMs,” he says.

Diverse, cross-cultural classrooms foster creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Students collaborate, learning from each other’s experiences, generating innovative solutions, and heightening their cultural awareness. This prepares them for careers in an ever-changing business landscape.

IIM Kozhikode stands out as a pioneer in introducing gender and academic diversity. Achieving gender parity as early as 2013, they broke the glass ceiling with over 50% of women MBA candidates. This commitment continues, with female candidates comprising more than 45% of the current academic year’s intake. Supernumerary seats reserved for women and academic diversity measures further underscore their dedication to inclusivity. 

Professor Rai highlights IIM Indore’s holistic approach to diversity. “This would have been true of all IIMs over 20 years ago. However, over the past couple of decades, IIMs have made concerted efforts to cultivate diversity within their classrooms. This deliberate drive for diversity has been instrumental in fostering a broader spectrum of thoughts, decision-making approaches, and perspectives among students,” he asserts.

He mentions how IIM Indore awards extra marks in admission criteria for factors like gender and educational background, going beyond traditional metrics like CAT scores. This commitment extends to undergraduate and postgraduate students, ensuring a vibrant exchange of ideas and experiences. Gender diversity is actively pursued, and programs attract students from diverse academic backgrounds, fostering a well-rounded education. International outreach, including courses in the UAE and GCC nations, further diversifies their student base.

“By providing extra points to female applicants (4 marks – Gender Diversity) and those with non-engineering backgrounds (2 marks – Academic Diversity), IIM Indore is taking proactive steps to enhance diversity within its student body. This initiative reflects the institution’s commitment to creating a more inclusive and representative learning environment,” he says.

To bridge the diversity gap among faculty members, IIM Bangalore launched the NS Ramaswamy pre-doc programme, according to Prof Krishnan. This initiative supports individuals from disadvantaged communities, providing fellowships and mentoring to build a pool of qualified faculty candidates for management and social sciences institutions across the country.

On the other hand, Dr Jaiswal of IIM Sambalpur recognises the historical homogeneity among IIM students but is committed to shifting this mindset. They encourage students to address critical issues like sustainability and diversity, moving beyond a narrow focus on employment.

Professor Chatterjee emphasises the need for emotional intelligence, a skill often lacking among students overly focused on hard technical skills.

“Recruiters very often make a mention of the lack of people skills, out-of-box thinking, and cultural insensitivity of the students. They have shared experiences when students were given a simple human related issue to tackle which needed more emotional intelligence that anything else and how in tackling the issue, only a few students succeed,” he explains.

This clearly implies the need for exposure to courses non-quantitative in nature in addition to the quantitative ones and Prof Chatterjee asserts how IIMK is specifically working on imparting these skills through their MBA programme. 

Source: Edexlive