Rankings help generate healthy competition

livemint.com | Premchand Palety

There are now about 1,400 business schools in the country. But not even 50 can be said to have adequate capability to add significant value to the existing knowledge, skills and attitude of students.

Even among many of the top branded business schools in the Mint C-fore ranking, there is no consistency in quality in the sense that they don’t measure up well against all the parameters that define a great institute. Shortage of competent faculty is the main hurdle for most of our top business schools. Few schools, such as IBS in Hyderabad, have taken proactive steps to counter this shortage. Then, there is a serious crisis of leadership and governance in many institutes.

This survey is an attempt to elevate the standard of management education by creating healthy competition among business schools. It assesses the performance of business schools against different parameters and sub-parameters—55 of them in all—in the last academic year (2007-2008). These parameters are important for a business school to deliver quality education and also to play a leadership role in the country’s economy.

For some readers, placements might be the only important parameter that defines a business school. For their benefit, we have given placement details of business schools, along with the fee charged by them. A word of caution though: These figures are CTC, or cost to company, which is often much more than what an employee actually gets in hand.

A major highlight of the last academic year, as in the past four years, has been strong placements, with average salaries increasing by at least 20% in some business schools. The average percentage of female students and students with at least two years of work experience is also on the rise. This year, the figures were 34% and 19%, respectively, for the business schools that participated in the survey.

There have been other interesting developments, too. Promoting creativity and entrepreneurship among students, industry-institute partnership in training students, gearing students for emerging rural markets and exploring business opportunities in environmental issues are among the important initiatives taken by some business schools in the last academic year.

Like in the past eight years, this year, too, the research team of the Centre for Forecasting and Research, or C-fore, visited a number of business schools. It also received information about activities in business schools by way of a questionnaire. C-fore is always looking for new practices and innovations in institutes that facilitate the creation of new knowledge or make dissemination of knowledge more learner-friendly. Here are some key discoveries:

This year, to encourage creativity among students, the Welingkar Institute of Management in Mumbai has launched “innoWE”, an innovation lab. The idea is to encourage students to voice the weirdest of ideas, some of which will be nurtured with necessary support so that they become paradigm-defining businesses.

Mirroring the need of many industries to explore and grow in rural markets, some schools are orienting students to rural customers. The Balaji Institute of Modern Management, or Bimm, Pune, for example, has launched a project for students, to be undertaken in at least 10 villages across the country for a duration of three months.

Hyderabad-based agribusiness school National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management, or MANAGE, has a two-week residential programme that provides students an opportunity to understand the potential areas for development in agribusiness to increase income levels of farmers.

Industry-institute interface has also grown in some schools. At Mumbai-based SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), companies are involved not only in the design of a specialized course but also its delivery. Such courses are customized in design and content to the requirements of the corporate client and conducted on the campus jointly by personnel from the client and the SPJIMR faculty. This practice has been adopted by schools such as the Birla Institute of Management Technology, Greater Noida, and SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai, in collaboration with firms? such? as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd.

Entrepreneurship is now the buzzword in many business schools, especially those that have partnered with the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN). There are 111 business schools associated with NEN to train their faculty and promote entrepreneurial culture among students. The Welingkar Institute sent students on the streets of Mumbai as part of an entrepreneurship development exercise. Seventeen groups of students (four or five in each group) were each provided with Rs10,000 for any lawful commercial activity, except the stock market. They were required to associate with tiny businesses such as tea and newspaper vendors, etc. The mandate to students was to generate a return on seed capital by adding sustainable value to the chosen commercial activity.

Business schools are also increasingly orienting students to corporate social responsibility. They are also preparing students for the growing non-governmental organization, or NGO, sector. One of the major group projects of a business communication course at the Amrita School of Business in Coimbatore is designing a brochure for an NGO. Students have to research a social issue and set up an imaginary NGO which addresses the issue.

New courses that cover environmental policy and law and also explore the business opportunity in the emerging green economy have also been added to the curriculum in some business schools. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in Ahmedabad and Lucknow have programmes on environmental management with a special focus on carbon markets.

Another important highlight of the last academic year was government interference in the functioning of institutes. Reservations were forced on the IIMs and other government institutes. Private business schools, too, had to suffer because of the quota and inspection raj of the All India Council for Technical Education—the regulator of private engineering and management colleges.

But, on the whole, the past four years have been good for business schools as the world economy was in fine fettle. The current slowdown in the economy, however, is bound to have a cascading effect on almost all business schools. They may have to compete more aggressively for students and recruiters, and those with better governance systems will have a sustainable competitive advantage. For many schools, it is time to re-examine their processes and growth strategy.

Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting and Research (C fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools.