IntroductionDecades ago, a highly reputed academic from the Administrative Staff College of India was appointed the Director of an institute in Tiruchirapalli. He had ambitious plans. However, the costs in recruiting good faculty members were passed on to BHEL, the collaborator from the industry. The B-School was yet to establish itself and the teachers did not stay on.
The Director resigned. In came a then young manager from the same BHEL. This Rajasthani gentleman sensed an opportunity to work on a low-cost model. He took the local management's permission to enlist the support of practical managers with decades of experience at BHEL Tiruchirapalli. Since he was from IIM Ahmedabad, he introduced several electives and got autonomy from the Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli
The BHEL Managers worked as teachers on a part-time basis and were paid some remuneration for their services. The B-School utilized every single opportunity to get quality internship support from BHEL and since the inputs were so practical in nature and content, the B-School took just forty-eight months to establish a good placement record. Even today, this B-School is among the top twenty-five B-Schools in India. This is the real-world story of the Tiruchirapalli-based Bharathidasan Institute of Management
A common thread of institution-building characterizes all such B-Schools that are branded and find a place among the top twenty, or at best, twenty-give B-School in India. In the main, this institution-building is centred around a) Being down-to-earth b) Seeking to be different c) Focus on research d) Links with industry and e) Continuous improvements to stay relevant and contemporary.
Being down-to-earthWhen the noted Accounting and Finance international expert, Dr Bala Balabalchandran, wanted to set up a BSchool at Chennai that could equal any of the IIMs over some time at Chennai, he systematically went about the job. The initial pricing of the prestigious Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, easily the best non-IIM branded institution of South India today, with a fabulous record of placement and internationally well-known Faculty Members, was not high. Within just over a decade, it is in the league of the equally prestigious S.P. Jain Institute of Management and has been able to attract the best quality students from all over India.
As already discussed above, Prof. Arya was quick to encash on the BHEL Tiruchirapalli support and get the Bharathidasan Institute of Management on a firm track of a good brand building in record time. These two B-Schools have been lead by down-to-earth professionals.
Seeking to be differentThe School of Management affiliated to the Christ University at Bangalore started a branding process with active industry support. Similarly, the MBA program of the Amira Vishwa Vidyapeetham, also referred to as the Amirtha University, Coimbatore, has a few electives that give the students some grounding in spirituality. This sort of seeking to be different has been the feature of the Loyola Institute of Business Administration(LIBA) at Chennai that introduced the part-time PGDM course for employed professionals long ago. This has enabled industry participation in such a big way. The University of Madras, one of the oldest Universities in India has a high-quality Faculty Team that continuously chases the students to perform. The institution is autonomous and is not bound by the traditional University rules. Similarly, the branding of the PSG Institute of Management Coimbatore is derived from the overall branding of the prestigious group that also runs so many high-quality institutions. They have been around for decades and the years of experience have made all the difference.
Of course, it is quite true that there are not too many B-Schools from South India that could find a place in the first twelve BSchools of India if one adds the IIMs. But the likes of the Great Lakes Institute of Management, LIBA of Chennai, and the Bharathidasan Institute of Management figure among the best twenty BSchools when rated by industry experts, and this makes a huge difference.
Focus on researchEach of the branded BSchools, like the other branded BSchools of Mumbai and New Delhi, has Faculty Members with excellent research records. They are among the best Faculty Members in the country and even a fairly good BSchool like the Thiagarajar School of Management Madurai, sought and obtained a Senior academic from the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkatta, as the Director. The applied research facilities are reportedly so good that there are hundreds of Indian case-studies of a very high standard. It has also been reported that the Institute of Management at the Manipal University has followed this policy and had been reported to be so successful in creating a big impact in terms of MBAs with leadership qualities of a tall order.
The reach of the branded BSchools is so good in terms of industry participation and what stands out is the involvement of practising managers in the teaching process. If it is the high-quality IT professionals who give Christ University a big fillip, it is the same with managers from the massive manufacturing base of Chennai. For instance, the knowledge that the schools have about Total Quality Management(TQM) practices of the TVS group, MRF, and so on, all Chennai-based industrial organizations, has been reportedly facilitated through the involvement of the industry professionals. This is the sort of applied research and industry orientation that makes the MBAs ready for the challenges of the real-world.
Hence, research is not purely academic research. This is important, but the more relevant research that makes a big difference to the MBA student pertains to the case-studies and allied research that discusses the action on the field. This is often referred to as action-research. The South Indian leading branded BSchools have been consistently focussing on this sort of research. For instance, according to one former student of the Christ University, if there is a case-study on Mahindra*Mahindra, the case-study would trace the entire history of the organization, the business context of the organization at different points at a time, the globalization process, the innovation in products and so on. The entire case-study will obviously through up several "What-If" scenarios that will be relevant for the case-study under reference, thus paving the way for the student to get a very comprehensive picture. Of course, this is exactly what is done in the IIMs as well. However, the fact is that the branded BSchools of South India, do this as a routine, even if they follow the IIM model.
Links with industryThe leading branded BSchools are making every effort to develop good links with the industry. In the recent past, there has been a bigger focus on such links and even the tier two B-Schools like the one under the Chennai-based SRM University are forging the best of relationships with all the major global companies. They are also making consistent efforts to stay relevant and their average salaries are quite okay, by local standards.
The likes of LIBA had done this decades ago. Their placement record is too good and the average salaries in the range of around ten to twelve lakhs per annum are there for the asking. LIBA does not believe in any big publicity as well. It is quietly doing a good job. The best of the pack, the Creat Lakes Insititute of Management has the best placement record, with salaries increasing year on year for all their MBAs.
Continuous improvements to stay relevant and contemporaryEven the lesser-known B schools that are anyway branded, like the Sona School of Management at Salem, are making efforts to attract the best of Faculty Members with doctorates and record of very good publications and research. They also conduct the best of International Conferences. They reach out to various sections of the society and a few Alumni are also engaged in doing commendable social work. They run enterprises that work alongside the best of NGOs, thus transforming the lives of many thousands of people.
The branded BSchools are now playing the big branding game. The Great Lakes Institute of Management and the LIBA are two institutions that will aspire to be the SPJains of South India, competing in that orbit. The emerging ones like the Thiagarajar School of Management, Madurai, and the PSG Institute of Management will compete for the slots in the best tier-2 BSchools, ready to take on competition from elsewhere in the country.
ConclusionThe branded BSchools of South India are making every effort to stay relevant and make a big difference in the quality of MBA education in India. They are following the big branded BSchools and the IIMs and they have been consistently increasing the value of their brands over the years. This augurs well for their progress and the quality of MBA education in the years to come.