The Truth about Indian Business Schools

Ajay Ohri | April 09,2010 02:57 pm IST

The recent Business School rankings remind me of Salman Rushdie and MF Hussein. I can only label it provocative posturing for selling more copies.

Symbiosis is ranked higher than three Indian Institutes of Management. I am sure that campus and their alumni are delighted.They would be definitely buying more of the concerned magazine.


That's right, Symbiosis is now the certified No. 4 Business School in India. A couple of years ago, it was MDI Gurgaon which was the No. 4 Business School in India.


What can we say, it must be tough to be the No. 4 business school in India. A bit like being the opener of the Indian cricket team. The position is inherent to dynamics and regional politics, with unpredictability and performance varying as per pulls, pressures, whims and fancies.


The Logical Absurdity

Hold on - If you are an MBA or a PGDM (present, or future) - doesn't this confuse you? I mean, in a country of 400,000 annual MBA aspirants, surely some people must be taking these surveys seriously. Imagine if say 0.01% believe this survey, it would lead to some 40 people to choose Symbiosis over IIM Lucknow, IIM Indore and IIM Kozikode. I bet those forty people will remember this survey forever and thank God that they took the correct decision. But what about the 40 people who chose MDI Gurgaon over IIM-L, IIM-K and IIM-I three years ago. One of them out of these at least is going to feel slightly bad. But that should be compensated with the extra sales of the business daily in the campus that got elevated. After all, MBA surveys change yearly but the tag sticks on forever.


The Truth

Students enter music school because they love music. They enter art school because they love art. Nobody enters a business school because they love business. They enter it, because it represents the great middle class Indian dream - a ticket to riches and fame. This is serious business, and people make millions selling this great Indian dream to business school aspirants. The ultimate test for what makes a business school rank higher are the skills that these students and alumni gain that enable them to perform long term, and the quantity and quality of recruitment interviews that give the students the initial break. 


The quality of the alumni networks is more important than the number of new buildings created across campus. It seems that the Ministry of Human Resources of India is too busy settling caste equations in business schools to bother with taking any action against opaque business practices to the sellers of the business school myths.
Indeed while starting salaries of business schools, and especially the top ranked business schools, are often fudged - thanks to game theory mindsets - the fees of each institute are clear and so is the list of notable alumni from each business school. This should help students decide where they get maximum business value for their parents', their own and their bank loan's money.


Just like we have an independent body to rate IPOs, we should have some independent body which has no conflict of interest, nor interest in publicity, to help devise these business school rankings. The size of the economics and number of people affected by the whole game of B-school rankings mandates this. The government should follow-up their recent promises to make more IIMs by upgrading institutes under its influence to IIM status, especially the better non-IIM business schools. This will also help break the long term monopoly of the top three ranked business schools and focus them to improve themselves rather than seek controversies or off shore campuses.


There is need for some basic legislation to help students avoid getting cheated for fees especially from institutes that spend aggressively on advertising. There should be some guidelines or code of conduct for business publications and business schools. Industry bodies and notable business people should take the lead in this just as they did in creating the IIMs and, more recently, the ISB Hyderabad, which is an example of a world-class institute. Otherwise, business school rankings seem destined to fluctuate just like the fortunes of the Indian cricket team, misleading millions of young Indians and their parents who aspire to gain in the booming economy




Ajay Ohri is an alumnus of IIM Lucknow, and has worked with some of the largest BPOs in India (including two BPOs listed on NYSE).Currently, he is running his own database consulting firm, and is the founder of his website ...