The other day I was confronted by a very strange dilemma. One of my engineering college juniors, whom I had mentored some 7 years back, pinged me on Orkut. I had completely lost touch with him for 5 years, but thanks to Social Networking (read more about it here) I have gotten back in touch with most of my school and college mates. Now my junior (lets call him Mr. A), after a successful stint with a leading IT company had finally decided that it was time for some higher education and had appeared for CAT, the common MBA entrance exam in India. With his decent CAT score he had got an interview call from my alma mater T. A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI in short). Mr. A was always an ardent admirer of moi, and valued my advice a lot. To him I was the guy who had made all the correct decisions in life (ah.. I wish...) and so he wanted my honest opinion whether it was worth it to pursue a degree at TAPMI (he had other options as well). Now me being me, the first response I had was 'of course.. its the best institute' but then I stopped myself. Just because I had done my masters from there was perhaps not a reason to reccommend it to someone who was asking me for an honest opinion. And so I wondered whether I should be loyal to my alma mater and say 'of course.. its the best institute' or I should be genuine to my junior and give him an unbiased opinion. My honesty won over my loyalty and I asked him to wait 2 minutes and did some quick online research (long live Social Networking!)
So I did three things. First I pinged all my friends online, most of whom were in very good professional positions, some from TAPMI, some from other MBA insititutes, some without MBA, asking them what they thought of TAPMI as a place to pursue MBA. The second thing I did was to google TAPMI and the third thing I did was to go to the official website http://tapmi.org/. Here are the responses I got.
1. Most of my friends who were online told me that in the current market you dont have to be from IIMs to excel. In fact being from IIMs could hold you back, as most companies are looking at cost cutting and it is no secret that students from IIMs expect compensation packages which do not exactly promote cost cutting. Hence, go for the rung 2 of B-Schools. In the rung 2, it is more important to be at a place where you learn the right things, and also in a B-School which is respected in the industry, and has the right contacts. TAPMI was a perfect fit. Out of the 6 people I asked, 4 said go for TAPMI. One didnt know about the existence of TAPMI, and the other one thought his own alma mater was better.
2. Most of the unbiased opinions online were good. I trust pagalguy.com a lot for honest and unbiased opinions, 5 years back when I started preparing for CAT, this website used to be my homepage and virtual bible for anything to do with MBA. Pagalguy gave great ratings to TAPMI for the current year. I was also most amazed to find a TAPMI professor with an official TAPMI id answering questions in a forum. That just did it for me, a B-School which can keep with the pace of technology, culture and social networking is certainly a place you want to be in. It was interesting to note that not all B-Schools had done this, either because they were not bothered, or because they had not caught up to the hottest website in MBA aspirant circles. Either way it spoke in favor of TAPMI, here was an institute which was upto date AND cared for its applicants.
3. The website of TAPMI bowled me over. I have been a web designer for some time now, and when I was a student there I was not exactly excited about the TAPMI website which had an old banyan tree on its homepage. I always felt it sybolized an institute which was old, extremely conservative and not agile. I had expressed my opinion to the management, and they had formed a committee to look into it. Things had stalled somewhere midway. And now I was pleasantly surprised to find a new vibrant website complete with flash supported drop downs and vibrant colors. I went through the website, it was professional. Long time back, Bill Gates has said "When you cant make it good, make it look good". I cracked by TAPMI GD by quoting Bill Gates with a twist saying "Even when you can make it good, make sure you make it look doubly good". TAPMI came up to my expectations with the latter quote!
The verdict was unanimous. "Go for it!" Not because I hail from the institute but because its a good career move for anyone. Honestly, I feel everything has changed. And it has been just two years. The Director, the PGP Chairman, even the Placements Chairman. All the Professors for whom I was the 'favorite student' are gone from the instiute. (though still on my radar, thanks to LinkedIN and Facebook :) ). But it feels good to still be able to reccommend my alma mater to a junior with a completely unbiased mind. It feels good to come from an institute which has kept up with the times.
It seems like not-so-long-back, I cant believe it has been two years! Things have changed for me, I have changed my country, my role and my position (thankfully not my organization). Most people in Europe do not know about any MBA institute in India other than the IIMs. And thats just too bad. I hope that they meet more of the bright non IIMs (and sometimes non MBA) new-kids-on-the block. The change is already there. I look at the Indian management guys around me who are doing well, more than 70% are non MBAs.
MBA has been a highly debated topic on the Indian front for a few years now. I stick by the mantra, IIMs (the premier Indian Institute of Management) are not the end all and be all of MBA. A management graduates success depends more on his/her personal calibre than on the institute he/she hails from. That is why you have people not placed in IIMs and people with top jobs in 'lesser' institutes. I am from TAPMI, widely considered the 'second rung' institute, but I am at par with all the top management graduates of my batch, in terms of role, compensation package, company profile and opportunities. A lot of european executives I meet in my job ask me if I am from IIM. And I say no, and always add with a smile, the brightest youngsters in management positions are not always from IIMs. There are a lot of bright guys and girls out there who dont need even a management brand tag to prove they are smart. They go and prove it with their actions. In todays economy you need people with their feet on the ground who do not lean on their alma maters logo to get them into jobs. Today you need people who understand cost cutting, competition and narrow margins. People who have seen the tough times. People who do not use fancy management jargon to wriggle out of situations. And sometimes you have to look beyond the IIMs to get such people :)