Tomorrow's star

Somnath Dasgupta        Print Edition: September 4, 2011

The Indian School of Mines, or ISM, at Dhanbad in Jharkhand did not create its Department of Management Studies, or DMS, to help its engineering graduates turn into managers earning fat pay packets. Such is the demand for the ISM's mining engineers that they earn well enough without the MBA tag. And no, its MBAs are not taught to manage only mines, despite the connection with the 85-year-old ISM, which is today a deemed university.

Desk research done by BT and Nielsen came up with a preliminary list of 60 B-schools, which had 10 new names on it. And one of them was DMS. It did not make it to the final 50, but its very entry was an achievement in itself. DMS began under a different name - the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, when it was created in 1977 to offer an MTech degree in industrial engineering and management. The department still offers the MTech programme, which is exclusively for engineering graduates, but decided to offer an MBA course in 1997. This was initially linked to the Management Aptitude Test, or MAT, but is today under the CAT.

Kampan Mukherjee, Dean, Academics
Today, we are sought after for operations management, supply chain management and logistics: Kampan Mukherjee, Dean, Academics
The link to ISM, based in Dhanbad - headquarters of Bharat Coking Coal and the heart of India's coal belt of Jharia - did create identity problems for the first few batches of MBAs from DMS.

Kampan Mukherjee, Founder-Dean of DMS, recalls how, for the first few years, he had to accompany batches of MBAs to the big cities to convince companies that the students were not just mine managers but fit for all managerial jobs. The institute was too closely identified with ISM - set up by the British in 1926 and the country's premier institute for mining and earth sciences engineering.

ISM director talk about the institute

"We went to different corporate houses in Kolkata and Mumbai and faced similar questions," says Mukherjee. "They would ask us: 'What type of management? Is it mining training? Is it only about mining, geology, petroleum'," recalls Mukherjee.

He adds that while DMS offers the usual specialisations in the second year - operations management, finance, marketing, human resource management and so on - it is most sought after for operations management, supply chain management and logistics.

But if most of ISM's engineers prosper even without an MBA degree, why did the ISM launch a separate Department of Management Studies? A. Chattopadhyay, Acting Director of ISM, says the idea stemmed from the growing demand for MBAs with additional skills. The association with ISM gives these MBA students considerable exposure to management relating to mining and earth sciences.

"An MBA degree from DMS has this additional spin," says Chattopadhyay, a mechanical engineer who went on to do a masters in electrical engineering as well as a doctorate. "Our MBAs are recruited by Coal India, Hindustan Copper and so on… This course is so popular that not a single seat is vacant." This year, DMS has admitted 62 students in its MBA course.

ISM injects a dose of knowledge about financial management in the mining industry into the usual finance course for an MBA degree. So too with other MBA specialisations such as marketing. The institute also offers an integrated BTech-cum-MBA programme. Mukherjee says in the 1990s, fresh engineers usually preferred to do an MBA first and then diversify. But in the past 10 years, such is the demand for engineers that they stick to their profession for a couple of years before going back to get a management degree.

Chandan Bhar, Professor and Head, DMS, says the institute gets students from across the country and diverse backgrounds. Among its first students, for instance, was a humanities graduate from Russia. "We get students from all over India - not just ISM," he says.

Take Pratyaksha Tripathy, a second-year MBA student. A Botany graduate from Delhi University's Hindu College, she loves the industry interface that DMS offers. During her internship at LG Electronics India, she did a project on employee engagement practices. "This was about how to motivate employees," says Tripathy. Other students have interned at equally prestigious companies such as Hindustan Aeronautics, Atlas Copco and Reliance Communications.

Black diamond
Total Fees: Rs 122,000 for a two-year MBA degree, including hostel fee
Student intake: 62
Faculty: 11 doctorates and two adjunct professors
ISM annual budget (including DMS): Rs 133 cr
USP: MBA course has a dose of mine management
Also offers: MTech in Industrial Engineering and Management, PhD in Management
There are others working on their own interesting projects, ranging from how to use India's river system as a transport network, to manufacturing and selling mushroom chips like potato chips. There is no difference in quality between an engineering graduate from IIT or ISM, says Bhar. "But IITs have a brand image, so their students get preference during placements," he adds. This has prompted the ISM to push for the status of an IIT, much like Roorkee - once synonymous with civil engineering - has achieved.

MTech students, who also have an MBA from DMS, are popular with industry. "Almost all our secondyear MTech students are engaged in solving the problems of Jindal Steel & Power in Raigarh," says Bhar. "The company is so impressed that every year it takes four to five of our students." Tata Power has also recruited some MTech students for its Maithon power project.

Paramita Roy, a second-year student of MTech programme, did her summer training at Jindal Steel & Power. She graduated in Electrical Engineering from Kolkata's Jadavpur University and went on to work at IBM in Kolkata for some years before taking up MTech - not from Jadavpur but from DMS. "If we study here, we get a chance to work on live projects," she says. "We have management courses also in our curriculum."

If the students are busy, the faculty members are not idling either. In 2008, the Department of Mines Safety approached the institute with a problem: various committees had suggested that the department increase the number of its inspectors but the government was not agreeing to it. (The inspectors are today called deputy directors and directors.) What should it do? "This was one of our most successful consultancy assignments. We carried out a scientific study, and on the basis of this study [done in 2008], they got an additional 194 posts sanctioned," says Bhar. No mean feat during an economic downturn.

Chandan Bhar, Professor and Head, DMS
We get students from all over India, not just ISM: Chandan Bhar, Professor and Head, DMS
Niladri Das, Assistant Professor at the institute, says almost all the faculty members have taken on projects funded by the Department of Science and Technology, the University Grants Commission and other such bodies, and are also active in guiding entrepreneurs.

DMS has major ambitions: it wants to get into energy management, spanning the gamut of energy sources from coal to renewable sources such as solar and wind power. "We have also begun the groundwork for courses in renewable energy and courses in energy management that will cover all sources," says Mukherjee. "We have an edge over other institutes - we are covering mining as well as petroleum."

Today, the campus is a gigantic construction site as well. New buildings are coming up all over, including an eight-storeyed library billed as the largest in Asia. A swimming pool is being dug. The campus is also expanding. Very soon, it will add another 240 acres to its 220-acre campus. Not bad for an institute that began in army barracks put up during World War II. The ISM has not forgotten this heritage either: the original barracks are to be preserved as a museum of ISM's history and a record of the geology of the area.

(How to read our parameter-wise tables: Respondents were given the option of ranking each college on each attribute on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 corresponding to very poor/completely unwilling and 10 corresponding to excellent/most willing. We have displayed here only those responses that were rated 9 or 10. Our top-ranked school, IIM-Bangalore, for instance, shows a reputation score of 37.  This means that 37 per cent of respondents gave IIM-B a score of 9 or 10 for its reputation. Similarly, for other scores. Although the tables reflect these higher rankings (the upper two boxes of our dataset), our overall B-school ranking takes into account all scores, even the lower ones.)

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