As more and more Indians go online, and as entrance exams change from being paper-based to online, it isn't surprising that the most vibrant discussions about MBA courses don't happen in college corridors or at preparation classes, but online. BT decided to capture this online chatter for a qualitative assessment of what is being talked about online, for the first time, using a proprietary Nielsen tool called BuzzMetrics.
The study covered nearly six million messages from India over a 12-month period between end-August 2009 to the same time in 2010 with the BT B-school 2009 rankings as the consideration set. Among the results thrown up was the fact that the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, does not top the 'Buzz Volume' charts for the most-discussed B-school. That title goes to the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB), possibly because the institute tends to solicit professionals with work experience to join -the school has double the discussion traffic of IIM-A (see graphic to the right).
A not-so-surprising result was that almost a third of the traffic on discussion boards - monitored for three months to end-August - has to do with B-school admissions and about 20 per cent on career prospects after the MBA (see graphic on the left).
The survey also shows how one site, pagalguy.com, generates over 90 per cent of the online traffic for MBA queries in India. The site generated some 50,442 messages dispatched by 15,563 authors. Entrance-exam.net, the next most active site, generated just 914 messages in the period, while Yahoo! Answers was the only general site among the top 15.
By studying certain key words, Nielsen Online also classified posts as positive, negative, neutral or mixed (with both positive and negative comments). A great majority of posts, over 60 per cent in the case of all schools surveyed, and in some cases over 90 per cent, was neutral.
But here, too, there are exceptions: Management Development Institute, Gurgaon had a large 30 per cent of all discussions that were positive, only four other schools had 'positive' posts that exceeded 10 per cent of total posts.
With the Internet fast becoming the norm among B-school aspirants and students, "most B-schools have become far more professional over the past few years when it comes to dealing with online forums, instead of the antagonistic attitude they had earlier," says Allwin Agnel, Founder of Pagalguy.com and a Wharton alumnus.
The BuzzMetrics report does make one thing quite clear: while some B-schools use so-called search engine optimisation techniques that border on the dubious in the belief that it might win them some credibility, the online community is a powerful beast. And this report gives an idea of what is being said and where.