In the past few months, the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C) has been in the news for all the right reasons. First, it received the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation in August, sought after by most B-schools globally. Then, it became the only non-European B-school to get featured in the top cluster in the Financial Times Master in Management (MiM) ranking 2014.
It was ranked 13 in September this year, up from 19 in 2013. IIM-C lost no time in promoting its recent achievements. "It has been boasting about its Financial Times ranking and global accreditation quite aggressively," says Ashish Dang, a marketing analytics professional. He recently attended PGPEXplain, IIM-C's offline event for students planning to join a one-year executive MBA programme. "Be it collaborative education, online courses, or following up with aspiring candidates, there's an uptake in its marketing initiatives."
This marketing overdrive is largely driven by the need for IIM-C to stand out and differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace. "Inter-nationalisation has become the theme in the last seven years. Today, the environment is changed. Even Harvard Business School has opened a centre in Mumbai. We are competing with big entities," says Professor Ashok Banerjee, Dean, New Initiatives and External Relations, IIM-C.
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"Students will benefit from better orientation to global business environment through collaborations and exchange programmes." To establish a connect with a global audience and stay ahead of competition in India in terms of visibility, some old B-schools, including IIM-C and XLRI Jamshedpur, are not missing out on promoting any campus-specific activities.
At IIM-C, it includes club activities (there are 25 such clubs) that happen round the year, guest speaker sessions, institute lecture series, sporting activities, among others. A dedicated team posts on the official social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) about campus events. IIM-C is also focusing on collaborations with foreign B-schools. It is the only Indian B-school to be a member of the Community of European Management Schools (CEMS), a club of 29 premier B-schools across the world.
The institute has persisted with its brand-building exercise started two years back, according to Sunil Varughese, Chief Brand & Sustainability Officer at XLRI Jamshedpur. Indeed, ISB Hyderabad, along with Amity University and IMT Ghaziabad, has changed the game of communication in India through aggressive advertising campaigns. A reason why, from just announcements on courses and placement reports until three to four years back, there's more news about campus activities from the old B-schools.
Prafulla Agnihotri, Founder Director, IIM Tiruchirapalli says IIM-C is far better than what it's perceived outside. Agnihotri, an IIM-C professor, has been on leave since 2011 to set up the new IIM. "If you don't do strategic brand management, people will perceive you the way they want to," says Agnihotri who taught brand management at IIM-C. ISB Hyderabad is a good example of how a late entrant can use superior industry practices - especially in postgraduate management education - along with a marketing blitz to establish a solid position in the market, according to Anirudh Motwani, Founder and CEO, IndiaCollegeSearch. com, a college search and application platform. "We often advise the institutes, which work closely with us, that marketing can only help increase awareness about a good value proposition among students," says Motwani.
"However, if they want to emerge as a credible alternative to the established B-schools, they would need to show that their management principles work and can deliver superior value to the student." Social media has become the biggest platform for B-schools to enhance their brand visibility. IIM-C has been using this medium since 2011. "There have been a number of activities taken up by external relations secretaries to market the college or build the brand on social media. We post about high-profile visitors who have addressed students over the last two years on the campus. [British PM] David Cameron, Rev. Jesse Jackson and cricketer Sourav Ganguly are prominent examples," says K.B. Partha Sarathy, External Relations Secretary at IIM-C.
"Also, we have the Insight Series, faculty interview sessions. We get a professor to speak on his/her topic of research or expertise. We video-record it and publicise it on our official YouTube channel for the benefit of the external and internal student community. This is a three-year old initiative, started by the 2011-13 batch." XLRI is not far behind. "We are revamping our official page on Facebook. We use various platforms for integrated brand-building initiatives to help enhance the reputation of the XLRI brand," says Varughese. Clearly, some of the oldest B-schools in India are pulling out all the stops to boost their brand equity.