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MBA from IIT

N. Madhavan     October 7, 2009

Every year, financial services major Barclays PLC recruits about 15 graduates globally for its Finance Graduate Leadership Programme based out of its world headquarters at Canary Wharf in London. In 2008, only one non-European Bschool student made it to that list amidst stiff competition from London School of Economics and Cambridge University students (usually favoured for such recruitment).

Gaurav Sawhney, the lucky student, neither graduated from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) nor did he pass out of the Indian School of Business. He finished his MBA specialising in finance and consulting at the Department of Management Studies (DOMS) in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras!

Other IITs, too, have similar success stories to share from their management programmes. IITs’ foray into management education (in its current form) has been relatively a recent phenomenon. IIT Kharagpur was the first to start teaching management in 1993 and others followed suit over the next decade. Their courses are indeed young compared to many other prominent B-schools in the country, but nevertheless, they are starting to get noticed.

In fact, starting late gave these institutions the opportunity to offer unique courses that do not typically find place in the curriculum of mainstream B-schools. For instance, IITDelhi offers a two-year programme on telecommunication systems management. IIT-Madras provides specialisation in business consulting while IIT-Mumbai’s Shailesh J Mehta School of Management prepares students for technology management with subjects like technology policy and managing technology transfer.

MBA curriculum at the IITs.
Advocate a holistic approach to management than decisionmaking in silos
Offer unique courses, flexibility in the choice of electives and in depth of specialisation
Expose students to both quantitative and analytical approach to problem solving
Provide global exposure through various student exchange programmes

“Our Management Systems programme teaches the students to make their business plans in a holistic manner,” says Surendra S. Yadav, Head, Department of Management Studies (DMS), IIT Delhi. “We think that silodecision-making should be avoided. A small decision made in the marketing department can indirectly affect the functioning of other areas—operations, IT, sales, finance, etc.,” he adds. Yadav says that this ‘systems thinking’ and ‘process-oriented approach’ both help students in making informed decisions in their jobs and avoid getting trapped in local functional issues. “As of today, no other Bschool’s curriculum is designed in such a manner,” he points out.

IIT-Madras has a quarter-based system instead of a semester pattern. The two-year course is split into eight quarters and students get to learn as many as 41 subjects. “The specialty of our course is that one can specialise in more than one stream. We also offer complete flexibility to the students when it comes to the choice of electives and the depth to which they would want to pursue a particular subject,” says C. Rajendran, HoD, Department of Management Studies (DoMS), IIT-Madras. “DoMS has one of the largest research programmes in India with 120 research scholars. This helps us to integrate both theory and practice,” he adds.

Also being part of the IIT system has its advantages. “IIT being predominantly an engineering institution, MBA students here get exposed to both quantitative and analytical approach to problem solving,” says professor L.S. Ganesh, DoMS, IIT-Madras.

They get to study with a variety of students—engineering undergraduates, post-graduates, research scholars and PhDs, which gives them a wider perspective to understanding and solving management problems, he adds. That apart, the IIT umbrella helps the students to pursue a portion of their studies abroad as a part of the various student exchange programmes IITs have with other universities—in most cases without having to pay any additional tuition fee. In fact, DoMS students of IIT-Madras can study two quarters in any of the 100 universities abroad that IIT-Madras has a MoU for student exchange programme.

Says Sawhney: “MBA at IIT blends the discipline of science with management skill sets. IIT is renowned for its quantitative skills and in our MBA programme we hit the right balance between the quantitative and qualitative skills. In short, my spell with IIT-Madras has provided me with an in depth ability to analyse, question and conclude.”

Adds Gaurav Joshi, second year student of Telecommunication Systems at IIT-Delhi’s DMS, “I had two other MBA admission offer letters but I joined here because of the IIT brand. I think after passing out of this institute, I would be better equipped to analyse situations and would be able to anticipate every possible outcome of an action.”

His faith in the IIT system does not appear to be misplaced if the views of the recruiters are any indication. “Post joining, the performance of the selected students from the IITs has been comparable to the hires from other business schools,” says T. V. Mohandas Pai, member of the Infosys board and directorhuman resources, education and research and administration. Infosys has so far recruited over 60 MBAs from IIT over the last three years.

A few other HR professionals who did not want to be identified said that IIT management students were typically “ready to deploy” and fit into the middle management cadre seamlessly apart from displaying higher loyalty factor. According to Ganesh, 80 per cent of the IIT-Madras MBA graduates stayed with their first jobs for more than two-and-a-half years. These positive attributes have not gone unnoticed. Despite the slowdown over 100 companies came to DMS at IIT-Delhi for campus recruitment in 2009 and the average compensation offered to students stood at Rs 9.40 lakh per annum. DoMS at IIT-Madras also had 100 per cent placement with salary levels at Rs 8.20 lakh per annum.

In spite of the goodwill management education in IITs has come to enjoy, they are rated behind IIMs (average salary in 2009 for IIM-A placement was Rs 12.17 lakh). “We rank the IIMs at a higher level compared to the other B-schools,” acknowledges Pai. Those involved in teaching management at IITs take pains to explain why they are not strictly comparable.

IITs, they say, are much younger and their intake is far less than IIMs (for example, IIT-Delhi takes in just 75 students and IIT-Madras 90 students while IIM-Kozhikode—amongst the youngest of the IIMs—took in 261 students in 2008 for its two-year post graduate programme alone) when it comes to management education. IITs prefer to go for engineering graduates as their environment and infrastructure is structured around technology while IIMs tend to get students with higher work experience.

Also, being part of the IIT system there are structural and other limitations to growth. DoMS at IITMadras has a faculty cap of 25 (it currently has 16 full time professors). DMS at IIT-Delhi currently has student faculty ratio of 10:1. “It’s difficult to find good faculty for this kind of MBA programme. Our existing student-faculty ratio is high and should be brought down if we want to maintain our standards. Moreover, there is an urgent need to expand the existing physical infrastructure,” says Yadav.

These limitations, they quickly add, have not prevented them from producing good management graduates. According to them, the perception gap among recruiters between an MBA from IIT and an IIM is fast narrowing. Adds Ganesh, “We are running a marathon. Not a sprint. We are preparing the students for a career not the first job. We want to see where they end up 15 years later.’’

With inputs from Anamika Butalia and Manu Kaushik

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