The maverick management guru
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It is hard to think of any traditional business schools that have also produced four hit films and publish two news-stand magazines. The Indian Institute of Planning and Management, however, has little truck with tradition.
Take the honorary dean, Arindam Chaudhuri, for instance. With his designer spectacles and glossy ponytail he could well be mistaken for one of the stars of his own Bollywood movies.
But Professor Chaudhuri’s fame in India comes from his positioning as a management guru, not a film star. And the IIPM, which was founded as recently as 1973, now claims to be the world’s largest business school, with 5,000 postgraduate management students in nine campuses across seven of India’s largest cities – Bangalore, Chennai, New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad.
The philosophy of the school is simple: India needs a lot of well-trained managers and IIPM is educating them. Prof Chaudhuri has courted controversy by lashing out at the elite Indian Institutes of Management for their refusal to admit more MBA candidates. He says that little more than 1,100 candidates enrol in the top six IIMs to study for an MBA each year, when India really needs between 50,000 and 200,000 MBAs to graduate. “This [the exclusivity] makes the halo around them [the IIMs] stronger,” he says.
He happily acknowledges that graduates from the IIPM do not receive the high salaries that those from the IIMs can command – Prof Chaudhuri’s graduates earn about Rs30,000 ($653) a month compared with Rs50,000 for an IIM graduate. Nonetheless, he says, 400 Indian companies recruit on the nine IIPM campuses each year from among the 2,500 graduating students.
The flamboyant Prof Chaudhuri does not intend to stop there. While all the talk in American and European business schools is about the scramble to sign up partner schools or establish campuses in India and China, IIPM is turning the tables. It looks set to become the first Indian business school to set up campuses in Europe and the US.
The IIPM intends to establish satellite campuses in the UK, Singapore and Dubai in 2006 and in the US in 2007. The UK campus will be in London in the Chancery Lane area, the centre of the legal industry. The Singapore Economic Development Board has also invited the school to set up a campus there, alongside the likes of The University of Chicago and Insead, says the school.
As with almost all Indian business schools (the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad is the notable exception) the MBA offered in India is a pre-experience degree – more akin to a pre-experience masters in management degree in Europe. According to Prof Chaudhuri: “A huge majority of our students are straight out of college. In India traditionally people finish education in one go. You rarely see someone taking a break after working.”
He thinks this approach will be popular overseas, in the UK for example. However he acknowledges that the IIPM will not be able to offer an MBA degree in London to begin with, only a diploma – it will take at least three years for the school to apply for monotechnic status and therefore be allowed to grant its own degrees.
He is unperturbed by this. “We’re going to focus on deliverables minus certification . . . We’re not going to get into the argument of what the paper is called. We’re going to focus on what is taught.”
The MBA the business school offers is structured differently from most MBA programmes, with a strong emphasis on economics and marketing. “Economics, we think, is the backbone of an intellectual course,” says Prof Chaudhuri.
This is not economics as most US business schools would know it, however: it has attributes that are peculiarly Indian. “We talk about the survival of the weakest and trickle-up,” says the honorary dean. “Without clashing with the first world ideology, we’re trying to show how taking care of people around the world can be a profitable business.
“The big reality is that human nature and the market system go hand in hand. But human nature and humanism go hand in hand.” These ideas, he believes, are globally applicable. “With this differentiated programme we intend to go global.”
Overseas travel is already compulsory for all MBA students. They spend two weeks in Europe, the US or elsewhere – in spite of the logistical nightmare of taking 2,500 students out of India each year.
The IIPM has been able to attract many top international professors to teach in India. According to the school’s website, some 30 professors of international repute teach at the IIPM – Philip Kotler from Kellogg, Skander Essegaier from Wharton and Ari Ginsberg from the Stern school at NYU to name just three.
When the school sets up satellite campuses it believes it can persuade US and European professors to teach there, rather than the Indian faculty who teach domestically.
The teaching faculty on the Indian campuses would not pass muster at any globally recognised business school – indeed, it is hard to find details of the 350 faculty on the IIPM’s website at all. The school has been able to build up its teaching faculty in India by recruiting its graduating MBA students – unthinkable in most business schools. But the flamboyant Prof Chaudhuri says he has “absolute faith in young blood”.
This year the school has taken on 160 graduating students to train as teachers and consultants. (As well as the film production and magazine businesses, the IIPM claims to have the largest management consultancy business in India).
Ninety per cent of the faculty at the IIPM have an MBA degree and 20 per cent have a doctoral degree. Prof Chaudhuri himself studied at IIPM for his MBA and fellowship degrees. For those who join the school with just an MBA, the IIPM runs its own fellowship programme, which takes four to five years to complete and which Prof Chaudhuri argues is the equivalent of a doctoral degree. As if all that is not enough, the IIPM has just started an IT consulting arm as well.
The IIPM has clearly had some success in the Indian mass education market, where hundreds of little-known business schools cater to the huge numbers of aspiring managers requiring MBA education. The question is, can the IIPM, as Prof Chaudhuri believes, replicate this success overseas, often in markets, such as the US and Europe, that are already saturated with domestic MBA programmes?
While traditional business schools may frown disapprovingly at IIPM’s attitude to management education, no one could doubt Prof Chaudhuri’s enthusiasm. “When it comes to the globalisation of Indian thoughts, nobody has taken the initiative,” he says.