On The School Carousel

What do they all need? A sharp guideline for B-schools, aspirants and graduates

The frantic season is just round the corner for business schools. As placement departments get their act together for another season of candidate viewing, the schools start the process of attracting the next set of aspirants.

This year’s Outlook-Drshti B-school ranking has combined objective data, verified through visits to selected colleges, combined with the largest perceptual survey to date — ratings by over 3,000 students, professors and recruiters. This year, Drshti also used social media posts on institutions for qualitative verification.

IIM-A and C lead the rankings, as they have over the past years. With new infrastructure, Narsee Monjee shows improved scores. SP Jain has pulled in alumni to provide live projects and mentoring, strengthening industry links and improving employability and relevance. IIM-C has, in conjunction with ISI and IIT Kharagpur, launched a course focused on big data and analytics.

Given the different expectations of recruiters, teachers and students, what makes an institute highly ranked?

Recruiters wish for recruits who are independent, practical and capable of working in teams and adapting to an organisation’s culture. They expect schools to select good students with some work experience, provide them with a thorough theoretical framework allied to abilities for industry-relevant use. Core faculty expects the institute to provide them opportunities for research and for consulting assignments. Senior visiting faculty expects students to be intelligent, aware and focused. Students expect good faculty and cases, exposure to industry and senior professionals, with good placements and ROI at the end of it. In addition, the institute should help them develop as social, managerial people.

Given this, a great B-school must: 1) Have a good course structure; 2) teach through a combination of theory and practical projects; 3) be research-focused; 4) provide consulting opportunities for faculty and continuously engagewith industry — developing cases; 5) have strong industry interactions, which result in live projects; 6) quickly adapt courses to the environment; 7) attract strong industry veterans, who can provide perspectives to students; 8) select good students and push them to work hard; 9) have a good placement — desired ROI that meets expectations of students; and 10) have a robust alumni network.

Do not blindly sign up — join only if you get a decent B-school. It may be better to work for a few years and then join a B-school, as it would make you more employable.

Where should aspirants focus? The choice set of B-Schools has changed with the advent of new IIMs (not yet ranked by us). Many ask if they are worth going to. Similar questions were initially asked about IIM Kozhikode and Indore—now top institutes. Even Ranchi (which did not participate in the rankings) and Shillong are rapidly improving. The new IIMs will take a few years to take root, but will catch up. They start with many advantages: they are mentored by successful IIMs, have teaching support from faculty, and have academic rigour. Immediately, though, established top schools should offer better placements than some of the new IIMs.

What should be expected from this placement season? Start-ups will be rare, but traditional recruiters will be around. The season though could to be tougher than last year as very few recruiters have delusions of ‘achhe din’. A challenging FY17 (demonetisation) and FY18 (GST) will see organisations going slow on hirings.

The future is likely to be better as systems slowly warm up to the GST, and economy grows on the back of higher government spending. How soon this will happen is a matter for debate — it could be a year, or take two to three years.

(The author is MD, Drshti Strategic Research Services)