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BW Businessworld

A New Melting Pot

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True, engineers constitute the majority of the students at B-schools. Last year's batch of IIM Kozhikode (IIM-K) had 320 students, out of which only 39 were from non-engineering backgrounds. At the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), 23 students of a batch of 143 came from diverse backgrounds; the number was 37 in 2009. However, of late, more students are coming from ‘off-beat' backgrounds.

For instance, the number of doctors in management education has increased. Kripalsingh Rana, a doctor by profession and a second-year MBA student at IIM-K, is looking at a career opportunity in the field of hospital management. "There is an increasing demand for doctors with a management degree in key areas of healthcare such as insurance and public-private partnership," says Rana. "I shall be working in the same sector, but in a different role."

Corporate hospital chains and healthcare services, too, are keen on hiring these doctors. "The healthcare sector needs doctors who are MBAs because they understand both the science of medicine and the management," says Vishal Bali, CEO of Fortis Hospitals. Fortis has also introduced a 16-month hospital management programme for doctors.

Gaurav Das Gupta, a corporate lawyer, is an MBA student at IIM-K

Some doctors, however, are looking at other niche career opportunities. "I am looking forward to a career in the life sciences division of some investment bank," says Vijay Malik, an MBBS from Maharashtra Government Medical College, who is pursuing an MBA at IIFT.

There are also lawyers and even authors opting for management education. "Even though I had a grasp of the relevant corporate, commercial and real estate laws affecting the sector, I was not able to contribute to the sector from a commercial perspective," says Gaurav Das Gupta, a corporate lawyer who joined IIM-K a year ago. Das Gupta is keen on working either in the financial sector or as a strategy manager.

Another IIM-K student, Dhaval Thakkar, who worked in the R&D wing of an automobile company, is looking forward to a career shift. "I want to work at a consultancy. Providing real-time solutions to business problems will give me a detailed understanding of the business world," says Thakkar.

Then, there are fashion designers who opt for an MBA. "Many fashion designers turn to management education for domain-specific management opportunities," says Alpana Nagar, a fashion designer from Delhi-based National Institute of Fashion Technology. "I realise that I can capitalise on the learning and choose from different sectors such as lifestyle, hospitality, travel, education and fashion as a marketing professional."
Though an MBA has become a desired option for students from different walks of life, not all end up in premier B-schools. Most of the top-rung schools admit students based on the Common Admission Test (CAT) scores and engineers often tend to dominate the test. "Though students from commerce and science background are coming, we cannot mark the development as a change in trend, because people who get through CAT are still mostly engineers," says Debashish Chaterjee, director of IIM-K.

While the IIMs still get a few non-engineering students, there are other B-schools such as the National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai, and the management schools run by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) that essentially admit engineers.

Kripalsingh Rana, a doctor, is doing an MBA at IIM-K

NITIE has a policy to admit only engineers, though they can belong to different branches of engineering such as mechanical, chemical, electronics, telecommunication and computer science. "We take only engineers. I believe that the process is in line with the long-term mission of the school", says Ashok K. Pundir, associate dean of placements at NITIE.

While NITIE selects CAT toppers, IITs conduct their own Joint Management Entrance Test for admission in their management programmes. Only those with a bachelor's degree in engineering or master's degree in science are eligible to apply.

But some B-schools such as the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) are proud of the diverse backgrounds of their students. Everyone from armed forces personnel to practising doctors and surgeons, entrepreneurs, civil servants, fashion designers, shipping crew members, lawyers and journalists populate the ISB campus. "We value diversity and encourage professionals from every background to be part of ISB," says V.K. Menon, admissions director of ISB.

Take, for instance, Abhijeet Vasant Joshi who joined ISB after serving 15 years in the armed forces. "After my MBA, I hope to gain experience in the shipping and logistics sector as a first step in formulating a feasible business plan," says Joshi.

Another institute with a diverse student profile is the Ahmedabad-based Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA). MICA has been conducting its own entrance test — MICAT — for two years now and has 112 students in a batch, out of which 37 are non-engineers. Similarly, nearly 15 per cent of the student strength at the Jamshedpur-based Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) is made up of non-engineers.

A change worth noting is the increase in the number of girl students. Last year, many IIMs and other institutes saw more women in their programmes, and as Chatterjee of IIM-K confirms, the trend is likely to continue this year.

In XLRI, too, girls comprise nearly 30 per cent of the batch. ISB's flagship PGP programme has 165 girls out of a total student strength of 573.
There is a wind of change, but it will take more than a few years before we actually get to see greater ‘diversity' in Indian B-schools.


(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 27-06-2011)