Think beyond IIMs

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Management aspirants must be ready with a Plan B if they cannot join the institute of their choice.

Getting ready: CAT aspirants must have a skill development approach to score high marks in certain sections of the test; a scene from an exam centre during the CAT test last year. PHOTO: K Murali kumar
Getting ready: CAT aspirants must have a skill development approach to score high marks in certain sections of the test; a scene from an exam centre during the CAT test last year. PHOTO: K Murali kumar

The Common Admission Test 2010 (CAT-2010), the qualifying exam for entry to the Indian Institutes of Management, is all set to commence soon. That there has reportedly been a dip of around 15 per cent in the number of applicants this year is significant. However, the fact remains that out of the 1.9 lakh students who have applied, only a small fraction will get in. Whatever be the organisational nitty-gritty this time (CAT 2009 was not exactly the best start to the all-new computer-based format), like in every year, the IIMs will leave thousands of aspirants disappointed. Which is why, a Plan B becomes imperative for MBA aspirants.

The two biggest gaffes committed by MBA aspirants are that they fail to think beyond CAT and the IIMs (it must be noted that the CAT is important because it is used as a qualifying exam for admission to over 150 institutes in the country), and when they do begin to think of applying to the tier-II institutions it is too late. There are hundreds of management schools, more popularly known as B-schools, across the country. While not each of these is worth its salt, and many of them entice students with false promises of placements and overseas opportunities, several of them offer good quality education. A sizeable number of these do use CAT scores as a yardstick for the qualifying round; however, it is necessary to start applying around this time.

Safe bet

For starters, there are the regular B-schools, the ones that offer a general MBA (master's or diploma). These include the State-level MATs, AIMA (All-India Management Association), JMET (for admission to Indian Institutes of Technology; the Indian Institute of Science has reportedly scrapped its management course) and entrance to Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Sciences (NMIMS), Indian School of Business, entrance conducted by the Faculty of Management Studies at Delhi University, SNAP (Symbiosis National Aptitude Test) and the XAT (conducted by Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur, to name a few. Each of these is a brand by itself. The more specialised courses include the postgraduate management programmes offered at the Institute of Rural Management, IIFT (Indian Institute of Foreign Trade offers International Business) and MICA (Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad).

Ajay Arora, Regional Director at the Triumphant Institute of Management Education in Bangalore, emphasises the need for a ‘Plan B'. “What we tell students is that out of 1,500-odd B-schools in the country, only 90 to 100 management courses are worth it. Among these, the top 50 or 35 institutes are well-established and can be trusted, like MICA or NMIMS, for instance. These places are, needless to say, a safe bet,” he says. However, if you are looking outside these “known” colleges, then it requires some thought and students should try to match the profile of these colleges with their aspirations.

Management education is not only an expensive affair — colleges charge anywhere between Rs. 2 lakh - Rs. 10 lakh for a two-year MBA. Many of these are diploma courses (including the IIMs), and may be restrictive because unlike a degree course it will not allow you the opportunity to continue with academic pursuits (for instance, an IIM-B graduate will have to look for another PG degree if he/she wants to enrol in a Ph.D. programme). Similarly, those interested in communication-related courses or rural management and similar specialised career fields should look for MBAs that allow you to specialise in that field.

Experts also caution people against blindly opting for courses. Take for instance the fact that in a leading Bangalore-based management college, a distance education course was palmed off as a regular course. Students not only paid their course fee of around Rs. 3 lakh for the course, they were also hoodwinked into believing that the course was a regular MBA.

Mr. Arora says that students must not blindly believe advertisements and websites. If they are serious, a visit to the institute should be mandatory. They can also connect with existing students and alumni on social networking sites and online forums.



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