50 years of IIMA

Some years ago I was at an event when a young man, looking a bit starry eyed, came up to me. He might have been about 20 and since I had been doing a bit of cricket on television for a few years, I thought he wanted to ask me something about cricket. Instead, he inspected me a bit and asked, “You from IIM-A?” I smiled at him, the kind of smile that says yes, and with the same intense gaze he said “Wow!” and walked away. My professional work meant nothing to him, I wasn't a cricket host, just someone who had passed through “wow”! Now, like many of my batch-mates, my institute turns 50 too. Like many of them, and maybe even more so than them, it is robust and successful and hugely aspirational. Sometimes great brands can show signs of age, can become irrelevant to generations that care little for reputations, but IIM Ahmedabad is still the place to be for the best young men and women of this country. It is a solid brand, one of India's strongest and most resilient; a “wow” brand. It is a brand that many like me wear with pride and emotion. IIM-A changed my life, it put me into a peer group I didn't think I could have belonged to, a group I could claim for life. It gave me my Test cap, something I have often felt the need to turn to at various times in my career. To aspire for something and to be accepted is a very special feeling. And I know I am not the only one who thinks this way. That is crucial to understanding the aura of an institution. Indeed IIM-A shares a wonderful symbiotic relationship with its students. It is not the bricks, but the minds in it that make a place and every year, the institute admits some extraordinary minds. As they become successful they build the aura of the place they come from and in doing so draw more extraordinary minds to it. It is an upward spiral. The best students need the IIM-A stamp to be seen as special and the institute needs the best students to retain its standing. And yet, the institute needs to add value, for otherwise, it could become a best-in-best-out train. Late last year, when we were there for our reunion, it was an issue that was debated strongly. Unfortunately, it is not something I can have a strong point of view on since my life has taken me in a different direction but it is an issue worthy of discussion. Do employers--and let's face it, they often determine the standing of an institution--regard admission to IIM-A as a quality sifting process or do they believe that it makes men out of boys? And so, while I cannot speak for others, it did change me as a person. I came from a soft engineering course where I was able to end up as a rank holder without really doing too much. I had no idea of the rigour that success demands and I was lost in my first few months in Ahmedabad. I thought getting in was difficult, I discovered that getting out would be even more so. That I eventually did count among my prouder accomplishments. I have often been asked how IIM-A helped me in my life as a broadcaster. It taught me the importance of rigour. My professors there were vastly superior to those where I came from, they were far more committed (I can never get over Prof. Abhinandan Jain, one of the stalwarts of IIM-A, visiting our dorms late one evening to return our assignments since we needed to work on them for our next submission) and they set standards that you were mighty proud to meet. If you got a “B“ in Prof. Mote's course you knew a thing or two, if you, perchance, got an “A“, you were a superior being; as you were if you cracked a quiz set by Prof. Jaikumar or by Prof. Barua. Not everyone was in that league, but then not everyone can be! IIM-A made me tougher; partly due to the academic standards (a third D and you were back home) but even more so by being part of an extraordinary collection of talents. By nature, the human species is competitive, maybe there is a survival gene in us somewhere, and while there were many who pretended to be unconcerned by such petty matters, deep down, they knew they had to deliver. In my engineering college, if you felt the need to deliver, you delivered. Here, it was nowhere near as simple as that. But academic rigour is but one factor; a critical factor but only one. The success of its students in diverse fields adds to the aura. As a young kid you can wander through the Louis Kahn Plaza and imagine you are

The institute has produced several business thinkers and managers.R. Tata Motors Ltd and Bank of Baroda. He worked as a chief systems programmer and was hired at a salary of R800 a month in 1969. Prahalad who would later go on to become a world-renowned management thinker. business and intellectual property. a tiny part of its heritage will offer thanks. GURU-SPEAK It's the first Indian business school to launch its own publishing programme.doing what many corporate stars had once done. Best-selling authors Chetan Bhagat and Rashmi Bansal. The food remained the same. an IIM Ahmedabad alumni. I was only one of two that didn't sign up for Prof. The Federers and Woods and Messis of the world of education will be here but IIM-A needs to be the Tendulkar. Infosys founder N. as I still do every time I revisit the campus. through longevity and pedigree. This is a quick snapshot of the people. Naturally then. strategies for growth. Fifty years is a landmark. And yet it is a great moment for one of India's greatest brands. offer that opportunity but not always the chance to be part of a club.000 applicants. and there are many fine colleges around. But now. It is critical that IIM-A has teachers students can be in awe of. campus rituals and rites and a long list of alumni and faculty that have included people famous for pursuits both management-oriented and otherwise. Authors use largely Indian examples such as the Mahabharat. places and traditions that make IIM-A unique: THE PEOPLE Renowned physicist and Ahmedabad native Vikram Sarabhai played a significant role in getting the institute situated in Ahmedabad. and sports commentator Harsha Bhogle are some alumni who have gone on to do things not exactly in the syllabus. is a cricket writer and commentator. but one that is much smaller in the life of an institution than it is in the lives of its many distinguished alumni. The first batch comprised 42 students picked from 4. Many other institutes. For beginners and students. IIM-A has rapidly developed both a reputation for excellence in education and a unique cultural tradition of its own. IIM-A has accomplished.schools hope to establish and one that. . Sarabhai consoled them personally. are others stepping up? It is something only more recent alumni can answer but it is imperative that the answer is “yes”. Nuts and bolts Since its establishment in 1961. They will bring global appeal. They included C. these alumni return to pick the best cherries from the next crop. among others. There will be many who will applaud. the mantras of business leaders such as Narayana Murthy. Nitin Patel's course on MIS but I saw my friends looking up to him. Harsha Bhogle. many challenges line up on the horizon. Narayana Murthy's first job after graduating with a master's from IIT Kanpur was at IIM-A's computer centre. Vikram Sarabhai's daughter. They were protesting against the bad food. and companies such as Bharti Airtel Ltd. is also an alumni of the institute She graduated in 1974 and then completed a doctorate in organizational behaviour from Gujarat University. Legend has it that at one point in their academic year some of the older students went on strike for a day. Important elements of this tradition include the signature architecture. This feeling that you have the opportunity to become part of a bigger success story is another reason for coming to IIM-A. It is a cycle all B. Random House India and IIM-A have collaborated on a series of books written by faculty members on subjects usually covered by most management and business books--management skills. the local global colossus. as always. You can sit there and dream or reflect. Dancer Mallika Sarabhai.K. And many great universities from around the world will come knocking at India's doors. As the pillars of the institute retire.

or WAC. ostensibly. This explains the institute's dependence on the case method of teaching. save long sweeping arches. . comprises classrooms. Ahmedabad. Written Analysis and Communication. located in the Shahibaug area of the city. The two campuses are connected by an undergound tunnel that also serves as a makeshift gallery. Kahn's campus for IIM. usually on weekend afternoons.national students of design and architecture seeking to learn Kahn's work. is a constant event. used for functions and the annual convocation ceremony. Each year the incoming batch participates in a series of talent com. The towers contain piping and water tanks. Some leniency is shown towards people carrying paper documents or electronic devices. Yet the cam. “The Retreat“ would also house the Physical Research Laboratory. His other popular building is the National Assembly Building in Dhaka. First-year students are also subject to the WAC run. however. Across a road. Normally students can be seen running to submit printouts of reports in the classrooms. THE TRADITIONS In the initial years. fuelled with non-alcoholic beverages. modelled out of bare concrete and some brickwork. THE GEOGRAPHY For the first one year of the institute's history. IIM-A worked in partnership with the Harvard Business School. Kahn's work has been called monumental and monolithic in style. theoretically. The main campus as seen today was built from 1962 and was designed by American architect Louis Kahn. is a subject in which reports need to be submitted to a strict deadline. the central square of the campus. This flinging of water. Talent Night. En route they have to battle obstructing seniors and the occasional bucket of water flung down from dorm room balconies. And can often happen unexpectedly. The campus is frequently visited by local and inter.petitions over several evenings that is called. the old campus is connected to a new campus that began to be occupied in 2003. supposed to be a more elaborate affair than usual.pus hosts frequent all-night dance parties that are.In a survey conducted in 2009. The new campus. it was estimated that over 60% of all chief executives produced by the IIM system in India were graduates of IIM-A. This might be inspired by a similar event at Harvard. high corridors and brutal play with light and shadows. Gujarat is a state that prohibits alcohol consumption. Today the building houses part of the famous The Calico Museum of Textiles. the offices and skeleton staff operated out of Sarabhai's house “The Retreat“ . But in addition to pedagogy this has also led to several traditions such as the Harvard Dinner every Friday night that is. But not always. or LKP for short.A was entirely constructed in bare red brick without any structural adornments. is called the Louis Kahn Plaza. while it was being established. In memory of the architect. Both old and new campuses also have tall service towers that are visible from some distance. offices and several dormitories. or dunking.

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