Vantage point

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Avoid Deferred Disappointment

Writing in the Times of India, Subroto Bagchi, the COO of Mindtree Consulting, says it perfectly in this column - Mostly Bad Apples.

My own thoughts on the subject are almost identical.

After the whole IIPM saga, several people mailed me or called me, asking, so are you taking any steps to get IIPM banned or shut down. Is there any way we can take legal steps to close down the institution?

As someone who believes in the free-market, I have never wished the closure of IIPM, at least by the government. Which is why when Bagchi says -

It will take serious action not by the regulators, but by prospective students and their guardians themselves. At times they are as much to blame.

I agree. Before investing lakhs of rupees in an MBA education, it is the responsibility of students and parents to check out the institution. Caveat emptor, as they say. So before spending so much money, find out a few things about the institute. Ask around, talk to b-school students from that place as well as other more reputed schools. It is from existing b-school students and alumni that you will get a frank appraisal of b-schools.

Another thing that bothers me is our obsession with "gori chamdi". Yes, the West has accomplished a lot, and can teach us a lot. They have several great institutions that are pioneers in all fields. But that doesn't mean ALL foreign institutions are great. But most of us Indians, with our colonial hangover, get excited if we see a foreign name. A "tie-up" with a foreign university is seen as a mark of quality. So several colleges misuse this hangover to upsell their courses. As Bagchi writes

Parents, please do not get carried away with “foreign affiliation.’’ This is the last vestige of our colonial mindset. If something is not inherently good, a so-called foreign affiliation does not purify it with pigmentation. The best way for you to determine if an institute could add value to your ward is to find out what jobs some of the students of the previous three graduating classes have landed. Meet some of these people and ask them probing questions about the faculty and what value the institute added in helping them to get their jobs. If the answers are not forthcoming and yet you want to admit your ward to the MBA course, know that you are buying just deferred disappointment.

So parents and students need to be more aware before taking admission to a course. This is the fact-finding template I recommend -

1. Read the ad of the institute carefully, and keep your eyes peeled for any small print.
2. Google the institute's name, and find out more about it.
3. If they claim to have tie-ups with foreign universities, e.g IMI Belgium, google that too, and find out how good or bad that foreign university is.
4. If they claim to have tie-ups with reputed names like Harvard, Wharton etc, enquire more about the exact nature of the tie-up. The best thing to do is to email the reputed name and ask them the nature of their relationship with the institute. Similarly if you see a big name like Philip Kotler used in an ad, mail them and ask them too. What some institutes like IIPM do is, pay someone like Kotler a lot of money to come to India and give a lecture to professionals, for which professionals are charged as well. Along with professionals, IIPM students will attend the lecture. And just on the basis of this, they will state in their ads that IIPM students are taught by faculty such as Kotler from schools like Kellogg. Parents and students need to realise that this is a lot different from ISB Hyderabad where professors from reputed universities actually come and conduct classes. To attend one of the sessions of foreign authors that IIPM conducts, you don't need to study there. You can just pay the registration charges for that session.
5. Speak to at least 10 current or previous students of the institute.
6. Speak to at least 10 alumni or students of other b-schools. They will give you a frank opinion, even if it isn't their own alma mater. For example, I am from an IIM, but if someone asked my advice about MDI, NMIMS, JBIMS, SPJIMR, MICA or IIFT, I would give those places a thumbs up.
7. Also, take the opinion of someone senior in coaching institutes like IMS, Career Forum, Career Launcher, Bullseye etc. It is in their business interest to give the correct advice.

If parents/students do all the above things, they can avoid what Bagchi succinctly terms as "deferred disappointment".