The Indian School of Business’ Dean Ajit Rangnekar believes that size and scale matter as far as management education is concerned. The Hyderabad-based B-school, ranked among the top in the country, has one of the largest batch sizes for a management programme. Between two campuses, the other being one at Mohali, ISB will have almost 800 students graduating this year from its one year programme.
Says Rangnekar in an interview to Business Line, “Nobody would have expected us to have two campuses and 800 students in just 10 to 11 years. We actually took a very different approach to many other institutions. We have always believed in creating talent capacity before the market demand is reached.”
The ISB Dean points to his alma mater, IIM-A, the country’s top B-school, which was at 120 students for a very long time. It later increased batch size to 180, and then to 240 or so. “If you keep aside the recent increase in IIM capacities because of reservation, they have grown less than 1 per cent per annum, whereas the industry, even in the worst of times, has grown 3-5 per cent per annum. Therefore, we created an automatic market for talent. We will have students ready for the market so that the market expands,” he explains.
However, what a larger graduating batch does is, says the Dean, is that creates a lot more pressure for the B-school to reach out to the industry to ensure that students get placed. “But, it has been worthwhile. By this April we will have over 6,000 alumni. Today, I find my alumni practically in every company I go to. The industry, I believe, has benefited. Hopefully we are doing something that is impacting the industry; all those recruiters are coming back enthusiastically year after year,” says Rangnekar.
With a much larger base of students, and with a downturn in the economy, placement is indeed getting to be a bigger task. As Rangnekar says, “If we had 500 students instead of 800, I would have cut our cost and efforts in placements by 90 per cent! At 500 students we would have had to be the gatekeeper to allow a few companies to come in and recruit. Surprisingly, in this weak market, we increased our class size by 200 students last year and placed them faster than we had done in the previous year.”
However, all schools are feeling the pinch he points out. “We had to make sure that the industry comes to us, and in the process, a lot of good came through. We significantly increased our outreach, established better contact with the industry, and developed greater sensitivity to their needs. We became highly customer-focussed,” elaborates the Dean.