So you didn’t make it to the IIMs: Should that crush your MBA dreams?
The Great Indian Dream - IIM
A 2014 GMAC survey1 showed MBA to be the most popular graduation choice among Indian youth. For many of these aspirants, CAT is the beginning of their educational journey, and an IIM admission is the end! The attraction of an IIM education is seen even in our popular culture, fiction and movies. And of course, the appeal isn’t without a reason.
The IIMs, especially the top most ones, have been consistently ranked high in academic performance and the faculty quality. They’ve been engaged in management research of high standards, the insights from which are awaited by the industry. There could be an explanation for their long success: their intake mechanism. Every year, the IIM conducts, what few call, the world’s most competitive examination. The Common Admission Test (CAT) is a rigorous three-step process where students who have passed a bachelor’s degree are tested in quantitative, reasoning, verbal and other critical skills. Only the very top rankers of this examination get inducted into the IIM league. This difficulty makes the IIM seat even more coveted. But is this the only way to being a successful manager?
Is IIM the only way?
Not making it to the IIMs should not end your aspiration for a good management education. The preparation for CAT examination is very difficult, and missing the IIM goal could be emotionally stressful. However, there are many reasons that show why other options are equally worth your attention.
The CAT gamble
Firstly, the CAT is an extremely competitive examination. More than 1.96 lakh people2 attempt the examination every year – of which only a few hundred get selected! The final seat is won after intensive evaluation in mathematical and verbal skills, group discussion and a grilling round of personal interview. What makes it harder is that many serious CAT aspirants are usually in their second or third attempt to crack it. This gives them an advantage of experience over the new players. All these factors combine to give a sense about how complex the CAT is. Hindustan Times put the statistical probability of making it to the IIM as 2.2% in 20153. Hence, not figuring among its highest rankers is not the final word on your ability or skill.
Beyond the IIMs
Secondly, the IIMs are not the only places of great management education. In fact there has been a decline in the salary increase that IIM graduates have been receiving over the years4. The number of fresh students who attempt the CAT has also been declining steadily. There are many reasons for this. An important reason though, is that there have been a number of other institutions who are racing into the league of excellence. There has also been a rise in specializations and allied management careers that have been attracting students with specific career goals.
How much depends on the institute?
Before we talk about other options for your MBA journey, it will be helpful to understand how much a college is important for success. A college is definitely crucial to providing resources and faculty - but is it critical? Rashmi Bansal, the renowned business writer, in her book Connecting the Dots talks about 20 very successful entrepreneurs who were not from the IIM bunch!5 In the book she explores other important features that contribute to a successful career.
The real skills needed for success
Passion and thirst for knowledge are the two most important contributors to success. This has been consistently proven throughout the history of great businessmen. Wherever one studies, the student could aspire to reach out to the limitless resources that are accessible to him, especially through the internet. Personal reading and engaging high quality discussions with other students are other ways of building insights that late pave way for success. Essential skills such as business acumen, critical thinking and creativity can only be facilitated at a B School. Hence, not making it to a rank or college should never dampen your spirit of learning – which is what matters in the end.
Other roads to success
Having said that - there are many fine institutions in India that are in the same order as the IIMs which an aspirant should explore! In fact there are many B-Schools and non-CAT entries that are equally high-ranked in their performance and academic fame6. India is bustling with economic revival. In cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad; many private players have collaborated with academicians to build quality management institutions that work closely with the trends of the industry. There are many non-IIM, private b-schools across India that provide an MBA degree that is at par with the market’s requirements.
Also read: List of top 100 B-schools in India
Such institutes have been attracting an amazing quality of placements, thus increasing the overall return on investment (ROI) for the students. They have also been offering specialized training in career fields that interest students, by providing relevant resources through guest lectures, internships and complimentary courses. Being private players, these B schools have the flexibility to stretch their curriculum to include innovative methods like outdoor learning, international visits, etc. These colleges have been collaborating with international counterparts to pool knowledge from the best management research undertaken in other countries.
To conclude, it would be helpful for aspirants who could not make it to the IIMs to explore the opportunities that it brings. Keep the motivation high, because there are many well-ranked institutions that have been scoring high on all the domains that combine to make an MBA degree successful. It is not a wise idea to narrow the opportunities to a couple of places, while there are so many other great launch-pads from where you can begin your journey!