Of Myths and Reality

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Author: Sumit Bhagat, PGP2, IIM-A

I came across a book extract about the paradox of choice explaining how a multitude of choices makes one more stressed out than having fewer options that entail relatively straight-forward decisions. I must acknowledge it to be a first-world problem but it certainly is the one that quite a few people reading this post right now would be facing.

This post is not about how IIM-Ahmedabad is that B-school par excellence that you must de-facto accept. If we were to make desperate attempts to sell IIM A, the point that this article is trying to make already stands defeated. It is just a perspective on why I chose to call this place my own.

To be honest with you, the luxury of choice does enable one to have a relatively unbiased point of view. I decided to not take the situation for granted and plunged into my research. As I started I was expectedly barraged with a bevy of opinions. I frequented all the city meets, joined several Whatsapp/Facebook Groups and raked up all contacts to talk to both current students and alumni. Campuses branded themselves in specialty areas where they claimed supremacy and my experts rated their schools along a multitude of parameters like faculty, city, weather, booze, newspaper/magazine rankings, ex-girlfriend’s dad’s aspirations and what not. There is this funny thing with expert opinions. The higher the number of experts you talk to, the more mythological this ‘expert’ creature becomes. While I do acknowledge some quality inputs, most of what was thrown at me was pure hearsay & half-baked legends from the same Quora/Pagalguy threads that my benefactors perhaps may have also read while trying to justify the choices that they had made. However, amidst all this noise, one thing that clearly stood out was at one time or the other, most of them tried to make a point but keeping Ahmedabad as their benchmark. (One business school city meet went as far as to make a PowerPoint presentation where they compared and tried to establish how they were better on a point-by-point basis). This made one thing clear. This place was aspirational.

I am particularly wary that many a time, people try to equalize B-schools by comparing the maximums. For example, high profiles companies like X & Y visit all the colleges and thus it is irrelevant which one you choose. Or that even my college has IIT toppers, CAs and Doctors, and hence the peer group across a certain set of schools is similar. No. Being students of statistics, you might very well be aware that the maximum of a data set usually reveals much less about it than the median. And trust me, from what I found out, the median student at Ahmedabad has immense opportunity, whether it be in getting a shot at a gamut of companies that recruit across disciplines, exploring entrepreneurial waters through CIIE’s well-structured Mavericks program (more on this in articles to follow), collaborating with exceptionally brilliant faculty and peers, or leveraging the immense value that a brand name like IIM A creates. Uniformity in the quality of opportunity and experience was one reason I figured out why IIM A had earned the respect it enjoys across the country and beyond.

Another unfounded fear that I had heard was that the place is full of “toppers” or ruthlessly hard working people and that one would not be able to sustain his or her identity or lose out on opportunity among them. The first part is very much true. You will find some of the most amazingly talented people here. Yes, they would all have had esteemed trajectories in life and would be extremely diligent in whatever they pursued. The second part, unfortunately, is not. Here I have met some of the most helpful souls who have had immense influence on me. The opportunities are aplenty and this place empowers you to live up to challenges provided you are ready to put in a sincere effort. Human beings have this quality of ‘adaptability’ that has boded well for us in this whole process of evolution. The gravity of the influence that our environment exerts on us goes surprisingly unnoticed. We tend to adjust our level depending on the people that surround us. We begin to talk like them, think like them, and fight like them. Yes, it is true that placements shortlists are extremely hard-fought but it is all about short-term loss versus long term gain. The first job of an MBA graduate lasts about 12-18 months. Brand pedigree lasts forever. The choice is yours to make.

So yes, we have a rigorous case based learning pedagogy that stresses on practical learning and not merely theoretical concepts. Yes, here you will be pushed to your limits by peers who will perhaps teach you more than any textbook or teacher could. And yes, you’ll be suitably rewarded with opportunities that you have earned and are well prepared for. As Nietzsche said, ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. The strength that you would muster within these hallowed red brick walls would not only prepare you for the battles that you would be fighting the next two years, but throughout the war we so affectionately call life.

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