Beyond the Casemats

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Author: Namrata Yadav, PGP2, IIM-A

“Do barriers of entry make an industry attractive or unattractive?” asked the professor as he turned to face a class of 90.

He is joking right? We are about to complete one year at IIMA and he asks us this question? Barriers are unattractive or they wouldn’t be called barriers. Duh!

Someone from the back shouts “Depends on which side of the barrier you are on!” There is scattered laughter in the class at that cheeky but predictable comment. By now, you’re so tuned to this bunch of 90 people that you can predict the stuff they say before they even say it. You can also guess how the professor will discuss a particular case. You’re a long suffering veteran now.

The professor laughs at the joke but continues, “What about the barrier of entry to IIMA? Pretty high, right. Did it make it more or less attractive to you?”

Umm..well, IIMA is IIMA. It cannot be compared to some industry, right. Right?

But the professor hasn’t had enough. He says with a devilish smile “And now that you are here, how is life? Very easy? Pleasant? Highly attractive?”

You look back on quizzes, assignments, exams, placements, the soul-breaking competition and the near permanent sleep deprivation. Definitely not attractive. But….well…ummm….

“So, is your answer still unattractive?”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the pedagogy at IIM Ahmedabad is all about. It is designed to surprise when you think you are finally getting a hang of things.

In simple terms, we follow a case-based pedagogy which essentially means that there is very little in terms of theoretical knowledge and almost every subject stresses on application. More often than not, we study a case per subject per session where we analyse a certain situation faced by a company and come up with our solutions to the issues faced.

While that’s great and stuff, the real superstars of IIMA are the professors. They don’t simply teach. Some lectures are 75-minute session of theatrics, complete with variations in voice. expressions and emotion. Some just nonchalantly dismiss such banal things as the country’s fiscal policy or certain world views you hold so dearly. Some look like they are the sweetest people alive and then trap you in a web of arguments. Some are supposed to teach you about law but end up giving valuable life lessons through discourse on philosophy. Some make you understand a concept with “Kabir Das ke dohe” and its hilarious English translations. And some professors make you feel how feeble your solutions really are, a testament to your inexperience and how much of the world you are yet to see.

My class used to replace the nametags of some students with some funny names and the professor was a sport and read those out while asking questions to those students. In his final session, every student replaced their nametags with nicknames. The professor was stunned and he spent the entire class addressing people by their nicknames and took a picture of the class with his phone at the end. As I look back at the past year, these amazing moments with the faculty stand out. How every student at a perennially well-dressed professor’s last session wore a shirt and tie to fulfil his lifelong wish of seeing a room full of well-dressed professionals; how a professor conducted a simulated game of Kaun Banega Crorepati to test the class’ understanding of the concepts learnt; how a professor gave an emotional narration of how he had to change his teaching style to keep up with the times as the class gave him a standing ovation.

And then there are the students themselves. There are so many different faces, so many personalities and if you set out to it, you could learn a lot from them – and not just in professional life. The best part of any class is when a student who has prior work experience in the company whose case you’re studying tells the tales of the ground realities. In a class of 90 odd people, you often get a wide variety of views. Some you agree with, some you don’t and the clash of the detractors is a great spectacle that plays out in class.

IIMA teaches you punctuality. An 8:45AM class means you have to be in the class by 8:45AM. Class Participation (CP) points are closely monitored and the class makes sure you do not get away with putting up random points in front of the professor. The students are allotted to study groups at the beginning of the academic year and all the group assignments, presentations are done within the group. Some of your group members become your best friends and there will be many times when you put up all-nighters in the dorms or library for a submission.

All in all, the “A” in IIMA does stand for Academics, but thankfully, the students, the faculty and the administration make sure the ride is well worth it.

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