Information Exchange on Student Exchange

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Author: Sriram Jayaraman, PGP2, IIMA

170+ outgoing students each year. 5 continents. 33 countries. 60 partner universities. While we don’t have a strict barometer for comparison, one can hazard a guess that IIM Ahmedabad’s student exchange network is perhaps the most extensive among all universities in the country.

For the uninitiated, student exchange, as the name suggests, is a process whereby students from the home institution are selected to study abroad in one of the partner institutions for a defined time period. Typically, student exchange MoUs are two-way, and the parent institution also hosts an equal number of students from the partner university.

At IIM Ahmedabad, students opting to go on exchange study overseas for a trimester in their second year. A handful of them also choose to complete a dual degree with the partner university, which requires them to stay abroad for an additional term in the second year.

Not surprisingly, student exchange is a much talked about topic on campus, given that a third of the students in a batch spend a semester abroad each year. While most universities select students solely based on their academic performance, IIMA rewards overall talent and is well-known in B-school circles for having a complicated, yet holistic process of selection. At A, the Student Exchange Council ranks students based on their performance in a variety of factors, with weights assigned to their performance in academics, sports, extracurricular competitions and business events. Post ranking, students sit for counselling, akin to the process followed for undergrad admissions, and select a college based on the availability of seats.

The upsides of exchange are quite evident. An opportunity to spend three months abroad with outstanding peers and faculty in some of the best institutions in each geography does not require much elaboration. Moreover, for Indians going abroad, it works out to be a good bargain, as the students are only expected to pay fees at the parent institution for the exchange term. Similarly, incoming exchange students add flavour to the life on campus (engineers will understand) and take classes with the second years. Their diverse exposure significantly adds to the perspectives brought out in a classroom otherwise dominated by monochromatic views from the Indian populace.

However, there are limitations to the exchange programme as well. A PGDM at IIM Ahmedabad is considered equivalent to that of a Masters in Management degree by several universities, since the admission criteria and course curriculum center around students with 0-4 years of work experience. The mismatch in student profiles restricts our ability to facilitate exchange with some of the other well-known MBA programmes, such as those offered at Harvard and INSEAD. Further, a student on exchange misses out on some of the fascinating courses offered on campus, such as Prof. Anil Gupta’s all famous Shodh Yatra. Lastly, given their absence from campus, students going on exchange are restricted from taking up positions of responsibility, an important point to note for those who enter campus with ambitions of becoming the batch’s General Secretary etc.

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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.

An A perspective

 

For most this may seem like a “first world problem”ish article, but who said that they aren’t fun? To begin with, “Animals may not have been hurt during this process” (except may be for the dogs we would bump into while running for the 8:45 class) but life sure was hell, at least for the first month. Everyone kept saying that things would get worse, and boy were they right! They did.

But not because of the workload or complexity of courses. The pain was more or less self-inflicted. Here you had a bunch of 400 people, almost all of whom struggled at one question during an interview, “When have you have failed? “ Coz most of us did not know what failure looked like. Setbacks yes. Maybe an A-. But never an F. Never a reject. You can counsel someone when they are bad at something, not when they are bad at failing. Kind of defeats the purpose of counselling, doesn’t it?

But with the introspection time that you quite often get between 1:42 and 1:45 waiting outside the mess, hoping for the “no quiz” announcement, you realize, that more than half of your pain was self-generated. That the entropy was always going to increase, you knew that in the first year thermodynamics course, but forgot to apply it. As you progress, assignments increase, cold calls get worse and WAC reports longer. We all knew that. We kept procrastinating, pushing our luck. 6 slots and a million assignments later we now finally accept it.

However painful exams might seem (they are usually worse than you think), they sure are fun. Before you judge me, I would like to make my case by recounting a Macroeconomics end term paper, where in the question read, “…The oil crisis has hit the country. You are the RBI governor. What will you do?” or something to that effect (this is one course I sincerely cannot understand). Now why I appreciate this is because no one in engineering ever told me, “Imagine you are Bernoulli”…or “Imagine you are Stokes”…”Now what will you do? “. I mean, give the kid a perspective, tell him/her that, “you are now solving issues that Pascal or Schrodinger or Jobs spent their life on, that made them famous”. This is what MBA lets you do. It shows you that you are solving real life problems that day-dreamers like me need to get serious about and write “real” stuff, that the cases you read, the problems you solve, the balance sheets you make actually happened. Someone lost their job or made a fortune. The course is as real an education as you can get.

Speaking of real, while adrenalin kicks might require cash in the outside world, you get them free of cost on a 1+1 free offer here (apart from the fees you paid of course!) So it is important to enjoy the moments when you need to make decisions when you are shit scared, the moment when your group looks up to you at midnight to make that ppt before 8am or the cold call you survive when you have no idea what a debt to equity ratio means. It is about staying calm and letting yourself outdo your expectations (or not). The way your friends grin or laugh at you at the end of it while eating your Maggi in Tapri is worth the pain.

(Ooh…and since I have mentioned Tapri…if you ever happen to be on campus at midnight…do go there for tea. I honestly did not know how to fit this anywhere in the article, but trust me you can forget all I have said but for this bit. )

And although talking about Tapri has got me a bit “senti”, MBA is all about people, but what isn’t? If I am ever so thankful for anything other than the Sunday ice-cream and the Tuesday Pav Bhaji in mess, it is the brilliant people I meet here on an everyday basis. While this may sound like an alien feeling oh-so-happy about meeting earth-beings, in all honesty, the plethora of people, opinions and conversations that you encounter, leave you inspired and humbled if not anything else.

So while I have cribbed about this last one year to whoever willing to listen (or read), this has been a roller coaster ride. Do I want to do it again? Are you kidding- one 5000 word WAC report is enough! But I would certainly recommend it. The red walls may signify “danger”, but they certainly have seen many battles lost and wars won.

 

-Madhura Prabhudesai (PGP 2016)

Golden Jubilee Convocation

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IIM Ahmedabad hosted the Golden Jubilee convocation for the batch of 2015 on March 21, 2015, at the famed LKP lawns. The Chief Guest for the convocation was Mr. Ajay Banga- PGP ‘81 and CEO, Mastercard.

Mr Banga spoke about his experience at IIMA and had some words of wisdom for the graduating batch. He spoke about the incredible learning opportunities he had obtained while at IIMA. “The first lesson you learn here on day one is that everyone around you is incredibly smart… You get a huge dose of humility on day one…something you probably were not used to before getting here. You quickly realize that you have something to learn from everyone around you.”

“You learn that the hardest thing is to simplify your thinking and communicate in a way that everyone around you can relate to,” he added. “It’s all about taking very complex thoughts and communicating them in the simplest possible way.”

The campus wore a festive look for the convocation ceremony. Students clapped and cheered as each of their batchmates received their coveted degrees, as the proud parents looked on. The best students of the batch, from an all-round achievement perspective, were felicitated with gold medals. A number of other awards were handed out at the convocation farewell function, such as the Outstanding Teacher Award to Prof. Saral Mukherjee, and the Outstanding Researcher Award to Prof. Anil K. Gupta.

As part of the convocation celebrations, a video retrospective of the IIMA’s journey over the last 50 years, was released on IIMA’s official Youtube channel. The video had a rare clip of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, speaking at the first convocation ceremony, as well as photos of the graduating batches over the years, some famous faces among them, whose achievements have made the institute proud.

We wish the Batch of 2015 all the best in their future endeavours, and trust that they will keep the flag of the institute flying high through all their actions in the future.

The entire convocation ceremony can be viewed here, on the official IIMA Youtube channel.

Picture courtesy Shashank

Understanding India – an exchange perspective

(Daniel Warmuth is an exchange student at IIM Ahmedabad. He is currently studying Strategy, Innovation & Management Control at the WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business. Born in Vienna, Austria, he can be found mingling with his local and exchange friends at the sports complex, tennis courts, one of the restaurants and occasionally in the institute library. When you can’t find him on campus. he’s either exploring Ahmedabad, watching a movie or travelling across India)

Hey guys! My name is Daniel and I am from Vienna, Austria. Having studied abroad already in the United States during my Bachelor studies, I decided that the time had come for me to explore a new culture and a new continent. I thus chose IIM Ahmedabad to be the place for my second semester abroad. My time on campus is coming to an end and that’s why I sat down, trying to find out whether I can answer the question now: “Do I understand India?”

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My cousin’s daughter loves to go to the zoo in Vienna and, as a good uncle, I often go there with her. She loves to see elephants, monkeys, horses, camels, cows and penguins. I haven’t found a penguin in Ahmedabad yet, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find all the other animals on campus or on the streets right in front of our school. Without buying an entrance ticket you get to see nature at first hand mingled with the people and rickshaws in the streets. Riding a rickshaw and seeing animals in the street, trash piled up here and there and tons of people everywhere has become some form of daily routine after three months and this opens up your eyes to see new things and taken an even closer look.

Most of the foreign exchange students had to go through a registration process with the local authorities. After several unsuccessful tries from my side I had already given up on registering, until all of a sudden luck and randomness got me into contact with a particularly high level official. He told me he would take care of everything, and indeed, just by mentioning his name all doors opened all of a sudden. The entire process was over even faster than it was supposed to be and I could understand what it meant for people to only work under the supervision of their boss. Ironically, I’ve seen the students at IIM-A also sometimes work only under grades pressure and on the very last second! The Indians have somehow managed to cover this with the fancy term jugaad, now an export hit as a new management philosophy!

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Ok, Daniel – You saw some cows on the streets and bureaucracy doesn’t work as efficiently as in Europe. Is that it?

Well, those are probably the most obvious and most striking things you have to overcome at first. Once you accomplish this you can fully start enjoying the wonderful and positive sides of India.

This country is the home to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. There are people you have only met a few minutes ago, who would be willing to put their head on the block for you. But the best thing is the friendships you make along the way of studying abroad here. Even though getting your friends to send you powerpoint slides for a presentation in time for class might occasionally feel like talking to a white wall, they are there within a second when you need their help outside of school. I feel like even though it’s just been three months, my friends on campus would pretty much do everything I asked them to. They are there for me and would go with me through thick and thin and that is something very special.

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They also showed me around the city and travelled with me to ensure I would see some of the Indian culture. Indian festivals will stay in my mind forever, because of the power, joy and enthusiasm of the people. I have seen so many wonderful colors here, that Europe must look like a black and white movie compared to it. I have also seen people dancing with unprecedented energy, doing moves that would send me directly to an OR.

I have also travelled the country, trying to see as much as possible and understand as good as possible. I explored a fort in Jodhpur, rode a camel through the desert in Jaisalmer, strolled around Jaipur, visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, ate delicious food in Delhi, rolled a mountain bike down the highest road of the world in Leh, partied in the Aer Lounge in Mumbai, cruised on a pink scooter around Diu, enjoyed the beaches of Goa, watched a Formula 1 race in Delhi and celebrated Diwali in Udaipur. All of this I did with my wonderful friends and my wonderful girlfriend.

I came closer to understand this wonderful, exciting, beautiful and different country and I am a happy and thankful person for experiencing and learning so much. But it is a challenge of a lifetime to actually be able to say “I understand India”, I guess. Probably even for the Indians themselves…

Nagesh Kukunoor impresses IIMA community with Lakshmi

M.A.D. – The Movie Club of IIMA on Saturday conducted a special screening of celebrated filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor’s upcoming movie ‘Lakshmi‘ for the IIMA community. Mr. Kukunoor present at the screening said he believes that such screenings at educational campuses would help take such films to the youth directly. Mr. Kukunoor claims that he was experimenting with campus publicity after a long time, having tried it previously with ‘Hyderabad Blues’.

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Lakshmi’ is the story of a girl who is a very young victim of human trafficking and flesh trade and braves many odds to become an inspiration for many. There are many girls in the country who have not come of age and are being sold for prostitution, and the movie knits many such stories together to make for suitable watching that attempts to sensitize people about the torment that the girls go through. Although not a documentary, the film presents a stunningly realistic account of the flesh trade with attention to minor details.

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In his chat with the audience post the screening, Mr. Kukunoor stressed that he felt child trafficking was a subject that had not been explored by Indian cinema enough and much awareness was still needed among the society. When asked about his strategy for making such a sensitive film, he said that it was about the fine line between presenting something hard-hitting without being overtly explicit or graceless. The film manages to do just that as it achieves the balance with clinical precision. The audience were impressed by Mr. Kukunoor’s ease and openness at answering questions and urged him to continue making such excellent movies that stand out, definitely a welcome change from the usual song-and-dance routines plaguing Bollywood.

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The movie has been made for the urban population, especially the youth, and the international population as well. ‘Lakshmi’ hits theatres on January 17th.

IIM-A launches Heritage Club

Ahmedabad, with its rich and diverse history, has always been a favorite destination for visitors looking to soak in the cultural milieu. It’s no wonder then, that heritage walks and history trails have found great resonance with the students of the institute, with many a weekend trails to parts of the old city and surroundings. Students and staff of IIM Ahmedabad recently launched the IIMA Heritage club in order to provide a formal platform for organizing more of such heritage trips and enable the sharing of knowledge on the topic.


The IIMA Heritage Group started with the idea to promote local heritage, culture, food and art forms. While the younger generation definitely prefers visits to malls and restaurants, the organizers thought that it is just as important to imbibe a sense of pride and knowledge among them about the rich heritage of the city. Besides organizing heritage walks, the club also seeks to promote local art & handicrafts by organizing performances and events in the campus, arrange picnics to nearby sanctuaries, picnic spots, heritage sites, local fairs etc.

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The club recently launched a monthly publication which covers the festivals of the month, our monthly activities, food of festivals and shopping destinations. In October, the team organized a day trip to Lothal and Sarkehj Roza. The ruins at Lothal, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization, are one of the most well-preserved historical sites in the state. The beautifully carved mosques at Sarkhej, on the other hand, stand as a testament to the refined architectural expertise of yesteryear.

Girls top the war of the dorms

Dorm Mascot of Onedergalz

Dorm Mascot of Onedergalz

In keeping with the unique dorm culture and bonding at IIMA, Finesse- The Fine Arts Club held “War of Dorms 2.0”. The competition was held as an opportunity for the dorms to show everyone else what their dorms stood for. Dorms were required to come up with a mascot that they thought represented their dorm best. The competition got intense as the dorms got their creative juices flowing.

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Two to Tango’s Mascot

Dorms were evaluated in two stages that captured both expert opinion and public approval. Professor V Venkata Rao, a brilliant artist himself and faculty coordinator of Finesse judged the entries in the first stage. The top 3 entries from this stage qualified for stage 2, the online round. Dorms were required to publicize their posts and garner the most number of likes. Dorms united in their quest to win the poker set at stake and were seen publicizing their dorm mascot posters right up till the last minute in what was a nail biting finish between Dorm 1 (Oneder Galz) who chose the name Wonder Women and Dorm 2 (Two to Tango) who chose the name Dunking Damsels. Based on the scores of both the rounds, Dorm 1 and Dorm 2 whose scores only differed by a decimal point were declared joint winners of “War of Dorms 2.0”

Please visit Finesse Facebook Page and Website for other club activities.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FinesseFineArtsClubOfIimAhmedabad
Website – http://finesseiima.weebly.com/

Shaurya 2013 roundup: Ahoy victory!

Shaurya, the annual inter-college sports fest hosted by IIM Ahmedabad, saw contingents from more than 10 institutes battle it out across 16 different sports. The event – for the first time in its history – witnessed participation from outside the state of Gujarat, with teams from other IIMs (Indore and Udaipur), SCMHRD and SIIB from Pune contributing to an unprecedented footfall of over 400 players. Yet another milestone was the addition of four new sports to the tournament  – Snooker, Squash, Women’s tennis and Women’s volleyball. Much to the participants’ relief, professional referees were roped in to arbitrate the 130+ matches held over 3 days.

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With 11 gold medals and 3 silvers, hosts IIM Ahmedabad yet again walked away as dominant winners. However, retaining that top spot from last year was much harder that what the points tally reflected. Some matches were much closer than anticipated, and a couple from cricket and football proved to be a real treat for the burgeoning crowd watching from the sidelines. Action was witnessed on the sidelines too – the stakes in the cricket final were raised by the on-campus restaurant Bizarre who promised to treat the IIM-A cricket team if they managed to win. And triumph they did, by 3 runs, in a nail-biting finish! The football semi-final saw IIM-A, trailing by a goal, equalise in the final two minutes of normal time. In the subsequent penalty shootout, Daniel Warmuth, on exchange from Austria, missed his kick but made up in style through 3 consecutive saves to send the team through.

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The enthusiastic response from participating colleges contributed to a three-fold increase in the size of the fest. But the Sports Committee, ably supported by the admin and staff, were more than up for the job. Sports Secretary Piyush Malviya was all upbeat “Plans are in place to make Shaurya even bigger next year with a separate team dedicated to organising it!”

(With inputs from the Sports Committee, IIM Ahmedabad)

Moonstruck at IIM Ahmedabad!

Stargazers – the Astronomy Club of IIM Ahmedabad organized a moongazing session on September 19th on account of the Harvest Moon. This is the full moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox.

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Astro enthusiasts on campus made full use of the opportunity to observe the features of our celestial neighbour in all its splendour. More than 125 eager participants ranging from all sections of the IIMA community (faculty and family, PGPX, PGP and exchange students) converged at LKP lawns where the organisers had set up camp. “It’s heartening that students have taken time off to be a part of this event,” quipped Veeranna, Coordinator of Stargazers.

IIMA’s very own 6 inch Newtonian reflector telescope, equipped with two levels of magnification, offered views of the surface in spectacular detail. The session that started late in the evening extended well past midnight, with each person allotted roughly three minutes on the hotseat to feast their eyes on the Tycho Crater, the Sea of Tranquility, and a variety of other features. “Naturally, the kids are among the most enthusiastic and always full of questions,” Veeranna added. Handouts were distributed beforehand to familiarise participants with facts and figures and supplement their knowledge.

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Stargazers has more exciting events lined up for the rest of the year. A science fiction writing contest is currently underway. ISON, the ‘comet of the century’, is expected to brush with the sun on November 28th, and the team hopes that it stays intact for all to see. A public viewing, last organised in 2009, is on the cards. While the PGP2s away on exchange missed this session, another similar one has been planned early next year along with a Jupiter-gazing event as well.

Find out more about the Stargazers SIG and their work on their official Facebook page.