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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2008 2:56 AM IST
Going through my earlier few columns, some readers have pointed out that I have become too cynical of B-schools. It isn’t all that bad out there. I agree even though we all know there are quite a few bad apples still out there.
In the nine years that I have been visiting Indian business schools, I have come across many B-schools that are ethical to the core. Some of them are very low-profile.
One such is Amrita School of Business in Coimbatore, part of Amrita University. The name of the institute is eponym of chancellor of the university Amritanandamayi Devi, popularly known as Amma. She is considered god incarnate by her many followers. Leveraging her global cult status she has set up highly respected educational institutions in different parts of India. Besides donating money, her followers, who include renowned faculty worldwide, have also offered their services without any financial motives to her educational institutions.
Historically, religion has played a dual role in expounding knowledge. During the Renaissance period in Europe, the Church discouraged scientific thinking. For instance, it allowed Galileo, the famous astronomer, to preach all his discoveries provided he did not speak about the most revolutionary of them all, that the earth revolves around the sun, as it was contrary to the then belief of the Church. In India too, orthodox Hinduism discouraged dissemination of knowledge beyond upper caste men for many centuries. But, for the past some decades, different religious sects, such as the Society of Jesuits, have done a commendable job in promoting education in India. In the management field too, we have many institutes promoted by them that are ethical and are doing a great job, such as XLRI in Jamshedpur and XIMB in Bhubneswar. In India, religious beliefs have also motivated many good teachers to work in the most backward areas, especially among tribals .
The Amrita School of Business is another example of the positive impact even religious bodies can have in society by promoting quality education.
Some three weeks ago, I visited Amrita’s B-school campus in Coimbatore. Located on the outskirts of the city close to the Kerala border at the foothills of an elephant-shaped hillock , it is perhaps India’s most picturesque campus. What struck me most, though, was the faculty there, both permanent as well as visiting teachers. Most of the faculty members are highly qualified, with degrees from IITs, IIMs and reputed foreign universities. They also have an impressive list of publications in reputed national and international journals.
The director, Sanjay Banerji, is an unassuming person who likes to move around the campus on his bicycle. A product of IIM-Calcutta, Kellogg School of Management and a former faculty member of MDI-Gurgaon, he says he is there because of his devotion to Amma. So are many of his colleagues.
For instance, Deepak Gupta and Shobhana Madhavan work there as full-time faculty. The couple have, between them, degrees from IIT-Delhi, IIM-Ahmedabad, a master’s degree from Cornell University and PhDfrom University of California, Berkley. Both of them have taught abroad and Shobhna also has 12 years’ corporate work experience in the US They could have easily got much better paying jobs elsewhere. But they are as dedicated to academics as to Amma.
There are also many visiting faculty teaching on the campus from reputed universities abroad, again most of them devotees of Amma. The school also follows its religion-led discipline. No intoxicants or non-vegetarian food are allowed on the campus.
They are very ethical too. “No bribes here, not even to All India Council for Technical Education officials,” says Banerji. There is no siphoning of money, no back-door admissions, no auctioning of seats and no commercial exploitation of students.
Besides world class faculty, Amrita Business School has almost everything that can make it a great B-school. It has one of the best infrastructure for a B-school in India that I have seen.
The Wi-fi-enabled campus is also eco-friendly, with extensive use of solar and other renewable sources of energy, such as biomass. Students are given single-occupancy rooms and they don’t have to step out of the campus for day-to-day needs. They have a bank, departmental stores, a clinic with an ambulance, facilities for sports, including a large swimming pool. The faculty also stays on campus. The placements too have been reasonably good so far.
Perhaps because of its low profile, it has not been able to attract many students from other states. It sells about 1,100 applications, rather small for an Indian business school (http://www.amrita.edu/asb). Being located in one of the well-known industrial hubs of Tamil Nadu, the school could do a much better job in interacting with industry. And, for now, it does not have many management development programmes and consulting assignments with industries in Coimbatore. It has also not marketed itself well. Maybe it needs to also pay more attention to the mundane aspects of running a B-school.
Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting and Research (C fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools. Comments are welcome at businesscase@livemint.com
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Sanjay Said:


I would like to offer just one clarification. By AICTE 'officials' one means those coming on behalf of AICTE for inspections etc. Sadly enough, they are also academic members of other academic institutions.

Posted On 8/25/2008 9:03:27 AM
Kamal Said:


Yes they need to position themselves well. I did not know about this B School before. I did a search for Mr. Sanjay Banerji on Linkedin and found some more information about the school. I will do an article on such schools at www.kollace.com/wisewords.php

Posted On 8/25/2008 11:07:40 AM
ashish Said:


Sir i would like to say that in your article you have mentioned that ASB is a Wi-fi enabled campus but I am sorry sir it is not like that.ASB is not a Wi-fi enabled campus it even does not have a net connection in the hostel.

Posted On 8/25/2008 1:16:09 PM
Re: sapana Said:


Dear Ashish, ASB has got a Wi - fi connection now. Regards, Sapana

Posted On 8/29/2008 11:10:32 AM
ashish Said:


Sir i would like to say that in your article you have mentioned that ASB is a Wi-fi enabled campus but I am sorry sir it is not like that.ASB is not a Wi-fi enabled campus it even does not have a net connection in the hostel.

Posted On 8/25/2008 1:16:09 PM
Re: premchand Said:


Well, I stayed in the campus, in the guest house and could work on my lap top using wi-fi connectivity.The director told me that most of the campus is wi-fi enabled.Its possible that some hostels are not. Premchand Palety

Posted On 8/26/2008 7:14:22 PM
shobhana Said:


It was a pleasant surprise seeing ASB covered in the Mint. Deepak and I really enjoy teaching here. Just a small clarification - my work experience was more with the international development sector and I worked as a consultant with CIIFAD (Madagascar), WWF ( Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) and ADB (Sunderbans).

Posted On 8/27/2008 10:54:20 AM
Re: George Said:


Good to see ASB covered in the Mint.Lot of value-adds during my 2 years spent on this campus.

Posted On 8/28/2008 2:54:37 PM
anurag Said:


Instead of highlighting the corrections, why don't you just correct them in the script? Carrying such a correction in paper makes sense, not on the web.

Posted On 8/30/2008 7:02:15 PM
Maneesha Said:


The education I received from Amrita School of Business has completely changed both my professional and personal life. What I feel extremely grateful for, is the value based education I received. The good qualities inherent in me has been brought out and chiseled through Amrita’s education. Team work has been given prime importance in ASBs education which helped in developing leadership qualities, communication skills, improving self confidence, improving clarity of thoughts, effective handling of stressful environment, generation of creative and innovative thoughts, effective adaptation to the team, delivering, gathering and culminating good ideas from the team and much more than I could describe.

Posted On 9/2/2008 8:46:09 PM
Lalita Said:


Really nice to see ASB on livemint.com. My 2 years on the campus flipped my life around by 180 degrees; the learning has been so immense. But like it's said, the biggest room on Earth is the room for improvement. ASB has a lot of scope to market itself better and make a place for itself on the national and international maps.

Posted On 9/5/2008 9:17:37 AM
Sharat Said:


I felt so happy to read this article on livemint. Just as the author mentioned, it is only because of Amrita's low-profile marketing philosophy that the B-School is not that well known. I hope this would change soon. My life at Amrita has been a wonderful experience. Having spent 6 years of my life in this campus (2 years at ASB and 4 years at Amrita School of Engineering prior to my MBA), there is a lot that I've gained from it. No organization is perfect. There would always be certain operational issues existing in any organization. Like any other organization, Amrita also has certain minute issues which I'm certain will be corrected in the near future. Because if every organization was perfect, then consultancy firms and IT companies wouldn't be thriving on jargons like "Best Practices", "Business Process Re-engineering", identifying "Core Competencies" etc. Its a well known fact.. there is scope for improvement in various areas, and it will be taken care of. In my view, the biggest take-home that a student studying at Amrita can have is 'sensitivity' to human values and relationships, which I think is one of the key ingredients for building a positive attitude towards our environment. Because why else would jargons like "Customer Satisfaction" and "CRM" take birth? Even the corporate world realizes the importance of relationships and hence I feel that Amrita is headed in the right direction. We have thousands of examples around us - of people who have made fortunes without any degree. So what have they done correct? I think its their attitude towards life. By saying all this, I'm not trying to write off graduates from other schools. Never would I do that because there is good and bad everywhere. The only point that I'm trying to drive here is that the "Amrita way of living" is a key differentiator and one must live that experience with an open heart to actually know how it can change one's own life and inturn the lives of others.

Posted On 9/5/2008 3:34:57 PM
Re: Tushar Said:


ya..sharat..truly said.....asb is de best tng dat happened 2 me....

Posted On 9/5/2008 8:13:16 PM
Anup Said:


A nice surprise to see ASB on the Sunday paper ! Like XLRI, the IIMs and such top-notch B-schools in India, ASB too leaves a lasting impression on us students. To me that is the mark of a quality B-school. The Faculty at ASB are some of the nicest people one can come across. So most of us students used to grapple with those impressive subjects just to not let down our professors. All said and done, ASB gives a refreshing flavour of education, so different from the nauseous materialistic training that we all are so used to. :-)

Posted On 9/5/2008 8:37:40 PM
Sarthak Said:


Great article!! A few things have changed though--this time we have quite a few students from North!!

Posted On 9/6/2008 10:50:29 AM
Deepak Said:


It was great to read the araticle on ASB (we called it "the place to be"). The article echoed the thoughts most of us had and continue to have. It does not get the status and recognition it deserves, because of some poor marketing efforts. The two years I spent in the campus are unforgettable and have given a whole new dimension to my life. Thanks and three cheers to ASB....

Posted On 9/8/2008 12:51:31 PM
Gajanan Said:


It's really nice to see ASB on livemint.com. But u mention in the article that ASB has got very few applications because of its low profile. I don't think ASB has a low profile. The reason for fewer application may be that we are not into the marketing game. I remember once our dean told us that more no. of applications do not matter much. What matters is the 2 years of MBA, the learning, the values that you take from here.

Posted On 9/8/2008 6:27:07 PM
Shashikanth Said:


It was a lovely article Mr. Premchand. Thank you for presenting ASB in true light. The college has always been undervalued because they never shouted too much.

Posted On 9/8/2008 6:38:54 PM
Karunakaran Said:


As a blessed alumni of ASB, the joy that this article gives me is indescribable. The two years spent there was full of growth and inspiration. Yes it is not the same environment as a normal b-school aspirant would expect. But if one is lucky enough to be willing, the air there can change you. I am lucky to have had such wonderful faculty. Deepak sir and Shobhana mam continue to inspire me. Pranams to all

Posted On 9/13/2008 10:26:44 PM