A lot of students, especially those serious about their careers, start mapping their futures right from an early age. Nowadays, thanks to the profusion of information available in the ongoing digital age, from class IX especially it becomes common for students to plan their career paths. A career in business management has of course emerged over the past three decades, as one of the most popular career choices. And for anyone who has thought of the same as a career, the first thought that comes to one’s mind is always a seat at one of the prestigious IIMs, short for the Indian Institute of Management, of which there are more than twenty of them now.
Until recently, this meant that one had to go for a graduation somewhere, before sitting for the CAT (Common Admission Test) exam, easily considered one of the toughest in the country. Graduation usually meant engineering, as evidenced by the vast majority of CAT takers and those who clear the exam, being engineers. It could also mean some commerce or economics based programme or even a bachelor’s in management through a BBA. The nomenclature could differ depending on the respective university. Even rarer would be something like medical, law, the fundamental sciences or even something in humanities. Now, this is no longer needed, as a student can directly enroll for an IIM straight after class XII.
The Indian Institute of Management in Indore (IIM- I), back in the year 2011 started with a then highly ambitious course titled the Integrated Programme in Management (IPM). This is an integrated five- year programme which selects students straight after class XII and puts them through the course. In effect, students can book their seat at an IIM straight after 12th, while others who fail to do this, will need to slug it out in the CAT. The CAT even today gets far greater competition, as many fewer people are aware of the IPM. The students enrolled via the IPM route, end up getting the same support system of an elite national- level IIM, that those having cleared the CAT do.
When the move was first mooted, there were a number of naysayers. The IPM ran in to a number of hurdles. This included regulatory hurdles with pressure applied from different quarters. The other IIMs were also not too impressed. Those enrolled via the CAT route would remark on the much easier path that the IPM ones got. Many would gloss over the IPM students, by not giving them due credit, and unfavorably comparing them to the CAT givers. This list of doubters even included several of the recruiters. One of the major downsides to the IPM was the fact that AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) that held sway over the IIMs would only have jurisdiction over professional courses.
This meant that for the PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management), the AICTE approval ensured parity with an MBA awarded by any university. One could even pursue a doctorate after that, which would be known as a Fellowship. But at the under- grad level, AICTE could not do much, so the students’ degree would be provided as an open course from the IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University). Suffice to say, on paper at least, this would not hold the same prestige level as others who had cleared the CAT, many of whom were engineers from top colleges, including even the IITs or other top UG colleges.
All of this changed in the year 2017, when the IIM- I along with a few others, was accorded the INI (Institute of National Importance) status. This meant that IIM- I was now free to grant degrees, just like any university. Those selected for the IPM are now eligible for a full- fledged BBA plus MBA integrated degree. For selections, students need to appear for an entrance test. This test includes Verbal Ability (English) and Quantitative Ability (Math), with the latter also including Logical Reasoning. GK is not yet a part of the questioning, as is common in several other entrances, but it still cannot be ignored due to the final selection process.
Once the entrance test is done, students are shortlisted based on their scores. Now their overall aptitude is tested for, via a round of Personal Interview (PI) and a Written Ability Test (WAT). The latter is now preferred over a Group Discussion (GD) across the spectrum. At this stage, one’s writing ability, GK and clarity on career will play a vital role in determining the final selection. A lot of the applicants to this programme tend to be engineering aspirants. Many of them go for IPM once they realize they are not going to crack JEE (Joint Entrance Examination), or even simultaneously keeping both the options open.
The Quants section has traditionally been quite complicated. While students who didn’t opt for Math in class XII are eligible to sit for the exam, quite a few questions do come from the higher post class X level. English can also be a game- decider, as many focus more on the latter. The IPM in totally has been described as a holistic course. It focuses on curating managers who not only have an eye for the bottom line, but also for the overall betterment of the society. Future managers get grounded through the rural immersion module, which is part of the curriculum.
Due to greater acceptance, IPM students are now treated at par by the industry with those who cleared the CAT. Placements in recent years bear testimony to the trend. Average packages have been rising and top recruiters have been selecting from this pool as well. The lack of a work experience after a graduation, or the lack of diversity at the UG level has been offset by the multitude of activities conducted by the college at this level. Now even the IIM in Rohtak (IIMR) has introduced the IPM course. If more such IIMs join in the fray, we could soon have a common entrance test just like CAT or CLAT. Thus, the time has come for the wider society to recognize that an IIM is possible straight after school itself.