Saturday, January 29, 2011

IRMA Admissions-Some Views

Its that time of the year when some 400 odd individuals come to IRMA campus to give their admission interviews. Some are here out of choice, some because the coveted IIM call evaded them and some who would treat it as a mock "live" interview for the bigger IIM interviews.
I have been giving/sharing gyan on cracking IRMA for the past two years. My contribution this year will be limited to the earlier post which has a link to a research paper on IRMA admissions. Two years of management + development fundas make u allergic to sites like pagalguy.
This post is more philosophical and less practical.This will certainly not help you in answering any question that the panel asks you during the D day.
1. Many get disappointed that most of their batchmates are not like the IRMANs shown in the "barefoot manager" video. In fact, most of your batchmates will start reading about Dr.Kurien a week before placements because ITC and Amul largely base their questions on his memoir "I too had a dream". But then Kurien himself gave a number to the students who would get into development and become Kuriens. That figure was around 5%. So in all likelihood ( as I vouch for my batch), you will 5 to 6 guys/gals who will venture onto development by choice.
2.Do not be disappointed if you do not get into IRMA. In fact any B school for that matter. As Gopalkrishnan, ED of Tata Sons states in his book, only 3% of learning happens in classroom. Its not important where you graduate from, but its very important of what you make of what you have got.
3.If you get into IRMA, you will convocate with many paradoxes. All fuzzy concepts and definitions will engulf your thought process.In fact, you will learn to appreciate these contradictions and maybe help you in better decision making.
4.Finally, the journey is a very lonely one. This is a personal reflection and any elucidation will not be helpful at all. Something that each one has to go through to appreciate it.
So, any IRMA aspirant who stumbles on to this site and has enough idle time to go through this post, my best wishes!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cracking the IRMA Interview...

While I (or anyone for that matter)may not be able to provide the perfect answer on how to crack the IRMA interview, the following link will be of more than academic interest for aspirants who will be coming to IRMA in the first of February to face a panel of faculty members to gain admission to this wonderful institute.
The link (given by my batchmate Uphar) is to a paper titled "A study of IRMA admissions" by Prof. M J Arul, ex-faculty of IRMA in the area of OB. Here is the link!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Rajan Memorial Lecture by Prof.Sriram

The Rajan Memorial Lecture is an annual event at IRMA instituted in the memory of T S Rajan, an alumnus of the institute who died in an accident.
This year we had Prof. Sriram as the speaker. An alumnus of IRMA Prof.Sriram is ex-faculty member of IRMA and IIMA. For those who track the microfinance sector, Prof. Sriram is regarded as one of the top researchers in this field. But he himself would agree that his interests are much wider than just microfinance.
The topic was an interesting one and was provocatively titled "Profit or Purpose:The dilemma of Social Enterprises ." The lecture was scheduled a day before Milaap which is the annual alumni meet of IRMA. One of the events during Milaap was a panel discussion on Social Entrepreneurship. Hence this lecture was perfect in its timing.
Prof. Sriram began by dividing social enterprises into three schools of thought. The first were pure not for profit enterprises (read NGOs) where purpose was the overriding concern. The promoters of such enterprises primarily played on the motivational aspects of employees who were largely payed below market determined wages. The problem, as Sriram saw it was that these institutions had issues of scalability.The other issue was that the since employees were payed below market determined wages, they would seek higher goals and achievements ( to make up for the low wages) and may force the organisation into a mission drift. The related concern was that the employees, when not allowed to grow, might end up in some sense "commercialising"the operations (though Sriram did not use the same language). Hence profits might trump the purpose.
The second form of social enterprise is community managed institutions-cooperatives. One cannot but appreciate co operatives when one studies at IRMA. Sriram argued that these are beautifully designed organisations which aligns profit and purpose to meet member interests. However, we do not look at such organisations as "social" because they are embedded deeply in the market system. Amul is a case in point. I wonder if a large section of the consumer base of Amul are aware that it is a producer owned organisation.In co operatives, the focus is on patronage and not on capital. However, Sriram did point out the "horizon problem" that arises because members force the co operative to increase current cash flows at the expense of future earning. Also there is denial of patronage when co operatives put aside a part of earnings as reserves.
The third form of social organisation is what Sriram calls the BOP school of thought. These are market based firms which seek to integrate the poor into the mainstream economy. They adhere to the double bottomline principle-doing well and doing good. But as instances in the microfinance sector (Sriram did not touch on this sector) reveal that one attracts great scrutiny when one seeks to achieve this double bottomline. So no one will question Arvind Mills selling organic cotton jeans in its stores but Fabindia will invite scrutiny if its sells garments or products not in tune with its "purpose". So as Sriram cogently put it, where you come from and where you are headed is very important for such organisations. Governance, then is the most important issue facing "social enterprises". But, as he conceded, it was easier said than done.
His talk was peppered with several examples for each type of enterprise. Some of the examples included Christian Medical College, Sankara Eyecare, Jaipur Foot, GCMMF, etc.
It was evident and as Sriram put it-he was hard selling co operatives. Not surprising for someone who was called the "co operative purist" of IRMA by Tushaar Shah in his book " Making Farmer Co operatives Successful"
Overall, it was a pleasure to hear Sriram for the first time. Not to mention the proud feeling of seeing one's senior hold forth so beautifully on a very fuzzy topic!