29 Aug 2016 20:28 IST

‘Our inherent strengths and inclusive education have got us a top-15 ranking’

Gautam Ghosh, Director of Thiagarajar School of Management. Photo: R Ashok   -  The Hindu

Director Gautam Ghosh says Thiagarajar School of Management’s faculty and infrastructure are its USP

The Thiagarajar School of Management in Madurai, in southern Tamil Nadu, is not exactly on the map of management academics. But Gautam Ghosh, Director of the B-school, says that’s more perception than reality. With good faculty, a strong student mix and sound infrastructure, TSM was ranked 15th in the National Institutional Ranking Framework of the Ministry of Human Resources Development. Ghosh, an alumnus of IIM Calcutta, who’s been at TSM since 2012 and is a veteran quizzer, says a lot more needs to be done to boost the school’s geographical diversity and improve its research record. Excerpts from an interview conducted at TSM’s sylvan campus:

TSM was ranked 15th in the recent rankings released by the NHRD. How was this achieved?

There is nothing specific or special that we did. This is an ongoing activity and is long term: you can’t construct buildings overnight for rankings, nor can you add faculty at short notice. This is in recognition of what we have been doing over the years. We have inherent strengths: quality faculty and a strong infrastructure.

The rankings looked at factors that are not addressed by magazines. For example, the NHRD rankings looked at diversity in terms of caste-based communities, and there we are strong. We have the Tancet (Tamil Nadu Common Entrance Exam) quota for the TN entrance exams and they have laid down quotas for different communities. And one thing in TN is that education is inclusive. The representation of communities is much more here than in the north and east.

What are the areas of improvement that you need to focus on?

We are not very well known and that is a fact. Even in Tamil Nadu, there are many pockets where people are not aware of us. We are trying to rectify this. We have to work on our faculty-student ratio, and our cumulative research output. Having said this, our research output is superior to those of many B-schools in our category or even above us, but that’s no reason for resting on our laurels. We have some revenue from training programmes and consulting but we have to increase it. Another area where we are falling short, a consequence of being insular, is we don’t have tie-ups with international B-schools. We are addressing this as well.

How does TSM fare in placements?

Our placements are good. One thing rankings don’t address is that the salaries students expect are linked to the fees they are paying. It cuts both ways. You expect higher salaries commensurate with your fees; in our case, however, average salaries are not very high compared with other B-schools but are high in relation to the fees we charge. For the MBA batch that joined this year, the fee is ₹4.9 lakh, while in mid-level private B-schools, it is in the ₹7-10 lakh range, excluding hostel rent.

We had 99 per cent placements, which is quite good. On an average, every student got 1.4 offers. If you look at the salary, the CTC was about ₹6 lakh, but if you look at it in relation to our fees it was very good; the pay-back period is less than nine months. For lower-end IIMs it could be more than a year. If you look at high-end private B-schools, the pay-back could be much longer. Some of these rankings look purely at absolute salary levels.

How does TSM fare in its student-faculty ratio, and on gender diversity?

In terms of the student-faculty ratio we have to catch up a little. We are now particular about faculty quality and look closely at their research record. Madurai is not a hot destination for management academics, so it takes time. We are working on it. With regard to faculty quality, we are at least as good as most private B- schools.

In terms of gender diversity we are as strong as any B-school at our level. We have 35 per cent women students. The area where we have lost out in, and are addressing, is geographical diversity. We are primarily south India-based, we have made some progress, but it has to be carried on. We get more from Kerala and AP. Bengaluru has so many B-schools, so not many come from there.

 

What are you doing to market TSM as a destination B school?

We have made an attempt to focus on the East. There are not that many quality B- schools there, barring XLRI, XIMB and the IIMs. And, second, a lot of students are moving out as there not that many employment opportunities there. Not many top companies are headquartered in the East. We are also getting students from the North and the West. But numbers have to be built up.

TSM has a strong rural immersion programme; how does this work?

We have tied up with one or two NGOs that work in the rural areas. The programme is for 7-8 days. For two to three days they have interactive sessions on campus where they are informed about rural life, the problems and so on. They then go to remote villages and stay there for 3-4 days. They have to rough it out with limited sanitary facilities. They have to see what business opportunities are there, and come back and prepare a report. Each year the place is different. The whole programme is financed by the school.

How are you plugging into your old-boys network to give recruiting a leg up?

We have a fairly strong alumni base. And we also have annual meetings, get-togethers in cities in the south, to which we invite the alumni. They help us in specific areas and give us leads for jobs for our students. We have converted these leads to active placement opportunities. We invite them for guest lectures. They also help us counsel students on final placements. We have a practice of conferring Distinguished Alumni awards to our successful alumni.

What do you do to groom students in soft skills?

We do a lot of stuff on presentation, grooming, and interactive skills. Soft skills are basically interactive skills and learning to empathise with people, but in India willy-nilly a big component of soft skills has become fluency in English. As the language of business is English, if you can’t talk in English how do you interact? Though that is not all of it, it’s also about social confidence. We have a few compulsory courses in business communication in the first year, and we also give students a lot of training, with external agencies coming in to conduct mock interviews and GDs.

What is TSM doing in the area of research, where you place a great deal of emphasis?

In research there are different levels. There are a huge number of journals. We encourage the faculty to contribute to Scopus Indexed journals. We help fund them in buying books; we have a research kitty for surveys, for travel and we give faculty special leave. This has also been linked to rewards as there is a weightage given for research. They can also present papers in conferences and write cases. Typically, globally, writing original papers commands greater respect than cases or paper presentations.