CAT: Are Indian Institutes of Management losing their mojo?

By: | Updated: September 21, 2015 6:51 PM

Possibly. If students aren’t queuing up to register for the Common Admission Test (CAT), as they did earlier, it’s clearly because youngsters today have many other options.

IIM Ahmedabad. IIM placementsCAT registrations are believed to have peaked in 2009 at about 2,90,000 while in 2007 they were 2,50,000; last year they were down to 1,96,000 even though students were given extra time.

Possibly. If students aren’t queuing up to register for the Common Admission Test (CAT), as they did earlier, it’s clearly because youngsters today have many other options. So, getting a degree in business management is no longer the be-all and end-all of a great career; you may just as well make more as a cordon bleu chef turning out the best soufflés in town.

Nevertheless, it’s true registrations are falling and for the second year in a row applicants have been given more time to sign up for the examination. According to a report in the Monday’s Mint newspaper, IIM–Ahmedabad has extended the 46-day registration window by five days. Registrations are believed to have peaked in 2009 at about 2,90,000 while in 2007 they were 2,50,000; last year they were down to 1,96,000 even though students were given extra time.

That’s despite the fact that there are many more campuses today than they were four years back when there were barely a dozen. Not to mention the fact that there certainly many more students today wanting to make a career. What we didn’t have in 2010 and 2011 is mushrooming start-ups and their promise of big money. While being an entrepreneur was a cool thing to do especially if you had a father or an uncle to bankroll you, and of course the proverbial fire in the belly, there’s no denying the start-up ecosystem has become stronger in the last three years. While Vinod Khosla has cautioned there are lots of bad ideas and copycats threatening to create a bubble, much like it happened in the dotcom era, the fact is youngsters are willing to give it a shot.

But start-ups are probably not the real reason students aren’t rushing to take the CAT. Companies have realised it’s not always necessary to have a person from a top notch institute for every slot; in other words they’re willing to make do with graduates from lesser known management institutes for jobs that may not be very critical. That’s smart thinking really because very often there are bright people to be found in tier-II B schools.

Amar Sinhji, Executive Director,from Khaitan & Company, who’s been keeping  a close watch on recruitment trends points out, companies today have more of a choice while hiring given the large number of management institutes that have sprung up. As he says, at times it makes sense to pick up people from these B schools because, more often than not, they’re willing to take up jobs that a graduate from an IIM may not want. So, while the top management consultancy firms or multinational banks take no chances plumping for an IIM graduate there are hundreds of other smaller companies willing to settle for less.

With more Indian students pursuing undergraduate courses overseas and staying back to complete their post-graduation studies too, the pressure on B Schools could ease further. Already there are reports of vacancies rising in some of the small institutes. One insider from IIM-Ahmedabad says the response to the institute’s one-year executive programme isn’t what it used to be a few years back. That could partly be the result of companies trying to rein in costs in a slowdown. But it’s also possible not too many find it a meaningful learning experience; there’s probably a lot more to be learnt on the job.

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