What would you make of a B-school that is just 10 years young in a domain where age supposedly equals pedigree? IIM-A and IIM-C were established in 1961; XLRI, Jamshedpur, in 1949. How would you regard a B-school whose courses are not formally 'recognised' by the All India Council for Technical Education? Which refuses to offer the regular two-year MBA programme? And, horror of horrors, refuses even to participate in any Indian ranking of B-schools (except those where only perceptions are taken into account)? And yet claims that it is not just among the best in India, but in the world too? You would probably dismiss it.
But if it is the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, you believe what it says, Period. It has been ranked No. 7 and No. 8 in the last two BT Best B-school surveys. And for the past five years, it has been ranked among the top 20 global B-schools by the Financial Times, a spectacular achievement by any measure. It has a (visiting) faculty roster that makes other schools turn green with envy, and students who are among the best in the country. How was this unachievable achieved? The story has been told and retold ad nauseum, yet when a book on ISB comes along written by Pramath Raj Sinha, it becomes irresistible.
Sinha, a partner at McKinsey & Co. when the ISB project was launched in 1996 - the school itself started in 2001 - became an academic, ISB's founding dean, at the insistence of Rajat Gupta, the school's founding chairman (and now fighting insider trading charges in the US). By all accounts, he was as good a dean as he was a manager. That Sinha is a good storyteller becomes clear from this book. The first paragraph resembles the start of a Robert Ludlum thriller: "On a damp summer day in 1998, a small column of cars pulled up at the side of the road next to a low hill in Gachibowli, about 10 miles northwest of the centre of Hyderabad.
A group of people got out of the cars and stood looking at the hill, some holding umbrellas against the drizzling rain, studying the scene and talking in low voices." You would hardly liken that to the beginning of a story on founding a B-school. Sinha manages to maintain the same tone and pace through the book, peppering it with anecdotes on how things progressed and on lessons learned, some of which are lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and managers. For instance, Sinha recounts how when he was CEO of the project, his approach reflected his consultant background. He would come up with multiple options on each issue and ask the Board to choose.
That was when ITC's Chairman Yogi Deveshwar took him aside and reminded him of his role: "Pramath, you are the CEO. Your job is to come to us with decisions, not ask us to make decisions." A more valuable tip than anything a B-school could teach you. What appeals most is Sinha's honesty. He readily accepts that ISB has succeeded beyond the expectations of its founders. And at the same time, admits that many of the early goals are yet to be reached.
This candour makes the book an eminently readable one. And useful, too. Talking of rankings, IIM-A is the only other Indian B-school in the FT Global MBA rankings, at No. 11, nine slots ahead of ISB. But that is not the point. The point is: two of the world's top 20 B-schools are from India, the same number as from Spain, UK and France; China has one; the US 11. But as many experts will tell you, we need many more. With Great Lakes Institute of Management opening in Chennai, and with ISB's second campus slated to open in Mohali this year, we seem to be on the way. If you want to join them, pick up this book as a first step.
Courtesy: Business Today