"At MDI, we have the freedom to take the entrepreneurial plunge," he says. "We have professors who have been entrepreneurs themselves, or were a part of start-ups. The experiences they share and the mentoring they give us is virtually unique to this campus."
Spread over a 40-acre campus, MDI is a green island in the proliferating concrete jungle that is Gurgaon today. Established in 1973, it began on a low key with various training, consulting and research activities, starting its first programme, the National Management Programme for senior executives, only in 1988. The first post graduate programme, the PGPM, was launched in 1994, the Post Graduate Programme in Human Resource Management (PGP-HR) in 2004 and the Post Graduate Programme in International Management (PGP-IM) in 2006. For the last, MDI has collaborated with the European School of Management, France (ESCP-Europe).
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"We were set up with government funding, but now we are in charge of our own destiny," says Mukul P. Gupta, Director, MDI. "We are an autonomous school and thus enjoy a lot of independence as well as flexibility in our decision making. It gives us the bandwidth to innovate."
MDI alumni praise the institute's flexibility. "I was in the fourth batch," says Ajay Atreya, Vice President, TCS E-Serve Ltd, who did his PGPM in Marketing, passing out in 1999. "It was very encouraging as the management made an effort to learn and develop new curricula along with the students. Formal feedback sessions with students were the norm. It was refreshing." He also notes that since Gurgaon is a manufacturing hub, MDI's location provided ample opportunities to interact with industry. "The faculty was well connected with industry, making summer placements and on-ground training in the vicinity possible," he adds.
So too Vivek Raina, Director, Asia Pacific, Oracle, part of the 1998-2000 batch at MDI says this was the only institute barring the IIMs that offered diverse courses at the time. "I took up the elective on supply chain management, which was not offered by most B Schools in India then. MDI gave me the opportunity to do the course I wanted to pursue," he adds.
MDI was the first B-school in the country to start programmes in Energy Management and Public Policy Management. Having acquired a number of international partners, it has begun an annual 'international summer university' project from last year, at which students from its global partner institutes are invited to interact with those at MDI. This year it is also planning international conferences on 'Managing in Recovering Markets' to be held at different locations for three years.
Among extra curricular activities it holds the festival Illumina every year, which conducts market research in the guise of providing entertainment. Illumina includes a Diwali Mela, and is a favoured destination for many companies to carry out their research.
There is also Unnati, a mutual fund set up in 2001 and managed entirely by MDI students. It has raised a corpus of Rs 20 lakh from students and alumni and maintains two funds, Diversified and Mid-cap, benchmarked to the Sensex and the CNX-Mid-cap respectively. Those running it have to give regular presentations before the entire batch of students on sector outlook and recommend stocks to them.
"I had heard of Unnati and ever since I did, I wanted to be part of it," says student Soham Barman, 25, who hails from Kolkata. "It has established its brand among B-school students and also recruiters."
The current slowdown has impacted all B-schools and MDI is no exception.
Ashok Panjwani, Dean, Graduate Programmes says the institute is cushioning its impact by inviting more and more new companies for campus placements. For the last batch of 2011-13 students, 80 new companies were invited along with 74 regulars. The newcomers included the stars among e-commerce companies such as Flipkart and eBay, as well as niche companies such Naukri.com, Bristlecone, Langham Capital and Eli Lilly.
The average annual salary for the last batch was Rs 12.8 lakh in the PGPM course, Rs 11.8 lakh in the PGP-HR course and Rs 11.7 lakh in the PGP-IM course. The highest salaries for the three were Rs 21.8 lakh, Rs 16 lakh and Rs 16.3 lakh respectively.
"There was a time when a student could have had five job choices, which is no longer the case," says Gupta. "Students have to make their choices faster too. The definition of dream employer may change as could that of dream employee."
More changes are likely as MDI strives to constantly improve. B-schools have been criticized for admitting a preponderance of engineering graduates, and MDI intends to correct the bias.
Mukul Gupta agrees the common entrance test (CAT) for B-schools is skewed in favour of engineers. "Going ahead, though CAT will remain the exam for selection, the importance given to CAT in the total selection process at MDI will slowly start decreasing. Interviewing will be a more crucial tool than it is now," he says.