December 4, 2012 is an unforgettable day in Sourav Chakraborthy's college life at T A Pai Management Institute (TAPMI). It was the last day of placements at TAPMI and only a few students were yet to get an offer letter in hand. Sourav, who is now working as a senior Pricing Analyst at TE Connectivity, was the student placement coordinator of TAPMI at the time. Tensions at Placement office ran high at 1:30 a.m. on December 4 when Sourav received a crucial piece of information from a premier consulting company, which was about to conduct the placement drive the following morning. The company informed Sourav that the candidates would not be able to attend the interview unless they submit the academic records signed by Dr. Natarajan, Director of TAPMI.
Sourav messaged Dr. Natarajan at 2:00 a.m. from his cell phone saying, 'Sir, we need you before 5:30 in the morning.' What happened next is still unbelievable for Sourav. Dr. Natarajan called him back immediately and arrived at the placement office within half an hour along with all the necessary documents to sign. "He drove into the placement office, where our chairman of placement and I were sitting and having a quick discussion over a cup of tea on that cold winter morning. Dr. Natarajan stayed with us till 5:30 a.m. and ensured that we finished everything on time," remembers Sourav. This goes to show the level of commitment from Dr. Natarajan and the management team of TAPMI. This is one of the reasons why TAPMI always achieves 100 percent placement.
That year, 56 companies visited TAPMI and whoever opted for placements secured high profile jobs with lucrative packages. The performance of TAPMI students to achieve the 100 percent mark in placements has been steadily rising and the subsequent years saw a considerable increase in the number of companies visiting the campus for recruitment. In 2013, it went up to 72 and 123 companies in 2014. During this course of time the average salary for students who were placed from TAPMI campus has gone up and is hovering somewhere close to 9.00 lakhs per annum. This does not include the two foreign placements, which are in the region of about 16-17 lakhs. "Until the last person is placed, we do not declare that our placement drive is over. So far, we have placed 380 students in the current graduating batch and we will place the rest before the end of this January," claims Dr. Natarajan, who is always confident and gives his 100 percent to make sure that everyone in his campus walks out with a good package in hand at the end.
"I decided to join TAPMI as it is one of the best colleges in Tier II. It has been consistently providing good placements for the students and its academic culture combined with world class faculty is well known among MBA aspirants in the country,"says Sourav. With eye-catching numbers in the placements and the management's consistent efforts to introduce innovative learning methods, today, TAPMI is known as one of the best in the country for management studies. TAPMI is also one of just two Indian B-schools - the other being the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad - which are accredited by the U.S.-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The accreditation implies the global standard of education.
However, 34 years ago in Manipal, Karnataka, when the institute was established with a commitment to empower rural people, the road ahead was not a smooth one. "When T A Pai, an eminent minister in Indira Gandhi's government, realized that quality management institutions like IIMs were not setting up camp in this region, he wanted to setup a management institute in Manipal for the rural people," says Dr. Natarajan. In 1980, T A Pai established Manipal Management Institute and after his demise, the management renamed the institute to T A Pai Management Institute of Management.
The Making of Real TAPMI
Within a few years after the operations commenced, the management realized that the founder's vision could not be sustained, as it was difficult to get good faculty members and to fill the seats. Soon, the institute dropped its social objectives and entered the mainstream MBA programs. "The main reason for the shift was to survive. Initially, the program was taught like any university’s MBA school with more classroom teaching and theory based learning. Later on in the revamping stage, we replicated IIM model of curriculum with greater emphasis on case teaching and case analysis," remembers Dr. Natarajan. To implement this strategy, the institute hired faculty members from premier management institutions in the country, who have industry experience and training abilities to handle case based teaching. Slowly, the institute started picking up in this mode of teaching and today, the cases written by TAPMI members are in Harvard Business School's publishing website.
"We went from teaching mode to case learning mode. That was the first shift that happened in the decade of 90s," says Dr. Natarajan. The taste of initial success encouraged the institute to move towards experiential mode in a broader sense with more role-plays and simulations. Students being encouraged to write cases based on their experiences in the organization. While role-plays are confined to behavioral courses like organization behavior and organization theory and practice, simulations are confined to marketing management. "Case preparations and learning go hand in hand, so that the students can understand the meaning of converting experience into concepts much better," explains Dr. Natarajan.
Focusing on Experiential Learning
In early 2009, in its 25th year, TAPMI took a landmark step in its history by shifting its operations to a new scenic 42-acre residential campus in Manipal, which gave the institute the luxury to emphasize more on experiential learning. They established a finance lab with 16 Bloomberg terminals, which is one of the largest of that kind in India, along with several new courses. One among them is the Student Managed Investment Course (SMIC) where the students are given cash to form a firm and then trade in approved stocks of NSE and BSE. This gives students a hands-on experience in trading and the institute evaluates their performance based on the money they generate from the stock market and on the strategies used to perform trading. “The Bloomberg terminals and the financial course combined is a great innovation and more students are now opting for these kinds of courses,” says Dr. Natarajan.
By introducing more simulation programs like SMIC, the institute is planning to make their programs highly experiential and less classroom oriented. Hence, the institution has been forcing its faculty members to become facilitators and to that purpose, they have been sending them to Harvard for training to understand the methods of using case based teaching. “The management and professors are particular about three things – knowledge, the source of knowledge and how do you integrate the knowledge with the final frontier. Thus, I can say TAPMI's learning process is one the best in this country,” says Sourav.
Like Sourav, many undergraduates and working professionals in India are looking for a better position in their career. However, due to the stagnant state university curriculum and lack of practical approach in the pedagogy, many management institutions in the country are struggling to produce quality workforce today. Those who have challenged the conventional teaching methodologies have always succeeded and one of the prominent examples is TAPMI. "The day students enter into the campus, the learning process starts and the day they exit they are ready to manage and learn further," says Dr. Natarajan. The learning process in one's life never ends and for those who want to learn the art of business, the door of TAPMI is always open with an incomparable record of contributing proactive managers and lifelong learners to the society.
He is the Director of T A Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal. He has close to 30 years of work experience, of which 15 years in Managerial Cadre in FMCG industries and 15 years in Management teaching in TAPMI, Manipal and IIM Indore. He obtained his Doctorate in Management from Manipal University. He holds a PGDRM (IRMA) and MA-Econ (JNU).