Monday, October 10, 2005


There is a huge crop of self declared "gurus" in India. Many in the religious-spiritual regime, others in down-to-earth things like higher education. Education gurus start "institutes" and "universities" for higher education in engineering, management or medicine. Higher education and all its ancillary industries are cash cows. There is no lack of students eager to get that B.E or B.Tech or MBA and get into the IT industry or land some lucrative management job. Students and their parents are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for a degree and often fail to check the quality of the institutes or programs they sign up for.

Then there is the ancillary business of coaching classes. The IITs (Indian institutes of Technology) and IIMs (Indian institutes of Management) are government funded institutes which are ranked highest in their respective fields. To get into one of them you have to take very competitive entrance exams. So there are coaching classes to help you prepare for these exams. The other institutes either have their own entrance exams or use the scores for the entrance exams for IIT and IIM, as a basis for admission. So there are more coaching classes to prepare you for all sorts of other entrance exams.

Naturally there is a lot of competition among the institutes to bag students. So the institutes tend to spend a lot of money on advertisements. With a huge advertisement budget and other significant chunk probably going into the pockets of these education gurus (who are the founders of these institutes), there isn't much left to improve the quality of the programs themselves. So some of these institutes tend to boast a little in these ads, hype about their campus, their program, use faulty rankings here and there. Indian media since it is so occupied with important things like Hollywood, Bollywood, cricket etc., does not bother to check the veracity of these advertisements appearing in their papers.

But what happens when someone calls the bluff? What happens when a small magazine publishes a fact checking article about the claims of a management institute in India? The drama unfolding this weekend gave us the answer and the answer is yet to unfold completely.

How? When? Where?... Check out the details on this post by Amit Verma. It all started when JAM published an article exposing the false claims made by IIPM, a management institute with campuses in many cities in India, in the full page ads that appeared in newspapers. Another blogger Gaurav linked the article in his blog post. The institute (and it is not clear whether it is the current students, the management or alumni) launched a hideous assault with fake blogs created only a few days ago to discredit the article. Instead of responding to the alarming facts raised in the article, they choose to attack the editor of the article, Rashmi, by posting lewd comments on her blog. They also pressured Gaurav by bullying him to remove his posts from his blog, sending him stupid legal notices (via email!) and threatening demonstrations in front of IBM (Gaurav's employer). Gaurav has since resigned his job at IBM (see related post on his blog).

The "management-gate" scandal is still unfolding. Lots of bloggers have voiced their support for Rashmi and Gaurav by posting comments and posting about the story on their blogs. IIPM so far has not responded to any of the specific facts mentioned in the JAM article. The kind of responses the fake bloggers posted on Rashmi's blog and the way IIPM bullied Gaurav is really disgusting. It is hard to understand why they would do such things which would only result in damaging their reputation further.

For these institutes, the degrees are simply products to be marketed by advertisement. The "pitch" is all that matters. The quality is irrelevant. Anything that undermines the "pitch" then is a big threat and must be crushed by all means. Unfortunately so far, their game plan seems to be working.

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