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Nuts and bolts

Nuts and bolts
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First Published: Fri, Nov 26 2010. 07 54 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Nov 26 2010. 07 54 PM IST
Since its establishment in 1961, IIM-A has rapidly developed both a reputation for excellence in education and a unique cultural tradition of its own. Important elements of this tradition include the signature architecture, campus rituals and rites and a long list of alumni and faculty that have included people famous for pursuits both management-oriented and otherwise. This is a quick snapshot of the people, places and traditions that make IIM-A unique:
The people
Renowned physicist and Ahmedabad native Vikram Sarabhai played a significant role in getting the institute situated in Ahmedabad. The first batch comprised 42 students picked from 4,000 applicants. They included C.K. Prahalad who would later go on to become a world-renowned management thinker. Legend has it that at one point in their academic year some of the older students went on strike for a day. They were protesting against the bad food. Sarabhai consoled them personally. The food remained the same.
Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy’s first job after graduating with a master’s from IIT Kanpur was at IIM-A’s computer centre. He worked as a chief systems programmer and was hired at a salary of Rs800 a month in 1969. Dancer Mallika Sarabhai, Vikram Sarabhai’s daughter, is also an alumni of the institute. She graduated in 1974 and then completed a doctorate in organizational behaviour from Gujarat University.
Best-selling authors Chetan Bhagat and Rashmi Bansal, and sports commentator Harsha Bhogle are some alumni who have gone on to do things not exactly in the syllabus. The institute has produced several business thinkers and managers. In a survey conducted in 2009, it was estimated that over 60% of all chief executives produced by the IIM system in India were graduates of IIM-A.
The geography
For the first one year of the institute’s history, the offices and skeleton staff operated out of Sarabhai’s house “The Retreat”, located in the Shahibaug area of the city. “The Retreat” would also house the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, while it was being established. Today the building houses part of the famous The Calico Museum of Textiles.
The main campus as seen today was built from 1962 and was designed by American architect Louis Kahn. Kahn’s work has been called monumental and monolithic in style. Kahn’s campus for IIMA was entirely constructed in bare red brick without any structural adornments, save long sweeping arches, high corridors and brutal play with light and shadows.
In memory of the architect, the central square of the campus, used for functions and the annual convocation ceremony, is called the Louis Kahn Plaza, or LKP for short. The campus is frequently visited by local and international students of design and architecture seeking to learn Kahn’s work. His other popular building is the National Assembly Building in Dhaka.
Across a road, the old campus is connected to a new campus that began to be occupied in 2003. The new campus, modelled out of bare concrete and some brickwork, comprises classrooms, offices and several dormitories. The two campuses are connected by an undergound tunnel that also serves as a makeshift gallery. Both old and new campuses also have tall service towers that are visible from some distance. The towers contain piping and water tanks.
The traditions
In the initial years, IIM-A worked in partnership with the Harvard Business School. This explains the institute’s dependence on the case method of teaching. But in addition to pedagogy this has also led to several traditions such as the Harvard Dinner every Friday night that is, theoretically, supposed to be a more elaborate affair than usual.
Each year the incoming batch participates in a series of talent competitions over several evenings that is called, however, Talent Night. This might be inspired by a similar event at Harvard.
First-year students are also subject to the WAC run. Written Analysis and Communication, or WAC, is a subject in which reports need to be submitted to a strict deadline, usually on weekend afternoons. Normally students can be seen running to submit printouts of reports in the classrooms. En route they have to battle obstructing seniors and the occasional bucket of water flung down from dorm room balconies.
This flinging of water, or dunking, is a constant event. And can often happen unexpectedly. Some leniency is shown towards people carrying paper documents or electronic devices. But not always.
Gujarat is a state that prohibits alcohol consumption. Yet the campus hosts frequent all-night dance parties that are, ostensibly, fuelled with non-alcoholic beverages.
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First Published: Fri, Nov 26 2010. 07 54 PM IST