The Rise & Rise of SPJIMR Mumbai: An Report

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October 5, 2020 analyses the rise and rise of SPJIMR – and draws some lessons for other private B-schools. The recently released FT Global Masters in Management (MIM) Rankings 2020 have ranked IIM Ahmedabad’s PGPM program as the top ranked program in India, closely followed by IIM Calcutta’s PGPM, the PGDM of SPJIMR Mumbai and IIM Bangalore’s PGPM are tied together at No 3 position. Read this report below as to how did achieve this feat
The Rise & Rise of SPJIMR Mumbai

The recently released Financial Times (FT) Global Masters in Management (MIM) Rankings 2020 had a pleasant surprise. While IIM Ahmedabad’s PGPM program is the top ranked program in India, closely followed by IIM Calcutta’s PGPM, PGDM program of SPJIMR Mumbai and IIM Bangalore’s PGPM are tied together at No 3 position. All these four B-schools are ranked amongst Top 40 globally. How did SPJIMR, the only non-IIM B-school in the ranking, achieve this feat of getting ranked at par with IIMB, and within the Global Top 40? analyses the rise and rise of SPJIMR – and draws some lessons for other private B-schools.

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FT MIM Ranking 2020 – Global Top 5 and Indian B-schools Rankings
Before we go further, here is a quick look at the overall Rankings.

  • Rank 1: University of St Gallen
  • Rank 2: HEC Paris
  • Rank 3: Essec Business School
  • Rank 4: London Business School
  • Rank 5: Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University
  • Rank 20: IIM Ahmedabad
  • Rank 21: IIM Calcutta
  • Rank 36: SPJIMR Mumbai
  • Rank 36: IIM Bangalore
  • Rank 72: IIM Udaipur

It’s important to note that FT MIM Rankings rank only those management programs where prior work experience is not mandatory, and hence ranks the flagship 2-year PGDM programs of IIMs and other top B-schools in India.Globally, MIM programs are positioned for students keen on getting entry level management jobs and are not willing to wait for 5 years that are needed for an MBA. FT MIM Ranking is well accepted, and this was the 16th edition with 114 MiM programmes took part in the ranking process in 2020. Only those B-schools that have been accredited either by AACSB or Equis are eligible and ranked. The rankings is calculated according to information collected through two separate surveys. The first is completed by the business schools and the second by alumni. In total the ranking has 17 criteria. Alumni responses inform seven criteria that together contribute 58 per cent of the ranking’s total weight. The remaining 10 criteria are calculated from school data and account for 42 per cent of the weight.

Commenting on the stellar rankings, Dr Ranjan Banerjee said, “SPJIMR has always been a different Institute, and we pride ourselves on following a different model, in terms of recruiting students for values, a high degree of industry integration and an unusually deep faculty-student connect. Rankings like Financial Times value our placement outcomes. It looks at the outcome on graduation, and also at how your graduates do three years later. The fact that we score well on both of these suggests that, following a different path in terms of curriculum pedagogy and culture is serving us as an institute.”

Prof Renuka Kamath, Associate Dean-Academic Services and External Relations, who has been at the institute for more than 15 years, says "I've (or some of us have) seen the evolution of the Institute during my (our) time here. Four years back we took the bold decision of a brand change. While it gave the institute a fresh look, we ensured its DNA remained intact. The five strokes on our new logo represent our personality attributes of authentic, dynamic, grounded, innovative and socially sensitive. It has helped us differentiate ourselves." 

The Rise of SPJIMR on FT Rankings
SPJIMR’s high rank globally and tie position with IIM Bangalore is significant on following counts:

  1. Age: SPJIMR is a much younger institution than top three IIMs which were set up in 1960 and early 1970s. Both IIM Calcutta and IIM Ahmedabad were set up in 1961 while IIM Bangalore was set up in 1973. By contrast, SPJIMR was set up in 1981. Longevity matters to top schools because of a larger pool of senior alumni in positions of leadership.
  2. Resources: IIMs receive significant government funds, land and other benefits, while private B-schools relies mainly on contributions from founders/trustees, and fee incomes.
  3. Brand: In India, IIMs enjoy a great brand equity and trust in the minds of students, recruiters, media and general public. This creates a halo which has a positive impact on applications, placements, faculty recruitment and many other facets. 

In the context of these challenges, SPJIMR’s achievement of a tie with the venerated IIM Bangalore is highly creditable. This is not an isolated instance. In the latest QS rankings and in the last ranking, SPJIMR has finished ahead of IIM Lucknow.

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Key milestones over last few years
Dean Banerjee joined SPJIMR in 2015, an institution whichhad charted a path that was different from other top B-schools. In his leadership the institute found someone who built on the institute’s current strengths and led the institute to aspireto new milestones. Since then and now, he has been reappointed by the Board in 2020, some of the key of the key milestones that finally lead to this achievement are:

  • Higher Research focus with launch of a unique FPM program
  • A one of its kind Program for women who are returning to their career, Post Graduate Management Program for Women (PGMPW)
  • New curriculum with Liberal Arts, Design Thinking and other cutting-edge areas
  • Significant investments to attract best faculty
  • AACSB Accreditation in 2018.
  • QS Global Full-Time MBA Rankings 2020, where it was one of the 6Indian Institutes to get ranked along with IIMA, IIMB, IIMC, IIML and ISB. SPJIMR entered the QS list in 2018 and has been among the top 5 Indian institutes in QS for three years running.
  • A very high degree of alumni engagement. After co-creating its 2020 vision in 2015, the vision was socialized in alumni meets across the world, and alumni feedback was incorporated into future execution. A campaign arising out of this engagement, #iamspjimr, saw the institute trending nationally on twitter, and winning a global innovation award from AACSB for stakeholder engagement. Enhancement in placements and industry perception has come through far greater alumni satisfaction and engagement, and this is a direct result of proactive outreach.

When asked for key milestones in the journey to FT rankings, Dean Banerjee said, “It is difficult to give a single milestone, because this has been a journey of co-creation with the faculty and staff team.But if we were to pick out a few things, one would be the very high degree of industry embeddedness both in curriculum as well as in our internship projects and live projects. This reflects in terms of our placement outcomes. And we have improved steadily over the years. Moreover, we have broadened our industry coverage for placements and increased the number of sectors our students now have a choice of.”

He adds, “Regarding courses, we’ve had a few milestones. We believe that industry is valuing some of the curricular innovations that we have made, for example teaching Design Thinking to all our students as a mandatory course. Design Thinking inculcates in our students a comfort in dealing with ambiguity and finding solutions to unstructured problems.Another interesting introduction into our curriculum was management and liberal arts, a first in an MBA school. Teaching ethics has always been a challenge, but we do it by exposing our students to senior managers, including CEOs, where students can post pertinent questions to them in an intensive, many to one conversation.”

When asked the role AACSB accreditation played, Dr Banerjee said. “Yes, AACSB accreditation has been a milestone because (a) it made us eligible for the FT rankings, (b) but much more important through the course of AACSB, we have improved a lot of our internal processes.”

So how does SPJIMR compare with Top IIMs on parameters that every student looks at – placements and ROI? Let’s find out.

Comparison with Top 3 IIMs
Today, when it comes to Placements & ROI, SPJIMR is placed into the top league of B-schools, along with IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta. Numbers speak for themselves

Top Institutes
Fee ( lakhs)
Average Salary (Rs. lakhs)
ROI (Fee recovered in months)
IIM Ahmedabad
IIM Bangalore
IIM Calcutta

*2019 data. IIMA is yet to release 2020 data

Indeed, given its low fees and at par placements, SPJIMR is ahead of even the Top 3 IIMs when it comes to calculating student’s ROI. This has made sure that quality of students who apply to SPJIMR are at par with the best.

SPJIMR also scores highly on gender diversity, with over 40% female students in its entering two year batch, and a gender balanced faculty pool. Gender diversity is achieved through a balanced, value based admission process. The admission process emphasizes versatility, values and consistent academic performance, and is unique in that group interviews are followed. Attention is paid not only to what candidates say, but how well they listen, assimilate and integrate the views of others.

So, how does SPJIMR see its inevitable comparison with Top 3 IIMs? Dean Banerjee modestly responds to this pricky question as, “We want to say a few things here. One is that there is a lot we have to learn from established Institutes like from IIM Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Calcutta. We do not see ourselves as competing fiercely with IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta.Our goal is to become the best institute that we can be. All management institutes are in the business of pushing Indian management education to the global stage. And in that sense, we are more collaborative than competitive.Having said that, if you ask us to compare ourselves with top IIMs today, we think we do fairly well in terms of our admissions process, the currency of our curriculum, our internal culture and our industry integration. We believe we still have some way to go in terms of our research orientation and research output.”

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Focus on ‘Culture and growth’
SPJIMR prides itself on its collaborative internal culture. It is probably the only institute in the world where the entire faculty body meets weekly. Every alternate faculty meet is chaired by a different faculty member, who sets the agenda and brings his/her unique voice to the table.

SPJIMR is also one of the few institutes to break the faculty-staff divide. There is an annual faculty staff strategy meet where key initiatives are discussed. Faculty staff committees work together on key execution areas like infrastructure, technology and curriculum.

SPJIMR has been expanding its faculty base, going from 42 full time faculty to 63 (and counting) currently. A number of talented, freshly minted PHD s from the top IIMs have joined the institute in the last two years. The institute has been one of the first to initiate formal campus recruitment of doctoral students from the top IIMs. The blend of this pool along with the traditional strength of experienced and accomplished practitioner turned academic faculty gives SPJIMR a fairly unique and diverse faculty base.

The culture allows faculty to own areas of activity and create heroes in many roles. This has led to 3 global innovation awards from AACSB and AMBA in the last 4 years. Innovative activities like ‘digital detox’ an institute wide activity is which the entire community went off social media for a voluntary, day long detox are a product of this culture.

This results in an agile organization which is open to experimentation. In the wake of the pandemic, SPJIMR accomplished a transition to online teaching within fifteen days. Internal champions identified the problem, suggested a solution, got leadership buy in and executed the solution. A culture of experimentation and ownership, with leadership playing an enabling role, is something the institute is trying to cultivate at multiple levels.

Not just an IIM Clone
A natural question is - why do SPJIMR students get placements at par with Top 3 IIMs? For this answer, one has to go deep into the DNA of SPJIMR. While every B-school can teach from the packaged Harvard Cases, and standard textbooks, SPJIMR clearly believes that they are creating leaders of tomorrow, which are not groomed merely in the classroom.

SPJIMR Mumbai focusses on five key initiatives on Non Classroom Teaching-Learning:

  • Science of Spirituality–This course integrates traditional Indian spiritual wisdom with modern neuroscience. Students learn mindfulness and balance, and develop an awareness of mental models and enhance self awareness and personal mastery
  • ADMAP (Assessment and Development of Managerial and Administrative Potential) –Students run various aspects of institute functioning in committees mentored by faculty members. These managerial experiences enable them to learn how to ‘get things done’ and ‘influence without power’
  • DOCC (Development of Corporate Citizenship) –students do internships with NGOs across India-they learn to apply management principles to unstructured problems in severely resource constrained settings
  • Abyudaya (Unique pedagogic innovation that aims to foster social responsibility) –Students mentor children from nearby underprivileged areas. They learn to see the world through the eyes of a significant other, build mentoring skills, and develop an understanding of urban poverty
  • PG Lab (Helps in identifying own strengths and Appreciating individual differences)- A four day outbound program combines outdoor activities with in depth psychometric analysis, and results in the transition from ‘me’ to ‘we’.

Put together, these Non-Classroom pedagogies produce more business leaders than just managers through three distinct levels of learning - Self-awareness: How do you understand yourself?; Self-management: How do you reflect this awareness in your behaviour and interactions with others (inter personal) and with yourself (intra personal)?; Societal awareness: How do you understand societal systems and need? Programs like Abhyudaya and DOCC develop an understanding of urban and rural poverty, and help students understand both India- which lives in its metros- and Bharat-which lives in its villages and small towns.

No wonder Recruiters love to hire these SPJIMR graduates who can reflect, adapt, perform in the VUCA world of business and have social empathy which is so much needed in today’s context.

Not complacent, the road ahead
Buoyed by this International ranking, where is SPJIMR headed over the next 2-3 years…What lies ahead? Clearly SPJIMR is not complacent and going to rest on the laurels just yet. Having achieved this success in Indian, SPJIMR is now aiming for becoming a well-recognized global destination for MBA education.

“We hope to leverage the FT ranking and our location in Mumbai to become a much stronger destination for international students. We will enhance internationalization both in terms of incoming full-time students as well as enhance incoming and outgoing exchange with a larger number of foreign university partners,” says Dr Banerjee.

With strong industry relevant research, SPJIMR also has the ambitions to produce a new model of industry relevant research, and to create thought leadership out of India. “SPJIMR’s philosophy is to ‘influence practice’ and promote ‘value based growth’. The FT ranking has captured one aspect of influencing practice i.e. our graduates doing well in industry. The second aspect of practice influence is research which impacts practice, we must conduct and disseminate research that impacts the mental models of industry leaders. We are taking a lot of steps to produce industry relevant research which will position our faculty as thought leaders and impact the way Indian industry practices management.”

While SPJIMR is happy with the global rankings, it doesn’t see rankings as the final destination.  Says Dean Banerjee, “We have decided to build excellence on our own terms and let rankings be a consequence.In a world where many are chasing rankings (and losing their uniqueness), our success should give more institutes the self belief to carve one’s own trail, letting rankings and accreditation be a happy side effect.”Lessons for Indian B-schools

While these five B-schools in FT rankings have made India proud, missing in action are top institutions like XLRI Jamshedpur, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, MDI Gurgaon, IIT B-schools and many other well-known B-schools.

When asked what the strong points of Indian B-schools in global context are, Dean Banerjee said, “The quality of intake into the top Indian B-schools is very high. And we would argue that in terms of student pool selection, Indian B schools may be among the best in the world. This may not get captured in rankings. But it reflects in the job performance and the market performance of our students.”

Clearly Indian B-schools have the potential to be amongst the best in the world. As more B-schools attain the AACSB and EQUIS accreditation, we must strategize and achieve at least 10 rankings within Top 100 MIM programs in the world in the next 2-3 years and 15-20 Rankings by 2030. Global recognition, alliances and student admissions will follow. Golden days of Indian Management are ahead and these pioneering efforts of Top IIMs, ISB, SPJIMR will motivate others to excel in their niches and put India firmly on the global map.

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