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As I write this article I am sitting at the Ahmedabad airport waiting for the 18.15hrs Indigo flight back to Delhi.  Today is 18th September (Friday) and five days back I landed in Ahmedabad to attend a course in the country’s most premier management education college – “IIM Ahmedabad”.  I was taking the course –“Leading Professional Service Firms” to learn tools and techniques to manage and lead better my consulting firm – International Business Advisors (www.ibadvisors.co).

I landed on September 13th (Sunday) and as expected from a premier college, the arrangements to pick up from airport were made.  The cab driver was waiting with a placard of my name and underneath written – IIM Ahmedabad.  I had been thinking for a long time to do a management course and since I run a consulting firm, doing it full time or even doing it as a one year MBA was practically difficult. 

The idea was to do a course that was relevant, short, and impactful and which could be done without substantial disruption to my professional and personal life.  Whilst I had been searching for a course that could meet these conditions, I happened to bounce off IIMA website and found this course.  This course looked completely appropriate to my areas of business, combining the aspects of a professional services firm with a flavor of management education.

While wondering whether the course would meet the objectives and feeling little jittery since I was attending a course after a long time, the cab entered the IIM Ahmedabad campus.  The campus has an old wing and a new wing.  The old one is where the regular MBA classes are held (where the movie 2 States was shot).  The new one has been built quite recently that is primarily for students who do post graduate management programmes including the management development programmes like ours.  The campus is well laid, extremely beautiful, open and green when you enter.   

I entered the campus and walked to the IMDC (International Management Development Centre) where it took me not more than 5 minutes to complete the check in formalities.  The receptionist handed over a beautiful Samsonite laptop carry bag mentioning that is our starter kit with all the study material.  The porter collected my luggage, took me to the lift and there we were – inside my room within 15 minutes.  Once the porter left the room, I didn’t know I was about to be taken on a completely different experiential journey of my life.

Before moving out from Delhi, I had received the email from IIMA giving us some case studies that we were supposed to discuss during the first two days.  The Harvard Business School developed these case studies and IIMA had access to them through some collaboration.  Harvard also does this course and IIMA was doing it for the first time in India.  I took a shower and pulled out the study material.  Along with it was a small booklet that contained the complete program schedule (day wise), list of faculty along with their contact details and the list of attendees for this programme.  There were people from BIG4s, top law firms, Accenture, TCS and other mid-size accounting and law firms. 

The programme started at 5PM and we were asked to introduce us along with a mention of our role model.  After the tea break, the first case study was to be taken by Professor Ashish Nanda - Director of IIMA, ex-Harvard professor. 

The case study method is very unique of IIMA, where students are taught basis cases that are real life and have been developed by the professors at IIMA.  Since IIMA has close nexus and a tie-up with Harvard, they have access to their case studies as well and those are a part of the IIMA curriculum.  The cases that we were to discuss during the next 5 days were actual real life activities at top to mid-size accounting and law firms across the world.  These activities were closely watched, recorded, researched and written as case studies by Harvard professors. 

The first session was an experience that is beyond my words to explain, taken by IIMA Dean.  The way he conducted the session completely blew the entire class off its feet.  Those 45 minutes that he explained the case using role-plays and anecdotes was something that none in the entire class of 23 students had experienced. 

Once the class got over we were given 3 case studies that were supposed to be read and discussed amongst the groups that all of us were put into.  The professor (‘prof’ as they are called by the students) told that it takes around 3 hours to completely decipher and analyse the case.  What it meant was 9 hours of study material to be done before 8.45AM the next day morning.  We were all shocked since everyone had travelled from some city and it was quite challenging to hear that we were to spend 9 hours after the dinner.  He smiled and concluded the session by saying – “Welcome to IIM Ahmedabad”!!

The next 5 days were completely exhausting but really enriching to the core.  The case study based pedagogy was not only interesting but quite fascinating as well because we, as part of the chartered accountancy course had never been exposed to this type learning.  Even the lawyers and some techies in the class had no formal management education experience and everyone enjoyed it thoroughly. 

We had a very tight schedule since after the class we were reading and discussing 3 case studies (i.e. 9 hours of home work).  On an average everyone had 5 hours of sleep everyday with tremendous pressure for the class next day.  The night before the next day class that had to be taken by Prof Ashish Nanda was most terrified since he was the one who kept everyone on their toes. 

In one of the case studies, Prof made us do role-plays where anyone was picked up by him and then made to behave how the way that person would have actually behaved in the real situation.  This type of teaching that involves analysis of actual facts through discussions, role-plays and research-based anecdotes was highly pragmatic and am sure the learning would remain with all us for a very long time. 

In one of the nights after finishing our study material, we thought of visiting the old campus.  The Prof had advised all of us to visit the campus late night to check the campus’s vibrancy.  It was 1.15AM the third night when we finished discussing our case studies and few of us thought of going around the campus.  The new campus is linked with the old campus through an underground tunnel that is walk able.  We reached around 1.30AM and found the cafeteria almost full with students sitting in various groups with their laptops and it appeared each of the group had its case study to discuss.   It was almost 4.5 hours we have had dinner, we were hungry and ordered some chicken lollipop, egg Frankie and veg momos.  All the items were well cooked and served hot, freshly prepared. 

Just 2 minutes from the cafeteria we could hear the noises of a lot of students shouting and hooting.  After completing our meal, we went and noticed to our surprise a football match with some 20 students playing and around 30 students outside the field cheering them up.  What a sight it was to see so many students enjoying their hectic work schedule with sports at 1.30 in the night.  The professors told us that students at IIMA generally get 4 hours of sleep every day because the kind of work/study pressure they are put to doesn’t allow them to sleep more.  The entire college studies on the basis of case studies and the rigor is much more than what we were experiencing.

It was exhilarating to roam inside the IIM Ahmedabad campus, meet one of the best faculties of the country, experience the case study based approach, stay in one of the most wonderfully conceptualized and designed educational campus of the country, having food in the cafeteria with some brilliant minds who were busy discussing the idea to incubate the next Flipkart or Snapdeal of the country.  It was a journey that I would cherish my entire life.

And as all good things come to an end, the course also ended with some great learnings that I am taking back with myself and hopefully implement them in my organization.  We were given our participation certificates and some very thoughtful mementos including a t-short, group photo that each one of us would cherish the entire life, all because each of them has IIM Ahmedabad printed on it. 

It was great to be a part of this journey.  I wish someday I also get an opportunity to teach the students of this institution and that would be the day I would say, I am truly a part of IIM Ahmedabad. 

Good luck and stay blessed…

Authored by Nimish Goel who by profession is a qualified chartered accountant but by passion, is an active blogger.  Nimish has worked with EY and PwC in India and has also worked with KPMG in Europe.  He now runs a consulting company (www.ibadvisors.co) and manages his blog www.nimishgoel.com.        


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Nimish Goel
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