IIPM, 1973-2014

Arindam Chaudhuri. Source: YouTube screengrab
Arindam Chaudhuri. Source: YouTube screengrab
Arindam Chaudhuri. Source: YouTube screengrab

The Indian Institute of Planning and Management has finally shut its doors to new admissions. On July 2, a notice appeared on the website of the controversy-riddled school announcing, “All IIPM campuses now only have old students and these campuses are being shut down as and when old batches finish their courses.” It added that the institution as such will be operational only in Delhi and will provide training for “corporates” that enter into “knowledge-sharing” collaborations with IIPM.

Since its inception by Arindam’s father Malayendra Kisor in 1973, the institute has been largely personality- and advertisement-driven, with little exposition of what went on inside. Arindam – at the centre of the IIPM cult today – himself graduated from there in 1992 and went on to become an honorary dean by 2004. In an interview to Frontline in 2009, he said that given a choice, he’d have relabelled the IIPM “Indian Institute of Planning and Administration of the National Economy”. He then proceeded to clarify that the institutes would not just groom managers with a “micro-level” vision but a “macro-level” vision to manage the national economy as well.

Goofy claims like this were often found in IIPM’s marketing and branding exercises. Its tagline, “Dare to think beyond”, was understood to imply that the government-run Indian Institutes of Management weren’t the only schools of management education in the country. At the same time, the IIPM was also constantly dogged by allegations of fraud and exploitation even as it did itself no favours by engaging in dubious exercises of accreditation.

In 2009, Arindam filed a defamation case against the Careers 360 portal, which had warned students against IIPM’s claims of awarding a degree from Buckingham University. The case was quashed by the Uttarakhand High Court. Two years later, Caravan magazine published an elaborate profile of Arindam, throwing in sharp relief the differences between what he’d been advertising students of the IIPM would get and what they actually got. Arindam replied with an absurd Rs.500-million lawsuit, that too from far-flung Silchar in Assam and not Delhi where both Caravan‘s publisher and IIPM were based.

In 2013, he was able to obtain an interim court order from Gwalior against supposedly defamatory statements in articles on Caravan, Faking News, Firstpost, Careers 360, The Economic Times,The Indian Express, Kafila, Outlook and, somehow, the University Grants Commission. However, the case became infamous for the ex parte injunction it involved, with the court agreeing to block several websites without giving them a hearing.

Things began to go downhill for Arindam in September 2014 when a PIL was filed, which eventually led to IIPL’s shuttering. The litigant, B. Mahesh Sharma, alleged that IIPM was misleading its students by falsely advertising that it was licensed to award BBA and MBA degrees. The only endorsement IIPM had received was from an ‘International Management Institute, Belgium’ – which Arindam had set up and, in turn, wasn’t even recognised in Belgium. The Delhi High Court ruled that Arindam would have to prominently display a notice on the IIPM site that the institute is not allowed to award BBA and MBA degrees.

An incredulous Arindam had exclaimed after the verdict that IIPM had never advertised that it offers BBAs or MBAs, but by this time the shepherd had cried ‘wolf’ often enough. So as IIPM finally winds down, sample these words from the Caravan profile, by Siddhartha Deb.

Arindam’s management factory produces something less tangible, but more resonant than durables or consumer products. It takes people who have a fair bit of money but little cultural or intellectual capital and promises to turn them into fully fledged partners in the corporate globalised world. The students at IIPM are not from impoverished backgrounds. They can’t be because the courses are expensive. Many come from provincial towns, from small-business families that have accumulated wealth and now feel the need to upgrade themselves so they can compete in the realm of globalisation. Arindam gives youth from these backgrounds a chance to tap at IBM laptops, wear shiny suits and polished shoes, and go on foreign trips to Geneva or New York.

All this involves a considerable degree of play-acting, and the students spend the most impressionable years of their lives in what is in essence a toy management school—mini golf course, mini gym, mini library. But play-acting is what the Indian middle and upper classes are doing anyway, wandering about the malls checking out the products purveyed by more established, easeful play-actors like Tommy Hilfiger and Louis Vuitton. Arindam’s fortune, ultimately, was built on the aspiration and ressentiment of the Indian petite bourgeoisie.