Indian Institute of Planning and Management advertising and blogging controversy
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The Indian Institute of Planning and Management advertising and blogging controversy involves media investigations of statements in IIPM print advertisements related to salaries, job placements, quality of education, and visiting professors. It is one of the first blogging controversy|blogging controversies in India. The controversy started in October 2005, when an article taking an in-depth look at the statements by IIPM in the press advertisements was published in JAM Magazine. The article was written by Arjun Ravi and edited by Rashmi Bansal. Later another blogger, Gaurav Sabins, an employee of IBM who published Vantage Point, posted this article in his blog with a link to the article on the JAM website. Officials at IIPM read the post on Sabnis's blog and threatened to burn IBM laptops and Sabnis was forced to quit his job. The event caused uproar in the Indian Blogging Community who supported Sabnis and Bansal. Later, other studies by Careers 360 Magazine (2009), MBA Channel (2009) argued that IIPM's claims in the ads were unjustified.
Sequence of Events
The statements of IIPM related to "salaries, placement records being better than IIMs, world class education, professors from foreign universities" in its print advertisement was initially challenged by Rashmi Bansal, an IIM Ahmedabad alumni and editor of a Mumbai-based monthly published JAM.[n 1] In 2005, an article titled "IIPM: The Truth about IIPM Tall Claims" was printed in JAM which challenged the advertising statements made by IIPM. The JAM article called IIPM's print advertisements "tall claims"—IIPM's rankings were questioned as being from 2003; IIPM's Mumbai and Delhi campuses were just buildings with no landscaping or swimming pools as claimed; IIPM's fees were so high that the "FREE" in their ads made little sense; Faculty, degree and placement information on the advertisements were questioned. Additionally, the JAM article wrote that IIPM has not been accredited by any Indian accreditation agency such as AICTE, UGC or under other state acts. JAM further stated that all IIPM students do not get placed by IIPM, contradicting the information provided by its Dean, Arindam Chaudhuri to the Times News Network. According to the article, JAM spoke to various companies featured in the IIPM website's Placements section, and reported that many of these companies have never hired from the IIPM campus or branches.
Gaurav Sabnis, an Indian blogger[n 2], and an Indian Institute of Management Lucknow alumnus, linked that article. Three months later, IIPM threatened to sue Sabnis for libel if the postings were not removed from his blog. Sabnis refused to remove his postings, and further stated that IIPM contacted his employer, IBM, and allegedly threatened to publicly burn the IBM Laptop Computers they had purchased from IBM unless the posts were removed. IBM is yet to confirm this threat. Sabnis stated that IBM did not pressure him to remove the blogpost, but he decided to quit his job as he did not want IBM to suffer bad publicity through his actions. This action generated spontaneous support for Sabnis from bloggers. On 11 October 2005, IIPM became the highest ranked search term on Technorati.
Many Indian bloggers stood by Bansal and Sabnis arguing that it is a litmus test for freedom of speech in India. On 12 October 2005, Hindustan Times reported that "All India Dean" A. Sandeep was indeed planning to "take legal action against the blogger for defamation". However, on 13 October 2005 Indian Express reported A.Sandeep as saying that he had no idea of any legal notices
BusinessWorld, a business magazine in India, conducted an independent verification  of the claims made by IIPM in its print advertisements, and wrote that many of the claims made by IIPM are questionable.
(Also reported in News Today (Chennai).)
Controversial elements in IIPM Advertisements
Critics such as JAM have challenged a number of elements in IIPM print advertisements:
- Infrastructure: IIPM states in its print advertisements and on its web site that its campuses have infrastructure like swimming facilities and 1000 seat auditoriums. Detractors state tjat such infrastructure is only available in its New Delhi Campus. IIPM has stated that New Delhi is the only campus, the rest are branches, but the IIPM web page on infrastructure refers to all branches as campuses.
- IIPM's branches in Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad do not have swimming pools, or 1000 seat auditoriums.
- Placements: Placement information on the IIPM advertisements and web site mention that a number of companies have recruited its students. JAM magazine and other critics say they have spoken to the companies mentioned, and these companies have either denied going to the IIPM campus or branches or having recruited anyone from IIPM before they finished the IIPM course.
- Not Accredited: IIPM is not accredited with the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), but in its print advertisements this is mentioned in very small print.
- Non-Indian MBA Degree: IIPM does not offer any degrees in India. The MBA degree is conferred by IMI, Belgium. AICTE says that it is illegal for IIPM to offer foreign degrees without AICTE approval, which has not been granted.
- Right to Name': The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) said that IIPM does not have the right to use the words "Indian Institute" in its name without central government approval.
- Rankings: IIPM used the 2003 Outlook C-Fore B-School survey where the IIPM Delhi campus was ranked in the top 10, but Outlook has withdrawn these rankings, and has published two caution notices in 2005 warning students about such withdrawal. On the outlook site (requires free registration) Outlook says:
Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) doesn't disclose facts truly and correctly. Under notice to them, we are withdrawing all the rankings given to IIPM forthwith.
- Outlook states that: IIPM doesn’t figure in any of the Outlook – C Fore Business School rankings for the year 2004.
- Free Laptops: IIPM offers free laptops to students. The cost of the courses, at Rs. 5.26 Lakh for the MBA course and Rs. 8.85 Lakh for the BBA, is one of the highest in India. Critics say this makes the laptops anything but free.
- Faculty: Most of the faculty is IIPM alumni, and the average age is 27. No verifiable data was found by Businessworld on any research conducted by IIPM faculty.
- Taught by world class faculty: From the Businessworld article:
Faculty from the names that IIPM advertises so heavily - Harvard, Columbia, Wharton, Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford et al. - do not actually 'teach' at IIPM. Instead of picking a subject and teaching it over some weeks, as is the practice at the Indian School of Business, they just collect students at an auditorium and give a one-time lecture.
Coverage in the Indian Media
IIPM's official response to the controversy was to state that the controversy was motivated by jealousy of IIPM on the part of IIM alumni and professors. It issued the following statement:
"We are stunned as to how the people from IIMs, who are the most pampered people of India, suffer from so much inferiority complex from IIPM that, given the first opportunity to pen something (be it the so-called IIM L professor Amit Kapoor, or ex-IIM students like Rashmi or Gaurav and all the other IIM students on the net and other media), they stoop down so low as to write relentless lies about us and spread baseless rumours about IIPM. But beyond a point, IIPM cannot allow this kind of shallow rumour mongering to go on and had to take an action. IIPM always believed in intellectual debating and not in false allegations with defamatory ulterior motives. Therefore, in the general interest of our existing students, as a policy decision we have decided that we will take legal action against any form of media trying to spread baseless lies and rumours about us with malicious intent. For the rest, our law firms will decide on how best to proceed and bring such liars to justice. About Gaurav Sabnis, all we have to add is that yes, we approached IBM and asked them to take proper action against someone spreading baseless lies against a reputed institution. They did what they must have deemed fit after their internal examinations and procedures."
Following this statement being made public on certain blogs and mailing-lists, several journalists published stories - Sruthijit KK's large piece in Mumbai daily DNA being the first .
Businessworld came out with an article in its 31 October 2005 issue titled "When the Chickens come home" . In addition to reporting on the controversy, it investigated the claims made by IIPM in its advertisements. It found IIPM less than forthcoming with information. (Rashmi Bansal is mentioned in that article as a contributing editor of Businessworld, though she did not write this particular article.)
Outlook Magazine's October 31, 2005 edition carried an article called "Bite in The Blog Bark", using the controversy to wonder: "The war has raised a flurry of questions — are blogs personal diaries in the public domain or can they be legislated?".
CNBC TV18 carried a story on The Tech Show highlighting "Indian Blog Wars" which included an interview with Rashmi Bansal. The channel subsequently carried two exclusive news reports: 1. The Indian University Grants Commission (UGC) was unhappy with IIPM for claiming to award Bachelors and Masters degrees which only UGC - affiliated institutions have the right to confer.  2. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) said that IIPM does not have the right to use the words "Indian Institute" in its name without central government approval.
In June 2008, S.Mitra Kalita in an op-ed column in livemint.com (a Hindustan Times and Wall Street Journal joint venture) gives a mention to the JAM and IIPM issue.
IIPM states that its infrastructure is cutting edge. According to IIPM, students learn the very latest in management techniques using the very best in equipment and teaching. According to the institute, its infrastructure including classrooms, teaching aids, libraries, electronic libraries, IT equipment like Wi-fi and laptops, and leisure equipment like gymnasiums and swimming pools measure up to world class standards.
Detractors have noted non-existent infrastructure and misrepresentation in promotional messages. Many of these criticisms relate to the infrastructure in centres other than its New Delhi campus.
A Jam Magazine investigation claimed that contrary to the impressions put out by IIPM's advertisements, the institute's Mumbai centre is only a four storey building (which IIPM refers to as "tower" in its advertisements) with a parking lot. It also claimed that IIPM was advertising its free laptops and Wi-Fi before they actually started providing them to students. It also pointed out that the fees paid by students is very high by Indian standards and cover the price for the laptops many times over. Businessworld confired that, "According to an admission counsellor, IIPM charges its students Rs 5.26 lakh for its MBA course and Rs 8.85 lakh for its BBA +MBA integrated course, making it one of the most expensive management courses in the country."
The Businessworld article  pointed out the discrepancy between IIPM's use of the words "campus" and "branch". IIPM's advertisements never make it clear that many of the facilities advertised, like swimming pools and gymnasiums, are available only in its New Delhi campus and not in its other branches though students at all centres pay the same fees.
"I don't know about the swimming pools and 1000 capacity auditorium. All I know is that my friend who just got into IIPM Bangalore is regreting about joining it. The college doesn't have a campus in the first place. It doesn't even have hostel facilities for first year students who are accommodated as paying guests. What's worse the food comes in tiffin carriers with terrible culiniaries." - Friend of a first year student of IIPM (Batch 2008)
Position in Indian B-School Rankings
- The Business Barons B-School Study 2004 (Source: BUSINESS BARONS. January 31, 2005; pg 65) ranked the Indian Institute of Planning & Management (IIPM) 8th overall in India. Five parameters were used for the qualitative rankings - infrastructure, placement salaries commanded, depth of industry interface, quality of course contents and quality of students.
- Business Today-ACNielsen ORG-Marg's 2004 listing of India's top 30 B-schools (Source: Business Today. October 10, 2004; pg 96) ranked IIPM Mumbai at 23rd and IIPM Delhi the 30th. The schools were ranked using ACNielsen's Winning Brands model. - - Respondents were asked to rank 30 shortlisted B-schools on eight parameters - reputation, success of placement, quality of placement, infrastructure, faculty, teaching methodology and specialisation and admission eligibility. Based on the scores on different parameters, the model calculates the Brand Equity Index (BEI) for each school. - - - The Outlook C-Fore B-School survey had ranked IIPM's Delhi campus in the top 10 among several parameters in 2003, but IIPM advertisements generalised these rankings for all IIPM campuses. After complaints made by IIPM students and alumni, C-Fore issued a clarification removing IIPM from its survey, stating that it had "received serious complaints about the veracity of information given by them". IIPM continued to advertise rankings even after C-Fore had removed it from its survey. Link (requires free registration) - - Outlook Magazine has twice published caution notices in 2005 informing students and all related parties about the withdrawal of the rankings. Outlook also stated that they have also "come across instances, where the institute doesn't disclose facts truly and correctly".
IIPM is one of the largest spenders on advertising in India. According to The Economic Times, the institute was the seventh highest print advertiser for the month of September 2005 spending Rs. 3 crore (30 million). It buys full-page print ads in The Times of India as well as the Hindustan Times, The Telegraph and The Hindu. It increases the frequency of advertising in the May to July period when universities begin admissions for their academic programs. In May 2005, the institute had an ad spend of Rs. 5 crore (Rs. 50 million), making it the largest advertiser in the print media for that month.
It usually runs full-page advertisements. These advertisements are notable for:
- Large amounts of detailed text: IIPM advertisements typically include a large amount of text and many tables. Some advertisements also include an essay by Arindam Chaudhuri or Dr. Malay Chaudhuri on economic or social topics. These essays have covered topics such as the existence of an 'MBA Mafia', corruption among politicians, and prescriptions for economic and social reform. See this link.
- Rankings: Mentions IIPM's rankings on various parameters of various B-school ranking surveys. In the fine print of its advertisements, it mentions that the institute believes that it is #1 in India in terms of course content, global linkages and industry interface but that this has not been acknowledged by official rankings because of the 'inferiority complex' and the 'intellectually dwarfed unquestioning attitudes' that the industry and media in India have developed towards the IIMs.
Bloggers have alleged that the mainstream media does not investigate the claims made by IIPM for fear of losing advertising revenue.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Barun Roy (2008). Beginner's Guide to Journalism. Pustak Mahal. p. 46. ISBN 9788122306842. http://books.google.com.sg/books?id=u4anImQkPRYC&pg=PA46&dq=iipm.
- ↑ Schwertfeger, Bärbel (2009-07-07). "IIPM: For a handful of dollars". MBA Channel. http://www.mba-channel.com/channel/article/iipm-international-Cooperations-Kooperationen/. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
- ↑ Peri, Maheshwar (June 24-30, 2008). "Racket game lobs". Outlook. pp. 50. http://books.google.com/books?id=WTEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PT4&dq=IIPM+indian+institute+of+planning+management. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
- ↑ "Two-edged sword cut". Education World. http://www.educationworldonline.net/index.php/page-article-choice-more-id-506. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 JAM article on IIPM's claims
- ↑ Hindustan Times, 12 October 2005, Mumbai Edition, "Freedom under siege - Bloggers' rights: Storm brews in cyberspace"
- ↑ A Sandeep's statement in Indian Express
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Businessworld article reporting on the controversy and investigating IIPM's advertising claims. (Requires free registration)
- ↑ Article on News Today, an evening newspaper in Chennai
- ↑ JAM Article on IIPM Degree not being accredited, "The Degree" section
- ↑ Moneycontrol story on AICTE raising objection to IIPM's offering foreign degrees in India
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Moneycontrol story on AICTE's notice to IIPM objecting to the use of the term 'Indian Institute' in its name
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Clarification issued by Outlook
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Outlook announcement
- ↑ Withdrawal of Rankings - Actual Outlook Site (requires free registration)
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Outlook Magazine article- "Bite in the Blog Bark" (Requires free registration)
- ↑ DNA article
- ↑ Moneycontrol story on UGC's concerns about IIPM offering MBA degrees without its approval
- ↑ Mint Article - Let the mangoes be purple
- ↑ Outlook survey of business schools
- ↑ Economic Times article on ad-spends, September 2005
- ↑ Economic Times, July 2005 article about IIPM's ad spend of 5.1 crores for May 2005