Many of you in the Indian blogosphere already know what’s been happening with Gaurav Sabnis, Rashmi Bansal and IIPM. For those of you who don’t, Amit Varma has a summary at India Uncut. Otherwise, here’s a brief rundown on what happened:
It started off innocuously. JAM Mag, aimed at teenagers and college students, has a regular feature called MBA Corner. Some months ago, it evaluated IIPM, the institute run by Arindam Chaudhuri, which claims to be one of the top ten B-schools in India. JAM’s correspondent discovered that the rankings IIPM used in its ad were taken from the Outlook-C fore rankings in 2003. The C fore website says: “IIPM has been removed from ranking as we received serious complaints about the veracity of information given by them.” JAM asked: “So how can IIPM continue using these rankings, AFTER they’ve been removed from them?” JAM also reported that many of IIPM’s other claims were dubious, to say the least.
In June, Rashmi Bansal, who edits and publishes JAM, mentioned the story on her blog, Youth Curry. Among the responses it drew were two vitriolic responses from people who seemed to have fake IDs; one said she was an IIPM student, the other called himself Real Gaurav Sabnis, referring to another blogger who had also posted about IIPM.
In August, Gaurav Sabnis, who runs Vantage Point, posted about IIPM. He wrote:
“You all must have seen full-page IIPM ads in all national dailies, asking student to “dare to dream beyond the IIMs”. If one went by the ads, one could be forgiven for thinking that IIPM is the institute with the best possible infrastructure, faculty, and placements in the country.
Scratch a bit and you realise what a load of crap it all is.”
Quoting, mind you, from the company’s own ads, he noted:
“At the end of every IIPM ad, there is a fine print which goes –
IIPM conducts its own programmes in Planning & Entrepreneurship (a non professional course) and does not teach any foreign institute’s courses… The MBA/BBA degrees are conferred by IMI, Europe and is internationally renowned and does not come under the purview of AICTE, UGC or other state acts.
Which means the so-called MBAs from IIPM are not even MBAs.”
On 6th October, Sabnis received, and posted, a “legal notice” from IIPM that had him almost falling off his chair laughing.
(I particularly liked the lawyer’s demand that Sabnis “Refrain in the future from releasing any news item containing IIPM’s reference without the prior explicit written approval of IIPM.” Wow. So now colleges get to censor their own news? Even the PM can’t do that!)
On October 10, Sabnis posted. IIPM had been in touch again. IIPM, incidentally, has very serious marketing muscle. It appears it’s not shy about using it.
In response to Sabnis’ posts about IIPM, posts in which he’d raised very legitimate questions about the institute’s claims and functioning, guess what IIPM had done? They’d gone after his employer, IBM.
Writes Sabnis: “But apparently, the Dean of IIPM wrote [a senior colleague at IBM] a mail saying that the IIPM Students Union had decided that if my blog posts were not deleted, then they would gather all the Thinkpads they had been given by the institute, and burn them in front of the IBM office in Delhi. Yes, that’s right. Burn laptops!”
His superiors and colleagues at IBM didn’t ask him to remove the posts. They didn’t ask him to resign. But Gaurav, faced with a pretty serious dilemma, thought it through and made his decision. He didn’t want to remove the posts; as a citizen, he felt he had the right to comment on the functioning of an institution of learning. Nor did he want to drag IBM, an organisation that had treated him well, into this ugly mess. So, he quit his job.