Zen practitioners seemed to understand much before Philip Kotler that a great product was just the beginning of marketing bliss. They used to ask the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear, does it make a sound?”

Being a noble endeavour for society that is viewed with immense respect, the education business has traditionally been out of the ambit of large scale advertising in India. But as the lopsided supply-demand situation leads to a flux of public and private investments in the sector, marketing has acquired an unputdownable importance, as Vishal Deep Dhillon, Regional Director – Asia (Sales and Service Delivery) at CSC, Singapore tells 4Ps B&M, “In a world where there is a glut of B-schools with varying degrees of quality of education, some good B-schools get lost in the crowd due to the lack of branding. Targeted marketing of B-schools via ‘appropriate mediums’ (online, mobile, cable & TV, print media, hoardings, even direct sales) is of paramount importance.” Is he exaggerating?

“Not at all,” says Prasoon Majumdar, all India Dean Academics at the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), “B-schools in India became the talk of the town post liberalization in 1991, as the need for managers skyrocketed in all business arenas. This was the period from where B-schools started to make a smooth entrance into the education system of the country. At that time, some private B-schools realised the need for branding themselves, mostly in order to close the public perception gap between them and those B-schools that had traditionally grown on huge government funding and support, which anyway had mostly been wasted irreverently by these so-called ‘nationalised’ B-schools.”

Subsequently, and now especially, the competition to attract students is growing, with the last two years of economic slowdown being perhaps a clarion call for many new-on-the-block B-schools, most of which closed down due to lack of students. Industry players like Amarendra Kumar Shrivastava, Chairman, Asia-Pacific Institute of Management and Priyanka Ahuja, Chairperson, Academics Media, ISB&M School of Communication, acknowledge to 4Ps B&M how integrated marketing communication is being used more now by some B-schools to get the cream students. But clearly, that’s the case with only a few B-schools, as Harold D. House, President, Opus One Media (a media house that handles the branding accounts for a few B-schools) tells 4Ps B&M, “Developing a brand for a B-school is an effort that, internally, is the last of the considerations for many B-schools. They hire us to conduct the branding exercises but rarely do they either attend or get into it.”

But marketing is not just about branding. Marketing also includes convincing the prospective student and his/her parents about the quality of course contents, specialisations offered, international exposure, industry interface, long term potential, placements (national and international), financing options (given the high investment required for quality courses), and most importantly, closing the sale – ensuring that after all the marketing spin, the student signs up.
Says Deepak Kaistha, Managing Partner, Planman HR, “You’re forgetting the most important element of the whole process – finding out where the prospective student is and reaching out to him to apply to the particular B-school.” Ali Mohammed Bhayani, COO, Michigan State University, Dubai accepts the same to 4Ps B&M, “Reputation of B-schools is dependent upon the number of applications to admissions. So the B-school that is able to increase its application numbers creates a demand-supply gap.” Elements of marketing have come into the picture for the very same reason.

But another aspect, the ‘place’ in the marketing mix, is the development of a broader market base in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, and not just in terms of increasing advertising, but also in terms of actually opening up newer campuses and centers. This is one aspect that nationalised B-schools never come up to as they have to undergo huge bureaucratic clearances in order to open up a new campus or even to increase their students intake. Some of India’s top B-schools like the FMS Delhi, in their past interactions with us, have shared the tribulations they have undergone on such issues.

On a concluding note, just like modern day products, few institutes can have an appeal that goes across segments. The key, therefore, is to clearly define one’s competencies and market them comprehensively to a particular target market, rather than believing ad nauseum in product myopia – that if you have a great product, it has to sell. In the real world, it doesn’t!

Ashutosh Harbola


12/08/2011 12:03am

With the revised GRE launching August 1st, it’s no surprise that more schools have decided to begin accepting it. The new version is easier to use, relies on more real-world scenarios for questions, offers more demanding Quantitative questions, and has gotten rid of the silly analogies and antonyms. The new version may even be a better predictor of business school success than its predecessor. Despite all this, the thing most prospective b-school applicants should consider, especially if you’re applying to highly competitive top tier schools, is how GRE scores are compared to GMAT scores in the admissions process.

12/08/2011 1:29am

Financial aid officers at B-schools attribute the rising debt levels to the recent recession, which led to pay freezes at pre-MBA jobs and caused applicants to tap into personal savings, as well as the increasing costs of tuition. “Two years ago, the class came in with much greater financial aid,” says Diane Bonin, director of financial aid at the Tuck School. “People coming in made a little bit less and had much less in available savings due to the economy.”

12/08/2011 1:33am

I think B-school is supposed to mean business school. As in some schools have their econ department forced into the business school and others have it correctly organized under the liberal arts college. Really, whether a program is in the business school or the liberal arts school doesn't make much of a difference (if any).

12/08/2011 1:40am

I think what the OP is referring to schools with business schools who also run PhD in econ on top of what their econ dept is already having. Schools like Northwestern who has Kellogg running the managerial econ phd, stanford with their GSB running their EAP, and a lot others... harvard, upenn, carnegie mellon, chicago... etc. Often, these programs are as difficult (if not more difficult) to gain admission as compared to their econ dept counterpart. I don't know why (and will like to find out as well), but unlike what the MAN said, there's a lot of difference between a b-school progam and a econ dept program. Perhaps someone who currently in one of those programs will like to comment more?

12/08/2011 1:43am

I have to agree with thunder. Business school admissions committees are as notorious as anyone for their selectivity, and a b-school PhD is certainly not an "easy way out". Just look at Stanford GSB for a shining example - one of my advisors once told me, "If you* get into Stanford GSB, then of course you go. It doesn't matter whether you want to or not, you just go regardless." And this is coming from someone who is a huge advocate of picking schools, advisors, life directions based on fit and irrespective of prestige.


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