Individual vs B-School Brand. Individual Wins and Here's Why - Uddalak Banerjee, XLRI

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    Uddalak Banerjee  did his PGDHRM from XLRI Jamshedpur and BTech in Computer Science and Engineering from NIT Raipur. He cracked CAT (99.12 percentile), XAT , SNAP and secured  final offers from MDI, NITIE, IIT B, IIT D, 6 IIM s, IMT G, SCHMRD, XIMB, GIM and TAPMI. He has written articles related to HRM and MBA in general.

    During my summer internship, I was speaking to my immediate reporting boss (from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences) about MBA and life after MBA. He said to me, "Once you are out of college, you are out of college. Don't ever talk about college to your colleague. You may be an XLer or an IIM-A grad," he continued, "But then that doesn't allow you to belittle other colleges. In business, team matters. It is corporate wisdom to never make college-related talk as it may not interest your immediate colleagues or your boss and you don't want to be seen as an egoistic man  bragging about his alma mater. Because that is the worst that can happen and you will soon find yourself out of business."

    Before going for summer internship, I, like most people, believed that one's college brand drives his/her growth. I often asked my mentor about this idea. He told me, "Banerjee, look around you at the cubicles, at everyone who is working. Some are from Symbiosis, some from IIM-K, MDI, IIM-B and so on. And that is business. Individuals in business are nothing more than products. You are a product too and so am I. Business only hires products to solve a particular problem and disposes of it when the need is met. It doesn't matter which shop that product was brought from: was it IIM-A or XLRI or any ABC college. It simply doesn't matter."

    "Until the day you are useful and generate value to the business, you are in. Else you are out. Tell me seriously, why do these shops mention the names of their alumni in college magazines and newspapers? It is because they (alumni) are successful and hence these shops also try to use their success as a day to enhance their own reputation. If there are 10 CEOs from XLRI and 10 from IIM-A, they all figure in their alumni blogs but there is never any mention of the 10 super failures who also emerged in those batches."

    "Business looks at success, it does not relate to failure. Here, look at the cubicles. Everybody is working together. You see the marketing function, it is headed by Shruti who is from SIBM while her immediate  junior is from IIM-K! Why so? It is because Shruti aced the appraisals for three quarters and scored 4 on 5 thorough the period. She has been performing and handling business well. People respond to her while the other guy Ramesh scored 3 for the last 3 quarters and hence could not do that well. That is how it is."

    "I have many friends from XLRI who worked with me in different companies. Some of them did exceeding  well and are heading a function in many top companies but there were also some who just died out and remained static through the period. That is life. Brand only allows you to get in, but it doesn't guarantee success. It is always upto the individual: how he plans, how he responds, whether he is cordial, how he relates to colleagues, how he analyses."

    "There are hundreds of people who graduate from elite colleges. Some succeed, some don't. Business doesn't see brands, it sees individuals as objects which can solve its purpose. "

    Although my mentor's response seemed extremely logical and true, it still felt a little off-tune and I wasn't completely convinced. So I asked him, "Sir, please tell me one thing. Does a graduate of a good college not always attract attention from colleagues? And doesn't that help him be more noticed during performance appraisals? After all, he has put so much effort into earning brand XLRI, IIM-A etc. Between individual and brand, shouldn't brand win? Wouldn't someone from a lower-ranked college need to prove himself more?" 

    My mentor smiled and said, "You're still locked in college. That's the difference between a college student and a professional. The individual who makes it to a good college, depending on his profile, usually gets a good start which lower-ranked colleges don't give you. You should be happy to be among the few who get this opportunity. But think about it: once you've bought a product - say a printer - from a shop, do you even remember the name of the shop? How do you rate the product? Using its printing performance and how well it functions. If a person X gets rated 5 and person Y also 5, and one is from IIM-A and the other is from some lower-ranked college, who deserves the better hike? Because this guy Y is from a lower-ranked college, he would have worked immensely hard to rated as much as X. Besides, if a guy from IIM-A or XLRI is giving same the dividend as ordinary guy Y, it would be far easier for the company to deal with  Y than X, whose putting airs would make him harder to work with! Isn't it?"

    "You must have studied Performance Management. Does it ever mention anything about the college name anywhere in regular performance appraisals?" he asked.

    I was feeling sad but also enlightened. Guessing that, my mentor said, "Whatever I said to you is the fundamental of life and the key to success. Always keep it in mind and think over it, you will be a good  businessman and business too will welcome you with open arms. And guess what, you will find yourself in  your college's alumni list or else even the college will disown you."


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