Battle 1 : IIM Lucknow vs FMS Delhi – Top business schools in India and their alumni perpetuate a culture of elitism (AGAINST)

Please note that the arguments put forward below cannot be ascribed as the participants’ individual opinions. All arguments put forward are only for the purpose of this debate competition.

Update: The Counter punch has been uploaded and the audience comments have been enabled. Any form of abusive rant or irrelevant comments will be deleted immediately. 10% of the team’s performance depends on how easily the audience could tear into their arguments.

 The Great Indian BSchool Debate – Battle 1

“Top business schools in India and their alumni perpetuate a culture of elitism”

AGAINST the Motion: FMS Delhi                    (Read IIM Lucknow’s argument for the motion)

What sort of a background would you expect the CEO of one of India’s largest investment banks to have? Given the way most Ibanks in India hire (From IIT? IIM? Good, welcome aboard) you would expect her to quite fit the stereotypical image of bankers in India. But meet Kalpana Morparia, India head of JP Morgan. Her background ? A bachelors in Science from Sophia’s & a degree in law from Government Law College [1]. For a company filled with alumni of the top b-schools of our country, the very same ones accused of perpetuating elitism, this seems quite incongruous. Except that this charge of elitism isn’t really true. It is a telling fact that the CEO’s of the Indian arms of JP Morgan, BofA Merill Lynch & ING Vysaya[2] are all either from  “lower-rung” b-schools or do not have an MBA degree altogether. The India heads of a number of marketing giants such as Pepsi[3] and Reckitt Benckiser[4] do not possess a top-tier MBA degree as well. If these esteemed organisations were indeed heavily influenced by the elitist culture which alumni of top b-schools have been accused of, the picture at the top would have been very different. While it has to be said, graduates from top business schools do regularly make it to the top of their professions, this is more due to the sheer quality of people coming out of these institutions than any elitist bias shown by the alumni of the b-schools.

Despite all this, complaints abound about major multinational companies who will look at your CV only if your B-school has one of the first three alphabets in its name. While these stories may be partially true, it is unfair to label these as elitism. The basic and simple fact is this: the top business schools in India do have the best brains in the country. Any process which filters & picks 400 students out of the 2 lakh odd that sit for CAT is bound to pick the best of the best, controversial selection procedures notwithstanding. Alumni, and by extension, the institutions they work for, prefer certain colleges over others simply because of this, they know, based on their own experiences and learning, that they are more likely to find the best people there. And since the best companies hire only at a few select campuses, this creates a virtuous cycle: the best students head for the top bschools, go to the best companies, and eventually come back to hire on campus, further attracting the top students and so on.

Another important issue to understand is that elitism and intellectual competence are not the same. There is a major distinction between the two. When the laboratory at CERN employs scientists, to study the Higgs Boson, and not athletes, it does so not out of elitism but out of competence of the individuals in a field.

If a large pool of quality student talent does percolate elsewhere, the top companies will make a beeline for it, whether or not it has a significant alumni base within the company. Take the example of the Indian School of Business, which has become one of the top b-schools of India, despite being in existence for 11 short years and not having any alumni base to speak of.  There is also the simple fact that, by and large, the best companies in India are based on a meritocratic system and not an elitist one. No company is going to reject a good candidate, simply because he/she did not attend a top business school.

The second accusation of elitism levelled at top MBA colleges is of discrimination during admission procedures.  B-school admission procedures, for a long time, have been accused of being highly biased towards engineers. The engineer-MBA combination therefore, resulted in a sort of elite class of graduates, who have looked down upon the supposedly inferior arts and commerce graduates. While this may have been true once upon a time, this facet of B-schools is also slowly changing. B-school administrators, tired of seeing the same deadbeat way of thinking year-after-year, have taken radical steps to improve the diversity of the batch. Diversity, of course, has been shown to be vital to improving the quality of higher education provided in universities.[5] As the slowly rising percentage of non-engineers can testify, b-schools are losing their elitist bias towards engineers as well.

It would be worth taking a look at society as a whole, and seeing the value added to it by individuals from top business schools. They have enriched society by taking up developmental projects at every level and strata of society, be it from the villages to the large metros. Take the example of the Blue Ribbon Movement, an NGO started by one of InsideIIM’s own writers[6]. Or have a look at IIM Ahmedabad ‘s joint collaboration with Mohammed Yunus to  fund social business ventures in the country[7]. Business Schools and their alumni don’t encourage a culture of elitism. On the contrary countless hours are spent on concepts of sustainability, social responsibility and ethics, all in an attempt to make students give back to the society at large.

It is essential to understand that society can never be deconstructed beyond the bounds of socialization and esteem. However within this bracket individuals do not lose their ability to empathise with others and work for the common good. This is where the culture of elitism ceases to exist. Alumni of the top b-schools of India are fiercely proud of their alma mater and justifiably so. But to confuse that pride with elitism or to suppose that graduates feel entitled to special treatment simply because of where they studied would be a colossal error.


Moez Chandani
Siddharth Bassi



Counterpunch from IIM Lucknow

  1. CEO’s of certain firms are non MBAs or from lesser known business schools
    Here is a fact – half the CEOs of India Inc are from IIT/IIM. The exceptions stated in the argument merely serve to highlight the prevailing trend.
  2. The best students are more likely at certain IIMs than elsewhere
    First, let us attempt a simple guesstimate. 10000 IITians graduate every year. A similar number of NITians also graduate every year. Let us conservatively assume that 10000 students from other engineering and commerce/arts colleges are also part of the bright pool. People from multiple batches attempt CAT. Let us assume then, again, very conservatively, that 50000 ‘quality’ students in all consider CAT in a year. Assume only 50% actually attempt the test. The top 15% of this can be assumed to be more likely in the top 1.5% (for a percentile of 98.5). This means we have 3750 ‘quality’ students, with very conservative estimates. The number of students in the IIMs mentioned is 1200. That leaves 2550 students who are arguably as good, but face the short shrift as they are not from the ‘top’ IIMs.Secondly, any business school student who was actually part of the entire selection process knows that there is very little difference in terms of CAT score, academic record in the students among the top 6 – 8 schools. Sometimes, some of them have even better records, but due to vagaries of the admission process/weights allotted, do not get their first preferred school. In any case, to say that certain students are significantly better on a whole due to a difference of 1 – 2% (many times far lesser) in test scores is incredulous.Despite all this, the fact that companies do not visit even top 5 – 7 campuses where there is talent is an indication of elitist behaviour.
  3. ISB’s rise to prominence in a short time
    ISB was founded by 2 senior executives at McKinsey and other top business men such as Adi Godrej and Anil Ambani. This made up for a non-existent alumni base.
    ISB requires the prospective candidates to take exams that cost over Rs.10000. The fee for the course is Rs.20 lakhs. A very small percentage of Indians can afford this. Arguably, ISB is even more elitist than other Indian business schools.
  4. Value added by top business schools/work for common good
    This argument is irrelevant. Elitism refers to the view that some individuals, the elite, are those whose views matter. It does not have anything to do with the work they do. Even if a bunch of elites do a whole lot of good, but continue to select a small group of ‘elite’ people to do that work, it still qualifies as elitism. This is precisely the case with the good work done by the schools mentioned in the argument.
    Even hypothetically assuming that the argument has merit, a cursory look at the placement reports of the top business schools will show that well over 90% of students enter mainstream, high paying corporate careers. Those going into social ventures form a minority. Once again, the exceptions stated serve to highlight the prevailing trend.

Participant Profiles (FMS Delhi)

Siddharth Bassi is a 1st  Year student at FMS Delhi. Prior to FMS, he has completed his Post Graduate Diploma in English Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He has done his bachelors in Mathematics, and worked in Deutsche Bank as an analyst after graduation. He has diverse interests in the field of international relations, diplomacy, geo strategy and defence.



Moez Chandani is a 2nd year student at FMS Delhi. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from BITS Pilani, Goa Campus. He recently completed his summers at HUL in Singapore. He is interested in anything related to Finance, reading and quizzing.



Read everything about FMS Delhi here

[1]  ‘I’m Too Young To Retire And Hang Up My Boots’, The Financial Express, Sunday, Jan 04, 2004

[2] Prominent Alumni NMIMS

[4]  Linkedin Profile, Manu Anand

[5] Gurin, Dey,  Diversity and Higher Education: Theory and Impact on Educational Outcomes  , Harvard Educational Review, Fall 2002

[6] Abhishek Thakore, Social Entrepreneur in conversation with Team InsideIIM,  July 11, 2012


[7] Muhammad Yunus, IIM-A set to float Rs 50 crore fund to seed social business, The Economic Times, Feb 16, 2012

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Rohit Kumar

The examples put forward by the team from FMS pointing out to exceptions like Kaku Nakhate and Kalpana Morparia also do not stand because the Indian economy was in a different phase earlier. It was easier to work your way up then. These days without an MBA degree from any of the top schools you won't even stand a chance to be promoted. There is a lot of campus politics in the workplace too and I have experienced it first hand. Why do we have so many people desperately seeking a MBA degree? Simply, because their undergrad degree or MBA from a not-so good bschool will not take them too far (which is why people do double MBAs). Elitism definitely exists and is there for all to see.


"When the laboratory at CERN employs scientists, to study the Higgs Boson, and not athletes, it does so not out of elitism but out of competence of the individuals in a field." – This is the most stupid argument I read. No one is saying that round pegs need to be in square holes .i.e. no one claims that elitism means not allowing athletes to be employed by CERN. It's a completely irrelevant point to this discussion.

Mihir Mehta

The argument that "Top Business Schools have the best brains" can be questioned on most grounds. Till 2005-06 odd when CAT cutoffs were in a pecking order it still made sense since there was some form of objectivity. So if you had a call from say IIM A you were guaranteed one from LIK for sure. These days, because of absolutely weird selection criteria, there is no way you can say that a call getter from IIM A is better than the others simply because there is no objective way to look at it. In fact in a bid to increase diversity and women most IIMs seems to have compromised on quality. Even if they have not, you cannot say that the best get into the top schools. There is NO VIRTUOUS CYCLE. It is the alumni of top schools who indulge in this NEPOTISM and clearly encourage elitism

Random Thought

@Mihir: Read again, the topic is not "Is CAT Selection Process Full Proof'?

Nevertheless, one has to agree that it is much easier to find good talent in top B-schools than go and search for the few excellent people, in the not so good B-schools. Though if you have talent, a good B-school or not, you will excel in life. A good B-school can only give you a launch pad, but it is only your knowledge and competence which can help you sustain.