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Getting down and dirty


Prasad Sangameshwaran  |  Mumbai 

Here, a trip across the river is not a picnic. Rather, it's a lesson in communication, branded "worknic". The agenda "" to design a campaign for the girl child.

And Operation Flood does not require students to swot case studies on Amul "" instead, it is a flashback to the heavy rains this year, when a senior member of the faculty spearheaded efforts to rescue a group of labourers who had been trapped due to flooding inside the campus.

At the Aicar Business School, located close to popular hill-station Matheran, "learning by doing" is a phrase that everyone chants "" from Trustee and Dean, communication, Ivan Arthur, to the students.

Being close to rural areas and just an hour away from Mumbai helps the students get the feel of both rural markets and also remain close to the corporate world.

The first-year students, for instance, recently worked on a social project with the tribals of Kashele, in association with with the Academy of Developmental Sciences.

They helped the tribals organise grain banks and market cane furniture, pickles, squashes, and amla candy. Says Arthur, "The students used knowledge and helped improve processes." For instance, the principles of supply chain were used to monitor how the agri-produce moved from the village to the markets.

Other student groups are currently working with market research agencies and banks. Point to note: these are not summer projects, but part of the regular curriculum at the institute.

"If we have to create students who are ready for the industry, we need a way such that students work and learn together," says Arthur.

What helps is that the people behind the two-year-old institute (formerly known as the Asian Institute of and Research) have done stints in the corporate world before they moved to academia. For instance, the man behind the institute, Walter Saldanha, is an ad professional who founded ad agency Chaitra (now Leo Burnett); the faculty heading specific streams such as insurance and marketing, too, have been senior executives in the corporate world before they turned to the academic world. Even Arthur was the creative director at HTA (now JWT) prior to joining Aicar.

Which is probably why, when Aicar decided to provided its class a real-time experience, it set up an advertising agency on-campus.

The campus agency is not just a simulation of the real one. It handles advertising accounts for clients such as financial services major IL & FS. "We wanted to try and do things differently and not just have classroom sessions on the subject of communication," says Arthur.

So students from the class that specialises in spend morning sessions in the classroom and the rest of the time on the accounts.

The team of 23 students (out of 76 students in the first batch) from the batch was divided into direct marketing, media planners, account planning, client services and creative.

Arthur points out that the students have even lost an account "" the Rs 1 crore toiletries brand Old Spice. "It is important to go through the pains of loss and failure," he says of the experience.

Besides serving external advertising accounts, the in-house agency also designs the for the institute. It has also developed a book Mediamatics, which provides a snapshot of the demographics of the country. The agency is currently working with the Subhash Ghosal Foundation to bring out a compilation on "advertising in times of adversity".

But Aicar does not want to be seen as an institute by the ad men for the students of advertising. Arthur says that efforts are constantly made to scrub up the image "" hence the renaming to

In fact, the B-school aspires to be "the mecca of insurance and financial services". So, apart from setting an insurance advisory council with industry experts on board, the institute is also taking a detailed approach on the topic.

Insurance would normally be divided into life and general insurance. But Aicar divided the general insurance topic into into 10 to 15 sub-heads; each sub-head has a different instructor from the industry teaching between two and 10 sessions on each topic.

The emphasis on real-life experience is extended to students of insurance as well. For more than a month, Aicar students targeted masses from the lower income group in rural areas (insurance policies are mostly marketed to high net-worth individuals or to the middle-class for tax savings). The results were gratifying: on average, the 10 students in the insurance project sold 20 policies each.

This year, the institute is planning a project with the National Association of the Blind. Another set of students is involved with a small-scale entrepreneur to help market water heaters.

 To create job-ready graduates, Aicar clearly feels that the getting-hands-dirty approach works.

First Published: Thu, September 16 2004. 00:00 IST