Many of my friends from esteemed B-schools consider IIPM to be a four letter word. I would beg to differ. I consider them to be just another institution imparting Business education to students. Just like IIMs do or my alma mater Symbiosis does. There is nothing wrong in it at all!
However the question is what makes thousands of people make nasty faces and utter expletives at the very mention of the name IIPM? Is it just because they make tall claims about being what they are not or is the reason much more deep-seated? Let`s try and figure out.
I somehow believe that IIPM has not just dug its own grave but has also ensured that the grave is cemented once the burial is over. Mind it, the reason is not because of placement figures or anything in those lines. It is a simple case of a marketing mishap!
I really don`t know what marketing curriculum is followed in IIPM. Whatever be it, one thing is for sure that they are not practising what they are supposed to be preaching. They seem to have assumed that Marketing and Promoting are synonymous. Nothing can be more follied than that. Important steps in marketing strategy design such as segmenting, targeting & positioning seems to have been totally kept aside. Ironically they have also missed out on application of the 4P`s concept even though “4Ps” happen to be the name of one of their publications.
Before I progress further with my analysis allow me to present a fictitious scenario. What if you wake up one morning, reach out for the morning newspaper and come face to face with a full page advert of Tata Nano? Will you utter expletives? Probably, not. Now consider a funnier situation. You notice that the tagline of Tata Nano is : ‘Dare to replace your BMW?’
Will you be able to restrain yourself from uttering expletives? Probably, not.
So what exactly is the source of all irritation in the above case? Definitely none of us have anything against the car called NANO. Just like we are at peace with the detergent called Nirma, the soap called Hamam or the shampoo called chic! I mean why should we complain as long as we are deriving value from products?
Now it is obvious that IIPM is not the worst B-school in the country. There are so many other B-schools that are faring even worse than IIPM. Although we may not hold such B-schools with great regard but we surely don`t use their names as intellectual swear words. With IIPM the case is slightly different. Not only is the name now hated intently across the nation but also the name has become synonymous with fraudulent practices! All so for keeping out essential steps in Marketing Strategy design.
Had IIPM adopted a conventional approach to arrive at their marketing strategy they would have never swallowed burning coal. Let`s begin with segmentation and targeting.
In the case of IIPM the overall market is the population of B-school aspirants. All aspirants are unique in terms of several variables like background, intellect, ambitions etc. It is sinful to assume that all of them are birds of the same feather. Perhaps IIPM thought so. They considered all B-school aspirants to be crazy about a seat in the IIMs and settle for nothing lesser. Had that been the case would be have B-school`s mushrooming across the country? A typical B-school aspirant is a 20 something fellow who has already gone through over 15 years of formal education. Such a fellow has some idea about his strengths as well as his limitations. Many of them consider IIMs as a fairyland beyond reach. These people readily accept deals that are far inferior to an IIM admit.
Had IIPM done the segmentation right they would have realised that quite a few segments of students might be interested in their value proposition. Instead IIPM decided to go for a full market attack strategy and targeted the entire population of students. The situation is very similar to the one where Tata Nano targets all potential car buyers (including the BMW customer). Such a strategy might work for a firm that trades in commodities but definitely is suicidal for a B-school.
Now let`s move on to the question of positioning. Here IIPM`s very tagline (” Dare to think beyond IIMs/IITs”) says it all! The IIPM thintank must have fancied creating a separate axis in the mental map of B-school aspirants. However the very usage of names of the likes of IIMs and IITs made their strategy fall flat. A layman after reading the tagline would assume that IIPM claims to hold a position on the same axis as that of these institutes of repute. Such is the trouble of comparative advertising. You have to be sure about the competitor with whom you are comparing yourself. In this case IIPM was totally unsure about the value proposition of IITs/IIMs. They assumed that the only point where they were required to match their competitors was on placement figures. Now I will not get into comparing the placement statistics of IIPM with that of IITs and IIMs as that has already been done time and again by zillions of bloggers across the world and nothing more is left to be said on that front. The fact remains that IIPM never really tried to fight out IIMs by arranging exceptional placements for their outgoing students but instead they got themselves rated high on fictitious rankings. So far, so good. Had IIMs just been glorified employment exchanges many more would have fallen for IIPM`s glossy claims. The truth is a bit different.
IIPM failed to realise that one important component of IIM`s value proposition was its exclusivity. An IIM grad has high regards in the industry because of his business knowledge and also because of the fact that no ordinary Johny can bag a seat in his institute. When IIPM began to wage a war against IIMs did they at all work towards making themselves exclusive? They appointed telemarketers to cold call students, their selection procedure had no rigour involved and they began operating in almost thirty branches. In simple words an IIPM admit was an easily available option. This by itself dilutes their entire value proposition.
IIPM also got it wrong when it comes to the application of 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Consequentially they became a weak product at an inappropriate price-point sold through improper channels! IIPM`s product strategy is a classic case of marketing myopia. The key highlights of its offering emphasise on free laptop and a Europe trip. These are perhaps the last things that a student is looking for in a B-school.
If you remember correctly , years ago Kodak introduced cheap cameras which they tried selling through kirana outlets and failed. The reason was that a kirana outlet visitor has come there to buy groceries and not a cam. Similarly, telemarketing is dangerous for a B-school that compares itself with IIMs in advertisements. It is nothing less than selecting an improper marketing channel.
When it comes to Promotion IIPM undoubtedly surpasses all others in its league. Its promo budget could well be comparable to those of FMCG giants. However, Promotion activities which helps FMCG giants sell their products has made IIPM some sort of a swear word. Promotion is helpful only when all other steps are in place. Roping in a silver-screen celebrity might be a good option for an FMCG player but is not worthwhile for selling something like Business education. I might take an actors word when it comes to selecting a fairness cream but I definitely won`t take his advice while choosing a B-school.
IIPM brings us face to face with the importance of aligning a firm`s marketing strategy with the uniqueness of the business that the firm is in. It is perhaps impossible to sell Business education in a method similar to selling a soap. What might be magical for HUL could well be poisonous for IIPM.
It would be interesting to observe IIPM`s future marketing activities. If they are not waging a ego-war soon enough we might observe intense repositioning happening. The repositioning might not make them a better B-school but would definitely save them from becoming a permanent intellectual swear word.