July 10, 2006


Rankings rankings everywhere

This ranking business has caught like plague in the Indian Media. It started with B-school rankings. Even the printing press which turns reams of paper into lottery tickets, now reports its own unique, transparent and honest ranking of B-schools. And the news weeklies use the rankings to hide their intellectual bankruptcy. The destitution of ideas is quite obvious from the topics they choose. From my observations of last few years, the number of issues Outlook devoted to "Top 5/10 XYZ" has consistently gone up every single year. B-schools, educational institutes, cities, states, restaurants, bars, bollywood actors/actresses/directors, film songs, Chief Ministers, Ministers of Central Government, business tycoons, celebrities, tech innovations, tourist destinations, private companies, fashion designers are some of the topics I remember without straining a dozen grey cells. The good thing (for magazines!) about rankings is that it brings cheer to some and upsets others. The magazine gets to publish bouquets and bashing, thereby increasing the credibility of the ranking. Then, there are some things you can't just rank, so you publish a survey. Favourite topic of such surveys is dead obvious - sex. The sheer number of issues devoted to rankings can accomodate one more - Top Ten of Top Ten Rankings!

Current issue of Outlook ranks Top 100 engineering and 25 medical colleges. I won't get into the gory details of how Institute ABC should have got 4% higher score than XYZ on parameter PQR. There are quite a few readers of the magazines and bloggers specializing in the same. For me these rankings mean zilch. Not because, I am out of that vicious circle, but because, to the core, these rankings are extremely superficial with parameters not-so-hard to manipulate. They are at best useless and at worst, misleading. For the magazine, it just another cover story, to be revived after every 52 weeks. Let me end my views on the rankings right here.

The thing which attracted my attention was the following picture. (Online image available on Outlook's site.)

The pic of a medico and a civil engineer are put on the cover story. I am fully aware that India now top notch civil engineers. The metro projects and airport modernization in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore need civil engineers. The golden quadrilateral and east-west/north-south corridor need civil engineers. The Bandra-Worli sea link needs civil engineers. All these project needs great structural designers if they are to complete in my lifetime. (I'm just in the late twenties, BTW.) But, seriously, are there some real takers for those courses? And even those who complete it with top grades aspire to work for India's Most Admired Company (TM). An acquaintance, who runs a recruiting firm, tells me, when they are recruiting for some of the really good Indian manufacturing companies, they don't even bother to visit tier 1 and tier 2 engineering colleges. The hit ratio is so poor, that it doesn't even deserve a thought. They go to really "low rung" colleges in non-metro cities and recruit the good folks. The starting salary for freshers in IT companies can be anywhere from 50-80% higher than equivalent manufacturing companies. Add the kicker of fast growth path, opportunity to work abroad and earn $$$, the fresh graduates may not even give thought to give IT job a miss and work for the company utilizing their 4 years of hard-earned knowledge.

The magazine reads the pulse so wrong!

The ranking is mostly useless to the students at large, because, barring a few, most of the colleges admit students from the same state in which college resides. That leaves the students very few colleges to pick from. The number of students who get to pick both, the colleges and the stream, is abysmally low. So, I believe, the target audience of this issue is a few hundred students across the country.

BTW, in spite of all such trash Outlook churns, I like the magazine and they continue to enjoy my unabated loyalty.

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