New Trade secrets of IIM-B..

– Deny information to visually impaired Scholar – Vaishanavi Kasturi under ‘Trade secret’

What’s her fault? Despite slogging it out and following all the processes for getting into IIM-B, Vaishanavi Kasturi had to struggle and enroute her request RTI way… No we are not talking about RTI use for govt departments but to one of India’s premier management Institute!!

Image source – TOI,e-paper

When the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) announced the results of CAT 2006, last month she was happy. With a percentile score of 89.29, she outscored thousands of other students. IIM-B announced the CAT percentile score cut-off under the Persons With Disability category as 86.42, making her entry obvious but some Etho’s and Ego’s of IIM-B ruled her out! Reasons unknown!!

Indeed, the response of the IIM-B is shocking. The premier institute has refused to give the names and percentile marks obtained by short-listed blind candidates, saying it is a “trade secret.”. What trade are they into, producing intellect from the intellectual raw material? Or is it just the hypocritical way of discrimination?

Here are some points from IIM-B’s A R Ramesh, IIM-B public information officer’s reply. ..

>> At IIM-B, the processing formula applied for the selection of candidates for group discussion and interview is considered to be trade secret and kept confidential.
>> Information on the selected candidates is confidential!
>> The decision of the admission committee is final. There is no provision for appeal or review.

As Vaishanavi is filing an appeal to approach the institute’s director and even the Central Information Commission on the reply and denial, few questions arise…

— Are they so stern that they feel they are above governing Indian laws?
— Do they think that they have gained such ‘right of denial’ via their secret algorithms?

This episode is so painful to digest that a premier institute who should adhere to the highest standards and virtues showcases such a illegal,stern and an in-humane attitude. I feel pity…

Source TOI, Bangalore Feb 21, 2007 e-paper

20 Comments so far

  1. Sanjay Pandey (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    This is the most inhumane and hypocritic behaviour by IIM-B. IIM-B is not beyond the law of nation. Their claim that their formulae is their “Trade Secret” makes one wonder. IIM seems to have forgotten that they are a premier education institution of India, founded by Indian People and funded by the money of illeterate millions. They have been mandated to impart education and not indulge in Trading/Business, hence the question of trade secret does not arise.
    When an Official of IIM claims trade secret then it’s high time a public audit of the functioning of IIMs is done.
    It has become the practice of institutions which have been created by public money to claim immunity from the public scrutiny. We do not pay taxes to create fiefdoms for few. Let us not forget the incidence where Supreme Court had to order UPSC to show the answer sheets to students. A similar case happenned in West Bengal also where the students in order to see their answer sheets had to go to High Court and get its order. In the case of UPSC, one of the ex-officials of UPSC made a very ridiculous statement that making the process transparent will have a National Security impact.

    What we are seeing is the tendency to have Zero Accountability.
    In case IIM’s feel that they cannot be transparent then I wonder how the students coming out of these institutions will fit into the paradigm of transparent Corporate Governance.

    The whole episode leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. The petitioner should approach the supreme court and get IIM investigated for malpractices as we all know that people try to hide things only when they have done something wrong.

  2. someone (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

    let me get this straight, she wants the criteria that were used for selecting other candidates? Isn’t that a breach of their privacy?

    Most hiring and admissions decisions have a subjective part. Very few institutions make these decisions entirely based on marks. Why is IIM the big evil here?

  3. Rajesh (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

    Dear Someone,

    As long as she is not asking for others answersheets it is ok, because the criteria should remain constant for all.

    Are you implying that criteria for selection differs student to student? then it is far more serious issue…

  4. Sanjay Pandey (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

    Dear Someone,

    “Most hiring and admissions decisions have a subjective part. Very few institutions make these decisions entirely based on marks. Why is IIM the big evil here?”

    Hiring and admissions decisions are not subjective. If they were, then we would not have the entrance examinations, Group discussions and so on. Everything is quanitified to the last extent. If they were subjective, then there would have been no need to have those exams.
    You are right, the evil of subjective decisions is practised by many institutions but when IIMs do it, then the perspective changes as IIMs are a premier institution created by us the people of India, as pointed in my post. We created them so that people can get equal oppurtunity in quality education for Management and not so that somebody can do influence peddling at my cost as a taxpayer. This whole incidence has started looking like the same.

    Further, please do not treat IIM as a holy cow. Looking objectively, I do not see them doing a great job. They take the cream of nation and churn out cream, so where is the value addition to the nation. Have you ever heard of IIMs taking a person having secured 10% and then taught him/her and built them upto 90%. No way. They are not so good teachers that they can do it. So they take the best who would have been able to reach those places without IIM also and just provide them with degree. The brilliant people who go there, would have got it done even without IIM excepting the degree part.
    Lastly, can you take a look at the SMB segment and find out how many of these successful entrepreneurs are from IIM. I doubt if the percentage would be even near 5%. So, let us treat IIM as what they are, a business school funded by us and hence accountable to us.
    Moreover, if we take your reasoning further, then IIM has no fixed policy and procedures in place for admission, then as Rajesh has pointed, the need for public audit increases.
    We cannot have IIMs and IITs run on the whims of the chairholders to fulfil their own political/financial/other ambitions.

  5. Shastri (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

    While I dont contest that IIMs are accountable to us since they are run by our tax money, I feel the accountability is being taken little too broadly here. Yes, they should tell us what they are doing with our money and should give out the financial details should someone ask.
    But to reveal the selection criteria might have farther implications than we think. If they do tell everyone on what criteria do they do the selection, all thos coaching centers will device special schemes to boost only those areas in the candidates’ abilities that help them succeed. Thus the very process of selection might be invalidated by candidates who hone only the skills that make you pass the exams.
    Since we have heard only one side of the story (that too from a sensationalzing news paper like TOI), here are a couple of points (speculative of course) that might defend IIM’s actions.
    * The CAT percentile does not ensure admission. The candidates are also judged based on Group Discussions and Interviews. We dont know for sure how well this young woman did in that.
    * The overall cut off percentile does not ensure an admission. Most IIMs usually have cut-off percentiles/marks for individual sections of the exam.
    I am not being insensitive here nor am I saying this is not a genuine case. All I am saying is this does not need such a media sensationalisation just because the lady in question is visially impaired.
    I am all for empathy for the handicapped and thats what the reservations are for.
    I just dont like the story sounding like ‘a big fat IIM cheated little blind girl’.

    PS: No, I dont have anything to do with IIMs.

  6. Rajesh (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 4:03 pm


    You are right when you say she should get admited based on the merits and the marks she has obtained in whatever process IIM-B has adopted.

    She is only asking how she was evaluated, What has she failed in and what are her marks each of the evaluation stages/aspects..these are to me fair requests.

    No one is saying here that she should get admited. if she would not have got above the cut-off she may not have demanded the information. (The cutoff is declared via IIM-B thus they respect CAT. in such way tomorrow each and any institution will start claiming the secrecy and adhocly deny admissions.) It is unfair to keep the selection process in dark, mark obtained in dark and deny the information which has just ruined her opportunity for furthering her career. I am sure if she runs the case in court of law she will be heard for her rights.
    Will IIM-B accept if such answers from govt on their fee structure decisions and quota’s saying that the decisions are final and mandetory, when they expect transperecy they have to start providing it themselves to the ‘victim’s of their decisions…
    Again, no one is claiming that she should get admited based on her physical condition here.. I am sure anyone who secures 89% in CAt will have a bright future inspite of such stern institutions.
    The bigger question this country will face is that what happens to those who are academaciccly paased out and are stuck between 35% till the cuttoff percent, i think no one has dared to work for them. Like the point raised by Sanjay that these institutions will work with the cream and curn only cream…building brands which is not providing careers for passouts but not toppers… the story does tell that IIM-B is witholding information which this girl needs and is not acceptable under law …that remains the fact!!

  7. Shastri (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

    I stand correct in my understanding of the situation. Thank you. :)
    Yes, may be the IIMs have to tell why she did not qualify if not the entire selection criteria.
    BTW, thank you and rest of Bangalore Metblogs team for keeping a good flow of interesting posts. I have been away from Bangalore for a couple of months now and you guys make me miss it a bit less !

  8. Shastri (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

    I stand corrected in my understanding of the situation. Thank you. :)
    Yes, may be the IIMs have to tell why she did not qualify if not the entire selection criteria.
    BTW, thank you and rest of Bangalore Metblogs team for keeping a good flow of interesting posts. I have been away from Bangalore for a couple of months now and you guys make me miss it a bit less !

  9. someone (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

    Every other business school in the world has an admission policy that is based on a combination of a standardized test score, resume, essays and interviews. The IIMs are the exception in actually publishing the cutoff marks for public consumption. Some of the IIMs publish a cutoff for individual sections of the test, some do not. My guess is her marks did not meet the cutoff in some way — i.e. the formula that they had for selection was not based on just overall marks.

    I’ve only read the newspaper reports which tend to be provocative, but my take away is that she is accusing the IIMs of unfair bias. I don’t see evidence of a personal bias, and in the absence of that, I would assume goodwill and let it go. Instead, she is implying that there is a conspiracy to not let her in. It is not uncommon for people with a > than 99%ile overall score being rejected because they had a skewed marks distribution. I don’t see them invoking the RTI act to get the marks details of all other candidates, i’m presuming because they assume goodwill on the IIMs part.

    I’m not trying to defend the IIMs here. Obviously they are being insensitive in refusing to tell her why she was rejected. ( But if the newspaper reports are to be believed, she wants the marks of all other candidates who were selected instead of her, which doesn’t seem right to me ). However that is the extent of their evil, i.e. they refused to tell her what exactly in her profile did not meet their criteria, but were instead pompous about it. Making this sound like personal bias without any evidence to back it up is just silly.

    Yes, of course the IIMs are just a set of b-schools that are funded by the public. That doesnt mean nothing is confidential — do you believe the State run business schools in the US will freely give away information about other candidates because someone feels he should be admitted? Unless there is clear evidence of malpractice (i.e. something like a chairperson’s kin getting admitted while not meeting cutoffs), this is a non-issue.

  10. Chitra (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 8:11 pm

    The reason an institute may not want to divulge their selection criteria is to keep it a secret from the candidates. If not, candidates can easily mimick the requirements and become eligible. In India, they are actually giving away quite a bit of the selection criteria. Elsewhere, B-school admissions are a combination of a bunch of stuff like ‘Someone’ said. In this case, I don’t know the case. So, I am not taking a stand. I am merely saying that IIM owes the public nothing just because it is public-funded. It is a premier institution and must be run the way it sees fit. There is controversy only if TOI can prove that there’s nepotism or some such in the selection process.

  11. Rajesh (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

    Thanks Shastri. ;-)

    @Someone > Thanks for understanding the insesitivity. She is not asking for marks obtained by others but her own with clarity on selection process. According to section 8 of RTI act any information which is available to parliament should be made available to any indian citizen.

    Chitra > IIM’s like any other institutions are governed by UGC policy / act and under the coverage of RTI act, unless they have taken an exeption from this act it is difficult to withhold information warrenting to a breach of law.
    I feel in her case she has used an accepted meathod to exercise her right given to her under indian constitution which can not be ruled out under the pretext of a ‘trade secret’. This case will surely be a learning for fundamental change in the paradigm of people and the institution for sure.

  12. someone (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

    “She is not asking for marks obtained by others but her own with clarity on selection process.”

    Rajesh, I am just going by the newspaper report here. Do you know her personally to back up your claim that this is not the case?

    From ToI:
    “…Indeed, the response of the IIM-B is shocking. The premier institute has refused to give the names and percentile marks obtained by short-listed blind candidates…”

    Sounds very clearly like she (or probably an overzealous parent/relative in this case), wanted exactly that – Names an Percentile marks obtained by other selected candidates.

    The issue is what several others have brought up: Her achievements are inspiring but, would this be printworthy material if she were not visually impaired?

    As an aside, if the IIMs were actually engaging in nepotism, doesn’t it go against reason that they would actually pick a visually impaired candidate to be knocked off the list?

  13. Ashish (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2007 @ 4:09 am

    To people like Sanjay Pandey et. al.

    If the IIMs (or IIMB in particular) are soooooooooooo bad (with no value addition, not good teachers etc), why bother to seek admission in such a college?

  14. Rajesh (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2007 @ 8:44 am

    Someone, yes indeed as you said nether i know her or nor I have seen her application under RTI.
    You are right she is indded asking for credentials of the selected candidates who seem to have overpassed her and I feel is a fair request under the law..
    Watch NDTV today…it is clear that IIM-B has invited her and her parents for an ‘interview’ as the report says…
    as I said earler, this is alearning fro the institution and students who struggle their way through and still don’t get fair opportunities as the supply seems far less than demand…

    @Ashish, pls read along this with context, our education process and the demand for higher percetile is just so stressful that we sometimes forget the purpose of these kind of institutions, are they only for the toppers or should they work to make everyone ( the 35% percentile upward) a topper?
    In my opinion a ‘good’ will always be those who will make each and every student shine and work with all the strata… perhaps we all will certainly take time to reach that stage when we will also respect and duly provide for all the passouts and not only the cream..easening the system and providing fair opportunities for all…

  15. Chitra (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2007 @ 10:29 am

    Rajesh, I was unaware of IIMs coming unver the RTI act. It is a little strange only cause I know that typically it is really upto the B-schools to select candidates. And B-schools, unlike tech institutes, do not have a cut and dry admission criteria. Mostly because the talents required at a b-school are quite varied.

  16. Rajesh (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2007 @ 10:40 am



    Under section 8 of RTI act any information which is made availabnle to the parliament will have to be made available to all and any Indian citizen unless that information is excluded under the schedule of the act… Here is what is excluded from the act..

  17. Sanjay Pandey (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

    Ashish, My contention is not that IIM-B has good teachers or bad teachers. My contention is that we, the people of India, created some institutions by our hard earned money and we demand accountability from them. Regarding why people want to study there, well they funded it so they have all the right to study there, it is there personal decision. My question as a citizen of this country is that what is the criteria they use to select candidates for study. If there is no transparency in that procedure then what is the guarantee that influence peddling is not being done. The circumstantial evidence is pointing towards IITs/IIMs heavily engaged in this activity. Have you gone through the profile of children of politicians/Bureaucrats/Industrialists. You will find that majority of them are graduates of IITs/IIMs. Do all of them qualify. I can bet my 10 years salary that they don’t. Genius is never hereditary. But they find place in IIMs/IITs. Are we claiming that offsprings of these people are the best in a country of billions. I doubt so.

    @someone – Nepotism is there if you dig deep enough. Check out the profile of kids of IIM/IIT related people and you will get the evidence. Nepotism is a small crime compared to influence peddling.The phenomena of you scratch my back and I will scratch your back. It is very much there and the victims are the students/candidates who toil hard along with their parents to reach that stage and then are thrown out because they do not have a influential person as mentor. If people ask questions then these institutions hide behind the smoke screen of secrets.

    Chitra – Your concern is very much valid. It will happen that coaching centres will train up candidates in the skill sets which are needed and this will again deprive the rural and poor candidates who do not have access to those coaching centres. This will need to be looked into. But this will not reduce the quality of candidates. These tests are supposed to filter out chaff from grains. So if the great management gurus cannot distinguish between real talent and made up talent then don’t you think that will prove the fact that they are worthless and the only reason for their success is because they take the top talent of country. Further think that teachers who are unable to distinguish between originals and fakers how do you expect them to teach management to candidates. So if we think that IIMs are best and their teachers are best then the problem of coaching centres sending worthless candidates is already taken care of.

    Someone – you are right that if the candidate would not have been visually impaired this incident would not have captured so much bytes but don’t you think she is just a symbol of everything which is wrong in our premier institutions systems.

    Lastly, we expect transparency from Govt to the extent that we want parliamentary proceedings to be aired. Government files to be opened up for public scrutiny but the moment it comes to holy cows of India, IIM and IIT among some more, we start defending the indefensible. I fail to understand that how can we demand the deliberations of a governemtn committee simultaneously claiming that IIM deliberations and decisions are not open to public scrutiny. What do IIMs have to hide that they are unwilling to reveal. And yes, the candidate does have the right to know the marks of selected candidates along with reasoning for those marks as that is very much required to prove whether she has been excluded legally or we are facing an act of discrimation whose roots lie in illegal activity. I am very much sure of my assertion as the action of IIM in calling her parents and herself for interview points towards a covering up operation in progress.

    Now IIM need to answer why they excluded her in first place and after excluding why then they called her up if they were right in the first place. This action reeks of a guilty mind trying to pour water over fire generated by their action and to evade the public scrutiny.

  18. Rajesh (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

    @Sanjay, Cool off a bit. let’s wait to hear what IIM-B is offering her today…

  19. someone (unregistered) on February 24th, 2007 @ 11:48 pm,0008.htm

    “They told us that she did not make it because others (in the category of applicants with physical disabilities) were graduates or had work experience, etc. We had a long meeting and discussed many things because we want to understand where we stand. Let us wait till Monday (February 26). We have to attend a hearing at the RTI Commissioner’s office that day. The group discussions and interviews are scheduled for April. Let us see what happens on Monday.”

  20. Ashish (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

    I agree that we have the right to demand accountability from all institutions. But we do not have the right to accuse them of taking children of influential officers/politicians without proof. Please think a little before accusing these institutions of taking students who do not deserve it. You might be surprised to see that even children of so many professors at these institutions are not able to get in. In fact, if politicians/officers could get there children in IIMs, these institutes would be full of them only.
    The professors who have done there PhDs at universities like Harvard and Stanford would never have come back to these institutes to teach if admissions were rigged.

    The argument about paying taxes, so have the right to study there… Do you still think that is a valid argument?
    We have ti understand that not everyone can be taken in there. If so, we fund the parliament also. So can we say we are a member? We fund the army also, can we go and say we want to fly the fighter planes?
    We have some processes in place to select people. may not be the perfect processes, but they are the the best possible.

    Also, if students selected were not so good, we would not find so many indian and foreign companies making a line for recruiting their students when they can recruit from schools abroad.

    I am not sure I have addressed your concern about this. In fact, we have so many corrupt institutions in India that we have come to believe that even these are the same. But think of the graduates from these colleges who have achieved something without inherited wealth and you might feel that these institutes are not so corrupted in admission. The latest one is Indira Nooyi, Head of Pepsi.

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