Articles on IITs

Developing a brand plan

Thus, a winning proposition has been very clearly established, viz. IIT is India’s foremost industrial leadership development institution. It cannot be assured that place in the future unless it follows a virtuous cycle of building the brand. No brand can be strengthened without continuous improvement of the basic product in tune with changing market needs. IIT administrations have their work cut out for them.

Four actions leap to one’s attention: to continue the meritocracy in admissions, to improve the quality of faculty and facilities, to strengthen industry linkages and finally to delineate the orientation of research and industrial leadership. IIT directors and faculty have many ideas for product improvement; McKinsey has prepared a blue print, so I will not go into details. I would rather focus on the less explored areas of nurturing the brand.

Of the many rules of branding, I have chosen only five rules today. IIT has done exceptionally well in three of them -- that is, the rule of leadership, of category, and of focus. On the rule of perception (continuing to fight for product and perceptional superiority) and the rule of resource (raising the intellectual and financial resource to fuel the plan), there is an unfinished agenda. Some focus on this agenda is called for.

IIT now needs the symbols of a unified logo, tie, badge and even an anthem. We should recall that although Indian history has been recorded for 25 centuries, for 20 of those centuries, we were an agglomeration of regional kingdoms held together only by culture and trade. Only during the Maurya and Gupta empires for short periods and latterly during Mughal and British periods, and of course, post-1947, we have been a unified single brand called India.

It is perfectly normal for symbols to follow unification. It is, I believe, time to have a single IIT identity. Let the success stories about our heroes be told through the media as has begun to happen. Let the IIT values/symbols be strengthened by publishing books about IITs and IITians. In ten key cities, there could be an annual IIT Endowment Lecture through a tie-up with the Institution of Engineers or the Management Association. Future students could build their role models by the IITs inviting distinguished alumni back to the campus.

An existing virtuous cycle of networking with alumni, the brand carriers, needs to be strengthened. Through them, IITs can generate funds for both product and brand improvement. Like at Harvard and Princeton, there should be appointed a Dean of External Relations, who should be a tremendously charismatic networker with the alumni. He should build a database of alumni who are High Net Worth and Prominent.

The undergraduate B Tech alumni tend to have the strongest emotional ties because they join when most impressionable, away from home perhaps for the first time, and form special bonds and communities through the numerous campus activities. The Dean should bear this in mind. On a lighter note, but not entirely flippantly, the Dean of External Relations also needs to understand the Newtonian mechanics pertaining to alumni donations.

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