Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Amity University Broke Rules, Survived Adversities, and Came Up

Has any other Indian university broken as many conventions as Amity? Perhaps not. Firstly, Amity broke the venerated rule of having just a large campus and expecting students from everywhere to show up there. Instead, Amity went to wherever students were in plenty, and formed reasonable campuses. Secondly, in a nation where high quality institutions never advertised, Amity advertised as though there was no tomorrow. The Noida headquartered private university has also faced more serious adversities than perhaps any other university in India. How about a de-recognition of its B-School by AICTE? Amity has survived that after a protracted battle. How about extradition requests for its promoter by a foreign nation? Amity has survived that too, at least so far. Amity is not just surviving such adversities, but thriving to become India’s largest multi-campus private university with 1,00,000 students on its rolls. And this almost mindless pursuit of quantity has not come at the cost of quality. Though Amity is not the quality leader in most disciplines, Amity Law School and Amity B-School stand out as exceptions, while their engineering courses are also starting to get respected among the nation’s best. Can Amity continue this kind of performance for long? Seasonal Magazine identifies seven traits that makes Amity tick to find out whether it can continue in momentum, especially in the backdrop of too many private universities offering stiff competition to Amity in almost all cities they are in:

Promoters’ Background:

Ashok Chauhan not only studied well enough in India, to obtain a German higher-education scholarship, but became a noted techno-industrialist in the European nation in sectors like plastics and petrochemicals. Even more importantly, his later day success in higher education shows that he was indeed that rare mix of entrepreneur and educationalist. This pedigree continues in son Atul Chauhan who is an alumnus of London School of Economics, and is the hands-on leader at Amity since some years now.

Leadership Traits:

Despite being started by a first generation entrepreneur, and despite being a family-owned organization, Chauhans were swift to bring in professional management. And when any private university claims about professional management, it can’t go beyond Amity’s stats. Because, on Amity’s rolls are 11 former Vice Chancellors, from the country’s traditional and respected public university leadership. Surprised? Wait, as there is something more. Amity has in its top team, a former Vice Chairman of All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), and even a former Chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC). Together, these topmost academicians leads a team of 4000 strong faculty, many of them inventors, patent holders, or joint patent holders with Amity in science, technology, business etc.

University Goes to Students:

Perhaps this has been one of Amity University’s original innovations. Usually universities are so huge and set in their activities that they are tied up to a particular place and campus. Students should come to universities, and not vice versa, was the rule. But Amity merrily broke that rule, by not confining its operations to the original Noida campus in Delhi NCR. Chauhans created impressive Amity campuses at Lucknow, Gurgaon, Jaipur, & Gwalior. And that was not all. Facilitating high-quality business education wherever the bulk of the students are, Amity Global Business School Campuses were started at 13 cities - Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Indore, Kochi, Noida, Patna, & Pune. Amity’s geographical expansion story is still not complete. It has already gone international with campuses in California, New Jersey, London, China, Singapore, Dubai, & Mauritius.

A Different Communication Strategy:

Long back, the acid test for a university’s credibility was whether it advertised its services or not. The logic was that venerated institutions like IITs and IIMs didn’t need to advertise themselves to get students. It was one another rule that Amity happily broke. Amity advertises heavily and makes no bones about it. Because with the speed with which they were scaling up Amity, Chauhans knew they had to communicate effectively, round the year, and around the world. But it was always tasteful advertising that also built the brand Amity. That is how the word spread in India and abroad that there are world-class campuses run by Amity in India, and how Amity ended up teaching what has always been the largest NRI/PIO student contingents ever. On hindsight, universities and colleges that didn’t advertise heavily were the losers, as, today Amity gets as many as 5 applicants for a seat enabling it to choose the best students among them, which helps in progressively improving the quality to the best levels.

Central Campus vs. Distributed Campuses:

Amity campuses are second to none in India, and even abroad. Its 5 university campuses and 13 business school campuses together span more than 1000 acres. Amity libraries are equipped with over 1,00,000 books, periodicals, national and international journals, and DVDs/CD-ROMS, covering all aspects of academic studies and research material. Spread over 4.5 million sq. ft. of built up area, Amity pioneered wireless campuses in India with thousands of networked computers, and with 600 MBPS of broadband connectivity. Amphitheatre style air-conditioned classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, and ultra modern auditoriums are other features. And Amity puts these facilities to good use. Over 1500 noted CEOs and over 50 international gurus like Tom Peters, Kenichi Ohmae, Robert Kaplan, and Ricardo Semler, have personally addressed and interacted with Amity students, using these facilities.

Quantity vs. Quality:

From the outset, Ashok Chauhan understood that it was quality that precedes quantity. And over the years, despite its huge portfolio of subjects, Amity has been climbing the quality ladder one sure step after the other. Today, Amity Law School is regarded as one of the finest in the country. Amity B-School regularly comes among Top-10 business schools in the country, and is known for the very best placements among all private universities. All other Amity departments too have been scaling up quite fast on the quality front, including their engineering school.

Surviving Adversities:

An organization’s strength is known not during prosperity, but during crises. The Chauhans and Amity have had plenty of serious challenges in their history. Amity faced its biggest crisis when the regulator, AICTE, revoked recognition for its B-School, many years back. It was a protracted battle, but Amity did win eventually. Similarly, Ashok Chauhan and his brother had litigations snapped upon them when some business transactions became disputed way back in Germany. Though the case is not solved yet, the Chauhans have never allowed it to distract them from pursuing growth and quality at Amity.

Scaling Up:

In the final analysis, Amity has scaled up like no other university - private or public - in this country. Today, Amity is home to over 1,00,000 students, across its 5 university campuses and 13 b-schools. This educational enterprise even takes care of parents’ greatest worry of accommodation, through the well appointed Amity Residences, which are noted for separate facilities for boys and girls, caring wardens, and tight security. Leaving students at peace to study, research, interact, and grow together. No wonder then that Amity students are placed at some of the best MNC and Indian corporates including McKinsey, Ernst & Young, Hindustan Unilever, and Reliance Industries.

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