Management educational institutes often times raise the question ‘Who is our target segment’ and even more precisely ‘who is our customer’. Is it the student who generates the revenue or the Organisations that recruit the students from the institution? Even if we were to acknowledge that both the segments are important, who is the primary customer? Can a corporate that does not generate any revenue be the primary customer?
It is a very interesting question to wrestle with as it dictates a direction towards promoting or even positioning the institute from a brand communication point of view. Let us try and pursue this line of reasoning further
Students are important stake-holders, whether primary or not but their association with the institution as student is for a short period in their lifecycle after which they may continue to have some stake but in their capacity as alumni. Prospective student’s preference /demand for an institute is a function of its standing/recognition by industry as reflected in ranking surveys, word of mouth and perceived alumni performance.
Corporate as stakeholder on the other hand potentially have an extended and ongoing engagement with an institution. The virtuous cycle of an institute’s brand standing is captured in the chart given in annexure-1. The key parameters in an institute’s brand standing are calibre of student’s intake, internal academic process and delivery of learning, placement track record and alumni performance and corporate recognition. The factors mutually reinforce one- another.
As the perception of the student is contingent on the informal rating of the Corporate we have to conclude that in the Virtuous Cycle it is the key dimension and makes Corporate the primary stakeholder
Corporate are customers without any revenue. Students are in some sense the finished products that institutions make available as a resource to the Corporate. When the institution gains corporate acceptance, it has established its brand equity which then gets leveraged for generating demand and commanding a price (fee charged for the program) the onus is on the institution to constantly upgrade its performance and perception with both the recruiters and prospective students. If Corporate are primary customers for the institution whether formally acknowledged or not, the case for engagement is strongly established.
In the Indian market context prospective student opts for a management program with the sole and explicit objective of career growth – increase in earning. Placement at the end of the program is a crucial service that the institute delivers. Educational institution engaging with Corporate is therefore a critical element in long term brand building for the institution
Let us now move to the other compelling reasons for engagement with Corporate. Most institutions have 3 tracks of operation
Teaching has to be in sync with contemporary Corporate issues/challenges and opportunities. It has to in fact draw from the market context to be able to deliver relevant learning to make the student employable or Corporate ready. The teaching curriculum needs to be constructed with inputs from corporate practitioners to be relevant. For institutions this is also an opportunity to align and build relationship that can then be leveraged for internship and placement opportunities
Institutions have an opportunity to understand the contemporary issues and opportunities in the Corporate by taking up applied research and consulting. The opportunity is not being leveraged by either side
Institutions engage with Corporate for management development. This creates a platform for engagement for mutual learning and is a strong revenue stream
The case for educational Institutions engaging with Corporate is very fundamental to its operation and has strong linkages to all areas of operation.
By virtue of being customers, Corporate can expect to be pampered by educational institutions and the demand- supply factor will keep moderating this relationship. Corporate have choice to recruit from and retain the services of any educational institution and have alternate sourcing strategy as well.
In the Indian context Corporate have the unique opportunity of establishing deeper relationship with management educational institutions. Corporate can explore partnership to sponsor and nominate their employees to management education with a view to retain and develop talent. This obvious opportunity is spurned and there is unabated churn. The opportunity for Online/ staggered/part-time education that is promoted by the Corporate so that employees do not have to take a break in their career has not been explored.
As it happens in other Seller- Customer context, may be this opportunity will have to be repackaged and presented to the Customer by the seller. And that will set new rules in the management education.