Call it a school for leaders. Set up in July 2009 by Anil Sachdev who wanted to develop not just managers but leaders, the School of Inspired Living (Soil) teaches both management principles and values. Sachdev is an HR expert who headed Eicher Consultancy Services and founded Grow Talent Company Limited, a strategic HR consulting firm before starting Soil in Gurgaon.
Instead of a MBA degree, the institute awards a certificate co-branded by 32 blue chip companies — such as Hindustan Unilever, Infosys, Larsen and Toubro, Maruti Suzuki and Tata Steel. Representatives of the companies design the curriculum, sit on the admission panel by rotation and mentor students. And, they, of course, recruit from Soil.
The institute offers three one-year, full-time postgraduate programmes — in business leadership (BLP), marketing leadership (MLP), and human resource leadership (HRLP). Since the two-year management course is condensed into a year, Soil rigorously tests a student’s capacity to cope. “So the admission process is very strict,” says Snehal Shah, a faculty member, HR.
Incidentally, Soil is not recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). But then, it doesn’t aspire to it either. “We set our own standards and don’t depend on others for approval. We have a consortium comprising 32 companies, what more do we need,” asks Sachdev.
Soil’s entrance test, Caliper (an organisation in Princeton), is tougher than GMAT or CAT, claims Sachdev. While GMAT and CAT test only analytical skills, Caliper also tests emotional intelligence and creative ability.
You need an average of 50 per cent marks in graduation and at least three years of work experience to be eligible for BLP and a year of experience for MLP and HRLP. Exceptions are made for fresh graduates with an exceptional track record in multitasking. At present, only 10 of the students are freshers.
BLP is the most popular programme with 60 students per batch while HR has around 40. The new marketing leadership programme has 20 students.
Soil has nine full-time faculty members with experience in both academics and industry, apart from 40 visiting teachers, including eight from abroad. Each student is assigned a mentor — usually an industry leader. Once a month, students meet their mentors to clarify learning plans and professional goals.
“In November I take the students and teachers to Dharamsala for eight days to teach them positive psychology. Students do field work in villages and prepare case studies,” says Sachdev.
Every year over 100 companies, including blue chip ones such as Infosys and Mahindra, recruit from Soil. All students from the first two batches were placed in good companies. “Campus placements are on and 90 per cent of the current batch has already got good offers,” claims Sachdev happily.
Sreya Raghavan, 23, will be joining the Chennai office of Polaris, the software company, as an assistant manager in the HR department. A computer engineer, Raghavan worked with Infosys for 21 months before joining Soil. “The salary I have been offered by Polaris is thrice the amount I used to draw at Infosys,” says an elated Raghavan.
The cost of BLP is Rs 10 lakh while the MLP and HRLP cost 8.5 lakh each.
Ten per cent of seats are reserved for those whose annual family income is less than Rs 5 lakh. For such students, 25 to 100 per cent of the tuition fees are waived, depending on the case.
The admission notice is published online and about 25-30 per cent of new students apply based on word-of-mouth publicity. “That way we save on costs and can donate Rs 30,000 per student to a charity of their choice,” says Sachdev.
Apart from studies, students and teachers attend many workshops held by speakers of international repute. Classical music and dance programmes are also held and the students run a marketing magazine called Markazine. There are fests and annual leadership conferences as well.
What the institute lacks are a spacious campus, hostels and a canteen. However, plans are on to construct a huge campus, preferably in Pune or on the outskirts of Gurgaon.
“We are looking for a plot of land, preferably in Pune, to build a huge residential campus. Construction will start this year. It should be operational from 2015,” says Sachdev. It will start with 200 students and eventually accommodate 800 students.
WHAT IS IT? A business school with a difference in Gurgaon
WHO’S THE BOSS? Anil Sachdev is the founder and CEO
Where is it? Plot no. 76, Sector 44,
Pros Good faculty, great placements
CONS Not AICTE approved, no hostel facility
Ms Das’s trip to Soil was sponsored by the institute