(PGP) diplo­mas from the chair­man of the board of gov­er­nors of IIM-C. Thanks to tech­nol­ogy, as stu­dents walked up onto the stage one by one, their pho­to­graphs flashed on the big LED screen, giv­ing the au­di­ence a larger-than-life pass­port pic­ture of each one of them and their names. Sit­ting on stage, watch­ing the process start, I got my fel­low gov­er­nor and a fac­ulty nom­i­nee on the board to play an in­ter­est­ing game. I quickly told him about the “Iyer” phe­nom­e­non of the late 1970s and asked him which in his opin­ion would be the most pop­u­lar name among the IIM-C PGP stu­dents. Not only were we cu­ri­ous to study the fate of the Iyer clan, but also see if there were any pat­terns that emerged in the names of stu­dents at IIM-C.

Our re­search stretched right through the con­vo­ca­tion. At the end we re­al­ized that most of our as­sump­tions had been over­turned.

For one, there weren’t as many typ­i­cal Tam Brahm names. I re­mem­ber dur­ing my time at IIM-C there were many Srini­vasans, to the ex­tent that they had to be given newer names: Cheenub, Vs­rini, Rs­rini, etc. I was a bit dis­ap­pointed to see the dis­ap­pear­ance of the typ­i­cal Tam Brahm sur­names like Narayanan, Vaidyanathan, Srini­vasan, Subra­ma­nian, Kr­ish­naswamy, etc. If they were there, they did not catch our at­ten­tion.

Com­ing to first names, there was a time when ev­ery guy born in the coun­try was called Ravi, Vi­jay, Ra­jiv or Rahul. How did these names fea­ture in the Class of 2017? Not well at all. Yes there were a cou­ple, but not too many.

To our sur­prise, the name that popped up the most was Ankit (and Ankita), to­gether there were eight stu­dents with that name/ s.

For the first time in IIM-C his­tory, the Gold Medal win­ners of both the two-year PGP pro­gramme and the one-year PGP for Ex­ec­u­tives pro­gramme were women. The par­tic­i­pa­tion of women which had stag­nated in the low dou­ble-dig­its—11-12%—has started climb­ing up at IIMS. The lat­est batch at IIM-C has 30% women, prob­a­bly the high­est among the top IIMS.

Com­ing back to names, do they mat­ter or are they just a re­flec­tion of the times and the iconic fig­ures we see on me­dia, in cinema, tele­vi­sion and on the cricket pitch?

Global re­search points to some in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­ena as re­ported in The In­de­pen­dent. In a New York Univer­sity study it was found that if you have a name that is easy to pro­nounce, peo­ple will favour you more. As one of the psy­chol­o­gists ex­plained, when we can process a piece of in­for­ma­tion more eas­ily, com­pre- hend it more eas­ily, we also tend to like it more. This prob­a­bly ex­plains why In­dian (and Chi­nese/ja­panese /Korean) adopt a more fa­mil­iar name when they cross the At­lantic (or Pa­cific).

Re­search in the US has also pointed out that if you have a black­sound­ing name like Lak­isha Wash­ing­ton or Ja­mal Jones, your chances of get­ting a call­back from a re­cruiter is lower by 50%.

An age-old be­lief in the US is that a name with a mid­dle name car­ries more heft; a mid­dle ini­tial makes you sound smarter and more com­pe­tent. Harry S. Tru­man, 33rd pres­i­dent of the US, had a mid­dle name which was just an ini­tial “S”. And he went on to be­come pres­i­dent.

In the book In­vis­i­ble In­flu­ence, Jonah Berger re­ports how US so­cial se­cu­rity ad­min­is­tra­tion tracks the names given to ba­bies. And they dis­cov­ered that in the years 2006 to 2010 there was a 10% in­crease in the num­ber of ba­bies be­ing given names that start with the let­ter “K”; Berger points to the storm Ka­t­rina that rav­aged the south of the US for the rise in the “K” names.

Our own tele­vi­sion pro­duc­ers had a “K” ob­ses­sion, not in any way re­lated to the storm; it was prob­a­bly dic­tated by a favourite astrologer, and not the weather god.

The Bard had said “what’s in a name”? I re­al­ized that there is a lot in a name. Ev­ery name tells a story that is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous one. Each of the eight Ankits are sure to agree. Or maybe not.

Ambi M.G. Parameswaran is a brand strate­gist, au­thor and founder of Brand-build­, an in­de­pen­dent brand ad­vi­sory. He can be reached at am­bimgp@brand-build­


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