Business Management: Not Merely a Qualification
- How do you think the MBA market has changed in the last 5 years?
- MBA degree with focus on specialization is moving towards Sectoral + Specialization. This shift began with Retail, followed by E-Commerce, HealthCare, Pharma, Construction, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Rural, Media etc. These sectors are looking forward to the talent that has ‘ domain’ + ‘ management/leadership ‘ competencies, primarily due to heightened competition, sophistication of consumer/buyer/customer habits and lifestyles etc.
Sectoral programmes have the advantage of building closer relationship with the Sector ecosystem, enabling both the recruiter and recruited. But just as employers demand more specialised graduate hires, the students are going to demand a broader range of specialisations to choose from. The national focus on ‘Skilling India’ and ‘Start-Up India’ has also boosted the interest amongst MBA aspirants towards enhancing their entrepreneurial acumen as well.
According to MBA recruiters from major companies, likely areas of demand will be Human Resource Management, Project & Programme Management, Marketing and Supply Chain Management. This has led to an increased openness of large corporate groups to widen their recruitment funnel to include more number of B-Schools, beyond the premier IIMs, IITs etc.
Having said that, the proliferation of B-schools (5000 + at last count) that has led to an oversupply of sub-standard MBAs, is increasingly making the MBA aspirants more wary and very selective in choosing the B-School to apply to; they are particularly focusing on good infrastructure and learning environment, reputed faculty, diversity of learning experiences, brand image and placement track record.
- What are the major challenges in India’s management education that you think need immediate attention?
- B-Schools that wish to stay in the race and offer quality, will have to continuously invest time, money and priority in triggering a virtuous cycle of developing good faculty, building a differentiated focus /strength ‘space’ and crafting a brand around the same time has built such a reputation, based on sector specific programmes with its excellent industry linkages and combined it with the deep embedding of design thinking, innovation and leadership as a horizontal DNA, across its offerings.
Industry engagement is another extremely important priority. Involving industry experts, at every stage of the students’ professional study and skilling over the two years at the B-School, contributes in a big way in building confidence with the industry. Placement is and should be a culmination of industry’s close engagement with B-School students and the resultant confidence that has been earned by the institution.
- On what criteria should a student base his/her decision to pursue business management? What are the factors one should keep in mind when choosing an MBA specialization?
- The primary purpose for selecting a career path/sector/specialization is to understand what it takes to become an outstanding professional in the industry. This includes understanding the nature of the role, tasks, knowledge and skills required, the challenges involved, value for the role in the longer term, etc. More important criterion should be whether the MBA aspirant is willing to engage to learn a diverse set of such tasks, through live projects and concurrent internships, besides getting to experience at first had, from those professionals who have travelled on a similar career path.
The aspirant of Business Management should also assess his or her capability, passion and ability to learn the subject areas associated with these job roles. Hence, one should base the decision, by giving weightage to the areas of passion, as the rest will follow. Such an aspirant is bound to make the requisite efforts to learn and master the necessary skills while enjoying the work assigned. This in turn would get reflected in the quality of output, lead to recognition and accelerated career advancement. I strongly believe that opportunities exist in all fields for the aspirant who is passionate about his/her preferences.
- How do skills acquired after doing an MBA improve one’s job performance?
- Abilities like drive/taking initiative, having a can-do/ positive mind-set, innovating thinking, effective communication, team work and leadership are important and relevant for success in today’s work arena. MBA graduates who have nurtured these abilities and competencies are bound to shine in their careers. In the initial years, skills of using office automation tools, a broader perspective on technology besides willing and able to ‘roll up one’s sleeves’, would further enhance levels of success early in the career. Other subtle abilities built include the working on ‘open-ended ‘assignments, work with minimal besides interpersonal skill development facilitated through social & collaborative processes.
- According to common notion, taking up an MBA course is more about getting into a fancy brand and huge pay package rather than actual learning. How true is this? Please elaborate.
- This was notion in the past. However, it is not so axiomatic any more. MBA programme facilitates the student to access wider opportunities, raise one’s own thinking and executing capabilities and get an opportunity to add value to the business and organizations one joins and to the society. Today, more and more MBA graduates are searching for jobs where there is a good ‘cultural fit’ with the organization, offer the desired role, long-term career prospects and job satisfaction through meaningful contribution to the society.
- What according to you are the most promising MBA specializations considering the industry preferences?
- Trends show that on most campuses, IT, Finance and Marketing continue to attract large numbers of students. One of the reasons for this is due to the significantly large requirements of the IT and related industries, besides the BFSI sector as they have been consistent in hiring over the last five to seven years. Marketing discipline across all verticals and sectors will always remain in demand. Even when corporates reduce the campus hiring for other positions, the requirements of Marketing continue to be good.
Some of the specializations, however, have been more successful in certain campuses, due to the reputation as well as strength of the faculty, the focus of the institution on that specialization and due to the locational advantage of the campus. E.g.: BFSI is largely based in Mumbai while Manufacturing is largely based in places like Pune, Chennai, Gurgaon, etc. B-Schools located in such areas have made a mark in such specialization taking advantage of the needs of industry sectors in the vicinity.
- What are top employers looking for when hiring MBA graduates?
- Companies now look for MBAs that fit best with their culture. With the right blend of skills, work experience, and contacts, a MBA graduate can easily stand out among others. MBAs, with their management training combined with work experience, are placed in generalist, analyst and strategy positions in large firms. Academic proficiency and rigour, professional understanding of the eco-system, impactful communication, global mind-set and a strong sense of ethics and values will become the deciding factors while selecting that one perfect candidate by a corporate.
- Looking for a job can be a daunting experience as thousands of MBA graduates are entering the workforce – how should a person market himself/herself?
- Apart from leveraging his past qualifications and work experience as an asset, every MBA must undertake a whole range of projects particularly in areas where he wishes to build his career that will expose him to the domain, but more importantly will help him evaluate if he is really fit for that career and identify the path which triggers his inner passion.
Identifying a couple of mentors, developing a rapport by meeting them frequently will help one learn beyond curriculum, boost confidence and help in exploring different career avenues.
MBA Graduate should prepare a bio-data which describes the profile within one page, and yet convey the essential details of the portfolio of work done. A detailed longer CV can also be developed and presented where asked for. Extra-ordinary performance during summer internships can lead to pre placement interviews and /or pre-placement offers.
- What is the importance of networking for MBA students?
- Net-work is Net-worth. Networking helps in opening doors for the student, ie: projects, mentorships, internships, or job placements. Networking can also be a source of career enhancement as it also provides personal recommendations, tips on job openings, and insight on how to stand out as an applicant. A MBA, who wishes to make a career in selling IT products and services, would benefit by developing contacts with CIOs by meeting them in conferences, during research projects. These investments in relationships help in approaching desirable industries and give advantages over other graduates. So my advice to MBA students: instead of just sending out resumes, start connecting with people.
- Pursuing higher studies from a foreign university has become a popular culture. How important is global exposure for students at this stage?
- Global exposure is vital in today’s context. It includes understanding of various markets, legal requirements, work culture and ethos etc. This helps to work more effectively, when one is part of virtual global teams. Global exposure also helps trigger innovations, via exposure to cutting edge technologies, next practices, etc.
The above can be facilitated in a number of ways. Global internships during MBA, and higher education in overseas universities are two options. Many students complete their MBA in India, to pursue a higher/different degree abroad. MBA in India essentially meets the four year Graduate education requirement, which is a pre requisite to gain admission in many countries, particularly in USA . This is most relevant for students who have completed Graduation in India in disciplines other than Engineering and Medicine.
- Your advice to students who are looking for options in MBA, on choosing the right career and being successful in it…
A.The rise of India as an economic superpower has increased the demand of quality managers who can enhance the growing businesses in the global context and an MBA is still a sure pathway of finding one’s place under the sun with a good career graph, quality of life, combined with the inner satisfaction of having contributed to not only to self, but organization and society.