July 25, 2020
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Builders And Cradles

B-schools, and corporates, prepare for students dreaming of start-ups

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Builders And Cradles
Illustration by Saahil
Builders And Cradles

It is that time of the year again—magazines and online sites are publishing rankings, B-schoolers are preparing for placements, and aspirants are preparing for B-school entrance tests. The hope is that good jobs would be available at the end of the journey, and that the economy would support the job market.

The placements in the 2015 season improved over 2014, and the trend is likely to continue. In fact, the average starting salaries in the top 25 institutes improved by over seven per cent over 2014. Given this, is everything hunky dory for graduates new to the job market?

Conversations with senior HR professionals indicate that the improved job market is based on recruiters’ exp­ectations of better economic conditions, rather than the reality of superior corporate results. Most companies are expected to need more managers in future, though the present may not be that great. Unfortunately, this expectation relies on the government’s delivery on reforms and governance. Its ability to act may impact the job market in 2016-17 onwards, though this year’s market may be better than last year’s. However, new economy scaling can take up some job slack in future years.

The ecosystem is going through an exciting stage, and the media is full of stories of start-ups and VC funding. India is transforming into an economy where people are expected to ‘live’ on their mobiles, and businesses are being set up to enable them to do so.

Funding seems to be available for any transformative business. There is likely to be a period of four to five years before this transformation absorbs people. This is being reflected in the B-school space as well. Let us look at a few emerging trends:

  1. .Highly employable graduates from top schools are ins­tead sniffing out prospects of setting up ventures—‘doing a start-up’ is an attractive option.
  2. Around 70 per cent of the top 75 business schools have some form of incubator, which indicates that schools are accepting and reacting to trends.
  3. Funding seems to be available in some B-schools, easing the path to developing a business.
  4. Alumni are involved in some incubators, and as angels and advisors—strengthening the potential of these incubators, and covering the experience gap that professors with little business experience create.

Last year, I had questioned whether B-schools were still relevant, and outlined parameters based on which a school would provide useful, employable and productive graduates. We will need to assess the kind of knowledge and support they provide to entrepreneurs in future to judge their relevance.

Entrepreneurship now has an increasing value in the business ecosystem. Producing trained ‘munshis’ is not enough.

Corporate recruiters are also quite aware of the allure of the ‘start-up and get rich fast’ magnet. This has led to an increased acceptance of instability in the people they recruit, as they accept the keenness to ‘do your own thing’ working in the background.

Some senior managers believe that there is a need to change how firms view employees and business, and that radical solutions are needed to attract and retain top talent. They argue for the creation of a start-up or new economy ecosystem within companies, so that ideas can be farmed and funded in-house, and potential entrepreneurs find it worthwhile to work. Others argue for a strong link with B-schools that would enable companies to fund relevant start-ups in the incubators, with a view to absorbing them over time.

This implies that entrepreneurship has an increasing value in the business ecosystem, and that producing highly trained ‘munshis’ is not enough.

There is a strong need for B-school curricula and infrastr­ucture to support a more entrepreneurial ecosystem without losing academic rigour. This will have to start with the admission process, where B-schools will have to find ways to get past the ‘trained parrots’ created by prep classes, and assess students’ creative and entrepreneurial capabilities.

A.K. Balaji Prasad, MD, Drshti

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