June 28, 2020
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'MBA Degree Is Evolving, Only Those Who Upgrade Their Skills Will Thrive'

A keen sense of emerging trends in business ­education is crucial in choosing the right course

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'MBA Degree Is Evolving, Only Those Who Upgrade Their Skills Will Thrive'
Photograph by Amit Haralkar
'MBA Degree Is Evolving, Only Those Who Upgrade Their Skills Will Thrive'

The belief that “doing an MBA” is necessary for a good career is so strong in India that people blindly pursue it without analysing whether the belief is true or not. In reality, only a certain proportion of people with an MBA get into managerial positions, and most of the rest get jobs that would have been filled efficiently by graduates, in another time or place. This has also led to an oversupply of underqualified MBAs who enter the workforce without any experience, and similar in performance to an undergraduate. For better prospects, many asp­irants would find it useful to work for a while before going in for an MBA. And they need to be careful in choosing where to study.

Economic headwinds over the next two years will be high, with growth and jobs likely to be constrained. So how does an aspirant choose what to do and where to do it? It makes sense to look at trends in business education, and the kinds of gaps that will exist in the job market. The MBA or business degree is also evolving. The early MBA degrees that started in the US derived their frameworks from the military or the church, which were top-down pyramids.

The current popular structure of business education, including Indian business schools, evolved in the 1960s, and the basis for management moved to the social sciences. This remains in vogue today, but the technology revolution is driving a movement towards increasing the scientific basis of a business degree.

Only those who ­constantly read, learn and upgrade their skills will thrive in the fast-changing business ecology.

Business is changing rapidly, with online presence increasingly critical. Companies and customers are more connected through technology, altering the role of intermediaries. Companies have access to loads of structured as well as unstructured information about their markets and customers, and can measure the impact of what they do in virtual space almost in real time.

The biggest problem companies are facing is in how to productively use the reams of information they can potentially access. This gap has led to business schools introducing an MSc in business, from the US—a trend that Dr Prasad Naik of UC Davis calls ‘Management 3.0’. The courses focus on management and interpretation of big or unstructured data. In addition, many good business schools everywhere have introduced courses on ‘business analytics or big data analytics’.

The ‘business analyst’ profile is likely to become a high-demand occupation, so it makes sense to look at an MBA with a specialisation in this area. There are also shorter, specialised variants of the business programme, which build expertise in certain areas such as digital marketing and finance, which can be seen as a continuous growth tool after an MBA, or a pre-MBA qualification or exposure.

There is also a greater presence of international universities in India, besides the Global MBA programme that allows you to do an MBA in multiple campuses abroad. The Global MBA gives you exposure to different cultures and work practices, preparing you for working in a multinational organisation in which you may move across countries.

Most global B-schools have a more practically oriented course structure than their India counterparts, and focus on collaborative delivery, creating better team players. Indian institutes, however, are better org­anised in terms of placements than most global institutes. B-schools in India have a placement season, call organisations down and focus on getting their students placed.

Much of this is left to the student in global schools, though they open options and provide contacts. It is also cheaper to do a Global MBA from India than to go abroad.

Over the next decade or so, it will not be enough to get your degree and sit back. The fast-changing business environment, coupled with online learning and course delivery, will create an atm­osphere where those who constantly read, learn and upgrade their skills will thrive, leaving others behind.

(The writer is MD, Drshti Strategic Research Services, and mentor, www.prep4future.org)

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