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New MBA mantra for Indians

Following the footsteps of Mgmt institutes in the US, the leading B-schools in India now prefer candidates who come backed with work experience, reports Nivriti Butalia.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2008 01:34 IST
Nivriti Butalia

Following the path paved by management institutes in the US, leading B-schools in India now seem to prefer candidates who come backed with work experience. The trend has been highlighted in a survey conducted across 20 leading B-schools in India by M Now Magazine — launching tomorrow, 7 January, all over India (it is the sister publication of management portal MBAUniverse.com).

The B-schools surveyed include the six IIMs; Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi and Calcutta; MDI, Gurgaon; NMIMS University, Mumbai; and Xavier Institute of Management (XIM), Bhubaneswar.

While on an average 60 per cent candidates have work experience, in some cases, as many as 75 per cent candidates already have a corporate job on their CVs.

Satwinder Singh, Director M Now says that “by 2010, up to 75 per cent of total seats at the top 25 B-schools could be reserved for applicants with work experience.”

Father Abraham, Director, Xavier’s Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (XIMB) agrees: “Work experience provides a strong platform for students to learn faster and better than graduates.” At XIMB, for instance, students with work experience are likely to constitute 84 per cent in the 2008-10 batch. And Dr Sujit K Basu, Director, MDI, says: “A candidate learns more when he/she interacts with people from varied backgrounds and thus a diverse MBA class is a perfect learning environment. For this reason, weightage is assigned for experience.”

Graduates throng to take the CAT because everyone around them seems to be going down that road. And while there’s assured money post the degree, there’s little thought given to aptitude and vocation. Chitrangada Siyal, 23, worked at Ernst and Young for three years, and is headed for the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, in March for an MBA in finance. Siyal thinks it makes sense to not head for a B-School right after graduating. “Once college got over, I thought I wanted to do an MBA in marketing. But having worked in finance and marketing both, I’m convinced that finance is where my interest lies.” Adding that it seemed pointless to randomly collect what would probably be the last degree of her life — and one that would go on to define her career for the next 20 years.

Viren Wadhwa, 30, works with the Integrated Marketing and Communications team at CISCO. Wadhwa feels it is high time B-schools in India made about 5 years of work experience mandatory, because “it takes that much time to move from a regular sales-exec position to that of decision-making and strategising.”

Wadhwa did his MBA from the MacQuarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) in Sydney, and had worked for 6 years in the communications industry before going on to get his degree. He believes that to rise from being just a ‘theoretical manager’, it is imperative to work before doing a management course.

Interestingly, there is a consensus among B-school pass-outs, that the varied work backgrounds of their MBA batchmates brings in different perspective to the classroom, which then goes a considerable way in helping one become a better manager.

Sourav Roy, 25, graduated from IIM (A) last year, and now works with Tata Adminstrative Services (TAS) in Mumbai. Before his MBA, Sourav worked for a year with a consulting firm in Delhi. He says that since MBA programmes are very packed, “some amount of perspective from real-life situations definitely helps understand a new concept.” Sourav’s batch (2005-2007) reiterates the trend of previous work experience, with the majority of students (57%) having worked for an average of two-two and a half years before hitting their management books.

Not everyone, however, is giving the thumbs up to having work experience before doing an MBA. The Indian Institute of Planning and Management’s Prof Arindam Chaudhuri — who, in fact, runs a BBA programme where you can enroll right after 10+2 — feels that one should be armed with a management degree before entering the workplace. “Students are in the habit of studying, which is why going for an MBA post graduation is perfect timing,” he points out. So while it’s true that more and more people who are already working are opting for an MBA, “a two or three-year-long corporate stint necessarily does not value add to your degree”. What about too much of theory in the classroom — and no practical experience? Nothing is better than a good theory, he argues, and a good theory can always be “practicalised”.

But Chaudhuri agrees that it’s important to reinvent the wheel: “If you have been a sales manager and are now being promoted to marketing manager, your company should send you for a specialised course in strategy. In fact, one should enroll for a short course every five years — to get an update on new skills.”

(Additional inputs by Sushmita Bose)