Are you cut out for an MBA?
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Are you cut out for an MBA?

Should you pursue an MBA? Are you cut out for it? Vandana Ramnani chats up with IIM and XLRI graduates to find out what personalities make good managers

education Updated: May 22, 2012 20:17 IST
Hindustan Times

Rekha Sethi, Director General, AIMA

MBA can make a big difference to your life
An MBA degree is quite important and relevant to become a proficient manager. A sound grounding in the concepts and maths of management is vital to start as an executive. Of course, business is dynamic and the business environment changes all the time and that requires constant learning on the job. Still, studying how to organise, finance and operate a business helps one to handle different tasks and situations better than somebody who starts learning only after coming on the job.

Obtaining an MBA degree from a reputed b-school can make a big difference to one’s education and learning.

To start with, focus more on the education programme you want to pursue than the b-school you want to go to. Then try to get into the best b-school you can find for your chosen programme. Look at the programme content, the faculty, the infrastructure, the industry linkages and the alumni list of each b-school to rank them for your needs. If you already have a job, consider distance learning programmes. Also, as you study, test your job readiness by taking aptitude tests.

Rajat Jain, Managing Director, Xerox India, IIMA

MBA Helped me think
I have over 20 years of experience working in the consumer, telecom and media sectors in India with both start-up organisations and established multinationals. I joined Xerox from Mobile2win India, where I was the managing director, CEO and non-executive chairman since 2007. Prior to this I was senior vice president and managing director for Walt Disney India and executive vice president at Sony Entertainment. I have also held roles with ASC Enterprises, Benckiser and Hindustan Lever.

I earned a postgraduate degree from IIM, Ahmedabad, and a BTech from the Indian Institute of Technology.

My MBA degree from IIMA has definitely helped shape my career. Business can hardly be learnt in the classroom without work experience. However, IIMA provided me the unique opportunity to interact with great professors and other accomplished people. It provided a platform to learn sound business fundamentals that helped me in strategic thinking, developing leadership skills and keeping calm — not getting overly excited or depressed about anything in life. It helped me acquire an amazing network of batchmates and friends across the globe whom you can leverage on, for almost anything !

Studying at IIMA helped me develop my analytical as well as leadership skills. It made become fundamentally more entrepreneurial. Secondly, it encouraged me to take up more strategic views. In most circumstances, much of our job content is tactical, operational and focused on the short-term. However, I learnt to think long-term.

Thirdly, it made me think about people, encourage them to think beyond the self and the organisation, in the direction of the larger society and the environment. An MBA degree provides the platform but the real groundwork for my subsequent career was laid during my stint with Hindustan Lever, which was my campus job. Leading a sales/marketing team and subsequently managing a profit and loss account taught me the rudiments of operating a business. Managing people, handling diversity, learning from smart peers across industries, imbibing lessons from one’s seniors or bosses, respecting your channel partners — these elements slowly came along to solidify the foundation that had been laid in the early years.

Vinay Ramesh, Lead, client services, Analytics Quotient, IIM Lucknow

Dont fret about grades

Rather than focusing too much on grades, focus on interacting with fellow students, talking to professors about their experiences and working on as many real industry projects as you can

My peer group at IIML were a talented, smart bunch of people from varied professional and academic backgrounds who over two years taught me as much as the course did. Our course work was designed to make us work in teams and this really helped me later in my career, when I had to manage large teams or set up my own organisation.
Holding your own amongst some of the best minds in the country not only boosts personal confidence but also equips one to learn how to be persuasive without being dictatorial.

When I joined IIML I was at a crossroads. On the one hand I was fascinated with statistics and data, on the other with marketing and brand management. At IIML, I took courses that focused on both. I was then given the opportunity to work on a few projects for consumer goods companies where I stumbled on marketing analytics which combined the science of statistics with the art of brand building. And I have never looked back. I worked in this dynamic industry for a few years, and have now set up a knowledge cooperative called Analytics Quotient.

From a general management perspective, I also majored in finance and this has helped me greatly in juggling my dual roles of managing the company as a founding partner and its finances as CFO.

Does one learn on the job or is an MBA degree important? I think everyone learns on the job and no one course can teach you everything you need for your job. However, you do learn the basic vocabulary of business, interact with groups of intelligent peers, manage multiple projects simultaneously, skills that later pave the path to a healthy career.

My advice to students taking up an MBA course this year is that a lot of my peers at school were focused on grades and doing well in exams. I would advise students not to worry too much about their grades but rather focus on interacting with fellow students, talking to professors about their experiences and working on as many real industry projects/internships/assignments as you can. Most importantly, never forget to enjoy your time at school and have a few laughs, because the one skill which is required in the corporate world and cannot be taught is a sense of humour.

Ajay Muttreja, President, Technova India, IIMA

Learn and Absorb everything like a sponge

Ajay holds a Bachelor of Technology degree from IIT Kanpur and an MBA from IIMA. Ajay has over 30 years of executive management experience spanning 25 different industries. As president of Tecnova India, he has served many leading multinationals on a broad variety of topics related to strategy, incubation, operations and organisation. At Tecnova, Ajay has provided continued leadership to highly talented teams of engineers and professionals from diverse backgrounds. Amongst his key contributions to the organisation include acquisition of more than 150 foreign clients from Europe and USA, managing global key accounts for India market entry strategy implementation and head hunting for the top management.

Ajay has been very active in the start up space, having comprehensively set up and managed more than 100 successful start-ups in South Asia over the last 25 years.
Students interested in pursuing an MBA degree should look at the big picture first. They should look down from 30,000 ft above the ground level. And as you come down to earth, understand competition, how and what can impact your business. What one learns at an MBA institute is to appreciate divergent views and learn from them. My advice to students is that they should learn from others, absorb everything like a sponge

Rahul Roushan, Content Head, Affle, IIMA

The course taught me to learn from experience

I am a math graduate from Patna University who followed it up with a postgraduate diploma in journalism from IIMC, New Delhi, and worked as a journalist for around 2.5 years. Reality was a bit bitter and so I decided to go for further studies and landed up at IIM Ahmedabad for what the world knows as MBA. Towards the end of my second year at the institute, I decided to experiment with entrepreneurship and launched a website called (Cricket Stock Exchange) ahead of 2007 ICC World Cup in February 2007.

The website attracted a lot of media and public attention and launched me as an entrepreneur. Later, it was sold off to a US-based cricket website. I then launched Faking News on the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy (September 15, 2008) and it slowly grew in popularity. While Faking News’ brand popularity and traffic grew substantially, the revenues were not growing proportionally as my time and interest remained focused on content rather than commercials. This is where association with Affle came as a life saver.

How much you learn on the job depends on the personality you have. With an MBA one can look at problems with a bird’s eye view. Since I was interested in the mass media, I decided to do something in the field of online media and that's how Faking News was born. I discovered my interest and potential, I understood that I was not cut out for the financial sector. The options before me were to go back to journalism or start something on my own.

The case studies you dealt with during your MBA eventually prepare you to analyse things but most learnings happen on the job. I did experience a sense of déjà vu while pursuing my MBA as I had come across almost every kind of situation being analysed as a case study during the course. The course taught me to learn from other peoples' experiences.

My advice to students is that they ought to be sure why they want to pursue the course. If you believe in expertise and knowledge, you are not cut out for it. Always ask yourself why you want to do an MBA. While it’s true that the course helps you learn a lot through collective learning, the learnings outside the classroom are equally important. MBA as a degree is not enough, but an MBA as an experience is. The best books, the best institute doesn’t make a great manager, experience does.

Vishal Chibber, HR Director, Kelly Services, XLRI

Be a serious intern
Every course has a shelf life and an expiry date, so does an MBA degree. The experience one acquires over the years plays a strong role beyond the degree. What comes out of the course is a competitive spirit, resilience and the ability to learn to cope with pressure. What one learns is to develop tolerance to ambiguity, learn to perform in a different scenario and relat theoretical aspects to daily work life.

My advice to students would be to get work experience before you take up a management degree, don't be in a hurry to take up a course.

Try for a course in a premier institute. Even if you don't get it at the first attempt, try again.

Lay emphasis on the summer projects because they test your skills in putting your knowledge, classroom learnings into practice. Take your summer internships
seriously because that can land you a job offer from them.

First Published: May 22, 2012 20:10 IST