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L.Sailaja Kumar

Interview Date : 11-02-2011

MBA - Master of Business Acumen!

Acclaimed professors and students in the field of management claim that barring a few top notch Business schools in the country that offer rigorous academic inputs along with the state-of-the-art campuses,  most educational institutions that run management programmes seem to be playing the role of a placement agency for their students. Apparently the best way to hook the student is through a lucrative pay. Is this wrong? Not exactly, but when MBA aims at grooming the student into an entrepreneur, a skilled leader or dynamic role model, surely it is not all that good to see money as the sole objective. Well, this debate would continue as long as the mushrooming institutes make hay while the sun shines. But what about those major chunk of aspirants who enroll themselves into the programme with rosy dreams? TCG spoke to several experts, students and academicians who put across their point candidly… read on



MBA has flexibility and reach which none of the other fields can offer. For example, a student with finance major does not get an MS in chemistry, and a student in biology major does not get an MS in accounting. MBA programmes accept students in any undergraduate field. They prefer students who do not have a business background because they give you the business training but they cannot provide the broad background that managers should have. MBA is not like an MS degree that concentrates study in a single field and prepares students for high level staff or research positions. The MS typically requires an undergraduate education in the field in which you want the MS, or a closely related field.

Experts lament that no importance is given to the course content or the quality of resources available with the management institution. What is important is the visibility and right contacts in the industry. Management education is big business today and many institutes just want to cash in while the going is good.

Is the scenario so gloomy? Not, at all, when I spoke to cross section of people into management, be it faculty, students, businessmen (with and without an MBA!) genuine and spontaneous answer was ‘I’m loving it!’ No, this is not the clichéd response of Mc Donald burger, but the ardent zest in these people to relish the entire module and learn a LOT in this process.

Says Manish Agarwal (Ex-Mc Kinsey employee), now playing a pivotal role in a reputed Educational NGO, “MBA was just a three letter word that fascinated me, without much understanding or knowing. It was only after I joined the programme and had hands on experience did I realise the actual thrill. More so working at Mc Kinsey was a roller coaster ride, with unexpected and thrilling highs and lows! Challenges were inseparable part of our daily work, which honed us into practical wizards. Its only when the knowledge gets translated into experience does the real learning happen. Now, almost after a decade’s experience in this field, when I go for campus recruitment to top notch business schools, what I see is very different. There are candidates who can handle any question flung at them, while some turn pale, as their ‘theory’ remains dormant, refusing to find a practical expression. Today students from good B schools have state-of-art facilities and have hands on experience that makes them best among the equals. With the right training, intelligence, presence of mind and spontaneity, students like these clearly walk away with the best. In fact, it is the other way round, when you have the leadership qualities companies come looking for you, as there is a perennial need for such efficiency. 

What does an MBA do to you/in what way does it help you? Lure and allure of MBA—is it only the fat pay?

Misnomer / Misperception: Contrary to what most students and parents believe to be true, an MBA is not a magic degree that will transform your life/fortunes and make you a Richie-rich overnight. Attaining an MBA degree will not automatically enlighten you on running either your own business or help run others’ businesses.

What an MBA will do: As with most things in life, the output one gets depends on the inputs provided. The value addition of an MBA to one’s professional life is both qualitative and quantitative which depends on primarily, among others, the quality of the institute providing the MBA education in terms of brand value, faculty, placements, peer group and alumni. It also depends on the amount of value the student is willing to extract from the institute. The latter is a pertinent point as MBA is a post-graduate programme, where the onus is more on the student to observe, question, and learn than on the faculty to spoon-feed.

An MBA from a top institute will arm one with confidence and conviction to foray into the corporate world and carve a path unique to one-self based on one’s aptitude and strengths. One may point out that there are umpteen examples of ordinary people from humble backgrounds without formal education or an MBA who went on to become inspirational figures in the world of business (Dhirubhai Ambani, the most notable among such people) and thus question the need for an MBA. What grammar is to language, MBA is to business. Although one can speak a language without understanding the various aspects of grammar, knowing the rules of grammar will definitely help one to speak the language in a more polished, refined and appreciate the nuances better than one without the awareness. Similarly, although one can enter the world of business without an MBA, MBA education will help organisations run more professionally and work in an organised, structured way even when under pressure. The rigours and the pressure of meeting deadlines, working in team, managing different, conflicting personalities are all challenges one is exposed to in the environs of a b-school, in the process preparing one for the ruthless world outside. In short, an MBA is equipped to connect the dots and observe the broader picture.


Most schools require minimum 60% in graduation, be it for General or Specialised MBA. The most popular MBA programme in the country—is General MBAs which the IIMs offer. IRMA or the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, offers MBA in rural management while those aspiring for specialised career in advertising have to target MICA—Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad. Or even XLRI. Every institute has its own selection criteria. Where as some institutes offer a bouquet of programmes, according to the target audience. For example, for fresh graduates there is General MBA and those who have had 6-7 years work experience opt for Executive MBA. Since management is something that cuts across all discipline and subjects any graduate can gone in for MBA. Obviously when one needs to set up a company or head a company one should have a thorough understanding of the entire system, which includes administration, finance, marketing etc.

What is the most sought after specialisation?

In most top b-schools, in a full time two-
year MBA programme, a student is exposed to basic subjects from all the major functional areas of finance, marketing, operations, IT, and HR. The idea is to provide sufficient time and exposure for the student to enable to make an informed choice based on his/her aptitude and career interests. It is after the completion of the first year that one is required to choose ‘electives’, which are specialised sub-areas within a major function. For example, finance as a specialisation is a vast function which entails multiple sub-areas, i.e. electives, such as financial management, derivatives and risk management, international finance, working capital management, etc. If one opts for a prescribed minimum number of electives, which depends on the institute, under a functional area, then one is said to specialise in that function. Alternately, one may also opt for a balanced distribution of electives spread across multiple functional areas. In this case, one is said to have done ‘General Management’ as against specialising. However, there is always the caveat that one may not always obtain an elective of one’s choice, due to various constraints, such as limited availability of slots.

Does work experience give you an edge over the others?

In most top b-schools, there is a weightage allotted to work experience while shortlisting for the interview stage as well as compiling the final list of selected candidates. Based on thtrends so far, the so-called ‘advantage’ is not as significant as it is made out to be. In fact, the incremental score with each additional year of work experience plateaus after certain years of work experience.

The real advantage to the experienced students is in terms of the maturity and ability to relate and appreciate the concepts taught in the classroom to their own experiences and learn in the process.

While not all MBA programmes require mandatory work experience, there are exclusive MBA programmes for people with experience. Typically, those with at least 5 years of experience prefer an executive MBA, which is slightly different when compared to the regular MBA, which has a diverse student composition.