I get an unmistakable sense of deja vu when I look back at the time I was about to complete my MBA. The Indian economy had opened up after one of the worst downturns during the early 90's and a world of opportunities beckoned. There was no dearth of choices as deregulation, reduction of tariffs and a gradually increasing flow of foreign funds had opened up many sectors where a business graduate stepping into the real world could make a mark. I see a similar situation now where the nation's economy is on the cusp of another boom after a long period of under-par growth. While the mood is still cautious, there are clear indications that it has turned from despair to optimism. A Firstbiz report says summer placements in 2014 have been robust with new companies making internship offers at top B-schools. The process has been wrapped up in a flash as well. I read that IIM-Calcutta's summer placement process was done and dusted in just 3 days! A record 441 students received 465 offers from 155 companies something that has never happened at any IIM until now. This could well be the best time to pursue a quality MBA program..
MBA=Must Be Acquired
An annual HRD ministry report indicates that there are 2450 management institutes, across the country, offering programs approved by the All India Council for Technical Education. These institutes can potentially enroll 3.85 lakh students every year. However, quality varies significantly and while it was always crucial to graduate from the Tier 1 schools, it is perhaps even more so now. But the larger question in today's day and age of fast-paced changes in the business world is whether having an MBA is better than not having one at all?
An MBA student gets exposed to how business is conducted by private business houses, multinationals, government-owned and management corporations. The global, regional and national perspective is shared in the classroom. Many institutes expose students to work-situations via real-life case studies and role plays. They get a deeper understanding of team-building, decision-making and strategy formulations while working in close-knit groups. Internships with companies are also invaluable experiences for the students.
While many think of MBA in isolation as their key to a great career, a good way to look at it is like a layer of 'management skills' one adds to the 'core skills' or industry knowledge. Not just engineers, professionals from a wide-variety of fields ranging from rocket science to fashion are topping up their knowledge and skill base with MBAs. This includes professionals with years of experience who either take mid-career breaks or join distance learning courses offered by business schools to be better at their jobs or businesses. Introducing and expanding entrepreneurship-oriented MBA is now the way to go for most B-schools. An MBA can provide answers to how do you manage your own business. Even better, how do you sustain the business you've begun?
Many global and Indian institutes are today advising students to gain work experience before they study for an MBA course. Work experience is an eye-opener in many ways. Whether it is in engineering or marketing, or in the newer 'service sector industries' like music or event management, hospitality or the media, a few years spent working in these sectors gives youngsters a cutting edge in their area of interest. An MBA student relates better to the business case studies in the classroom; they can share experiences with professors and peers.
New sectors, more jobs
Traditional career options after an MBA are always available. Banking, finance and investment, management consultancy, advertising and public relations, and real estate have emerged as high paying and highly demanding jobs. Just look up the figures for latest B-school job offers from e-commerce companies; almost every day, one hears of a new front offering jobs to an MBA. Even Government agencies have realized the value of business graduates and are hiring them quite aggressively to help improve their plans and functions. Their demand for MBAs has ballooned significantly over the last few years.
Creative businesses like the film industry, the arts, music and fashion industry are also looking for MBAs. The closed and private way of running and controlling these businesses is a thing of the past as these industries have now turned into large production houses which are professionally structured. To run and manage these professional organizations, they require business graduates. These are good choices for people who would like to be associated with lively stimulation, creativity and glamour.
Lately, even some political parties have been found looking for MBAs to create and run systems within the party framework. All those who find the intrigue and the heady aspects of politics to be stirring can find a great career here.
Find the best fit
While these are historic and exciting times, students will do well to brace themselves for many dynamic changes in a shorter duration of time. They have to choose what interests them the most, delve deep to find the best fit and catch the wave before it peaks. With a tangible increase in MBA hiring, the fears of 'MBA bubble' may well yet be unfounded; however, there is a greater recognition and demand amongst employers for quality programs. MBA aspirants should choose their streams as well as institute with care as both are equally critical to a good launch to one's career.