Dr. Binoy Joseph, Principal, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences and Dean, Rajagiri Business School, in an exclusive interview with Higher Education Review magazine, shares his insights on the changing landscape of Indian MBA education and the growing importance of industry-centric learning.
A 2021 study found that only 55 percent of Indian MBA holders are employable. In light of this, what is your opinion on the current management education landscape in India and what are the major pain-points that you see in this domain?
At Rajagiri, we have around 97 percent placement. The major factors that can be attributed to this would be a) strong theoretical foundation, b) strong practical exposure, and c) strong research orientation. Our students conduct live projects, gain hands-on experience by working on consultancy projects, summer projects, and internships. Through these, we are aiming to develop their managerial competencies in terms of attitude, skills, and knowledge. If we are able to provide these competencies, then I am sure that students will be employable.
Reputed educational institutions and popular online learning platforms are starting to roll out new and innovative online and hybrid MBA programs. How are conventional MBA institutions impacted by this?
When it comes to online, hybrid and conventional MBAs, the differentiator lies in how you are able to enhance the competencies of the students in terms of attitude, skills and knowledge. With regard to attitude and skill, the offline MBA has an edge over online and blended form of MBA. In our MBA program, we have many immersive learning processes. For example, we have a unique initiative called `Vanavasam' where students are taken to remote areas for three days where they do an introspection using the `Johari Window' method. This helps the students enhance their self-consciousness. This cannot be done through online MBA programs.
We also have a three-day outbound training program where all our students are sent for corporate training where they take part in team building, leadership skill development and many other outbound exercises. Other than that, our students conduct management fests where they are able to exhibit various management competencies and principles in organizing events. For example, we organize Inflore flagship management fest and also the Rajagiri National Business Quiz which is the best quizzing event in the country after Tata Crucible. Our students are also part of different clubs. We have scheduled a specific time for these clubs where they engage in hands-on activities. These are the things that differentiate offline MBAs from online and hybrid MBAs.
More and more institutions today are exploring the opportunities offered by experiential learning. In your opinion, how has experiential learning impacted MBA education in India and what are the unique benefits it offers to the learners?
Experiential learning helps students acquire managerial competencies that they can apply in different scenarios throughout their academic and professional journey. At Rajagiri, we conduct regular case study discussions and participations in class. And for this purpose, we are using the case studies of Ivy League institutions, European case clearing houses, IIMs, and different case studies from Indian settings. These are all giving different exposure to the students and this is going to enhance and broaden their mindset. We also have a tie up with Harvard Business School and Cesim which is an international simulation group. Apart from that, we are a center of excellence in Cesim simulation. By incorporating case studies and simulations, we are making learning more engaging and outcome based which helps us keep the students more involved. Moreover, group discussions, and debates can help the students to experience the day to day happenings in the corporate realm. They can see how it impacts various industries and understand how it is going to impact their decision as a manager in different industries.
Executive MBA programs have been growing in popularity in India. What makes these programs unique when compared to other MBA programs?
What are some of the unique benefits offered by these programs to the learners? Executive MBA programs are for those who have relevant experience of three years and above. They take a sabbatical or break from their work and join for MBA programs which are fulltime normally. For IIMs these programs will be from 12 months to 18 months. For ISB, they only take students with a minimum experience and since they have great practical experience already, their focus is more on theoretical inputs and research. And since these students can be from diverse industry verticals, they are able to provide different perspectives on the same topic which is going to enhance the learning experience of each student. And these executive MBA programs help the students gain lateral entry when it comes to placement which is an added advantage of executive MBA programs.
MBA programs in India still focus more on theoretical aspects while offering real-world exposure to the learners has always been a challenge. Going forward, how do you see educators tackling this issue?
This is a perennial problem especially in Tier 3 and below level management institutions and if these schools are not able to provide experiential learning, then, they will be fading away in the years to come because Tier 1 and Tier 2 schools are enhancing both their capacity and enrollment. Hence, they will be eroding their market share as students will be trying to move up to Tier 2 and Tier 1 institutions as and when their enrollment goes up. If Tier 3 and below level schools do not offer opportunities for live projects, internships, and various experiential learning, then there is no meaning in getting an MBA degree. You will not be able to acquire managerial competencies and unless and until you acquire managerial competencies, you will not be employable.