Is an MBA worth it? The topic is controversial and has been discussed time and again. However, no one has yet come to any conclusion when it comes to the relevance and importance of pursuing MBA in India.
We Indians are a competitive lot, especially when it comes to education. Throughout our life, whether as a child or a teen or as an adult, we are compared with our peers by our parents. Famously known as “Sharma ji ka beta/beti”, there is always someone in our network, who is put on a pedestal and looked up to as an epitome of someone who is living the perfect life. This ‘perfect’ lot is often found to have done MBA. So driven by a competitive spirit many join the race of pursuing the management degree, but do all of them make it to the end? Even if they make it to the end, do all of them get the ROI on their hard work?
In this article, let’s try and understand the various reasons why people choose to do MBA in India and then look at the applicant and employer side, to create a picture of what is happening behind the campuses of majority of B-Schools in India.
Even though the reason for doing an MBA may be exclusive to the individuals, there are some commonly cited reasons as to why Indians look at MBA as an option.
It seemed to have worked for others
Have you seen 3 Idiots? Well, the story neatly sums up the decision-making process most of us follow. Farhan has a passion for photography but chooses engineering because his father wanted him to. Then there is Raju, who chose to do engineering to support his family, since the degree would ensure a big-fat salary.
The point here is, most of the applicants take the decision to opt for a particular course based on the examples present in the society. Even if the applicant is passionate about something else entirely, the decision is made on the fact that someone else did the same thing and got positive results. Add to the fact that from a very young age, we are taught that the handful of colleges are going to make or break our future. For instance, ‘get into an IIT and your future is set’, or ‘aim for an IIM and you will live a comfortable life’.
If we are taking decisions based on this mindset, it is surely going to take us down, sooner than later. If your decision to opt for an MBA course is just because it seems to have worked for others, time to relook at what you want to gain out of this course.
I’ll become the decision maker if I get an MBA degree
Another most commonly cited reason to do MBA is to get out of the rat race. To get out of the execution role and move up the ladder and become a decision maker. But, does it really happen? It is a fact that an MBA curriculum is able to provide certain skill sets that can help you take that leap. Though, if candidates are looking at MBA as a panacea for all the corporate struggle, this is perhaps not the course that they should opt for. In fact, no course can ever fully prepare you for the corporate world.
A lot of MBA graduates are inducted into organisations as Management Trainees, or at the lowest rung of management ladder. Moving up the ladder involves a lot of hard work and this is where the mismatch between expectations and realities happen. An MBA won’t ensure you a job where you might be handling crucial key clients or product portfolios. It will take you some time and a lot of hard work to reach there. MBA provides you a platform to take you up the ladder, but if you look at it as an ‘easy solution’, then you are in for some disappointment.
I don’t want to work under anyone, I’ll be an ‘Entrepreneur’
To clarify matters, you always work for someone. Even though the Entrepreneur lifestyle might fascinate you, but you’ll still be working to either get that funding, or please your board members or your shareholders.
If you have an idea that you truly believe in, focus on sharpening the idea, talking to people who have “been there- done that”, try building a team by getting like-minded people on board. Entrepreneurship is something that cannot be taught. If you are looking at a B-School just to begin a startup, my advice will be, focus on sharpening your business idea and invest the money in your startup. May be take an MBA course along the way to enhance your learning.
Many non-MBAs have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs. Does Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Mark Zuckerberg ring a bell? These names reaffirm that MBA is not a key requirement for becoming a successful entrepreneur.
MBAs make money, I can live with that
Also, the numbers that you’ll see in the same newspapers for those coveted B-Schools don’t reveal the true picture. The average package generally is a combination of inflated figures provided by the B-School and the statistics skewed by a small percentage of candidates being offered a fat-pay cheque.
What about majority of the batch, then? Well, they do get decent packages, but not worth making the front pages of the newspapers we follow. In other words, those numbers won’t be able to sell MBA as a course!
Now, let’s dig more into the matter and see why MBA graduates are not looked at as game changers by recruiters and organizations:
Is having an MBA degree a necessity?
Law of Supply and Demand
The supply of MBAs in the market clearly exceeds the demand. In a world where unique factors are appreciated, more and more MBAs are now looking at the value adds as a differentiator. I have seen finance majors preparing for CFA, marketing majors running through the pages of Coursera to find relevant courses. The question that beckons, what is an MBA really offering? Is it enough and sufficient for the development of one’s career? Is the course and the curriculum up to date?
Relevance of Education
The skills gap is a real phenomenon in India and most organisations and hiring managers can testify to the fact. What has been taught is theoretical and is not enough for graduates to survive and conquer the corporate world. Can the education industry involve a lot of corporate feedback in shaping a curriculum to make sure the MBA degree add as a value add and the students are future ready?
The End in Mind is murky
For most B-Schools, the end in mind is not to provide quality education. It is to provide placements to all the students who have enrolled. Why is that? Because the quality of education cannot be printed on the brochures and sold and nor can the qualitative aspects be sold. Because, quite ironically, as we learned in MBA, numbers matter!
If the curriculum is industry oriented and the focus is to provide necessary tools to the students to help them navigate the nuances of the corporate world, not only the lives of MBA graduates become better but even the economy can thrive with more skilled workforce.
There is a lot to be desired when it comes to our education industry. When it comes to higher education, especially Management education, the focus has clearly shifted from quality to quantity. There is a chasm in the way the course is being marketed and the expectations of the candidates. A lot can be solved though, by making sure we change the way we look at education. If only, we all can look at fat pay packages as a by-product of the good education that we expect from these courses and not the be all and end all element of the management course that we seek.