MBA – The Midas Touch

Our Indian education system always prefer to follow trends rather than create new ones.Hence with the greater demand for people with a post graduate degree in Management, we can see a plethora of institutions taking advantage of this demand. The effects however are like a slow poison which are going to destroy our economy over time.

Firstly, the demand for Management cadre itself  is limited. Considering the sharp difference between the population levels 20 to 30 years back and the current population levels, there is much more competition for that same management cadre post vacated by a person retiring. Equally importantly, the quality of cadre applying for the said post varies according to the institute. With institutes sprouting like weeds after a day’s rain, there are sharp differences in terms of the quality of students, faculty and the educational process. Most B Schools in India still copy the Harvard format of case methodology along with a strong focus on theory rather than actual practical experience. This means that most graduates come out with a limited understanding of the problems faced in working life. However once they graduate, they are required to take decisions and act on a professional level. Now some of the premier institutes make an attempt to instill a mindset in their students rather than just forcing them to learn by rote . A large number of institutes however churn our graduates who cannot be utilized in the roles available , either on account of their not matching up to the mark  or their not having the skillsets necessary. This means that they find jobs for which they are overqualified or are not sufficiently paid.

Secondly, management of people and companies in our current business scenario requires people to be fluid, willing to experiment and ready to adapt to change. Most graduates prefer to not rock the boat and not ask many questions or try to take on additional responsibility. This means that for many graduates, it takes a long time before they are able to take on a role involving decision making and taking risks. The propensity to identify and measure risks and the willingness to take a risk is a necessity for success. But with a corporate culture in most Indian firms which still promotes Chamcha-giri, risk aversion and group thinking , it is tough for management graduates to develop a mind of their own and have a willingness to take the path less trodden.Our country has now become a services driven country with little emphasis on Intellectual property , Research and self development. What this means is that over time,we prefer having masters rather than being our own masters. What this also implies is that we are playing a cost differential game which can only last for so long until some other nation with fluent English speakers and a strong aptitude for specific skill-sets undercut us.

Last but not the least, one major factor tying recent management graduates down is the question of the fees for these institutes. On an average, a student studying a management course at a premier institute would be paying no less than 12 Lakhs for his course ( not including other expenses ). One would expect that secondary institutes would choose to keep their course fees lower but it is surprising to see a lot of these institutes charge the same astronomical fees. These institutes are charging an extraordinary amount for course fees which is nor reflected usually either in terms of the infrastructure, faculty and other additional inputs for students. One must note that the faculty at most of these institutes get a modest salary supplemented by opportunities for consulting with firms. One wonders how the institutes use most of the fees, considering that the government institutes also get grants from the Ministry of Education while private colleges are not required to maintain a campus or facilities on lines of the government institutes.

The high fees thus puts a secondary knife at the throat of the graduating student. Most students would have taken an educational loan which has to be repaid in the next 7 years of his career. At the same time, to cover the expenses and maintain a reasonable lifestyle, the graduating student is now required to opt for a career which offers him a compensation which can cover these points. For students from the premier institutes, this may not be a huge hurdle but for many other students, this is a point of concern. The consequence of these educational loans is also that the graduate finds it tough to consider quitting his job or starting a firm because of the weight of the loan and other expenses on him. In our country, startups are not supported by most of the stakeholders. The government rarely provides policies and makes paperwork a huge hassle. Banks take their own time to sanction loans to small businessmen and startup owners. Venture Capitalists in India seem to follow trends more often than taking risks in new ventures. Currently every VC seems hell bent on investing in e-commerce regardless of the financial viability of the firm and the longterm prospects. Unlike countries like Singapore where people starting companies are provided tax exemption and Investment guidance by the government , in India, the government seems least bothered to support a startup culture or promote a Silicon Valley of its own. Indians and the startups being dreamed up are mostly following the global trend and very rarely are we providing an idea which is unique and the fore runner of a new trend of its own.

This post is not meant to disparage the MBA degree or the students who have worked hard for it. However we need changes in terms of the educational structure, in terms of the responsibilities and jobs they are offered and in terms of the expectations from these MBA’s. Rather than thinking of an MBA as a safe way to make money, people , specially parents need to think of an MBA as a tool for their children to not just make money but create employment and provide opportunities for others. Each startup or business opened improves our economy, not just by creation of jobs but by the tertiary effect of consumption rise by our people as we earn more and consequently spend more. A perfect example of this is the nation of Taiwan where startups working in technological domains have created jobs, provided more opportunities for growth for the country and helped shore up its economy.

The MBA degree is fast becoming the Midas Touch for companies we work for and for the students who think of it as a one stop solution to their problems while working at IT or while struggling with their prior lives. When I say Midas Touch, I refer to the daughter who died when she turned golden . In a similar fashion, the MBA graduates will end up poisoning the economy and leaving it to die a slow death.