Thursday, December 13, 2007

MBA ki amar kahani

The MBA is more than a degree – it’s the last refuge of the studious, the seeker and the scoundrel. A tongue in cheek look at why the MBA is here to stay.

(written late one night under the influence of Maggi noodles - which kept me alive in my MBA days)

Mere paas gaadi hai, bangla hai, daulat hai, shohrat hai… tumhare paas kya hai?
Abhi toh kuch nahin… par main MBA ki taiyyari kar raha hoon!

Two hundred and thirty thousand young men and women with stars in their eyes and hope in their hearts gave the CAT – or the Common Admission Test – for entry to the IIMs and assorted other MBA institutes in the year 2007. And there will be more next year. Because the MBA is no longer a degree, it’s a declaration.

What you declare depends on where you do the MBA from. There’s first and foremost the guys (and a few – way too few - gals) who get into the ‘best’ institutions. And they enter the program with the “King of the World” declaration.

Hello fatcats from London, Paris and New York. I‘ve just cleared the most difficult exam in the world to get here… Come get me!

As urban legend has it, an IIM degree is the gateway to a life of cash, caviar and oops! I’m vegetarian, could I have more cash instead, please? The trouble is not everyone can get into an IIM (and not everyone who does gets the caviar!) but as they say, “Aim for the sky and you’ll fall on a jumbo jet… circling Mumbai airport.”

So we have a host of young people joining business schools which are waiting to land at “We have arrived” airport. And theirs is a “Smell the coffee” declaration.

”Look at us – we’re no less than those IIM grads. Heck, we work harder and smarter, just give us a chance to prove it.”

Lehman. McKinsey – are you listening? Evidently, not yet but this bunch is snapping up a whole lot of plum posts which the IIM types see as prunes. And the aroma of that coffee - it’s getting stronger.

Now the next lot also aimed for the sky but ended up on the terrace of an under construction building. Plenty of those, these days, by guys who’ve just had terrific IPOs. Everything’s swanky here – good to look at, feels great to be here. Of course, we all agree it’s overpriced but do we have a choice?

Na huh. Need house, will buy. Need employee, will employ. Retail, banking, insurance, IT, BPOs – these sectors need hands and legs with a moderate amount of brains to match. And not in the dozens but hundreds. Thousands, actually.

So they swoop down on the ‘Jhumritalaiyya’ variety of MBA colleges and recruit large numbers. Yes, if nothing else these graduates ‘look like MBAs’. They carry laptops, wear formals, carry pink papers under the elbow and generally look self important. Just the kind of firepower needed to subdue the hapless consumer into signing on for ULIPs, NFOs and other acronyms which easily roll off the MBA tongue. Assuring him a generous slice of your ‘better tomorrow’.

Last but not the least come the ‘MBA as timepass’ variety. Of course, all education can be said to be a form of timepass – but who’s actually awake to notice? Nevertheless the MBA program now attracts the unlikeliest of species. For example, girls who have no ambition or intention of climbing the corporate ladder. Or running a business.

These are girls who simply wish to get married.

The catch is that “acche ladke padhi likhi ladki chahte hain”. And these days, Home Science does not qualify. As more and more boys from bijness families take up the MBA – at Indian institute for people with money (with sham entrance exam) or Australian business school for people with money (with sham entrance exam but dollar pricing), the girls are following suit.

As doctor once married doctor, MBA now marries MBA. A quick scan of the Sunday matrimonials reveals how the once revered MA has fallen out of favour. It’s now about MBA and LPA (lakhs per annum). Working for a year or two after graduation is encouraged. How many will continue building their careers after marriage depends on DRA (Dulhe Raja’s Attitude).

Phir bhi, progress hi to hai. Once upon a time thousands of young people struggled for a few hundred seats in the administrative service. The majority eked out a life after the dream faded away. Now thousands struggle for a few hundred seats in the most prestigious bschools. But the rest have a chance to start somewhere – even if at the bottom of a rickety ladder.

With hard work and a bit of luck, all these MBAs will climb upwards. They will grow the economy, and grow with it as well. “Do we need to pay 22 year olds 25,000 a month just because they can now use Powerpoint,” is a question the Older Generation often ponders. The answer is, not really.

But in a world where no one has the time or the energy to sift through hundreds of carbon copied, error-ridden-despite-being-spellchecked resumes, we’d rather take our chances with the ‘MBA”.

The MBA is a necessity because our education system is in shambles. Young minds go through conveyor belt colleges and come out unchallenged, underconfident and not even used to the idea of ‘working hard’.

In India, business school is the ultimate ‘finishing school’ – it finishes up the work 15-16 years of previous education was supposed to. MBA courses are all modelled along ‘boot camp’. Projects, presentations, surprise tests, case studies, all night study sessions – this is the stuff of the average student’s worst nightmare. But ultimately, the badge every MBA proudly wears.

And for this alone, HR managers will tolerate the jargon, the attitude, the insouciance of the ‘is this what I did an MBA for’ MBA.

Speaking of finishing school, the MBA – from the student point of view – is crossing the final finish line of education. There’s nothing more you can do beyond this to ‘better your prospects’. Escape from a boring job into something glamorous (or at least better paid!). The MBA is like “Incredible India” advertisements. The brochure can sometimes be more attractive than the actual sights.

And yet, you crave that experience. Happily, it no longer matters how old or young, smart or dumb, rich or poor you are. There is an ‘MBA’ for everyone. 1 year executive programs, 2 year distance learning MBAs, 3 year part time course. Qualifications which would earlier fall under the uncool sounding ‘vocational’ now attract tons of students by renaming themselves as ‘MBAs’.

So you have MBA (Retail), MBA (Insurance), MBA (Telemarketing). The last one is a figment of my imagination but I wouldn’t be surprised to see such a course in the market very soon…

In the ultimate analysis, ‘MBA’ is whatever you make it to be. Or whatever you make of it. The MBA is here to stay, until another degree which captures the imagination of our people comes along. That could take a while.

And hey, we just might subvert it and convert it. “Let them eat cake… and let us all do MBAs.” Amen.

Heh he heh
In the hit movie ‘Partner’ Govinda plays an ‘IIM Ahmedabad graduate’. Now many IIM grads are nerds who have no idea how to woo a girl. But a salary of Rs 30,000 a month at age 30? Tauba tauba.

Surprising the IIM types did not take out a morcha to the scriptwriter’s house, sue the producer for maligning the fair name of IIM A, and start an e-petition imploring the all television anchors who need a ‘Question of the Day’ to take notice. Guess they were too busy with placements…


  1. I really didn't notice the Rs.30,000 salary pm was what Govinda was getting in Partner ! But he sure fit the role of the IIM A grad ;)

  2. written with a dose of humour, this post is to the point. It is the salary that is driving a majority of CAT aspirants, but they go through a rigorous routine for 2 years and for that, they deserve the pay cheques.

  3. Agreed with every word.though its always difficult to conceptulise an MBA grad without any previous work experience doing justice to his Job/Role/Salary.

  4. 'cash and caviar'

    Time to wake up and smell the coffee, dont you think?

  5. being part of the Main Bhee aagaya(MBA) community,all i can say everyone who glitters is not an MBA.
    After all it did not take dhiru bhai ambani an MBA to start reliance :D

  6. ad, duji soni bhi tu hadd, teeja roop tera cham-cham karda ni...
    main aivein te hi tere utte marda nai !!

  7. ik uncha lamba kad, duji soni bhi tu hadd, teeja roop tera cham-cham karda ni...
    main aivein te hi tere utte marda nai !!

  8. Indian institute for people with money = IIPM.
    This suits IIPM better.

    But, then as you have already written, "But in a world where no one has the time or the energy to sift through hundreds of carbon copied, error-ridden-despite-being-spellchecked resumes, we’d rather take our chances with the ‘MBA”."

    This shows where our school and undergraduate system has failed.

    A great post, even if written under the influence of Maggi Noodles :-) .....

  9. Indian Institute of People with Money? Not exactly uncharted territory eh?

  10. As reader of JAM from past 8-10 years( or may be more) and then your blog, this is one of the most funny article you have written.

    Maggi main milawat thi kya ?

    PS: I used to read your editorials in JAM, nowadays I read JAM online.

  11. soon CFA will be the next "enhancer", already most of my friends are doing it even if they work for a software firm!

  12. great stuff, rashmi! as i've gotten to know more and more b-school folk, i've come to recognize the types of which you speak... and then some. the mba culture is such a peculiar one! keep the insights coming. cheers

  13. Hi Rashmi,

    Good sense of humour as usual.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Great article as usual Rashmi!! You did not include one breed of MBAs - foreign MBAs.. Was that on purpose or you just forgot including them?

    As you would know - More and more people are going for MBAs abroad. This is partly because of better exposure to the world and more importantly because of easier funding options available now. What is also interesting is how many of the foreign MBAs want to return to India soon after their MBA. May be you can dedicate an article for foreign MBAs in future :-)

  16. Seriously yaar, can you please write on something besides IIMs and IITs. Your blog is getting really boring. Your blog is titled youthcurry, but there's a lot more on the youth's mind than just IITs and IIMs !

  17. Great post as usual...and hey full on,humor ka tadka maarke...

    But hey, i have always felt,ur posts about MBA degree(relating to all that u've written in the past) are in favour of IIM's...oh comeon...guys who do their degrees from other univerities other than IIM's are intelligent too yaar...its just that could't get in to it...or may be they have the lady luck on their side..i m sure we have lot of them who would agree to me...

  18. Outstanding Post..I must say. Excellent dose of humour

    -Another MBA Blogger

  19. rightly said!! good one!!

  20. ..Really a awesome write up as usual from you !!
    ther r several acronyms goes wid the word MBA - Married But Available / Money Before All / Maha Bekaar Aadmi ..some r truly apt ,some r overstated ..actually just being what we are .. is also another lesson of those 'MBA'heydays !!...not being stuck deep into our roots ..we are just 'flotsam'.

  21. This was awsome stuff Rashmi.

    I was just wondering the situation is similar with B.Tech. also except that it is not final finish.

    And people who dont get in IIT/IIMs are r no way stamped more intelligent than those who dont. Wat really matters is after gettin into these institutes. There is a luxury of resources, I guess, which is imagination for other colleges. And if floating in this luxury u do not make something out of your life then you are less than worthless.

    I have friends who were brillient but were not able to enjoy the luxury I enjoy due to series of unfortunate events.

  22. Though I understand the context of a large portion of this article, in certain areas, lets call a spade, a spade. To do an engineering degeree, you need to spend, at a minimum, couple of lakhs (more, generally). Add 4 years of theoritical,non-productive educational system which is more inclined to test the students memory power, or formulae memorizing techniques rather than his understanding of subject and original innovative contribution. Priceless. Now he decides to do an MBA, with somany assignments, case studies, which makes him work hard. At the top of it, 2 years wasted along with many more lakhs. A bull works hard. Donkey works hard. The bulls and donkeys are trained to work hard to do routine assignments. You can do a thousand case studies, but they dont teach you the market values and experience you get when you do a single customer call. They dont teach you what it is to put your money in the market and drive self and others to make profits. Youll have to live that life to grasp the situation, and learn. One of the most important aspects in a job is your ability to unlearn whatever theoritical inputs you have learnt in school and college, and learn what is required for the job.You have to start from 0(scratch) most of the time. Most of the MBAs, are unwilling to do this as they feel they have mastered the world of business by getting a degree, spare a few genuine ones. I am just giving my point of view as I do have certain experiance in the industry, and there are some advantages of doing MBAs too, which are obvious and hence I have not mentioned here. Please feel free to contradict any of my views.

    Destination Infinity.

  23. Wonderful post Rashmi !
    I too was a regular JAM reader 2000-2005.

    Also I completely agree with Destination Infinity ... you can't declare yourself the king of this world by just getting a degree. What matters is how you use your education for your own good ( I dont even expect any goodies for the society at this moment) If an IIM-A grad simply ends up being in the same job position for more than 5 years ... without learning anything from the industry ... Its all wasted.

  24. What a pathetic post!!!!
    We know you are alumni of IIM A, but then what... so r hundreds and thousand more but I have never seen any IIM for that matter IITian to boast about his Alma matter so much as you do. Whenever there is this issue to MBA, IIM, and IIT you become so much arrogant and scorn at the other school. There is great level of dejection for other schools and other curriculum; I don’t know whether it gives you any sadist pleasure or what??? Or is it you are afraid of today n want to live in your past???

    We’ve been reading your blog religiously for quite some time, but certainly this is not expected from you, not at least at this level. Lately it’s been really disaster.
    Rashmi Wake up!!!!

  25. "But he sure fit the role of the IIM A grad ;)"

    Aathira; You were kidding; right?

  26. hahahaa.. Indian Institute for People with Money. Very smart! (and subtle...maybe not)

  27. I don't think people doing an MBA are doing it for the heck of it !! Especially gals !! C'mon !! In the era where we are emerging as winners you can't write something like that about them !!

  28. MBA is the degree which is most close to industry and work there becomes administrative in nature after few years of experience.

    So MBA helps to advance your career growth in addition to practical knowledge.

  29. hey u missed one point -
    just compare the salaries a grad gets and a MBA (fr a decent bschool) gets?? still u feel we can do away with it ??
    MBA has a market value as a result of globalization and open market economy demands more...
    but yes, slowly in a couple of yrs you will see MBA going the way engg has gone...every nukaad having a MBA colge :(

  30. wow ~~~humour was astonising~~~~i agree with you i am the the top three on the forbes list were never MBA but yes i also agree that doin an MBA from good university is difficuilt. but still by jus studyin for 2 yrs do u actually get the nuances of business???

  31. Like the last time round when i read ur blog ( must be 2 years now) .......this time too i have the same feeling and that being missing out on regularly going through your posts ;-)i am sure gonna ammend that .......Btw the post is spot on.......take it from a guy who is part of this rat race!...Cheers

  32. Cool writeup.. I liked the punch in the end. We really value the salaries income so much that we often miss out on other, cooler opportunities.

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