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…