Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy New MBA

My cousin called to wish me 'Happy New Year'.

When I asked about her daughter, a first year student at a local bschool she added, "Koi ladka nazar mein ho to bataana."

Hey bhagwaan, aur koi bhi request I am game for. Yeh kaam mujhse nahin hoga.

"Won't she work a year or two before marriage?" I asked.

"Main to chahti hoon par uske papa ne mana kar diya hai."

This is not a stray case. Or an unusual one. The tier 3 bschools in tier 2 towns are full of such girls. Whether in management or in engineering, they are pursuing education for the sake of a 'degree'. Almost like an eligibility certificate to get a 'good match'.

The girl herself may wish to work. At least for some time. But she is resigned to the fact that it may not be possible. Before marriage, her father and brothers will decide if she can. After marriage, her husband and in-laws will decide the same.

So that effectively eliminates 48% of the population in these tier 3 bschools. Which unlike top schools, have a pretty even boy: girl ratio.

Bache bechaare ladke.

Now all their exposure to concepts of marketing, HR, finance and blah blah blah, is basically of no use. Because if, by pull-push-pleading-and-prayer, a few companies do drop by for placement, 90% will flunk the interview.

Because they are dumb, and I do not mean in terms of intelligence.

When I give talks at tier 3 schools, there is usually a pindrop silence at the end of the session. Perhaps they were sleeping through it all?

"No ma'am," a student explained later."People have many questions but they are afraid to ask."


"You speak such good English no, ma'am. They can't speak like that. So they stay quiet."

But all the students have passed the state entrance test and taken admission, isn't it?

"Yes but that is written only no, ma'am."

Well, your English seems pretty good...

"But I went to a convent school. ma'am. There aren't many students like me here."

So how do the students follow what is being taught in class?

"The teachers explain in local language, ma'am."

My head started reeling. MBA subjects being taught in Telugu or Gujarati or what have you. I don't have anything against these languages but then how in the world will this help students?

Without ability to communicate in the universal business language of English, they will never get decent jobs. It doesn't matter how many rules AICTE makes and how many speeches Kapil Sibal gives on excellence in education.

This is the golden jubilee year of IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Calcutta. A time to reflect on management education as a whole in India.

While IIMA and IIMC looked to Harvard and Sloan respectively for guidance and inspiration, Indian bschools look up to IIMs. What they have taken from these institutes is the external framework of 'MBA'.

The idea of an entrance exam, a list of subjects to be taught, the carrot of placements. And of course free (and mostly unfair) use of hyperbolic product promise such as 'world class', 'professional environment' and 'fantastic carrier start' (this is a real claim made by a real bschool in the national capital).

And in the midst of this circus - a comedy of aspiration, a tragedy of education - we have the AICTE. All India Council for Technical Education which has issued (another) set of ill-advised rules applicable to all PGDM courses.

These include gems such as:
1) All PGDM courses shall be of duration not less than 24 months. (Why? Even IIM PGDM is technically not for 24 months).

2) Model Curriculum/ syllabus will be issued by the Council.(Great - but what about upgrading quality of teaching and teachers?)

3) Admission to PGDM courses will be conducted by the respective State Governments through the Competent Authority designated for such purpose. (That still doesn't ensure students who get admitted have the minimum competence required to do MBA in a meaningful manner).

We can start solving the problem, only if we at least admit to its existence.

The first thing the bottom 3/4th of the bschool pyramid needs to do is junk the IIM model. Spend the first 3 months just improving language and communication skills.

Next, realistically prepare students land in the industry feet-first. Train for the kind of jobs they will be expected to do.

Not a single student from a tier-3 school will get a hard-core finance job, yet 90% claim that is where their interest lies. Fine. You can fulfil their aspirations, but in a direction different from what IIM students are taking.

Train your students to truly understand the stock market - let them find work with brokers. Brokers don't care much for which bschool you are from. Heck, they don't even care much for an MBA degree! As long as you produce results, or help the company to.

Most importantly, train your students to be good salesmen. Because there is always a demand for that breed of people, across industries. Sales is not a lowly job, it requires a high degree of skill and intelligence.

The best marketing companies - such as HUL - insist on management trainees working as salesmen for a good 12-18 months, before making them 'brand managers'. If managers must take the sales route, it follows that a good salesman can develop into a manager.

Yes, the truth is tier 3 graduates may get the designation of 'officer' or 'executive' or even 'manager' but the actual job content may not be managerial. Or, what we have understood to be the job of a manager, thanks to the MBA.

But guess what, majority of IIM graduates have the same problem. Yeh MBA ka syllabus hi kuch aisa hai. When you discuss a case, it's from the perspective of the CEO, not the trainee!

Wishing all MBAs, aspiring-to-be-MBAs and the rest of humanity a very happy new decade. May we all turn the spotlight inwards, and find the guru within.



  1. I myself m an so called MBA student from Tier 2 bschool, n can feel the heat. u hav written excellently.

  2. hmm you touched a raw nerve ... i lost the babe i was interested in to exactly such a process ... she did MBA and agreed to her demanding (and crooks) parents for marriage just six months after the course ... ouch !!!! :(

    not too much of a loss as i was still in flirting stage ... nevertheless i have contempt for such parents and the spineless girl both.

  3. I have often seen many Managers fumbling in speaking in English.Written English is worse.

    But for ladies to work or rather continue to work after marriage ,it is better, if Corporate India realises that there is loads of talent waiting to be tapped from women at home .They can work from home at a lesser salary provided flexibility is allowed.

  4. English is a very important language and teachers should focus on the language rather than making the course easy for the students by educating them in their local languages.

  5. Der aaye durust aaye...I always wondered why had you not written about this sorry state of the Indian MBA.

  6. The product being offered is, as you pointed out in the start of the post, a promise of polish and gloss. The average b-school today is equivalent to the finishing schools of the Western elite - you're groomed better, seem to speak better English, sound more confident and hence, have a better chance in the marriage market.

    I think the issue is more attitudinal rather than linguistic. Does a fluent English speaker necessarily make for a better salesperson or a manager? In professions that primarily involve widespread communication, this might be so. But what about the vast majority of tasks and roles and jobs, which require interpersonal skills, analytical thinking, the ability to see patterns, to identify & build resources? A top score on English won't ensure any of these.

  7. It's not just about language woes and basic skill deficiency that people face. Somehow there's a never ending race of scoring the highest marks in the term papers, lapping up loads of copied assignments.

    Probably the major difference that separate tier-1 B-schools from others, is the law of applicability of whatever is learnt! Tier-1 folks develop a knack for analysing the raw data, whilst others develop a knack for rote-reading and vomiting. Yet their colleges claim 100% placement every year, minus mentioning what kind of Companies. 20% of the so called univ. toppers of my MBA college, ended up marrying within 6 months!

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  9. My own brother did his MBA from one such tier 3 college which had a hefty fee (how else can they give a "free" laptop back in 2004) and now he is nothing more than a glorified sales man. His communication skills have improved as he talks to people from the US but I don't think his MBA gave him any advantage, any call center employee can do his job with some training

    The quality of education in India sucks unless you are from IIT/IIMs and I guess like rest of the country it will take ages before it would come on par with the developed nations

  10. We have a new definition of Dumbness, people who cannot speak english are now considered dumb. WTF!

    By your definition, 74% world population is dumb ( 26% world population knows or speak english )

    Jai ho Rashmi maata.

  11. In my opinion, teaching can be effective independent of the language used to teach.

    I will not even go to the issue of colonial hangover that you seem to have. If teaching using English language would make better managers then all the CEOs of Japanese/Chinese/German corporations better learn english before they are left behind by well read english language MBAs from the great IIMs.

    Jai ho Rashmi maata.

  12. I agree that in the current job scenario not being fluent in English puts the candidate in a disadvantageous position. But I would look at the concepts being explained in local language as a plus rather than as a minus. There is actually a lot of opportunities to market to the segment of population who speaks only local languages. Certainly the RoI will not make it suitable for the Tier 1/2 grads to take up these jobs - so shouldn't the tier 3 grads try for these opportunities and better utilize their local language skills? Maybe they communicate well in their local languages?

  13. excellent post and you have coined good terms for that ! ...I really feel worse somebody spend their hard earned money and time in such institutes ..they fail to realize that the time they have in the college is the something they can utilize to their advantage just by keeping their eyes and ears open to industry...knowledge is everywhere ..yes you need a degree to get qualified for a particular job interview but what you won't get with that paper is the knowledge go ahead and utilize the time in college to get that while that degree comes anyway!

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  15. I'm also an MBA graduate. Now I handle telesales trainings about sales prospecting techniques and other sales tips and techniques. I hope that all MBA graduates and aspiring MBAs will also be successful.

  16. Great post on the MBA scene in our country.

    Yes, English is a major roadblock in the tier II and III cities but it’s alarmingly visible in cities like Mumbai and Delhi too.

    It’s sad but its true that the day has come when not knowing English actually brands you as “dumb” 

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