The Demands of The nexgen MBA programs
MBA Education and the contribution by private B-schools
By Satya Narayanan R.
“Taleem jo di jaati hai humein uff kya hai
faqt bazaari hai
Jo aqal sikhaai jaati hai wo kya hai faqt sarkari hai”
(The education imparted to us is only as per market demands; and the knowledge taught is official only)
The essence of my critique of current MBA programs, in general, can be captured by this couplet (Akbar Allahabadi). In the context of management education in India, the IIMs need to take the bulk of the blame for the current state of the unimaginative curriculum that trails the needs of society by a generation! Before sharing a few examples about the good work done by a few private institutions in this space, I would like to categorise the present curriculum and its delivery by diverse colleges as per a schema of my own. I would put them under the following three levels:
Level One –‘Inertia driven’
These are the courses that are victims of ‘inertia’. They are offered and taken because they have been offered and taken for decades. No one complains. The professors know them by heart. They can easily be couched as ‘a must’ and the tamasha continues. My own reading is that over 70 percent of the courses and teachers fall in this category. Chances are that the teachers at the IIMs are drawing more from the IIM brand than the IIMs are drawing from them.
Level Two – ‘Market driven’
These are usually courses that are market-linked. Generally, they are the outcome of the professors’ or the institutes’ competence and working links with the industry outside. These constitute about 15-20 percent of the courses offered. The professors who run these command respect from the industry and companies, who are happy to partner with the institutes to develop the curriculum, conduct research, write cases, and so on. An MBA, being real world education, has to be at this level at least. While this category would come close to being cutting edge for management, it still falls short of being inspiring and transformational.
Level Three – ‘Thought Leadership driven’
This is the category of original research where the world is waiting to eat out of the hands of the researchers/ professors/ institutions. This category looks at the management and leadership education that is needed for tomorrow. ‘Core competence’ from the late C. K. Prahalad falls in this category; the Fortune 500 companies will spend the next decade wanting to learn and follow this ‘mantra’. Imagine him teaching a 25 year old face-to-face. Mind blowing, isn’t it? Is that not the benchmark that the self-proclaimed top guys should aim to achieve? Professors or teachers such as the late Sumantra Ghoshal, Ramnath Narayanswamy (IIMB), J. Ramachandran (IIMB), Anil Gupta (IIMA), and Indira Parikh (Flames) fall in this category.
What is special about the Level Three program?
The core attribute of such a program is the deep and original insight
that it carries from the understanding of the human psyche and
society at large. The emphasis is to understand it
abinitio in the current context, and convert this insight into a body of knowledge that can be structured, fleshed out and taught to a learner.
Applying this model to India
In the Indian context, we underwent the transformation from an administered society to a managerial society about two decades ago. However, India is fast emerging as a society of entrepreneurs in diverse ways. The ethos of democracy coupled with economic well-being are throwing up opportunities like never before in the history of mankind. In this context, programs and offerings linked to entrepreneurship and personal leadership rank very high in my ratings.
Some Shining Examples from private B-schools
The family business programs started by S. P. Jain almost a decade ago is a shining example of an institute demonstrating thought leadership, which continues to be of greater relevance even today. Consider this: 90 percent of the economy is driven by the unorganised enterprise run by an individual or a family! Does it makes sense?
The work done by ISB to go after management education for the working professional, even senior management, is another role model example of what was done successfully with deep insight. Continuing education or back-to-education was the mantra for ISB. It worked wonders and the IIMs followed suit. I think that over the past decade, the work done by Welingkar is also praiseworthy here.
The wholesome development that Flames (under Prof. Indira Parikh) and Symbiosis (under Prof. Pillai) underwent, are two more examples; and the students’ gratitude to them is the best testimony of these level 3 courses and programs. The focus on personal growth is worth emulating by any other institute.
Similarly, the focus on entrepreneurship at IWSB (Greater Noida) has begun to find mention (Disclosure - the author is the Chairman, Governing Board of this institution) and I believe this to be a level 3 program. There is no other institute that walks entrepreneurship with a singular focus like IWSB.
The work being explored by SOIL (Anil Sachdev) and GreatLakes (Under Prof. Bala) are other examples of new era and original thinking outcomes, in my view.
IIMs – Bring inspiration back into the classroom
It would be unfair to categorise the IIMs as non-innovative. However, these marquee institutions need to move from the current 10 percent of the courses being at level 3 to about at least 50 percent of them being at that standard. The IIMs could leave the market-savvy courses to the lesser mortals in the management education space. They would do well to bring back the top-notch professors who are present on the campus but do not find it motivating to offer any courses for the PGP programs. Just as an illustration, if Ramnath, Sundi etc. teach the PGP batches in my own alma mater (IIMB), there is no way anything is going to be anything less than level 3.
“Aaj mujhse hazrat e naaseh yeh jalkar keh gaye
Aasman se ab farishtay aayenge taalim ko”
(Today a prophet enviously told me that angels from heaven will now come here for getting trained)
Entrepreneurs are optimists and incorrigibly so! I am no exception, and would like to end on a note of hope. The above couplet by ‘Daag’ shares his optimism about a near future when our education would be so inspiring that the ‘farishtay’ would want to come down from the skies to be learners in our world. Insha’Allah, we will
— The writer is the director at Indus World School of Business, Greater Noida