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Trends: MBA In The Time Of Uncertainty

With the business environment rapidly changing, most business-schools are struggling to stay relevant

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First, the good news. In top rung B-schools, the placements for the year 2015-16 have been better compared to last year. In most of the top B-schools, the average salary offered on the campus increased by over 10 per cent. The top B-schools are expanding in terms of their new international linkages, student capacity and new courses. The bad news is twofold. Regular corporate jobs are drying up fast, and there is a contraction in lower rung B-schools, which constitute more than 90 per cent of over 2,500 B-schools we have in all now, a trend from last year that still continues. They continue to struggle for students and recruiters. The unemployment rate in lower rung schools is over 50 per cent and the average salary offered in most cases is about Rs 20,000 per month or less. It is estimated that about 1,000 B-schools have been shut down in the last five years.

The major concern hounding B-schools, even the top ones, is the uncertainty and turbulence of future, and how to deal with it. They are waking up to the new reality of increased automation in the industry that has made many jobs redundant. The major recruiters of top B-schools, including many transnational companies, are bringing in artificial intelligence, big data processing and machine learning in a big way. This has led to drastic restructuring of business processes, to which most of our B-schools are not able to keep pace with. Says Rajan Saxena, vice-chancellor of NMIMS University, “B-schools, especially the top ones, have to prepare students for the work environment of startups, middle and small enterprises where more jobs will be created in coming years. We also need to be proactive in introducing innovative courses to meet the challenge of rapid changes in industry.” Agrees R Raman, director of Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), who says, “Being a top B-school, at present we don’t face any shortage of job offers from companies, but we are constantly preparing for the future needs of corporates.” SIBM has partnered with IBM for research, and together they will introduce new courses like digital analytics, where students will work on live projects.

A few B-schools are very proactive in adapting to the changing environment.

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A), in an unique initiative, has collaborated with technology institutes to promote entrepreneurship. The institute has partnered with the National Institute of Design (NID) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar, for a new course called new technology applications, design and business models (NTADBM). The course involves teams of design and management students together identifying new technology applications, creating a design for one of these applications and exploring models to take it to the market. During the year, 29 students from NID and 15 from IIT Gandhinagar participated in the course. The management institute has also started young IIMAvericks, a fellowship programme for graduating students of IIM-A to help them pursue their entrepreneurial dreams by giving them a grant of Rs 30,000 per month for two years.

On similar lines of change, premium institute NMIMS has introduced ‘Integration Challenge’ as part of it curriculum and pedagogy which aims to bring in ‘active learning experience’ to the MBA programme in collaboration with the industry. This mechanism helps the school to supplement the case study methodology with live complex business issues. The initiative was run in three phases for three months: Phase one entailed the partner organisation to send its team of managers to the campus to present their live business challenge. Six companies provided eight live business problems. Phase two involved groups of students carrying out research, sourcing information, generating alternatives and designing the solution with the help of faculty mentors. A total of 568 students, divided into 15 challenge groups, participated in the challenge. In the last phase, student groups presented their solutions to the manager teams who evaluated their solutions for viability, originality, concept and practical soundness. This initiative was a big success. An FMCG major even found a certain group’s suggestion as ‘immediately implementable’ says Debashis Sanyal, the dean of the institute.

Apart from the new-age turbulence, B-school leaders have another major hurdle to overcome: government controls. In 2010, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) issued a notification that majorly curbed the autonomy of 545 B-schools under its ambit, including top institutes like XLRI, MDI and S.P Jain institute of Management. According to the notification, the student intake and fees that private B-schools could charge would be decided by respective the governments of the state in which the institutes were located. However, a stay was put on the order by the Supreme Court, and the legal battle continues till now. Laments H. Chaturvedi, director of BIMTECH and alternate president of Education Promotion Society for India(EPSI ), “When the present government came to power, we had lot of hopes from it. We believed that archaic rules of AICTE will be immediately repealed. However, the atmosphere of uncertainty still prevails.” There are also indications that government may push for reservation for backward classes in the faculty body of all government-supported B-schools including Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). This move could further dilute the brand IIM, which has already taken a hit with almost fifty per cent of its students being selected on caste-based reservations and with new campuses in remote areas with inadequate faculty members and infrastructure.

These are turbulent times for our B-schools. To help the best survive, government should just back off. History has shown us competition is a better tool than controls in ensuring quality.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Premchand Palety

The author is the chief executive of of research organisation C fore

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