Are B-schools Becoming Nothing But Glorified Placement Agencies?
Sunil Kumar, a 25-year old engineer from Pune, is disappointed after a dismal show in CAT 2015, the entrance exam to the top tier business schools in India. He is one of the 200,000 plus aspirants vying for a seat in the top b-schools in this nation of 1.25 billion. When asked why he is inclined to do an MBA, he replies, somewhat irritated- “How else am I going to get a better job, I am stuck in the same profile for 3 years.” This is one of the myriad examples among the Indian youth, to whom a management degree has become an elixir guaranteed to ensure a rewarding career. And somewhere in the maze of these aspirations, the essence of studying management for the love of learning something new is on the way to becoming extinct.
The oldest among the management colleges in India is XLRI, Jamshedpur, established in 1949 by the Society of Jesus, with an aim to “offer an enriching learning experience to aspiring managers, and to enable them realize their full potential”. In 1961, IIM Calcutta was established by the Govt. of India in collaboration with the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Ford Foundation and the Indian industry. This was followed by the Big-A , IIM Ahmedabad, whose red-bricked building designed by the famous Luis Kahn, is the first image that appears in one’s mind when one talks about management excellence in India. These 2 old IIMs, along with IIM Bangalore, form the “Holy Trinity” of Indian management colleges, widely renowned and globally appreciated for their world-class infrastructure and illustrious alumni. Besides these, there are other prestigious institutes such as FMS Delhi, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode , SP Jain, NMIMS and the like. Hundreds of thousands of people fight for a much coveted seat in these institutes, which almost guarantee a high paying (or at least decent paying) job as one passes out.
So that’s all about the quantity, what about the quality?
India produces about three lakh management graduates every year, but hardly 35,000 of them are employable,This is the issue that has been and is being widely debated since the past decade or so. According to the 2013 report of “All India Council for Technical Education”(AICTE), out of 3,54,421 students enrolled for MBA in 3,364 institutions across the country last year. Speaking to a national newspaper at the southern regional round table conclave of business school directors and deans in that year, J. Philip, former director of IIM-Bangalore, said, “Today, the requirement of managerial candidates in the Indian market is between 35,000 and 40,000 every year. There are two reasons for unemployment: Lack of global skills and excess supply.”
Philip said India is probably the only country that could help supply managers to European countries and Japan. “Most countries in Europe are facing a crunch,” said Philip, now the director of Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship, Bangalore. An expert, who did not wish to be named, said, “Around the year 2000, there were about 10 world class business schools in India. Now we have 25, but we have a long way to go. We need an industry-oriented syllabus and interaction with industry to improve employability.”
Parag Kalkar, director of Sinhgad Institute of Business Administration and Computer Application, Pune, said in the past 10 years the number of management institutes in the country had doubled. “While the previous central governments aimed at reaching the global enrolment ratio for higher education (27%), AICTE randomly allowed institutes of engineering,” Kalkar said.
According to AICTE, the number of management institutions has risen from 2,614 in 2006-07 to 3,364 in 2013-14. While the numbers continuously rose till 2011-12, at least 71 institutes shut shop in 2012-13 and 107 in 2013-14.
Criteria for choosing a b-school:
As stated in the initial argument, placements, and placements alone has become the criteria for choosing a management college for the current generation of students. Each year, in the yearly summer placement figures, the top institutes boast of their students securing internships at reputed multinationals with a fat paycheck, while the final placements show average salary figures of 20 lpa+ for the old IIMs, and 14lpa+ for other top rung colleges. And naturally, that often becomes the sole yardstick of judgement while analyzing the quality of a b-school. But one cannot overlook the importance of having a well-rounded education for the 2 years of MBA. An education that includes extra-curriculars, socializing, and developing a wholesome outlook of life in general. This is the enlightenment that a b-school is entitled to provide, not only the 5-digit salary that makes people gasp in awe.
In this rat race for admission to top colleges, some folks do miss out. But they can have a moment of reprieve, as management colleges have sprung up in every nook and corner of urban India to ensure that these people do not miss out to pursue a course in business management. And this has given rise to colleges such as IIPM, which was disowned by the UGC as “self-styled and unrecognised institutions, functioning under the contravention of the UGC Act,” declaring them as fake and “not entitled to confer any degrees.” The books of the education arm show that, in 2008-09, it spent Rs 120.5 crore of its Rs 202 crore revenues on ads. Hundreds of students over the years spent a whopping 14lakh to study in these institution and ultimately ended up without a job in lines with what was promised. Ultimately, it was forced to stop its operations in 2014, and the Great IIPM Fraud Story became a subject Education Sarcasm folklore. And besides this prominent example, there are umpteen other colleges which undergo this same cycle, rendering many passouts hopeless and frustrated.
Is a management degree necessary to prosper in the upper rung of corporate profiles:
Unlike some of the other contentious questions being discussed now, this one has a clear and emphatic answer: NO. From the founders of Flipkart Mr. Sachin Bansal and Mr. Binny Bansal to former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani, talented people with business acumen and a penchant for success have proven time and again that a management degree is not an ardent necessity. If one has the ability to cope up with the market fluctuations and make the right decisions at the right time, then an MBA degree is redundant. Of course, one needs both financial and social support in order to start as an entrepreneur. Management and leadership skills can’t be taught to someone, they just come from within. An MBA degree does help in getting that extra edge over others and also gives market exposure along with the platform to enhance one’s personality. To sum up, an MBA does teach one how to become a manager, but doesn’t guarantee one to succeed in it.
- MBA courses are specifically designed to help make you an effective leader. The assignments set throughout your degree are aimed at helping you become adept at handling a variety of business situations and group tasks help provide students with opportunities to lead their peers. MBA courses also give you the opportunity to provide coaching in specific skills that every manager needs to develop such as time management, negotiation skills and stress management.
- As well as helping you develop practical management skills, your MBA will also give you the opportunity to become more people oriented. These so-called “soft” skills include the ability to work effectively with others and operate within a team and are invaluable in any management position. One of the advantages of an MBA is that it will expose you to a diverse group of fellow students from different business backgrounds – making it easier for you to work with different kinds of people in the real-work environment.
- Another vital management skill that studying for an MBA gives you is time management. Many MBA candidates juggle a full-time job alongside their studies. This might seem gruelling, but it teaches you vital lessons about scheduling and prioritising tasks and getting things done. The value of this knowledge is magnified later on in your career when you can use it to manage time for an entire team.
- Good communication is probably the most important management skill you need to master. In the course of your MBA, you will give presentations, engage in debates and produce written assignments and dissertations which will not only help you hone your business thinking, but will also sharpen your ability to express yourself clearly. By the end of the course, you will be able to communicate your vision with ease and clarity – something every manager needs to be able to do in order to motivate their team
- The most important step for those who want to learn how to become a better manager is to take note of these vital areas and take advantage of all the opportunities their MBA offers to excel in them. The end result will be the ability to sail through situations where other managers struggle, and to build a truly outstanding and high-performing team.
The quality of students:
Despite being a controversial issue, one can’t help but bring up the point of reservation, India’s unique system intended to ensure upliftment of the classes of people left behind or considered underprivileged. But despite the noble intention with which such a system was propagated by the great B.R. Ambedkar, this system has become the focus of numerous debates regarding the validity and usefulness as well as proper implementation of this scheme.
The colleges under the Central Govt. have 49.5% (yes it is that high) seats reserved for different backward communities, which means the major pool of students, that is “general” students, have to make a dash for the remaining 50.5 % of the seats. Reservation is the virus that has got hold of the Indian Government, Constitution, and most importantly, its citizens. Be true to yourself, and ask your heart what thoughts come to your mind when you hear the word ‘reservation’. For all general category students, a big “NO!!”, a frowning face, would be the immediate response. For others who enjoy the benefits of reservation, it varies.
First of all, Reservation system was included in the Constitution when it was being framed only as a clause, which would be removed once the downtrodden were uplifted. Initially, it was for ten years when the final draft of the Constitution was prepared. But our caring politicians saw a loophole in the clause and kept extending it for their own interests.
But one cannot deny the benefits this policy has lead to. Of course, it has given a chance to the people without sufficient means to compete with the privileged, a chance to dream and achieve that dream. This has diversified the workforce, and given an opportunity for everyone to come into the corporate mainstream.
But it has affected the management education system in multiple ways. On one hand it leads to diversity with people coming from all sections of the society, and on the other, it makes the bright minds mingle with some who are not the brightest. This leads to a dichotomy, a classic case of two institutions within the same institution, thus further fragmenting rather than uniting. But all in all, if a student from a reserved category has the ability to come forward and take on the others, he is ensured of a bright future and a fat salary. So, reservation is definitely not 100% a bane for the society. Yes, it has helped our society; it has brought the downtrodden to a higher level.
Humility doesn’t ensure success, but lack of it ensures failure:
Humility, which is the greatest among all virtues known to mankind. Humility in Latin is ‘humilis’, means low. Humility is being low outside while high inside. It is self-effacing and the denial of self-importance. Humility is the antithesis of arrogance and false pride. It is the law of the nature that people who are strong and virtuous inside always remain low outside. We have examples of Jesus Christ, Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and Basaveshwara. They are all called as great souls because of their humility.
Humility is the antithesis of arrogance and false pride. Arrogance and false pride are the worst evils of the mankind and sure ways of destruction. Ravana in the Ramayana saw his end because of his arrogance. Duryodhana in the Mahabharatha carved out his destruction due to his false pride. Nearer in time, unlimited arrogance destroyed both Hitler and Saddam Hussain.
Humility is one of the prime virtues that someone aspiring for success must possess. It is a necessary, though not sufficient condition to prosper in life. But many students coming from the much venerated management colleges have an outright lack of this virtue. Their arrogance is felt through their demeanour, and instead of being pioneers and setting up an example for the next generations to follow, they end of being classic specimens of what one ought not be in life. According to a Times of India report dated June 24,2011 :
Many domestic recruiters at India’s top business school used the meltdown of 2009 as an opportunity to avenge the so called arrogance of IIM-A students. Campus interviews during this period were rough, says a recently released book.
Apparently, most Indian companies had a feeling, even while they were doling out astronomical sums as compensation to these youngsters, that most of these recruits behaved as if they were God’s gift to mankind. The arrogance showed in 20-minute interviews where students would bluntly ask: “So, how much are you offering?”
Then came the meltdown when many big recruiters shied away from campus interviews. Some recruiters who came started to reject every single student to send out a strong message, writes Saral Mukherjee, placement chairman at IIM-A in the book ‘Nurturing Institutional Excellence: Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad’.
This kind of arrogance leads to managers with an inflated ego and less flexibility, two traits that never go hand in hand with a successful managerial career. As a result of such an attitude prevailing among students, many recruiters came to campus and reject every single candidate. However, I believe, these top colleges as institutions are not arrogant but the behaviour of the students during placement may have conveyed the image. The consistent rankings of IIM-A ,B,C as the premier business schools should generate humility and a quiet confidence instead of arrogance. So, it is imperative that a student may have a big dream of flying high, but he mustn’t forget to keep his feet grounded.
Most people are Unhappy:
“How to be happy” – is the conundrum that has intrigued intellectuals and philosophers for centuries, and no one has yet come out with a perfect answer. Some consider wealth to be the ultimate panacea for curing unhappiness, while some consider emotional peace to be the answer, and for others, even a combination of both might still not be enough. Nowadays, private firm employees with a hectic professional life working in firms exerting themselves to the brim to increase profit margins to the highest possible extent, end up struggling to strike a work-life balance. In the quest to acquire corporate success, they are compelled to give up family-time, ensuring further stress down the line.
But, why does this happen?
Robert Louis Stephenson once wrote: “I have a little shadow who goes in and out with me; and what can be the use of him is more than I can see. He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head; and I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.”
Clever poem, but what is he talking about?
The ego, of course. It is the chief culprit in human unhappiness. Yet, most people live and die with this inner monster running their lives. They neither know this nor how to overcome it. If they did, they would take the necessary steps to bring an end to it.
This ego leads to the endless striving to get one-up among one’s peers leading to the never ending cycle of “achieve-aspire-compromise-achieve”. And that ultimately leads to a corporate-bot who is only concerned about taking instructions, and delivering highest returns.
Of course, we have the great Gautam Budhas and Mahaviras, Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Vivekanandas, achieve enlightenment, inner peace,and happiness, but in the hallowed world of corporate competition, happiness is perhaps nothing but a mirage.
So, the final take on Indian B-schools:
When attempting to come to a conclusion on such a contentious issue, it is imperative to give utmost importance to the top-tier b-schools in India, the crème-de-la-crème, where only a tiny fraction of the aspirants manage to secure a seat. The Holy Trinity of the IIMs – IIMA,IIMB, and IIMC being the torch bearers of the management education in India, are the ones who would be given most weightage to this argument. Despite placement being the most important and meticulously looked after domain, these IIMs do give ample importance to the overall development of character. The course material are regularly updated to keep in pace with the ever-evolving global standards, and cross-domain knowledge is provided to ensure that a student choosing a particular specialization has sufficient knowledge of the other domains too. And all these are complemented by the opportunities to pursue extra-curricular activities such as sports, art and cultural activities. And not to forget the entrepreneurship initiatives taken to ensure more and more people embrace the start up culture and create jobs. All these have lead to the alumni of these b-schools achieving greatness not only in management, but also in varied fields. Without belaboring the point by talking more about the likes of Ajaypal Singh Banga, Indra Nooyi or Raghuram Rajan, who are spectacular achievers in their own right, let’s have a look at some of the names who have made it big in fields other than corporate management:
- Mallika Sarabhai- classical dancer, activist.
- Kirit Raval- former Solicitor General of India
- Harsha Bhogle- cricket commentator
- Amish Tripathi- celebrated author
- Swati Kaushal- novelist
- Ramchandra Guha- historian and author
The emergence of the alumni of these top b-schools in varied fields goes to show the all-round development these institutions provide to its bright young students. But, these colleges are islands of excellence in a vast sea of mediocrity. The conditions at some of the mid and low rung b-schools are despicably poor, and even if they end up placing the majority of the batch, their lack of proper development leads to less chance of long-term success.
So, India being the country ready to arrive at the world stage as the next superpower, it is in dire need of efficient managers. While the colleges churn out a large number of managers every year, we need to ensure that the quality is never compromised. The IIMs are the beacon of hope, and other colleges should follow suit, and ensure they don’t end up becoming glorious placement agencies; rather they should strive to become what a b-school is actually meant to be- a nurturing centre for diverse ideas.
About the author:
I graduated in Electronics & Telecommunication Engg. at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. I cracket CAT’15 with 99.94%ile, and scored 99.62%ile in XAT’2016 and 99.25%ile in IIFT’15 and ultimately secured converts from IIM Calcutta,IIM Lucknow,IIM Kozhikode,FMS Delhi,IIFT,XLRI BM and XLRI HRM, and am an alumnus of IIM Calcutta (PGDM 2016-18). I take interest in sports, theatre and dramatics, and music.