General Management: Jack of all Businesses, Master of One

Venue: IIM A mess circle

Time: Mid-August

A bunch of first year students discussing something ferociously.

Student1: Dude, what should I choose? There are so many sectors. Everyone talks about consulting, finance, marketing, general management and so on.

Student2: Don’t know man. I have talked to a few seniors. Focus on making an impressive resume is what I am going to do right now.

A chirpy girl: I have talked to a few of my seniors in the dorm. I always wanted to work in a gen man firm.

Student1: Gen man! What exactly is this Gen Man now?

And so the discussion goes on.

The first year of any typical IIM is divided in 2 parts. The time before summer placements and the time after. Some confident dudes have already decided on where they want to go, some enquire and seek guidance of their seniors while others leave it to fate to decide. By and large, everyone is anxious. Consulting, marketing, general management and investment banking are the buzzwords. Everyone performs a cost benefit analysis for every sector. Work life balance is another concern.  At this juncture, it helps when someone explains pros and cons of each sector.

I would like to throw some light on this phrase – Gen man. Gen man is a typically used short form for general management.  In simple language, it means working in a conglomerate. India is a land of family businesses. Tata and Birla are known worldwide. Well, this will give you a hint. TAS (Tata Administrative Services), ABG (Aditya Birla Group), Mahindra and Reliance are a few examples of general management firms. This trend is largely in India.

There is an interesting legend on how a lot of conglomerates or so called diverse family businesses started in India. Since the mediaeval times, our culture has portrayed joint families. This is very much true in today’s scenario as well. Even though we are now moving towards nuclear family structure. Coming back to the point, a family member starts a business and the next generation thrives to extend it. The business grows. Mostly, different people in the family have different ideas. They venture out in different directions. This is a primary reason of the birth conglomerates. The secondary reason could be to diversify the risk by creating a portfolio of companies.

Root cause of formation of conglomerates is understood. Let’s focus on understanding what the sector is and what it offers to MBA graduates. A general management firm is a conglomerate consisting of businesses in different sectors. Working for a general management firm gives the MBA students an opportunity to work in different sectors, get flavour of the sectors and understand synergies of the businesses. For example, you can acquaint yourself with the nitty-gritties of designing financial products in Birla Sun Life Mutual Funds and learn tricks of marketing in Idea.

You must be thinking. How is it possible? The answer is simple. Every management firm has a structured leadership programme for the B-school graduates who are hired as employees. Typically, this program is structured in 3 to 4 stints in different industries, sectors and geographies. All the leadership candidates work in these different domains and circumstances. Later, they and the firm can mutually choose the industry in which the employee can work for a few years (if they don’t want to change the stream, of course).  Aditya Birla Group’s LEAP and LEAD programme, Mahindra’s GMC and TATA Administrative services roughly follow the same structure.

Having analysed the career path and culture, it is important to check the fit. Liking and capability both are important. Pursue the career only when there is an overlap between the two. Choosing general management would require a specific set of skills. Fundamental knowledge about all the sectors (marketing, finance and operations etc.), critical thinking and problem solving, sharp acumen and adaptability are a must.

Career Strategy-KnowMe

The perks of working for a general management firms are innumerable. The vast experience and the different work culture developing due to multi-sector presence is hard to find. These leadership programmes allow B-school graduates to follow a fast paced career ladder. The benefit is mutual. These programmes groom highly talented and potential managers for key managerial positions. As I mentioned in the title itself, it is a great opportunity to gain experience in multiple sectors starting from IT and HR to financial services. It definitely makes you, “Jack of all trades and master of one”. 

– Sayali

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