How To Choose The Right MBA Stream – A Comprehensive Guide

Now, most you who are lucky enough might have got an admission offer from the college you want to go to, and some less lucky people among you are hanging there by waitlist numbers.

Hold tight you’ll reach at the other end.

Now, that you will be joining your dream b-school, you must be anxious to know more and more about your college and enquiring seniors about lifestyle at the campus, about placements and what not. From questions ranging from an enquiry about recent placements to the quality of barbershop, everything is being asked and the seniors are patient enough to answer them. One such question which comes in the mind of many of us is about which stream to choose from? There are many fields to choose from, be it Marketing, Finance, Management Consulting, Human Resources, Operations, General Management. Now, this article is my opinion made by after researching a little bit over the internet and talking with people who are studying or have passed out in recent years.

 

Marketing

Marketing is generally associated with informing the target audience and convincing them that they want this particular product. Aptly, Steve Jobs once said that if we will ask what does a consumer wants, then by the time that product was developed the consumer would want something else! The Same concept is used in real life, we have to release the product and convince the consumer that he needs it very badly. Few things which come in the process are:

1. Product Planning

2. Pricing and Promoting

3. Distributing and Selling

4. Identifying and meeting human and social needs

The next big thing is digital marketing and for the people who have decided to choose marketing, reading about it would be very helpful and Google is offering the course about digital marketing. Doing these courses will be an advantage to you and you will learn about marketing before hand and it will give you an edge over the rest of the students in the class and maybe you can become a marketing stud of the class. Learning the concepts beforehand won’t require more than 20-25 hours but will help you in long run, you may argue that I will anyways be least suited for the finance and these concepts once inside the school, but my friend it will take ’time’, which of course is going to be a scarce resource for all of us.

People with more than two years of experience that too not in the marketing should understand that most of the marketing companies will not even shortlist you for the interviews.

Big companies like HUL, P&G, ITC prefer candidates with no work experience or one to two years of experience. These companies usually believe that freshers would be able to mould into company’s culture better than people with work experience.

 

Finance

Engineers have a notion that they are good with numbers so finance is best for them and they will ace in this field too. Other people whose birthright is a career in finance are finance professionals, commerce graduates and CA’s. Choosing a career in finance can have varying motivations, be it your love for numbers or the love for good money. Your whole life will be all about doing calculations, numbers and mathematics. If you had a mental orgasm while reading the last lines or you get that enormous pleasure as if you have conquered the whole world after solving a math problem, then probably you are made for finance and it’s the best choice for you.

Getting good grades in mathematics is no way related to your love for mathematics, you should be having intutional insights when talking with numbers because your life is going to be filled with numbers, percentages and charts. If numbers speak to you then this is the field for you, and it is important that numbers speak to you if you are opting for a career in finance. A career in finance will consist of long hours and stress, if you are ready to play with this for the next 10-15 years then this field is good for you.

If you have decided to go for a career in finance then you should probably start learning a few things here and there, so that once you are inside the school you need not worry about learning the basics and you will have more time to do other things. For reading some basics from the internet or some book by Indian author is sufficient. You should learn about basic income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements. Finance is a kind of subject where is you get ahead of your peers, you always remain ahead of them. If you are serious enough you should probably do CFA level 1/2/3 before joining the course. CFA level 1 exams usually happens around June and eDcember with registrations closing a few months before. A CFA certificate will help your resume get shortlisted quickly and will reflect how serious you are about your career in finance.

 

Management Consulting

This is probably the hot shot field of MBA, where you advise clients how to do their business and solve their problems. The only task here is to help your client and advise him, and most of the time you won’t even know about the field in which you have to help. This field attracts the cream of the students as it pays the highest and has an amazing lifestyle. A career in consulting will give you a fat paycheck, exposure to different industries, smart people to work with but you have to work really long hours and this field is highly competitive (see how lawyers fight in Suits) and is really travel intensive.

The career in consulting will require you to have three things

1. PPT making skills

You will need to make visually appealing PPTs for the client all the time and you need to have an overall good presentation with visual appeal and every small detail to the client and on top of that, you need to be quick in making the ppt. In the initial years, your job will be mainly making the PPTs.

2. Structured Thinking

Structured thinking involves giving a framework to the unstructured problem. As a consultant yo will be directly facing the client without any prior information of his problem and you will be required to structure his problem and actually find out what the main problem is. And then, of course, you will be solving the problem. The crazy thing is it may happen that even the client don’t know what is his problem and you have to solve it for him.

3. Crazy level excel skills

There will be abundance of graphs, charts, figures in the consulting job and you should know how to structure all that data. This would require skill in Excel. This would be the third critical skill for a business consultant. Anyways Excel and PPT making skills are required by every business person so, one should try to be expert in these two fields no matter what field you choose. At a business school, you are not a student anymore, you are professionals on a mission. The mission to become better.

For a fact being from top engineering colleges or commerce colleges and having no work experience or one or two years of experience, then you are a probable target segment for consulting firms. People with more than three years of work experience find it really hard to get into the top consulting firms.

If you hate PPT making and playing with excel, you should seriously give choosing business consulting a second thought.

 

Human Resource

If you are people’s person, you are the best for HR. People have a preoccupied notion that this job is suitable for women only. While most of the front end of the workforce in companies consists of females, doesn’t mean that this job is not for men. Also, people think that this job requires a level of sensitivity towards the employees, which men can’t have thus only women are suitable for HR. You ask any CEO and he will tell you that most critical part of his job is to sit with the HR and decide about the DNA of the organisation. The decisions of HR are very much critical for any workplace, as the HR handles all the manpower which ultimately give revenue to the company. And it is due to HR’s that employees are motivated to work and give results. An HR has the power to make or break any organisation.

Generally, people who are good with people and observe them critically are suited for this job. Also, if you love to help people, love interacting with people, you are emotionally intelligent and love training people then my friend, you are born to be an HR. Being an HR you will enjoy a perfect work life balance and you don’t even have to crunch numbers on an Excel Sheet.

If you are sure about pursuing Human Resource then you should give a shot in reading journals on people’s management and organisational behaviour. However, before coming to the campus you should introspect yourself and this is not specific to this stream, everyone should do that.

 

Operations

The e-commerece companies are the hot shot destination for the people who are choosing their career in Operations. Other than e-commerce, other industries where operation and supply demand are automobile sector, shipping, real estate and FMCG.

These jobs are a form of field job and expose you to various problems which need an immediate solution. Here managers have to manage ground teams for which good people’s skills are required. Here Excel is extensively used along with forecasting of data sets.

So here also learning Excel and digital marketing will give you a head start when you arrive on campus so that you don’t have to learn these things here and give your time to other activities happening around campus.

 

General Management

These are the guys who are Jack of all trades and Master of adaptability. A career in general management will give you a flavour of all the aspects of business and you will be able to run any one of them, be it finance, marketing or human resource. Companies like Tata, Birla, Reliance, Adani, Mahindra and other big conglomerates recruit people from this field. They ask for a mature profile with good three to five years of experience, so that they get people who already understands the in and out of a typical organisation. These people will be more mature to handle a middle management position.

Holding leadership positions in schools, undergraduate college and in the first year of MBA will give you an added advantage. Also, working for an NGO or on social entrepreneurship will more likely get you shortlisted.

I hope I will be helping at least some of you in deciding which stream to choose for your MBA. I’m facing the same issue which motivated me to do a study and this is the conclusion to which I have arrived.

Pankaj Mann

Pankaj Mann is a 22 years old electronics and communication engineer and a PGP2 student at IIM Lucknow. He's a huge Harry Potter fan and when he says his hobby is reading, he means reading Harry Potter again and again. He's an avid runner and a marathon enthusiast. His passion lies in teaching!

Comments

18 comments

Sandeep Pol

Thankyou for the article. I have 3yrs of work exp in Quality Assurance horizontal from Cognizant.
Profile- 10th- 85%, 12th- 71%, BE(Computer Sci)- 62% from Mumbai University. I have already converted NITIE and hope to get into JBIMS. I want to work in general management or consulting role post MBA. For this, which specialisation I need to choose (not interested in finance).

Pankaj Mann

You can choose general management. If you are really into business consulting, you can try entering into IT consulting post-MBA and with two-three years of experience can switch to management consulting.

Abhishek Dhumal (Abhi)

Hello, thanks for wonderful article, My position is same Sanddep above with 4 years of work ex in a steel Industry as an engineer. Can I make it to the consulting? and as you’ve suggested , Can IT consultant switch to Business consulting ? Do small consulting firms also has the same shortlisting criteria as big 4?

Souvik Sarkar

Hello Pankaj, thanks for this​ brilliant article. Covered most of the crucial points people usually ponder upon.
I would like to enquire about this more from my experience perspective: I would be completing 4yrs exp in ERP background next march and sitting for cat 17. My preferred branch of MBA is finance and operations. However, i would like a career into management consulting, as i already have a solid background of technology consulting ( which are in a broader perspective quite similar in todays world of business). what are my chances out there?

Pankaj Mann

For management consulting you will face problem in shortlisting only the top notch companies like McKinsey, BCG, Startegy& etc… However, getting into the IT Consulting won’t be an issue for you given your background in technology consulting it would be good for you. Operations would also be a very good choice for you and E-commerce giants would be looking into people like you.

Sushant Modi

Hello Pankaj, I am more inclined towards Marketing and about to join TAPMI. However I have an experience of 27 months in engineering services sector(non-marketing) . Will that be a a deal-breaker for me during placements ?

Pankaj Mann

Hey Sushant!

With 27 months of experience, you will find it difficult to get shortlisted in ‘top marketing firms’, but if you can build a strong CV wich reflects your interest in marketing, then you can get shortlisted for the marketing roles in lesser-known firms, and eventually with some experience you can jump into a big FMCG or marketing firm. Since you are yet to join, I suggest you do a few ‘certified courses’ online about marketing and learn about digital marketing at different platforms, like google ad words, youtube, blogging etc… Observing advertisements will give you an understanding about brands and how they target audience. Knowledge of such detail will further help you in GD/PI of placements.

However, I suggest you go to TAPMI with a few options in mind so that you can choose the best one when needed.

Poonam Bhandari

This article is really helpful. I m interested in HR and management consulting. I m in my last year of graduation (commerce). What journals and books should I read and follow for Hr? And also what skills do I need to have for management consulting?

Thanks!