“It is useful to have around 2 years of industry experience prior to the MBA program” – Interview with IIM Indore’s Professor Ranjeet Nambudiri
Our new section – From the Prof’s desk is intended to bring forth the views of the academia on MBA and business in general. We start with an interview with Prof. Ranjeet Nambudiri – faculty in the area of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at IIM Indore.
In his class, Ranjeet is unique because of his background in both, industry and academics. He has extensive man-management experience, as a former Territory Sales Manager at Hitachi Limited, and then as Senior Manager at Genpact. In between, he took a doctoral degree (FPM) in Organizational Behaviour at IIM Ahmedabad.
Post-Genpact, the academic world beckoned and he is now faculty in OB and HRM at IIM Indore, with a couple of cases published in the Richard Ivey portfolio and several international publications.
Excerpts of the Interview:
Team InsideIIM: Is work experience before an MBA an advantage in the Indian context?
Ranjeet Nambudiri (RN): – In general, it is useful to have around 2 years of industry experience prior to the MBA program, because this helps participants appreciate the nuances of businesses. Case discussions are the primary pedagogical tool in an MBA program and participants having prior work experience bring different viewpoints to the discussion thus enhancing the peer learning experience.
– In the Indian context, work experience provides a slight advantage in terms of opportunities for lateral placements. Consulting jobs are best suited for candidates with relevant prior experience; however there are very few candidates with work experience that is relevant for such sector-specific jobs.
Team InsideIIM: You interview several MBA candidates every year. What is the most common response you get for ‘Why MBA‘ and ‘Which domain to join after MBA’? What are your views on this?
RN: At the interview stage most candidates are unclear about their medium-term goals in life. For instance, very few candidates actually conduct preliminary research on the various management functions before the interview. Ideally they should be able to understand a little bit about management functions enabling them to indicate their inclination and link their background with the chosen domain (e.g., work experience, project work at graduation etc.). Since most of the candidates have very little information about the different domains it is very optimistic to expect them to respond to domain preferences at this stage. The candidate pool is usually dominated by engineers and hence the clichéd response of wanting to augment technical skills with managerial experience is repeated by most candidates. It is pointless to ask this question in the interview.
Team InsideIIM: Do you think there is skills gap affecting the employability of MBA grads? NASSCOM had said that only 25% of engineering graduates hired are employable. Do you think a similar phenomenon is at work, even for MBAs from top B schools?
RN: I am not so sure if the proportion is that low in the case of MBAs. The MBA program is more broad-based and focuses on attitude in addition to knowledge and skills.
The issue really is about matching the expectations of the employer and candidates. Most candidates join an MBA program with the aim of getting into the consulting or banking domain but there are limited jobs in these sectors. Consulting companies have specific expectations from candidates at the business school and very few candidates match these expectations. Similarly, companies that offer specialised jobs like process consulting, change management, supply chain etc., may find very few candidates with the right skills. However, there is a much stronger fit in the case of marketing and finance jobs.
Team InsideIIM: Why do you think many MBA grads fail when it comes to applying their classroom learning at the workplace? Is is because of flawed curriculum, or is it because most students focus on grades, and very few focus on activities that teach you real-life problem-solving skills – (like organizing events, participating in case study competitions etc).
RN: This is a combination of many factors including some mentioned above. Sometimes the curriculum may not focus on applicability. At the same time it is not possible to run all courses only on simulations. Ideally, courses should have a judicious mix of case studies, simulated exercises, lectures and peer learning processes. Field based projects are useful because they allow the participant to appreciate realities of the market. But many times the students take field based projects lightly and concoct reports with data available on the web. Top business schools across the world are moving toward atleast one completely field based course that allows the students to take decisions and learn from those decisions. At IIM Indore we have noted that the Rural Immersion Program has immense learning value in terms of the experiences it allows our students to go through. It is important to offer courses on topics like leadership, accountability, entrepreneurship etc.
It is important to organize and participate in events and competitions. Many competitions offer opportunities to experience real life situations and learn from the same. However, one should also be able to manage time such that this does not come at the expense of classroom learning.
Team InsideIIM: How do you think the recent increase in batch sizes (because of reservations) has panned out? Has it led to some dilution in the quality of the MBA and the employment opportunities? Has it affected some B schools more than others?
RN: If one looks only at opportunities in select domains then the view mentioned above hold true. But the fact is that the Indian economy badly needs managerial talent. There is a shortage of skilled people in India – one only needs to look at the right opportunities.
Team InsideIIM: What would be your advice to graduates and students alike, in this choppy job market?
RN: Play to your strengths. Not everyone is cut out to become a consultant. Try and identify your true calling. If there is a fit between your strengths and the chosen career you will always be at peace with yourself and success in the career will just be a consequence.
Team InsideIIM: What can be done to attract the best students towards the HR function – given that it is after all, such an important part of organizations?
RN: The industry has a big role to play here. While talking to HR leaders in the industry I find that most of them are disappointed that HR careers are largely ignored by the participants of business schools. At the same time very few companies actively discuss HR careers during the pre-placement talks.
As far as the institutions are concerned there are only 3-4 schools that really specialize in the domain. HR electives are poorly subscribed. Hence it is a chicken-and-egg situation.
It is necessary for the industry and academia to work together toward promoting careers in the domain. A conclave where top HR professionals and faculty members participate and discuss the various options in the domain could be useful.
Team InsideIIM: The HR function has an important role to play in reducing the amount of churn in a company. How do you think they can do this job more effectively?
RN: Retention management is the buzzword and many companies especially in the IT industry have come up with several retention management techniques. It would be difficult to talk about all these ideas over a short interview like this. All I can say is that the HR function should have their ear to the ground – research has established that people resort to voice before exit.
Team InsideIIM: Which sectors of the economy do you think will offer the best career prospects going forward?
RN: Things are hazy at the moment. There are several changes happening in the political and economic scenario. One can only wait and watch for the next few months to see how things pan out.
Team InsideIIM: What is your view on this article written by a KPMG partner, published in NYT ? According to the author, our post-graduates are unprofessional, laidback and passive, poor in language and problem-solving skills among other things.
RN: I am in partial agreement with the author. Yes, communication (not language) is a problem as he mentions. Problem solving skills are not as bad as made out to be – the phenomenon is more pronounced in the mid-level business schools or the bottom quartile of the top business schools. Deference to authority is just a cultural issue about which not much can be done at the b-school. On the contrary – how many firms (and supervisors) in India would like to have their frontline constantly questioning them?
If you have questions for Prof.Nambudiri, please leave them in the comments section below. We will try and get him to answer good questions over the weekend.
You can read more articles about IIM Indore here
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