MBA Live! – 1st Year Courses – OB, Economics & Marketing

(You can read the background to this series here)

A lot of you may have wondered about what you will learn in an MBA course. Some may have gone to the myriad MBA forums and threads to quench your curiosity. Some of you don’t (yet) care but that may change, if your CAT/GDPI preparation works out for you (Good Luck for this year’s CAT!). For all those who are still curious or are still looking for good answers, this article is about the course content of the first year of the (typical) MBA course. This article is the product of many interviews with some of the most esteemed faculty at IIM Calcutta. So you will get your answers, in great detail and depth, straight from the horse’s mouth. The first year has many common courses, with specialization being allowed in the second. I have covered 3 broad subjects and their contents in the first year. So here we go!


Organizational Behavior:

  • What the course wants to teach:

All managers need to work with people and consider the effects of the external environment         

The first part of the OB course has understanding, predicting, managing and changing people as its objectives. The course covers the broad analysis of the way people think and react and then shifts its focus to groups and teams, and the role of power and politics. This part also requires students to choose a movie and dissect the personalities of its characters. The second part of the OB course has understanding and designing organizations as its objectives. The organization should be designed to respond to the external environment and must have all of its processes to run in harmony, much like a well-oiled machine. The course also aims to teach how the organization’s processes affect individuals.

  • What the teachers want students to learn from this:

Students can learn to design organizations for certain situations. For example,

An entrepreneur can learn what processes he must establish and what kind of people he must hire

Teachers want students to learn how to:

  • Analyze and understand other people as well as oneself.
  • Analyze situations and take good decisions.
  • Think on their feet and become leaders.
  • Bottom-line: What do you get from this?

Teachers, over the course of their careers, have seen their students (IIM alumni) come back to them and tell them that OB was the most relevant course that they learnt as most of the problems  a company are about people.

This was also the course that students underestimated the most and regretted it!

One day, you will become a leader and you will know how to manage creativity, change and also become aware of yourself. You will be able to solve (real-time) problems like dealing with older people, people from different cultures and lead in such situations.



  • What is the course all about:

Economics is the mother subject in management,
especially for disciplines like marketing and finance

IIM Calcutta is the among the few b-schools (and perhaps the only one) to have 3 economics courses in the first year. Economics is where one learns the tools that are applied in other disciplines. For example, in marketing, if one wants to analyze consumer behavior, then microeconomics, which deals with markets and role of individuals in them comes into play. In Financial Analysis, if one needs to see the effects of the global economy (say, the rise of oil prices) on the stock market, then macroeconomics comes into play.

  • What the teachers want students to take away from this:

What makes economics fascinating is that:

Though it assumes complete rationality, it actually deals with human beings,
who are not ideal and not always rational

When one tries to find some pattern in the behavior of the seemingly random decisions of people and find a method to their madness, the challenge becomes intellectually stimulating. From a very high level, the laws of economics may not work well all the time, but from a lower level, the laws hold true and when they don’t, an explanation can always be found. What concerns teachers is that after MBA, people don’t consciously try to increase and update their knowledge of economics.

  • Bottom-line: What do you get from this? 

It is particularly useful for those working in investment banking, or banking in general. But no matter which stream you get into, you will find yourself applying the concepts of economics learned during your b-school years to solve issues in your work. You will find yourself asking questions like “Why am I doing it this way and not that way?”

You will be able to make better sense of business situations and take better decisions. And that is the kind of candidate that recruiters love!



  • What the course wants to teach:

The course aims to teach:

  1. The characteristics of Indian markets, its realities and how it is different from markets in other parts of the world.
  2. The managerial decision points when taking individual products to markets as well as the processes, elements and functions involved in doing so and the problems faced.
  • What teachers want students to take away from this:

The course aims to inform the students of the structure of the market, the infrastructure available, the effects of the economy on market demand.

Teachers want students to become more aware of consumer disparity, infrastructure and logistic issues and the challenges that will await them in a marketing career. The course is very relevant to a Sales and Marketing career, the many roles in them, and the decision points that lie ahead. Alumni often tell teachers about how a certain meeting or discussion at the office somehow led them back to a case study or concept discussed in class. Marketing is taught mostly through case studies and through ‘live’ problems. Students must link these concepts to the problems they face. Sometimes students come back to the teachers even 5-7 years after graduating to seek advice from their teachers on a case that was taught in the lectures!

  • Bottom-line: What do you get from this?

There is the obvious answer: The course is relevant for future marketers and brand managers. But there is another layer to it, however.

Most CEOs in companies tend to come from the marketing function.

And that is because they understand the relation between their company’s business and their customers better than most. And that journey begins in the marketing lectures at business school.

The author would like to thank Prof. Anindya Sen, Prof. Leena Chatterjee and Prof. Prashanth Mishra of IIM Calcutta for their invaluable inputs.


Afzal Hussain is currently pursuing his first year in IIM Calcutta’s PGDM program (Class of 2014). He did his BE degree from Birla Institute of Technology Mesra in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and worked as an IT Consultant in Deloitte for 2 years after that. He enjoys reading everything under the sun, listens to Apertura by Gustavo Santaolalla on loop and worships Fight Club.

You may be interested in :

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The InsideIIM Career Guide


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Rather than this kind of things coming from a single PGP1 of a single IIM, maybe the PGP1/PG2 of different colleges can post about their colleges and the things they excel in.
eg IIMC in Finance/Quants, XL in HR, IIMB in strategy, IIMA in Genman etc


Fair point. But this article does not represent my own (or any students') views but those of the teachers and professors at IIM Calcutta.
IMHO, a professor is in a much better position to articulate his views on such topics than a student, senior or junior. Hence this effort.

Also, regarding the specializations that you mentioned, it is only a general perception that IIM Bangalore is "The" place for Strategy and IIM A is for GenMan and so on…..but once you get in, you realize that is not at all true. All 3 IIMs are great for all these functions.



Afzal while you may not agree, its true that each IIM has a few departments which are much better than the rest. eg. probably the IIM where I study has an awesome OB area and most of the profs are very good.The placements in those areas may not necessarily reflect the same.

I doubt whether running a series like this will gain popularity as such. After all I thought inside IIM is now a full fledged professional website rather than a plain blog.



I do not know what is the basis of your comment when you are privy to the amenities/facilities at your IIM only. How do you draw this conclusion that IIMX has the best OB faculty among all? I just see such statements as a pure marketing strategy. If IIMC faculty is really good at IIMC, then are some of the 'Gods' of finance at IIMA and IIMB. Same is true about disciplines as well.


I said my IIM has a good OB are and not the best OB area. Please read before you start commenting. How can I market something when no-one knows what 'X' is 😉


I don't see how this is useful to the people aspiring to come to the IIMs. If anything, it hurts them. Finding your feet in challenging times is one thing Business School teaches you. Please do not take that away from the newbies of next year.


When I came to IIM Calcutta, what hurt me and several of my peers was that we did not know some things…….we were not told certain things. We all thought or said "If we only knew about this, we would have done better!" More on that later…..

I will not take away the "key" things away from newbies. The article was for the academically curious ones. It would be truly "useful" in the conventional sense if it dealt with the CAT. It is merely a commentary on the subjects.

I also do not see how this piece spoils any suspense as it talks mostly about the potential usefulness of the course. Of course you are entitled to your opinions on a public forum.

Rest assured, having been a newbie who went through the highs and lows of the first few months at IIMC, I will not take away anything valuable from newbies.


" We all thought or said "If we only knew about this, we would have done better!" "
Exactly my point. You learned something in that process. I feel you are going to reveal information (unknowingly) that will take away the fun from a lot of things. Plus it's far too early to be talking about course content. Honestly, how many are in it for the academics? I'm sure a majority of the applicants are looking for the elusive 40 lac job and what not. While I do appreciate your effort, I think you'd be better off putting it elsewhere.


I agree that all of us want the best possible jobs. Have you noticed that most people come here saying, "I want to get into Finance" and then end up not liking it? Or simply losing interest in it? Every year, so many people come to the IIMs with so many pre-conceived notions, which end up falling apart. Then they look for something they like. And only then do they delve a little deeper into the subject content.

"I'm sure a majority of the applicants are looking for the elusive 40 lac job and what not"
Do you not feel that this is the sort of pre-conceived notion that acts against the students' interests in the end?

Every newbie needs just a little bit of hand-holding. I look forward to your views.

IIMC student

I am really sorry to say this… but the article is really disappointing… I am from IIMC too….and I am sure…most of us would be ashamed to read this article which a random student has written claiming to be institute's view…..
Afzal.. how many students had u discussed the content of this article with?.. i never saw any discussion on any forum


Hello IIMC Student,

I am returning after a very long hiatus. Now, I did not claim this to be my view. I also mentioned in the very beginning that the article was written after consulting the faculty. And since this article contains the faculty's views, and not my own, you have no reason to feel ashamed