13 Jun 2024

Time to upgrade to MBA 2.0

By Dr Mahesh Ranade

One of the most popular degrees to pursue for the college graduates these days is MBA. An estimated 3 lakh students acquire MBA degree every year in India! It is seen as a passport to a good career. Almost anyone who hasn’t been pursuing technical or science education after school, considers MBA as the natural choice for postgraduation. Students and their parents expect to land a decent job with an MBA under their belt.

The reason for this is that MBA is seen to equip a person to be able to do a job in an organization. Be it in sales, marketing, finance, HR, operations, or even IT, an MBA is supposed to be able to handle the job better than a non-MBA. As the name itself suggests an MBA degree is supposed to prepare a student to be “in business”. To meet this growing demand for MBAs there are over 4000 colleges in India that offer Management education.

On the other hand, however, the industry isn’t too impressed with many present-day MBAs. They find them unemployable, or have to invest extensively in training them for the job. One result of this gap between the student aspiration and the industry viewpoint is slower-than-expected career growth, lower-than-expected salaries and low employer-employee satisfaction.

What is the reason for this?

Over the years the business itself has undergone a massive change. Some of the biggest companies of the past no longer exist, and new ones which couldn’t even be conceived a decade ago, have come up to offer employment to thousands. Just as an example, Ecommerce was not part of the common discourse even 10 years ago. Today, even people living in very small towns are buying (and selling!) things on platforms like Amazon and Flipkart. After Ecommerce we now have Quick Commerce, the likes of Swiggy and BigBasket! They did not even exist 5 years  ago, but are now inseparable from a middle-class city-dweller’s and, therefore, a marketer’s life!

Even conventional industries have become globalised. Supply chains have evolved. Boundaryless transactions, multi-lateral economic treaties have led the new way of doing business. Supplier and customer profiles have changed. Internet and digitalization has taken over several physical processes in every aspect of industry; be it procurement, operations, people management & development, client relations, sales and customer retention, corporate governance, and everything in between.

Concomitant with all of this, naturally, the required managerial skillset has undergone a sea change. It goes without saying that MBA, which is a little over 50 years old in India, clearly, needs to change in order to keep pace with the changing business scenario. Not only in terms of its content, but in the way it is delivered.

Mr Parth Pratim, VP with Reliance JIO, concurs when he says: “My experience with many new hires is that their knowledge is largely bookish. While they may know the theory, they are unable to apply the same in their respective roles, and need a lot of on-the-job training. So it is very important for Management colleges to provide an environment for students to practically hone their skills in a job role”.

What is Symbiosis Skill MBA, and how does it address these issues?

To address the issues described above, Symbiosis Skills University has reimagined the MBA program. The aim is to train the students to become contemporary managers ready to perform in the modern industry. As a fundamental principle, 70% of the course is delivered through practical and skills-based teaching, with the theoretical part forming the remaining 30%. Some key elements of this MBA 2.0, or Future MBA, are:

Pedagogy: Management skills can be best imparted experientially. At Symbiosis Skill University this is done by discussing current business cases and analysing what is happening day-to-day in business and economy. Importantly, they get to work on live projects on themes that are current in the business world. A substantial part of the student time is spent in job-like assignments.

Echoes Mr Sanjay Jha, until recently CHRO, Mahindra First Choice and Founder of Ascen10X: “The conventional two-month internships offered by the majority of management colleges lack significant value due to a portion of the time being dedicated to familiarization and report writing. Consequently, there is insufficient time for students to acquire practical job skills. This leads to the necessity for extensive training for most MBAs before they can contribute effectively in the workplace. In order to address this issue, MBA colleges should prioritize skill-based education rather than mere theoretical knowledge. It is crucial for students to immerse themselves in a job-like environment for a considerable duration as an integral part of their college education”.

Teachers with managerial and business research experience. What industry looks for in professional managers is the understanding of the current business issues and the skills to handle them. Not bookish knowledge.

 At Symbiosis Skills University, we have teachers who themselves are, or have recently been, practising managers at senior levels in professional organizations. We also have professors who have solid research credentials. For students it is easier to understand and learn from these professors, because they teach through real-life examples rather than from old text books.

 Leadership Focus on Academic Quality: Symbiosis Skills University’s Leadership is personally invested in academic matters. They are deeply involved in faculty selection to curriculum design, teaching methodology to industry partnership, identifying latest in market trends, etc.

Educational infrastructure: Symbiosis Skills University has invested in modern and unique teaching-learning infrastructure, such as, Centres of Excellence, Learning Labs, quality reading material and online resources. Our Learning Labs are unique. These labs afford the students to experience their future job functions, accelerate their understanding and hone their skills for modern job roles.

Rigour: At SSU the students experience a culture of professionalism that they will eventually encounter in a professional organization. Whether it is teachers’ conduct, punctuality and attendance, timely completion of projects and reports, or in running various committees. All of it is done seriously and professionally.

Attention to holistic Development: Outside the course content, we work on improving students’ written and verbal communication, comprehension, data interpretation and decision-making, self-management, result-orientation, organizing ability, and so on. The whole atmosphere which a student experiences relentlessly promotes these skills. Our engagement with students extends beyond the usual college hours.

Industry collaboration: Our connect with industry goes much beyond placement and internships. It is with the industry’s help that we have set up the Training Labs and the Centres of Excellence. We partner with them for curriculum development, introduction of new disciplines, and for the assessment of the students. We believe that industry and academia have to be inseparable to deliver quality Management education.

Business Incubation Centre: According to a recent study by the Business Today magazine, very few of India’s start-ups have been founded by MBAs (who have mostly stuck to risk-averse corporate jobs). The study quotes Padmaja Ruparel, Co-founder of Angel Network, as saying, “ours is a country which needs hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs because of our varied customer base, geography and demography, and tonnes of very real problems”. To quote the Business Today study, there are 5489 start-ups founded by graduate engineers from IITs, while IIM graduates have produced only 1517 start-ups till October 2022! Clearly, there is a strong case for MBA students to be guided and mentored for launching their businesses.

SSU has created an Incubation Centre that is jointly nurtured by the Engineering and Management faculties. Students from both colleges work on new business ideas together. The idea is to foster entrepreneurship and the students are mentored over 2 to three years to work on a business idea.

This focus on Practical- and Skill-based learning equips the students to hit the road (shall we say, the new highways) running and make a success out of their careers as businesspersons and professional managers.

(The author is Professor & Deputy Director with Symbiosis University of Applied Sciences, Indore)