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Thursday, May 31, 2012

How NOT to choose a Bschool

Just google 'how to select a bschool' and you will get umpteen results. Most of them however, are slavish reproductions of the Western oriented approach where a person, often after considerable work experience, applies to a few bschools with a detailed application, has a set career path/goals in mind, and often self finances the MBA himself. While over here, we Indians must often fake the bit about career goals(learn to lie convincingly about a 5 year career plan) and take resource to parent's financing the 2yr holiday after we tire of our jobs/to fill the gap after undergraduate education. Anyways, this post was motivated by hours of amused chuckling over several advertisements for bschools, which promise the sky, but on closer thought really have no value. Lets check out those factors
  1. Faculty from IIM/XLRI/Harvard etc:- There must be around 20,000+ alumni alive of IIMA,B,C alone, to say nothing of the other bschools. Being a faculty of those bschools is a cachet, but being an alumnus who then decides to teach does not in my view, have the same impact.
  2. Wifi enabled campus:-Lets face it. It is unlikely that you will need to use Wifi in classrooms for any legitimate academic purposes(its really more of a distraction). If the instructor wants to show videos etc, then he can use the desktop/laptop projector for that. And about using the wifi in campus, library, other locations, well, even a data card can achieve it much better than what a slow Wifi connection would. Ok it is good to have especially for those smartphone users who MUST check their email/facebook updates every now and then, but otherwise for us mortals, it is avoidable
  3. 100% placement assistance:-Mark the words 'assistance'. That means it is on a best efforts basis. I agree that no program can really give a job guarantee(except maybe the IFBI retail banking operations diploma or the ICICI-NIIT MBA for recruitment of officers. So be aware that this is just a weasel word, without any legal backing. Now, if anyone guarantees a job with minimum CTC post campus OR defers the fees till the graduates get a job, THEN I'll give some credence.
  4. Free laptop/books/exchange program/study tours..:-Nothing in life is free. The cost is built into your course fee, and the institute administration is probably getting a cut/commission from the supplier, which is compulsary.
  5. Paid internships:-the minimum companies can do is to pay you for the work you do during the internships.But rather than stop at that, look at the company mix, and also the conversion rate of internships to PPOs, and then final acceptances. even at very good colleges, the PPO rate rarely exceeds 25%-35%, and the acceptance rate in a good year may be around 80% or less. 
  6. Student Exchange Program:-This may be in some little known colleges, which are just located in a 'fun place'-read London, Paris, New York and so on. What you may not know is the extra costs/fees attached to that. So find that out before entering with starry eyed videshi dreams. 
  7. 'Industry Interface'-lectures, projects:-the lectures are likely to be a hagiographic version of how the executive rose to his position, or a marketing spiel for his company. The projects may be a form of crowd sourcing ideas or just free labout(a typical marketing project for example!). So do dig deeper to understand this industry interface. the acid test is whether those companies offer scholarships, paid internships/projects and come down to recruit as well.
  8. Swimming pool. amenities, club house....Remember all those amenities are at YOUR expense and reflected in the fees. They are surely good to have, but remember that it is NOT a favour or anything, just something you pay for. And even in colleges without good hostels(read FMS, SP Jain and so on), accomodation at every price point would surely be available nearby. So just because a college offers superior amenities is not a sufficient point. 
  9. Star faculty/authors/gurus:-Firstly, many of these people may just be self proclaimed management gurus, who rarely teach(why would they when they can earn big bucks in training or consulting or MDPs). So find out whether those 'star faculty'/'big names'  actually teach, and if so whom, and how often, and whether you can get in. 
  10. Rankings/Awards:-Lesser said about it the better, but if a college uses a single ranking to defend its position, its a red flag. Multiple data points, consistency across years are all important while evaluating a college. Also, think about whether the college strengths dovetail with your own. for example, if you are a finance guy and the college is great in marketing and so-so in everything else, you may want to rethink your position. Also, try to find out the age of the rankings, as also the scope. Many colleges rest on past laurels(like using 2010 rankings in 2012 ads even when 2011 rankings available) or win awards just because the top colleges did not participate or the college sponsored the award function. So be careful. 
After all this, you may think about what is remaining to look for! Nothing beats speaking to a cross section of recent alumni from the college, whom you trust to be objective. But for the rest of us who are not well networked(u should rethink your MBA potential in that case!) and must go for non brand colleges, go to the pagalguy forums or try speaking to the placement coordinator/faculty to see what impression you get. Hopefully, even if not the complete truth, those people should not lie. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is MBA still needed to break into India Inc?

I guess I could have used a less loaded statement to convey my opinions on this topic! and yet, I do present a balanced view(to the extent possible). Recently, Citigroup India announced a graduates entry program(unusual for Indian companies though prevalent globally), thereby following in the hallowed footsteps of Unilever India, BHEL, Schlumberger and others which rely on graduates too rather than picking MBAs/other post graduates. Some other examples are the Bharti Airtel's Young Leader's Program(YLP) which also recruits  chartered accountants with upto 2yrs work experience, Kraft India's program for finance leadership and so on. So why is this trend picking up, and what does it portray for the aspiring MBAs?
  1. CAT seen as a selection tool:-Companies like CRISIL mandate CAT for their selection process, and carry out a process simillar to that of top Bschools(GD, PI, CV scrutiny). So they get the benefit of CAT score(signalling academic ability) without paying for the candidate's 2yrs in Bschool. 
  2. Less competition:-Campus selections(as done in MBA recruitment) necessarily has the company compromising on its recruitment standards in terms of time per candidate, number of rounds, spot offer vs exploding offer rules etc to avoid losing out their desired candidate to other firms. But when companies carry their own process like how BCG, CRISIL etc do, they can take their own time deciding on the candidate and subject him/her to as many rounds as possible. So from the HR perspective, that is a good thing. 
  3. Possibly less attrition:-One reason people leave their jobs to pursue MBA is the feeling that they need a MBA to progress in their company. But if they have entered the same program that MBAs do, even if at a somewhat junior level like in consulting firms, that feeling is less likely and in fact they may surpass MBAs and leapfrog the ladder. That would lead to less attritition for the company. 
  4. Larger batch size and lowered teaching standards:-thanks to the faculty wars with ISB, foreign bschools and others, many bschools have seen lowered teaching standards after the retirement/exit of star faculty. And owing to the 49.5% reservation quota which led to expansion of bschool, many people are in bschools who would otherwise not be there(this holds in full measure even for the management quota admitees). Hence, filtering the wheat from the chaff is becoming tougher even in the case of campus placements. 
  5. High expectations from MBAs:-Owing to the high fees(in millions of rupees except maybe in FMS) and society expectations, a fast track career is now the expectation of every MBA(in Abhijit Bahaduri's words 'Mediocre but Arrogant'), and when companies in this economic condition cannot or do not wish to meet their expectations, those MBAs leave when things look up(as PSU banks realized at their expense after having hired MBAs in 2010 from IIMs). So companies prefer hiring graduates to hiring from lesser ranked bschools.
the above 5 reasons can explain why more companies are gravitating towards giving graduates(albeit the creme-de-la) an equal shot at the positions previously reserved for MBAs! That does not mean that they are right or wrong in doing this(that is the company's decision), but it does mean that the job pool for fresh MBAs on campus, will only shrink in the years to come. So pull up your sleeves and go to work, instead of whiling away those 2years on campus!