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In the latest ‘World Talent Report’ by the Switzerland-based IMD, a top-notch global business school, India slipped to the 48th position out of 60 countries from the 29th place it held in 2005. One of the factors behind the drop was the failure to match the needs of the business community. Mint asked experts about the quality of management education in the country, and if it is relevant to its present and future business needs.

Update the curriculums

Mark Driscoll, human capital leader, PwC India

The Indian education system largely focuses on the academic curriculum without practical business exposure. Every country has challenges with raw talent, but India’s challenges are expanded by creating a huge number of virtually unemployable graduates who are ill-prepared for the global business stage, says Mark Driscoll. “With little practical knowledge being taught in many management schools, I would expect our ratings to continue to fall compared to other countries."

He adds: “Also, one of the main reasons why we have been falling in our ratings is because we haven’t seen recurring change in curriculums by educational institutes. They continue to teach the same thing as they used to earlier. Universities always need to upgrade their curriculum keeping in mind the fact that global companies are entering the Indian market and they are looking for talent that can work under those circumstances. It is important how colleges prepare students to accept those challenges offered in a global competitive market."

A big challenge for Indian management programmes is that students directly move out from colleges and attend management schools without proper knowledge of what is required of them in a job environment. “We end up having a lot of not-employable workforce due to this reason," says Driscoll.

“People who are already part of the workforce and do not have the time to go back to school—the executive MBA programme option is probably good for them. But the problem arises when you do not put anything to use which you have learnt as part of the course. Unless used, the degree’s value reduces extremely faster," he says.

Increase faculty members

Sourav Mukherji, chairperson, postgraduate programme in management, IIM-Bangalore

There are supposedly more than 3,000 business schools in India, but the quality of education falls dramatically after the top 10, says Sourav Mukherji.

The biggest bottleneck for good-quality management education is the low number of faculty members. “Our system doesn’t encourage enough bright students to do their PhD and become teachers in management institutions," he says. Also, in general, teaching is not a very financially attractive profession; the offers from the industry are much more attractive compared with what a business school can give, he says.

Another problem is that Indian students get into management education at a very young age compared with the West, where people generally go to business schools after gaining some work experience. “The lack of experience creates a bit of disconnect with the kind of problem-solving that the industry wants," says Mukherji. Students are not able to relate to the subjects from their life experience, making such inputs very theoretical.

For a country of India’s size and for economic growth, we need at least 100 good business schools, he says. “Unless we have about 50-100 good schools, we will not have enough good managers," he says. If you are able to create good-quality schools, you will be able to attract good-quality students to do their PhDs and become teachers in those good schools, he adds.

The industry too needs to invest a bit, both in time and resources, he says. “Overall R&D (research and development ) budget of most organizations is low, and so is their tendency to invest in something long term," says Mukherji. At the same time, academic institutions also need to open up and have discussions with the industry on how the two can work together in solving problems of practical significance.

Monitor the teaching

R. Venkataraman, group managing director, IIFL Holdings

India has produced some of the best managers occupying top decision-making positions in renowned multinational companies. Prem Watsa of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp. and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo Inc. have managed to climb the organizational ladder and reach the top spot. Global talent rankings, however, paint a dismal picture, says Venkataraman. “One would wonder—if there are so many people who have succeeded globally, why does India fare so badly in the international rankings?" he says.

Indian management and technical education are largely theoretical, based on logic, mathematics and encourage rote method of studying, says Venkataraman. “As a manager, however, you need soft skills as much as the domain knowledge. This results in the process of un-learning and then learning on the job again. Hence, it takes another two-three years for the company to make an employee task-ready or to groom him for a managerial position," says Venkataraman. Globally, institutes offering management education lay emphasis on work experience before enrolling for the course. “This accentuates managerial skills of students and helps them to use their precious management learning at work," says Venkataraman.

Second, a large number of Indian management graduates are not trained or inclined towards sales and operations roles, which are basic business functions and help in building a successful enterprise.

“Most management graduates want to take up strategy roles alone, which may not be the best option for them to start their career with a firm," Venkataraman says.

A system needs to be put in place to monitor the quality of the curriculum and coaching at management institutes.

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