In conversation with Dr. Alok Jain, Founder in-charge of IIM Ahmedabad’s One year MBA (PGPX) and Professor, Marketing and Director, Corporate Engagements & Communications at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai. Dr Jain was founder Dean at Universal Business School, Mumbai and he served at IIM Ahmedabad for nearly 6 years after his corporate career. He joined IIM, Ahmedabad as the Manager of PGPX (One year MBA) which has been ranked as 11th in the Global MBA ranking by Financial Times, UK for 2011 and 2012. Dr. Alok Jain has more than two decades of experience spanning across the corporate sector & academics. Oneyearmba.co.in caught up with him to get a sense of where the One year MBA is headed in India.
Q. What do you feel about the branding of the One year MBA in India? Some B-schools such as SP Jain, Great Lakes and XLRI are clearly branding their one-year course as a One year full time MBA. But many business schools use nomenclatures such as Executive Post Graduate Programme and Post Graduate Programme for Executives which sound very similar to an Executive MBA (a part time course worldwide). Many students are confused. Since an MBA by definition is meant for experienced folk, won’t a One year MBA/ One year PGP have served B-schools and students better?
You have touched the right cord. If you consider for a moment medical and engineering education which evolved in Europe, you will find that they are highly organised. Europeans were brilliant in documenting data and research output. MBA education evolved in USA and we are still debating if it is a Science or Art or Commerce or a mix of it all. Had there been a proper nomenclature with a central governing body for Management; this situation would not have arisen.
You can differentiate a lawyer or a doctor because of their dress code. But can you identify an MBA in a crowd? Ideally, all MBAs should come under a global banner.
In India major confusion has been generated due to the terms ‘MBA for Executives’ and ‘Executive MBA’. We have unnecessarily complicated such an easy nomenclature.
Things get even more confusing when you discover at times that the ‘title’ of the course is different than the degree/diploma printed on the certificate.
MBA courses in India should ideally be classified as a One year MBA, Two year MBA, MBA (part time) and so on.
Q. There is an uncomfortable silence within B-schools regarding the accreditation status of the One year MBA and the two year course at the institutes. For instance, the Association of MBAs, UK, has accredited the One year MBA at IIM Lucknow as a full time MBA while the two-year programme has been accredited as a Masters in Business Management/ Masters in Management. But this fact has not been communicated clearly by the institutes to prospective students. When probed on this subject IIMs and other business schools cite the ‘MBA equivalent’ status granted by Indian body Association of Indian Universities (AIU) as the rationale behind calling the two-year programme a MBA. But the international and Indian accreditation are not compatible. Should not the global accreditation take precedence?
This is the outcome of Indian institutions not following global norms but wanting all global recognition. So their best strategy is to keep quiet and keep solving the queries at individual level. I don’t find any immediate solution in this matter. We can’t expect global agencies to change their norms for our mismanagement.
Ideally speaking, no MBA course should be offered without work experience. A person with work experience can better correlate with what a credit or a debit really looks like in real life thanks to his prior work experience. But in our country, no one is bothered to rationalize all this. MBA institutions fall under jurisdiction of AICTE which has too much of a technical orientation to understand the business management field.
Q. What further steps can business schools take to clarify the proposition of the One year MBA to students?
For a One year MBA, all B schools should standardize the eligibility criteria. The criteria can specify qualification criteria as follows – graduate with minimum 5 years of experience, post-graduate with minimum 3 years of experience or Ph.D. with or without experience could also be considered. But this action may close a few shops.
By now I have clarified that a One year MBA is totally different from a two year MBA in India. In a two year MBA you can have summer/winter/festival holidays and start pedagogy from basics but in a One year MBA, there is no need to explain to students the difference between Sales and Marketing.
All business schools should clearly communicate to their students that they should forget their families, social commitments and worldly distractions if they want the best out of a One year MBA. A student, who is not willing to study for less than 12 hours a day, should be discouraged from joining the course or asked to quit.
Q. What advice do you have for someone debating between a one year MBA after gaining work experience and a two year management course immediately after graduation?
See, India is a complex country. Here, with the passing time, every rock that rolls with the movement of the river turns round and becomes an object of worship. Here the age of the school and the age of the course make their reputation soar.
Also, the moment an individual gets entry into a professional course he experiences a sudden change in his status within society. There is pressure from the family to attain this ‘higher status’ at an early age even though the aspirations of that individual may very well be different. As a result of this I have come across many confused aspirants.
I am a strong advocate of gaining a few years of experience before pursuing an MBA. The best solution to this dilemma is that one can go for a two year MBA after 2+ years of work experience and a One year MBA after 5+ years of experience.
A One year MBA with 2 years of work experience doesn’t give the required oxygen to a student although it is the best available short cut for a student to swiftly move up the career graph.
Q. Close to eight years have passed since the first class of the PGPX at IIM Ahmedabad graduated. Today almost all top B-schools are running a One year MBA and you have been advising them on how to chart this new journey. What has changed over these years for the One year MBA? Where do you see the One year MBA headed?
Yes, it has been a long time. I am fortunate to have shared my perspectives with a few of the leading business schools in India which were at a relatively primitive stage in the One year MBA game.
The interesting thing that I observe is a further segmentation within the one year MBA offering itself. For example, most IIMs stipulate a minimum of five years of work experience as an eligibility criterion for the course whereas ISB and other B-schools have accepted students with even zero experience at times. That meant that there was no difference in the eligibility criteria of a two year and a One year MBA as far as work experience and age of an aspirant were concerned.
In the case of IIMs, there is a clear demarcation between the two year and one year MBA. So the One year MBA at IIMs is a separate sub-segment within One year MBA courses as compared to One year MBA courses at B schools such as ISB or Great Lakes which now expect a minimum of two or more years of experience as qualifying criteria.
The other important trend I see is the steep dilution in rigour of the course over time. Most of the business schools are expected to offer 3 sessions per day with each session being of 90 minutes duration. That makes it 4.5 hours of classroom teaching every day. Each student is expected to prepare for 3 hours before attending a session which makes it 9 hours of preparation for 3 sessions a day. So a minimum of 13.5 hours of basic study is expected to be done by a student. This does not include group assignments and extra activities which overall takes the study time to 16 hours a day.
This calculation is applicable for an average student…others may have to put in even more effort.
I feel that over a period of time, this rigour is getting diluted and after two terms of 5-6 week each, a student starts taking things for granted.
Also, those B-schools that think that a One year MBA is a short cut to make quick money will have to ensure a rigorous curriculum, global faculty, industry orientation and fantastic placement support for their experienced graduates. Otherwise, the lust of making quick chips will boomerang and hit them straight on the face.