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 and academics. Oneyearmba.co.in caught up with him to get a sense of where the One year MBA is headed in India.
Q. While ISB was not the first business school to launch the course in India (I believe it was IMI which actually started the programme way back in 1984) it played a big role in popularising the one year format by adopting it for their flagship MBA. Soon after, IIM Ahmedabad launched PGPX. You were at IIM Ahmedabad during this period and had a huge contribution in launching PGPX. This was a bold new step for a B-school with a long history of running a very successful two year programme. Could you share with us how it all started? What was the thinking behind starting the One year MBA at IIM A?
Yes, ISB indeed brought One year MBA on the national canvas by corporatizing it and by promoting it with a lot of noise in the media. However the One year MBA is not the contribution of India in the global MBA scenario. India has merely copied the concept from the West and moulded it a little based on local suitability.
IIM A’s story of launching a One year MBA has a voluminous history dating back to 1994. The plans finally saw the light of day with the One year full time MBA (PGPX) getting launched in 2006.
A meticulous analysis of industry, academia and alumni was done by the business school to arrive at the decision to launch a One year MBA to address a new segment in management education. The industry felt the need of having middle managers with latest orientation and things clicked at the right time. During the IT revolution, many engineers had migrated for greener pastures but they soon realized that they must have an MBA to climb to a senior management scale. Hence it became a win-win for all.
Q. Today PGPX is the No.1 MBA in India and Asia as per the ranking brought out by Financial Times, UK, and the course has consistently featured on the Top 15 in the Global MBA rankings. But starting a new course at IIM A back would not have been easy. Tell us a little more about the discussions in IIM A at that time. Unlike the two-year programme the One year MBA (PGPX) was not going to be subsidized by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Were there apprehensions on the course’s potential for success and the acceptability of a course that demanded work experience the way MBA courses at foreign universities did?
More importantly, once the decision to launch was made, I would say that the follow though cleared all doubts of the potential of the programme. A careful selection of academic content, a rigour of 665 sessions in some eleven and half months, careful selection from applications and constant monitoring at each stage helped in establishing the programme firmly.
Regular feedback was drawn from students and faculties and necessary modifications were implemented after taking a 360 degree view. Placements were certainly an apprehension but the average incoming salary of Rs 8 lakh and the average outgoing salary of Rs 25 lakh stole the show. None of the government employees who joined the course went back to their earlier role.But yes there were challenges. The toughest challenge we faced was how to confirm the work experience of a candidate. In India, where ‘jugaad’ is a part of life, it was very difficult to determine the authenticity of work experience. For example, if the ward of a flour shop owner brought a certificate from his father that his ward worked as COO for 5 years; how could you dispute it? Therefore, considering the fact that a typical student in India graduates at 22 or post graduates at 24, we set 27 years of age as the minimum entry age for PGPX to account for 4-5 years of work experience after graduation.
As regarding subsidy, the lack of it may actually have been a contributing factor in the success of the One year MBA. Most students entering the course spend their own hard earned money and often have families depending on them which makes them extract each penny of their investment with absolute seriousness. In the two year MBA, most students play on their father’s money and are single.
Q. Unlike graduates of the two-year programme at Indian B-schools, the graduates of the one year MBA join organisations in senior roles. This is in sync with the recruitment pattern at international B-schools. As opposed to this, Indian organisations have typically picked up talent at the entry level from B-schools. Do you think the industry today understands the proposition of the One year MBA? What more can be done by industry in conjunction with B-schools to make the most of the world class MBA talent coming out of One year programmes in India? Akin to the Management trainee programme for talent graduating the two-year programme, should corporates start a ‘Management Leadership’ programme as a means to induct talent from One year MBAs in India?
When we started PGPX, it was challenging for us to explain to the recruiting world why we were approaching them for final placements. An IIM approaching corporations was seen with some amount of suspicion and something not typically required if everything was right in our house. But after our detailed presentation and explanation to recruiters, they understood the mathematics and gradually accepted it. Now the industry very well understands the proposition of a One year MBA.
I suggest that recruiters should hire the boss from the One year MBA and his subordinate from the two year PGP/ PGDM of the same institute (in India). This could help diminish, for instance, the initial friction that comes in the mind of an IIM graduate when he works under a non IIM boss. A boss and a subordinate from the same school can do wonders in terms of team functioning and leadership.
Secondly, the restless two year MBA graduate from an IIM will wait with his boss to move to greener pastures. Learning & Development is a constant exercise. It is a must at all levels. Executives at all levels must be given a complete orientation on the philosophy of the organization. I find many Indian organizations now focusing hard on Learning & development.
Part 2 of the interview will appear next Thursday and will focus on the way ahead for One year MBA courses in India.
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