23 Feb 2020 11:30 IST

Does an MBA degree still hold high relevance?

With several new, specialised courses to meet today’s corporate needs, an MBA is still worth doing

With the liberalisation of the country’s economy in 1991, the private sector saw a boom. As we moved from a controlled to a market-driven economy, companies were willing to pay higher salaries to management professionals. Pursuing an MBA became the most sought-after career option for every aspiring student and professional in the country.

A person well-trained in the skills of marketing, finance, operations, people management and strategy was on the ‘To-Hire’ list of almost every company. As corporates recognised the value addition, MBA became synonymous with good package and a status symbol in society. This change in the corporate sphere has led to a large number of colleges now offering MBA education. In the recent past, plenty of colleges have reported bleak placement scenarios for their students. Has the number of students graduating from management colleges exceeded the demand? Has the market reached a saturation point?

Owing to the slowing down of the Indian economy since the first quarter of 2019, companies have taken a hit in the market in terms of growth and profits. This, as well as saturation in the market, has been a crucial concern for the workforce. Will the slowdown impact the prospects for MBA graduates in the short to medium term?

Job opportunities are still growing in key sectors

Technology is creating disruption and generating new prospects, making way for newer jobs. Big Data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and related technologies are shaping the future of how corporates will derive business value from their data and analytics capabilities. Management graduates from top B-schools such as the IIMs are also opting for different job roles, besides those in consulting, financial services or investment banking.

Students with specialised skills tend to have a unique value proposition for specific employers. For example, MBBS doctors with MBA qualification are immensely valuable for hospital administration. Similarly, consulting companies seek the rare combination of computer science graduates with data science specialisation and an MBA for their digital and analytics consulting verticals.

Evergreen sectors will continue to hire

Sales and marketing are evergreen roles that companies continue to hire for in good and bad times. Companies also need marketing managers who can bring more value out of the existing, or maybe lowered, expenditure during a slowdown. On the other hand, investment bankers are required by large companies to invest and grow their capital through aggressive purchasing of equity and debt. Management consultants and financial advisors are also some of the most sought-after roles in this era of startups, and operations managers are hired by organisations for advisory and smooth working of regular functionalities.

In 2019, IIMs and top institutions across the country saw increased participation of companies such as Arga Investment Management, Brookfield, Edelweiss, Eight Roads, Macquarie PE, Morgan Stanley PE, Omidyar Network, Temasek, HSBC, Avendus Capital and others offering packages ranging between ₹1.75-3.50 lakh per month.

During the placement season in 2019, prominent B-schools received a strong response from consulting and finance companies, among many, with an average annual salary of over ₹20 lakh per annum, a rise of 5-16 percent from 2018.

Innovation has no limits

Several MBA institutes have launched specialised MBA courses in analytics and industry-specific courses. The curriculum of several management institutes now incorporates courses in new-age skills — product management, digital marketing and so on.

While the institutes are innovating, companies also are looking for individuals who can go beyond the regular. They prefer students who can show their proficiency in challenging tasks. Every slowdown creates an opportunity for those who are willing to go the extra mile. Indian institutes that focus on inculcating critical thinking and appropriate application methods in study materials will stand out.

Current economic scenario

By all indicators, this slowdown is mostly cyclical, and not structural. While it is hard to predict the time and the pace of recovery, no economist is today writing off the Indian economy. As and when the economy bounces back, growth returns and the investment cycle starts, new job opportunities will be created. Waiting for a better economic scenario may not help, as what matters to a student is the placement opportunities at the time of graduation and not at the time of admission.

Parking slot for struggling professionals

Students or fresh graduates from various disciplines choose to pursue management courses to break the monotonous cycle in their current career. They leverage these courses to acquire a superior platform to obtain better jobs, higher remuneration and explore newer fields across industries when compared with a regular bachelor’s degree holder.

Pursuing an MBA is a personal decision, based on the current options available to each prospective student. Typically, MBA admissions increase whenever the economy goes through a slow patch. While the context of each student can vary, MBA is still an attractive option to pursue today.

(The writer is Chief Business Officer, Shiksha.com and NaukriFastForward)