The funny thing is that I think the answer to me is substantially clearer at the end of thirty plus years after I exited the hallowed portals of IIM Calcutta at what was then their newly minted campus at Joka. A secondary question that I will also try to answer is: Was my Engineering Degree from IIT Kharagpur redundant in the face of the MBA, a waste of tax payers’ money or did it also contribute to my work and career.
Now my life has come full cycle as I deal with “B-school graduates” in my role as faculty and mentor.
Firstly, whilst in many ways getting a MBA had the same motivation then, as it is now, there are so many things that are different in the current generation and it is important to understand things from the perspective of a bright 24-year old living in a world where the globe has truly shrunk! I think that there was a touch of the idealistic at that point of time, the need to do something for the country and the world that seems to be missing from the psyche of today’s aspirant. At the same time the dreams of becoming powerful and rich have remained constant through the years.
Let us look from an employer’s perspective. The biggest problem that an employer faces is the large gestation period between hiring a new employee and that employee becoming productive. Each day, a new employee is “learning” instead of “performing” translates into hundreds of thousands of Rupees to the employer. Therefore they are always looking at a solution where a new employee can hit the ground running akin to an aircraft being able to take off without a long run down the runway (a V-TOL and S-TOL aircraft does exactly that!) The MBA was the answer. If a prospective employee could get a feel of what a working environment as a manager or leader was, before she actually got into that role that would be great. Therefore the first reason for a MBA course: it helps you acclimatize for your stint in the industry just as days spent at a base camp help you prepare for the climb to the mountain peak
Secondly, multi-skilling and multi-functionality is a desperately needed quality in individuals and in short supply. A MBA degree is supposed to prepare you for a role where you can handle different jobs with relative ease. Let us say you are a Sales Manager and need to be transferred into Production. Do you have to learn the ABC of being a Production Manager from start? Not if you have a MBA degree.
There are other reasons why an employer would prefer a MBA (it acts as a filter in selection processes for example) As a student if you want to do a MBA it is because you have to be seen as useful and value-adding to your employer. Now you know why …