Executive (one-year) MBA Part 1: Students say the Indian version of this MBA is overhyped and there are no great jobs at the end

(Graphic by Sanjit Oberai)


Some months ago we noticed an ugly spat between an Executive (one-year) MBA student and a b-school on our forums. https://www.pagalguy.com/discussions/iim-calcutta-pgpex-vii-admission-process-and-beyond-25078658/7816564. We decided to follow the trail and finally ended up with a two-part series on the Executive MBA. While, this, the first part deals with students’ experiences only, the second part to be published tomorrow gives the story from the b-school point of view.

Rajesh, Suresh, Rahul, Subhash, and Rohit are your average guys in the late 30s or early 40s, who like other professionals should have been at the peak of their career. However, things didn’t exactly go their way. Here’s their story.

Rajesh is 36 years old with 13 years of professional experience out of which he spent more than 7 years in the Civil Services. After pursuing post graduation from National University of Singapore, he worked with the Government of India. Currently he is employed with the Novartis Group.

Suresh is 42 years old and worked in a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) in Kolkata for 17 years. Remained unemployed for months before joining a new company.

Rahul (38), worked for a leading IT product company in a senior position. He struggled for a job and found one finally.

Subhash (30) worked in Singapore in a leading IT company and was jobless for a long time.

Rohit (38) was jobless for a while and is now currently employed with previous public sector organisation.

Different stories, yet there is one common thread that links them all. All of them have completed one-year management programs from some of the leading b-schools in the country who have been harping over their one-year executive programs. From the lot we spoke to, most had completed the course from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and one from the XLRI Institute of Management. Except for one, no one wanted to go on record. As is very evident, none of them have made any remarkable progress despite contrary claims by the b-schools.

With premier institutes charging in the region of Rs 15 to 25 lakhs for their Executive MBA course, is it a course which is hyped for no apparent reason? The much dreamt of promotion or the godly raise, are they for real? PaGaLGuY.com got in touch with at least a dozen professionals who recently completed their Executive MBAs. Agreed that a dozen is too little to predict a trend. But like they say there is no smoke without fire, we are certain that reality will not be too far away than what we got from these professionals.

WHY EXECUTIVE/ONE-YEAR MBA

Foremost, the important thing to explore is why on earth do students quit their jobs when they have secure jobs in hand? “Life looks comfortable from the outside but there comes a need to learn new stuff and do something different and that is where I thought the one-year course would help. Doing the same job for so long had tired me,” says Rajesh. For Suresh too, life in a PSU was getting routine. “I saw people working in private companies racing ahead and I wanted to feel the same. From the inquiries I made, I got the feeling an executive MBA would help me get somewhere.”

Rahul, although, wanted to try another path. “I was in Operations and wanted to change my line. Only later I realised that this course helps only if you want to do shift your line to marketing. No other changes allowed. In your mid-30s, you cannot really change your line no matter what people tell you.”

SABBATICAL: BOON OR BANE?

A sabbatical from the company is a way out of some of the miseries. But it works only if employees want to come back and if the company has a policy that allows it. Some of the students spoken to for this article said they considered a sabbatical but did not go through with it. Reasons were many – primary that companies ask employees to sign a bond that ensures that they re-join the company after the sabbatical. This sometimes also means that increments and promotions do not happen for a while after re-joining. “What is the point of doing an executive MBA if you have to come back to the same company and job. Besides, very few companies are known to welcome people on sabbatical with hiked salaries or promotions,” said Rohit.

Rajesh, an HR person, says that companies generally do not look at sabbaticals very easily. “If you are on leave for a year or more and the company can do without you, it means the company does not really need you. So unless there is a specific new role that you are going to play once you return or a fresh project to take up, sabbaticals are never a good idea,” said Rajesh.

ARE B-SCHOOLS LYING THEN?

“Not really,” said Subhash. “The institutes did not lie about placements but they didn’t even tell us that they weren’t exactly good. They said that they will help with the networking, which of course they hardly did,” he added.

Subhash also feels that networking is not possible with one-year MBA courses because they are fairly new and network support is almost zero. There is hardly an alumni base and in the absence of PPOs, placements take a huge hit. “I know of alumni who are also struggling,” added Rajesh.

Of course, it is not that no one gets placed and that there are no placements. Some companies do come on campus but only the cream of the class gets placed. This number could be just a handful. Students add that at a senior level, the jobs being offered are very specific and role/profile centric. Additionally, the openings are also fewer unlike in the regular two-year MBAs wherein mass hiring is not unheard of.

The students themselves are choosy when it comes to campus recruitment. “The thinking is often that we have left a good job for this course, we deserve a better job so let’s wait for it,” quipped Rohit.

This wait sometimes is endless and can go on for months. In their 30s-40s, most are married and already have a few liabilities on their heads so while provisions to remain ‘salary-less’ for a year are made, anything over that means trouble. Often there are school going children and aged parents at this age and they need to be cared for as well. This emotional burden is usually heavier and more difficult to tackle.

VALUE ADDITION, IF ANY?

Students add that that executive MBA courses in India do not provide any new or specialised skills. “Unlike the two-year course which has so many freshers, the one-year course for seniors has only experienced people ranging from 5 to 20 years of experience. Courses are not at all styled in a fashion that keeps in mind the latest trends in the and specific requirement of mid/senior level positions,” said Rajesh. Citing an example, he said that the schools teach case studies about Research in Motion, HP & many others who when these companies had started floundering a while ago.

Besides, in most institutes, faculty and resources are shared between the two-year and one-year MBA course. Th course content for the one-year MBA is also not styled in a way to meet current trends. The same professor who teachers 21 year-olds also teaches 40 year-olds and that too, a similar course content. “B-schools just take it for granted that the faculty which teaches the two-year course will teach the seniors. For a radical shift in your profession, the same industry experts who come for the two year MBA will not do,” added Rohit.

Students claim that they learnt more from each other than from the instructors. Since all students have many years of work-ex, they shared a lot of professional experiences and these informal discussions became learning points. This helped those especially who wanted to change their line of work and needed info on other sectors. But the consummate teaching that all students expected from the one-year course was missing. “At 35, you are looking for something really special in your professors, in the teaching. At the end of the one year, if the teaching was top notch, the pain of slow placements would not have hurt as much,” reflected Rohit.

The infrastructures at these b-schools are also nothing to write home about. Many of the newer IIMs function from rented places and make-shift accommodations. Yet, that does not stop them from inviting senior professionals to study. The fact that those who go for the executive one-year MBA operate in a different space and mindset is of little consequence to schools who probably believe in the adage – The more the merrier.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

While these cases might be compelling reasons to believe that all b-schools in India who have started the one-year course are not doing a good job of it, can one blame the schools alone? Aren’t more well thought out and sound decisions expected from people in their late thirties. Investing lakhs of rupees in a course without asking the right questions and getting satisfactory answers is to be blatantly put, dumb to some extent. More amount of time and energy has to go towards research before joining a course which has a huge opportunity cost, if you take the loss in salary as well as interest and living expenses. What were these guys exactly thinking of when they enrolled? Did they expect that the skies would just open up and jobs would fall in their laps? Didn’t any of them study placement reports before signing up?

Vivek Arora, who passed out XLRI, Jamshedpur said that one year executive MBA is feeling the heat because of the global conditions. “It will take time to stabilise. Besides, there is no placement cell or co-ordinators who can help these students. In a couple of years, this course will also stabilise,” believed Arora.

A senior consultant, in an informal discussion on LinkedIn, had disclosed that companies are aware that the best people do not necessarily come from these b-schools. The consultant stated: “Good people are the ones working quietly and diligently in companies. At a senior level, these are the people recruiters are looking for. It is yet to be proved that campus recruitment work wonders at senior positions.”

Before you think of a one-year MBA:

1. Check for some other short-term courses which can possibly also do the job.

2. Those in the age 35-45, look out for a good course on entrepreneurship.

3. Do the math before enrolling.

4. Also ask the institute the right questions before taking a firm decision.

In the second part of this two-part series to be published tomorrow, we bring you the b-school perspective.

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