Inji and Fringy: Who is the MBA for?

Among the many aspects of an (MBA) education in India that I like to regularly complain about is that of domination by engineers.

In another time, one would have thought that those who have already obtained a degree for the sake of earning big money ought now to proceed to making the said big money (and, by logical extension, making money itself big — for the rest of us).

In the introductory GD/PI session organised by my coaching class (yes, T.I.M.E.), the director and his equally elderly colleague went to great lengths (spending over at least half of the total time) to express collective regret of having gone through engineering at all. The said elderly — pardonnez-moi, I mean experienced — colleague did not, by all appearances, even know that there exist souls stamped with any label other than “BE+2yrsmncworkex saar!”.

The remaining time was spent in publicly developing a theory of Life Ripples, beginning with a common-denominator account of being born in Falana Hospital and the ceaseless sending and receiving Ripples all the time, all over the place that ensued.

“Introspect! Find out all about the Ripples in your life! Do you know who the Vice President of India is? This is not a GK question, this is a Ripples’ question!” was how he connected his metaphysics to the GD/PI prep sessions he was trying to kick off.

Toward the end, I felt baffled — and also irritated, because he did not disclose who exactly the Vice President of India is despite extolling the virtues of the gyaan of all kinds of Ripples in life. And so, to follow in his shining footsteps, I hereby refuse to reveal to you too the identity of the Vice President.

Why I ranted about this gentleman is because he happens to be an “IIT+IIM passout” and sits on more than one Board of Directors of nontrivial players. This is the man who rambled on — not in passing, but as one would elaborate on a keynote theme — saying engineering is worthless. This was the third time I was listening to the man — I now suspect his message goes back at least to 2005 and has withstood the tides of evolution ever since.

It is ironic that the tone adopted in these prep sessions is that engineers will only naturally go for an MBA, but if, say, a BA in Marathi shows up, that is somehow anomalous. In something of a relief, the BA Psychology folks are treated in a less disposable manner, being mostly herded off to HR. And what about a BA in Philosophy? That simultaneously enlightened and useless creature will be treated, in many respects, worse than the plumber from ITI.

It should be obvious to anybody that, on an average, engineers are more intelligent (IQ-wise) than Arts’ graduates. One reason being that the more gifted children are taught to aim at a “gud kaalej inji seet”, barring “madical” for the more adventurous — to even think of any other stream is an insult to his/her own intelligence, the pride of his/her family, the wisdom of his/her teachers, the faith of the friendly doodhwalla etc.

On the other hand, there are also accusations as to how engineers who pursue an MBA are draining engineering college resources when instead they should be getting their hands dirty with the engines (as their glorious epithet suggests). There is of course also jealousy: “BE se kamaayega hi saale lekin hamaaraa kyaa!” But I shall leave all such arguments for another day and spell out just one simple reason why engineers should be actively discouraged from pursuing management careers, in favour of candidates from other streams (chiefly B.B.A., B.A., B.Com. and regional variants):

Their training is redundant in the context of and often antithetical to management education.

Their sole ambition in life may be to build a multinational electronics chain. An ENTC degree tells us you were taught how to create the toys, not how to tempt people to buy them, let alone to understand whether people need them in the first place. It will not do to say that this is the job of the cultural historian or the academic critic, because they are denied any productive role in society other than to chat on (alternately feeling high on coffee and then low post-lunch) in sophisticated conferences and write 600-page tomes on postmodernist hermeneutics. The aptitude of the best of engineers is in STEM, which as fields by themselves are rather incompatible in approach with the humanities. I cannot take anyone seriously who hasn’t ever read Virgil, Shakespeare, Vyasa, or Confucius but pretends to understand human nature and preaches on and on about analysing perceptions and training effectiveness. By the time they graduate, the brightest among them (e.g. IIT toppers, winners of Microsoft/Birla scholarships etc.) have read only Ayn Rand (and now Devdutt Pattnaik!) and have no idea as to what, for instance, even Maslow’s hierarchy is about.It is no excuse to say that the function of the management education itself is to impart this very knowledge — it is not and even in practice it (rightly) does not. It is called a Master’s in Business Administration for good reason and will not take you back even to Adam Smith, Freud, or Marx (!), let alone the Artha Shaastra or Xenophon.

In the sheer name of relevance, then, let us bring in the fringy for a change as opposed to never-ending streams of the Inji.