What’s the future of MBA in India? Ask Amrita Business School’s Prof. Shobhana Madhavan


On how the MBA programs in India have been responding to evolving trends (based on her book on cross cultural management , and suggestions on how this is now being regarded as a critical skill by the global managers) and where do they need to respond differently

When I graduated from IIM Ahmedabad in 1990, cross-cultural management was not offered as an elective in management schools in India. This was not surprising as even in the Western world, cross-cultural management picked up in popularity only in the 1990s when mainstream organizational behavior and communication texts started including a chapter on cross-cultural issues. Geert Hofstede, considered by many as the founding father of cross-cultural management, published his seminal book ‘Culture’s Consequences’ in 1984 and his more popular book ‘Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind’ was published in 1991. This was coincidentally the same year that India liberalized its economic policies leading to radical changes in the Indian business environment. As you know, before 1990, both inward FDI (IFDI) and outward FDI (OFDI) were concentrated in advanced economies. India and other developing economies have seen a steep increase in both outward and inward FDI in the 2000s. UNCTAD figures tell us that in 2012, for the first time in recent history, inward FDI flows into developing countries at US$ 703 billion was greater than the inward FDI flow into advanced economies at US$ 561billion dollars. There have been many cross-border acquisitions by Indian firms including high profile ones such as Tata Motor’s acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover or Hindalco’s acquisition of Novelis All this has meant that there are an increasing number of interactions between Indians and people of different cultures.

This increase in intercultural interactions has influenced business school curricula. By the 2000s, mainstream management schools started teaching cross-cultural management and by the next decade even schools in smaller cities had started teaching the subject or its variations. As to a response to your question on the different responses of MBA programs, I feel that cross-cultural management will have to be dealt with differently in schools in big metros compared to schools in smaller cities. Students from big metros, and Tier 1 management schools are already exposed to international influences, be it through expatriates living in their cities, foreign students, foreign language courses, and restaurants serving foreign cuisine. Students from smaller cities and towns may lack this exposure and need more inputs. This will mean that the faculty teaching CCM to students from simpler backgrounds need to be sensitive to these differences. Business schools will need to train their faculty members teaching this subject, as not all faculty would have been exposed to international management or different cultures.

On what are the most important things that today’s MBA students need to learn in their duration of study

MBA students need a wide variety of skills to succeed in today’s dynamic business environment. I have already emphasized the importance of “cultural intelligence”. In addition, MBA students need to be skilled at numbers, as everyone is talking big data and metrics; even “softer” fields like HRM require proficiency with numbers. The ability to manage change is another key skill, as the pace of change in today’s business environment is extremely rapid. Innovation and creativity always help. Since I teach at the Amrita School of Business, where we lay emphasis on human values, I would like to add that being able to manage the “Self” through self awareness can help managers take better decisions and improve interpersonal skills. At ASB, we have a course on Self-Awareness and Personal Growth that runs through the two years of our MBA programme.

On whether she has seen any significant changes in the way MBA as a degree/function is being perceived by students today as compared to what it was during her time (she was a part of world-class learning ecosystems like the IIM Ahmedabad & Cornell University)

I feel that the MBA as a degree and function has not changed in a fundamental sense since the 1980s. Even in the late 1980s when I joined IIMA, getting into an IIM or a good MBA programme was seen as the ticket to a good job. Even today, most students view the MBA degree as a path to a well- paying job. Of course, with globalization the scale of ambition (and desires) has multiplied several times. In 1990, when I graduated, Citibank and Bank of America were “Day One” companies at IIMA, now they do not feature in any IIMA Graduate’s list of dream companies. Today, students from top schools like IIMA have their eyes on high-paid global jobs where the dollar salaries they receive match those from top B-schools in the USA. Compare this to the Rs. 1 lakh a year salary in 1990 that was considered extremely attractive by IIMA grads!

On how she keeps herself abreast with the latest happenings in the areas of your interest(research wise)

Reading books, business magazines, and newspapers helps to give me pointers to some of what is happening in my field. In terms of research, I regularly access the SCOPUS database as it always lists the latest articles in my fields of interest and SCOPUS is updated regularly.

On – Can things like leadership & ethics be taught ? What role do can a B-school play in this regard ?

Leadership is a hot topic today, and you can see that from the number of bestselling books on leadership. Every MBA student dreams of being a charismatic , transformational leader. There are many views on the subject of whether leadership can be taught or not, but the number of self-help books on leadership indicate that most people do believe that leadership can be taught. In a top business school like Kelloggs, ‘Leadership in Organizations’ is one of the nine core courses in their full-time MBA programme, and the only core course in the field of Organizational Behaviour. When it comes to the subject of ethics, my own view is that it is essential to at least expose our students to ethical leadership. MBA students tend to be cynical about ethics, but it is our responsibility to discuss great examples of ethical business leaders like J.R.D Tata and include inspiring books like Clayton Christensen’s ‘How Will You Measure Your Life’ in the curriculum. It is also important that we as faculty either become role models of ethical leadership, or if we are unable to do that, we need to be honest about our shortcomings and our own struggles. I have seen that students are very quick to detect dishonesty in their teachers. Only if we ourselves have faith in the concept of ethical leadership can we transfer this faith to our students, and hope to build a better, more giving and honest business world.


Note: This is a sponsored article and has NOT been written by the PaGaLGuY Editorial Team. It is intended from an informational perspective only and it isupto the readers to research and verify the claims and judgements in the article before reaching a conclusion.

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