MBA graduates from the valley lack the core-employability skills like communication, interviewing, CV writing and proper dressing sense
In the current hyper-competitive job scenario, choosing a promising degree program is vital to ensure promising career. The ultimate aim of students is turning out to be a ‘fulfilling job’ irrespective of it being in private sector or otherwise. And when it comes to deciding about the degree to be pursued for this fulfilling career, what else could be better than MBA. It’s a degree that gives you wings to fly to any corner of the world and create a space in the nest of any corporate giant. Organizations these days expect their employees to be skilled enough to handle their daily affairs. They look for professionals who could apply the scientific approaches to management practice and bring laurels to the operational mechanics of the organization. MBA is meant to give the corporate world such kind of professionals and this is what became the reason for Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth USA to kick off with the world’s first degree in business in 1900. They called it Masters of Science in Commerce, not MBA. The name Master of Business Administration was later adopted by Harvard in 1908.
In India the pioneer institutions like Xavier’s Labor Relations Institute (XLRI) and IIMs were also established around the similar principle of developing professionals with utmost analytical and leadership skills, professionals that could fill the corporate void or be entrepreneurs themselves. I believe that’s what must have been on the mind of our policy makers too when they introduced MBA in University of Kashmir back in 1991. Unfortunately though, things don’t seem to have worked as planned and there seems no effort to make them work even now. The management graduates of the valley are not at par with rest of the country, not to speak of the global standards. As per an ASSOCHAM study on the employability of MBA graduates in India, only 7% of more than 3 lakh MBA graduates are employable. The rest of 93% are not skilled enough to be taken in or be considered worthy for a job. That being the statistics of rest of India, the numbers are shocking for graduates in Kashmir. Having worked as a full time faculty member at the department of management studies, university of Kashmir for 4 continuous years and known the student capabilities upfront, one thing quiet certain about their employability is that it is way less than 7%. There are many reasons to this, however, the significant one being the inertia in the minds of people sitting at the helm of affairs.
MBA is less about academics and more about personality and presentation of a student. Ironically though, our curriculum does not have any space for the personality development of a student. During my tenure of 4 years, I have never seen the university hiring any life coach or a trainer for personality development of the graduates. No doubt one may find slots in the timetable for such activities under the titles like Business Clubs or so, but these slots generally remain vacant or are used by teaching faculty to discuss academic concepts. Consequently, MBA graduates from the valley lack the core-employability skills like communication, interviewing, CV writing and proper dressing sense. There is a large mismatch between aspirations of management graduates and their job readiness. At a time when we should be focusing on providing students with global skills and preparing them for employment in a global market, our institutes are not even thinking about the basic skills.
An MBA institution of any tier is ranked high because of its association with Industry. This is the factor that students evaluate very carefully while choosing the colleges. In essence, if one is to find why are some business schools preferred over others, it would be seen that industrial tie up is one of the prime reasons and this is something aspirants are ready to pay more for. Unfortunately, the University of Kashmir doesn’t seem to have any such tie up and students have to struggle even for an internship, not to speak of a placement. The university is known to have a placement cell; however its functions are not traceable. If at all this cell works during anytime of the year, it must be for the main land university, not for the MBA graduates of the satellite campuses. One of the obvious reasons for dis-functionality of the placement cell is the absence of corporate contacts in the valley. But the world is too big, so is rest of the country. If it is impossible to get students placed in the valley, it must not have been so outside the valley. Having acted as a student counselor during my tenure as teacher, I have observed more number of students being ready to move out of the state and kick off their professional life. What they needed though was an initiation that could have apparently come from a placement cell, an operational and effective placement cell.
Much of the industry exposure and understanding about the operations of a business comes from frequent visits to various industrial units. This is the trend in a business school of any tier. The leading business schools have this policy of signing MOU with varying businesses and visits to their factories and outlets are a significant part of the curriculum. It is these MOUs that pave way for internship opportunities and possible placement of students. Sadly though, Kashmir based business schools don’t seem to have signed any such MOU with any local or national business. If a student who has spent ten semesters studying an Integrated MBA program is asked about the number of times he was taken to an industrial visit, for sure the answer is going to be not more than five. It is again the underperformance of a placement cell that could be held responsible for this injustice to MBA professionals.
One cannot emphasize enough on the need of well qualified and well connected faculty for the students of any discipline. But when it comes to MBA, the requirement is little different. The teachers of this program have to be more of those who believe in attitude teaching, not the ones raining and broadcasting information that students might as well get from anywhere on internet. Quoting Shiv Khera from his global bestseller You Can Win, “80% of people get jobs or promotion at the jobs not because of the facts and figures they know, but because of their attitudes”. Apparently then, teaching MBA graduates have to be more of a counseling and guidance than discussing theoretical concepts. Ironically though, most of the faculty employed in the MBA programs run by valley can’t do this type of teaching. One major reason besides many others is the lack of experience on part of the teachers.
There are some who join the profession right after finishing their own degree and there are others who are in the system since decades but never got to know basic functionality of the corporate and its requirements. Either ways, the teacher doesn’t qualify to be an attitude teacher. Most of these faculty members don’t even form the permanent staff; they work on academic arrangement basis or sometimes as visiting faculty. The recruitment planning of the university is such a big menace that the tenure of the teacher sometimes ends in the middle of the semester. And it is not necessarily the similar teacher who would join back for the next session, leaving the students in the middle of nowhere. The university has continuously failed to attract good quality teaching staff due to clear reasons of not ensuring the stability of teachers and uncompetitive compensation. A permanent faculty member gets more than INR 60K for his teaching profile and a tenure based teachers gets not more than 30K for equal work and efforts. While the university is mostly guilty of not ensuring the teaching excellence by refresher programs, the teachers themselves don’t make any efforts to keep themselves updated about the industry trends.
Another problem that has recently gotten typical in Kashmir is the introduction of an integrated MBA program. While in western nations it is almost impossible to get into a business school without any experience and maturity, students in Kashmir can apply for MBA straight after their school. They don’t even have to wait to finish their UG College. MBA is pretty much a mature course and it requires people with some kind of maturity and analytical skills. This maturity and power of analysis comes to some extent naturally within a student by the time he finishes an undergraduate course. However, the state seems to have lost the essence of the degree and is allowing almost anyone to join the course. Consequently, we are dealing with students who have no idea of sensible writing, professionalism and tolerance. Having evaluated answer books, assignments and case studies of students in my 4 year tenure, I could sense what has been done to this professionally elite degree by allowing school pass outs straight to the university. Now this thing could have been brought to control during the five year tenure of a student, but as mentioned elsewhere in this article, there is no room to impart such skills to students given to false design of the curriculum and more emphasis on academics. This relatively young age coupled with lack of industry exposure lowers their employability even further.
Having said all that about the dis-functionality of our MBA programs, one must know that it is not impossible to turn around and make this degree worth chasing for. Despite struggling with its falling quality, MBA remains one of the most preferred PG courses in the valley. People still believe it to be a common mans ticket to high profile job. The degree holds a lot of promise and is the only way for a place like Kashmir to come out of economic crunch. It can live up to its lofty standards and give the valley efficient entrepreneurs, something that policy makers always wanted, something that can take pressure off their cabinet.
All it needs is to re-think the MBA and overhaul the degree. This could be done by waking up to the need and improving the infrastructure, training the faculty, paying well to attract good teachers and ensuring their stability. Also, working on forming industry linkages and above all spending some money to improve the employability of the graduates, hiring some life coaches, inviting national tycoons and experts from different fields of life. If this all happens, it won’t be any far when our schools become the preferred destinations of MBA. We won’t then have to take the slack and admit candidates with no merit whatsoever to the program and yet find our seats empty; we would rather have people fighting it out to find the spot in our institutions. Above all, we will have entrepreneurs and businesses that will turn our valley economically independent.
(Author has worked as Full time Faculty at Department of Management Studies, KU, North Campus)