Decoding MBA Curriculum
No two MBA programmes are the same. And a crucial distinguishing characteristic is the course curricula being offered by B-Schools. Not only are the institutes investing to address issues of curriculum design, faculty development, training instruments et al, but the prospective students are now increasingly assessing the course content as they zero in on their choice of B-Schools.
Learning from the past
With the advent of industrialization, the working style of organizations demanded serious and major changes. MBA programme originated in the late 19th century-early 20th century in the United States of America. Recorded history states that the first business school in USA, Tuck Business School (1900) offered a Master’s degree in Commercial Sciences but with the setting up of Graduate School of Business, Harvard University in 1908, the first MBA programme came into existence. The MBA offered by B-Schools elsewhere, including India, was modelled on the American two-year postgraduate academic programme. The economic growth and emerging market opportunities were the prime reasons for the emergence of management institutes in India.
The importance of good curricula is seen from the perspective of different stakeholders – students, faculty, industry or society. The diversity in the programme offerings gives opportunity for students to choose from multiple options, depending on the expertise the institute has. It is a reflection of the knowledge, experience and wisdom that the faculty members have. From the organizational perspective, it highlights the basic, yet essential learning requirement of the business climate. The benefit to the society is entailed in the kind of interface the curriculum has on making the life of people better, no matter where they live or work. B-Schools’ curricula comprises core courses and electives. “No one can acquire confidence in a domain unless the foundation is strong in terms of understanding about the core as well as functional concepts,” says Dr Upinder Dhar, Pro Vice Chancellor (A), Amity University, Noida.
Dean, School of Business Management, NMIMS
Curriculum development initiative
The effectiveness of any programme greatly depends on the academic standing of the institute’s faculty. A critical factor is to ensure that the faculty is at par with the swiftly evolving eco system. Participation in Faculty Development Programmes (FDPs) helps in keeping abreast of the innovations and new initiatives in pedagogy taking place across the world. The School of Business Management (SBM), has in place a liberal FDP. Over the last five years, sponsored by the SBM, 17 faculty members have attended the 3-week-long Colloquium for Participant Centred Learning Programme at Harvard Business School. The exposure has enabled SBM faculty to incorporate a judicious and highly effective combination of the case method and the lecture method to impart managerial skills and hone the analytical abilities of students.
The rigour and depth of the curriculum constitutes the bulwark of every academic programme. It has to be constantly reviewed and updated to ensure that it is contemporary and consistent with global trends. To understand the industry perspective round table conferences are a good means to engage, understand and identify the gaps in expectation of the different stakeholders. For instance, in a recent conference organized by SBM, the changes in curriculum were adapted and a new programme was also designed and structured based on the feedback from students, faculty, industry and alumni. The revamped curriculum is now more robust that has breadth as well as depth. It has also brought significant change in the delivery of the MBA programme.
Choosing a specialization
The driving force largely stems from either ‘my expertise and background’ or ‘high demand in the market’ or picking up from both. To go with the area of expertise is good but from the point of view of career growth, it is also important to pay attention to industry demands. Dr Debdulal Thakur, Assistant Professor, BITS-Pilani University (Goa Campus), says, “There are ample numbers of B-Schools mushrooming here and abroad, but it is important to choose the right institute based on the curriculum they offer. Curriculum that are custom-made to cater to the broader needs of the market and the society- simply to say different strokes for different folks - especially for students opting for or interested in taking up Economics as an elective or for a dual degree.”
The core curriculum which provides a strong foundation is rooted in business fundamentals such as marketing, finance, accounting and operations. An exposure to all these functions makes it convenient for the students to know about the subject area and then opt for specialization. At present, the journey of specializations and electives offered by B-Schools has evolved with the business climate. Integration of many traditional specializations has given birth to unique specializations and resulted in proliferation of electives.
Strategy is the essence of long-term decision making. We at Great Lakes provide options for dual specialization, where one can choose Strategy if he/she wants to get into Business Consulting and/or strategy planning departments/staff positions such as Executive Assistant to CEOs. Entrepreneurship is a skill that managers should possess to create better value for the organization and society. A combination of the two enables to create MBAs with leadership potential and prospects
Some of the course curriculum and the recent changes as perceived by the B-School community based on different specializations are explored further.
Marketing Management and allied subjects
Smridhi Khanna, final year student of Fore School of Management is pursuing Finance and Marketing as dual specializations. According to her, “The course curriculum not only offers career opportunities in known or so-called traditional domains but in the emerging ones too. I have not only pursued electives on Sales and Distribution, but also on new subjects like Rural Marketing and International Corporate Finance,” she said. “Rural Marketing is comparatively new, which is now offered as an elective owing to the growth and opportunity seen by big firms in villages and semi urban areas in the country,” she added.
Subjects like ‘international marketing’, ‘global business environment’ and ‘strategy for emerging markets’ not only introduces the basics of how firms enter foreign markets and how the product can be made global; but they also enhance the understanding about trade policies, legal implications, and cultural preferences of consumers. Similarly course modules like ‘Strategies for Digital Marketing and E-Business’ offer a fair idea to market your product/service using advancement in information and communication technology. Lately, organizations are focusing heavily on consumer behavior and as such ‘Neuromarketing’ is an upcoming field in marketing research that deals with buying and usage behavior of the consumers. Being taught at Great Lakes, Chennai this course emphasizes on Game theory and its applications in Marketing. The offering benefits those who wish to work for companies engaging in ‘Game theory as a marketing tool’.
Student of ISB, Class of 2015
A four-prongedapproach to Bring in change
The curriculum and course structure of PGP at ISB is challenging and comprehensive. It has a robust curriculum review system in place and follows a four-pronged approach:
Every five years ISB conducts a complete review of the programme structure and content. A curriculum review committee reaches out to various stakeholder groups to seek their feedback and study important trends and changes at other top global B- Schools.
Every year, new elective courses are added based on industry feedback and student demand. Currently, students can choose from electives like Healthcare, Manufacturing, Planning and Entrepreneurial Venture, Media, Leadership Development and independent studies. Two specializations in the areas of Public Policy and Infrastructure Management are in the offing.
While core courses provide an understanding of fundamentals of general management, elective courses give the flexibility of individual exploration in the chosen areas of interest such as finance, marketing, strategy and leadership, etc.
Teaching is latest and based on a mix of case studies, simulations, group projects, and independent projects. The PGP is delivered by research-oriented resident faculty who are PhDs from leading global B-Schools along with the best of faculty drawn from top B-Schools across the world.
The broad rubric of Finance
Ashwath Krishna, second year student of Financial Engineering (FE) at IFMR, Chennai is quite positive about the growth of FE in India. In his opinion it is different from traditional finance specialization. “In Finance you know one mile’s stuff with one feet of in depth knowledge. In FE, you will know one feet long stuff but with one mile deep knowledge,” he said. Technically speaking, FE is inclined more towards applied mathematics in finance and involves subjects like stochastic calculus, computational finance, simulations using MATLAB, R, Excel, and so on. Since the curriculum of FE involves rigorous application of Maths and programming, knowledge in the same, gained as part of one’s graduation definitely helps. People from Engineering (especially Computer Science or IT) or Statistics will also find lot of application in FE modules. However, this is not a limiting factor for people from other backgrounds. The job opportunities are many as a lot of companies prefer FE students for specialized profiles like Quant Analyst, Risk Analyst, Data Analyst, Treasury and Risk departments in banks, Product Pricing and Valuation, Analytics to name a few, Ashwath adds.
The curriculum offers career opportunities in traditional domains and in emerging ones too. I have opted for electives on Sales and Distribution, as well as Rural Marketing and International Corporate Finance
Those from CS or IT, Engineering, Statistics or Maths will find a lot of application of their subject in Financial Engineering, however, this is not a limiting factor for people from other backgrounds
With the widening of global finance, the market activity is more intense and with the dynamism in the domain, financial management is a sought-after specialization. It has grown beyond the traditional curriculum that gave prominence to banking or accounting. From financial planning to budget or from risk management to mergers & acquisitions, there are a range of professional services that is of prime interest to students. For those who want a career in ‘Corporate Finance’, apart from the above mentioned, job options are aplenty. From known profiles like trade analyst, treasurer, or finance controller, there are openings as equity researcher, futures & options analyst and integration manager. Those interested in banking industry score a better chance to move up the professional ranks.
Production & Operations
The manufacturing and service companies are in continuous need of professionals who understand and are able to tackle issues pertaining to quality management, operations strategy, project management and process analysis. E-commerce industry which is highly demand-driven owing to mass production and ‘just in time’ services offers opportunities in supply chain, service-systems management and other aspects of logistics management. Demand of six sigma professionals has also increased. Kapil Saini, a student of SJMSOM, IIT Bombay opted for supply chain as an elective. “It is one of the all-time popular career avenues. Though the demand for Supply Chain/Operations Managers traditionally has been in the manufacturing industry, but with diversification in the course curriculum, now there are potential opportunities and prospects in any industry,” he said.
Dr. (Col.) A.
Skill versus concepts
What is more important, theory or practice? It has become fashionable to say that we should give hands-on practical training in B-Schools. These kinds of debates start and end with those who don’t understand the reality. At times it is a marketing gimmick and until and unless industry itself starts its own B-Schools like TISS, giving ‘real’ practical training is impossible. The practical aspects of practical training should be understood in the right
Management science is ‘situational’ science. The ‘skill set’ required for job varies. Fresh graduates at B-Schools need to be equipped on ‘knowledge, skills and attitude’ relevant to managerial cadre. It is not restricted to technical skills alone. It is unlike vocational training and it is not engineering where models and simulators are mandatorily provided. MBA is more about leadership- 99.9% of corporate citizens are from the existing system of training.
Those who raise the issue of practical training fail to take note that hundreds of B-Schools are located in small towns where the word ‘industry’ is not heard of. The case-study method is relevant where students have sufficient prior work experience. Decisions are to be taken scientifically in industry for which freshers are not equipped. It is the ‘equipping’ part that takes place during the two-year course. That is why the MBA course is designed in such a way that the basics are taught in the first year, and only after which, Summer Internship Projects can be carried out. Today, what is important is to train the minds, to be quick learners.
Strategy & Entrepreneurship
A good entrepreneur requires clear vision and strategy and he considers critical competitive strategies to be successful. And that is what specialization ‘Strategy and Entrepreneurship’ being offered by ISB Hyderabad and a few others is all about. An organization is said to have competitive advantage if its profitability is higher than the average profitability of all its competitors. Thus Strategy, plays a crucial role in the success or failure of the business. It is all about management decisions, management process, structure and activities of an organization with time factor attached to it. The course not only teaches how to optimize output from the minimum resources available but also how to be innovative. It focuses on leadership characteristics too.
The shift observed in the HR domain is more towards strategic roles than dealing with routine administrative and management of personnel. The traditional HR specialization definition has changed from recruitment or salary processing to human capital advisory services. Another allied area is ‘Organizational Behaviour’, which is a field that investigates how organizational structures affect behaviour within organizations. Facing the challenges of virtual work place, and adapting to global standards, organizational structure has become much more complex. Subjects like organizational change and development opens the career avenue for OD consultants. Students interested in legal aspect of industry and labour-related issues can consider pursuing Industrial Relations as a specialization or elective.
Associate Professor, Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad
The Coexistence of finance And Marketing
Way back in the early 1980s, I came across a booklet on the then existing 77 B-Schools in India. Management education system has, since then, greatly expanded and evolved. While the time-tested model of core courses in the first year followed by electives in year 2 has held its ground, stakeholders have always welcomed minor tweaks in the curriculum.
When we talk about functional interface as an imperative for a literate PGDM, I am reminded of a few areas within the finance domain that compliment, and are in sync with other areas. For example, of late, Entrepreneurship, as an elective is gaining popularity. With it, there will be increasing emphasis on Venture Capital Financing as a special topic if not as a dedicated course. Similarly, organizations have shown interest in bringing on board people for marketing of financial services. This profile would necessarily involve knowledge of both marketing and financial services.
A good number of B-School graduates specializing in Finance are also being offered roles of Relationship Managers. Whatever be the profile, good soft skills are a cardinal requirement for these roles. Thus Business Communication with its various offshoots should assume increasing importance in coming times. Another area, Industrial Financing, would involve good knowledge of Project Financing and Working Capital Management. Grasp of these subjects would equip graduates for roles on either side of the table i.e. either as corporate finance managers or credit managers in banks which also requires liaisoning abilities.
Dr Thakur says, “Economics and MBA programmes have been interlinked ever since the field of business administration took roots. The MBA with major in Economics prepares the student for a broad range of careers in business, industry, and government. Strategy, which is of primary concern to senior management is critical for success or failure of any organization.”
Strategic Transformation, one of the electives under Economics & Strategy domain offered by IIT Bombay (SJMSOM) deals with formulation and execution of strategy. The infusion of economics in strategy is to give it analytical and logical approach so that it becomes easy for organizations to calculate the return of investments. IIM Calcutta also offers specialization in Economics & Social Sciences which deals with Economics of Business Policy, International Economics etc. One can also take Economics as specialization for a career in the field of Economic Forecasting, Market Research, Development Finance etc.
According to Srinivas Amara, final year student at the Fore School of Management, “The beauty of IT is that it helps find the loop holes in traditional method of marketing, finance or any other specializations and help fasten the process with the help of technology.” According to Professor and Chairman MH Bala Subrahmanya, Department of Management Studies, IISC Bangalore, “Specializing in Technology management is important because the rate of change of technology has increased remarkably, and so has the role to assess technological changes in different sectors or industry or region. It is important in every industry, but it has a more significant role to play in high tech industries.” But data alone is of no value unless it can be converted into some useful information. ‘Decision Sciences’ offered by XIM Bhubaneswar focuses on the quantitative methods of business decisions. One thing that is common to both areas is the need to have a good understanding of how technology works on extracting sense out of huge data sets.
Dr. Deepak Gupta,
The Changing Landscape of Marketing
Marketing, as they say, is no longer what it used to be. The advent of big data and data analytics, the explosive spread of social media, better informed customers and the rising phenomenon of hyper competition, have all led to fundamental transformations in the practice of marketing, globally. An increasingly greater chunk of advertising budget is being invested in digital media and mobile platforms, the half-life of product life cycles and marketing campaigns has dramatically shrunk, the focus of marketing research is inexorably shifting towards real-time data collection and analytics, and there’s a rising demand for accountability and measurable returns on marketing investment.
The sales function is transforming to a more solutions-oriented, consultative role with an increasing demand for those who are well educated and informed, not only about their products and clients but also modern technology, as firms turn towards mobile platforms and apps to complement their sales effort. New job categories have surfaced - Digital Accounts Manager, Solution Sales Consultant, Manager Inside Sales, SEO Strategist, Director of Marketing Content, Social Media Designer, Marketing Analytics Lead – to name a few. Furthermore, the average age of those in leading marketing functions is becoming younger and younger.
This ongoing transformation is noticed on B-School campuses, and their curricula are correspondingly evolving. The course offerings at IIM-A now include electives on Digital Marketing and on Neurosciences & the Consumer. Both IIM-C and XLRI offer an elective on Marketing Decision Models and IIM-K now has a course on Social Media & Consumer Driven Marketing. ISB Hyderabad’s PGP includes courses on Digital & Social Media Marketing, Marketing Analytics, and Data Driven Customer Management, as well as a mandatory elective on Strategies for the Digital Economy. At Amrita School of Business – the electives introduced are Digital Marketing, CRM, Cross-Cultural Management, Innovation, Business Analytics, and now Marketing Analytics. There is an attempt to bring in a greater India focus, a greater analytic rigour, and a greater connect to digital media. The pedagogy incorporates video and MOOC resources, live cases and Open Data in student exercises. Efforts have been made in enhancing student-alumni interactions, using live alumni-led workshops and tools such as Skype/ Google Hangouts.
There is a brave new world emerging in the practice and pedagogy of Marketing, and this is happening in real time. Constant change, lifelong learning and constant adaptation – these are slowly becoming the order of the day. As always, this kind of change is going to be both a threat, as well as an opportunity.
Investing in FDPs
Faculty is the most valuable resource and important input in any educational institution. A fundamental value in institutions of higher learning is the development of the abilities of individuals so that they may realize their full capabilities. This value should be applied to faculty also. Faculty Development Programmes (FDPs) provide the opportunities to faculty members to develop their abilities. FDPs are important in adapting faculty members to their changing roles in initiating and settling the directions for curricular changes. Curriculum change depends on the intellectual exchange among faculty.
In developing the competent course curriculum it is important that faculty must be competitive and tuned to industry trends. The B-Schools focus on FDPs apart from course curriculum development to have an edge in the field.
Indian educational institutions are continuously investing more towards FDPs which will, in return, help in adding value to the students through innovative pedagogical tools. IIM Ahmedabad, for instance, organized its 35th FDP in 2013. IIM Indore has a 2-month dedicated residential FDP designed for management education and training institute personnel. Not only IIMs, but institutes such as TAPMI at Manipal, Fore School of Management, NMIMS, Mumbai have been conducting FDPs focused on curriculum issues. The faculty at the Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida brainstorm, often off site, to deliberate and develop the MBA curriculum that lays emphasis on entrepreneurship.
The faculty members keep in mind the needs of industry so as to design modules that make the students ‘industry- ready’ and ‘entrepreneurially-oriented’. The objective being not only to track the changes but deliberate on how the course can be taught and designed better. Dr Debashish Sanyal of NMIMS says, “The focus is not only on the content part but also on design, the pedagogy, and teaching methodology too.”