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Boot camps and community-learning models, new-age MBA is here to stay

In the second of a two-part series, we examine how MBA needs a revamp as data and digital disruptions change work and the workplace.

February 26, 2021 / 01:13 PM IST
There is a general agreement that MBA structure and curriculum has to reflect the changing work place.

There is a general agreement that MBA structure and curriculum has to reflect the changing work place.


Rajul Jain is 25 and has her heart set on being a partner in a venture capital firm. Jain who has done her BCom and CMA (US) always wanted to pursue an MBA from a premiere institute to bolster her career.

“An MBA would give me a two or three notch upgrade. I want to work for a fair number of years before starting up. MBA seems like a fast way to build a network,” says Jain. 

She is pursuing her CFA and is on a sabbatical. It was during this period that she “joined Twitter” and stumbled upon the Founders of Stoa School, who were tweeting about the new-age MBA. She had multiple conversations with them and ended up pursuing an MBA with Stoa School, where she also helped design a few modules. 

Stoa School offers a 12-week MBA bootcamp in a community-based learning format. About her decision to join Stoa, she says, “During my sabbatical, I often used to think of the cost and time implications of an MBA and Stoa seemed like an elegant solution to both (an MBA with Stoa costs Rs 1,00,000), with the added benefit of peer-to-peer learning and great chances of finding a co-founder.”

Also read: MBA or hands-on experience—what works better in a startup?

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Jain is not alone. Many students are now pursuing alternative MBA formats. B-schools in India offer roughly 3,200 seats but the number of MBA aspirants is 2,14,000 students (approximate number of students appearing for CAT). The most common reasons to pursue new MBA formats include:

1) Cost and time efficiencies

2) Updated curricula 

3) New learning approaches and experiences

According to Ronnie Screwvala, Co-founder and Chairman, UpGrad.com, “The MBA is still relevant in today's day and age but it needs a full revamp. With data and digital disruption happening, MBAs need to evolve. For example, the way marketing was done is different today. The way sales were closed is different today. The way finance was done is different today. Thus, the generic MBA is irrelevant today, and there is a strong need for a new-age MBA.”

New-age MBA requires a holistic output that cover the foundation of management programmes, knowledge of data and technology, a different breed of leadership and people management skills.

Here’s a look at new MBA formats and what they aim to achieve solving:

1) Pay after placement/ income-sharing agreement: Pay after placement (PAP) is a course where the student pays a nominal fee at the onset and a set fee after placement. This fee is determined by the salary the student lands during placement. This model solves for cost inefficiencies. In India, it is being offered by Sunstone Eduversity and IBMR Business School.

2) Intensive workshop, boot camps, community-learning models

Intensive models that are developed for higher learning have contemporary programmes taught by industry professionals and not academics. They solve for cost and time inefficiencies as they generally last four-12 weeks. altMBA by Seth Godin and Stoa School in India are leading the way in India. 

3) Hybrid MBAs

Business schools are evolving new models and IIM- Udaipur has launched a programme where it invites industry leaders and experts for 15-minute online sessions. Similarly, UpGrad.com has tie-ups with global B-Schools like Deakin Business School, University of Essex (Online) and Liverpool Business School to deliver online MBAs. This model works as asynchronous education is here to stay. 

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According to Meeta Sengupta, Founder, Centre for Education Strategy, “The MBA provides a certain set of toolkits and these toolkits currently do not include greater impact and business schools are now realising this. For example, the MBA has to reflect the wider impact in the world and measure things that matter in the new work arena. These aspects include mental wellness at the workplace, care and empathy, effects of climate change, etc. The current MBA is extremely mechanistic (in India) and its design has to change.”

Several founders and Academicians echoed Sengupta’s perspective and said the following aspects have to be considered to create the new-age MBA: 

1) Lifelong learning: An MBA cannot be restricted to one or two years only. With the world evolving at a breakneck speed, an MBA has to be easily available and possibly grant students lifelong access. 

2) More focus on purpose than profit: As Sengupta says, “MBA is about service to the society and profit is only a byproduct. For example, we no longer only measure employee productivity at the workplace but treat the employees as a customer too. That changes the dynamics of how we treat them and what we measure.”

3) Modular or mini-MBAs: MBA is designed to teach leadership, problem-solving and critical thinking and all aspects of a corporate business (done through case studies). Most MBAs can only impart toolkits and not so much real-world experience. Modular or mini-MBAs can solve for that and deep dive into each area through intensive boot camps. Students can take up multiple mini-MBAs whenever they feel the need for any particular type of training.  

4) Access to global MBA faculty: Sengupta mentions that when her IIM-Ahmedabad batch meets for a reunion, they yearn for refreshers. How about a model where professors from across the globe open up their calendars (for limited hours) to discuss new and evolving MBA concepts? 

5) Teaching more skills than concepts: While most MBAs provide strategic toolkits, what is missing is real-life skills. MBAs have to include an option of life skills that students can choose from and master in. Digital marketing and product thinking or management, to name a few.

6) Support for early-stage founders: MBAs mostly produce great middle managers and hence the degree too is called a ‘Master of Business Administration’. The MBA is not designed for an entrepreneur and here lies an opportunity. Founders in the early stages could do with structured mentorship and support and MBA schools can definitely co-create a new curriculum for founders.

With cost structures and primitive learning models, many aspirants, including Abhay Jani, the co-author of this piece who hails from a humble background, prefer to work at startups to “optimise for skills” rather than focus on a degree. 

Many students today prefer to pursue the hard path and experience first-hand the journey of ‘zero-to-one’. This loss of talent (for a B-School) is definitely the gain of early-stage start-ups where there is burning ambition and passion to “make it against all odds”. 

(Nisha Ramchandani is Manager-Outreach at Axilor Ventures & Writer, Future of Work and Abhay Jani is growth manager at Frontrow.)
Nisha Ramchandani is Manager-Outreach At Axilor Ventures & Writer, Future of Work.
first published: Jan 15, 2021 01:48 pm

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