B-schools are betting on exotic specialty areas

Business Line, published on July 1, 2014, P-12

 From luxury to international logistics and cloud computing to workplace diversity, niche specialisations have injected new life into the MBA degree

Management education has come a long way since the days when it was predominantly focused on operations, finance, marketing and HR. Today, business schools offer a wide array of specialisations as add-ons to the fundamentals. They are trying to make their students ready for today’s growing business complexity and to tackle emerging sectors as well.

Most established B-schools offer more than a hundred domain-specific subjects as part of their MBA and PGDM programmes. This apart, they offer a large number of sharply focused courses in their executive education programmes.

Companies no longer want generic MBAs; they seek graduates who are immediately employable in a particular area. Many firms direct their placement efforts to institutes which offer specialisations that suit their businesses. For example, healthcare and pharma companies go mainly to B-schools that teach students to manage hospitals, pharmaceuticals or biotechnology businesses.

Students have also become more particular about specialisations that have a ready market. Over the past few years, the cost of studying management has gone up tremendously, especially at the top B-schools, and viable placements are hard to come by. Therefore, students choose their niche from the start and prefer the school that offers the domain knowledge and visibility required by desired recruiters.

New areas

Another recently adopted facet of management education is the demand for multi-disciplinary knowledge and regular learning of new skills. Increasingly, companies want managers with cross-functional capabilities and expect them to be well-versed with emerging domains. This trend has pushed B-schools to compete more on curriculum. While most traditional management schools are adding to the specialisation options, many new institutions are focussing on particular areas. Most of the upcoming, private institutes have introduced management courses in areas relevant to businesses such as real estate, fashion, luxury, finance, IT, logistics and healthcare.

Some institutes have tied up with corporates to offer customised courses in high-growth areas such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, IT, financial services and retail.

The proliferation of new functional specialisation is more secular. Some of the top B-schools are offering courses in emerging management areas such as big data, digital infrastructure, CSR, and international business. A few new management areas have got a leg up from from legislative changes and market booms.


Many established schools have also started massive online open courses (MOOCs) that purvey specialised domain knowledge. Such courses are proving popular despite the lack of qualification value as these can be taken by anybody with or without a background in the specific domain. Overall, the specialisation wave has injected fresh life into the MBA degree, which had lost some of its charm during the economic slowdown. More importantly, it has pushed India’s B-schools to move up a notch and become more globally competitive.

The writer is Director-General, All India Management Association.